Ordinary Time

The Season after Pentecost is referred to as Ordinary Time. The term brings to mind a time of rest after back to back festivals and fasts from Advent through Pentecost. A friend of mine thinks that art depicting Ordinary Time would consist of images that reveal God in the ordinary. What a lovely concept. She saw the energy and power of God in a cornfield struggling to live in the middle of drought, having received a recent rain that encouraged a second wind of growth. This mental image makes me realize how God saturates the world with his presence.

May we all resolve to have eyes to see God in the ordinary during this season. Might we make this a season heretofore not recognized as a season of rich image? Have you seen God lately in the everyday wallpaper of the world? Share your thoughts and images.

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The Greatest Gift of the Spirit

The Novena is based on Isaiah 11:2:

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD -

During this season leading up to Pentecost when we are praying The Novena to the Holy Spirit I have frequently found myself so tired at the end of the day that I can barely pray as I should. I will admit that I even had to catch up a couple of times because I was too otherwise distracted to pray the particular day's prayer. How discouraging to be so overwhelmed by life that one prays a day late for such things as wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge and fear of the Lord?

On the nights I can do no more than mouth the words I have called sincerely upon what I consider to be one of the greatest gifts the Spirit gives - praying for me with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:25-27 assures us that:

...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

This Pentecost my heart-felt prayer is:

Holy Spirit come to me and pray for me for I know not what to ask. And that is a perfectly acceptable alternative novena.

The image used here is extracted from a photograph taken by Dawn Glascock. This window is in St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Greenville, Alabama.

Rose of Pentecost

Did you know that in the German-speaking countries the red peony (paeonia officinalis) was historically called Pfingstrose (Rose of Pentecost)? This lovely Rose of Pentecost was photographed by C. Robin Janning.

Art and the Great Flood

For many years I spent a lot of time in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, on land with river frontage on a flood plain. Major floods supposedly came once every forty years or so. In practice, that meant twice a year, in a bad year. One learned to listen for the sound of rising water. It tore at everything in its path, rushing past with a roar: a frightening, wild sound that would not allow sleep. One waited anxiously: how high up the hill would the waters rise? Surely the house would always be safe. Wouldn't it? One year, the flood came almost all the way up the hill we counted on for safety. We knew others whose homes were damaged severely.

The next morning, if there had been sleep at all, one woke dreading the first look outside. Still, one had to look. It was almost a moral obligation to confront that which one did not want to know. (A lot like painting.) The result was always devastation. (Not at all like painting.) It took time to learn the full extent of the destruction. Inevitably, the riverfront was reshaped, often drastically. Doesn't that happen to our lives, too, sometimes? In the worst floods, land simply vanished, carved away by the torrent. Other times, the aftermath of destruction laid open new vistas, suddenly bare of trees. The reshaped views looked strange at first. Sometimes it seemed that there was something not entirely bad about the spareness. Still, one never quite got used to it.

I miss the way the riverfront used to be. Way back when, before the floods, I took pictures - never dreaming they'd become precious. No matter how many more years pass, I will never again gaze up-river along the seventh bend of the Shenandoah and see it look the way it used to. Painting it is the only way I know to bring it back.

One tree, old and grand, survived a particularly bad flood only by a knob of painfully exposed roots. The next flood tore the tree away entirely. One of the worst floods came on my father's birthday. The aftermath looked like a war zone - trees broken like match-sticks, debris strewn everywhere. A few days before, the terrain had been beautiful, idyllic - like parkland, or a nature reserve - shaped and preserved by his constant care. Now it was gone, all of it. My father and I made our way through the detritus, one step at a time, in silence.

Life is like the floods, it seems to me. Life may seem destroyed; then afterward, one slowly perceives new vistas. Sometimes, the new terrain reveals only great loss. What is gone will never return. Other times the views are cleaner, simpler than before, and ultimately one finds a certain relief. Perhaps that relief represents only the cessation of pain. But sometimes, maybe, it is more - the promise of new life. We all hope that, don't we?

And sometimes one is just left picking one's way through the destruction.

Do you paint about the floods in your own life? Me, I avoid it - I fight it as hard as I can, but eventually it comes out, regardless. Can't stop it. How about you?

Novena to the Holy Spirit

The Novena in Honor of the Holy Spirit is the oldest of all novenas since it was first made at the direction of Christ prior to his ascension when he sent the apostles to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. Addressed to the Third Person of the Trinity, it is a powerful plea for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Novena begins on the day after Ascension, Friday of the 6th Week of Easter, even if the Solemnity of the Ascension is transferred to the 7th Sunday. A group in my church will be praying this beginning on Friday and ending on the evening of the Pentecost Vigil. Won't you join us?


Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.


Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.


Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.


On my knees I before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for Your servant heareth." Amen.


O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit on Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord with the sign of Your true disciples, and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.

FIRST DAY (Friday after Ascension or Friday of 6th Week of Easter)

Holy Spirit! Lord of Light! From Your clear celestial height, Your pure beaming radiance give!

The Holy Spirit

Only one thing is important -- eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared--sin· Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for "The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us."


Almighty and eternal God, Who hast vouchsafed to regenerate us by water and the Holy Spirit, and hast given us forgiveness all sins, vouchsafe to send forth from heaven upon us your sevenfold Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Fear. Amen.

Pray Our Father once, Hail Mary once, Glory to the Father seven times, the Act of Consecration once and Prayer for the Seven Gifts once (above)

SECOND DAY (Saturday of 6th Week of Easter)

Come. Father of the poor. Come, treasures which endure; Come, Light of all that live!

The Gift of Fear

The gift of Fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by sin. It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father. It is the fear that is the beginning of wisdom, detaching us from worldly pleasures that could in any way separate us from God. "They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and in His sight will sanctify their souls."


Come, O blessed Spirit of Holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart, that I may set you, my Lord and God, before my face forever, help me to shun all things that can offend You, and make me worthy to appear before the pure eyes of Your Divine Majesty in heaven, where You live and reign in the unity of the ever Blessed Trinity, God world without end. Amen.

Pray Our Father once, Hail Mary once, Glory to the Father seven times, the Act of Consecration once and Prayer for the Seven Gifts once (above)

THIRD DAY (7th Sunday of Easter or transferred Ascension)

Thou, of all consolers best, Visiting the troubled breast, Dost refreshing peace bestow.

The Gift of Piety

The gift of Piety begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father. It inspires us to love and respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers. He who is filled with the gift of Piety finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service. Where there is love, there is no labor.


Come, O Blessed Spirit of Piety, possess my heart. Enkindle therein such a love for God, that I may find satisfaction only in His service, and for His sake lovingly submit to all legitimate authority. Amen.

Pray Our Father once, Hail Mary once, Glory to the Father seven times, the Act of Consecration once and Prayer for the Seven Gifts once (above)

FOURTH DAY (Monday, 7th Week of Easter)

Thou in toil art comfort sweet, Pleasant coolness in the heat, solace in the midst of woe.

The Gift of Fortitude

By the gift of Fortitude the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to under take without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. "He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved."


Come, O Blessed Spirit of Fortitude, uphold my soul in time of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage against all the assaults of my enemies, that I may never be overcome and separated from Thee, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

Pray Our Father once, Hail Mary once, Glory to the Father seven times, the Act of Consecration once and Prayer for the Seven Gifts once (above)

FIFTH DAY (Tuesday, 7th Week of Easter)

Light immortal! Light Divine! Visit Thou these hearts of Thine, And our inmost being fill!

The Gift of Knowledge

The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth--in their relation to God. Knowledge unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God. It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life. Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else. "Knowledge is a fountain of life to him that possesseth it."


Come, O Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, and grant that I may perceive the will of the Father; show me the nothingness of earthly things, that I may realize their vanity and use them only for Thy glory and my own salvation, looking ever beyond them to Thee, and Thy eternal rewards. Amen.

Pray Our Father once, Hail Mary once, Glory to the Father seven times, the Act of Consecration once and Prayer for the Seven Gifts once (above)

SIXTH DAY (Wednesday, 7th Week of Easter)

If Thou take Thy grace away, nothing pure in man will stay, All his good is turn'd to ill.
The Gift of Understanding

Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion BY faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to "walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God."


Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation; and may merit at last to see the eternal light in Thy Light; and in the light of glory to have a clear vision of Thee and the Father and the Son. Amen.

Pray Our Father once, Hail Mary once, Glory to the Father seven times, the Act of Consecration once and Prayer for the Seven Gifts once (above)

SEVENTH DAY (Thursday, 7th Week of Easter)

Heal our wounds--our strength renews; On our dryness pour Thy dew, Wash the stains of guilt away.

The Gift of Counsel

The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants, and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. "Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth."


Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do Thy holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good; turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of Thy commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long.
Pray Our Father once, Hail Mary once, Glory to the Father seven times, the Act of Consecration once and Prayer for the Seven Gifts once (above)

EIGHTH DAY (Friday, 7th Week of Easter)

Bend the stubborn heart and will, melt the frozen warm the chill. Guide the steps that go astray!

The Gift of Wisdom

Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all the other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written "all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands." It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Saviour: "Take up thy cross and follow me, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light."


Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.

Pray Our Father once, Hail Mary once, Glory to the Father seven times, the Act of Consecration once and Prayer for the Seven Gifts once (above)

NINTH DAY (Saturday, Vigil of Pentecost)

Thou, on those who evermore Thee confess and Thee Adore, in Thy sevenfold gift, Descend; Give Them Comfort when they die; Give them Life with Thee on high; Give them joys which never end. Amen

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

The gifts of the Holy Spirit perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Spirit, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Spirit. These Fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.


Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Thy heavenly fruits, Thy charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Thy inspiration may merit to be united eternally with Thee in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.

Image, Novena Symbolica, digital art by Jan Neal.

The Color of Ascension

Only in the Episcopal Church would people stand around the parish hall and compare notes on the color of Ascension from an artistic perspective. Yes, it is a high feast of the church, but being in the middle of the week, it is not so often observed. I think our mental images of Ascension are somewhat underdeveloped.

Our Verger threw out the question because she was working on a calligraphy of the Collect for Ascension. Cindy said white and yellow, Linda thought just white, Ilga said blue, Dawn thought yellow and blue, I thought blue and coral, Catherine voted for white and John said fuchsia. Interesting.

I say "only in the Episcopal Church" because we are Protestant enough to have opinions and Catholic enough to want to honor tradition, have order and get it right.

This year we will have an Ascension service at my church, and I am looking forward to it. What a lovely observation of such an incredible event in Christianity. Christ took human flesh to heaven...where human flesh continues to exist. What a comforting thought to be so beloved as we contemplate the incarnation still existing in heaven.

Dawn Glascock's "Ascendere" presents the colors of Ascension for the Collect which reads:

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen

Words by Jan Neal;
Image: "Ascendere"
by Dawn Glascock

Celebrating the Seasons with Art

I go to church a good deal and confess that I like it. This is amazing for a child who was rigidly transported to church every Sunday and Wednesday. In fact I can remember how special it was to be able to stay home on Sunday or Wednesday night and watch TV.

I have asked myself why I like church better now, and I am sure that it is my discovery of the Episcopal Church where I found a home the minute I sat through my first Rite II service. Oh my goodness, the sites, the sounds, the reverence, the ribbons in the prayer book and, most of all, the altar. Not just any altar. An altar set with beauty in a frontal of the particular color of the season. It was white at the time I arrived since I came to the church during the Season of Easter, and moments after my arrival came the Feast of Pentecost with its glorious red. At last I found a color coded church. But seriously, I discovered the liturgical, official visual recognition of sacred time, and church would never be the same for me again.

I believe that the use of color to designate the seasons is a lovely thing, and it seems that I am not the only cradle Baptist to think so. I am amazed to report that I have begun to notice even Baptist churches in the deep South with crosses draped in purple during Lent. What that tells me is that people must be hungry for visions of faith, tradition and the observance of sacred time. It tells me that we and our visitors might be better served by preservation of our liturgical traditions and meaningful education about our customs rather than diminishing our use of them.

Do any of you remember your first impression of your church? Have any of you seen liturgical images creeping into more protestant churches?

By Jan Neal