Medieval Mendicants and Theology-Loving Women – September “Tabletalk”

The New Mendicant Orders by David Hogg | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-Sept2013Yesterday’s reading material included the final full-feature article on the theme of “The 13th Century” in the September Tabletalk, carrying the above linked article. This one deals with the development of the main mendicant orders in the Roman Catholic church. No doubt you have heard of the names of the prominent ones, but perhaps, like me, you forgot how or why they arose and what place they served in the medieval church. Hogg’s article will help answer these questions.

I give you a couple of paragraphs and will let you read the full article at the Ligonier link above.

The term mendicant comes from the Latin for “beg,” and begging is what an ever-increasing number of men and women did throughout the thirteenth century as they formed groups for mutual support and encouragement in the pursuit of common goals. During this period, two groups began that would outshine and outlast almost all the others: the Franciscans and the Dominicans. This is doubtless due to the fact that these two orders were founded by men whose character and actions were so compelling that both were canonized as saints. Before considering the two great mendicant orders, let’s look for a moment at the less appreciated orders.

The Augustinian and Carmelite orders were vibrant orders in their own right. Like the Dominican and Franciscan orders, they addressed themselves to the emerging urban context to good effect in their preaching and pastoral care, and they were significant contributors to scholarly life through the universities that were arising at this time. On the negative side, they received their fair share of opposition from secular clergy (priests and bishops) who believed these new preachers and pastors were acting outside of due authority, to say nothing of living lives that debased the reputation of the pastoral office.

Another fine article I read is especially for the ladies! Titled “The Anchor of Theology” and penned by Janet Mefferd (a Christian radio host), it is a powerful encouragement for women to read deep theology for their personal growth and for the good of their families and churches. Not having heard of this gal before, I must say I was quite impressed with her article. I encourage you women (young and old!) to read it at the link provided here. But even the men will be inspired by what one book began to do in her life.

Here’s just a bit of it to get you started:

It started with a providential turn when I came across Dr. James Montgomery Boice’s book The Christ of Christmas in a public library. When I opened that book and read Dr. Boice’s deep, biblical exegesis of the Christmas story, I immediately thought: “He knows the same Jesus I do—but I’ve never read anyone who knew so much about Him.”

I was naïvely stunned that anything about Jesus could be new to me. I’d been in church all my life. I became a Christian as a child. I went to Sunday School and Bible study. But after I read Dr. Boice’s book, I suddenly realized how little I really knew about the Lord and His Word. I was starving for truth, and I wanted more of it.

I bought every book by Dr. Boice that I could find, and I also started filling my book shelves with titles by Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Dr. John MacArthur, and others. I learned about the nature and character of God, the redemptive work of Jesus, sanctification. I was eating it up. I would read a Christian book, then my Bible, back and forth.

Without fully realizing it, I had come to love theology.

Janet Mefferd is a radio host whose program, The Janet Mefferd Show, takes a distinctively Christ-centered look at the news and events of the day. She can be heard daily on more than one hundred stations across the country.

A Night at ArtPrize 2013

Saturday night my wife and I along with another couple took in ArtPrize 2013 for the first time this year. You may have heard about this relatively new” event in Grand Rapids, MI. The nearly three-week event is billed as the largest art competition in the world, with rather significant cash prizes for the top-voted pieces of art. This is how “ArtPrize” describes itself on its website:

ArtPrize® is a radically open, independently organized international art competition with an unprecedented $200,000 top prize decided entirely by public vote.

For 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, become an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters. Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown, and it’s all free and open to the public.

It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.

As you can imagine, the event has grown in popularity each year, and with the beautiful weather so far this year, visitors have come en masse to downtown “GR”.  We have gone each year and have always enjoyed the art (with a few exceptions). There is always a wide variety of entries and that makes it interesting, but also means that one finds a lot of “art’ that to my mind are not very artistic. I am all for artistic expression, but I also believe art should reflect reality – both the beauty of God’s creation (and there are many pieces that do that, from Christian artists too) and the creative gifts of man – but also the fallenness of man and the brokenness of the world (and there are plenty of pieces that reveal these realities too, including those that distort reality).

In any case, it was a beautiful evening and we enjoyed our “night on the town” viewing many outdoors displays of art. This week my wife and I plan to return to view some of the indoor entries. I include a few pictures here for your viewing pleasure – or displeasure, as the case may be (Click on the images to enlarge them.).

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J.Calvin on Psalm 119n: “Let us, then, be assured that an unerring light is to be found there.”

JCalvin1Also for our meditation on the fourteenth section of Psalm 119 (“Nun”) and for help in preparing for worship this Lord’s Day, we consider these thoughts of John Calvin on v.105. Reading his commentary on this familiar verse will also serve as a profitable guide for our walk this week and for our worship this day.

105. Thy word is a lamp to my feet.

In this verse the Psalmist testifies that the Divine Law was his schoolmaster and guide in leading a holy life. He thus, by his own example, prescribes the same rule to us all; and it is highly necessary to observe this rule; for while each of us follows what seems good in his own estimation, we become entangled in inextricable and frightful mazes. The more distinctly to understand his intention, it is to be noted, that the word of God is set in opposition to all human counsels. What the world judges right is often crooked and perverse in the judgment of God, who approves of no other manner of living, than that which is framed according to the rule of his law.

It is also to be observed, that David could not have been guided by God’s word, unless he had first renounced the wisdom of the flesh, for it is only when we are brought to do this, that we begin to be of a teachable disposition.

But the metaphor which he uses implies something more; namely, that unless the word of God enlighten men’s path, the whole of their life is enveloped in darkness and obscurity, so that they cannot do anything else than miserably wander from the right way; and again, that when we submit ourselves with docility to the teaching of God’s law, we are in no danger of going astray. Were there such obscurity in God’s word, as the Papists foolishly talk about, the commendation with which the prophet here honors the law would be altogether undeserved.

Let us, then, be assured that an unerring light is to be found there, provided we open our eyes to behold it. The Apostle Peter (2 Peter 1:19) has more plainly expressed the same sentiment, when he commends the faithful for taking heed to the word of prophecy, “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.”

Taken from the Christian Classics Etheral Library (CCEL).

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 119n (Nun)

Psalm119nContinuing to make our way through the book of Psalms, and particularly Psalm 119 at present, we come to the 14th stanza of Ps.119, titled “Nun” because each of the eight verses begins with this Hebrew letter (comparable to our letter “n”, remembering that Psalm 119 is an acrostic psalm).

We are taking this trek through the Psalms as a guide in helping us prepare for our worship on the Lord’s Day. And even though Psalm 119, with its emphasis on love for the Lord expressed in love for His law, may not at first seem to be conducive for worship, we are discovering that in fact it is. From many points of view it is, but perhaps most clearly from this point of view, that just as God’s law reveals His will for our lives in all areas, so it does for worship too. Not our will but God’s will is sovereign and wise, and therefore, best – in worship too. And so, if we love the Lord, we love His law for the way it guides us in every aspect of our lives, including worship.

With this in mind, we meditate on this next section of Psalm 119. Here is the Word of God:

NUN.

105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

106 I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.

107 I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.

108 Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me thy judgments.

109 My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.

110 The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.

111 Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

112 I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.

In many ways that opening line along with v.111 express the theme of this psalm. God’s Word (law) is the lamp and light on our path through life. It guides us sovereignly, because it is the revelation of God’s sovereign will for our lives. And it guides us perfectly (both without failure and without error), because it is the revelation of God’s unchanging truth and righteousness. And because we have been redeemed by Christ’s blood and Spirit from our bondage to rebellion and disobedience, and have been set free to love and serve God – according to this very law, we have taken God’s testimonies as our heritage forever and find that they fill our hearts with rejoicing.

Can we say that this morning? Can we say that as we prepare to worship our great and holy God? Do we have God’s Word as our guide as we enter His sacred courts of praise and prayer? And are we rejoicing in that divine guidance, such that we are thankful we are not left to devise our own path for worship? Let us be, for this is the worship that is pleasing to the Lord! Not our will-worship (See Col.2:16ff.), but the Lord’s will-worship!

And if we confess that God’s Word is our guide and the rejoicing of our hearts, then we are fully committed to keeping it in our lives. We have seen many times already how the psalmist gives expression to this, and here it is again in this section. He has even sworn with an oath that he will keep God’s judgments (v.106). He is determined to walk in obedience to his Lord with steadfast perseverance – “alway”, “even unto the end” (v.112). And even though he is afflicted very much (v.107) and has wicked enemies laying snares for him (v.110), he has not strayed from God’s precepts. What a witness to the power of God’s grace! What a testimony to his love for the Lord! Is this our commitment too as we stand at the beginning of a new week? Will we show forth the Lord’s grace in our hearts and lives with such perseverance?

This testimony does not mean that the psalmist is without weakness and sin. Notice that in the midst of his affliction he asks God to make him alive (“quicken me”) according to His Word (v.107). Notice that he seeks God’s acceptance of the offering of his mouth and prays to be further taught God’s judgments (v.108). These requests demonstrate the humility of the psalm-writer and tell us that he was deeply conscious of his sin and weakness. He knew he was not perfect in his desire and in his deeds, and needed the grace of God to enable him to stay on the lamp-lit path of God.

Are we also conscious of this need in our own lives? Even as we are committed to obeying the Lord out of love for Him, are we also committed to praying to Him for the grace to do what He requires us to do? May we learn again from the testimony of this man of God.

May God bless our worship this day. May He for Christ’s sake receive the free will offerings of our mouths. And may we, in and through Christ, freely praise Him for His abundant mercy to us sinners.

You may also meditate on this stanza of Psalm 119 through this versification of it found in the Psalter used for public worship in the PRC. Visit the page to listen to the piano accompaniment as well. Here are the lyrics as found in Psalter #334:

1. Thy word sheds light upon my path;
A shining light, it guides my feet;
Thy righteous judgments to observe
My solemn vow I now repeat.

2. In my distress I plead with Thee,
Send help according To Thy word;
Accept my sacrifice of praise
And make me know Thy judgments, Lord.

3. In danger oft and nigh to death,
Thy law remembered is my aid;
The wicked seek my overthrow,
Yet from Thy truth I have not strayed.

4. Thy precepts are my heritage,
For daily they my heart rejoice;
To keep Thy statutes faithfully
Shall ever be my willing choice.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013 – winning pictures | Science | theguardian.com.

Want to see some spectacular pictures of the starry heavens above us? Want to feel very small and insignificant as sojourners on planet earth? Want to see the glory of God as revealed in His sovereignty in making, sustaining and directing all these heavenly creatures? Then browse this incredible collection of 17 photographs which won top honors in this year’s astronomy photography contest. Here is the winning photograph and the brief introduction to the contest (click on it to enlarge; visit the link above to see the rest of the entries).

Guiding Light To The Stars

Australian photographer Mark Gee has beaten more than a thousand amateur and professional photographers from around the planet to win the title Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013. The competition is run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich and BBC Sky at Night Magazine. The winners, runners-up and highly commended photographs are showcased in a free exhibition at the Royal Observatory’s Astronomy Centre.

“Gwen and Kate’s Library, Done” – ShelfTalker

Gwen and Kate’s Library, Done | ShelfTalker.

Wondering what to do with that spare bedroom? Instead of making it into an entertainment center, why not convert it into a library?! And if you need a little motivation, read this great story about two girls who opened up a bedroom to make a home library. This was posted by Josie Leavitt Sept.26, 2013 at “ShelfTalker, the blog for childrens’ booksellers at “Publishers’ Weekly”. Find the whole story at the link above.

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Last month I had the pleasure of blogging about two sisters, whom I call Gwen and Kate, in the post They’re Starting a Library. These young women decided to share a room so that they could turn Kate’s room into a library for their family. Their mom, Deirdre, emailed me some photos of the finished room. Not only are these girls just wonderful, their library is stunning and whoever took the pictures has some serious talent.

I love stories like this. So often in the book world of late, it’s always doom and gloom. Can the indies survive? Are we adaptable enough? Are we losing customers to Amazon? There are many questions booksellera face everyday, and every day seems to bring with it another set of issue to be dealt with. But if we can pick our heads up long enough and look around, we can see some pretty amazing relationships customers have with books. We are in this business because we love it; we’re not getting rich doing this, but every day there is real joy in bookselling. It can be as simple as a child hugging a book and skipping to the car, eager to read, or someone sharing a story about a fun book group discussion, or someone telling us why we have to read a certain book. Books create passion in people and that is a great way to spend a day.

These girls, Gwen and Kate have such passion. Their desire to create a library is one of great passion. They literally rearranged their lives so that they could have their library. This is a story for the ages. We’ve had kids love books and tell us what they mean to them, but never in all our years of being in business have kids willingly shared a bedroom so that they would have a special place for their books. Here are the pictures. I’m hoping to get regular updates as the room changes and their collection grows.

Published in: on September 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Heidelberg Catechism Preaching (6) – The Synod of Dordt

SynodofDordt1618-19Continuing to learn more about the Reformed tradition of Heidelberg Catechism preaching through various readings (see my Thursday posts over the last five weeks), we also discover that the great Synod of Dordt (1618-19) strengthened the need for the Reformed churches to have regular catechism preaching. And they did this in the face of the Arminians, who not only objected to catechism preaching itself but also to some of the doctrines set forth in the “HC”. The Synod of Dordt, in fact, solidified an earlier decision made by the Synod of Den Haag (The Hague – 1586) which “made it mandatory that all ministers of the gospel preach from the HC during the second worship service on Sunday” (J.R.Beeke in “Holding Firmly to the Heidelberger”, A Faith Worth Teaching: The Heidelberg Catechism’s Enduring Heritage (Reformation Heritage, 2013; p.43).

This, of course, is the background to Article 68 of the Church Order also adopted at the Synod of Dordt: “The Ministers everywhere shall briefly explain on Sunday, ordinarily in the afternoon service, the sum of Christian doctrine comprehended in the Catechism which at present is accepted in the Netherland Churches, so that it may be completed every year in accordance with the division of the Catechism itself made for that purpose” (referring to the fact that the “HC” had been divided into fifty-two Lord’s Days -cjt) .

In addition, the Synod of Dordt “produced the following rules to encourage and protect the practice of catechism preaching:

  1. The Synod reiterated the 1586 synodical decision, asserting that ministers who failed to comply in preaching the catechism would be censured.
  2. Catechism sermons should be brief and understandable; doctrine must be presented at the layperson’s level so that even children could understand it.
  3. If the attendance at the second service is small (even if only the minister’s family were in attendance), the minister should proceed with his catechism sermon, as a good example to the people.
  4. Appeal ought to be made to the government to curb labor, sports, and drinking parties, etc., so that people may attend church regularly and keep the Sabbath day holy.
  5. Every church, as much as possible, ought to have its own minister, rather than have one minister serving two or more churches; the intent here was to allow for two sermons, one from the catechism, on each Lord’s Day in each congregation.
  6. Church visitors are to take particular note whether the preaching of the catechism is done regularly. Censure of both minister and confessing members ought to be applied to those unwilling or delinquent in practice or attendance respectively.”

FaithWorthTeaching-HC2013Taken from (J.R.Beeke in “Holding Firmly to the Heidelberger”, A Faith Worth Teaching: The Heidelberg Catechism’s Enduring Heritage (Reformation Heritage, 2013; pp.43-44).

 

 

 

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And, so we don’t forget, I am going to keep before you the up-coming PR Seminary Conference marking the 450th anniversary of the “HC”. This is the latest advertisement that came out this week:

REMINDER: Don’t forget to finalize your plans to attend a special conference commemorating the 450th Anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism sponsored by the Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches. The conference will take place October 17-19 at Hudsonville PRC. Speakers include Dr. Jürgen-Burkhard Klautke from Germany and Rev. Angus Stewart from Northern Ireland. Visit ouronlycomfort.org for more information and follow the blog which features daily devotions on the Catechism.

 

Word Wednesday: “Student/Pupil”

studentonbooksReturning to our “back to school” theme of this month (see my August 28 and Sept.4 and 11 posts), we consider the words “student” and “pupil” for our Wednesday word feature today. I haven’t paid attention to or understood the difference between these two words until I read the entry for it in Bill Brohaugh’s Unfortunate English recently. So today we all learn the difference. Here is Brohaugh’s explanation:

Students are likely more comfortable with their situations than pupils learning the same things.

Though ‘pupil’ and ‘student’ are considered synonyms today, the words have etymological differences, one minor but significant, the other, huge. The minor one first: Students study – that’s abvious from the similarity of the words – and they have studied since the beginning of the word (by the late 1300s). Contextually, students are also taught. Pupils are taught, and contextually they also study. The difference here lies first in that the word ‘student’ implies self-motivation (as in ‘studious’?! -cjt), while ‘pupil’ connotes tutelage (and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that). By the mid-1500s, ‘pupil’ meant one who is under the instruction of another, in the educational care of another.

But that meaning is an evolution of the original meaning of ‘pupil’, in use by the late 1300s. And herein lies  the huge difference.: A pupil was someone in a different situation, under a different sort of care.

A pupil was an orphan and  a minor, and therefore a ward under the care of someone else (emphasis mine -cjt).

So a student is more comfortable with her situation because she most likely still has parents (pp.85-86).

Isn’t that interesting? Nothing wrong, then, with being a pupil. But aren’t you glad, children and young people, that you are students, under the care and guidance of your parents – and teachers who stand in the place of your parents? I hope you are students also in the sense that you are self-motivated! But, whether students or pupils, be studious! Check out the entry in Dictionary.com for “pupil” to learn more!

A Defense of Six-Day Creation – G.I.Williamson

A Defense of Six-Day Creation.

Yesterday’s “Aquila Report” included this excellent defense of six-day creation by Rev.G.I.Williamson, a retired OPC pastor (Orthodox Presbyterian Church). It is a simple, clear, and powerful testimony to the authority and inspiration of the Bible, and an honest witness based on the historic creeds of the church, another mark of a truly Reformed man.

GIWilliamsonI am grateful for Rev.Williamson’s faithful stand and for his integrity in handling the Word of God. I pray this article receives wide distribution. No doubt it will also receive the sneers and jeers of many, including many in the “Reformed” camp. But it is not the opinions of men that count. Only God’s approval is worth anything. Below are a few paragraphs from Williamson’s article. You will find the entire piece at the link above.

I am now in my sixty-first year as a Reformed Pastor, and I am very much aware of the fact that I am not likely to have many more years of service. So, before the Lord calls me to come to his dwelling place I want to bear faithful witness concerning one of the foundational doctrines of the Bible. It is so foundational that it is the very first thing affirmed in the oldest creeds of the church: “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,”and “of all things visible and invisible.” The Greek word translated in English as ‘maker’ is ποιητην. In Latin it is creatorem. And the Bible itself, before it says anything else, says “in the beginning” God “created” (Hebrew bara“the heavens and the earth.” It also clearly says that he did so “in the space of six days, and all very good.”

This doctrine of six day creation was also the consensus of the theologians, ministers and elders at the Westminster Assembly. And it’s my conviction that we in the Presbyterian and Reformed community of today have lost credibility with respect to this affirmation. We still say we believe every word of the Bible including what it says about creation. We also say that we subscribe to the Westminster Standards. But the truth is that we are no longer united in what we mean when we say this.  And it is my conviction that this has seriously weakened our testimony to unbelievers.

And why does Williamson hold the position of a six-day creation? His first reason is that the Word of God teaches it plainly. Listen:

My first reason is that I’m convinced that the Genesis account of creation was given by divine inspiration; given by the one true God who knows all things, and that it was designed by him to be clearly understood by his people through all generations. This is why it is not given in technical terms, or what we call scientific terms, but is stated in words that can be understood by the unlearned as well as the learned. And it has been understood by people in all walks of life. This is possible because God’s work of creation is described as an ordinary man would describe it had he been there to see it happen.

Book Alert! Book Three of Reformed Spirituality by H.Hoeksema!

All-Glory-HHoeksema-2013The Reformed Free Publishing Association has just released its third volume in the series “Reformed Spirituality”. This volume, also edited by David J.Engelsma, contains another fine collection of meditations penned by Protestant Reformed pastor and theologian Herman Hoeksema, gleaned from the pages of The Standard Bearer. This collection centers around the theme of God’s goodness and is titled All Glory to the Only Good God (RFPA, 2013). The book is divided into six (6) parts:

  1. God’s Goodness in Himself
  2. God’s Goodness in Creation
  3. God’s Goodness in the Ministry of Jesus
  4. God’s Goodness to His Chosen People: Generally
  5. God’s Goodness to His People: Specifically
  6. God’s Goodness Responded To

Here is part of the description of the book along with other information from the publisher:

This set of beautiful meditations demonstrate that genuine spirituality rises from and ends in the glory of God, for the zeal of the soul for God’s glory is the most profound spirituality. And because the Spirit works spirituality by sound doctrine, spirituality exists and flourishes by means of sound instruction in biblical, Reformed doctrine.

All Glory to the Only Good God is part of the Reformed Spirituality series comprised of meditations written by Herman Hoeksema.

  • 336 pages
  • hardcover
  • ISBN 978-1-936054-28-2

eBook version available in .mobi format (for Kindle users) and .epub (all other devices).

OTHER BOOKS IN THE Reformed Spirituality SERIES:
Peace for the Troubled Heart
Communion with God

Want a little taste of these edifying meditations? Having just witnessed the beautiful full harvest moon here in West Michigan, I was drawn to the sole meditation in the second part of the book, titled “Moonlight Reveries”. Here is part of how Hoeksema explains the significance of the moon God has put in the heavens as a sign for us:

A sign in the darkness is the moon in the heavens.

Smiling kindly, she whispers, ‘Fear not, for the darkness of the night is only a passing shadow!’

For is not her mellow light a reflection of the glory of the sun? What does the moon do except catch some of the sun’s golden glory, change it into her own silver beauty, and pour it into the night? Does she not witness that even though the sun sank into oblivion below the western horizon, and although its glad rays do not for the moment brighten my path, yet its glory still exists and its brightness is not diminished?

When the sun does not shine on my earthly habitation and the darkness of night is spread over my dwelling, from the high heavens the queen of the night pours forth the testimony, ‘The golden ruler of the day still is and shines where I am!’

She thus witnesses that the night is only a shadow.

…A beautiful picture this is of the path of God’s children in the world. For pilgrims through the night are the children of God, the sojourners to Zion, the seekers of the city of God.

How dark seems the night through which they pass on their way to the light eternal! How dark often is the night of sin, when floods of guilt and iniquity roll over their souls and it seems as if they cannot be delivered from so great a death. What awful night of corruption there still is in the dark recesses of their hearts, whenever new and hitherto unknown darknesses and shadows of death and pollution arise fom that hidden source. What night of pain , suffering, and agony of body and soul is the lot of God’s pilgrim children when it is with them as with Asaph of old, and their chastisements are there every morning. What darkness of sorrow and grief often overwhelms their souls! What night of reproach and shame, of cruel mockery and enmity they pass through when the enemy raves and furiously attacks for Christ’s sake, and persecution is their lot in the world.

…The moon in the heavens whispers into the silent night of nature that the sun is still there, though for the moment you see it not.

The earthly is image of the heavenly. The sun of life is still there, even though with sadness of heart you remember its setting in Eden’s garden.

Pilgrim, your night of sin and guilt and sorrow and grief, of reproach and shame and tribulation is only for a while.

A passing shadow!

Fear not, O pilgrim of the night, for your light shines. There is a silvery path across your night, reflected from the Sun of Righteousness. It shines still, although you see it not.

Be not afraid! (pp.39-40)