The Parish of St. Joseph of Arimathea
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What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
- The Waste Land by TS Eliot

From the Rector


Dear Friends,

February 14th marks the beginning of Lent- a traditional Christian season of repentance (or more properly metanoia) forty days prior to the celebration of the Easter. 

More than merely repentance of the wrongs that one has committed, metanoia is a changing of mind- a reorientating of oneself in an act of transformation. 

These forty days are likened to the Gospel story of Christ's time in the desert, of separation, comtemplation and temptation. A trial of spirit. 

Lent opens appropriately with Ash Wednesday- where through ritual, prayer and contemplation, we reflect upon our own weakness and mortality. Remember O Man, that you are dust, and to it you shall return. 

It is a day to reflect upon attachment, not only to external things which reinforce our ignorance and separation, but also especially to our own minds and bodies, which, like everything else, will deteriorate and decay with the passage of time. 

I will show you fear in a handful of dust

Yet, this day gives way to the fullness of lent- an opportunity to experience a change of mind from that which is transitory to that which is eternal. 

As Gnostics, there are many different views that can be drawn from the symbology of Lent and I'd like to share with you my own, perhaps you may find some value in it. For myself, Lenten discipline is about a few things- removing obstacles, seeing through superficiality, and renewing ourselves through our connection to the Divine- for which the former is of prime value. 
 
If you have encountered historical Christianity with any amount of depth, you have probably come across concepts associated with the so-called redemptive power of suffering- there are many who identify with Lent in this fashion- particularly through the temptation and trial in the desert. The idea that through trial, loss, difficulty and any other euphemism for things that are hard to bear, we can see ourselves and the Divine, as well as the relationship between them, more clearly. 
 
There is some truth there, but it does not rest within the realm of suffering but of reconnection. The Divine Beloved does not desire suffering for anyone, suffering is a natural byproduct of human existence. We rise, we stumble, we fall, we trip, we push, we are pushed, we bend, we break, we bind, we loose. 
 
Reconnection in the context of Lent, then, is not about suffering but about a willful and intentional examination of those things that are most important to us and our spiritual journeys. It is not about accepting life's slings and arrows as some kind of noble Divine given test, for nothing could be further from the truth, but rather goes beyond what life hands us into an intentional clearing away of those things that keep us from a full understanding of ourselves and the Divine not only in us, but present in the world and in our fellow humanity. 
 
Does this mean we should turn Lent into a joyless enclave of ascetic rigor? - hardly. 
 
It is an opportunity to examine priorities, seek out again that connection to Self and the Divine, and bridge the perceptual gap between the two- not towards a more "serious" life, but towards a more joyous one. When that gap is bridged we have opportunities for greater understanding, greater happiness, great compassion, greater joy- as we not only see the Divine present in our own lives through love, creativity, communion, connection and passion, but also as we share those things with and recognize them in, others. 
 
In order to do that we need focus and discipline- not a focus and discipline that merely says "I'm not going to eat chocolate for lent" but a focus and discipline that says "I'm going to take some time to work on myself and my journey". It's something we should do every day of the year, but in case we don't- Lent is here for just that purpose. 
 
As for suffering.. suffering is unavoidable. The Divine Beloved seeks not our suffering, and while suffering may not be a test, it is an opportunity. Lent is a period of purification, of clearing away, and is a process of spiritual intention. Suffering, tends to happen despite our intentions. 
 
Suffering is nothing other than what it is but we can take out of it an opportunity to take the lead of life and transmute it into gold. Given the things we go through as human beings, not every situation is an opportunity to do that perfectly, and sometimes the gold we create will be mere ounces to pounds of lead, but it is an opportunity just the same.
 
Unlike so many other times, trials and lessons in life- Lent offers the opportunity for us to reconnect, examine and explore not only our relationship with the Divine Beloved, but with ourselves on our own terms and of our own choosing.

It should be remembered that Christ went into the desert willingly and of the inspiration of the Divine

Lent offers us the opportunity to to walk to the burning and dry realms within ourselves to meet both ourselves and God there, and through the season that follows Lent, bring life to those places. 
 
This Month at St. Joseph's

Join us this month as we enter into Lent with an Ash Wednesday service on Wednesday February 14th at 7:30pm
Later on in the month, on February 28th, we will be sitting down to break bread at Ricky's to discuss Aeons and Archons, in honour of Holy Valentinus whose feast day celebration is getting bumped due to the importance of Ash Wednesday.

I hope to see you there.

Ad Sacram Flammam,
+ Shaun Mar Iohannes

News and Education from Around the Church
The Most Rev. Shaun McCann examines the mythos of a Medieval Johannite Church from the perspective of comparing several overlapping and shared legends across the esoteric world of the last 200 years.

Also available in audio with a link to slides here
Johannite School

The Apostolic Johannite Church has recently launched 'Johannite School' - a place to learn more about the thought, practice, community, and history of the Apostolic Johannite Church. Our aim is to make it easier for new members of the church, as well as interested people who aren’t close to a local community, to find out more about the AJC.

Johannite School is free.

As the school curriculum grows, it will cover popular topics like,

  1. Introduction to Johannite Concepts and Theology
  2. What do Johannites do (practice, ritual, traditions)?
  3. What is the AJC about (structure, definitions, community)?
  4. What is Gnosticism (introduction)?
  5. History of Johannite communities (33CE to today)
  6. What is Hermeticism and why is it relevant?

The first of these courses,Introduction to Johannite Concepts and Theology” (which includes a total of eighteen modules!) has already begun and you are welcome to join in.

All courses include video lectures, written notes, extra resources and homework exercises. Each course is self-paced. The school includes a forum area where you can meet other students and ask for help.

To sign up- visit https://johannite.org/learn/

Upcoming Schedule
 

Liturgy: 7:30pm @ The Unitarian Church of Calgary
Room 4, Side Entrance
1703 1 Street Northwest
Calgary, AB T2M 4P4

Coffee and Discussion:
7:15pm @ Ricky’s @ North Hill

1668 14 Ave NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1M7

January 10th - Liturgy - Mary, Theotokos
January 24th - Discussion - The Incarnation

February 14th - Liturgy - Valentinus, Gnostic Teacher
February 28th - Discussion - Aeons and Archons

 

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