Category Archives: Featured Posts

Homily: “On Eating His Flesh and Drinking His Blood”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost), 2018.

Although a number of people know this quite well, I have found that it is not universally known that one of the mandatory steps within the process of being ordained to the Priesthood is to spent a significant amount of time in an internship as a hospital chaplain. In my case, I spent twenty weeks in four hospitals in suburban Chicago, near Hinsdale, La Grange, and other towns. Although you hear clerics often bemoan the experience, and I heard some priests share horror stories as to why their experiences in their estimation were unhelpful towards parish ministry, priests I trusted, including our Bishop, assured me that hospital chaplaincy was for them revelatory and deeply, and permanently, meaningful.

And I must say, it was for me as well. It was never easy, and often unpredictable. My very first overnight duty on-call saw me assist an experienced chaplain whom I was shadowing as we ministered to a large family of over 25 relatives who that night suffered the loss of one of their family members to a kind of brain hemorrhage that, tragically, was inoperable. Talk about being thrown into the deep end of the pool and having to learn how to swim. Over the twenty weeks, in not only hospital patients and their families, but in the hospital staff, nurses, doctors, and my fellow chaplains, I witnessed so many instances of loss, of tragedy, of suffering and confusion, but also I witnessed joy, love, faith, and remarkable examples of God active in people’s lives, holding them up by His grace. Examples abounded of true sacrifice, and examples abounded of hopeful life.

The highest example of both sacrifice and life are what Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives us. His example to us, being a human example that stretches into the divine, is so profound that it is well past our ability to grasp it completely and finally. This is why we are drawn to continually revisit the accounts of His life given to us by the Evangelists—that by hearing them, by which we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them through their many senses of interpretation, we are drawn deeper into the mystery of Him, which along the way reveals the mystery of ourselves.

“Truly, truly,” Jesus says to us, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” This was a teaching, a hard saying, that really weeded out the true disciples from the larger group of Jesus followers. We are told that upon hearing this, many drew back and no longer went about with him. Some of us, even today, might flinch at the image, at both its physicality and its bluntness. Jesus, often winsome and generous in His public ministry, was none the less never above teaching in a direct and even aggressive way. Being poked awake from a cozy, care-free, bourgeois discipleship is a lesson disciples then, and now, constantly need.

And yet the Church, in remembering the words of Jesus, and taking them to heart in prayer in the years and decades after the Ascension of Christ, began to discern within the hard sayings of Jesus—including the teaching about the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood—wisdom that echoed profoundly in the Scriptures. We hear an example in our passage from the Book of Proverbs. Wisdom, who we learn in the Scriptures was God’s first creation, and who from the beginning of her creation rejoiced daily in God’s activities, invites the simple, meaning those people, like Nathaniel, who are without guile but also yet to some extent naive about life, to into her house: “Come,” she says, “eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” The term “bread” here is a general reference and would include the meat of the beast spoken of as recently slaughtered. And so to connect this to Jesus, the Church saw in His teaching a connection to the long biblical tradition of hospitality—to eat His flesh and drink His blood at least involved an invitation to intimacy with Him.

We see this in the Eucharist, when we receive Christ’s Body and Blood, an event that itself rings on several levels of meaning and signification. Our nourishment is towards eternal life, and so to eat the consecrated bread is to receive into our souls He that is our life—to receive His sacrifice on the Cross, just as the beast was sacrificed in the house of Wisdom, although Christ’s sacrifice was self-offered once but for all time. And to drink the consecrated wine is to receive Christ’s life, because blood in ancient days was always considered the source of life in animals. And so to drink His blood is to receive that life which is triumphant over death and united to God in heaven. Indeed James and John were correct: they could and did drink from the cup from which Jesus Himself drank, and even pleaded on the night before He died that His Father might take away. If this is all a hard teaching for us, we can trust it was a harder teaching for Jesus Himself to accept, and yet fully accept He did.

Our Collect captures all this when we pray to Almighty God, Who has given His only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life. Let us know that as we celebrate and receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the source and summit of Christian life, we are opening ourselves to receive Wisdom, and be received by her. When allow ourselves to participate fully and completely in the Eucharist, we become part of God’s redemptive stream, a river of wisdom, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. Kneeling before the heavenly throne, let us be still, and know in the Eucharist is God.

Homily: “On Our Lady and the Theology of Woman”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 2018.

It is a funny pattern that we humans have whenever a new technology is introduced. New technology is always first understood in the terms of the technology it is replacing. The perfect example is the automobile; when it was introduced, it was spoken of as the “horseless carriage.” Or, as another example, the internet was spoken of as the “information superhighway.” These  are metaphors, yet these give a vivid sense as to what the innovation actually is. The car, yes it is a carriage—but it is a horseless carriage. The internet is for information, but it is not like a library one has to travel to—no, the information is already mobile and on a superhighway-like-thing: it travels to you with the touch of the fingers. In other words, the pattern is that what is being replaced or made obsolete becomes the shell of initial interpretation for what is new.

We see the same thing in the Scriptures. “Who do men say that I am?” Jesus asks His disciples. And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli?jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” The terms for understanding and interpreting Jesus used widely in Jewish society were not up to date; or, stated differently but in a sense more accurately, God’s revelation in the Incarnation was such a monumental leap forward in the “spiritual technology,” it is perfectly understandable why the terms to interpret Him had not caught up. He was either a prophet, or He was a military revolutionary—both of which were wrong, but those were the categories of serious public figures for first-century Palestine.

All of this—the pattern of interpreting the new in terms of the old—applies to Blessed Mary, the Mother of God—Theotokos­, to use the Greek title ascribed to her officially, meaning God-bearer—but it applies in fascinating ways. Our Lady is properly understood, first and foremost, in terms of what, and who, came before her. As one theologian puts it, “All theology of Mary [her place in the history of salvation, her place within the constellation of Christian worship of Jesus Christ] is fundamentally based upon the Old Testament’s deeply anchored theology of woman” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, p. 13). This theology is derived from the description in the Sacred Scriptures of the great women of the Old Testament—Eve, Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, Esther, and Judith. Without these great women, Blessed Mary will not be properly understood.

This biblical theology of woman could be elaborated in long treatises and theological tomes. And yet, we already have that theology captured for us in a remarkably compact presentation. I am referring to Mary’s Magnificat, our Gospel passage, which has been for nearly twenty centuries the Song or Canticle of Mary sung during the evening prayer service by the People of God. (Indeed, in Anglican tradition, it is only during the singing of the Magnificat that incense, the sign of holiness, is burned and brought to the Altar.) Let me bring out of the Magnificat three of the themes that are at the core of the biblical theology of woman:

The first is “My soul magnifies the Lord.” This first line is spoken in the first-person—Mary’s soul—yet within the prayer of the Church, Mary articulates the fact that it is primarily in women, not men, where the locus for the revelation of God’s power is found. We see this everywhere in the Old Testament. I recently preached about Judith, and how after she defeating the invading army by cutting off the head of its general through a well-conceived plan of deception, she was spoken of as “the exaltation of Jerusalem, you are the great glory of Israel, you are the great pride of our nation!” Similar patterns of God manifesting His will and power—God being magnified in the soul of women—can be seen in the other great figures. The soul of women magnifies the Lord, Mary is saying: more specifically, the faithful women of Israel. And we see this fact in Mark’s Gospel from the first to the last. The first person to imitate Jesus is a woman—Saint Peter’s mother-in-law—and the disciples who listen, learn, and follow Jesus’ teaching the best are women: at His crucifixion, women watch (which was Jesus’ command repeated many times), but the men disperse and are broken, the best example of which, ironically, is the son-in-law of the first to imitate Jesus, that is, Saint Peter. Furthermore, to learn how to be apostles, the Apostles looked to women: to Saint Mary Magdalene, called the apostle to the Apostles because of the resurrection message she brought to them, and to Blessed Mary during the ten days they were gathered in the Upper Room after the Ascension and before the Day of Pentecost, when we can reasonably and prayerfully assume that Our Lady shared with the Apostles the wonderful stories of the Annunciation, the Presentation, the Finding of Jesus at age 12 in the Temple, and perhaps domestic miracles likely He performed within the confines of family life with Saint Mary and Saint Joseph. It was these stories that further empowered the Apostles to bust out with their proclamation upon the Coming of the Holy Ghost.

The second: “He has exalted those of low degree.” The significance of this cannot be over-stated. God bends down to the humble, down to the powerless, bends to the rejected. This is the Gospel proclamation! And yet, this was particularly significant in Mary’s day, because in the ancient world, the unmarried and childless were inferior and often excluded from the worshiping community. Infertility was a seen as a curse, and possibly reflective of sin committed. But to Sarah in her old age was given Isaac, to Rachel Joseph, to Hannah Samuel. Their infertility was reversed: the infertile one ultimately turns out to be the truly blessed (ibid., p. 18). In other words, the ability of women to participate not peripherally but as central characters in the divine action had nothing to do with biology. This participation, which is motherhood—true religious motherhood—is not about body parts, but it is about faith, humility, fidelity to God. And as the Church has from its beginning seen Mary as representative of the Church, we are ever taught by her, Our Lady, who in herself summarizes and incorporates into her being the meaning and significance of all of the great women before her: that God acts through His Church only when we are of low degree: humble, poor, patient, yet striving for complete fidelity to God, firm in our faith despite whatever place in society we might have.

Finally, let us ever-remember and cherish these words: “All generations will call me blessed.” Mary’s place in the Church must always be secure, therefore all she represents is likewise secure, in the central treasuries of our faith. And note how this is a direct commission to the Church: all generations will call me blessed—not “might,” or “could,” or “if one happens to have that piety,” or “if one is a Roman Catholic,”—no, no, no. All generations (she might have added, “despite denominational differences”) will call her blessed—meaning, veneration of Mary is not optional but demanded, if we are to rightly worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Rejoicing in Mary, rejoicing in the central importance of women as the anchor or ark of the new Covenant, means we rejoice fully in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Layman Ressourcement Syllabus to Rediscover the English School of Catholic Spirituality

Martin Thornton put together an extraordinary syllabus for prayerfully studying English Spirituality, also known as the “English School of Catholic spirituality” or “Anglican spiritual patrimony.” He did this in the Appendix to English Spirituality, and it provides a very useful starting point to the study of a subject that is both narrow, with respect to other Catholic schools of spirituality, but also vast unto itself, because it stretches over multiple centuries, indeed over the life of the Church herself. Fr Thornton wisely saw the need for concrete directions and starting points in the study of the English ascetical and pastoral tradition, particularly if it is to be used by parish priests and catechists, as he intended, for spiritual direction and the deepening of prayer life of active parishioners.

Fr Thornton called his curriculum “A Course of Study in Ascetical Theology for Parish Priests and Theological Students of the Anglican Communion.” Quite a title. I have summarized it as his “ressourcement syllabus” in part to be more concise, but more to situate his insights properly and in the correct category. All of his insights into, and conceptualization about, the “English School of Catholic spirituality” must be seen not as a showy reading list for the theologically gifted, and not as a “pipe diagram” to show direct historical influences one thinker to the next.

Rather, all of this is ressourcement, which, according to Yves Congar, involves a conscious shift from “a less profound to a more profound tradition; a discovery of the most profound resources,” and is concerned “with the unity of the ever-living tradition” of the Church (Ressourcement: A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth Century Catholic Theology, 4-5). These are important characteristics. The first ensures the supreme priority of prayer, and the second catholicity within the One Church. And the purpose is rediscover an ascetical and pastoral tradition to foster the conditions for a newfound health in Anglican Christianity.

Fr Thornton’s syllabus makes a great deal of sense. It begins with the ancient and moves to the modern. It suggests three modes of study: “To study seriously,” “To read or refer to,” and “For mental prayer.” He coordinates ascetical writers that pair well together: Augustine with Hugh of St Victor, Benedict with William of St Thierry, for starters. And its overall shape moves toward the Book of Common Prayer, seen as ascetical system of total spirituality, and flows from it. The English School is alive and well in our day and age, though perhaps underground, and by focusing on the “most profound” voices, the Prayer Book tradition can be revivified: voices like Margery Kempe, Jeremy Taylor, and Saint Anselm.

Keeping in mind Fr Thornton’s intended audience (parish priests and theologically trained lay catechists), my own sense, having studied all the works in Fr Thornton’s syllabus, is that another progression through the texts is possible, and perhaps more effective, for the faithful laity, perhaps the vast majority of them who would want to study the English School. Whereas Fr Thornton’s syllabus moved historically, I believe beginning more in the present and then proceeding towards in-depth study (for those who get that far, which would hardly be necessary) might be the way to go. I also sense that a more explicit attention to Blessed Mary is important, because a robust daily devotion to Our Lady seems to go hand in hand with spiritual health as well as creative prayer.

I am inclined towards such a ressourcement syllabus looking something like the following, which presumes growing and active embrace of the threefold Regula in the Prayer Book tradition. Those growing in maturity of faith invariably benefit from competent spiritual direction, especially learning the Rules for the Discernment of Spirits as taught by Saint Ignatius Loyola and being directed through his Spiritual Exercises, nineteenth annotation (“for everyday life.”) Admittedly my syllabus is not so neatly arranged as Fr Thornton’s into three categories. I suppose I wonder if, for the laity, those three categories are as useful as they might seem to be. To be sure, this is all “devout experimentation,” to use one of Fr Thornton’s favorite phrases. Yet it is an arrangement born of my own experience with the profound texts of English spirituality, past and not so past, both as a layman and now as a parish priest, catechist, and spiritual director.

A RESSOURCEMENT SYLLABUS FOR THE LAITY

Introductory Texts

• Fr Thornton—The Purple Headed Mountain 
• Rule of Saint Benedict (w/ commentary)
• Fr Andrew—Our Lady’s Hymn (w/ “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ” ARCIC II), and Meditations for Every Day
• John Macquarrie—The Faith of the People of God
• Anselm—Prayers and Meditations
• Excerpts from Rationale upon the Book of Common-Prayer of the Church of England—Anthony Sparrow
• Excerpts from The Whole Duty of Man

Intermediate Texts

• Anselm—Proslogion
• The Book of Margery Kempe (w/ Thornton commentary)
• Jeremy Taylor—Holy Living
• Julian of Norwich—Revelations of Divine Love
• Richard Rolle—Fire of Love
• The Cloud of Unknowing
• Augustine—Enchiridion
• Readings at will from the Fleur De Lys devotional series—Bonaventure, Aelred of Rievaulx, William of St Thierry, Bernard of Clairvaux, Hugh of St Victor
• Catherine of Siena—The Dialogue 
• Excerpts from The Ancrene Riwle
• Lancelot Andrewes—Preces Privatae
• John Keble—The Christian Year
• George Herbert—The Complete English Poems
• John Wesley—A Plain Account of Christian Perfection
• Charles Gore—The Epistle to the Ephesians
• William Temple—Readings in Saint John’s Gospel
• A. M. Allchin—The Joy of All Creation
• Fr Andrew, at will 
• Excerpts from Anglicanism by More and Cross
• Fr Thornton—My God: A Reappraisal of Normal Religious Experience, Prayer: A New Encounter, Christian Proficiency, A Joyful Heart

Advanced Texts

• Michael Ramsey—The Gospel and the Catholic Church
• Augustine—De Trinitate, De Civitate Dei, and biblical commentary at will
• Walter Hilton—Scale of Perfection
• Excerpts from the Victorine fathers, at will
• Sermons and writings from the Cistercian fathers, at will
• Thomas Aquinas—Compendium of Theology, then at will
• John Macquarrie—Principles of Christian Theology, and Mary for All Christians, then at will
• Kenneth Kirk—The Vision of God, and Some Principles of Moral Theology
• Eric Mascall—Christ, the Christian, and the Church; then at will
• Isaac Williams—Tracts 80 and 87 On Reserve
• John Henry Newman—Parochial and Plain Sermons

(Header image of Saint Anne teaching Our Lady to read, at All Saints’, North Street in York; English Spirituality meme courtesy Nathaniel Marshall)

Homily: “On the Transfiguration and Falling in Love with Jesus

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2018.

We have asked in our Collect that God, wonderfully transfigured in raiment white and glistening, grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in His beauty. It is a Collect that exemplifies the observation, that Collects concentrate an extraordinary amount of theology into a small devotional package, a package that consolidates the biblical revelation into prayer. This is a prayer that by faith we might see the beauty of God. This is beauty at a greater depth and significance that the physical aspects of Jesus. It is this depth of beauty that Saint Mary Magdalene surely perceived Our Lord when she sat at His feet and when she anointed Him with her oil of faith. Is this not why in our lives we choose to be Christians amid other possibilities—for those moments through our worship, our prayer, our service, Christ makes His beautiful Face apparent to us, a Face that turns darkness to light, and sorrow to joy?

It seems to be a pattern for two persons who fall in love that at some point during the courtship each sees in the other more than the eye can see. The beauty of the person takes on a deeper tone of radiance and of presence. They become, for each other, an everything. And this perception, both subjective but also very real, imprints on each person, and becomes the baseline for how each sees the other as the adventure of love gives way to the ordinary days of marital relationship. And then after the death of one, the surviving spouse maintains that image imprinted so long ago, and it even heightens to become the dominant way that person is remembered. Any photograph will bring that radiant image back immediately. Or even, just hearing the name spoken aloud.

Let this be how we begin to understand the Transfiguration of Jesus. It is described as yet more, yet let this be our baseline. Just as Moses was imprinted by the divine radiance of God shown to him on the mountain as he received the commandments of creation, the commandments of relationship with God, Saints Peter, James and John were imprinted with the glory of heaven, the glory of Jesus Himself, whose true nature is also heavenly. In Him, everything is concentrated, everything is focused. His sacred Heart is the heart of Being, of all of reality. He who had performed miracles of healing and feeding, Himself is the true miracle, indeed the primordial miracle. Peter, James and John were eyewitnesses of His majesty, and heard the thunder of the Father’s voice, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus was the true Isaac, Jesus was the true Lamb, Jesus was the true suffering servant. It is no small detail that in each of the Evangelists’ telling, the Transfiguration only comes after Jesus had described both His coming Passion and the conditions of true discipleship, of taking up of the cross.

The three disciples, then, fell in love with Jesus. The Transfiguration is the moment of transition from the disciples’ acquaintance with the human Jesus to their faith in the same Jesus as the Christ.[1] The depth of this transition did not begin to be realized until Jesus died on the Cross and was resurrected to the Right Hand of His Father. But it began here—began as they witnessed firsthand the glory of this human man who teaching them that true love is not basking in the radiance of being, but giving one’s life for others. Jesus could have, one might suppose, chosen to be assumed into heaven at this moment of glistening glory. He could have passed from that mountain to His Father’s presence in the sight of the three disciples. But that would not have been the Christ we worship, if He had sent His disciples down to face something that He Himself would not face.[2]

That prayer on the mountain was not a prayer for escape from pain, but a prayer that brought to His mind and soul and will the complete acceptance of all that was hidden in the dark sea of the Passion. As the Church forever wrestles with the Cross, and tries to make the Cross the center of our reality, let us always thank God that through the devastation of the Cross, through its cloud of suffering, through the crown of thorns shines a Face, a Face that is divine. As we enter into the cloud of Christ’s pain we enter into the light of His love.[3]

[1] cf. John Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology, XII.48.xvi-xvii.
[2] cf. Father Andrew, Meditations for Every Day, “Tuesday after Trinity VIII.”
[3] Ibid. And cf. Father Andrew, Meditations for Every Day, “Wednesday after Trinity VIII.”

Homily: “On Mary Magdalene and the Theology of Woman”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, 2018.

On this Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, traditionally one of the most beloved Saints in English/Anglican Christianity, three words come to mind. Those three words are peace, strength and courage. Peace, strength and courage are what we ask God in the Collect after Communion to grant us so that we can love and serve Him with gladness and singleness of heart. Jesus teaches us that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. And that we are to love our neighbor as our self. And so we ask to be sent into the world in peace with strength and courage, knowing that for us, the baptized who have been nourished with the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, God sends His grace because He knows that to love Him and our neighbor, to be agents of heavenly peace in our world, requires divinely given strength and courage.

Peace born of strength and courage describes Judith perfectly. Continue reading

Homily: “On Failure in Mission”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Seventh Sunday after Trinity (Eighth Sunday after Pentecost), 2018.

Failure is part of the every day situation of our lives. Every person experiences failure on a regular basis, sometimes every day. There are things we want to do, things we want to accomplish. There are ways we want to act, things we want to say, ways we want to be known and accepted. We feel that we need these things, we might even feel called to them, and have been preparing for them for some time. Our hopes and dreams may have been deeply embedded in these desires, even financial livelihood or personal accomplishment.

And yet, we fail. Continue reading

Homily: “On Love Itself as Understanding”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Sixth Sunday after Trinity (Seventh Sunday after Pentecost), 2018.

Our Collect today invites our prayer to a profound truth, despite its wording being rather commonplace, and even cliche. It begins with these words: “O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor.” What this reflects is the fact that knowledge and love are all the same—that, for Christians, love itself is understanding (William of St Thierry, Exposition on the Song of Songs, 57.) What we do, our actions, our behavior, our prayer, must, if it is going to be Christian action, Christian behavior, Christian prayer, live out our beliefs. Our words that profess what we believe throughout the Liturgy of the Church, whether in Mass or daily Offices, have to find expression in our bodily actions—concretely, actually, and palpably. For us, taught by Jesus Christ and learning within the fellowship of the Church, knowledge and love are all the same: Love itself is understanding. Continue reading

Homily: “On Healing the Needy”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (Sixth Sunday after Pentecost), 2018.

Attention to language is often something that people gently ridicule in others. When a person is regarded as paying too close attention to words and their meaning, they are said to be “splitting hairs.” Or such examination is dismissed with “oh, that’s just being semantic,” meaning, it is not necessary to pay such close attention to words: the meaning is about the same either way. Six, or one half dozen of the other, is an axiom we often hear. A person claiming “I did not yell at you, instead I spoke firmly with my voice raised,” might be demonstrating this. To which the other person might respond: yes, and that’s splitting hairs, because you should not have done that. So sometimes, we use a strategy of being very attentive to language, perhaps overly so, as a way to protect or defend ourselves against the accusations of others, or to hide from our behavior we know was inappropriate.

Attention to language with respect to the Sacred Scriptures, on the other hand, is constantly demanded. This is why the Collect for the Sunday before Christ the King Sunday at the end of each liturgical year has taken a special place in Anglican spirituality: “Grant us so to hear the Sacred Scriptures, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.” To read and to mark, to learn and inwardly digest, means to be attentive to the words of a passage, even just one word—attentive through prayer, through silence that allows us to hear how the words echo in our mind, echo in our memories, echo in our soul. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, 2018.

The words that the prophet Isaiah hears in the fortieth chapter come to him after the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and the exile of its leading citizens.  The religious, political, and social institutions were no more. The Davidic dynasty was gone, the temple was in ruins, its priesthood scattered. Darkness pervaded everything. And so it was for this reason that in Isaiah we do not hear a call for the people to recognize their failure and confess their infidelity to God. There was no way to deny those were the case, the truth of their infidelity to God was so self-evident and pervasive. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Seed Parables”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Third Sunday after Trinity (Fourth Sunday after Pentecost), 2018.

We hear today the second and third of the three Seed Parables. These are relayed to us by Saint Mark all in chapter four of his Gospel, almost in a direct sequence. The Parable of the Sower of course comes first, with its presentation of a kind of bleak-sounding predestination—the growth of the seed entirely depends upon the soil: good soil means growth, poor soil means the seed does not grow. The second seed parable presents the completely opposite scenario whereby the quality of the soil is irrelevant because the seed grows by itself, automatically. And the third Seed Parable, of the mustard seed, tells us that what grows of the seed is ordinary, for the shrubs described would be no more than eight feet tall. Continue reading

Homily: “From Whom All Good Proceeds”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Second Sunday after Trinity (Third Sunday after Pentecost), 2018.

Meditating on our eucharistic Collects is always a good and holy spiritual practice. I invite you all to find time during each week, even each day, to set aside a period of prayer to savor the Collect of the Day that is assigned for not only the Sunday but the whole week long, Sunday through Saturday. These Collects are the same, year after year. They are theological, yet presented in an accessible way that summarizes the Bible, and puts us into a right relationship with God. Being well composed, the Collects remind us of the importance of dignity in our prayer life, of the value of the right words in the right order.

“O God,” our Collect begins, “from whom all good proceeds.” How often we are to remember this. Everything that is good, everything that is true, everything that is beautiful, comes from God, and has its origin in Him. He has given us every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; we shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, God has given every green plant for food. And when God saw everything that He had made, He beheld His creation, He venerated His creation, and He said, “It is very good.”

The world, and all that is in it, from one end of the earth to the other, is full of grace, because God makes, loves, and keeps all things, and fills them with His blessing. He loves His creation, He loves all His creatures, and we are invited to do so—invited to participate in His beholding of His creation, participate in what is first and foremost listening: listening for how God speaks through His creatures; listening for how God expresses His will and His glory through His creatures.

The Church teaches that people with the habit of doing this are transformed by grace: transformed in the way they think, the way they live, the things they value, the way they act; a transformation of worldview. Taking serious the truth that all good things come from God leads, through the Sacraments and the liturgical life of the Church, into a transformation of consciousness. Jesus said clearly: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

The problem is when we don’t. The problem is when our choices do not reflect the truth that God’s authority is absolute over all things, but rather reflect a false view that limits God’s authority. We see this in both our passage from the third chapter of Genesis and the third chapter of Saint Mark’s gospel. In Genesis we have Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. This fruit in all likelihood was figs. There is nothing inherently wrong or sinful about figs or even this specific tree. It is named by God as the True of the Knowledge of God and Evil and God proscribes eating from it. His authority extends over all things, and certainly over this Tree. What Adam and Eve do, in disobeying God’s command, is in effect a pretending. They pretend that God’s will no longer includes this tree. It is like they create some sort of safe zone where God’s will applies elsewhere, but not within this safe zone of their creation.

We do this sort of thing all the time. It is something along the lines of “Oh, God won’t notice; or if He does, He won’t care if I do this little thing.” We pretend that we can create a little bubble out of God’s reach, within this bubble, this safe zone, we can do whatever we will. We can say rude words within this safe zone bubble; we can harbor ill thoughts towards others in this safe zone bubble; we can seethe in quiet hatred towards those people we do not like, within this safe zone bubble. We think, Oh God won’t notice; this little thing is to small, too insignificant for the God of all Creation to care or take much notice.

How wrong that is! All of our ways are before the eyes of the Lord, the Book of Proverbs teaches clearly, and He watches all our paths. He watches to see how we treat people, not only to their faces but behind their backs. He watches not only our habits in public, but what we do in the privacy of our homes. The eyes of the Lord are upon the baptized, for they are to follow Christ, and by following Him, imitate Him in our thoughts, words and deeds. His expectations for His children, the baptized, are high: He expects us to constantly be trying to seek and serve Christ in all persons we encounter, whether in Tazewell County or anywhere else. God knows we will not do that perfectly or without misstep, but He expects we at least try, to make an ongoing attempt day in and day out. How we treat people, whether within the Church or outside of the Church, is of upmost importance to God’s will.

This is why Jesus teaches that all sins will be forgiven, no matter what blasphemies they utter; who whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit is guilty of an eternal sin, indeed will never have forgiveness for such an act. Now, Jesus is not referring to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Rather, Jesus is referring to the innate holiness present in every person by virtue of being created of being created by God, from whom nothing but good proceeds. It was common Jewish belief that every human being naturally possesses God’s holy spirit. This is captures in Psalm 51: Take me not away from your presence, and take not your holy spirit from me. All people deserve our respect, our love, and our ministry by virtue of this fact. In this world, there are not two groups of people: the good on one side and the evil on the other. There are only people in varying states of pathology or wellness.

Our task, our commission, is to reflect on the goodness that is in all people, without exceptions, and allow this glorious truth to drive our actions in Mission. Reflecting on this glorious truth: that in all things, in all creatures, in all people, God is present and active, the same God that is present and active in our hearts, present in our Tabernacle, present shortly on our Altar. The open secret of Christian Mission is the more we open our hearts to the tremendous glory of God, the easier it is to do the hard work of Mission, of meeting people where they are. Indeed, as we sing at every Mass: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might: heaven and earth are full of your glory. Heaven—and earth.

Announcing our second Fellow-in-Residence

As the founder of Akenside Press, now in its almost sixth year of mission to aid in the rediscovery of the true Anglican patrimony of the English School of Catholic spirituality, I am most pleased to announce the continued flowering of an initiative—our Fellows-in-Residence program—planted six month ago and which promises to make creative strides and bear fruit.

This new flowering is the addition of our second Fellow-in-Residence, Ian Edgar. A Canadian by birth and a small-scale farmer for much of his adult life, Ian now lives in England and will be ordained, God-willing, a Deacon later this month on 30 June and serve two parishes in the Diocese of Chichester.

Ian will have three areas of focus in his Fellowship. Long inspired by the writings of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, Ian will explore in his Fellowship possible areas of mutuality between the thought of Vanier and the English School of Catholic Spirituality. He will also explore whether study of the English School might yield new directions in prayer with respect to the issues of Full Communion with the Pope of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Communion. The third area of focus for Ian will be the theology of the Faithful Remnant (a key theme of Martin Thornton’s theology) and inducing its rejuvenation within parish life.

To learn more about Ian and his journey, see here.

To learn more about the twofold ministry of our Fellows-in-Residence program, see here.

Welcome, Ian! Pray for his ministry as a Fellow-in-Residence, and for the overall ministry of Akenside Press to strengthen Anglican patrimony through the renewal of Catholic reality in Anglican parish life.

—Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B.

Homily: “On the Saturday Sabbath”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Third Sunday after Pentecost (First Sunday after Trinity), 2018.

We have asked in our Collect this week that our loving triune God put away from us all hurtful things and give us those things which are profitable for us. It is a fitting petition for us at this time, being as we are on the heels of Whitsunday and the Coming of the Holy Spirit, because it is precisely profitable things that we asked for in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit—both in the traditional expression of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and in our local expression, where we asked for gifts that include 3-5 new families at both churches, a vocation to the diaconate, and a game plan to meet the homebound and lonely outside of our church membership but within our geographic parish. In other words, this is a season for asking for profitable things from God. And we should never hold back from the Maker of all that is, seen and unseen, our desire for profitable things. For as Saint Luke records of Our Lord Jesus, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The reason why it is not only permissible but advisable for us to ask God for 3-5 new families at both churches, a vocation to the diaconate, the game plan to meet the lonely, and the rest of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is also captured by our Collect. For He who hears our prayers and know the secrets of our heart set in order all things both in heaven and earth by His never-failing providence. Our lives are always in His loving hands. Just as God has designed the laws of music so that beautiful and infinite harmonic combinations are possible, God has set the laws of creation so that the things of creation—“creatures” whether animate or inanimate—can participate in the activity of God (and this is really what the Ten Commandments are: laws of creation, laws of of creation in relationship with itself and with God) but even more so, be the means by which God’s will is known. God makes Himself known through creatures.

This is the principle of “mediation,” that creatures mediate, or are a medium for, God’s salvific grace. We do not worship creatures, of course—we only worship God, and we shall have no other gods before Him. But we do, and we should, not worship creatures, but venerate creatures. To venerate is to recognize the holiness of God’s presence in things. We do not worship Mary and the Saints, we venerate them because God is present in them in remarkable and even outrageous ways. In venerating Mary and the Saints, we worship God Who was present in their lives, their words and deeds, and present in their sorrows and challenges.

Despite what seems often advertised, Christianity is not an intellectual religion, but an incarnational religion, meaning in a body, in a creature. Christianity has rightly been called the most materialistic of religions because of the high value it places on the body and on all creatures. It is this fact that undergirds the entire sacramental system, whereby through ordinary means—bread, wine, water, oil, the laying-on of hands, vows exchanged—become saturated with extraordinary grace. And the general principle of sacramentality is derived from the Seven Sacraments: it is in God’s power to use anything created as a medium for His grace.

And because God speaks through creatures, our relationship with the created world—our relationship with creation, in short—takes on theological significance. If God’s voice seems silent or barely a whisper, if His presence seems obscured or even gone, the likely cause is disharmony with the local community, disharmony with the local society of people, animals, and land. It is not that their ideals must drive ours. Far from it! It is God’s ideals that we must follow, but we must be the agents for God’s ideals wherever we are. Holy and upright in trying to follow in the footsteps of God, we are also called to love our neighbor, which means meeting them where they are, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

The task of meeting people around us where they are—particularly where they are emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually—is the hard labor of God’s harvest. This is where the rubber meets the rad. How true are the words of Our loving Lord Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Meeting people around us where they are is filled with ebbs and flows, missteps, miscalculations, and above all it can simply be draining.

And it is for this reason that we not only have the Eucharist every Sunday for spiritual replenishment through the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacred Scriptures, and our fellowship, but also the Saturday Sabbath. The Saturday Sabbath is a tradition that has been obscured, weathered over, and even utterly forgotten in our day. Why it has been obscured or forgotten might have something to do with our general attitude towards creation itself—an attitude that too often seems to emphasize exploitation of creation rather than stewardship of creation. Yet for the Church today, a Church that finds itself still in the hands of our Loving Lord, and indeed challenged by Him to make stronger commitments to local mission, to local evangelization, the old tradition of the Saturday Sabbath is long due for a return.

Why do I say so? For two reasons. The first is that the Sabbath is the weekly occasion to remember and meditate upon God’s creation. It was on the seventh day that God rested from His work. And He blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it. On this day, God venerated His creation, venerated His creatures, saw in them their profound goodness. All creatures are very good in the eyes of God.

And this is what it means for Jesus to teach, “The sabbath was made for man.” God made the Sabbath—to use contemporary parlance, he “modeled” the Sabbath—so that in being a model, His children would follow in His behavior. It is God’s will that we find some meaningful time on Saturday to emulate Him: to meditate on God’s wondrous creation, to give thanks to God for His wondrous creation, to simply witness His mighty acts of creation. This is perhaps the simplest way to receive the gift of Holy Fear: to marvel at what God has made, and to do so on any way that inspires you: His acts mighty and broad, His acts small and local. The little flower that opens, each little bird that sings. The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun. He gave us eyes to see them, and it is most fitting to do so on the seventh day of creation each week: Saturday recapitulates all of creation, and God made Saturday for man: that we might revere Him and His actions.

Because—and this is the second reason for recovering Saturday Sabbath— doing so cultivates peace; the peace that springs from thankful recognition for what God has done for us, for His people, for all of creation; the peace that flows from the Eucharist into our hearts; the peace we need for right relationship with God; the peace we need for mission, because we are God’s agents of peace in Tazewell County—indeed, the peace of God that passes all understanding, that our hearts and mind might be kept in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ. God, ever grant us this peace. Amen.

Icon of the hand of Monica Thornton.

Homily: “On the Coming of the Holy Ghost”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on The Day of Pentecost, 2018.

In terms of centrality to the Christian experience, everything we do, indeed everything we are, revolves around Easter and the resurrection of Christ crucified. For if Christ is not raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins, and all who have fallen asleep are truly perished out of existence. Without Easter, much of what we do would be better characterized not by “Let us pray,” but “Let us play.” The rite of baptism would be an ineffectual ceremony of water, the Eucharist would be an empty symbol of bread and water, and on and on. Continue reading

Homily: “On Ascensiontide”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Sunday after Ascension Day, 2018.

We come together today in the short but holy period of Ascensiontide, the concluding moments of the Easter season. God has exalted His only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to His kingdom in heaven. We observed and celebrated that great feast three days ago. It is indeed a great feast because the reality it celebrates we profess in the Creed of the Church: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the Right Hand of the Father.” The presence of Jesus had been local in time and space—as He walked on the ground, as He talked in specific places, as He sat at table with disciples and followers—a local presence. Even as He appeared to the disciples after His Resurrection, these appearances remained local occurrences of the divine, where the separation between heaven and earth indeed had been torn open.

The resurrection appearances of Jesus taught the disciples and apostles about the Eucharist, Continue reading

Homily: “On Abiding in His Love”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 2018.

Jesus taught that if we keep His word, that we will abide in the love between Him and the Father. As mysterious as that may sound, Jesus appears to have intended that to be accomplished through relatively simple means. The means that the disciples were given amounts to what is called the “Rule of the Church” (or Regula): the Eucharist, their daily prayer life flowing out of their Jewish tradition, and fellowship of service toward each other reflecting on their experiences of Jesus in the light of the Sacred Scriptures—all to find the way to do a new thing: abide in the love of God through Christ crucified. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Way, the Truth, and the Life”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2018.

We ask of our loving God in our Collect this week something extraordinary. We ask that He grant us so perfectly to know Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life. I say this is extraordinary for two reasons. One because the claim made herein about Jesus—He is the way (and there is no other); He is the truth (and there is no other), and He is the life (and there is no other). We need to have this clarity about our loving Lord Jesus—clarity about who exactly He is, and clarity about what His mission was in becoming Man in the Incarnation. Jesus is the definitive revelation of ultimate reality, and He chose to be born, to live, to minister, to die, and to rise again so that the whole world could join Him with the Father in eternal bliss.

And that is the second way that our Collect is extraordinary—the clear articulation of Hope. Continue reading

On the Ministry of the Laity

[This essay by Father Dallman appeared in the May 2018 issue of The Spire, the newsletter of the Parish of Tazewell County.]

Saint Paul teaches in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians that saints (the baptized) are to be equipped for work of ministry, for “building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” He also teaches elsewhere of the centrality of the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity to the Christian life.

The pressing question then becomes, within the context of Baptism, how do equipping the saints for ministry and the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity hang together as part of an overall “baptismal spirituality” or “baptismal life”? What is the shape or pattern? Continue reading

Homily: “On the Good Shepherd”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, 2018.

There have been not a few Sundays when in commenting about the Collect of the Day, I pointed out how old and ancient the Collect was. We have Collects in our Anglican tradition as old and venerable as any of the historic Christian traditions. It is not uncommon for us to be able to say that such and such Collect is, say, one thousand four hundred years old. So because I have in the pointed out such facts in the past, I feel a bit of responsibility to report that our Collect for this week is not one of those. It is all of about thirty nine years old, because it came with the new revision of the Book of Common Prayer in 1979. My gosh, it is younger than I am.

Nonetheless, despite its brevity, it is a Collect soaked in the Sacred Scriptures. Continue reading

Homily: “On Micah’s Prophecy of Peace”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Third Sunday of Easter, 2018.

In beginning our third week of living into the one day of Easter Sunday—living into its transcendent mystery—we continue to survey how the early Church began to see Jesus Christ in His glorified Body. We do that so that we can participate in the wonder and awe of Our Lord’s resurrection. The consequences of the Passover of Jesus from death to life are nothing short of outrageous. It is like a whole mountain range dropped into the ocean—waves and ripples everywhere in all directions of reality. The resurrection of Jesus washes the whole world with grace—nothing is left out, everything changes. But it is not a change in physical appearance. Rather it is a change in meaning, with new depths of meaning revealed and broken open for the People of God. The Resurrection of Jesus is first and foremost a religious event—and being a religious event, it is experienced through prayer and with the eyes of faith: eyes that see into the depths because God has opened them to us. Continue reading

Homily: “On Firm and Certain Faith”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Second Sunday of Easter, 2018.

It is not the easiest passage in the Sacred Scriptures to contemplate, but the passage from the Book of Isaiah is a very important one, which is why it is provided for our prayer today. “Open the gates,” Isaiah begins. He is dreaming about the future: a future kept by God, a future where peace is the way of life—a future built on confident trust in the Lord God as an everlasting rock. In the words of one Old Testament scholar, this passage is called Isaiah’s “song of the redeemed.” The vision celebrated in this song foresees a future in which the fortunes of the present will be reversed: the mighty will be brought low. It will celebrate Jerusalem, the strong city of God that has withstood the enemy and encloses the faithful. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on Easter Sunday, principal service, 2018.

We have asked in our Collect today of our glorious and loving Lord Jesus that by His resurrection, we may die daily to sin and evermore live with him in joy. There are few times of the time more joyful that Easter. The church takes on a new hum; there is a spirit of collaboration and sacrifice shared by the members of congregation between one another; our liturgical space, even in our shared relationship between our two churches, has seen more than normal amount of action, and today looks beautiful, smells beautiful, and sounds beautiful with the songs of Easter we all know so well. Our service to the Lord through the Mass is a multi-sensory experience of smell, touch, taste, hear, and sight. Continue reading

Homily: “On Beholding Our Mother”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on Good Friday, 2018.

In this Holy Week, we continue to follow Him through the mysterious events of the final days, hours, and minutes of His blessed life. We continue to minister to Him through our service—our worship, our prayer, our fellowship, our openness. And having continued with Him in the Garden of reality beyond time and space, we have come to the foot of the cross. Standing by us are Mary, His mother, Mary’s sister (also named Mary), and another Mary—Mary Magdalene. A holy trinity of Marys caught up in the glory of the Holy Trinity through Jesus Christ—a glory so strong and indestructible that He having loved us so much already, loved us to the very end: loving us with the last words, His last commandments, from the Cross, emptying Himself with the teaching that we will need to continue His ministry and live out the new commandment He gave on the previous night—a commandment of servant ministry that loves each member of the community like Christ Himself and celebrates the Eucharist which makes actually present again He who through whom all things have been made. It is that threefold commandment which the Church at Pentecost began to live out by means of the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers. All of the Christian life—the threefold commandment of servant ministry, celebrating the Sacrament of His Real Presence, and love for brother and sister—was revealed on the night before He died. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Passion of Jesus”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on Palm Sunday, 2018.

We have asked in our Collect the help of our loving Lord that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts whereby He has given us life and immortality. And we do in fact have a need this help. We are asking for something more than merely hearing. To hear is to process something conveyed audibly as information. But we already know the information of today. Jesus entered Jerusalem at the Passover with great fanfare, and during the week instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, and he was betrayed and by the end of the week, he was dead. That is the bare information of the last week of the life of Jesus, yet Holy Week is the time to go beyond the information, beyond the bare account, beyond the story we all know well—beyond into a contemplation of these mighty acts. To contemplate is to behold, to observe in depth. To contemplate is to make our hearts an open place of witness and of watching. After the Maundy Thursday Mass, everyone is invited to watch at the Altar of Repose with Jesus as He is in the Garden of Gethsemane—watching, observing, beholding in depth: contemplating the mighty act of love that is Jesus and what He has given us in the Eucharist. In that moment and in all moments during Holy Week, we are invited to contemplate joy that comes from pain; glory that comes from crucifixion; resurrection that comes from death. Continue reading

Homily: “On Wanting a Clean Heart”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on The Fifth Sunday in Lent, 2018.

We have asked in our Collect for the grace to love what Jesus has commanded us to love, and to desire what He has promised to us. And we have asked that our hearts be fixed to where true joys are to be found, amid the swift and varied changes of the world. Life indeed does change on a dime. Our sense of normalcy, of just wanting things to get back to the way they used to be, because they were going along, well not perfectly, but well enough—the rug gets pulled out from under us. Dramatic changes in our life are swift—too swift.

To love what Jesus has commanded us to love, and to desire what He has promised to us. A superficial reflection on these words would render them little more than sentiment one finds on a Hallmark greeting card. Sure, I will love what Jesus has commanded; sure, I want what He has promised. Well, He wants us to carry our cross and He has commanded us to follow Him. That’s all well and good when we get to sit down on the grass, listen to Him teach and watch Him preach, and then be fed by Him with bread from heaven.

That’s all well and good, in other words, when Christianity is something of a spectator sport—when we can watch the action from a distance, and even when the action gets tough, when Jesus says to the crowd, “I am not the Messiah you thought I would be. I am not a political leader who will overturn injustice and oppression through political action.” Instead He again teaches who He really is: He is the kind of messiah who will suffer mightily, He will die on the cross, with no political victory of any kind attained.

That’s all well and good, except the hard part: which is that Christianity is not a spectator sport. Continue reading

Homily: “On Seeking Our Mother”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on The Fourth Sunday in Lent, 2018.

In Anglican and Roman Catholic tradition, the Fourth Sunday in Lent has a characteristic unique from the other Sundays in Lent. Coming roughly in the middle of the season of Lent, seen as the time from Ash Wednesday to Easter, this Sunday has taken on a characteristic of being a kind of intermission or half-time. In England, today is known in popular piety as Mothering Sunday, and indeed this is where the secular holiday of Mother’s Day originates. In England, people would travel back home to the parish church of their youth, their “mother church.” The day has other names: “Refreshment Sunday,” “Mid-Lent-Sunday,” “Rose Sunday.” It was also the only Sunday in Lent when the Sacrament of Matrimony was allowed to be celebrated. Food is involved, with a variety of cakes and buns often baked for this occasion. Mothers themselves were honored with presents, such as small bouquets of early spring flowers. In this season wherein we give a certain emphasis on the Ten Commandments, Mothering Sunday becomes something of a robust enactment of the commandment to honor thy mother—because to genuinely believe is to not only to say what we believe but to act it out.

This sense of refreshment shows up, in a way, in our Gospel reading. Continue reading

Homily: “On Trusting God”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on The Third Sunday in Lent, 2018.

We have no power in ourselves to help ourselves. No matter how much we try to control of the world around us—the things and the people in our orbit—none of it will bring salvation. No matter how much we try to control the world inside us—the emotions, thoughts, and desires in our heart—none of that controlling will bring salvation. Our Collect pours ice-water over any kind of pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps mentality. It rejects entirely any idea that we can earn grace. We are entirely dependent upon God for everything. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Binding of Isaac”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on The Second Sunday in Lent, 2018.

Even though the Sundays during the season of Lent are not part of the season properly understood, which means that we are given refreshment from any fasting or particular ascetical disciplines we might be following—these Sundays are in Lent, but not of Lent—nonetheless these Sundays certainly take on a Lenten character. This happens through the various displays of the liturgical color of purple, the color of expectancy, the suppression of liturgical proclamations of the Gloria and Alleluia, as well as the prayers and appointed lections from the Sacred Scriptures.

Yet the Eucharist takes us out of time, up on the holy mountain, alongside Saints Peter, James and John as they, and as we, witness Jesus transfigured, the Eucharist glistening with a love intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach further; on the mountain with Moses and Elijah on the right and on the left of Jesus, because the divinity of Jesus cannot be seen without the lenses of the Law and the Prophets, without the Old Testament. Continue reading

“Meditation and Modern Biblical Studies”

By Martin Thornton (1978)

If there is a single exhortation to the faithful laity, common to all denominations through the Christian world, it is that they must read the Bible. What precisely does this mean? For parallel with the exhortation is the hard fact of biblical criticism, growing more and more complex, more esoteric, and throwing up the unending debate within its own ethos. If the simple (by which I mean one of integrated common sense rather than moronic) layman is to heed the exhortation then how, why and when is he to respond? Assuming that the modern layman is an intelligent and faithful, if untheologically trained, disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, then he is bound to ask questions: Why read the Bible? How read the Bible? What is the proper approach? The day-to-day pastoral situation comes up with four possible answers, none of which is very satisfactory. Continue reading

Homily: “On Baptism and the Flood”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on The First Sunday in Lent, 2018.

Although it is often not the first question we ask, the most important question we can ask of a passage from the Sacred Scriptures, how does it impinge upon our prayer life? How might the passage have a bearing on our relationship with God as that relationship is expressed in the complex of actions both inward and outward that we call prayer? Now I say that is the most important question, but often not the first question we ask. It is the most important question because asking how a passage touches our prayer life—and I mean prayer life both personally and uniquely to each individual and also corporately and shared by the Body as a whole—because the most important thing to Christians is our relationship with God, and the word “prayer” in the widest sense means just that: relationship with God; and relationship with God is lived out through actions, both inward and outward, the question, “How does this passage impinge on our prayer life?” closely corresponds with our actions inward and outward, and it is in our actions inward and outward that our belief in God is really shown. What we say we believe is important, but what is more important is whether we act out what we say we believe.

Yet this is often not the first question we ask. Continue reading