A quiet moment in St. Paul’s Chapel. (Photo by Kathy Bozzuti-Jones.)
The Faith Formation and Education team continues to provide weekly reflections and practices for all ages. Use them on Sunday and throughout the week. This week, the team reflects on what it means to have and be together in hope in the midst of great loss.
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The current Trinity Church building was consecrated on Ascension Day in 1846.
Bob Scott, Director, Faith Formation and Education
Happy Ascension week!
Trinity has always given the Feast of the Ascension an emphasis that’s rare in Episcopal churches. The current church building was consecrated on Ascension Day in 1846. The founding of the parish in 1697 was close enough to the day that it was used to mark Trinity’s tercentenary celebration in 1997.
So we have to ask, does talking about Ascension make sense anymore? It commemorates an event in the book of Acts, when the resurrected Jesus rises into the heavens to the Father (1:9–11). It only works conceptually in the ancient three-tied universe made up of the underworld, our world, and the heavens. Current cosmology not only challenges our idea of which way is up, but also suggests that, even if Jesus were moving at light speed, he’d still be going.
Of course, that way of thinking buys uncritically into the conceit that we modern folks think figuratively while the ancients took things literally. Nothing could be further from the truth. Scholar David Bentley Hart reminds us that “Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 396) said that if one does not read scripture in a ‘philosophical’ fashion, one will see only myths and contradictions.” (Hart explores poetic and mystical ancient ways of reading scripture as part of his brilliant The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss.)
For many years, Trinity celebrated Ascension Day by inviting guest preachers who were leading lights of the church (including a young priest named Michael Curry in the early ‘90s). Each brought a different perspective and found fresh meaning in the Ascension. Their example encourages us to do the same.
As I reflect on those theological visions, it seems to me that they were all, in one way or another, about hope. Jesus’ Ascension affirms and completes the unity he shares with the Father that we’ve been reading about on recent Sundays in his farewell discourse (John 14–17). Jesus is taken wholly into God, his divinity and his humanity alike. His prayer for unity at the end of today’s reading (17:11) means we all rise, not out of this world but into greater solidarity and a deeper commitment to redeemed and reformed ways of living together. Our friends at Spirituality of Conflict note that our unity with Jesus means that we are one with God, “not in a far heaven above the skies but in the experience of unity among believers.”
Benedictine teacher and writer Joan Chittister asks us to consider that Ascension “may have less to do with Jesus than it does with us, with the centering of our minds and hearts on the world and the work at hand.” She observes how Jesus’ disciples “returned to Jerusalem (after he was ‘taken up to heaven’) with great joy and they were continually in the temple praising God.”
It makes sense to talk about Ascension in the same way it makes sense to talk about hope, not as a far-off, pie-in-the-sky concept but as a reality we find in one another, a possibility that’s always present. In the coming months and years we’ll be called not only to restore systems and societies but to build better ones — more loving, caring, and compassionate. The Ascension assures us that we can follow the example of the first disciples, building with hope and trust, because God’s presence will be with us and in us, working through us every step of the way.
- When have others brought you hope in unexpected ways?
- When have you experienced God’s presence in others?
Hope is the possibility of change.
It is our secret weapon against a world
that says No, that says Can’t, that says Will Never Be.
Hope is the firm knowledge that God dwells within each of us,
that Love will win, that a better day awaits,
that harmony is the norm and
anything else we’ve been taught is dross that must burn away.
Hope is the memory of those who have sacrificed to create the change we enjoy,
the appreciation of the strong shoulders upon which we stand,
Hope is the willingness to find those whose hands we can grasp as we find the courage
to move into a new, brighter reality.
Hope is our love for those for whom we clear the path,
for whom we willingly pay the price to fight for change
those who we may never know, who will someday stand upon our shoulders.
Hope is the spark that ignites vision
and the fuel that propels vision to become reality.
Hope is the knowledge that change is possible
that boils and burns and refuses to die
though dung and darkness threaten to snuff it out.
Hope is the secret weapon that will carry us
Into the harmony of the Kingdom of God here on Earth,
where we have belonged, all this time.
— Hope by Sharon Linnea, author/activist
Orchids blooming even during the shutdown. (Photo by Kathy Bozzuti-Jones.)
Visions of Hope
Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, Associate Director, Faith Formation and Education
I’m drawn to a quote attributed to Dorothy Day; it feels like the little kick-in-the-pants I need sometimes, when the spirit of hope seems to be sagging within me: “No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do” (Joan Chittister, In a High Spiritual Season). This advice, applied to the ongoing work of social justice, can be inspirational. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about the many whose hope is tested by great and painful losses — of loved ones, employment, housing, food security, medical insurance, and more — during this pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. I would not deny these the “right to sit down and feel hopeless.” Still, this can be a time to practice hope.
A spirituality of hope in times of great loss has a different energy. Less like a call to action, a spirituality of hope can be a call to rest and replenish in God’s loving care, a call to place our fears of the future in God’s hands, a call to remember the inexhaustible possibility of God’s desire for our flourishing (even when it is hard to see for ourselves), and, perhaps, a chance to renew our imaginations. “We have only begun to imagine the fullness of life,” writes Denise Levertov in Candles in Babylon, “So much is in the bud.” In times of crisis, it can be a struggle to keep the young bud in view. Imagination, silence, optimism, faith, courage, and the felt memories of past and present grace can support a practice of hope, especially in times like these.
Here is a simple prayer for fresh vision, for the one who fears losing hope:
For One Who Fears Losing Hope
Loving God, by your Holy Spirit inspire me, as I fear losing hope. Give me a fresh vision of your love, that I may find again what I fear I have lost. Grant me your powerful deliverance; through the One who makes all things new, Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.
- How to Deal with Broken-Heartedness — a video featuring Parker Palmer
- “Hope” is the thing with feathers — a contemplative photo, featuring the poem by Emily Dickinson
- Hope — a contemplative photo collage
- A Prayer for Hope — a contemplative photo, featuring a poem from Saint Claude de la Colombière (translated by John Veltri in Hearts on Fire)
- How the Inventor of the Rubik’s Cube Cracked His Own Code — In this video, Professor Rubik reminds us that there’s always a way
- How Storytelling Builds Attachment & The Science Behind It — A resource for parents: “Anyone who has told stories to their children (including grandparents, teachers, caregivers, etc.) will recognize that at the end of a good story, you don’t just walk away with a good story — the two of you feel closer. Why?”
Remember when we gathered for Whole Community Learning in St. Paul’s Chapel?
Jesus’ Moving Up Day
Kathryn Carroll, Interim Program Manager, Children and Families
Last week we commenced. This week we commemorate. We remember Jesus’ Ascension, his “moving up” day. And we remember those in our lives and communities on Memorial Day who died. These are all marked with rituals and long-held traditions: we practice these rituals with one another, communally. And I think we are all missing this. Our rituals keep time, as in rhythm. Our rituals connect us to ancient humanity. Most of all, our rituals are an act of hope, as they have been and will be repeated throughout our lives on earth, as it is in heaven.
We miss you and we’re with you — in hope. “With;” Latin root, “com.” I’m not a linguist, but language has always held a fascination for me. I believe that it is with language that thoughts and feelings are shaped and expressed, even when our bodies do the talking. Think of a hug or a smile. Very often the impulse is unconscious, but the action communicates something to another. Church, in a way, is language itself; a body of language and body-language that can transcend human limitations. Think of all the “with” words that begin with “com.” Community, compassion, communion, companion, common, communicate, commandment, commitment, commencement, commemorate…
We are with God and God is with us. We are with one another: in time and space, in shared rituals, in one another’s suffering, at the table, sharing “daily bread,” in remembrance, in hope. And that is one of the things that makes this time so profound, perhaps, even sacred? Though apart in body, we remain one body; we are still with one another, and in some ways, more so than ever.
For Table Conversation
- Is there a difference between a ritual and a habit or routine?
Is the way you brush your teeth a routine or a ritual?
- What rituals do your family practice at home?
Praying before meals or bed, Sunday family brunch, expressions of endearment...
- What rituals in church services do you miss sharing in person?
The Eucharist? Passing the Peace? Gathering at the altar? Carrying up the Offering?
- Have you begun any new rituals during the pandemic?
Cheering at 7pm? Afternoon family break?
- What’s your family’s Memorial Day tradition?
What will you do this year?
Hopeful Memorial Day
Memorials tend not to be liturgical or ritualistic, and yet the act of memorializing is a sacred ritual: in the presence, the deep remembrance, and sometimes, in the universal language of human pathos, music. While at the peak of loss in our city, Lincoln Center began to produce Memorial For Us All.
- Family Worship: Home Edition — a simple family-style service for you and your family to follow together at home
- Social distancing and the sacraments: How the coronavirus pandemic has changed our sense of communion — from America, The Jesuit Review
- ParentSpace — Parents are invited to gather online Sundays at 10am for a time of sharing and support
- Youth Drop-In Call — Fr. Matt is hosting a weekly drop-in call for all Trinity Youth. Text or email Matt at MWelsch@trinitywallstreet.org for more information.
Each week, we’ll share a song of the week to help you go deeper with each Sunday’s theme. The playlist will be updated weekly, and the song of the week will sit on top.