July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
It goes without saying that the Cross is pretty important to Christians. It is the chief symbol of Christian faith. It occupies a central place in our houses of worship. You may display a cross in your home. We hang crosses around our necks. Christians make the sign of the cross when they pray or make some other act of devotion. There is no question of the importance of the Cross to those who call themselves Christian. This has been since the very beginnings of the Christian movement. In fact, the Cross is one of the major themes of the New Testament. The Gospels themselves are largely passion narratives, focused on the crucifixion and on Jesus’ last days leading up to it.
One of the church wardens at the Cathedral in Montreal owned a bookstore in the McGill University ghetto. He would put rather a lot of work into his window displays. One day there was a display of children’s religious books which contained one of those books with moveable cardboard bits in it. It was called Joseph in the Pit: A Popup Book. If you pulled a cardboard tab at the bottom Joseph would descend into the pit where he’d been cast by his brothers. If you pushed the tab he would pop up again.
The brochure outlining the various degree programs of the seminary I attended in Austin, TX had these words highlighted on its front cover…“How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” Those words served as a background to our priestly formation experience, and in the years since I’ve graduated, they have taken on further meaning for me. Arriving as part of Paul’s climactic argument in his dense, and famous letter to the Romans, the words serve to direct Paul’s hearers and readers toward the necessity of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, widely and persistently…as a sower scatters seed.
‘God made from one blood all the nations that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of our own poets have said: We are his offspring.’ Witness of St Paul in Athens, Acts 17, 26-28
[The American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Paris] “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder.” Many of you will know this African-American spiritual; many of you will have sung it at Sunday school, or at camp. It is a wonderful song. This image – this incredible image – of a ladder, or better translated, as a staircase connecting heaven and earth with angels ascending and descending. It has prompted manifold interpretations over the centuries, and great works of art...sculpture and painting, as well as song. It is a primitive, piercing-symbolic overwhelming image. We don’t quite know what to make of it. It offers...
Yesterday I went for an afternoon run. Not only is the exercise good for my body and mind, but it is also a chance to connect to the unique features of the city. My “go-to” run usually involves a jog down Via Nazionale which then puts me at the edge of the architectural relics of Rome. Trajan’s column gives way to Piazza Venezia, and its dominating Vittoriano monument. A quick stair sprint up the steps of the Campidoglio has me thinking of Marcus Aurelius and Michelangelo...
The invisibility of wind - the ordinary insubstantiality of air - is contrasted to its ability to affect and change the environment. It bends trees, shapes landscape and casts the water up into waves. Jesus used the image once to good effect with Nicodemus. The wind has its own origins. It rises unbidden. It changes direction. It blows where it will.
The imagery of sheep and shepherds would not have been lost on those who first heard these words of Jesus. Not only was it a common figure of speech in the Hebrew scriptures - there were also a lot of sheep around. The way that sheep and shepherds relate to one another is indeed an appropriate comparison to make with the relationship that Christ has with his people. There is, in fact, a close bond that is shared between sheep and their human caretakers. You may know that in many parts of the world, where sheep are an important part…
'The Bibliography,' first conceived as a one-time project of the Convocation's Mission 2006 initiative, is now a Convocation institution. Each fall, the clergy are invited to submit up to five book titles to the Bibliography. A selection of these books is raffled each fall during an especially festive dinner at the annual Convocation Convention.The proceeds of this highly anticipated event support a designated ministry or mission project. The bibliography has grown significantly since its introduction in 2007; it now includes 12 pages of book recommendations. Attention Convention delegates....this year's book selection has already arrived in Rome. Don't forget to buy your raffle tickets!