Tag Archives: Martin Luther

Death was strangled…

…and other images of atonement are the subject of Fr. Stephen Freeman’s post Knocking Down the Gates of Hell, in which he shares the findings of a research paper he once wrote on Martin Luther’s hymns. Luther’s own atonement theology highly favored the imagery that also dominates that of the early church fathers, in which Christ smashes the gates of Hell and frees all those in chains.

Fr. Stephen shares several verses from various exuberant Orthodox Paschal hymns we are singing this month, such as these I excerpted from his post:

Hell, who had filled all men with fear,
Trembled at the sight of Thee,
And in haste he yielded up his prisoners,
O Immortal Sun of Glory.

Thou hast destroyed the palaces of hell by Thy Burial, O Christ.
Thou hast trampled death down by Thy death, O Lord,
And redeemed earth’s children from corruption.

Though Thou art buried in a grave, O Christ,
Though Thou goest down to hell, O Savior,
Thou hast stripped hell naked, emptying its graves.

Death seized Thee, O Jesus,
And was strangled in Thy trap.
Hell’s gates were smashed, the fallen were set free,
And carried from beneath the earth on high.

Thou didst will, O Savior,
To go beneath the earth.
Thou didst free death’s fallen captives from their chains,
Leading them from earth to heaven.

In the earth’s dark bosom
The Grain of Wheat is laid.
By its death, it shall bring forth abundant fruit:
Adam’s sons, freed from the chains of death.

Wishing to save Adam,
Thou didst come down to earth.
Not finding him on earth, O Master,
Thou didst descend to Hades seeking him.

The Paschal icon shows the resurrected Christ pulling Adam and others out of Hades.

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It’s Bright Monday as I write. This morning’s Divine Liturgy was splendid and full of love and light. We are all giddy with joy and fatigue, and can’t stop greeting one another with kisses and proclamations of “Christ is risen!” In the Paschal Canon where we sing, “Let us embrace each other joyously!” I always hope I will be standing next to someone I can hug at that moment. Today two women I didn’t know were the closest, and I made so bold as to hug them both at once, which they didn’t seem to mind. gl - EB

I realized just in time for the midnight service of Pascha Saturday/Sunday, something I have had to call to mind again and again over the last months, that wherever my late husband is, he lives in the present. The part of me that grieves for his presence the way it used to be, as my earthly lover and companion, can never be satisfied; it is a longing for the past, and God is giving me instead Himself and all His gifts in this present moment. My dear Mr. Glad does not live “back there” in the past, either!

It’s because the various parts of me are not all united that my heart’s faith and love must keep instructing my mind — and other tangled and erratic parts? — that to be here right now with God is the way to stay close to my husband. In the reality of the Resurrection and our Blessed Hope, in the gathering of time and times that is kairos, he and I are more together than we have ever been, and in Love.

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One sweet thing about Pascha coming so late this year is that roses are blooming all over. We have dozens of rosebushes at church that are loaded with flowers (not to mention the white roses that filled bouquets decorating inside the church.) This morning I took a picture of one favorite, to decorate this blog post. Happy Spring! Christ is risen! If you have read this far, I send you my Easter love!

 

Changing Views

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Manzanita in a former glorious context

From where I sit at my computer I can’t see the vast expanse of naked hard dirt that makes up most of my back yard now. All I can see is an unchanged view which includes the manzanita, and the conifer branches hanging above the fence.

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Manzanita in the peeling stage.
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Manzanita blooming in February.

The Landscape Ladies said that my manzanita is a nice shrub and worth keeping. That has been a very comforting word for me to play over in my mind, as I wait for something material (I wrote “concrete” first, but I have had quite enough of concrete for a while.) to be created in the yard. It means that I succeeded in pruning it in such a way that it kept its natural twisty shape.

The last few days I have been feeling unsettled more than my usual, excepting the splendid day when Soldier and Joy and the little boys came over and my capable and willing son did so many handyman things. He helped me prune the strawberry bush into a tree shape.

I read stories to Liam, and a visit to the world of Benjamin Bunny with him snuggled against my chest was the most nurturing activity – for the grandma! I actually cooked that day, too; I baked a frittata. Joy brought a peach pie, and I am heating the last slice in the oven as I type, for my dinner. Having friends J&C around for a couple of weeks has been good; C. is a professional nutritionist — how convenient, eh? — who cooks healthy things, and they have been modeling for me the kind of cooking-and-eating behavior I hope to learn again.

manzanita before planting
Manzanita before planting 2002

For several nights I haven’t been sleeping soundly. Today marks five months of widowhood, and I attended the funeral of a man in my parish, and felt that I was keeping a memorial to my husband at the same time, so that was good, but heavy.

I drove the grandfather of little Mary my god-daughter home after the reception, and that put me in the neighborhood of my favorite thrift store. I went in and tried on a few things, but it was too stressful somehow. I didn’t have the emotional energy. Trader Joe’s is also in that neighborhood so I stopped by there…buying food is more soothing, right? After loading my groceries into the car I sat in it and phoned some friends who want me to come for lunch soon, and I told them I can’t do it this week, because I am “in a slump.” They are people who want to love me, but they are too needy themselves and don’t know how they drain me instead.

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Three years after moving in – with rabbit hutches.

On the recommendation of a blogging friend, I am reading Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss by Sameet M. Kumar, a book that tells me to pay attention to what is going on and not to try to escape it. A quote: “Like suffering and grief, resilience — which means having the elasticity and buoyancy to recover from the experience of enduring suffering and pain — may also be a part of the natural order.”

As long as the speed of resilience we are talking about is along the lines of a memory foam pillow, and not a foursquare ball, I think I can believe in it. And I trust it is a natural thing, or at least a supernatural thing….in any case, I can’t make myself “bounce back,”  if I even wanted to, which I don’t. There is no getting back to Before, anyway.

GL 2-16-10 manzanita bloom

Kumar writes, “Mindfulness can help you get reacquainted with the vast potential of each moment of your life — it is the antidote to the endless waiting for tomorrow.” This attitude is what I learn from Orthodoxy, to be present with God all the time, everywhere.  Now that is potential! But for now, being present in the moment means accepting my grief, and accepting that my emotional resources are fairly used up by this kind of activity. As the author says, “…come in full contact with yourself and learn to ride the waves of grief.”GL gr morn glory & aloe 6-07

Working in my garden never drains me, even if it makes me physically tired. Last night I sawed and lopped the dead parts of the osmanthus, and trimmed back the Raphiolepis next to it. I’m running a soaker hose on the osmanthus (Sweet Olive) to encourage its recovery from drought, and the faucet is whining from the backed-up pressure. It’s not a nice noise, but most of the time, now that the yappers are gone, I live in a very quiet neighborhood. As I think back over the 25 years I’ve lived here, so many things have evolved and developed on and around the property.

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Glad workers take on a project.

Thirteen years ago we had to replace all the pool decking, and we took out the diving board to give us more room in our patch of ground at the end of the pool.  We leveled out the raised bed and went outside our comfort zone to build some brick paths. We found lots of bricks from a previous patio or something, buried under the pool decking, and we added gray concrete bricks to tie into the colors of the patio.

The back yard design I am working on now includes a different sort of path, and we are going to remove this brick walkway so that the whole yard will be of a piece. I think the bricks from the Glad Paths might be used to expand the patio into the area where the plum tree was.

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Manzanita in the ground.

The homemade paths served a good purpose for quite a while, but they were never ideal, and I’m not sentimental about them. The manzanita — I should name that bush, perhaps something rhyming like “Juanita” — surprised us in growing steadily north and away from the midpoint between the paths. We came to understand that it was trying to grow out from under the canopy of conifers to the south.

That path that was slim at the outset soon became impossibly narrow on the side that the shrub — I will call her “Margarita” — was growing toward. The only reason I had ever thought of pruning a wild mountain bush like this was to make the pathway passable, but as Margarita grew and grew, there was no way I could both maintain her nice curves and keep the path open.

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widened path

When Mr. Glad retired we expanded the path a bit on that side.

The book on mindfulness makes some very good points, but coming from a Buddhist foundation it is lacking an understanding of why we suffer, and of all the riches that are available to us humans. The author says that people “have a tendency to associate suffering and distress with something being wrong,” but that “Grief has always been part of the order of things, and always will be. As part of suffering, grief too is a natural law.”

I can’t mention this book without saying how sadly wrong he is about that. Death and suffering and grief came into the world through sin, but Christ died to put an end to death. Because it is wrong! It was not in His plan. When He comes again in glory He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor sighing, nor pain. For the former things are passed away.

We will do more than bounce back then; we will be given new bodies for our souls to be reunited with, and we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. Now things are cloudy and blurry, and we walk in faith, with His loving presence and grace always offered to us. He is constant and unchanging, a very present help in troubleGL rhodie 6-11.

In this world, on the other hand, we have constant change, often for the worse. Sometimes just the change itself is hard to bear, even if it is objectively an improvement. In the little realm of my garden I have lamented the lack of sunlight, but now that I have taken out one tree and thinned another, the area that was  fairly shady will now be able to support more sun-loving plants, and I’m happy about that.

But I’ll be a little sad to see the rhododendron go, thought I didn’t care for its color. And the campanula, and sweet woodruff! They will probably be history. So just for memory’s sake — which of course is the purpose of all these pictures — here is a last view of the Woodland Garden patch of yard.

I’m looking forward to some new garden scenes to take pictures of, but glad to have Margarita Manzanita still in view. And come to think of it, I am waiting for tomorrow, waiting in Hope of the Resurrection. But as Martin Luther said, “If I knew that Christ were going to return tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.”