Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 52 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, October 30, 2006

House of God, Gate of Heaven.

I read a wonderful bit from a sermon by Br. Paschal, SSF (the English Branch of the Society of St. Francis), given at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham and published in their Fall 2006 Walsingham Review. It is reprinted here with Br. Paschal and the shrine's permission

So often we can 'soft-focus' the joyful mystery of the Annunciation. But it was a sudden moment of radical decision. To defend self or surrender? So just as Jesus had his Gethsemane moment, "Yet not my will but thine be done," so Mary had her own Gethsemane moment too, in that little house with its narrow entrance. "Let it be according to your Word."

Mary's path to exaltation came via self-emptying. She followed in joyful trust the way of the Gospel, the way of paradox. Dying we rise, letting go we find true life, humbling ourselves we find we are raised up.

Yet we find it so hard to let go of many things in order to pass through this narrow gate, and what we have to let go of is different for all of us. St. John of the Cross has a very telling little image for us. He askes us to imagine a bird tied down with somthing around one of its legs. It could be a think piece of rope or it could be a silk thread. Whichever it is, the result is the same - it cannot fly! Somtimes what we need to be release from is not someting clear and obvious like a piece of rope but something finer and almost hidden from us, like a silk thread.

Perhaps we need to let go of the unforgiving spirit that holds us captive to past hurts, or the negative emotions of anger, greed, pride, or lust? Perhaps we need to relinquish our desparate hold on our individualism, self-sufficiency and lonely isolation, remembering that Heaven is the life of commuion. Most of us have to stop clinging to the safe shores of convetion and instead risk the Gospel promises! Mary beckons us to surrender all these things and to put our turst in a God who feeds, nourishes, and sustains us. And her example also reminds us that the narrow gate is humility, the foundation stone for any spiritual life.