Easter Wings

31 03 2018
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
      Though foolishly he lost the same,
            Decaying more and more,
                  Till he became
                        Most poore:
                        With thee
                  O let me rise
            As larks, harmoniously,
      And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did beginne
      And still with sicknesses and shame.
            Thou didst so punish sinne,
                  That I became
                        Most thinne.
                        With thee
                  Let me combine,
            And feel thy victorie:
         For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

 George Herbert

The Spicebush in March

25 03 2018

yellow bush


Spicebush, yellow spicebush, tell me

Where you found so much clear gold?

Every branch and every twig

Has as much as it can hold.

Flaunting before tattered winter

Your new dress the wind whips round —

Color, color! You were first,

You dredged and drew it from the ground!

Sara Teasdale

Ethics: Saint

17 03 2018

This essay is the foreword of a work-in-progress entitled A Handbook of Fundamental Judeo-Christian Ethics. Excerpts will appear here in coming days as blog entries.



To many people at this time within the 21st century, the word is little more than a moniker, a name with a certain sound, but virtually no sense. Saint Regis. Santa Monica. San Luis Obispo. Camille Saint-Saëns.

Others may think of the word in a manner more or less in accordance with Roman Catholic doctrine. A Christian of ultimate virtue and profound achievement can be awarded the title … like earning a knighthood.

The word is Roman. This is to say, the word comes from the Latin sanctus, referring to that which is sacred. In ancient times, Latin was the language of Rome. In medieval times, Latin became the dominant language of church, school, and state in western Europe; it was a major means of communicating across ethnic and national lines among educated people. This helps explain how the word puts in appearances in both testaments of the Holy Bible (the Authorized Version of 1611 especially).

The Old Testament―the Tanakh, also called the Mikra―is Hebrew and written in Hebrew (although a few passages employ the related language Aramaic). The English word “saint” translates chasid, which means “kind” and “pious,” and the set of words qadosh, qaddish, and qodesh, which mean “holy.” Holy in Hebrew harkens back to the meanings “set “apart” and “separate” and “separation.”

Except for Luke (also known as Saint Luke), all the authors of the New Testament were Hebrews. Their texts, however, were written in Greek, the primary inter-ethnic language of most of the Roman Empire. The Hebrew concept of set apart/holy is the meaning of the Greek word hagios, which was translated into the English word “saint.”

And what does sacred mean? That word harkens back to consecrated, dedicated, separated, and devoted.

These are the meanings one must keep in mind.

The word “saint” is employed some five dozen times in the New Testament of the Authorized Version of the Holy Bible, also known as the King James Version. Even a casual reading of the texts reveals that―in most instances, if not all―the word does not refer to an elite few Christians, to a kind of spiritual nobility within the Church. As Saint Paul wrote, all of God’s chosen are called saints; all are called to be saints.

So, what is it that a saint does?

Saint Paul wrote in one epistle to Christians, “Therefore I urge you … by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2 WEB).

This is what it means to be set apart, separated, dedicated, and devoted. Paul goes on in his text to epitomize what such devotion does.

And that is the purpose of this text.

The 21st century is far removed from the Middle Ages. Indeed, to refer to these times as modern is now becoming archaic. What used to be called Christendom, even if the designation was more fanciful than factual, is becoming ever more post-modern … and post-Christian.

Some people of the Occident may yet refer to themselves as Christian even as some people of Islamic persuasion refer to all, often in a pejorative sense, as Christian. Mohammed at one time referred to Christians as people of the book, and the book he had in mind was Scripture, Holy Writ, the Word of God. It is evident that Mohammed did not experience enough saintliness among the Christians (and Jews) he encountered. Christians, and Hebrews before them, had failed in their duties to testify with fidelity regarding the God of Exodus 34:5-10. The result? Another book: the Quran, also known as the Koran, and another religion.

And what of the Bible? Do people today who yet profess themselves Christian know what is in it?

In the 20th century, most people in the Occident could at least state some of the Ten Commandments. Most could recite the words of Jesus that came to be called the Golden Rule. Most could say some of what the angels said to the shepherds outside Bethlehem after Jesus was born. Many could state some of the Shepherd’s Psalm. Many could recite the Lord’s Prayer. Some could even quote John 3:16.

In the 21st century, however, it seems the only text of Scripture too many people know is this: “Judge not”… and that out of context. (Note what was said by at least one old Bible teacher, “A text out of context is a pretext.”)

Ignorance is not bliss; it is dangerous. Long ago God said through His prophet Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

God said through His prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

And God went so far as to tell His prophet Jonah that the people of Nineveh had become so ethically challenged that they did not know their right hands from their left.

Individuals, communities, societies, and civilizations cannot afford to neglect, forget, or reject the Word of God. This is especially true for those who profess to be people of God.

Christ Jesus said to those who claim to follow Him, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Those commandments are scattered throughout the Holy Bible. That includes the Old Testament as well as the New. After all, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the (teachings of the) prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” His apostles later taught disciples of Jesus to obey the Spirit of the Law.

And it was written by Saint Paul the Apostle, “So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22 WEB).

This book arranges a comprehensive selection of commandments from the Holy Bible into what the editor hopes is a handy format.

  • Part 1 lists those commandments this editor considers prime directives: superintending precepts that govern the understanding and application of all the others.
  • Part 2 presents The Ten Commandments along with references to subordinate precepts pertaining to each command within that Decalogue.
  • Part 3 presents the Gospel in brief and with the focus on answering the essential question asked by the Philippian jailer, “what must I do to be saved?” The answer orients on faith: obedient trust and trusting obedience.
  • Part 4 organizes a comprehensive catalogue of ethics by subject (using contemporary designations) in alphabetical order.
  • Part 5 provides a number of the Holy Bible’s summary statements regarding ethics.

The book makes no pretense of being a formal treatise on that aspect of philosophy called ethics. For such work, readers may consult:

  • Archibald B.D. Alexander’s Christianity and Ethics
  • Karl Barth’s Ethics
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics
  • Jacques Ellul’s Ethics of Freedom
  • Carl F. H. Henry’s Christian Personal Ethics

This book simply quotes what the Holy Bible itself has to say regarding right and wrong, good and evil, wise and foolish. Commentary is kept to a minimum.

It is written, “be diligent to present thyself approved to God―a workman irreproachable, rightly dividing the word of the truth…” (2 Timothy 2:15 YLT).

That word workman refers to more than what is required of someone undertaking a study. Thinking something through is necessary and proper, but there is more to be done. Working something out in word and deed, as well as in thought, is also necessary and proper. As Saint James wrote, “be doers of the word, and not only hearers.”

If the task sounds daunting, it is. But sainthood is not a status and state only a few can attain. There is help for all who are called to be saints. It is written by the prophet Zechariah, “ ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ saith the Lord of hosts.”

Hear what Saint Paul wrote regarding this Spirit.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace … the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God … (I)t is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his…. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him…. (T)he Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered. He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit’s mind, because he makes intercession for the saints according to God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified” (Romans 8: 5-9, 16-17, 26-30 WEB).

This Spirit is the same Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Comforter and Counselor, Christ Jesus said would “guide you into all truth.”

“Receive the Holy Spirit!” Jesus ordered His apostles, and “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,” He said to them forty days later.

“Quench not the Spirit,” Paul the Apostle orders the saints. “Be filled with the Spirit,” he also orders.

It is this Spirit who inspired Holy Writ, the Scriptures that can make all saints “wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17 WEB).

Let it be so.

Saint Patrick’s “Breastplate”

16 03 2018

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on the Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;

I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.



13 03 2018

The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter
The green field sleeps in the sun;
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!

Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The plowboy is whooping- anon-anon:
There’s joy in the mountains;
There’s life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!

William Wordsworth

Unlovely March

12 03 2018

 Like some reformer, who with mien austere,
Neglected dress, and loud insistent tones,
More rasping than the wrongs which she bemoans,
Walks through the land and wearies all who hear,
While yet we know the need of such reform;
So comes unlovely March, with wind and storm,
To break the spell of winter, and set free
The poisoned brooks and crocus beds oppressed.
Severe of face, gaunt-armed, and wildly dressed,
She is not fair nor beautiful to see.
But merry April and sweet smiling May
Come not till March has first prepared the way.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

winter mist

White Ash

9 03 2018


Blonde leaves,

Yellow and gray

In the darkling mist,

Whisper in the Wind

Still and small,

Calm and cool.

Clearly the mist

May not apprehend,

Cannot comprehend the

Coming shimmer, glimmer and

Gleam of this new autumn day.

Despite sight of ice and

Knowledge of night,

Light labors with Sky

Calling and christening,

Flaming and freeing,

Enchanting before winter’s chill.

A graceful blonde forever

Bright, white and beaming

Calm and cool:


D. Raymond-Wryhte