Make Mass Magnificent

Today’s prompt is dramatic, and there are several ways I could choose to interpret that. I could talk about some of the ways that God chooses to call us – many of them powerful, dramatic, and ultimately life-changing – or I could talk about the way our Christian rituals can be dramatic. I think, ultimately, I’d like to discuss the second option, if only because I think so much of the real meat of our Sacraments is lost in today’s world. In our rush to get everything done fast, we sometimes blow through incredible life events with only the barest understanding of what is truly taking place.

Like many folks, I attended Mass this morning at my parish church. Today was not a very good day for me on the pain scale, so I was forced to wear a comfortable set of pants today and a loose t-shirt to avoid aggravating anything. Typically, I make an effort to wear “dressy” clothes to church – a skirt or office pants with a blouse or long-sleeved shirt, or even a modest dress. This is not my normal wear, and I try to keep it that way. The Eucharist is a miracle; it is a weekly (or daily, if you are able) reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us and our salvation. It is a sign of my respect for, and acknowledgement of, the incredible gift I witness that I separate it from my norm by changing things up.

In addition to dressing up, I have also begun to wear a traditional mantilla to church as well. While as far as I can see this is definitely abnormal in the Anglican sense, it’s a tradition I have admired from afar for a long time, and truly respect. It is an outward acknowledgement of my belief in the presence of God and Jesus at the Mass, and it also links me to my role models of the past, who, without any doubt, wore veils or hats to church as a sign of respect. While I am the only one in my parish who chooses to veil, I am fortunate that it is accepted without question, and it has made my transition into observing this beautiful tradition that much easier.

However, it is definitely a dramatic shift in perception to do even small things like dress up or wear a veil. In today’s world, so many will go to church dressed for it as any other day. They simply sit in the pews and listen, and don’t absorb the whole of what is really taking place at the altar. The Eucharist is a gift that was so dearly bought for us, and I like to think that Christ’s sacrifice deserves two hours of wearing something nice and modest. Like so many of our Sacraments – which have both inward and outward symbols – surely clothing can be the same way. It represents an outward acknowledgement that we understand that something important is happening that day, and we change ourselves and our habits accordingly.

The Eucharist is just one of our Sacraments where so many don’t seem to truly grasp what’s going on. Baptism is often just seen as something on a large laundry list of things to get done when one has a child. There’s no real discussion of how momentous an occasion it truly is; it’s just something that the family says needs to happen. I often hear from many New Age-y friends that Christianity lacks deeper mysteries, and I think that is furthest from the truth as anything could be. Christianity has an incredible depth – what it lacks is appreciation from many congregations when it comes to its rituals and mysteries.

Don’t make Mass, and your faith, just another something that happens in your life. Make every Mass you attend special in some way. Wear a nice shirt. Do your hair differently. Fast before receiving the Eucharist, as people used to do. Heck, arrange for a parish brunch every week following the service, if that’s what it takes. But whatever you do, don’t become complacent, and take our Lord’s sacrifice for granted. It is special. The Mass is special. Our traditions matter. Become a beacon of faith for those who don’t yet understand what we do, and become closer to God as a result.

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Busy, Busy, Busy!

The summer always tends to be such a busy time of year for me. I just came back from vacation, and recently had my baptism prep class. With less than a month to go before my big day, I have a seemingly endless laundry list of things to do, and I’ve therefore had such little time to come online and write thoughtful posts.

With luck, I’ll be able to find an hour or two to myself in the next few days so I have time to talk about how my prep class went, figuring out how to maintain a diet while on vacation, and some more thoughts that have been swirling around my head.

I almost can’t wait for school to start up again. I feel like I have more “me” time!

Everyone Makes Mistakes

As I am sure many have heard by now, the General Synod’s electronic voting mechanism malfunctioned, resulting in that single clergy vote not being registered. As a result, it is with great joy that I say that the amendment to the marriage canon has successfully passed its first reading.

Of course, this does not change much in the scheme of things. Two successful readings are required before a canon is officially changed, and as I understand it the second reading will be brought forward at the 2019 Synod. So, despite being a highly publicized incident, there is still more time to have discussions and debates about the future of the marriage rite among the Anglican Church of Canada.

As has been noted, I am gay myself, and therefore it was with a personal interest that I watched the proceedings for the amendment. However, there is a discussion that I wish we would have, and I wish we would have it with an open heart and open mind. The fact of the matter is that not everyone is for the amendment to the canon, and these people have their own personal reasons why this may be. I wish we were not so quick to denounce everyone as hateful and bigoted. Certainly it is true that some are, but I think we would get further by simply listening to the other side. Their arguments are still valid, and their opinions matter. They are as part of this Christian family as you or I. We may not agree, but we can disagree with compassion.

This is not a war to be won. This is not something that can only end when we have “crushed” the opposing side. This is not a charitable attitude to have. As humans, we are flawed, which is why we need our salvation through Christ. It is why we ask Mary to intercede for us, and why we beg God for forgiveness when we sin. However, flawed though we may be, I truly believe that if we took a step back, took a deep breath, and re-entered the debate with an eye towards seeing things from another’s perspective, we would reap such a rich discussion on the subject.

As I said, I am not impartial. It is a deep wish of mine to marry my beloved in a church whose teachings I believe in so much, and to receive this sacrament just like my heterosexual brothers and sisters do. This is a dream of mine. But I acknowledge that not everyone will understand or agree with that dream, and I believe Anglicanism is such a big tent that there is room for both of these things – the dream, and the disagreement. The key is our mutual love for the church, for Christ, and for God, and I believe that love will win out.

A Guest At The Table

Today’s prompt is guest, which is appropriate, given how many of our brothers and sisters will feel this way after the disappointing and heartbreaking decision made by the General Synod on same-sex marriage.

The canon did not pass because of a single vote. Let that single vote stand as a testament that it only takes one person to destroy the hopes of a community. However, after seeing some of the backlash present across media (including some dear friends of mine), I have come to see that this defeat has much broader implications. Many dioceses (including my own) have come out and stated they will authorize same-sex marriage rites regardless of the Synod’s decision, and I have heard some murmured discussion of churches possibly breaking with the wider Communion as a result.

Schism is on the horizon because of the vote of a single clergy member. It is quite possible that we will see more backlash as a result of the decision made at Synod, and I have a feeling it will not bode well. This worries me, as relations within the wider Anglican movement are already fraught, what with the African community’s concerns about defending tradition, and the Episcopal Church being censured due to its decision to allow its clergy to perform same-sex marriage.

It’s starting to look like this is the kind of decision that has the potential to make or break the Communion. While I am confident that our big tent has enough room for everyone to make themselves welcome, I am beginning to become truly concerned about the rips in the fabric. We cannot afford to lose anyone – churches, dioceses, or national organizations, and yet that is the way it looks to be going. It is so strange to me how the request to allow others to solemnize their love the same way heterosexual couples do has the potential to tear asunder the seamless coat of Christ. How is it that a movement founded in and for love – the very thing Christ asks of us to do – has the potential to do this much damage?

This is troubling for me on a personal level. While I am absolutely delighted that my diocese will authorize my priest to solemnize my upcoming nuptials, it hurts my heart to see that the canon did not pass by a single vote. It disturbs my mind to see the dioceses warring with one another over whether the bishops will authorize same-sex marriage rites, and I am concerned by the possibility of schism in a church that I have come to call home.

These are bleak days ahead of us, but I have faith that we will get through them. I have faith that I will live to see a day where the canon does pass and the wider Communion will enjoy the freedom that I do (thank you, Reverend). It is my hope that some of the more disillusioned brothers and sisters will return to Anglicanism, and have their own faith restored, and that the bleeding of congregations will stop.

These are my hopes, and these are my prayers; though for now, I will continue to privately grieve for those of my own who have had these long-treasured hopes dashed.

We Were Commanded To Love

Yesterday, my priest gave a beautiful sermon on love. It was relevant to so many things going on in the world: the Synod, which will decide whether the Anglican Church in Canada will allow same-sex marriage, and the greater tragedies that befell the United States and elsewhere recently.

Our world is full of so much violence and hate right now. Brother is turning on brother due to political turmoil, religious differences, deep divisions, and a media that loves to whip everyone up into a frenzy. It almost seems like it doesn’t matter anymore whether things reported are true; it only matters if they will elicit an outraged response. This is deeply disturbing to me to watch.

The sermon followed a reading which had to do with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Essentially, this parable calls to us to behave mercifully and with kindness towards those we come across, no matter their circumstances. There are no exceptions. Jesus was explicit when he said that we are called to love one another. No addenda, no “but only if…”, no “only if you agree”. We must love one another, and behave charitably. This is our calling as Christians.

This is sometimes hard to do, of course, particularly if others behave violently or aggressively towards us in the face of our love. This doesn’t mean, however, that we suddenly stop doing as we are called and move on. Being a Christian isn’t about doing what is easiest; it is about loving God, following his Word, and doing what is right. We are so fortunate to have things like Scripture to help guide us and teach us, and help us navigate a world that is very different from the one in the Bible.

Some of the lessons Jesus left us with, though, require no interpretation. There is no need for a canon lawyer to help us figure out what is meant by “love thy neighbour”. It is as clear as the water on a bright, sunny day. It is there in black and white for us to see, and to know in our hearts. The commandment is to love. The commandment is simply to love one another and to offer our comfort and aid in the darkest of times. No matter how troubled the world becomes – no matter how violently we are treated – we must offer our love.

Even if you do not agree. Even if what they do makes you angry. Even if – anything. We must not resort to violence. We must not resort to aggression. We must be even as Christ was to the thief on the cross, offering love and charity and hope. Our calling is to Christ and to God, and that calling, with no exceptions, is to love.

Will You Answer His Call?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been under the weather for a few days, which has left me unable to keep up to date on my blogging here at Canterbury Convert as much as I would like, especially with how inspiring the past few prompts over at The Daily Post have been. However, I’ve caught a second wind for the moment, and I’d really like to get my thoughts on this particular one out.

A few days ago, the writing prompt was darkness, and it coincided with a video a dear Swedish friend of mine sent me. You see, the video I was sent was a Swedish woman performing a kulning call, or an ancient Swedish herd call. The reason for this was the woman wanted to see if cows had ancestral knowledge. That is, would they respond to a call they themselves had never heard before, but their ancestors would have been familiar with?

If you would like to see the video for yourself (and believe me, you do!), click here.

However, as I watched the video, and heard the beautiful, haunting melody of the kulning, all I could think of was how much it reminded me of the way that Christ calls to us, leading us to his light from wherever darkness we may be lost in. Kulning travels over vast distances, since it was designed to call the cows home from wherever they may be. Scripture works like that for Christians. No matter how far you may have drifted from God, his Word will always find a way to call you home again.

Sometimes it feels as though we are stuck in the darkness, stuck in a place where we are deprived from the sight, sounds, and knowledge of God. However, Christ is our shepherd, and as the prayer goes, we should not fear – he will always come looking for us, wherever we may be, so he can bring us back to our flock. If we have faith and hold out through the hard times – the dark nights of the soul – we will hear him call out to us, and all we have to do is follow his call to get back on the path God has laid out for us.

Listen for the kulning of the soul, and follow it, placing your trust in God. He will never lead you astray.

A Hymn To Tide You Over

While the daily prompts the past few days have been exceedingly thought-provoking, I’ve been suffering from quite a bit of pain lately that has kept me essentially bed-ridden. As a result, I have not been able to attend to my blogging “duties” per usual.

Having said that, I will share a hymn that I have been listening to from my mobile that I think is absolutely top-notch. The singer has an enchanting voice, and the hymn has a very ethereal quality to it. Give a listen here.

I hope within the next day or two that this little flare-up will recede and I’ll be back to business as usual here!

It’s Off Limits

Today’s prompt is forbidden. The very first thing that popped into my head was “forbidden foods”, and that may be because I’m craving a certain sweet treat that shall not be named!

One of the worst part about a Polycystic Ovary Syndrome diagnosis is that you are suddenly introduced to the idea of forbidden foods. A PCOS diet is not like any other diet; if you fall off the bandwagon here, there could be some pretty nasty consequences. Depending on the severity of your condition, you could be wrestling with keeping your insulin well-managed, as well as some other symptoms that are exacerbated by eating certain foods. All of those little indulgences that you were used to sneaking in once in awhile are suddenly off limits, which can increase the cravings all the more.

I really struggled with this when I was first diagnosed. My practitioner was helpful enough to give me a nutrition guideline along with my information pamphlets, and as I dismally sat on the bus home reading through the list, I was gutted to see just how many things I truly enjoyed I was no longer allowed to have. No more pop (also known as soda). No more refined sugars. No more pre-made cakes, desserts, or fast food. Being that I was a normal college kid whose diet consisted of pizza, Coca Cola, and Twinkies, this was a huge change to wrap my brain around.

In the beginning, it was so hard. I bought cookbooks, overhauled my kitchen pantry, and learned how to use the cookware my parents had bought me when I first moved out. I had no idea what I was doing. Most of the food I made was complete rubbish, and I was completely discouraged. I knew I had to make this choice and stick with it so that I could get back to health, but it felt like nothing was working. It felt like all the “simple” recipes were still really difficult, and the prep time in the book was always half the time it ended up taking me. I was getting home from work at 7pm, but I wasn’t eating until almost 9pm each night.

There were times where I did want to just throw up my hands and test fate. There were times where I did sneak out to Subway for a six-inch sub, and then paid for it later when I felt woozy and my fingertips were numb. There were more times than I could count where I tearfully had to refuse to go out to the pub with friends because I didn’t trust myself to order something healthy instead of my usual cheese fries.

As I gradually kept at it (and with the support of a lovely Facebook group) I got better and better. I became more adept at using my skillet. I tried out some new recipes. The old ones – which had given me so much grief and had taken so much time – were now old hat to me, and the prep times in the book reflected the amount of time it really did take to cook. My self-confidence increased, and it became easier and easier to walk past the dessert aisle at the grocer’s. My food was appetizing and filling, and my cravings for sugary junk foods decreased.

It takes time. Like all things, it seems like such a daunting obstacle in the beginning. We are already feeling awful about the diagnosis, and now we are having things that are comforting to us ripped out from under our feet. It’s hard in the beginning, but it does pass. As we continue to prioritize our health, home cooking all of our meals and taking our exercise, the cravings and the frustrations gradually decrease. There are still times where I would give anything to pop into Dairy Queen for an Oreo Blizzard, but instead I’ll train my thoughts elsewhere, or I’ll drink a glass of water to help me feel full until it’s time for dinner. I still occasionally have sweet treats, but I bake them myself, so I have control over the amount of sweeteners that go into it (and even then, I’m more apt to make up some kind of fruit salad).

While healthy eating doesn’t come as naturally as it used to in the past, it is doable, and learning how to cook opens up a whole world of experiences. There are so many ways to experience food that we aren’t even aware of. Sometimes, a bad thing can lead to a very good thing, indeed.

Layers of the Big Tent

Today’s prompt is about layers, and I find that quite an interesting coincidence as we were just discussing a similar concept at church on Sunday.

The amazing thing about the “big tent” of Anglicanism is that it has so many different viewpoints in it, and yet there is still harmony. Whereas if one were to ask a Catholic or a Lutheran what they believed you would find very similar answers, the truth is not so straightforward among the Anglican communion. As an example, my local congregation (which hosts no more than 25 or so regular members) has beliefs that range from an aloof agnosticism to a devoted Anglo-Catholic, though the actual community itself is quite “Low Church”.

As a result of this, the attitude towards Holy Communion tends to vary as well. Some of the less strict of our membership believe anyone who feels called to participate should be able to, regardless of their beliefs and whether they have been baptized or not. Others believe that baptism should be necessary, though Confirmation not; and still others of the more “High Church” believe only after Confirmation should one be allowed to take Holy Communion.

This is not only the case for churches like mine, but for many other churches as well. A quick glance at Christian forums or visits to other congregations notes the many layers that make up the “big tent” of Anglicanism, and I believe it is precisely this kind of variety that allows us to experience what it is to be a Christian in the fullest sense. There’s no demand among our clergy that we all blindly submit to a single point of view (although there is definitely the expectation that at least some bare standards are met). There’s a greater tolerance for dissenting world views and theological positions, and I find personally that the dialogue between Anglicans is very lively. Our faith incorporates the very best of the Reformation, while retaining the ancient traditions to continue to pass on. That’s something that very few denominations nowadays can lay claim to.

Perhaps this is just something that is forefront in my mind as the Anglican Church of Canada prepares to go into its 41st General Synod. This could potentially be a very groundbreaking Synod, as the Synod will be debating on whether or not to allow an official marriage rite for same-sex couples. For myself, I am wishing them the best of luck and good guidance as the Synod makes its decision on whether or not to go ahead with the proposed Canon changes. Whatever happens, I am hoping it is all done for the good of the Communion (though of course, selfishly, I am hoping it is passed!).

There is room for everyone with an open heart, an open mind, and a genuine desire for knowledge in Anglicanism. We leave no one out, and it is my hope that we continue in our quest to foster greater understanding amongst each other, and other denominations. There is truly nothing more beautiful than seeing so many different people – from all walks of life, perspectives, and beliefs – going up one by one to the table of the Lord to receive their salvation. I don’t think there’s anything in the world that drives home that “we are all one” more than this.

I ask for all the faithful to please join me in praying that the Synod members will be guided by good sense and the Spirit during this time, and that all will be done for the glory of God.

Faith’s Fire

As per The Daily Post’s prompt.

Let me burn for thee, O Lord.
Let my witness be a testament to thy sacrifice.
Let my life be thine.
Through thee, with thee, and in thee,
Let all things be possible,
For thine is the glory.

Set my faith afire for thee, O Lord.
Let me never know a dark night of the soul.
Let me find comfort in thy Word always.
For through thee, with thee, and in thee,
Let all things be free,
For thine is the glory.

Ignite my love for thee, O Lord.
Sate my thirst for forgiveness with thy mercy.
Feed me thy Body and thy Blood that I might always know thee.
For through thee, with thee, and in thee,
Let all things be redeemed,
For thine is the glory.