Believe Beyond Believing

My friend Bill included in his Christmas greetings some words from the advent hymn Each Winter As the Year Grows Older. I had not been familiar with the hymn and the excerpt he shared touched me deeply in light of our world today.

When race and class cry out for treason,
When sirens call for war,
They overshout the voice of reason
And scream till we ignore
All we held dear before.

Yet I believe beyond believing,
That life can spring from death:
That growth can flower from our grieving;
That we can catch our breath
And turn transfixed by faith.

O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
Brighten today’s world by tomorrow’s,
Renew our lives again;
Lord Jesus, come and reign!

You can listen to the whole song here:

Believe beyond believing!

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3 thoughts on “Believe Beyond Believing

  1. I was not familiar with this piece of music either. Saw the lyrics and went immediately to click on the You Tube link. What a magnificent, timely piece of music/poetry! The first verse, which you did not include, is also quite striking. It begins with the personal – our/my wintering with its shaken verities. The verse captures sentiments that I have been feeling a little more strongly with each passing year without adequate articulation. A perfect articulation is captured in that first verse. And who cannot help but think of some of the outrageous, unreasonable, all too publicized, shouts made by some of the presidential candidates and their followers when hearing the second verse that you quote. The last two verses certainly provide real hope amidst our “grieving,” and the Christian paradox of “our ecstasy and sorrows,” “our peace and pain” (or at least amidst mine). I will certainly continue to pray and meditate with all these verses. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  2. Believe Beyond Believing – a Christian paradox . . .

    “The last two verses certainly provide real hope amidst our ‘grieving,’ and the Christian paradox of ‘our ecstasy and sorrows,’ ‘our peace and pain’ “ – Costantino, S.J.

    Much “ecstasy and sorrow” is manifested in those of unaffiliated faith marginalized by organized faith.

    As Christmas nears, encounters with family, friends, and visits to favorite retail and grocers introduce a further reverence to the intimacy of ‘One Family.’ From a Christian perspective, casual conversations of preparation, family gatherings and gift giving converge with the fulfillment of ‘The Celebration’ Advent prepares – uniting both in conjunction with the birth of the Christ Child. One Birth, One Child, One Family – though ‘Sacred Table’ Invitation’s continue to be transfixed (motionless ) by faith excluding one from the other, brothers from sisters, children from the One Child – the One Child’s Birth celebrated by Christians All . . .

    My dearest Perpetua nurtures a love shared – her love shared as a pagan child also born of God – born of Carthage, of Roman nobility, born into a patriarchal pagan family, and blessed to be nurtured silently in matriarchal Christian Love.

    As most young children, and partly due to her parent’s accommodations of each other’s differing beliefs concerning deities and faith, she grew in ‘Grace’ and favor, continually filled with the Spirit among slave and free, among male and female fulfilling sacred words, “ . . . you are no longer “children” requiring a tutor, … neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, … Galatians 3:26 For you are all children of God …

    Her older brother Dinocrate’s disfigurement, suffering and tragic childhood death influenced her father to provide the best tutors, who along with himself, provided his now oldest child and only daughter with an education the equal of any young men her age.

    Growing in love, wisdom and empathy as mistress of family estates, confidant and sister servant to servant and slave attending her. The presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in her since birth both summoned and challenged beliefs, anxieties, desires and fears that, with more and more frequency, rose and crashed against her flood gates of love’s reason.

    Throughout her teenage years in a Carthaginian and Roman society where women, especially noble women often pledged in marriage for social and economic gain and to enhance or secure strategic alliances, were married at fourteen and fifteen – pledged to be a Roman matron where children born brought honor, and future leaders and soldier protectors to the empire. Imagine the scrutiny and derision her parents and she, she who had remained chaste through all those years, received from members of their social class and those in positions of station and of state much higher.

    Imagine a young woman whose participation in festival sacrifice and devotion to ‘please and placate’ the male Roman gods purportedly to ensure the affirmation, viability and protection of the empire was as anonymous as possible – a young woman culturally encouraged and tempted by many of the desires espoused by the goddess Venus – Venus the “. . . beautiful female with jurisdiction over love, sexuality, fertility, and sometimes even sacred prostitution.” Venus the “. . . divine ancestor of the entire race of the Roman people.” (New World Encyclopedia)

    Perpetua as a young woman willing offered sacrifices to the goddess Isis. “Isis grew in importance as the dynastic age progressed, until she became one of the most important deities of ancient Egypt. Her cult subsequently spread throughout the Roman Empire, and Isis was worshipped from England to Afghanistan. She is still revered by pagans today. As mourner, she was a principal deity in rites connected with the dead; as magical healer, she cured the sick and brought the deceased to life; and as mother, she was a role model for all women.” Images of Isis nursing the baby Horus may have influenced the early Christian artists who depicted the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

    Perpetua’s gift of life, from a yet unknown God, a life filled completely at birth with His unconditional Love and the Holy Spirit, sustained her during early trials and tribulations and helped prepare her for evangelism, suffering and martyrdom to come. Like many before, and so many after her, she encountered God, the source of a Love unknown though always present, through His Son. Hers an unknown love that helped still the rising tides continually crashing against her flood gates of love’s reason – replacing previous swells and crests with often new emotional surges and questions. Was she worthy of her merciful God’s Love?

    In her own hand, through her ‘Passion,’ eventual suffering and martyrdom her love of God was affirmed. Her thankful embrace, reverence, nurturing and sharing of God’s Love – From childhood until martyrdom became, and continues to be example for many. . .

    Many people of differing faiths and beliefs continue to struggle with ‘A Truth’ that professes until Jesus birth, suffering, death and resurrection the Gates of Heaven where closed to all – and ‘A Truth’ that “The Creator, whose gifts were not due to the human race, had the right to bestow them on such conditions as He wished and to make their conservation depend on the fidelity of the head of the family.” (Church) (Quote and following quotes from the Catholic Encyclopedia)

    Imagine the pain of deprivation professed. “But according to Catholic theology man has not lost his natural faculties: by the sin of Adam he has been deprived only of the Divine gifts to which his nature had no strict right, (deprived of) the complete mastery of his passions, (deprived of) exemption from death, (deprived of) sanctifying grace, (and deprived of) the vision of God in the next life.” What flowers from beliefs in such deprivation? What flowers from the yoke of professed brokenness often hung upon many? It is their grieving that flowers. . .

    For all of God’s children (past and present), and for Perpetua, each created in God’s image and likeness, what ‘Gifts’ were conferred at birth? “Catholics argued, too, from the ceremonies of baptism, which suppose the child to be under the power of evil.” At birth was Perpetua’s heart and soul imprisoned by evil? Were other’s hearts and souls? Were ours? Are ours? What flowers?

    A belief in Baptism, in all of its forms, confers many grace filled gifts, though when considering that “Original sin may be taken to mean: (1) the sin that Adam committed; (2) a consequence of this first sin, the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam,” the heredity of stain may be removed – although the ‘will’ to sin, more often than not, remains. Will doctrinal debate ever reconcile or continue mostly to separate and divide, to perpetuate a professed brokenness?

    During Tertullian’s time, (late second to early third centuries) one can only imagine the fear and shame of transgressing Baptism’s forgiving grace. The Early Church father’s offered a public repentance, absolution, penance (only once before being offered a final death bed repentance) and inclusion on a list of penitents that often required years of public and private penance to again be welcomed into the Church and deemed worthy to receive the Eucharist. Imagine the power of eternal damnation the Church held over their baptized catechumens. What is most needed, more continual scolding or increased nurturing and shepherding outside the walled comfort of places of worship?

    Is it any wonder Christian faiths have long held differing beliefs on sin and forgiveness? During the past 2000 years, how many more souls have been saved than lost resulting from the often contentious debates among Christian faiths? Who is often most lost, sheep or shepherd?

    In slightly more than a year, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s wish to debate doctrine will have been posted. Imagine a conference of all believers in the ‘One God’ gathering to finally accept Luther’s invitation – The Kingdom of God would be closer to a reality with even modest consensus. . .

    As ‘Sacred Liturgy’ in all Eucharistic forms is devoutly celebrated in the ‘Word made Flesh’ this Christmas, imagine a moment in time when offerings of self to God would represent our response in thought, word and deed to Christ, To Christ Himself ‘The Word made Flesh,’ Who implores each of us – “Do this in Remembrance of Me.”

    Will His Kingdom come before we heed His words? “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12) Are all of His children not called to bring about His Kingdom on earth? The faithful of most all beliefs and denominations daily offer their ‘works’ among all of their brothers and sisters to further His Kingdom. Can the same be said of many of His shepherds?

    Will His Kingdom continue to be delayed until ‘our’ flesh becomes His ‘Word’ in both ‘Faith’ and ‘Deed’? – Faith in Salvation’s promise combined with deed(s) offered and shared with all of our brothers and sisters that enable our gracious acceptance of the Eternal Place being prepared for us. . .

    Believe beyond Believing? . . .

    “The last two verses certainly provide real hope amidst our ‘grieving,’ and the Christian paradox of ‘our ecstasy and sorrows,’ ‘our peace and pain’ “ – Costantino, S.J.

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