Our Shared Liturgy: A Culture of Christ For All The Ages

(Theology/Insight)

You are what you love, love is a habit, discipleship is a rehabituation of your loves” – James K. A. Smith

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit

Doth My Heart Love Till Now

Hours tick by regardless of decisions made, actions taken, beliefs followed, or the time we commiserate with people. Some are time wasters, others efficient with their time. Weeks spent in the gym, years at work, and decades dedicated toward leisure. Temples built out of food, mammon, sex, guns, sports, or fishing. Rock etched by the blood of tears. Iron and Steel molted under intense heat. Days turn to months until moments become that last breath. Where one sits at the dinner table established a routine of rituals and processions. Altars surround our lives. But at what altar do you kneel? What does your heart speaketh in that final hour?

He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. – Psalm 15:2

St. Augustine of Hippo once replied of Psalms 15:2 saying:

[I]t is possible that a man may speak with his mouth a truth which profiteth him nothing, if he hold it not in his heart, that is, if what he speaketh, himself believe not; as the heretics…

Faith requires a pure sincerity that may fade at periods of life but never will it burnout. Should that sacred fire not exist, yet a person continues forward into the Holy of Holies, a profane fire will be lite becoming a mere intellectual exercise; vain attempts of ritual without purpose or meaning. And should thou not be careful, one runs risk of Nadab and Abihu:

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-2).

Not to suggest that God will bring fire down as He did to Nadab and Abihu; rather we must layout the concern that tainting holy ground has serious consequences for the Christian faith and the Universal Church i.e. of whom Christ is the Head. Worship matters and where the heart settles daily determines a proclivity that has eternal consequences.

Augustine, a great father of the faith, understood Sacred Scripture in its clarity of the human heart before an Absolute Sovereign God. Numerous times in the Old and New Testaments, the scriptures warn us that the human heart is misleading:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? – Jeremiah 17:9

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. – Proverbs 4:23

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. – Romans 13:14

Christ, Family, & Community

For us to properly settled our minds on that which is true and good, Christ must do a divine work within us. Per salvation a work is begun in us as we seek to partake in a body, the local church. Salvation is not the end game for a true believer rather it is the beginning of a life devoted to the Lord and His Kingdom.

Kingdom building requires us to gather and worship, to be discipled and to learn, to go share the Gospel and help all in need. Christ, our bridegroom, betroths us, the body, His bride. Yet while are indeed His, Christ bestows us leaders: Pastors/Priests/Elders, Deacons, and Bishops to pasture the flock through and through. Along with other believers we are to admonish one another in the ways of the Word.

Lastly, the Church is to be the center of community; a symbol of refuge for the broken and downtrodden; and a place of growth and real prosperity for believers. Once a person is saved, Christians must build outwardly from their homes, workplaces, and events. Yes, we gather every Sunday to celebrate the Living Word and the Living God our Savior, but each day must be a day set aside for God and for others. We must not be like the pharisaical. Should a brother or sister be in need, even on a Sunday, we must rush to them. Sharing the Gospel is the essential element but it carries with it great responsibilities as it reads in Matthew 5:3–12:

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Our calling is strong and everlasting in nature. There is no separation between believer and the Word; we do not adopt the Platonic or Aristotelian over that of scripture—never. Only the God of the New and Old Testament—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Our sacred liturgy is binding to reality. When and where we gather, so the immanence of God shall be. No, that does not dissolve the sacredness of the cathedral or the holy day. What the immanence of God reminds us is that His will be done. He is not to be forgotten nor can He be defeated. God reigns forever and ever. That sacred liturgy then is the center piece of our Body and the Throne of our lives, Jesus Christ.

Immanence of God - Servants of Grace

So when we gather at the dinner table or the Lords Table we must be sure to layout the real purpose of our joy and hope; our reason for living and being; the meaning of life and purpose.

Christ is the King! O Friends Rejoice 

1. Christ is the King! O friends, rejoice;
brothers and sisters, with one voice
let the world know he is your choice.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

2. Oh magnify the Lord, and raise
anthems of joy and holy praise
for Christ’s brave saints of ancient days.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

3. They with a faith forever new
followed the King, and round him drew
thousands of faithful servants true.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

4. O Christian women, Christian men,
all the world over, seek again
the way disciples followed then.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

5. Christ through all ages is the same:
place the same hope in his great name,
with the same faith his word proclaim.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

6. Let love’s unconquerable might
your scattered companies unite
in service to the Lord of light.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

7. So shall God’s will on earth be done,
new lamps be lit, new tasks begun,
and the whole church at last be one.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

Visual Philosophy

(Month of September, Series 2020)

Mere Beauty In Truth

Mere Beauty In Truth (click link for Instagram) is my theory of the Aesthetic. Influenced by the late Sir Roger Scruton I aim to use art, nature, architecture, and other mediums to witness a higher form, reality and truth about life through perception. 

Beauty requires us to recognize the ugly, the profane, and the false through a keen sense of what is true beauty i.e. that which strikes a profoundness inside us all putting us at its mercy. We do so by training our heart on the full range of emotions experienced in our lives. Fear, anger, happiness, and anxiety all mean something deeper within us. A friend once explained that to recognize a forgery one must study the real thing in complete and absolute detail. Mere Beauty In Truth is the study of the real thing we call beauty.

My ultimate hope it to show the Transcendence and the Immense of God through beauty and design, the ugly and the broken, so as to help us grasp truth and ultimate reality to the best of our limited ability. 

Aesthetic value is not merely art. Art is simply one principled medium of interpretation. We would not necessarily call a person or nature art but each can serve as an expression through a medium. Aesthetics targets the full range of expression through taste, smell, sound, sight, and intuition. 

Please enjoy.

The Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David

Overview: Prior to the Roman Republic, Rome was founded by Romulus (753-715 B.C.) Rome’s first King as myth would have it and of which there would be Seven Kings total. Of the Seven Kings the third, King Tullus Hostilius (673-641 B.C.), would commission the three Horatii sons (triplets) to save Rome from a costly war the king commanded them to fight another group of brothers, the Curiatii Alban. Rather having war after war, per their agreement, whomever wins the battle between the brothers settles the dispute. Out of love for their country, the three Horatii brothers swear an oath before their father to save Rome or die.

Patriotism is the central theme of this work of art.

There are three central themes within this piece: The Three Brothers, The Women and Children, and The Father.

At First Glance: The Three Brothers. Nothing about war is beautiful; war is rift with bloodshed and gore, screams and fear, chaos and uncertainty. War eventually exhausts the soul of a people. Even the best of men comprehend its deepest and darkest repercussions. What the three Horatii brothers submit themselves before is not merely heroic, courageous, and dutiful but sacrificial and righteous and just as they symbolically represent Rome yet literally put forth their lives. The tension of the moment is expressively seen in the gripping hands between two of the brothers:

The arm wrapped around the waist of one brother, his hand hardly relaxed rather tense and prepared with a hint of healthy fear as they prepare themselves for battle. And the hand of the brother at the foreground, gripping his pilum, knowing full well his life is dependent upon its durability and the dexterity of his brothers.

Notice the brother’s forearms. Strong, resilient, determined; those are the arms of real men; men set on saving a kingdom and her people from despair. The gradual rising of each arm, one, two, three as each hand slightly rises above another, one, two, three in oath but equal in cause, purpose, and rank. Three marks the divine, the triunity of brothers whose willpower can overcome even the gods in this glorious moment. Divine! Nothing can lay asunder a brotherhood founded on ideals above themselves. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done! It is patriotism personified. Not a brainwashing or a corrupt cause this is courage on a canvas.

Feet of fortitude, aligned nearly perfectly as they unify with the foot of their father. Their shadows even marking the moment as if it were transposing on sacred ground before the feet of hero’s. Those are feet that march and run toward their enemy never turning their backs for defeat. And the foot of a father who bestows his sons as worthy. Standing alone, simply studying the feet of these men, tells the story of a sacrum testimonium; a testimony of an oath that all hero’s must give.

Two of three brothers would die, however, the third would be triumphant and bringing a long line of glory for Rome.

Key Point: Patriotic duty can be a sacred cause but it must be a worthy and just cause. And duty requires an oath of commitment by righteous men who know the difference between right and wrong; good and evil.

At First Glance: The Women and the Children. Woe and sorrow befall on the family; the brothers cannot show their tears; the father must not weep so as to keep their spirits soaring; and so the women take on the brave cause of shedding what is felt by all in the room. Hardly weak, it should be said that the woman and children are the strongest as their emotions rightly rise to the occasion. Perhaps even demanding before slumping into a tearful surrender that they can go fight for them! No, that would not be honorable to the men who desire to fight. Our modern distaste for good men revolts at the idea that women were not allowed to fight in war. But we fail to consider the preciousness of this act and that no Roman nor Greek nor Jew nor American would simply say that all women are incapable of fighting; no they knew better, they each understood the strength of one woman, a woman who bears life itself, can kill a thousand men if they had to in the name of their family and countrymen. Vessels meaning worthy of protecting not objects nor property to be abused, these women had real men who respected womanhood and the power of the feminine. Make no mistake about it.

Together they share grief. Perhaps these are wives of two brothers, now sisters, sharing in their pain. If a feminine epistemology exists, this exemplifies it because only women can share such eternal bonds of birth and deep love and a heavy sorrow for their men. The woman in white, her arms dangling lifelessly to her side, faint and unnerved, her white stola represents purity, loyalty, and chastity. She wears her feelings on her sleeve.

The woman in red, symbolic of war and battle, her body drained by the event as her arms also lay lifeless, she weeps with her sister-in-law. Nothing more to do but pray and shed tears that will water the grounds of the land and people they love.

Alas a different strength appears. A grandmother of comfort, a dutiful wife, and a mother who loves her sons. Draped in purple, an aristocrat, she has seen much and done even more for her family. Now as her daughters cry over their men, she comforts their children. She knows this pain all too well.

Innocence, the eyes of a boy whose father must go into battle; the eyes of a child who has seen nothing that life offers him either good or bad; that is a terrified boy who dare not cry for the sake of his baby brother. That boy will one day be a man, a man of honor who cares for his younger brother, his mother, and his grandparents.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church blindfolds a child each time they choose their pope during the final selection, that child then picks a name from a bag; an act representing a child’s innocence and goodness from God. Indeed, this boy carries that innocence; an unknowing goodness that loves his mother, his father, his grandmother, his grandfather, his uncles, and his aunts. However, the striking look of the older boys face pierces the soul of all who dare peer into his eyes. Perhaps an innocence too holy for us all?

Key Point: The Women and Children are examples of real and justifiable emotions. They are not in the background hiding away from the men and their oath; they are part of the sacred oath to protect and serve their nation in need.

At First Glance: The Father. Likely in his sixties, wearing a red cloak as a means of bonding with his sons in preparation for war, the father bestows upon them three swords; a Triumvirate whose power is to decide the fate of Rome through a single battle. This Triumvirate would be prophetic yet very different from those of Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus (60 B.C.) and Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian (43 B.C.). Nothing political was being held that day, no rhetoric, no false appearances. Simply a proud father speaking boastfully with clarity so his sons knew what awaited them. An oath he had likely said generations ago, words even today that hold a sacred tone; “I do solemnly swear before God and before Man…” words that have meaning and purpose, words that reign true for all eternity. Nothing could make a father more proud than to see his sons fighting for a just cause. Notice no helmet is to be found, those days are gone for an old man but his spirit remains. He fought and lived. Now he sends forth the next generation.

Though two of his sons would never return the man knew a greater good would be accomplished should they succeed. Like the waiting of the prodigal son this father was waiting for their return in preparation to celebrate. He had faith in his sons.

Key Point: Fatherhood is a servants role in raising children, caring for your wife, and in service to your country.