Lent: A Confusion Before the Cross: Confronted by the Powers in Prayer

seasonsExcerpt and reflection from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Explorations in Liturgical Direct Action (1991):

It can be fairly said that discipleship is the topic of Lent. The liturgical road from Ash Wednesday leads straight to Passion-week Jerusalem. To enter wholeheartedly into the season costs more than tag along admiration from the margins of a multitude. A call and a choice are put point blank: take up your cross and follow.

Lent was first and still remains a season of baptismal preparation. Before the church year took shape there was only the unitive feast of Easter which went on for fifty days until Pentecost. But for some (those initiates to be baptized into the death and life of Christ on Easter) it was the culmination of a three year period of instruction and discipline. In the underground rigors of pre-Constantinian faith the scrutiny was serious, the preparation prolonged, and the prayer intense. Those demanding final days before baptism were marked with a fast. In part, by a simple act of solidarity and intercession, other members even whole congregations, were drawn instinctively to join the fast and renew their own sacramental vows come Easter sunrise.

Continue reading “Lent: A Confusion Before the Cross: Confronted by the Powers in Prayer”

EPIPHANY: Light to the Powers

seasonsExcerpt and reflection from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Explorations in Liturgical Direct Action

Among the liturgical ironies of Epiphany is that the date of this ancient feast should be rooted in a heresy and then subjected to the interests of Roman imperial manipulation.

There were many gnostic approaches to Jesus, all tending to assault the integrity of his person. He wasn’t human,he only ‘appeared’ to be. He floated through life, his feet barely touching ground. Or,as some had it, the divine spirit swooped down on him at a certain point, occupying his body and slipping away just before the agony of the crucifixion. In short, he never died. Nor was he ever born. Against such the creeds,indeed the scriptures themselves, avail. Continue reading “EPIPHANY: Light to the Powers”

Christmas: O Holy Nightmare: Incarnation and Apocalypse

seasonsExcerpt and reflection from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Explorations in Liturgical Direct Action

A great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Because she was with child, she wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the heaven: it was a huge dragon, flaming red, with seven heads and ten horns; on his heads were seven diadems. His tail swept a third of the stars from heaven and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, ready to devour her child when it should be born.She gave birth to a son–a boy destined to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and to his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert, where a special place had been prepared for her by God; there she was taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days.Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled down to earth and his minions with him….When the dragon saw that he had been cast down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the boy. But the woman was given wings of a gigantic eagle so that she could fly off to her place in the desert, where, far from the serpent, she could be taken care of for a time, and times, and half a time.The serpent, however, spewed a torrent of water out of his mouth to search out the woman and sweep her away. The earth then came to the woman’s rescue by opening its mouth and swallowing the flood which the dragon spewed out of his mouth.Enraged at her escape, the dragon went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep God’s commandments and give witness to Jesus. He took up his position by the shore of the sea. (Revelation 12:1_9, 13_17) Continue reading “Christmas: O Holy Nightmare: Incarnation and Apocalypse”

Advent: The Wilderness in a Very Small Place

seasonsExcerpt and reflection from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Explorations in Liturgical Direct Action

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way
of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be
made low; the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Matthew 11:2-6)

By tradition and history of the church, John the Baptist is associated with Advent. At the turn of the church year, the end and the beginning, he stands, one foot in each, to announce the coming of the Lord. John is the image of Advent par excellence: pre-eminent personage, spokesperson, figure, and voice. He is the very personification of the season, as seen in these two passages. Continue reading “Advent: The Wilderness in a Very Small Place”