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From the Priory’s newsletter for Easter 2017:

“In an attempt to make the resurrection of Jesus a “respectable” teaching, we are prone to offer platitudes about hope and love and renewal. Or we can be merely existential in deciding how any teaching about the resurrection may be of any value to one’s daily life. Our answers may be dull, safe, and ordinary. Few want to celebrant the dull, the safe, the ordinary.” — Br. David Bryan Hoopes OHC

Download the full Easter 2017 newsletter here

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Amongst all the media stories of shootings and violence that daily disturb us, one amazing and encouraging story appeared in early July of 2016. It was the account of the successful arrival, after a flight lasting five years, of the probe Juno within the orbit of the planet Jupiter. As the Juno probe approached Jupiter’s orbit a remarkable video was filmed showing Jupiter’s four moons, Callisto, Europa, Ganymede and Io, moving around the planet. Dr. Scott Bolton, NASA principal investigator, said: “In all of history, we’ve really never been able to see the motion of any heavenly body against another … This is harmony at every scale. I think Galileo would really have enjoyed the movie. Watching this amazing video, I felt so moved by this glimpse into the universe. It was a reminder to me that God is in control and the mysteries of creation are way beyond our present knowledge and vision.

In the year 1610 the controversial Italian Galileo Galilei discovered the existence of moons that orbited around the planet Jupiter. He deduced that Jupiter has four moons by observations of varying positions of the points of light using a telescope that he developed. These and other observations caused him serious issues with the Church because they challenged the accepted Aristotelian view that all the heavenly bodies revolved around the earth. Galileo was investigated by the Inquisition, charged with heresy and made to recant his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun. It is widely held that subsequently he uttered the words, “And yet it moves.”

Human beings seem always to think that we know it all. It takes so long for major scientific discoveries to be accepted, and sadly, it has often been the Church that has been slowest to accept change. Our view of God is restricted by our own hubris. God is so much greater than we can realize and we hesitate to dream of what is possible.

That beautiful little video gives me renewed hope in the power of God to enable us to change the world we live in for the better. Human beings have so much talent, so many possibilities, and if we choose we can do so much good. The grace of God is there for us but we do need to become more adventurous, more trusting, and more faithful in receiving it and allowing God to use us to do His work in the world.

As Christians we believe that Jesus, Son of God, took our human form and came to live as one of us, showing what is possible. We were baptized into God’s family and nothing is impossible if we accept the implications of the baptismal covenant. So let us pray for new vision, new hope, and fresh determination to become what God wants us to be and to change the violence and strife in the world into His Kingdom of peace.

Our Gracious and Eternal God,
Praise be to you for the wonders of creation.
Thank you for the men and women
who share with us new glimpses of the universe.

Open our eyes and minds
that we may be willing to search out new knowledge
and understand more and more of You
our loving Father.

Look with mercy upon the world in which we live.
Forgive us for the problems we have make
and enable us to seek ways to cooperate with each other
to heal and renew the world.

May we look afresh, day by day,
to Jesus our Saviour;
being willing to be formed
into His likeness as part of our family.
Thank you for His example and
for the gift and grace of the Holy Spirit
to change us to your glory.
Amen.

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Br. Richard Vaggione OHCBr. Richard Vaggione OHCDear Friends,

After 19 (cumulative) years in Canada, I am being transferred to our Order’s monastery at West Park, New York. I’m getting just a little too tottery to remain in a house with as many stories (and steps!) as the Priory, so the Superior has decided to send me to West Park, where everything is on a level. I will even have a new status: “Monk in Assisted Living”. This means that, among other things, I get a spiffy new monastic cell, and – for the first time in my 36 years of religious life – my own shower! To say that my feelings are mixed is an understatement. I had five wonderful years here in the 80’s as priest-in-charge of St. Matthias Bellwoods Avenue, and then another 14 more recently in a variety of ministries, including teaching at Trinity College. I have put down roots and become a Canadian as well as a U.S. Citizen, but that just means that now there’ll be a Canadian at West Park once again! (I plan to display my Canadian flag proudly.) My thanks to the monastic community here in Toronto, and to all of you for these many years. I will keep you in my prayers; please keep me in yours. I can be reached by e-mail at vaggione@rogers.com or by phone at 845-384-6660, ext. 3022.

Once again, thank you.
RICHARD PAUL VAGGIONE, OHC

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In 71 BC, the Roman General M. Licinius Crassus defeated Spartacus and his slave revolt, and in the aftermath 6000 rebels who survived the battle were crucified along the length of the Appian Way, a cross less than every 200 yards. Crucifixion was a brutal, degrading and cruel, but not unusual, method of execution of slaves and the humblest and poorest – almost never of Roman citizens. It was, more often than not, a random, off-hand, commonplace and meaningless, terrifying lottery of death.

The "Tree of Life" cross, often used to signify the Order. A hundred years later our Lord was crucified. His crucifixion was not unique, or seems unique only to us who, in imagination, tend to blot out the other thousands who died in agonizing crucifixion. The Son of God, the Word made flesh, was numbered with that nameless and powerless multitude. But he knew, and his followers came to understand, that his sacrifice was the gift and revelation of a loving and merciful God, that his death and resurrection was victory over death. By his crucifixion all things begin new. The Cross, the instrument of extreme inhumanity for the weakest, poorest and most defenseless, becomes for us the sign of hope, health and salvation.

In time the Cross became the most important and widely recognized Christian symbol, but there is an ambiguity about its significance. For Constantine the Great it promised military victory. Through the ages it was carried before many crusading armies, and became for countless peoples a reminder of imperial conquest and oppression. Enterprising explorers planted it in the midst of their conquests. For others it was a symbol of power and riches and adorns the pinnacles and facades of glorious and triumphal buildings. For many others today, it can be an element of décor, or a lucky charm, or an item of decorative jewellery.

But that is not for us who are signed with the Cross. Constantine abolished crucifixion in the Roman Empire in 337 AD, and while this instrument of torture disappeared, extreme inhumanity has not. We are surrounded by the evidence and the world everywhere cries out in pain for healing. Jesus recalled the story of Moses in the wilderness and the healing and life-giving power of the pole with the serpent and said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself”, and in Him we find healing and life.

Jesus is the healer, a wounded healer, and all of us who bear the sign of the Cross and follow Jesus have been given power to heal. We all know what it is to be wounded and imperfect, and what it is to be affirmed, accompanied and healed by others, themselves wounded, whose experience we trust – like a gift of new freedom, of new life. The Cross is the symbol of that gift,the new life that our Lord gives us, but also the power and gift of healing and life that we give to, and receive from, each other. The healing of the world begins with us. That is the victory of the Holy Cross. That is what we celebrate in joy.

The Rev’d. Donald W. Anderson is General Secretary, CAROA (Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas), and a friend of Holy Cross Priory.

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 Holy Trinity with Augustine and Giorgio of CremonaPrevitali, Andrea, ca. 1470-1528. Holy Trinity with Augustine and Giorgio of Cremona, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.The Feast of the Holy Trinity is a festival unlike the other great festivals of the Christian Church because it commemorates not an event in the great drama of our redemption, but a teaching about God. But, just the same, this feast in honour of a doctrine is important because it is about our God.

Trinity Sunday is, in a way, the summing up of all the celebrations of our redemption over the past months: Christmas, Epiphany, Holy Week and Easter and, last Sunday, Pentecost. Some may ask, “Where can I find the concept of the Trinity in the Bible?” My answer is “all over the place”.

It’s true that the idea of the Trinity in scripture is implicit rather than explicit. Very early in the church’s history both the scriptural “signposts” to the Trinity, as well as Christian experience, were captured in the formula we call the Trinity: God as One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Because we do have scriptural “signposts” to the idea of the Triune God, in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, the Church has chosen readings for the liturgy on Trinity Sunday from those passages which point us to the Trinity.

This year the first reading is a beautiful passage about Divine Wisdom from the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Scripture; one in which God’s self-disclosure becomes personified as Divine Wisdom. Wisdom is God going forth in revelation and action. As the idea of Wisdom developed, it—or more accurately she—really becomes the active organ of people’s religious experience. Paul Gibson has put it this way:

This is a description of Lady Wisdom and it is the Handmaid of God in the process of creation. It is not a long step from Wisdom as the metaphor of the beginning to the Word who was with God and was God . We can see the theology of Trinity unfolding before our eyes, with tones that are female as well as male, playful as well as sober, intuitive as well as logical.

The second reading this Sunday is from the letter to the Romans by St. Paul. In it Paul articulates a kind of three-fold expression of Christian experience. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” In other words, God is the source of our redemption but it is through Jesus Christ that this redemptive act is performed, and it is through the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts that we come to experience that redemptive action.

The doctrine of the Trinity is equally implicit in the Gospel for this day. We are at one of the so-called farewell discourses of Jesus prior to his crucifixion in St. John’s Gospel. Jesus says “When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own but will speak whatever he hears and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” The revealing which Jesus brings is from the Father, and it is the function of the Spirit to take that revelation and make it meaningful to succeeding Christian generations. The Spirit doesn’t convey new independent revelation, but constantly kind of updates our understanding of the once and for all revelation of God in the Christ event

To me, the important thing to remember on this feast of the Holy Trinity is that we need to guard against the idea that the Holy Trinity is just a perplexing or complicated dogma intelligible only to theologians. The doctrine of the Trinity is simply the way the church has described Christian experience. For the fullness of Christian experience we hope for, and aspire to, is a relationship with God which includes the richness of revelation expressed in the three-fold way of knowing God.

Finally, it is in the community that shares that experience that we are nurtured in our relationship with God. That is why Baptism is in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Most Rev’d Bruce Stavert, sometime Archbishop of Quebec (Ret’d), is an Associate of Holy Cross Priory, Toronto.

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