The Grace of God

“All creation is a gigantic Burning Bush, permeated but not consumed by the ineffable and wondrous fire of God’s energies.

It is through these energies that God enters into a direct and immediate relationship with humankind. In relation to us humans, the divine energy is in fact nothing else than the grace of God; grace is not just a gift of God, not just an object which God bestows on humans, but a direct manifestation of the living God Himself, a personal encounter between creature and Creator.”

From The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware (Penguin Books, 1997)


Update on a Plainfield Icon

Residents of Plainfield have long wondered about the phrase “coming soon” as in “Dinner and movie coming soon” which the marquee of the Village Theater in downtown Plainfield proudly proclaims. The thing is, those words have been there for nearly a year, and the theater itself closed for remodeling almost twice as long. Coming soon? Not likely.

After several years, we now have a date – March 1 – for the reopening of the Village. Except the theater will house student bands and local musicians, not the long promised “dinner and a movie.” Still, it’s good that someone is taking initiative and putting the building to use after it’s sat empty for so long.

I used to live in an apartment above the theater – I can’t think of a neater place in Plainfield to live, by the way – and so I have a personal interest in seeing the theater put to good use. The current owner, though of good intentions, has not gone about remodeling the theater efficiently. Hopefully, the new tenant will preserve the building and make it open for the community to enjoy.

St. Agnes

agnes.jpgToday is the feast of St. Agnes, martyr of Rome.

The stories of Christian martyrdom fascinate me in part, I think, because it is nearly impossible to imagine such things happening in my own time and place – 21st century America. Also, they strike a nerve that causes me to question how exactly it is that I know what I truly believe religiously. It is one thing to recite the Nicene creed every Sunday. It is quite another to willingly die for the propositions laid out therein. The martyrs, as early Christians quickly recognized, deserve our veneration and thanksgiving to God for their faithful witness.

From The Proper for Lesser Feasts and Fasts:

Agnes is a Christian martyr who died at Rome around 304 in the persecution of Diocletian: the last and fiercest of the persecutions of Christianity by the Roman emperors. The anniversary of her martyrdom is observed on 21 January. Her name means “pure” in Greek and “lamb” in Latin. She is said to have been only about twelve or thirteen when she died, and the remains preserved in St Agnes’ Church in Rome are in agreement with this. It is said that her execution shocked many Romans and helped bring an end to the persecutions.

Some said, “It is contrary to Roman law to put a virgin to death. Our leaders say that it is necessary to kill Christians in order to preserve the old Roman ways: but they are themselves scorning those ways in the process.” Others said, “Do young girls constitute such a threat to Rome that it is necessary to kill them?” Others said, “If this religion can enable a twelve-year-old girl to meet death without fear, it is worth checking out.”

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, who choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lincoln’s 2nd

The Library of Congress recently discovered 3 pictures from Abraham Lincoln’s second Inauguration; they had been previously mislabeled. You can view them here. A story like this naturally presents us a chance to refresh ourselves with Lincoln’s powerful words. His Second Inaugural Address is certainly the greatest inaugural speech ever given and perhaps the greatest political address in our history. Reading words so marveloulsy crafted gives me goosebumps.

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.