April: Lent into Eastertide

How is light appreciated but by being in the dark first? And how is joy had but by experiencing sorrow and pain? How is the resurrection of Easter enjoyed but by first going through a season of tangibly experiencing the need for Christ and the stripping away of carnal desire? Surely all those things can be had without its latter, however there is a fullness that the counterpart brings that makes things all the more beautiful and sweet. The month of April has been gracious to me in showing me a fuller understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I wrote a paper for my New Testament class on Colossians 2:11-15 where I explored the idea of baptism being the new form circumcision the four weeks leading up to Holy Week. I spent a lot of time researching and showing how the ‘circumcision of Christ’ is to be understood in the sense that Jesus’ physical death on the cross is the body of flesh that is cut off as our spiritual circumcision. The understanding reveals the importance of baptism in the process of our salvation in that we have been circumcised through the waters of baptism. We have been buried with him in his death and just as God raised Jesus from the dead, so have we been by the same power of God.

The nature of the paper and the practice of Lenten disciplines (I have to admit the failure of my specific discipline) revealed to me the weakness of my flesh and the necessity of my union with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. The primary thrust of the passage of Colossians and the main idea of Easter is God’s active role in unifying us with him through his Son, our Savior! This unification with the Godhead is more than simply the forgiveness of sin but a comprehensive process of making our nature more like the nature of the Trinity in order that all that is wrong in the world can be made right and all that is beautiful can be appreciated for what it is.

I have the sense of a new birth in light of the Easter season. I hope that I feel the same thing year after year as the nature of the gospel message becomes more full as each year brings new experiences and perspective on life. I think that this sense is captured in the Church’s teaching of “conversion of life.” We are to each day turn from our disastrous tendencies and live in light of the law of freedom.

I’m reminded of our need for a daily conversion of life in the midst of the final push toward the end of the semester as many of us here are short tempered and generally weary from the term. I know surely I don’t have it as tough as other might, but there is a lot of work to be done from now until May 26th. I ask for your prayers and continually support for all of us here at Nashotah House. For we hope that this environment of study will be worth it in the end when we go forth into the world by shining light in dark places, spreading joy in times of sorrow, and living in light of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, our Lord and our God.

Peace,

Fabien

March Update

I mentioned in my last blog that I was preparing to teach an adult Sunday school class on evangelism. My desire with this update is to briefly describe that which I taught and what I learned over the course of March.

The main idea that I taught over the course of the four-week class was a character driven creativity. The first two weeks I talked about how addressing how our character effects how we interact with people. Then the next two weeks I talked about how to creatively think about engaging people relationally. The idea, therefore, is that if we first look at Christian anthropology, that is, if we see that knowing one thing over the next doesn’t make us superior to others, we can then speak honestly and truly to anyone and everyone that might be in our life for a long or short amount of time. For if we see that all people are equal, then we can engage in a loving manner and with compassion no matter what kind of perspective people might have on life. The conversations had and actions done by those whom profess Christ as Lord must stem not out of pity, but of love. Once love is the motivator and initiator then the needs of people, whether it’s an intellectual inquiry, an emotional heartache, or a physical need, can be heard, seen, and appropriately engaged. That engagement with others is none other than Christ himself, if indeed we believe that we are spiritually unified with Him.

My intent in teaching on evangelism was to connect the deep theological truths of the catholic faith with a fresh approach to where we are socially, politically, and economically. As I mentioned above, we engaged this idea of Christian anthropology. We talked about how humans are primarily loving creatures rather than thinking ones. Descartes’ “I think therefore I am,” unfortunately promulgated the notion that our identity is based off of what we know or think. Rather, the reality is that we do things based out of what we love. If we consider the habits in our life, we might see what we prioritize most. St Augustine wrote that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. The understanding is that our physical bodies were created in the spiritual realm, creating a spiritual and physical desire to fill that which our deepest need seeks, which can only be filled by the infinite and eternal God of the old and new scriptures.

Moreover, the one holy catholic and apostolic church holds this salvation. It is passed on by the laying on of hands and the transferring of the memories of the church within its teaching. The church’s creed is the bedrock, which we are anchored to in order to be the safe harbor for those seeking peace in the chaotic seas of the world. So our evangelistic efforts are not that of simply selling an item, but rather we are actively creating peace in various situations. Whether someone is seeking an answer to a difficult question about God, Jesus, or the church, we can speak to that need. To those who are emotionally distraught over the loss of a family member, we can know how to sit silently being an encouragement to them. Or physically, we can give our jacket to a homeless man who needs it for an impending cold night.

I was intentionally vague concerning specific models and methods of evangelism because I believe that humans can creatively overcome obstacles when needs must be met. Rather, I spoke to the nature of ordering our own life in line with the love of God so that we can be instruments of peace when we encounter disorder outside of the church. Lives are changed through relationships and words of truth spoken at the proper times.

These thoughts and lessons have come and gone in the midst of a busy semester here at the House. It often feels surreal to consider that I’m doing precisely that which the Lord has called me to do. Albeit, not yet being ordained I can still engage the local church in a way that is beneficial not only the community but for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

I am enjoying my studies. Although there is a lot of information to engage, it is good to have an outlet to teach different things that I learn both in the parish and in the larger community. So not only do I get to teach what I learn, but I get to practice what I learn and teach. The draw back is that I feel tired and have developed a nice little eye twitch.

Peace,
Fabien Pering

February Update

I hope that this update finds you all well! Things are going well for me here in Wisconsin. Another term has started and I’m already feeling the strain of study come over my fellow students and me. I would simply ask for your prayers in this busy season. As is expected, middler year at Nashotah House is quite taxing with the onslaught of classes and various responsibilities and duties on campus. Moreover, lent starts this week followed by Holy Week, which is historically a busy but incredible time of year. We who are in the ordination track learn what it takes to put on the various services that lead up to Easter Sunday. It is an active participation in setting aside the various calendars the world operates on and taking up the church calendar as it follows the life of Christ.

In addition to my studies and the Lenten season, I’m going to be teaching a class on evangelism over the course of five weeks at St. John Chrysostom. I’m excited to be teaching again in the parish! I have a lot of fun engaging with parishioners with different material. The parish wants to grow and make a difference in the Delafield. They have recognized the need to love people and share the message of Jesus Christ with their neighbors. So I have the opportunity to equip them with what they need to and dialogue with them about how to be effective ministers of Jesus.

As this is the main reason why I am studying, please keep me in your prayers that I might find the energy and excitement necessary to teach and engage people, equipping them to do the work of the gospel. Pray that our time might be fruitful and that many people might become disciples of Jesus Christ through our effort.

In other news, I ran an Ultra Marathon at the beginning of the month. It was a 50k which took me six hours and four minutes to complete. I am happy to say that I still like to run. I also completed the necessary requirements to maintain my Emergency Medical Technician certification for another two years. I don’t have any direct plans to use the certification other than always being ready in case someone where to need my particular set of “life saving” skills.

Peace,

Fabien Pering

Death

Death

Many people have seen my skull ring and been curious about what it is and why I wear it. Of those people, some have expressed their distaste for it…sorry, mom, but I like it. Allow me to explain what it symbolizes and why I’ve chosen to keep it on me. The skull is a memento mori, a thing that reminds me of death. You might be asking yourself “What’s this nice boy doing thinking about something so grim?”

In the Rule of St. Benedict, monks are called to keep death always before them. The instruction is meant to call into remembrance their mortality and therefore remind them daily of the one reason to live. Like contrasting colors in a painting, life becomes more vibrant and full in light of death. I am reminded of why I live every time I put the ring on, yet I am constantly learning how to live life more fully. In a way, I’ve become obsessed with living.

I’ve started asking myself what would happen if I died today. Who would I have wanted to thank? Would I have given more money to the homeless guy? Who would I have told that I loved them? Would I have made certain jokes or comments about a certain person? Would I have saved more money rather than take a trip to another country? These questions have led to another adventure and several interesting conversations. I was able to see how the Lord works amongst people in going to new places and talking with people they don’t normally talk to.

Those abstract thoughts capture my whereabouts this January and my inward, thought-filled journey through the U.S. and U.K. I spent a few days in Columbia, SC, over the New Year connecting with friends. I visited other friends in Greenville and Hartsville, SC, and Fayetteville, NC. It was a really sweet time being with them again. Many of them have gotten pregnant or have just recently given birth to little ones. It is a joy to see these families grow and it is an honor to be a part of their lives. The memento mori, I think, helps me to see with open eyes that which is in front of me rather than live in the past or look to the future.

After visiting several friends I headed off to England for two weeks. I visited London for two days, Cambridge for two and a half, Oxford for five, and finally Windsor for one. I met a lot of locals and other travelers on the way. It was a time of reflection and rest. In that time I learned a lot about myself and got the pleasure at laughing at the silly things I worry about. At one point I was worried about spending too much money on food or lodging. Not that I was living lavishly in the first place. I stopped for a moment and thought about the immeasurable benefit of spending money to meet people with a different point of view, to walk in other people’s shoes, and buying a few pints of beer for a table of friends in a little eighteenth century pub at the heart of Oxford. The stories and laughs shared outweigh a few extra dollars saved in my bank account. I know that I live responsibly with what I have and even that enjoying my vacation is in fact living responsibly. You might say that I got a fresh dose of living in light of death, because what if I passed away? Would be it better for my money to be safe in the bank or invested in a time of joy with strangers and friends alike?

I visited a lot of different churches and pubs in England. The most striking thing was the history of (dead) people that have gone through both. I worshiped in the chapel where E.B. Pusey, a famous individual from the Oxford Movement is buried. I also drank a few pints in the Eagle and Child, the pub where the Inklings met and talked. It was neat to be in the same space as the people I look up to and consider the legacy they left behind. I wonder if they had the same fears and worries that I do? I wonder if they too had a drunken lady come up to them to say that ring they wore was a bit creepy.

The Incarnation

Merry Christmas!

I’ve been enjoying the company of my family after the flurry of finals and term papers. I am now halfway through my Masters of Divinity program. It is surreal to think that I’ve been in Wisconsin now for the last year and a half. I know that the next year and a half will fly by, and believe me when I say that I will enjoy it thoroughly!

I have been working on maintaining my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification over the last two weeks while my parents have been at work. It’s been a joy to engage a very different kind of material than that of seminary and to remember some crazy things that I’ve seen. I’ve been getting refreshed on vital signs and various EMT protocols while going through the online classes. I got to thinking about the incarnation while coming across terms like cardiovascular-system, perfusion, and fontanels. Those things made me think about the incarnation because of the physical aspect of humanity and because it is the season in which we remember that Jesus took on those things.

The Angelus is a prayer that teaches about the incarnation. I thought it would be beneficial to elaborate a little bit on the prayer, looking at the holiday in light of the method of prayer in order to teach about an essential part of our doctrine. The Angelus teaches us about the incarnation of Jesus, how the Word became flesh, and how the Lord used Mary as an instrument to bring forth the Son of God.

The angel of the Lord declared unto marry,

And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary full of grace, blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

We remember the narrative in the gospel according to Luke in the first section. The Lord chose Mary as the vessel to outfit the Word in the likeness of sinful flesh. This is the moment of grace that the divine penetrated the physical realm in order that all people might have salvation. As believers we then keep our own mortality before us so that we might recognize the need for divine help.

Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord,

Be it done unto me according to thy will.

Hail Mary full of grace, blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

The gospel account tells us that the Lord has found favor in Mary. The saying troubles Mary, showing humility. We are to emulate her response to the Lord as he calls us to his service, no matter the cost. We remember again the fruit of the womb of Mary, God’s chosen instrument to purify a broken world.

The Word became flesh

And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary full of grace, blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

The moment has arrived that we remember that God has sent his only begotten son to add the humanity of flesh onto his divinity of God in order that he might die as propitiation. We find through church history an emphasis on the aspect of the addition of the incarnation rather than putting aside the divinity in order to take on the humanity. The emphasis guards us from heresy as we maintain both the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ for the purpose of the work on the cross.

Christmas is about the incarnation of Jesus. We as Christians remember both the spiritual and physical aspect of life. We can take joy in this beautiful and broken world because there is so much to be amazed at, like how the parasympathetic muscles work at digesting food and making us sleepy after a large holiday meal.

We also remember how he held together the tangible world along with the spiritual and we are to hold both together as well. Likewise, we are to imitate Mary by approaching life in all humility.

Pour forth; we beseech thee, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we to whom the incarnation of Christ was made known to us by the message of an angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ, our lord. Amen

Change and Un-Change

Over thanksgiving break I found myself musing about how things change. The more that I thought about it, the more I realized that change happens all the time and it is because of time that things change. Yet, when we think of the people that change, we think about how things really haven’t changed at all. They are still the same kid they were on the playground. They’ve just grown taller, been given money, had children, their skin has gotten more worn and, eventually, more wrinkly. Even though they’ve changed, they still worry about losing friendships, they want to have fun and laugh, or want to have their belly full.

People still have the same fears and doubts about certain events even if they’ve had 10 children or are the CEO of a company. Certainly circumstances have changed, but whether you’re the child looking ahead toward apparent success or the parent looking back at the bright-eyed kid, all are on the same footing wondering how to deal with the other and that of which they are in charge. The notion that more is better is crippling. It maims generations of people by distracting them from what it is that is to change, not account balances, cars, educational degrees, or addresses but rather virtues of patience toward others, justice for the oppressed, and endurance through trying times. The latter give life to the former, making it easier to let go of the former for the latter.

I visited those whom I love most this past week in North and South Carolina over Thanksgiving break. I visited familiar places and saw familiar faces. All of which seemed to have changed, or was it just me that changed? The buildings haven’t changed, the service at certain restaurants hadn’t changed, and the smell of the air was the same. The same jokes were made around the dinner table, the same interactions were had, and you could find the plates in the same place. Yet I still spoke the same way, thought the same way as I had before, and laughed at the same things. So why was there an air of change?

We’ve all grown a year older, a year wiser, and a year more experienced than the last while still maintaining similar inadequacies and insecurities that our younger selves had. So we’ve all definitely changed, but…not really.

So what? Why muse over seemingly pedantic and trivial things? I think that in the tension of change and un-change I’ve learned how to be present. At least, I’m becoming increasingly more present with every interaction. I noticed how my buddy held his hands and arms above his head while musing over ironic circumstances. I noticed how dad made another simple improvement to an evolving way of deep frying turkeys. I noticed how my friend carefully tamped the espresso grounds to make a perfect cup of coffee for a stranger. I noticed something in my mom’s eye when she told me something I needed to hear. And I notice how my friends covered their spare bed with clean sheets and tons of blankets because their spare room got a little bit colder at night than the rest of the house.

I saw virtuous qualities that I aspire to in those whom I love. Things that I want changed in me. Sure we all might have a little more or less stuff and we all move a little slower or faster than last year, but we’re the same changing creatures who want to belong to each other and ultimately to the unchanging creator of all things.

So in a season of change, I want to spend time changing in the midst of the presence of the lowly and the lovely people that I find myself with at any given moment. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today.

Spirituality of Running

 

The other day I went for a run at a near by park called Lapham Peak. I’ve been running on those trails a lot lately. I’ve been finding that I get lost in my runs, not geographically speaking, but lost in my thoughts and in the lovely sights. I started my run near ‘the fields,’ a place filled with gently rolling hills and grass trails. There are a lot of birds singing and a few occasional roaming deer. I got to the main area where the majority of the trails are and continued to run and found myself going up to ‘the peak’ and then up and down like a roller coaster on the backside of the peak. I ran past a few people as I made my way through the serpentine trails enjoying the changing colors of the leaves and the smell of fall. I found myself going through a few different sections of trail and eventually back to my car. I looked to see how far I ran and was shocked to see that I had done 10 miles in just an hour and a half. How did that go by so quick? And why was it so enjoyable? Deep down I knew the answer to be so simple.

I was wholly present, unhindered by the cares of the world, and in a desolate place.

Isn’t that what we all want in our lives? We hear of an ever-ensuing struggle in the Middle East over homelands in Iraq. We feel the struggle between brothers and sister in the streets of major and minor cities alike. We also see the damages done by earthquakes, monsoons, and hurricanes. We have this sense that something just isn’t quiet right in the world. But does that drive us to despair?

It shouldn’t.

I often think about the nature of the world while I run. I consider whom I should vote for, what I should do to help my neighbor, or how to prioritize my time and money to be an effective and responsible human being. I don’t ever come up with an answer in my seemingly ‘zen-like’ runs. What I do realize is that there is one thing that I can do…and that is that I can find ‘shalom’ (peace) in my life and practice: the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that comes from the triune God as is known and passed down from the holy catholic and apostolic church, of whom Jesus is Lord and King.

Running for me is an exercise of submission in that I realize I’m not the fastest and strongest runner. I realize I haven’t read enough on the candidates voting tendencies or which local politician to vote for. I realize that I’m not as organized as I wish I could be. Most importantly, I realize I’m not in charge of the universe…and I don’t have to be. I’m submitting my ego to someone bigger.

There’s something about running on top of the wide world, whether it’s in the mountains of Peru, the Sinai desert, or the hills of the Kettle Moraine area. Those places don’t care if I’m smart or dumb, rich or poor, or what I do with my time. That forces me to realize I’m not as important we humans think we are.

Therein lies the key to feeling unhindered. If we realize we’re not the center of the universe, we then are able to be more joyful and accepting of the peace the comes from Jesus, king of the universe. When we see where we stand in the economy of God, we are then able to do and be the most good for we become conduits of the goodness and blessedness of God. In submitting we are able to ask questions that will lead us to know the truth. In submitting we loosen our grip on our lives and monetary possessions. In submitting we only focus on what’s in front of us, every rock, tree limb, and trail. Sometimes we trip, fall, and break bones. Only to get up and keep going.

That, then, shows that we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair (2 Cor. 4:8).

So where will I run to next? Well, wherever the wind blows next.

Until next time,

Fabien