Thursday, March 22, 2007

22/03/07 week of the 4th Sunday in lent


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Blessed are those for whom Easter is...
not a hunt, but a find;
not a greeting, but a proclamation;
not outward fashions, but inward grace;
not a day, but an eternity.


Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

Psalm 69:1-23(24-30)31-38; Psalm 73;Jer. 22:13-23; Rom. 8:12-27; John 6:41-51

From Forward Day by Day:

Romans 8:12-27. The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that same Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.

This has always been one of my favorite passages from Paul because, despite a lifetime of trying, I still don't know how to pray. From a distance my prayer life looks active and orderly, but it's a mess.

Most mornings, by the time I get to school, I've managed some form of meditation, intercession, parts of Morning Prayer-but when I pull into my parking space, I feel the need to go through it all again, especially the prayers for my children, my husband (and all his family), my father, my sister (and all her family), my mother (may she rest in peace), my students, my friends, my neighbors....

Jesus said to keep asking, like the importunate widow or the neighbor banging on the door for a loaf of bread at midnight. So I keep asking, sitting there in the car holding the dregs of my cold coffee.

Then finally I hear Paul say, "Don't sweat it. Trust the Spirit to know your needs before you name them. Go teach your classes and know that the Spirit within you will continue your prayers. Get out of the car and go do your job."

Today we remember:

James DeKoven:
Psalm 103:1-4,13-18 or 84:7-12; 2 Timothy 2:10-15,19; Matthew 13:47-52

Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues, who inspired your servant James de Koven to do what is right and to preach what is true: Grant that all ministers and stewards of your mysteries may impart to your faithful people, by word and example, the knowledge of your grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Mumbai (Bombay, North India)

40 Ideas for Lent: A Lenten calendar


Pray today for those people you see, mix with, or work with, who you wouldn't normally pray for. It doesn't matter if you don't know specific things to pray, just lift them to God. He knows what they need.

Idea by: Sonia Mainstone-Cotton

Lent quote: "The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image." – Thomas Merton

A Celtic lenten Calendar

From the beginning
you knew the final outcome
watched as the jigsaw pieces
were slotted into place
saw the significance of every moment.
As your body was anointed with oil
at the table of Simon the Leper
the picture was becoming clearer
not only in your eyes
but to an unknown woman
and one of your closest friends.
Judas sensed that this was his moment
sacrificing trust
that had been so freely given
on the altar of selfish gain
for his fifteen allotted minutes of fame
and thirty pieces of silver
The woman recognised the moment.
She gave generously
a costly gift, freely offered.
A fragrant sacrifice of perfume and love
remembered forever in your heart.
And as Judas slipped away unnoticed
your disciples saw none of this
failed to see the significance of the moment.
Two sacrifices, one of trust
and one of love.
But you noticed, Lord
as you notice each day
our sacrificial offering
and betrayal
++++++++++ Reflections

Our most holy King has much more to give: He would rejoice to do nothing but give could He find souls capable of receiving.
St Teresa of Jesus

Reading from the Desert Christians

One day when he was sitting in front of the church, the brethren were consulting him about their thoughts. One of the old men who saw it became a prey to jealousy and said to him, 'John, your vessel is full of poison.' Abba John said to him, 'That is very true, abba; and you have said that when you only see the outside, but if you were able to see the inside, too, what would you say then?'

Sayings of the Jewish Fathers (Pirqe Aboth)

Shime'on his son said, All my days I have grown up amongst the wise, and have not found aught good for a man but silence; not learning but doing is the groundwork; and whoso multiplies words occasions sin.

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Claiming the Sacredness of Our Being

Are we friends with ourselves? Do we love who we are? These are important questions because we cannot develop good friendships with others unless we have befriended ourselves.

How then do we befriend ourselves? We have to start by acknowledging the truth of ourselves. We are beautiful but also limited, rich but also poor, generous but also worried about our security. Yet beyond all that we are people with souls, sparks of the divine. To acknowledge the truth of ourselves is to claim the sacredness of our being, without fully understanding it. Our deepest being escapes our own mental or emotional grasp. But when we trust that our souls are embraced by a loving God, we can befriend ourselves and reach out to others in loving relationships.

From the Principles of the Third Society of St. Francis:

Day Twenty One - The Three Notes of the Order

Humility, love, and joy are the three notes which mark the lives of Tertiaries. When these characteristics are evident throughout the Order, its work will be fruitful. Without them, all that it attempts will be in vain.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

JOY AND PEACE come into our lives then, when we mind more about God than we do about ourselves, when we realize what the things that matter really are. The Spirit clears up our problems about what we want or ought to be at, simplifies us and throw us back again and again on the deep and peaceful action of God.

- Evelyn Underhill
The Soul’s Delight

From pages 31-32 of The Soul’s Delight: Selected Writings of Evelyn Underhill, edited by Keith Beasley-Topliffe. Copyright © 1998 by The Upper Room.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"Stripped in the Desert"

The Hebrew people entered the desert feeling themselves a united people, a strong people, and you'd think that perhaps they would have experience greater strength as they walked through. But no! They experienced fragmentation and weariness; they experienced divisions among their people. They were not the people they thought they were. When all of our idols are taken away, all our securities and defense mechanisms, we find out who we really are. We're so little, so poor, so empty - sometimes, even so ugly. But God takes away our shame, and we are able to present ourselves to God poor and humble. Then we find out who we are and who God is for us. The desert is where Israel experienced its sinfulness, that it was weak and unable to do any good. Our temptation is always to shorten the time, make our timetable God's timetable. We want to get out and get it over with. But we cannot rush the journey of faith. We have to attune ourselves to its times and seasons. You can't bake a cake quicker by turning up the heat to 450 degrees, nor can you slow it down by lowering it to 200. It will flop either way.

from The Great Themes of Scripture

From John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., Tradition Day by Day: Readings from Church Writers. Augustinian Press. Villanova, PA, 1994.

We must rise to holiness

The result of our undergoing a conversion from one state to another is that we cease to be what we were and begin to be something more. But the end of our dying or living is of the utmost importance, for there is a death that brings life, and a life that brings death. It is only in this fleeting world that both are sought together, so that the difference in our future rewards depends upon the quality of our present actions. We must therefore be dead to Satan and alive to God; we must abandon sin in order to rise to holiness. And since Truth himself says: No one can serve two masters, let our master be the Lord who has raised up the fallen to glory, not the one who has brought the upright to ruin.

There is therefore every reason for us to rejoice at the exchange, which translates us from earthly disrepute to heavenly honor through the untold mercy of him who descended to our level in order to lift us up to his, by assuming not only the reality of our human nature but also its sinful condition, and allowing his divine impassibility to be assailed by all the sufferings which are our mortal lot.

Leo the Great, (400 - 461), bishop of Rome, left many letters and sermons to attest to his teaching and preaching.

Daily Readings From "My Utmost for His Highest", Oswald Chambers


"Did not our heart burn within us?" Luke 24:32

We need to learn this secret of the burning heart. Suddenly Jesus appears to us, the fires are kindled, we have wonderful visions, then we have to learn to keep the secret of the burning heart that will go through anything. It is the dull, bald, dreary, commonplace day, with commonplace duties and people, that kills the burning heart unless we have learned the secret of abiding in Jesus.

Much of our distress as Christians comes not because of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature. For instance, the only test as to whether we ought to allow an emotion to have its way is to see what the outcome of the emotion will be. Push it to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something God would condemn, allow it no more way. But if it be an emotion kindled by the Spirit of God and you do not let that emotion have its right issue in your life, it will react on a lower level. That is the way sentimentalists are made. The higher the emotion is, the deeper the degradation will be, if it is not worked out on its proper level. If the Spirit of God has stirred you, make as many things inevitable as possible, let the consequences be what they will. We cannot stay on the mount of transfiguration, but we must obey the light we received there; we must act it out. When God gives a vision, transact business on that line, no matter what it costs.

"We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides,
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides;
But tasks in hours of insight will'd
Can be through hours of gloom fulfill'd."

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Chapter 43: On Those Who Come Late to the Work of God or to Table

At the hour for the Divine Office,
as soon as the signal is heard,
let them abandon whatever they may have in hand
and hasten with the greatest speed,
yet with seriousness, so that there is no excuse for levity.
Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God.

If at the Night Office
anyone arrives after the "Glory be to the Father" of Psalm 94 --
which Psalm for this reason we wish to be said
very slowly and protractedly --
let him not stand in his usual place in the choir;
but let him stand last of all,
or in a place set aside by the Abbot for such negligent ones
in order that they may be seen by him and by all.
He shall remain there until the Work of God has been completed,
and then do penance by a public satisfaction.
the reason why we have judged it fitting
for them so stand in the last place or in a place apart
is that,
being seen by all,
they may amend for very shame.
For if they remain outside of the oratory,
there will perhaps be someone who will go back to bed and sleep
or at least seat himself outside and indulge in idle talk,
and thus an occasion will be provided for the evil one.
But let them go inside,
that they many not lose the whole Office,
and may amend for the future.

At the day Hours
anyone who does not arrive at the Work of God
until after the verse
and the "Glory be to the Father" for the first Psalm following it
shall stand in the last place,
according to our ruling above.
Nor shall he presume to join the choir in their chanting
until he has made satisfaction,
unless the Abbot should pardon him and give him permission;
but even then the offender must make satisfaction for his fault.


Benedictine spirituality does not ask for great feats of physical asceticism but it does require commitment to community and a sincere seeking of God through prayer. Tardiness is not to be tolerated. Indolence is not to be overlooked. Half-heartedness will not be condoned. Benedict does not want people sleeping-in or dawdling along, or "preferring anything to the Opus Dei," the work of God. Nothing in life qualifies as an exchange for the Word of God, not good work, not a job almost finished, not an interesting conversation, not the need for privacy.

Benedictine life centers around the chapel and chapel must never be overlooked. What is being asked for in monastic spirituality is a life of fidelity to prayer and to the praying communities of which we are a part. Prayer is a community act in Benedictine life. It is at community prayer, in the midst of others, that we are most reminded that we are not a world unto ourselves.

Benedict will go so far as to have the community pray the opening psalm slowly to give the slow a chance to get there in an age without alarm clocks but he will not allow such a lack of personal spiritual discipline to grow. Tardiness, the attempt to cut corners on everything in life, denies the soul the full experience of anything.

It is a lesson to be relearned in a modern age perhaps. There is nothing more important in our own list of important things to do in life than to stop at regular times, in regular ways to remember what life is really about, where it came from, why we have it, what we are to do with it and for whom we are to live it. No matter how tired we are or how busy we are or how impossible we think it is to do it, Benedictine spirituality says, Stop. Now. A spiritual life without a regular prayer life and an integrated community consciousness is pure illusion.

Church Fathers Lenten Reading Plan
Read Excerpts from the Church Fathers during Lent

St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: Chaps. 51-60

Thursday, March 22, 2007 Great Fast
Hieromartyr Basil of Ancyra
6th Hour: Isaiah 42:5-16 1st Vespers: Genesis 18:20-33
2nd Vespers: Proverbs 16:17-17:17

The New Covenant: Isaiah 42: 5-16 LXX, especially vs. 6: "I have given
thee for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles." In the
present reading, the Prophet Isaiah delivers two successive, but
closely-related, proclamations from God (vss. 6-9,14-16). Isaiah
prefaces each Divine announcement by introducing the Lord Who speaks
(vs. 5 and then vss.10-13).

Theodoret of Cyrus points out in his commentary on this passage that
both proclamations concern "the Son Who possesses the glory of the
Father...the glory of the Father that He will manifest." First, God the
Father proclaims the coming of God the Son to be "the covenant of a
race" (vs. 6), an event which Isaiah recognizes definitely demands a
"new hymn" from all peoples of the earth (vs. 10). In His second
announcement, God declares that the advent of Christ will be His major
assault against His "foes" who have placed dark ignorance upon men, for
the Son will guide them in " paths which they have not known" (vs. 16).

God the Father, "Maker of Heaven and earth" Who gave the breath of life
to all people, but reserves the Spirit to them "alone who tread down
earthly desires," as Irenaeus of Lyons has said, first announces the
coming of the Son of God. His Incarnation is God's righteous, saving
act of good will toward all men, as the Father says, "I have given thee
for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles"(vs. 6).
Whereas the old covenant was carved on tablets of stone, the New
Covenant is personalized, coming as a man to men, to enlighten all
nations and peoples.

God's purpose in the advent of the Son of God is "to open the eyes of
the blind, to bring the bound and them that sit in darkness out of bonds
and the prison-house" (vs. 7). How exquisitely God describes the human
predicament and His Salvation offered in Christ that opens "the eyes of
our understanding, that the light of [His] Gospel may shine brightly in
us." For "although [we] knew God, [we] did not glorify Him as God, nor
were thankful, but became futile in [our] thoughts, and [our] foolish
hearts were darkened" (Rom. 1:21).

When God the Father declares, "I will not give My glory to another, nor
My praises to graven images" (vs. 8), He is establishing the ground for
understanding the unity in essence of the Father and the Son, One God in
distinct Persons Who share equally in Divine glory and in the rightful
worship of men. Here truly are "new things" which He declares, "before
they spring forth" (vs. 9). Let us be confident in God's declarations,
for He causes "ancient things" to "come to pass" which He announced
beforehand, so they may be known as the "new things"(vs. 9).

The Prophet responds to this declaration of God by calling upon all
peoples to "sing a new hymn to the Lord: ye who are His dominion,
glorify His Name from the end of the earth" (vs. 10). He mentions that
peoples on the coastlands, in the desert villages of Kedar east of
Palestine, and on the rocky heights of Petra to the south of the Holy
Land should "sing for joy" and "give glory to the Lord" (vss. 10-12).
Why? Because the "The Lord God of hosts shall go forth, and....shall
shout mightily against His enemies" (vs. 13). Let us remember that the
coming of Christ remains an all-out declaration of war against mankind's
true enemies - sin, Satan, and death. The Lord Jesus issued the edict
of war by trampling down death even by His own death.

Be aware that in God's second proclamation in this reading, the
Incarnation is identified as the end of the Lord's restraint against His
foes and ours (vs. 14). Becoming a man, the Lord is fully involved in
our human condition, like a woman in travail (vs. 14). He has destroyed
all geographic barriers that separate us from God (vs. 15) to lead the
blind human race in "a way they have not known" (vs. 16) - by His Own
Person - the true and living "Way" (Jn. 14:6).

Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; and let them who hate
Him flee before His face.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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In the silence of my prayer, a persistent thought craves an audience: a catalogue of all the sins of my lifetime. I am no spring chicken: it's a long list. But this moment is for silent centering, not for confession. I promise that I will attend to the list, and continue on my inward way toward stillness.

But since it was such a persistent thought, and in view of the Lenten season, I have returned to it. I imagine myself holding up the line at the pearly gates, as St. Peter listens patiently to my dirty laundry list. But I also imagine a miracle there: item after soiled item turns sparkling clean as I pull it from my backpack to show him. It has all been taken care of.

To know we are forgiven doesn't mean we never think of the evil we have done, ever again. Doesn't mean we don't still regret it. Doesn't mean we wouldn't change it if we could.

I guess the main thing it does mean is that God has made our sins available to us as building blocks of something better next time. We've decided on the future, instead of lingering in the past and trying to fix it by ourselves, so nobody will ever see. We have freed up space and energy we used to spend hiding our faults from ourselves and -- in a futile project if ever there was one -- trying to hide them from God.

Many people make sacramental confessions during Lent, as we prepare for the welcome joy of Easter. The prayer at communion changes slightly, in these last weeks: You bid your faithful people cleanse their hearts, the priests says, and some of us think that might not be a bad idea.

This Thursday, March 22 at 8pm Eastern time, a one-hour teleclass with Barbara Crafton: "A New Heaven and a New Earth."

Life pours blessings on us, but it also throws us the occasional curve ball, and we have no choice but to catch it if we want to stay in the game. What has your life taught you? It's guaranteed that you've learned more from the things that didn't go as planned than you ever learned from the slam dunks.

Join us for this session about the death of one hope and the birth of another, about where healing and renewal are to be found. Register at

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Crafton -


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