Merry Christmas to you and yours;
May you experience genuine peace … despite your circumstances … this Christmas and all through the new year as you begin to truly realize God’s amazing love shown through his son, Jesus.
John Muir exclaimed, “As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”
I recently enjoyed hiking in the Silver Falls State Park in my home state of Oregon.
To be the first human on the trail in the early morning … approaching a waterfall … the sound of it crescendos as you draw nearer, causing an uncertain yet knowing anticipation … a reward difficult to express, … but certain praise to the Creator … for a beauty so serene that melts “self” and it’s concerns away. Time with my Creator is always well spent.
The “Winter Falls” is a 134 foot waterfall that relies on winter runoff and is its best in winter, spring, and early summer.
“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” (John Muir, 1938) ….. I wonder if John Muir was acquainted with Saint Francis. Happy Trails!
This photo was taken in old town Mazatlan, Mexico
One of my favorite things to do when in other countries is to visit their churches. They come in many sizes and shapes. Some are rather simple and non assuming, while others are quite beautiful and extravagant. As a child I was always drawn to a church with a choir and pipe organ. There seems to be something almost super spiritual when being in the presence of so many voices in harmony along with the power of a huge pipe organ that helps you forget the cares of this world.
But I have also been moved to tears by a small group singing a hymn or praise song when the words reached deep into my heart and touched me personally.
In the passage from John 4 Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and after a few interchanges she says, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus declared, “Believe me woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4: 19-24)
Immediately after Jesus gave up his spirit “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” allowing us direct access to the throne of God. (see Matthew 27: 51)
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Thus we can worship God in spirit and truth in any “sanctuary”. I have many favorite “places” : Cornerstone Christian Church, our ‘home’ church, the living room in our home, the beautiful beach in Bandon, etc. But sometimes I am caught by surprise and I hear a song on the radio while driving and my car becomes my “sanctuary.”
This will be my last “Francis blog” from home. I will be leaving for Italy Easter morning. Lord willing, I will send a few blogs from Assisi after worshiping in the same “sanctuaries” where God spoke to Francis’s heart and changed the direction of his life.
So, my Jesus, let the pilgrimage begin. I am the clay. You are the potter. All praise and glory belong to You.
“Get thee behind me, Satin.”
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 3: 6)
Continue to work out … your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling … for it is God who is all the while at work in you–energizing and creating in you the power and desire–both to will and to work for his good pleasure …(Philippians 2: 12-13)
As Francis does an “about face” to follow Jesus, he chooses to ignore the laughter of his ‘old friends’ and becomes angry, but not at them, but rather at himself. For suddenly “he sees his former life before him, in its folly, its lack of object, its childish vanity. He saw himself in all his pitiful reality–and in front of him stood in shining beauty the life he hitherto had not led–the true life, the just life, the beautiful, noble, rich life–life in Jesus Christ. (Jorgensen)
Francis began to seek the will of God. Nearby, just outside the city limits was a cave in the cliff where he liked to go to pray. Sometimes alone, but usually with a single friend, a distinguished person who remained true to him despite his “change of mind.” (Thomas of Celano)
And there, away from the world, in this dark cave, he found a ‘secret chamber’ where he could pray to his Heavenly Father. And little by little, day by day his desire to do the will of God increased. He began to devalue himself and eventually the poor took the place of his ‘old friends.’
As God’s sons and daughters, we should be without the kind of guile that gives to others only when it will mean a good return in some way for us. We should seek, before God, to be His humble servants, pure in our heart’s desire to give and do, just as He directs us …
God’s Spirit will come to rest upon you, and upon anyone who will live this way, enduring to the last the constant temptation to live for yourself alone (Isaiah 11:2). The Father has promised that if we obey his command to love others, He and His Son, our Jesus Christ, will come and make their home with us and dwell with us forever (John 14: 21-23). Moreover, we will be seen and known as children of the heavenly Father because it will be obvious to all that we are busily, faithfully doing His work and not seeking our own ends (Matthew 5:45).
When we live this way, it may be said that we are truly wedded to Him–in spirit, we the brothers, the sisters, and the mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:48-50).
A man or woman begins to live in the Spirit by determining to become “the bride” of our Lord. In faith, we wed our souls to the Spirit of Christ and begin to enjoy doing His will. We become His “brothers and sisters” as we do the will of His Father who is in heaven. And we are “mothers” to Him when we allow Him to sit enthroned deep within our hearts by loving Him dearly and purely, keeping in good conscience by surrendering to His lordship over all that is ours.
As we knit ourselves with Him in this way, joined to Him in our hearts, a new spirit is born in us. Thus, our spiritual progress is similar to the way life grows within a physical womb. Eventually, we will no longer be living like men and women of the world. Instead, we will be so filled with the Spirit of Christ that we birth Him again into this world by doing the loving acts He himself would do if He were present in the body (John 14: 12) First Letter to All the Faithful: 45-53 (A Day In Your Presence, David Hazard; Rekindling the Inner Fire, Series)
This then, Lord Jesus, is my prayer and desire: “that something more of you may be born into this world through me.” Amen
Assisi is apparently one of the oldest cities of Italy. It was called Aisision in the books of Ptolemy and the Latin poet Propertius was born there. Christianity was brought there by St. Crispoldo. Legend has it that Bishop of Spoleto, a disciple of St. Peter, consecrated St. Crispoldo as bishop of Bettona. He had charge over Foligno in the south to Nocera in the north. During the reign of Domitian St. Crispoldo suffered martyrdom. Later three bishops from Umbria were also martyred–one of whom was St. Rufinus who was the apostle of Assisi.
In his honor during the 12th century a beautiful romanesque basilica of San Rufino was erected in Assisi (designed by John of Gubbio).
In this church is a romanesque baptismal font in which the first-born of Ser Pietro and Madonna Pica, Francesco, received the water of holy baptism (c. September 26th, 1182).
The spiritual struggles of Francis may actually have begun before his birth. His mother, Pica, was a delicate, spiritual French woman, while Pietro Bernadone was a cloth merchant whose every thought was toward his business and social status. He was away on business when the child was born and Pica named the child Giovanni in honor of John the Baptist. She sensed there was something different about this child.
Legend has it that near Christmas a beggar came and delivered a prophesy while holding the infant in his arms proclaiming that he would be “the best of all earthly sons of God.”
Pietro thought all spiritual talk to be “worthless delirium” and upon returning home refused to name his son after some ancient lunatic holy man. Thus the boy was named Francesco, or Francis. Interestingly the name was rare at that time but was the name of a road near Assisi, via Fransesca , which ran along the west side of the town ending at S. Damiano.
And so begins the struggle that would “rage around Francis all his life–the fight between love of God and love of Mammon. From childhood on, Francis was grossly indulged and spoiled.” (David Hazard)