Friday, March 30, 2018

Rabboni By C. Russell Elliott

Easter 2018

Easter mornings were once filled with joyful greetings such as, “Alleluia, the Lord is Risen”, with the joyful response, “He is Risen indeed, Alleluia”, a word that had not been heard throughout the sombre days of Lent. In my private prayer and devotions through Easter my heart spends hours with the faithful beside the empty tomb, and I hear or feel the almost-breathless, almost-unspoken, loud whispered “Rabboni” of Mary Magdalene, a dear friend of our Lord. Some have suggested, or wanted, something sexual in that word, but there is far too much profound depth of love that touches one’s soul to imply anything less. How very much I pray that my Saviour may look upon me, call me by name—then I may know that all is well between us once more.

Many years ago I heard a soloist sing, in Handel’s Messiah, the aria ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’—my soul was lost in awe and wonder by her voice. Every Easter since then, in my meditation and devotions around Easter morning, I stand at the empty tomb with the faithful that includes Mary. I hear her whispered Rabboni that touches my soul; and in that precious moment Mary and the soloist become one voice pressing upon my heart and soul: I know that my Redeemer liveth. Rabboni, My Master!

My Easter is rich in glory. May Christianity’s triumphant Easter Alleluia bring its glory into every soul.

Canon C. Russell Elliott  is a long time SSJD Associate 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

WAITING An Advent Reflection by SSJD Associate, The Reverend Canon Russell Elliott

C. Russell Elliott
December, 2017

In quiet meditation the sounds of silence have their own
way of pounding upon my consciousness and demanding
attention. A glance, a thought, a memory, it makes its loud
presence known, and I find myself waiting, waiting, to know
what may follow.

Waiting is a peculiarly human thing to do. Animals seem
to do a lot of waiting, lying or crouching in seeming
relaxation, but their attention is fixed on the present.
Animals live fundamentally in the present, while humans
enjoy past, present and future. My waiting is a power
reservoir for shaping and controlling my future, what is
about to be, for me.

I wait in anticipation, in expectation, until the phone rings
or the doorbell sounds, then my hope may be fulfilled. I
wait in anxiety until the doctor’s report arrives, until my job
application is answered, trying to prepare for good or bad
news. At my current age, recently celebrating my 100th
birthday, I wait in prayerful patience to hear the owl call my
name, wanting to be prepared, wanting to be like the elderly
Pope John XXIII who remarked, “My bags are packed, I am
ready to go”, my one regret always being the things still
unstarted, or unfinished.

Both nature and human nature seem to possess an inner
rhythm of working and waiting, starting and stopping,
speeding and stillness. Each year has its winter, each week
its Sabbath, each day its night. Trees bloom and shed
foliage to wait for Spring. A seed waits in dark soil until the
sun draws it up out of the soil. Every human needs to wait
full nine months before separating from mother to fend for

I wait, I undergo darkness, and cold and anxiety, and my
waiting may be long or short, fruitful or unfruitful, good or
bad, all outside the limiting bounds of space and time. Only
then may I begin to appreciate, only then may I begin to
understand, God Himself, and His enduring way with me.

During his Bar Mitzvah temple-visit, Jesus waited behind
because of total absorption in what was happening,
forgetting family and home because of his heavenly Father’s
business. On many occasions, He waited instead of saying
an angry word or doing a hurting act. He waited in silence,
He waited in sorrow, He waited in pain. Who is not moved
to probe the mind and heart of Jesus as He waited for
Lazarus to die, for Peter to deny Him, for Judas to betray
Him? Only God Himself knows fully the saving power of
waiting in love.

In the long erratic story of humankind it is God’s constant
unwavering waiting that makes salvation possible – and it is
humanity’s determined refusal to understand His waiting
that continues to delay our salvation to this very day. In
Eden all was well until Adam-humanity began to misuse
what was theirs to use, then they began to hide from God,
under the illusion that God would not know. Logically God
should then have ended humanity, but He is merciful and
He began to wait for humanity to return to righteousness or
goodness. Earth is no longer heaven, humanity is no longer
righteous, its habitat is a dark and menacing thorns-andthistles
wilderness, and Cain cries that his punishment is
more than he can bear, though it is of his own making.
Righteousness or goodness is the normal way of life for
every human.

And God still waits, in eternal patience. Age upon age,
place after place, individual after individual, God tried
reaching out hopefully, each one eventually losing the way.
Moses and Israel may have been the most promising, but
finally God regretfully had to admit that they too ‘should
not enter into my rest’. Jesus, using a parable to speak about
Himself said ‘I will send my son, they will respect him’. His
story unfolds in Christianity’s worldwide and still erratic
path, a story of God still waiting.

Late on a weekday’s afternoon, I entered the prayer-gem
St. John’s to ponder my way. The sun through the west
window sent a colour-ray almost to the altar, the throne of
God’s Presence, the mercy seat where He waits among us. I
raise my eyes to the invisible door that opens into heaven to
join the hosts inside, while my lips soundlessly shape the
opening words of the Fourth Gospel. It is the Christmas
Gospel. The words are a painting, a portrait, of the timeless
uncreated Creator of all, the Word who is with God, Who is
God, He is Light in whom is no darkness, the Light who is
the life of all; God is Love in whom there is no darkness of
sin. Gloria in excelsis Deo, this God is made flesh and dwells
among us and we behold His glory.

Biblical scholars and other theologians have probed the
glory of Jesus as ‘God made manifest’; yet, a parable of His
own telling may do it best of all. I wonder if S. Luke himself
realized how profound, how profoundly simple, it seems
when he was writing the parable of the Prodigal Son.

I myself am the prodigal son, with good childhood
teaching, maturing with self-confidence that I can handle
liquor, drugs, casual sex, and money. But I lack knowledge
of a world bent upon sucking me dry like an Egyptian
plague, then discarded. I hit the bottom – until I
remember who I really am. In the meantime my Father
waits at home, in anxious prayer, without panic or searching,
waiting, waiting, until I remember. He cannot help to save
me until I remember that I need saving. When I turn
homewards, He rushes to meet and greet me, with rejoicing.

God waits. He knows how to wait. Eventually He will
win, He always wins. Some day He will be All-in-All again
– and I will be home, where I belong.

God waits – to win.

Someday I will rise and return to my Father’s home, as a
hired servant only, to find Him waiting, with a welcome.


Last year Sr. Constance Joanna and The Reverend Frances Drolet-Smith, Oblate SSJD spent a lovely, lively afternoon with the Rev. Canon Russell Elliott, who became an SSJD Associate in 1945. He regaled them with stories, recalling the Cottage Hospital at Springhill where the Sisters offered nursing care. Canon Elliott recently turned 100  and has been an Associate for 70+ years!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Nova Scotia Associates gather for a day of prayer and fellowship

Today, at St. Alban's, Dartmouth , Amanda Avery, one of the original cohort of Companions, led an art-as-prayer session for some Nova Scotia SSJD Associates. Following Eucharist and lunch, Amanda gave a thoughtful reflection (complete with pictures!) on her experience as a Companion - a time, she described, of personal growth in which her faith was both strengthened and deepened.

Friday, October 27, 2017

See the World, you are ABLE! Part 7

So this is Provence.  Paradise, especially for anyone who cooks and loves all things that grow.  It smells like lavender -- fields and fields of it -- and has a laid back energy that makes you not want to leave.  From the flower market to the city square, it is glorious.  Big hint here -- ask your tour guide where the meeting place will be and what time to be there so that if you can't keep up with the crowd, at least you can ask for directions.  A person in our party was "lost", but thanks to the guide's friends, the search turned out okay.  She was in a souvenir shop.  Personally, I enjoyed the flea market more than the

Our final stop on this particular cruise was in Barcelona Spain.  Unfortunately, our camera broke so we don't have any pictures.  Barcelona is in itself an art installation -- everywhere you look, you can see the influence of those great Spanish artists -- Gaudi and Picasso.  A visit to their museums is a must as is tasting the food and experiencing the nightlife and flamenco dancers.  We were warned, however, that we had to watch out for pickpockets.  We had an extra day there so we travelled up the mountain to the Monastery at Monserrat in hopes that we could get in to see the Black Madonna or hear their famous boys' choir.  Unfortunately, the choir had left the day before and the line up for the Madonna was two hours long.  Again, God smiled upon us and we were there on a Sunday and enjoyed celebrating Mass with  people from all over the world.  So this ends our Mediterranean excursion and I hope that you will enjoy our further ventures on the cruise ships and will try to make your own memories in the future. 

See the World, You are ABLE, part 6

I will begin this part of our journey by strongly suggesting that anyone who has a "critical" medical challenge should visit their doctor prior to taking your vacation.  It is helpful to alert the Cruise line of any allergies or special needs with regard to your health.  If you have drug allergies, it is helpful to either have a prescription for, or the actual pills. just in case you need them.  Drugs can be expensive in the ports you visit and it takes time away from important sightseeing and shopping time.  I didn't do this and, when I came down with a "bug" and couldn't access my usual medication, my simple infection turned into pneumonia.  I spent most of the one of our cruises in bed or on severely limited excursions.

Luckily, I had been to both Florence and Pisa a few times so Darryl's mission was to take pictures to refresh my memories.  A good tip before booking shore excursions is to read the comments that people have written.  I discovered that all tour buses must park outside on the cities and, tourists must either walk or take a taxi to the centre of town.  I decided that I was too ill to attempt any activity and thus stayed in my wonderfully comfortable bed and watched movies.  He did get some pretty good pictures though.


Ever since I was a little girl, I had admired Grace Kelly, first for her fashion style, and then for her abdication of life as a movie star in favour of becoming the wife of the Prince of Monaco. I had always wanted to visit Monte Carlo, not because of the famous casino, but just to see "how the other half (those with unlimited wealth) lived.  I did take the bus excursion which thrillingly drove us along the Grand Prix race course and explained that most of the new money in that country came from Russia.  I could have gone inside the casino; however, a walk past the famous designer shops was more up my alley.  I must say that I deferred my visit to the famous café there as a cup of coffee was $15.00!  When I got back aboard the ship, I pulled out my binoculars and spied on the comings and goings at the yacht club, hoping to recognize some celebrities, royalty or moguls. As I have said before, there is always something to do on board a cruise ship.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

See the World, You ARE Able, part 5

Cruising the Mediterranean
My wanderlust continued, even though I had experienced a severe setback due to a diagnosis of advanced osteoporosis.  My husband had never "crossed the pond" so to speak, and I had not done so for several decades.  I decided to investigate the itineraries offered by Holland America once again because I had had such a great time travelling through the Maritimes.
 Travelling through Europe, for me, is akin to a pilgrimage.  Each trip that I make, brings me into touch with the history of Christianity and closer to God.  With each cathedral, church, gravesite or monument, there is a sense of the Almighty being present and imagining those who had come before me sharing this same feeling deepened my conviction that somehow God had led me to that place. 
The first pilgrimage we made to Europe was in the Mediterranean region aboard the Niew Amsterdam, one of the larger ships in the fleet.  I don't think that I have mentioned this, but if you are a member of the Holland America Loyalty programme, the Mariner Society, you are invited to a reception where you are presented with porcelain tiles made in the Delft factory in Holland.  Each tile bears the likeness of the ship on which you are travelling.  I have collected several of these tiles and mounted them in a picture frame which hangs in my kitchen. They also make excellent coasters.  The Niew Amsterdam tile is on the top left of the picture below. 
As with the other ships in the fleet, the accommodations for those with mobility challenges were plentiful and I found that dietary restrictions were accommodated as the norm, perhaps because European countries are far more advanced in this than we are in North America.  The diversity of the restaurants on this ship had grown in size from our previous excursion on the Maasdam, as well as the number of people aboard.  There were a few welcome additions on this ship.   In addition to the West Coast grill (The Pinnacle) and the Italian fare (The Canaletto), the Nieuw Amsterdam sported an Asian fusion restaurant (The Tamarind).  There was also a real movie theatre with comfortable theatre seats, a very large screen and a popcorn machine.  And, of course, there were two types of religious services celebrated each day (non-denominational and Catholic) and on Fridays, the Jewish passengers were invited to celebrate their Sabbath Eve services complete with traditional kosher treats from the kitchen. 
I know that I have mentioned previously that I am accident-prone.  Six weeks before our trip, I tripped over a bag of groceries on my front porch and broke my leg. The doctors assured me that the cast would come off before we left so my wonderful travel agent booked a seat for me in the last row of the airplane so that I could avail myself of the large space between my seat and the washroom to stand behind my seat to help with the circulation in my leg.  The cast was removed in time and, although my leg was somewhat stiff, we set off for Venice.  Again, the airlines provided excellent service from the time I arrived at the airport to the time that we landed at Marco Polo airport.  We hadn't booked transfers to the ship as were wanted to spend a few days in the city of romance prior to our cruise.  That meant we had to arrange water transport to our hotel by ourselves.  As luck would have it, we met another couple staying in the same area as we were and together we managed to pay the very expensive fare to the dock nearest our destination.  What I hadn't counted on was the lack of steps from the water taxi to the dock, something that you should investigate before your trip.  I will be eternally grateful to those very strong men who hauled my "curvy" body up and down from the dock in the gentlest manner possible.
Every couple in love should visit this magnificent city; however, in my condition, walking on cobblestones and traversing the many bridges proved to be a challenge.  Rule of thumb when walking in all European cities where cobblestone streets are plentiful -- look down at where your feet are going.  If you want to enjoy the scenery, stop and look at it and take your pictures while stationery.  Canes with three prongs or walkers are really handy, especially if your walker sports a seat.  If you are tired, there is a greater chance that you will have a mishap, so pace yourself.  Luckily, there are many cafes, parks and gelato places to sit and rest.  In Venice there are gondolas and vaporettos (large water taxis) to get you to various destinations.  The bridges posted somewhat of a challenge for me; however I planned my walking itinerary carefully so as not to overexert myself.
Our hotel was near St. Mark's Square, just down the way from the church where Handel gave his performances. We managed to book a room on the main floor so that I didn't have to manoeuvre any steps to get to street level.  I had been to Venice many years before so I was content to spend time people watching in the many cafes and restaurants while Darryl went sightseeing.  That being said, I did venture out on my own into a few back streets to see the wig and marionette makers' shops.  There was always something to see in the streets -- dancers, puppet shows, minstrels, etc.
 Our pilgrimage took us to many churches and cathedrals, and, once again we had the good fortune to be able to attend Sunday mass --  this time at St. Mark's Cathedral.  I should mention that a little bit of local language skills, or a good translation app on your phone goes a long way as I was able to ask at a side door if we could attend the service, thereby avoiding the long line of tourists waiting to get in at the main door.
 What a delight to be able to worship in places that we knew held centuries of history and great music and to consider God's hand in the shaping of the architecture, art and music that had withstood time.  And, of course, the privilege of sharing the worship experience with so many people from diverse cultures all speaking in their native tongues.  I will always cherish those sacred space memories. 
 During the 1990s, I worked as an assistant to an art glass collector who had many fine examples of glass made on the island of Murano.  As it was just a short boat ride to there, we decided to take a tour of the glass factory.  We passed one of Elton John's houses -- painted bright yellow -- and saw many of the smaller islands such as the Lido which was the home of the famous resort and casino.  Our tour was fascinating but we were sad to learn that the glass blowing industry was in danger of becoming a lost art h as the once family-based career was becoming less attractive to the younger generation.  Needless to say, my retail sightseeing prompted a visit to the gift shop where all I could afford was a very small cross and a snow globe. (Have I mentioned that I have a collection of 250+ snow globes?)
After two days, it was time to leave Venice and board our ship to begin our cruise on the beautiful Mediterranean sea.  God willing, we will be able to go back to explore the great city of Venice again.

The only reference that I had to "Montenegro" was in the name of the musician, Hugo Montenegro so when our next port was to be in a country of that name, I was quite intrigued.  We took a shore excursion by bus from our port in Kotor to explore the rich culture, natural beauty and historical heritage of that country.  We travelled up the Louveen hills which wound around narrow roadways like a snake and, had it not been for my prayers of thanks for the beautiful view of Kotor Bay and the exquisite mountain scenery, I surely would have kept my eyes closed all the way to the top. 

We reached the village of Njegusi where the "aroma" of the smoke houses filled the air.  Darryl took the opportunity to visit the inside of one of these; however, being a vegetarian, I opted for sitting in the outdoor café where people were tasting the local specialties of ham and cheese sandwiches, wine and brandy.

 And here I must interject another tip -- carry a small first aid kit with you and, if you have allergies, remember your Epi pen.  I got stung by a bee so I was lucky that the guide was prepared with these items.  I don't remember much of the ride down the mountain towards the 2,000 year old city of Budva, and sadly did not take the walking tour of the city of Kotor, known as "the jewel of Montenegro".  As I was not up to the challenge of the cobblestone streets, I found yet another shady spot to wait for the bus to go back to the ship.

The last time I was in Greece, I was almost mown down by a tank in Athens when the military took over the city.   Our port in Greece was Kekira on the island of Corfu.  We decided not to take a tour; instead we went ashore by ourselves and walked around Corfu Town and saw Cricket Square and the Palace of St. George and St. Michael.

The night before we landed in Naples, we got an e-mail from my friend Helen saying that her father had died so our two objectives for the next day was to find a church in which to light a memorial candle and to eat a slice of the famous Queen Margarita pizza.  Again, our luck was with us in that we landed on a Sunday and, with my terrible Italian language skills, I asked and was taken to the nearest church to celebrate mass with a friendly resident and her son.

 We then set out to find pizza, but all we could see was a Chinese restaurant. One thing that I noticed in Naples was the excellent graffiti adorning many of the walls.
 It was starting to rain and we had forgotten our umbrellas (remember to take some sort of raingear with you to avoid exorbitant prices in the stores) so we took a short walk around the city and, when we boarded the ship, we were treated to a "slice". 

Even if you are not a fan of the Game of Thrones books or television series, you really must see our next port -- Dubrovnik. 

Me on the Iron Throne

I had never heard of the books until, on one of my low energy days when I really didn't feel like going ashore, I discovered the well-stocked library and the knowledgeable librarian aboard the ship.  The library also had a Starbucks-like coffee bar and computers which was all I needed for happiness that day..  I began a conversation about C.S. Lewis's Narnia with the Librarian and she suggested that I read Game of Thrones.  I'm not a great fan of the television series, but seeing the actual place where the "shoots" took place was quite a thrill.  Dubrovnik is an ancient walled city but beware -- the streets are all cobblestones.  I did more stopping and looking up from the ground in this city than in any other one that I have visited.

Local residents recounted many stories about the film shoot for the t.v. series and I could absolutely see why they chose that location for filming.  The walls of the city were gigantic -- I didn't climb to the top to see the view but I did see them from afar.  We visited the church there and also the synagogue in the Jewish quarter. 
There were too many steps for me to go into the sanctuary (Darryl went) so I stayed in the gift shop and talked to the docent about the community that worshiped there.  It's amazing what you can find out while you are waiting -- most locals are so willing to share their knowledge with you if they see you standing or sitting around.  We were directed to the main square where the oldest alarm clock stood -- what an amazing sight to see, especially when we were told how it worked.

Our next stop was the ancient city of Rome.  I had been there at least four times in my life and had loved every minute of exploring the museums, galleries, shops and churches.  My best tactic for sightseeing was to hop on a different city bus each day and go to a new area to explore.  That was when I was younger and didn't have quite the stamina and mobility challenges that I now face.  I knew that the bus ride into the city was quite long and that there would be a tremendous amount of walking, so I sent Darryl on the excursion as he had never been there.  I opted for a great day at the Spa on the ship.  The Spa often has great deals which you find out about each day by the notices left in the envelope on the door to your cabin.  Believe me, I'm not one to run to have facials or massages, but when you can get all that plus unlimited time in a room of silence looking out on the sea, it was too good to pass up.  Darryl took a lot of pictures and confirmed that it would have been madness for me to have attempted so gruelling a trip ashore.  Much as I would have liked to see the inner rooms of the Vatican, I thought I had made the right decision.  
These are only a few of the many pictures that he took.
And here I will stop as there is so much more to tell about the places that we have visited.  I will continue in another installment of this Blog.