The Refracted Fathers

Cover of "Centuries of Holiness: Ancient ...

Cover via Amazon

I faithfully kept a blog the last time I was on sabbatical but upon returning I allowed the tyranny of the immediate to crowd out my writing. Again I am about to enter sabbatical and again I am launching a blog. I propose this time to focus on my principle concern, to explore the ancient ways of soul work and how to best interpret that practice into my present work as rector of an Episcopal parish in the second decade of this century.

History has been one of my favorite subjects and since everything and everyone has history I am interested in almost everything so long as it has a story. I am an Anglican today because of the rich tradition and sense of continuity with the ancient church. Tradition is ill-served by its friends and despised by its enemies, though in fact neither group appears to be overly acquainted with its riches.

Fr. Richard Valantasis writes in his book, Centuries of Holiness: Ancient Spirituality Refracted for a Postmodern Age, “Tradition is the action of the Holy Spirit making available the wisdom of the past in a new idiom and a new time.” I will share from this work over the months ahead.

John+

Our God Makes Leaders Out Of Cowards And Elders Of The Deceitful

Recently I found a new title on Dove Booksellers, “Forsaken Firstborn” a study of how God seems to choose the “wrong” one rather than the one that should be the heir. We find this pattern in the Old Testament. God chooses Isaac over Ishmael. Jacob is chosen over Esau, his twin, even thought he is a stinker. Judah is chosen over his older brothers to be the father of the principal tribe of Israel. Joseph is chosen over his older brothers to be the one to deliver his family even though his brothers reject him. Jacob then blesses the younger of Joseph’s sons to be the chosen son.

Jacob Blessing his Grandsons - C V Vos

Jacob Blessing his Grandsons – C V Vos

As an oldest son I hope that senior birth order is not always the source of perdition and divine rejection. However this does seem to point to the spontaneous, creative and even, if I may say, playful nature of God who makes leaders out of cowards and elders of the deceitful. It gives me hope. Then a thought seized me that I had never thought before. Jesus, the first born, the beloved, was abandoned on the cross. Here the divine pattern is played out in a cosmic way. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” is the cry not just of Jesus but also of all the forsaken firstborn.

We are the descendents of Adam the firstborn yea even the forsaken firstborn alienated by sin. Jesus became for the forsaken firstborn. If that were the end of the story it would be a tragedy. But it is not the end of the tale. Jesus is not the forsaken firstborn he is the firstborn of those that sleep. His resurrection is for the forsaken firstborns and all those who have wasted their inheritance (and we all have) in the far country. The good news is that like Jacob the heel grabber who was reconciled with his forsaken older brother Esau, we too are reconciled by the death of Jesus who died as the forsaken firstborn, risen from the dead that we too might not be forsaken but have not only life in the age to come but life and that life full in this present time. Praise be to God who gives us the victory.