Transfiguration 2019

The stained-glass windows at St. Matthew’s have all the major feast scenes from the life of our Lord save one. I have been puzzling through trying to make sense of why the Transfiguration was left out. In the Gospel, and the life of the Church, it is one of the most important events of Christ’s ministry. The event on Tabor is formative to the faith.

Maybe it was left out, because we don’t quite know what to do with it. We know the Nativity and the 12-year-old in the Temple. We get the Baptism and the Wedding at Cana. We understand the Last Supper and the Commissioning of the Twelve. We believe he was crucified and resurrected. But the Transfiguration? This one seems weird and difficult. Or, maybe we fall into the category of the late scholars who just knew that this was impossible, and thus, taught it as the resurrection appearance moved to the middle as a “coming attractions” motif. In other words, it may be that our modernist lenses cannot see why this feast is important.

Yet, our liturgical life tells us that this must be deeply important. We hear of it at the end of Epiphany each year and we have today as a second celebration. The Church is trying to tell us something, so what might that be?
In short, this is the feast of promise for all of us. At the Transfiguration the light of the Glory of God, God’s very energy, shines through the flesh of Jesus. The Son and Word of God, who has condescended to be born in human likeness, taking on human flesh and nature, reveals that that nature and flesh have been united to the Godhead, and redeemed by union with God. The “veil” of the flesh, so to speak, has been withdrawn and the Divine Light shines in and through it and the “veil” covering the Apostles’ eyes has been lifted so that they can see Christ as the God-Man, and see what they will become in him. This is no created light that shines for a moment, but the eternal Glory of God united in the flesh of Jesus, our own flesh and nature.

And so, it is the promise to each of us who are in Christ. We too have bee called to a life of union with God, a life of transformation and transfiguration, by the Light. We are promised that this Light will shine in us if we follow and trust in him. This is our eternal life.

Maybe that is why there is no stained-glass of this event as it was too difficult to accomplish in its fullness. Or maybe it is because the Transfiguration is supposed to be lived out in us each time we approach the Sacred Mysteries.

I will leave off with the words of St. Gregory Palamas on this day:

“We believe what we have been taught by those enlightened by Christ, which they alone know with certainty—“My secrets are for me and those who are mine”, as God said through the prophet (Isa. 24.16 LXX, cf. Dan. 2.27ff). So, rightly believing what we were taught, and understanding the mystery of the Lord’s transfiguration, let us make our way toward the radiance of that light. As we long for the beauty of unchanging glory, let us cleanse the eyes of our understanding from all earthly defilements, despising every delight and beauty that is not lasting, for sweet as it may be, it procures eternal suffering, an though it may enhance the body, it clothes the soul in that ugly robe of sin, on account of which the man without the garment of incorruptible union was bound and taken away in outer darkness (cf. Matt.22.11-13). May we all be delivered from such a fate by the illumination and knowledge of the pre-eternal, immaterial light of the Lord’s transfiguration, to His glory and the glory of His Father without beginning, and the life-giving Spirit, whose radiance, divinity, glory kingdom and power are one and the same, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.” Homily 34.17-18 in Saint Gregory Palamas the Homilies, translated and edited by Christopher Veniamin, PhD, Mount Tabor Publishing, Dalton, PA, 2016. Copyright held by the Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Essex, England.

Back to Blogging

Bluntly, blogging is one of those things that I like to avoid, as you can tell by the fact that nothing has been posted here for a very long time. I like to tell myself that it is because blogging, in my imagination, seems similar to having a tooth pulled.

However, that’s not the real reason.  The real reasons are multi-faceted.  I just do not like to write (kind of humorous for someone pursuing a PhD when you think about it).  I can find better uses for my time, or better wastes of time if you prefer.  I also really dislike social media and what it seems to have turned us into–phone junkies pursuing “likes” and “reactions”. Additionally, social media has not elevated the Yes, I know that sounds curmudgeonly, but I can’t help but observe that it is almost impossible to walk down the sidewalk without seeing people observing the world through a small screen and missing what is going on around them.

Of course, social media has its purpose, but I am convinced that it has coarsened the quality of discourse and disagreement.  We are more comfortable with “snark”, vulgar language, and hiding behind avatars. There is a temptation to view our social media engagements as if we are each a Leonidas and our online battles are always a Thermopylae.  If that metaphor fails to resonate, it is as if we have joined the lists in online jousting, and have forgotten that the sport requires a certain level of sportsmanship and grace.

That said, social media does have its uses and positives in that it can keep us connected in a way that was impossible before. Now whether that connection is beneficial and of the same quality as a personally present connection might be debated, but that is for the social scientists to discover.

So why bother with doing this blog thingy?  Primarily, it is an exercise in discipline.  Hating to write, I must write something regularly, and the storage here is excellent.  In terms of storage it is also a good place to keep passages and quotes I enjoy from my study, as well as, random thoughts that I wish to explore.  I am also interested in The Good, The Beautiful, and The True and recording observations here.  Someone also said, that professionally, it is good to do this.  Finally, maybe something contained on this site will resonate with a reader or begin a conversation like the ones in my Tobacconist’s years ago.  That would be ok.

That said, I have no interest in “likes” or “reactions” or chasing those.  I have no patience for ugly language, vulgarity, profanity, threats, “doxing”, or ad hominem attacks on anyone who might be published, or comments, here.  I make no apologies for the material published here, even when I disagree with it, and it may be controversial or “offensive”.  However, I expect anyone commenting here to act like an adult, and a certain amount of class is expected.  If we must joust, remember we should still be able to share a pint at the post-tournament feast.

In short, all are welcome here, but remember you are guests in my online home.  So, wipe your feet, feel free to light a pipe or cigar, help yourself to the decanter, but observe the house rules.



14%. The number seemed a bit low to me, but that may be based on my assumptions in coming out of a Free Church background. However, in a non-scientific informal poll conducted after Mass and during evening conversations, most considered the number to be quite high and expected a lower number. In either case, this is not good news.
So, what is the 14%? It is the number of those who attend Episcopal churches who have a daily reflection on Holy Scripture. Or at least, according to an ongoing self-reporting survey with current numbers of 12,000 respondents in 200 congregations.
One of the reasons this is so disturbing is that our very own Book of Common Prayer is 85% Holy Scripture. This is not just because the Psalter is included in the cover. Remove the Psalter from consideration and every “liturgy”, every service, is replete with direct Scriptural quotes and allusions to Holy Scripture. Include the readings required by the instructions (rubrics) for each service, and all that we do, and say, in private devotions, public prayer, the Holy Eucharist, Pastoral Offices, and Episcopal Offices, is rooted and informed and formed by the Holy Scripture. If the cycle of “Mass and Office” is followed each week, there is no escaping serious engagement of the Scripture. We may be a Prayer Book People, but we are first, and foremost, we are people of the Book.
This is testified by the oft-trotted out reference to Richard Hooker’s “Three-legged Stool”. This popular presentation of Anglican distinction, loosely based in reading Hooker’s “Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity”, states that Anglican’s are formed by Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. To be clear, there is no stool here as the legs are not of equal length. So, maybe it best be referred to as “the Anglican Scalene Triangle”. In any case, the leg of Scripture for Anglican’s is the longest and most formative of the three.
What this 14% means is that there is very little engagement with either the Holy Scriptures by themselves, or at minimum, the offices of the Episcopal Church daily. To be clear, this is not a sign of spiritual health and vitality.
The question for clergy is whether we are leading by example? Do we pray the offices, do we read and study Scripture, and being Anglicans does scripture form who we are and inform our conversation? If not, we need to model this behavior.
The question for laity is whether you wan the Church to return to its spiritual health and vitality? If so, engage the offices, or the daily devotions, and engage the Scriptures daily. The Word of God will be found in the words of Holy Scripture. Encourage your clergy, push them if necessary, to do the same.
14% is not a sign of vitality and health. So, will you help change it?

Annual Ash Wednesday Post (or sometimes a cigar is a metaphor)

A blessed Ash Wednesday to you.  Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return!

As you can no doubt tell, I enjoy a good cigar.  I recognize that in this day, and age, enjoying a totally natural product produced from the “evil weed” is probably one of the few “vices” that are absolutely unacceptable in respectable society, but I have always been a bit of a contrarian.

I smoked my first real cigar at the tender age of 25 and found that I enjoyed it tremendously.  Part of the enjoyment was the trip to the tobacconist’s shop, and the experience of being walked through the humidor and discussing the various options available for my palate.  I also loved the ritual of lighting up, and the camaraderie I found amongst my fellow enthusiasts in that small tobacconist’s shop in Dayton, Ohio.

I was in seminary at that time, a student at United Theological Seminary, working on an MA in New Testament.  I did not have much “walking around money”, but could always find a few shekels for a good cigar, and once a week would make the trek to the Boston Stoker on North Main.  There I would read, or write, or more often end up in a far-ranging conversation with folks from all political, religious, and irreligious persuasions.  There was never a dull moment, and though the conversations could get a bit heated, we all enjoyed each other’s company and the cigars we smoked together.  Over the years, I added pipes and good English tobacco to my repertoire, but no matter the smoke, the conversations were the same.  I do miss those days.

Hence the first purpose and name of this blog, as I need a place to have a good conversation that is centered on a common identity.  While, I will probably discuss the “evil weed” from time to time, the common identity here is a love of Jesus and a commitment to be a faithful disciple.  I invite you to join me on that journey.

The second reason for the name is that a humidor is capable of keeping a cigar fresh for an indeterminate amount of time, and allowing it to age to perfection.  I have cigars in my humidor that are fifteen years old, and are as fresh as the day I bought them, but have matured, aged, “gotten better” over the years.  I think the historic faith of the Church in many ways is like the humidor in that it keeps us fresh and helps us to mature in Christ.  I suppose, we could also be likened unto the humidor, as we keep the faith fresh, but I probably should not push the analogy to its limits.

Why is it appropriate to begin on Ash Wednesday?  Well, let me tell you a story.

I recently enjoyed a very special cigar as I was working my way through a demanding text.  I was alone, and thought it a good day to dive into my reserve.  That particular cigar was a Tatuaje robusto, and it has been aging for four years and was a thoroughly delightful creamy smoke. In fact, I delighted in this cigar so much, that I closed the book and just enjoyed the experience of the taste, the smell, and watching the smoke curl toward the ceiling and fill the room with its aroma.  It tasted of heavy cream, cinnamon, clove, and a slight hint of pepper.  The room note reminded me of “Blanc” incense.  So, I just sat back and relaxed, and tried to make it last as long as possible.

Unfortunately, as with all good cigars, at the end of the hour there was just a pile of ash left in the tray, and a memory of that smoke upon my taste buds.  I was sorely tempted to open the box and smoke another, but realized that would not be a wise decision, and looked with a bit of melancholy at the remains of what had been a great cigar, and was not but just a memory.  This is the fate of all cigars, and pipe tobacco, no matter how expensive, how great, how cheap, or how terrible, all of them become just a pile of ash at the end of the day.  They burn up, they burn out, and they are no more than a memory.

Is that not the lesson of Ash Wednesday?  We are all destined to be just like that great cigar.  No matter our station in life, rich/poor, wise/foolish, Republican/Democrat, beautiful/homely, or any other label, we are all destined to become nothing but a pile of ash.  We will die.  This is not because we are “used up”, but because of the effects of Sin.  As the Good Book says, “The wages of sin is death”, and we all get paid.

However, this is what makes the Christian faith different; we have hope beyond the ashy-ness of our existence.  Because of Christ: his Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, we have hope that this mortal body, though used up and ashy, will be raised and made new.  Because of Christ: death is not the end, and those who are found in Him will be raised like him.

On this day, when we remember our mortality, our common destiny to be put a pile of ash, let us repent and return to the Lord who will raise a pile of ash to new life.

May you have blessed Ash Wednesday.

Entrance of the Theotokos (Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

From a Homily of St. Gregory Palamas on this Feast.

Thank you to Fr. David Gresham of Holy Apostles for allowing me to visit this morning for the Liturgy.


We who understand the salvation begun for our sake through the Most Holy Virgin, give Her thanks and praise according to our ability. And truly, if the grateful woman (of whom the Gospel tells us), after hearing the saving words of the Lord, blessed and thanked His Mother, raising her voice above the din of the crowd and saying to Christ, ““Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps Thou hast sucked”” (Lk. 11:27), then we who have the words of eternal life written out for us, and not only the words, but also the miracles and the Passion, and the raising of our nature from death, and its ascent from earth to Heaven, and the promise of immortal life and unfailing salvation, then how shall we not unceasingly hymn and bless the Mother of the Author of our Salvation and the Giver of Life, celebrating Her conception and birth, and now Her Entry into the Holy of Holies?



Tax Day 2017

As we come to the final day of tax season in 2017, I would like to remind all of us that we have a moral duty to pay taxes.  As citizens of this Nation and its various states it is our obligation to pay a fair level of tax for the common good.   We can debate what a fair level is, and that would be quite spirited, but the underlying principle remains the same.

However, as long as we have a moral duty to pay the taxes asked of us, the taxing bodies have the moral duty to tax wisely, without using the code for either punishment or social engineering, and to spend the resources with which it is entrusted in a wise and moral manner.  Yes, I am looking at you, Illinois Legislature!

Happy Tax Day 2017.

Veterans’ Day 2016

107th_Cavalry_Distinctive_Unit_InsigniaLast Friday, I had the honor to serve as the keynote speaker for the Veterans’ Day observances at both Tri-Valley High and Middle Schools.  It was a privilege to address the young men and women of that community.

The focus of my address was simply on service, and placing ourselves second to others.  This is effectively what our Veterans have done.  Each of them, whether volunteers or draftees, stepped forward and signed on a dotted line for service before self.  Each of those who served honorably deserve our respect and gratitude being willing to serve when this nation called.  Whether or not we agree with the politicians and their maneuvering that brings, or has brought, this nation into conflict, the men and women who have served deserve our thanks.

So, what is the best way to thank a veteran?  Parades, programs, and discounts are nice, but I believe I speak for most veterans when I say the best thank you is to be of service to your fellow citizens and pass on the respect for, and love of, the freedoms so many have served (and died) to keep.
To all the old troopers, especially those of the 2-107th Cavalry, Scouts Out!
And don’t forget Fiddler’s Green.