Saturday, April 14, 2018

Easter Joy and the Incarnation

My love for the Easter season is well documented, but I can't help myself. We focus so much on Lent as Catholics. Lent is the solemn preparation of discipline that is valuable to appreciate the sacrifice that Christ made for us and it is necessary. However, the Church gives us 50 days to just rejoice and sing all of the Alleluias and I think that we don't allow ourselves to fully enter into it. So, I try to make the effort and remind myself that this is a season of joy!

This was a piece from an art show I participated in a year or two ago, however, it is not my work of art. I can't take credit for the work or the quote, but I do love the sentiment!

I love this quote from Pope Francis because I agree that for some reason we have to be bold and be brave in order to be happy, it seems. Happiness is certainly a goal for all, I would hope, but for some reason we won't let ourselves really live it or enjoy it.

The Easter season is a joyful time for many reasons. I love the readings from the book of Acts where the apostles are really living the Gospel on their own for the first time. They are preaching and teaching and going out and putting their faith into ACTION. They are becoming the Body of Christ and it is beautiful to re-hear at this time of year.

I am currently reading a couple of different books (I'm always in the middle of at least three books at a time...) that have meditations on the Incarnation. The Incarnation refers to God becoming Flesh, so we often think of the event of the Incarnation at Christmas. But Ronald Rolheiser, the author of The Holy Longing which I am reading with a group of Catholic women, points out that they Body of Christ is also a way that God becomes flesh. God becomes present through us and our actions.

So hearing about the Body of Christ being formed by the apostles during this liturgical season and reading about the Incarnation has added to this joy of the season for me (the beautiful, finally warm weather also helps) and it makes me think about ways that I am actively bringing about the Incarnation. How is God becoming flesh in the world right now? In what ways?

Our American Christian culture has a weird relationship with "the flesh" and our bodies. We are super into fitness, but then abuse our bodies with chemically induced and preserved food and things that are bad for us. We want to look perfect but then hate our bodies if we don't. We use our bodies to experience pleasure, but then often feel guilty about it later.

I believe that God became incarnate to show us that our bodies are good and how to use our bodies. Namely, he used his body to help others. He walked and traveled to heal and serve others. This is how we can use our bodies and our Body of Christ to bring about God on earth as well.

Rolheiser also asserts that we have responsibility for making our prayers heard and "in fleshed" as well. Because as Christians we pray "through Christ" and one of the ways Christ becomes present is through us. We need to be His hands and feet in a real way. If we are praying for healing, we need to do things to bring about that healing ourselves. We need to reach out to others, seek help, help others. Rolheiser uses the example of the woman with the hemorrhage in the Gospels as an example. She wanted to be healed, so she reached out and touched the robes and garments of Christ. She pushed through the crowd surrounding Him and she was healed. What are some ways that we need to "touch the hem of Christ" for ourselves? For others?

In another book that I am reading by the author of "A Wrinkle in Time", Madeleine L'Engle on Faith and Art, L'Engle refers to art as a form of Incarnation, which I totally agree with. A reason that I believe art and music transcend through culture and time is that the artist is somehow channeling the divine and making God come to earth in a new way. Art and music have been ways that I have tapped into the spiritual when maybe my prayer wasn't being "heard." It is a way for us to take our prayer and the Incarnation into our own hands and create something in which He becomes incarnate.

 This weird abstract took me way longer than you might expect... I enjoyed the process of getting to this maybe more than I enjoy the end result, but that's okay! The process is maybe the most important part sometimes.
I did this by looking at the negative space around the image which also was a really good exercise.

I really like these meditations on the Incarnation in the Easter Season. We do think about Christ in the flesh during this season, but it's really through the apostles and the Church that He comes "in fleshed" at this time. I love this meditation on all the ways that Christ becomes "in fleshed" and hope to carry it through to Pentecost!

Peace,
Julia

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Easter Alleluia 2018

Happy Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday! It has been a whirlwind of an Easter Octave, but a very good and blessed one.

As has been the case for the past three years since I've moved to Richmond and become active in the RCIA program in my parish, I took part in the Easter Vigil again this year. However, at the rehearsal the week of the ceremony, I was called to be a last minute sponsor for a 10 yo whose godparents weren't able to make it into town.
It is always an honor to guide someone in their journey with God and the Church, especially young people! It made Easter extra special again this year. 

Our Spring Break is always Easter week, so on Easter Sunday, I met up with a friend who is also a teacher and we took off for our planned road trip to Gatlinburg and Nashville, TN!

Hanging out in the Smoky Mountains

In front of the Grand Ol Opry!

So full disclosure- I'm actually not really a country music fan. I just love music in general and I know that some country stars are the roots for Rock and Roll and Pop music which I am more of a fan of. I also had been to Gatlinburg as a kid and remembered its kitsch and wanted to experience it again. My friend and I had fun in TN and kept busy doing all kids of quirky things like the Salt and Pepper Museum (yes, that exists and it is glorious!), climbing in the Smokies, driving to a Cherokee reservation, and witnessing the dinner theater treasure that is the Dolly Stampede (I remember attending this show as a child and it being called the "Dixie Stampede" then. I think it changed its name for political correctness, however, the "South" team still won in the competition we watched this week...yikes). 

Tennessee was fun and pretty but definitely an eye opening experience. My friend and I live in our cozy liberal bubbles in California and Richmond, respectively. While I do experience people who disagree with my political views quite often here in VA, I wasn't ready for the blatant racism and aggression that existed in the souvenir shops, roadside attractions, billboards, tshirts, etc all over TN. It was frustrating to see people holding onto a hateful past instead of moving on with unity and openness. 

I was also surprised by the ingrained evangelicalism there. My friend and I were often greeted with phrases relating to God and His blessings which I'm obviously not offended by, however, I'm not sure all visitors would say the same. After learning a little more about country music and its history in Gospel and Tent Revivals, it makes some sense why the evangelical Christian culture is also very deeply rooted. It was just an overall eye opening experience to see how this part of the country lives and I pray that we can all come to some middle grounds to heal the societal wounds that still obviously exist. 

Arriving back in Richmond made me appreciate this city a lot more! I love my quirky little artsy city. 
Today, I played for a Mass at a parish in Church Hill for Divine Mercy Sunday. The priest gave an awesome homily on Doubting Thomas and Mercy and I would like to share some of his points here. 

Father noted that Doubting Thomas (and the subject of today's Gospel reading) often get a bad rap. Father pointed out that doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. Doubt keeps us from getting stuck in our ways. Doubt can lead us to question the status quo. It can push us to find answers that move us forward. 

However, we have to keep our doubt from leading to fear which is where the problems begin. Father gave us a reminder for Fear as an acronym. He said it can stand for: False Evidence Appearing Real. I feel like this speaks volumes for the fear and fake news in our country today. It speaks to some of the racist things I saw this past week as well. To relate it to the Gospel, the apostles were afraid after the Crucifixion. They went and hid in the upper room. 

Meanwhile, however, Mary Magdalene was brave and took a risk and went to the tomb that Easter morning. And she was rewarded by being the first to see the risen Lord. Father called her today the "apostle to the apostles." I love that! A woman as an apostle! It made me think that Pope Francis has so much ground to open up the possibility for a female deaconate and that is one of my prayers for the Church. I think we have so many examples in Scripture and history of women preaching the Good News just like Mary Magdalene. She was the one who went and told the others the Good News that is the crux of our faith- that Christ resurrected from the dead. That is pretty incredible!

Mary Magdalene and St. Thomas were not afraid to question and they were shown mercy. We are all in need of God's mercy in some way. We've seen it in a very real way this past year or so especially. Fear only brings about more false evidence. If we are brave and take a risk like Mary Magdalene or question like St. Thomas, we will be given mercy and more likely to show mercy to others- the mercy we all need. 

Happy Easter for the next few weeks! It's my favorite liturgical season!

Peace,
Julia


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Selling the Drama 2018 Edition

Holy Week is coming to a close and the Easter Season is upon us. Not before, however, we unfold all that this week and salvation history has been about tonight at the Easter Vigil.

I have kept this blog for over 10 years which is insane to me. These 10 years, however, have been so much about growth and becoming the person that I am today. I looked back at some earlier posts in which I used this same title. I can see myself starting to grow. I had moved back to DC. Started grad school. I was starting to nerd out and geek out about my theological studies. I had a strong community of friends. I was becoming a teacher. 

And here we are today. In some ways, things are not that different. Still a theological nerd. Still a teacher. The location has changed, though only by about 90 miles, and I haven't shared a living space with a roommate in about five years, but I have rediscovered my need for community in new ways.

Another major difference between 27 and (almost) 37? No. More. Drama. 

The drama was on its way out, I think, towards the end of my twenties anyway, but by this stage in the game, the drama almost ceases to exist and it is glorious. 

Which brings me to Holy Week. In the aforementioned previous posts, I focus on the drama of Holy Week which is no doubt still there. The Church hasn't changed in 2000 years, it's not about to alter the celebration of Holy Week! However, my perspective on Holy Week has changed in my, ahem, older age. 

There is still no denying the drama that occurs during Holy Week, for that is what it is about. Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem in glory with Hosannas and palms on the back of a donkey, and by the end of the week, finds Himself in a tomb. There is a lot that happens in between. 

But something I experienced last year when I wasn't able to enter into the Triduum as I would have liked, made me realize that these Passion plays and rituals are good, but they are about us. We need the rituals to enter into this time in Christ's life. Christ doesn't need them. 

That doesn't mean that we shouldn't partake in the rituals of Triduum. That is not what I am saying. I went to Holy Thursday Mass and Good Friday service yesterday and I can't wait for the Easter Vigil tonight. I am entering in this year! But Christ has already won the victory. He has already died and rose. These rituals are designed to draw us closer to Christ. We are the ones who need to remember. He never forgets. 

And all of this newfound thirties drama-less mindset brings me to Holy Saturday. In the past, I don't know if I appreciated this day. In fact, when I teach the Triduum to my students, there isn't much to say about this day other than Jesus is in the tomb. But this morning, waking up to the stillness and sunlight after the dreariness of Good Friday, made me appreciate this part of the Triduum in a new way. 

I googled Holy Saturday and a lot of images of tombs and crosses came up. For some reason, I found this building with the door mysterious and relevant. Insert female emoji with her arms up here!

What were the apostles doing on this day? Hiding? Mourning? Waiting? I know that the women were going to prepare the body, which shows me how brave and loyal those women were. While the men were probably in hiding wondering if they would be next on the Romans' list, the women were not afraid and were loyal enough to make that trek to the tomb after the Sabbath. 

And what was Christ doing on this day? Taking the holy souls to heaven finally? Enjoying some peace and quiet? Having one day's rest with the Father and Spirit? It is fun to meditate on. And gives me new perspective on death and resurrection. 

We are quick to jump on drama. We love the action of the palms on Palm Sunday, the Passion play unfold on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Today is Holy Saturday, and I believe that it brings a stillness and peace that we often overlook. However, we can't stay in the "tomb" forever. We need the joy and the action of the Resurrection to bring about new perspective, new life. 

Looking forward to tonight's Easter Vigil! I was asked last minute to sponsor a 10 year old coming into the Church tonight! I always love celebrating with my RCIA community at the cathedral. Please keep all of those entering the Church tonight in your prayers. And Happy Holy Saturday.

Peace,
Julia

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lenten Laetare Check In- 2018

Happy 4th Week (almost 5th week) of Lent! I told my students that we only had one more week next week until Holy Week and they were amazed. I remember when I was that age thinking that Lent took forever! It's a little sad for me to learn that they think that time passes as quickly as I do now as an adult. I have many theories on that, but that is a blog post for another time.

It is also probably important to note that today is St. Patrick's Day! I am not Irish, but I do love celebrating this day. It involves a saint's feast day, beer, and the color green...what's not to love?
 Remembering our dear friend Dan who loved St. Patrick's Day in 2015
Throwback to disapproving Irish Car Bombs, especially when put in plastic cups way back in 2007

St. Joseph's Day is another upcoming feast day that I look forward to- not just because it allows me another day to break my Lenten fast! I always pray the Novena to St. Joseph at this time and I have entrusted many important prayers to him in the past- like passing my comps in 2013 and looking after our friend Dan in 2014. In this age of chaos and selfishness in our culture and community, I am in awe of St. Joseph even more for sticking with God's plan for him and his family. If he would not have embraced his role as a foster father, who is to say what would have happened to us. St. Joseph, pray for us!

Laetare Sunday was last Sunday, which means we are more than halfway through with Lent. Now is the time to check in and see how we are doing with our Lenten promises of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. If we have failed in any way, it's okay. There is still time to make preparations and commitments before the holiest of weeks in the Church coming up on Palm Sunday.

My fasting has been committing to the Whole 30 which is no dairy, no alcohol, no grains, no beans...so many things I love! I have certainly failed. But each time I did, I recommitted and kept going rather than call it a wash.

As far as prayer, this has probably been the most fruitful for me this Lent. I have been using the devotional book that the Christian feminist group I am a part of has been going through together this Lent. It examines the book of Exodus. The first couple of weeks were hard because we all struggled to understand why God would be so angry and vengeful towards Moses, towards the Pharaoh, towards His Chosen People. Exodus is also hard because there are so many sections about laws and practices that can be considered excessive and moot in 2018.

What I have taken away from the passages in Exodus:

- we need rituals and sacrifices and discipline, God doesn't. He gives us laws for us to learn and grow.
- rituals can bring community together. People can all use their gifts in different ways as offerings to God.
- We should not lose focus when other idols or "gods" tempt us from straying from following God
- Moses was given a really, really hard task. He probably should have delegated more! It would have been less stressful! His father-in-law, Jethro, tried to tell him to do so!
- We really need to trust in God and others, even when they seem untrustworthy or illogical
- Though Israel was the first to practice monotheism, God is for all of us. Christ expanded God's covenant so that salvation is for all people and we are all now chosen.
- We should not "veil" our worship or radiance for God. We need to share His light with others

And that's what I've got so far. I'm sure as we continue to journey towards Easter this salvific story will take new forms and meaning.

I also have been praying for many special intentions that were given to me at the beginning of Lent. If you signed up to be prayed for on my Google form that I posted around Ash Wednesday, know that I have been praying for you daily!

In regards to almsgiving, I always clean out my closets at this time and give at least 5 items to charity. I've done the closet cleaning, just need to take the items to the drop off location sometime before Easter.

Last year, I was searching for community, and so far this year, community has played such an important role in my self care and relationship with God. I continue to be grateful for His faithfulness and providence. I look forward to celebrating with all of the carbs and Alleluias in the Easter season!

Finally, this Sunday's Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Lent has so many beautiful and noteworthy elements. When I met with the RCIA group this week, someone was called upon to spontaneously lead us in reflection of this passage from John and the Holy Spirit really moved through her. It was awesome to see. We noted that the Greeks were following Jesus around, not just the people of Israel. And not necessarily because they were wanting to harm Him, but because they were curious about Him. We thought this was interesting for many reasons. For one, it truly shows that the Messiah is for all of us. And this really would have shaken the Jewish chief priests even more about Jesus' ministry. Do we want to be like chief priests who were intolerant of Christ and did not welcome His followers? Or do we want to embrace all who want to follow Christ like Jesus did, regardless of background?

Christ also uses this metaphor about a grain of wheat needing to die in order to live. He is foreshadowing His own death and Resurrection, but I think it is certainly applicable to our sufferings and deaths as well. Suffering and "dying" to self is necessary to produce goodness and new life sometimes. This is a good reminder as we near the end of Lent and prepare for new life in the Easter season.

Happy St. Patrick's Day and (almost) end of Lent!
Peace,
Julia

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Thoughts and Prayers

If you have been following any platform of social media in the past year and a half, you may have noticed the backlash surrounding the phrase "thoughts and prayers." If not, I'm not sure whether to commend you for being able to remove yourself from social media in such a way that you've avoided this, or to ask if you regularly frequent figurative holes to reside in.

Joking aside, as a Christian feminist I have struggled with the backlash against this phrase. I appreciate the sentiment that those opposed to the phrase are trying to express. Namely- in the case of natural disasters, mass shootings, war, and other situations that demand governmental and humanitarian response- saying that "our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by (insert tragedy here)" is not enough. Natural disasters require aid. Mass shootings require a change in gun laws. War torn countries require our attention, action, and help.

However, as a Christian woman, I do believe in the power of prayer. So hearing things like "you can keep your thoughts and prayers" can be a response that I sympathize with but also isn't necessarily helpful in trying to build an effective dialogue that will allow both sides to come together on these issues that for whatever reason divide us. What can maybe be an appropriate response on both sides to situations that require faith but also action?

As a Catholic, I have always been taught that faith and works go together. And as a Scripture scholar, I go to the Bible for guidance. St. James' letter is the text most often quoted on this idea of faith and works being dependent on one another:

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,
and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?

So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead."- James 2:14-17

St. James would seem to be supporting the "keep your thoughts and prayers" camp here in a way. What good are our thoughts and prayers if we are not backing them up with action?


But on the opposite side, we need not neglect the power of prayer if we are persons of faith. Jesus says in Matthew's Gospel while debating the devil in the desert:

"one does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God."- Matt. 4:4 

Jesus is referencing the Old Testament here as He combats the devil. He is referencing this verse from Deuteronomy:

"He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your ancestors, so you might know that it is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD." - Deut. 8:3


And later, the book of Deuteronomy goes on further to say:

"But when you have eaten and are satisfied, you must bless the LORD, your God, for the good land he has given you."- Deut. 8:10


In other words, when the work of the Lord is done, we should not forget Him and give thanks.

But not everyone in our society believes what we believe as Christians. So our thoughts and prayers may really not mean much to them. It doesn't mean that we cannot give them, but we do need to do more.

Christ says in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel that we should keep our prayers in secret and not go boasting about them (Matthew 6: 5-8). However, He also says that "where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them." (Matt. 18:20). So which is it?

Sin is always about our intention. That is to say, no one can know if our intentions were good or not, ultimately,except for God. We may really truly want to help people with our prayers, and we can certainly pray for them. But only God will see those intentions and prayers initially.

If we want people to see our faith and see our intentions, it must be done through action. We can pray in secret. We can pray in our faith communities. But if we want people to see our true intentions, we have to show them through service. And, yes, I believe that prayer can make change. But God uses us as agents of change.

There is a famous quote that is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words." This is to say that we can live and communicate the Gospel through our actions and we know the other adage that accompanies this: "actions speak louder than words."

I believe that St. James and St. Francis took their cues from Jesus. They saw Him both speaking AND acting: from His many miracles of healing to His physical action of giving up His life. The action and image of the cross certainly says more than we could ever say or think. And that action was His prayer.

So thoughts and prayers? Or actions? I say, let your action be united with your prayer let your prayer motivate your action.

Peace,
Julia

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Entering the Desert: Lent 2018

Happy Valentine's Day/Ash Wednesday! The joke going around social media this year is that we are putting the "lent" in Valentine's Day today. I'm sure St. Valentine would have wanted it no other way.

Some years, Lent just kind of creeps up on us, especially when Easter is early, which it is this year. However, in a shocking turn of events, I actually find myself more ready for Lent than I have been in a long time. I credit the new communities that I have found myself a part of this year and specifically a group of ecumenical Christian feminist bloggers.

The lady-bloggers and I are in the getting-to-know-each-other stage of the relationship, and we are taking the time to share reflections in a group chat and some of us are even trying the Whole 30 together. Nothing says sisterhood like helping each other get through 30 days without cheese, wine, and carbs!

We also decided early on to do a Lenten devotional together. The one that we chose is a study of Exodus.

Exodus is one of the books of the Bible that I enjoy teaching in my Scripture course and my students enjoy learning about. It, of course, has huge significance in our Christian Paschal Mystery since Jesus was celebrating Passover when instituting the Eucharist at the Last Supper. I'm not sure why, then, I was surprised that our Lenten devotional is truly focusing just on the Exodus story and not much else. And even though we are just one day into it, I'm already totally on board with the journey that it is going to take us through.

Exodus starts where Genesis leaves off. Joseph of "technicolor dreamcoat" fame is the last major patriarch we read about in Genesis and he has risen to power in Egypt and the rest of Jacob's family has come to join him due to famine. At the beginning of Exodus, however, the new pharaoh in Egypt is not having any of Joseph's fame and has decided to oppress the Israelites, making them slaves.

It is not lost on me that we start Lent thinking about oppression. We think about the oppression of our sin. We think about the things that weigh us down and hold us back from uniting more fully with God. I feel like I can see where this devotional is taking my lady-bloggers and I, but we all know what happens when one "assumes." I'm going to try and keep an open mind.

In thinking about oppression, I can't help but think of all of the different groups of people still oppressed around the world. Victims of human trafficking. Victims of oppressive governments. Victims of racism and sexism. And today we watched on the news yet another school shooting take the lives of innocent school children. I believe that our own society is oppressed by our selfishness and enslavement to big businesses, political parties, and lobbies like the NRA. We are so trapped that we can't stop something so simple as not allowing gun violence to continue to take the lives of our citizens.

I am praying that as we continue through this Lenten journey, we will be liberated in some way from the oppression of this world and realize the freedom that we have in the truths of Christianity-two of those truths being Love and Forgiveness. And I believe in the power of prayer, but I know that action needs to be taken as well. I'm interested in looking closely at Moses as the model for this as the ladies and I move through the study.


God liberating His people through Moses is one of the quintessential salvation stories. Second only probably to that of  the ultimate story of salvation- His Son's saving us by His Cross and Resurrection. I am looking forward to diving into this mystery with Moses and with a community that I very much prayed for last year. 

Something else that I am doing for prayer this year, is something that I have modeled after a friend that I have kept in touch with from ministry during my time in Arlington. Each year, she asks for prayer requests from others on social media and commits to praying for them each day of Lent. I have taken a page from her book this year, and asked for intentions via social media. I have made a list and am keeping them close as we journey towards Easter. Know that readers of this blog count as well :)

I'm praying that this is a blessed Lent for all of us this year. One of true love and liberation.

Peace,
Julia

Friday, January 5, 2018

Fire and Ice: Happy New Year- 2018!

Happy New Year! Even though the liturgical year began at Advent, there is still something exciting about officially starting a new calendar year. There is always hope of the possibilities, reflections on the year past, and relief that some things are now solidified in the year behind us.

I am trying not to have any expectations of this new year. Last year, I began with much trepidation because of the incoming president. Because of the results of all of the political drama last year, I expect this year to have much of the same. But because I also saw many movements begin to emerge and communities come together last year, I do also expect there to be positive response to that expected drama.

And that's all I've got so far for 2018.

Except! I've already also had two snow days in this new year, and with snow there also comes reflection on my part. Snow days can be good and bad for me. Who doesn't love the mandated time to stay inside and relax? And while I loooooove living alone, too much time alone isn't good for me. I like to be on the go and have options. Snow can also inhibit that for me.

Some of the positive things that came out of last year, were new Christian communities of women that kind of presented themselves to me. I have always been a part of women's prayer groups since I started my serious Christian journey, and didn't realize how much I missed or needed that practice since I've moved to Richmond.

One of the groups that I have become a part of has decided to read Ronald Rolheiser's "The Holy Longing" together. We just started the book in December and will meet to discuss the first chapter later this month.

This book is a Catholic spiritual classic, so I can't believe that I hadn't read it in its entirety before.

The book begins by just introducing the concept of spirituality and the soul. The author illustrates the point that the soul needs many things to nourish it, otherwise it will not be healthy. He uses the symbols of fire and water to show us that we need both passion and peace to sustain the soul.

After reflecting on the ancient symbols of fire and water, my nerdy brain immediately went to Game of Thrones' forces of Fire and Ice that are so prevalent and important in the series and show!

Rolheiser makes the case that it is no coincidence that many ancient rituals focused on these symbols of fire and water. Fire represents the passion and energy that the soul needs to be ignited. Water represents the peace and cleanliness that it also needs to survive.

I think as Christians- and especially as a Catholic- we focus so much on the water element needed for the soul. We understand the tranquility that prayer provides and the cleanliness that the Sacraments of Baptism and Confession give. The Holy Spirit and the Light of Christ are the images often associated with fire in our faith and we certainly believe that they provide the ignition and power to spark and sustain that faith.

But we need our own sparks as well, right? The Light of Christ and the Holy Spirit are perfect and holy and sustaining. It can be argued that we shouldn't need anything else. But we are human. And isn't the Trinity found in all life-giving things?

For example, I find both fire and water- passion and peace- in art and prayer. These things ignite me and calm me simultaneously and I believe that the Trinity is certainly evident in both.

As an introvert, I think I also tend to the waters of peace more often because I know that I need them for my own rejuvenation. But I also recognize that I need to go out and step outside myself and be around loved ones to ignite fire and energy, otherwise the waters will start to drown me (how far can I go with this metaphor, do we think? :)

Every New Year's Eve (with maybe only a couple exceptions in the last couple of years), some of my college friends and I get together to ring in the new year. We go all out. We dress up, we shell out for a hotel and food and drinks, and we just celebrate. This annual celebration gives me so much life that sustains me for weeks to come. It also gives my heart peace to be with people who know me and have loved me for a really long time now.

Certainly to party and wine and dine can ignite fire and bring energy into our lives. But I also have found at periods of my life that too much of it just burns me out (the metaphor that keeps on giving!). So like all things, the fire and water are about balance. And the Trinity can certainly be at the center of both things because we need both to sustain our soul.

This icy snow day at the beginning of this new year has me thinking: what ignites the fire in my soul? What can I do to spark it? And similarly, what brings me tranquility and peace? As I mentioned, sometimes things can do both. Travel and celebrations and art ignite my soul. But they also bring me peace and tranquility.

We can certainly expect more of those things, then, for me in 2018!

Happy New Year!
Peace,
Julia