a New Year’s reflection

I read this poem at a New Year's service at the First Unitarian Church in Oklahoma City in the early 1980s. It always struck me as an appropriate reflection for the new year. I've published it here before, but I think it's worth repeating.

Happy New Year and wishes for all the best in 2011!

     by C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933)
     translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard


  As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon-don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

First version probably writtem January 1894. Final version written October 1910, and published November 1911.

Courtsey of Kyriacos Zygourakis, A.J. Hartsook Professor in Chemical Engineering, Rice University.

This translation:
C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems, Princeton University Press

Has not one God created us?

  Have we not all one father?
Has not one God created us?
Why then are we faithless to one another,
profaning the covenant of our ancestors?

—Malachi 2:10 (NRSV)
courtesy of Shai Cherry
in the Teaching Company course Introduction to Judaism

For the New Year, perhaps we can maintain the hope that the world can yet behave as if we all have one Father/Mother and that the one Mother/Father God did create us all.

We can hope and believe.

ocean time

A few months back, Terry was getting frustrated with the aggravations at work and went to the ocean to de-stress. She spent some time wandering around the village of Capitola, just south of Santa Cruz. In a jewelry store there she found a pendant that she wanted for Christmas. She had the sales person send me a card noting what she had asked for.

The problem was I knew there was no way I was going to get over to Capitola by myself before Christmas. So I told her that we'd go over there after Christmas and get it for her as her Christmas present. Between the various rain storms coming in and other things we needed to do this week, today was our only option. So, taking advantage of a break in the rain, sort of, we headed over there today. Only to find the store closed between Christmas and New Year's.

That was OK. We spent a little time by the beach (it was cold, wet, and blustery) and had lunch at the storied Zelda's, right on the ocean (from where the picture below was taken). I realized that I hadn't been to the ocean since our trip to our favorite B&B in Montara in February.

That is not a pattern I want to maintain. The ocean is so relaxing and healing and soothing for me. And I have no excuse. We're less than 45 minutes from the nearest beach.

Whatever other New Year's resolutions I may choose to make or not make, and whichever ones I may actually keep, here's one that I am making and intend to keep: more time at the ocean in 2011.

You have that here on record.


mediated or unmediated?

Like many people I've often spoken about how I like the Idea in modern Judaism of a person's unmediated relationship with God. In his Teaching Company course Introduction to Judaism, Professor Shai Cherry says that's not the case.

He points out that Biblical (i.e. temple) Judaism mediated a person's relationship to God through the priest. (Yes, we knew that.) He then says that Rabbinic (that is, post-temple) Judaism mediates one's relationship through the halachah—the Law, the Torah.


Somehow that helps. I've reconciled to the fact that it would never work for me to convert to Judaism at this point in my life, as I've written here before. But hearing that, I'm realizing that I'm not missing something critical. And I'm really happy being back in the Episcopal church. That's more than good enough.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I've written about this before, but it bears repeating this time of year.

Like many people, for a lot of years I experienced a post-Christmas letdown. One of the great things about observing the liturgical calendar is that Christmas lasts for twelve days: until Epiphany on January 6. That's really nice because the calendar fully supports the celebration from Christmas to Epiphany. In churches that follow the liturgical calendar the Sundays between Christmas and Epiphany are the Sundays after Christmas, either the 1st or the 1st and 2nd, depending on how the calendar falls. Such churches include Christmas music in their services on these Sundays.

In addition to the importance of the religious observance, it's a great thing from a peace-of-mind and stress level as well.


Christmas Blessings

We've passed the Solstice. The light is returning. Tomorrow we celebrate the Incarnation of the Light.

Christmas joy to you all!

live rather than meditate

As we start to think about the Incarnation, I thought that this quote by Daniel Berrigan was most appropriate. And oh yes, guilty as charged.

How preferable it would be to meditate on the Gospel rather than be summoned to live it.

—Daniel Berrigan, SJ. courtesy of Fran on Facebook

living by the liturgical calendar

I recently added bookmarks to two Episcopal liturgical calendars to my Web browser. The only thing surprising about that is that I've only done so now. I've had the Episcopal Church Year Guide Kalendar on my wall almost as long as I've been taking part in liturgical worship. Not long ago I added an Episcopal liturgical calendar app to my Devour Android phone.

I have, in fact, been consulting the liturgical calendar to plan events in my life for quite a long time. In 1999 I travelled to India on business in December and missed church two Sundays in Advent. It really felt like I had missed Advent altogether. When we go away for Terry's birthday, which is December 2, I try to make it a Friday night and Saturday night so I don't miss a Sunday in Advent. Advent is just too short to miss a Sunday.

Of course often it's more a matter of luck than planning. We decided to go to our favorite B&B in Montara for President's Day next year, which puts us at the Eighth Sunday after Epiphany. (Have you noticed how long the season after Epiphany is in 2011, and how late Ash Wednesday and Easter are?)

My high school class reunion is April 30. May 1 is the Second Sunday of Easter. Not a great Sunday to miss, but not a horrible one either. At least that should put us at home for the Third Sunday of Easter and the Emmaus story — Year A being the only time in the three year cycle we get that passage on a Sunday morning.

Our Alaska cruise and rail tour from May 18 to 28 keeps me away from church the Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter, which would have me back for worship on the Seventh Sunday of Easter and Pentecost.

As I said, in large part luck. But at least I'm paying attention.

a Charlie Brown Christmas

I rarely agree with Mallard Fillmore. He's about as far to the right as I am to the left. But when he's nailed it he's nailed it. And he's nailed it here.


Lessons and Carols

It's been fourteen years since I've been in a Lessons and Carols service. The very first time I walked into All Saints' Palo Alto on a Sunday morning was in December, and it so happened that they were doing Lessons and Carols. We did Lessons and Carols yesterday at St. John the Divine.

It was a bit different than my first experience. At All Saints' we simply alternated hymns sung by the congregation and the readings. There was no Eucharist that day.

Yesterday we had congregational hymns, music by the choir, and handbells. Magnificent! And we had Eucharist as well. I really appreciated that.

If this is how St. John's normally does Lessons and Carols, I'm very happy for it to be an annual event!