Here are some useless facts for you! This Sunday is often known in the church as Low Sunday. Why it’s called that isn’t exactly agreed upon. It might be because the passion, drama and wonder of Easter are over. Or it might come from a corruption of the first word of a Latin liturgy that is Laudes.
This Sunday also takes its name after the first few words of the Roman Catholic introit for today. That starts with the words ‘As if as newborn babes, alleluia’. In fact, the Latin version of the words ‘as if as’ was to give the moniker to a foundling in Victor Hugo’s’ epic about Notre Dame in Paris. Because on this Sunday, a baby is deposited in the Cathedral’s hallowed portals and is then named – of course – Quasimodo.
But one name I don’t think we can give to this Sunday is expectant Sunday. The reason is that the disciples weren’t waiting or expecting anything. As far as they were concerned – it was over. They with their friend Jesus bin Joseph had played the game and lost. The vision that they had was well and truly over. All hope and faith had died with the crucifixion of their leader. Albeit, it has to be said, there were some pretty rum stories running around.
Therefore, possibly the most telling name for this day comes from the eastern church which calls it Saint Thomas’ Day; Thomas being the famous doubter. Since he is the patron saint of all who have said -I’ll believe it when I see it. He is the symbol of faith chasing facts. Moreover, he typifies so many who are Quasimodo’s in their beliefs. For Hugo writes in his 1831 novel:
Archdeacon Claude Frollo, Quasimodo’s adoptive father, baptized his adopted child and called him Quasimodo; whether it was that he chose thereby to commemorate the day when he had found him, or that he meant to mark by that name how incomplete and imperfectly moulded the poor little creature was. Indeed, Quasimodo, could hardly be considered as anything more than an almost.
It is therefore constructive to see how Thomas passed from his ‘almost’ faith state into the apostle credited with founding the church in the east possibly as far as India.
For, a farmer had a dog that used to sit by the roadside waiting for vehicles to come around. As soon as one came, he would run down the road, barking and trying to overtake it. One day a neighbor asked the farmer “Do you think your dog is ever going to catch a car?” The farmer replied, “That is not what bothers me. What bothers me is what he would do if he ever caught one.”
Here then is a dog chasing an almost unachievable goal in entirely the wrong way. A dog that was yet to learn that life is hard by the yard, but by the inch, it’s an cinch
Well certainly, Thomas did not try to live the life of a fully formed faith by the yard. Instead he inched towards it and that was the cinch. Put simply – he took little steps. Since he started by being honest with his fellow disciples, being honest with God and above all being honest with himself. Because it is all too easy when doubts set in to camouflage them with a multitude of distracting issues. Yet, instead of doing that, Thomas genuinely faced what was truly challenging him.
Next he did not stop looking for answers. He didn’t turn his back on the astounding truth of Christ risen. He did not close his mind to the Lord’s presence. And the outcome was he received the gift of renewed faith in abundance.
Finally, he accepted all that faith demands. He uttered up – My Lord and my God. And with those watchwords he then went forth and changed the world.
If then, on this Low Sunday, we feel we are ‘almost’ in our faith, let us feel our way forward in the same way. Let us not chase impossible goals lodged in the peaks of belief’s Himalayas. Let us not try to bolster our ill-formed beliefs by leaping yards. Rather let us rekindle its flame in small and simple steps. And so, may we each be honest with what is causing our doubt. May we keep our eyes open for the appearance of the living Lord in our everyday. Then may we use what we have been given to perfect ourselves and the headlines around us.
James Moore tells of a cartoon, run a few years ago, showing a man about to be rescued after he had spent a long time ship-wrecked on a tiny deserted island. The seaman in charge of the rescue team stepped onto the beach and handed the man a stack of newspapers. “Compliments of the Captain,” the sailor said. “He would like you to glance at the headlines to see if you’d still like to be rescued!”
Well, sometimes the world’s and our personal headlines do indeed scare us. Sometimes we feel that hopelessness is winning. And so there are times when we have such doubts that Thomas is turned into the very model of blind faith.
Therefore, why not turn back to building faith – step wise? Why not turn your almost beliefs into the certainty by acknowledging that Christ is with us – here and now. And why not start by proclaiming without a shadow – My Lord and my God.
Since if we do these, we will give this Low Sunday its other name, which is renewal Sunday. Because, by these little paces, once more the resurrection is repeated, once more the resurrection reforms and once more the resurrection make us – perfectly expectant.
crosses and lamb
My dad didn’t like football. He liked experimenting in Grandpa’s shop. He once tested if water conducted electricity and got a huge shock because he touched the metal water basin. There was no longer any need to put the second wire in the water to see if the light bulb lit up. Not only did the water conduct electricity, the basin did too.
One time he made model plane to fly. This was before the days of remote controls. You sent it up, it flew, and when it ran out of gas, it glided down. After days of laboring, he enthusiastically took his plane to an empty field in Glendale. He timidly set it at half throttle.
It took off and promptly crashed and broke. A plane, like the Christian, cannot get enough lift out of its wings without enough velocity. If you’re going to…
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Submitted by Rosemary Parisi
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Well, are you ready
to rush home
and open your presents?
to get on with cooking
with all the trimmings?
Are standing by
for the arrival
of the whole family
for a party of crackers,
paper hats, riddles and carols?
Are you thinking that I have,
gone off the rails?
we do not bring your love
into a situation
we deny you.
we fail to see your face
in friend of stranger
we deny you.
as you forgive all
who humbly turn to you,
and open our eyes once more
to the reality of the Cross.
©John Birch, from my book ‘The Act of Prayer’
A prayer for Good Friday
Love did not die
upon that cross
but, arms outstretched,
still welcomes us,
the twisted thorns
pearls of blood –
a fitting crown
for the one who is
the Servant King,
leading his people
death’s dark vale
into a promised land.
Love did not die
upon that cross
but, arms outstretched,
still welcomes us.
© John Birch, from my book ‘The Act of Prayer’
“I had always assumed that faith was based on purely emotional and irrational arguments and was astounded to discover that one could build a very strong case for the plausibility of God,” he noted on CNN. “My earlier atheist’s assertion that ‘I know there is no God’ emerged as the least defensible.”
A geneticist, Collins was appointed director of the $3 billion international Genome Project in 1993, which completed sequencing the 3.3 billion pairs of nucleotides by 2004. The resulting gene map offers hope to cure genetic disorders.
It also gave Collins a spectacular view into the magnificence, order, and finely-tune perfection of the DNA molecule, God’s software for every living thing. Directorship of the Genome Project was touted as the most prestigious job in science at the time.
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God also emptied a tomb…
Little Philip was born with Down’s syndrome according to the Leadership Magazine. Yet he liked to attend his Sunday School class with other eight-year-old boys and girls.
Sadly, however and typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences.
Nevertheless, because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group; though it has to be said possibly not completely.
Not that is until that Sunday.
For on Easter Sunday, the teacher brought in a load of cheap plastic egg cups. Each child received one of these cups plus a round paper cover like a stone. They were then told to go outside into that lovely spring day and find some symbol for new life. This was to be put it in the bowl of the container before covering it with the lid.
Once this was done, they were all to reassemble in the church hall where they would share their finds by uncovering the cups individually in surprise fashion.
Well after running about the church grounds in wild confusion, the kids returned to the hall and placed the containers on the table. Then surrounded by eager breathless faces, the teacher began to uncover them one by one.
As each cup revealed its treasure, whether a flower, butterfly or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh. That was true even for the slug that emerged from one.
Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, “That’s stupid. That’s not fair. Somebody didn’t do what they were told.
” Philip spoke up, “That’s mine.”
“Philip, you don’t ever do things right!” a fellow classmate retorted.
“There’s nothing there!”
I did so do it,” Philip insisted. “I did do it right. It’s empty because the tomb was empty!” Silence followed. From then on Philip became a full member of the class.
Sadly, he died not long afterward from an infection most normal children would have shrugged off. At the funeral that class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar but not with flowers. Instead they, each in turn, lay down an empty egg cup.
Little Philip reminds us that the Easter message is not complicated. Instead it is very simple.
What is that message?
Dr. George Sweeting tells of an incident in the early 1920s when Communist leader Nikolai Bukharin was sent from Moscow to Kiev to address an anti-God rally. For an hour he abused and ridiculed the Christian faith until it seemed as if the whole structure of belief was in ruins. He gave powerfully logical arguments why we shouldn’t have faith in God. He rationalised persuasively against trusting Jesus for life beyond life.
Then questions were invited. An Orthodox Church priest rose and asked to speak. He turned, faced the people, and gave the Easter greeting, “He is risen!” Instantly the assembly rose to its feet and the reply came back loud and clear, “He is risen indeed!”
Here then is the simple Easter message for today and tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow. Here is the simple message best seen simply. Here is the divine foolishness that surmounts all human wisdom. And it is – Christ is risen,
Christ has risen and Christ is risen indeed! – and so, in our emptiness, shall we – shall we indeed!