Ashes

For dust I am, and to dust I shall return.

And so shall all my works, such as have not already crumbled to ashes in my hand.

By the nature I have inherited from every ancestor, and recapitulated of my own doing, I am inherently inclined “to hate God and my neighbor.”

What life I have comes to me—and what of any worth I am able to do, I am able to do—only by the unfathomable grace of God extended to me for the sake of Jesus Christ his Son.

Whenever time and circumstance bring me to reflection, I can say little more than (to adapt the epigram of Ovid I found two years ago) “Videbam meliora probabamque, deteriora sequebar“: “I have seen and approved the better, [but] followed the worse.”

Lord, you have been gracious and merciful, permitting this unworthy person to continue in life, health, and breath. To this but add the mercy of repentance, and the grace to walk in your ways!

I am not my own; I have been bought at a price (a price far heavier than the symbolic ashes of last year’s palms), and so belong to Jesus Christ.

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“That first Christmas evening”

I wish a merry Christmas and blessed Christmas season to all my readers.

It is common, in some circles in which I move, to say that Jesus was born “that first Christmas morning” or even “that first Christmas morn.” But I, being curious and something of a quibbler by nature, have at times wondered: what time of day was the Christ Child born? Is the idea that he was born in the morning “possible, but in this life we’ll never know,” like the popular notion that there were exactly three Magi (or in fact that he was born on what is now December 25), or “unlikely,” like Rossetti’s charming, picturesque, theologically on-point, but in-details-dubious poem “In the Bleak Midwinter”? Continue reading

Reintroducing the “Hymns” series

In 2013 and 2014, I ran a series of posts here highlighting favorite, preferably old, hymns. It’s now been three and a half years since I last posted anything in this series, but if anything the call for a focus on the truly “great old hymns” is greater than ever: Continue reading

“But Thanks Be to God”: A Ninth Reflection

Today is the day the United States government designated for public thanksgiving to God, and so it is fitting for me to, as I have done for the past eight years on this day, reflect on the various ways God has blessed me over the course of my life, and in particular in the past year.

The failure of time in which to write and of memory, and my instinct to prefer brevity over repeating myself, ensure that my first reflection on this theme, in 2009, remains the most extensive and detailed; in subsequent years I have mostly more-briefly listed blessings I had forgotten and those I saw as new. Continue reading

An Important Anniversary

The Nailing of Luther's 95 Theses by Julius Hübner
Half a millennium ago today, the story goes, an obscure college professor posted a list of propositions for debate to the church bulletin board, and from that one spark God breathed his fire in the Church back to life again.

The central insights of the Reformation have been crystallized in what, five centuries later, we now think of as “the five Solas”: the salvation of Man is

  • By grace alone, not because we in any way deserve or could deserve it;
  • Through faith alone, not by or on the basis of anything we could or will do or accomplish;
  • Through Christ alone, for there is and can be no other way;
  • As recorded in the Scriptures alone, for they are the sole infallible Rule by and against which which all other claims of truth must be measured; and
  • To the glory of God alone: the salvation of Man is the means, not the end.

Oh, that the fire of the Holy Spirit would once again set the world ablaze!

“But Thanks Be to God”: An Eighth Reflection

Today is the day designated for public thanksgiving to our Creator for gracious gifts which his divine Providence has lavished upon us. Thus, it is fitting for me to, as I have done this day for the past seven years, reflect on the various and manifold blessings God has poured on me over the course of my life, and in particular this past year, and how I have responded to this beneficence (with the inevitable conclusion that I have utterly failed to show appropriate gratitude).

This is the eighth year I have written on this theme; in the first such reflection, in 2009, I explained the blessings I was grateful for at length and in some detail, and in subsequent years I have more briefly listed those blessings I had forgotten and those new in the past year. And so again today. Continue reading