Sleeping for Sorrow

Tomorrow night is Maundy Thursday, the night Jesus prayed fiercely in the darkness of the garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” As Jesus prayed to be released from his fate on that cross, we are told the disciples were “sleeping for sorrow.”  Waking them Jesus says: “Could you not even watch with me for one hour?” And so we come on this night, to watch and pray with him for one hour.

   I hope you can make time in your busy lives for the very special services of Holy Week. Only when we’ve been to that dark garden of Gethsemane can we really appreciate the Resurrection garden that greets us Easter Sunday!   

    

   In Christ, Mother Candace+ 

Another Faithful Woman

The origins of Holy Week (which begins this Sunday with Palm Sunday) are traced back to Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem in the 4th century. Pilgrims pouring into Jerusalem to be baptized Easter morning, followed Cyril around to the various sites significant to the events of Jesus’ last days on earth: the “Upper Room” where he had his last meal; the “Via Dolorosa,” where he struggled to carry his cross; and the hill at Golgatha where they crucified him.    Fortunately for us, these 4th century walking “liturgies” were recorded by one of those early pilgrims, a Gallic woman named Egeria. Eventually these early liturgies became our Prayer Book liturgies of “Maundy Thursday,” “Good Friday,” and “Easter.”

Egeria wrote an account of her Holy Week experience in Jerusalem in a long letter to her Christian women friends back home in Europe, who had never heard of these traditions. It is thought her letter might be the very first formal writing by a woman in the history of the world. 

God bless Egeria, and all the pilgrims who walked with Cyril through Holy Week, marking it in time and recording it. Because of their faithfulness, we are able to follow Jesus’ last earthly journey to this day. If you have never walked this sacred walk I hope you will make time in your busy lives next week for the very special services of Holy Week!   

   Faithfully, Mother Candace+ 

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“Jesus wept.”

This week’s Gospel contains the shortest verse in the New Testament:  ”Jesus wept.”  Contemplate for just a moment what God is trying to convey to us in those two words, as Jesus weeps over the loss of his friend Lazarus: God knows how painful it is to lose someone you love, God knows it is good to acknowledge that pain, God knows just how hard it is to be a human being on this earth sustaining one loss after another. But that is not all God wants us to know.  Jesus reassures all of us as he reassures Lazarus’ sister Mary:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
  
Thank God for that great Good News!
Mother Candace+

Dealing with Disappointment

We are mid-way in our Lenten journey, and much like our forgotten New Year’s resolutions, many of us are experiencing disappointment in our inability to maintain a discipline.  As we say each week in our General Confession:  ”We have done those things we ought not to have done, and we have not done those things we ought to have done, and there is no help in us.”  
Surely we will all have similar regrets and be disappointed in ourselves when we stand face to face with our Lord at the final judgment. Yet the Easter message at the end of our Lenten journey is clear: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” There is “help in us” because Christ is in us.  
  
Thank God for that great Good News!
Mother Candace+

The Bishop on College for Prisoners

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 On Monday, March 3rd, Governor Cuomo announced the details of his initiative to provide college education and degrees to men and women behind bars in New York prisons. This initiative makes extraordinary practical sense.

 The cost of providing educational benefits to inmates is a small fraction of the cost of incarcerating them, and history demonstrates that those who come out of prison with an education and the ability to find and hold work, to support their families, and to contribute to the society they will rejoin are far less likely to return to prison. Currently the recidivism rate in New York State is forty percent. The governor’s initiative represents a promising path to reducing the number of people held in New York prisons, and reducing the cost of those incarcerations.

 But I write to commend the governor for this far-sighted proposal for other reasons as well. I have had first-hand experience of some of the hundreds of incarcerated men who were or are participating in the Bard College Prison Initiative, the largest such program in the country. I have known some of them. I have sat inside the walls with people who, while living in hope of release, have already been set free — who have had their lives enlarged and enriched — by their academic study and engagement with the world of ideas. I have seen people no longer defined by their mistakes or offenses but by their possibilities, and I have seen in them and in the opportunities provided them by Bard College a living witness to Jesus’ teaching that in visiting the prisoner we are serving him, and to our baptismal mandate to “respect the dignity of every human being.”

Bard College has an historic relationship with the Diocese of New York, which founded it, and when I represented our diocese on the stage at the college’s 2013 commencement, it was my privilege to witness the conferring of degrees on two men who had completed their studies inside prison and been released in time to attend commencement exercises at the college. It was an extraordinary moment which galvanized the whole gathered community. It was a visible and profound icon of religious and humanistic hope, and I was proud of them and very proud of Bard and its president Leon Botstein.

The funding for such work proposed by the governor offers the hope and possibility of dramatically expanding the scope of these efforts beyond what private institutions like Bard are already doing and can do. This is hope. This is a heartening initiative fully consistent with the missional and transformative work and vision of the church, and I write to offer my thanks to the governor and my support for this initiative. I write to commend this to you, and to ask your support as well of the governor’s college in prison initiative.

And I remain Yours,

 The Rt. Rev. Andrew M. L. Dietsche

 

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Are You In A Dry Place?

Lent reminds us of our desert times; perhaps you are in a dry place right now. Yet when I look back on those lost or lonely times, I know they were sacred ground somehow. Those were the times I felt sustained by God alone, and that knowledge sustains me even now. In the desert, water is a precious thing, and we are alert to its presence and nourishment in ways we are not when we are satiated.

The following poem, by one of our great Anglican writers T.S. Eliot, has sustained me many times in the desert, and I offer it to you on this day before…

Ash Wednesday

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain,

spirit of the garden,

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood

Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still

Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will

And even among these rocks

Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,

Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

…T.S. Eliot, 1927

Amen, and a blessed Lent, Mother Candace+

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Party On!

   The three days before Ash Wednesday are known as Shrovetide in the Anglican Church. “Shrove” is an Old English word meaning “to repent.” We still might occasionally hear the past tense “shriven” in reference to someone who has confessed and received absolution. Confession and repentance are still part of our preparation for Lent, which is why we pray the ultimate prayer of penitence, “The Great Litany,” on the first Sunday of Lent.

   Shrovetide was also a time to “party,” and this is still reflected in Mardi Gras, which literally means “Fat Tuesday” (called Pancake Tuesday by some).  The partying traditionally associated with Mardi Gras was a way of ridding the house of all the rich food (like sugar and butter, by making pancakes) before the 40 day Lenten fast began.

All of these Lenten traditions encourage us to simplify and purify our lives, and learn the meaning of sacrifice. As Christians we do not practice sacrifice during Lent to earn forgiveness of our sins, but because we choose the life-giving Way of the Cross, which is rooted in sacrifice. In so doing we follow the One who sacrificed everything that we might have the hope of eternal life.

Yours in Christ, Mother Candace+
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How to Be Whole

Children are perfectly congruent. What is inside a child is the same as what you see outside. Young children are not capable of feeling one way and behaving another. They are perfectly–though not always conveniently–congruent.
As we grow, we quickly learn that it is often not safe to show what is inside of us to the world outside of us. And so begins the lifelong work of building that wall between our inner and outer self. It protects us, yes, but it also confines and stifles us.
The hard work of the spiritual life is taking down that wall piece by piece until we are as vulnerable and as congruent as a little child. As followers of Christ we call this “the Way of the Cross.”
Continued Epiphanies, Mother Candace+

The Great Commission

We are now in “Ordinary Time,” the name the Church gives to this time between the seasons of Christmas and Lent. Howard Thurman, a theologian and mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., writes an extraordinary poem for this Ordinary Time:

 

After the prophets have spoken,

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among people,

 To make music in the heart.

Ordinary blessings, Mother Candace+
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What Makes Us Feel Loved

What Makes Us Feel Loved?

   Maybe you remember the study done in the 60′s where newborn monkeys were taken from their mothers and given a choice of surrogate mothers? One surrogate was made of wire, and provided food. But the baby monkeys all clung to the other “mother” made of terry cloth, even though she provided no food. Apparently even the semblance of touch meant more to them than sustenance. Touch reassures us that we are not alone, that we are loved. 

   Actually they say three things make us feel loved; in addition to touch there is also eye contact, and focused attention. How often do I read the Gospel on Sunday morning and notice Jesus doing these three things over and over again? How often do I ask myself if I am doing them consistently with those I love? It can be a good question to think about if someone in your life is not feeling loved.  

Epiphany blessings, Mother Candace+ 
 
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