Saturday, March 24, 2007

24/03/07 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 107:33-43, 108:1-6(7-13); Psalm 33; Jer. 23:9-15; Rom. 9:1-18; John 6:60-71

From Forward Day by Day:

John 6:60-71. Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.

God loves us so much--trusts us so much--that sometimes some of us long to escape the responsibility that comes with acknowledging God's love. The psalmist, who tried, recognizes the impossibility: "If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea," God is already there waiting. We cannot escape.

We all have our own ways of trying: chronic busyness, television, alcohol, food, sleep, sex, computer games, the internet... My grandmother once wrote, "Books to me are like strong drink to a drunkard," and I've inherited her tendency to escape work or family responsibilities--even God--by losing myself in a book.

"Leave me alone," we sometimes want to say to God, but it chills me to read those words because I really don't want to be alone. In its deepest place, my heart knows its dependence on God and on other people in my family and community.

It's not just his disciples that Jesus asks, "Do you also wish to go away?" He asks us, too. And however much I sometimes want to bow out, escape, renege on my responsibilities, I know that Peter's answer must also be mine: "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life."

Today we remember:

Oscar Romero
Psalm 31:15-24; Revelation 7:13-17; John 12:23-32

Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Mundri (The Sudan)

40 Ideas for Lent: A Lenten calendar


Every day in the coming week, give one of your belongings away. It could be something you have kept for whatever reason, never really needing or using it, such as a book, a piece of clothing, a gadget, an ornament. Or it could be something you think a particular person would especially enjoy. Give it, don't lend it.

Use today and tomorrow to plan what you're going to give away each day.

Idea by: shoewoman

Lent quote: "It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment." – Bernard of Clairvaux

A Celtic lenten Calendar

How often when weary
do we sigh 'The spirit is willing,
but the body is weak.'
How often when in prayer
are thoughts distracted by
sounds or circumstance
or prayers diverted
by trivial concerns.
Baggage carried with us
rather than left at your feet.
How often do we find ourselves
apologising to you
for our abbreviated prayer life.
And yet you draw us still
to be in your presence
as you did the disciples at Gethsemene
You want us to share in your life
to play our part.
You told your disciples to watch and pray
so that they might not fall into temptation
Do you ask the same of us
and do we also fail you
each time we whisper
'The spirit is willing,
but the body is weak.'
Grant us the strength, Lord
of body and of spirit
to offer you the sacrifice
of our lives
++++++++++ Reflections

Take God for your friend and walk with him - and you will learn to love.
St John of the Cross

Reading from the Desert Christians

It was said of him (Abba John the Dwarf) that one day he was weaving rope for two baskets, but he made it into one without noticing, until it had reached the wall, because his spirit was occupied in contemplation.

Sayings of the Jewish Fathers (Pirqe Aboth)

Rabbi said, Which is the right course that a man should choose for himself? Whatsoever is a pride to him that pursues it, (and) brings him honour from men. And be attentive to a light precept as to a grave, for thou knowest not the assigned reward of precepts,; and reckon the loss for a duty against its gain, and the gain by a transgression against its loss. And consider three things, and thou wilt not fall into the hands of transgression: know what is above thee-a seeing eye, and a hearing ear, and all thy deeds written in a book.

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Friendship in the Twilight Zones of Our Heart

There is a twilight zone in our own hearts that we ourselves cannot see. Even when we know quite a lot about ourselves - our gifts and weaknesses, our ambitions and aspirations, our motives and drives - large parts of ourselves remain in the shadow of consciousness.

This is a very good thing. We always will remain partially hidden to ourselves. Other people, especially those who love us, can often see our twilight zones better than we ourselves can. The way we are seen and understood by others is different from the way we see and understand ourselves. We will never fully know the significance of our presence in the lives of our friends. That's a grace, a grace that calls us not only to humility but also to a deep trust in those who love us. It is in the twilight zones of our hearts where true friendships are born.

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

Day Twenty Four - The First Note, cont'd

The faults that we see in others are the subject of prayer rather than of criticism. We take care to cast out the beam from our own eye before offering to remove the speck from another's. We are ready to accept the lowest place when asked, and to volunteer to take it. Nevertheless, when asked to undertake work of which we feel unworthy or incapable, we do not shrink from it on the grounds of humility, but confidently attempt it through the power that is made perfect in weakness.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

WE CAN TRUST GOD to form the words in us when we pray. We can trust God to give us the deep desires of the heart that are consistent with the divine will. Without language we can allow the Spirit to pray in us. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). God knows our needs. In prayer our hearts join with every desire in God’s heart for us and for our world. In Centering Prayer this happens in silence without words. In other times of prayer we put words to our needs as the Spirit makes us aware of them.

- J. David Muyskens
Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God

From page 62 of Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God by J. David Muyskens. Copyright © 2006 by J. David Muyskens.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"Jesus Saves"

Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour, it happened that there was a man being carried past. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in. When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, "Look at us." He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!" (Acts 3:1-6, JB) The lame of the world still come to the Body of Christ and look at us expectantly, as they looked at Peter and John, hoping to get something form us. What does the Church say to them in many and varied forms? "Silver and gold we have plenty of. Come, join our parish. We have a credit union, very democratic. We have a pastoral council. We have a guitar Mass. We're very avant-garde, hanging banners in our church. We're up to date and well meet your every need. We have a St. Vincent de Paul society." But no one has the courage to say: "May I talk to you about Jesus? Let me pray with you. The Lord will teach you the meaning of forgiveness. The Lord will teach you the meaning of Church, of the Scriptures. Come, follow Jesus!" Are we ashamed of Jesus? Do we share him? It feels naive, old-fashioned, pious, and a bit Protestant, to talk about Jesus. We have Church. We have sacraments, we have priests and bishops! Yet Jesus alone saves. The apostles speak with boldness and with fire. Jesus did it! In the name of Jesus all power is given to me! Every time they return they proclaim the name of Jesus Christ. What has happened to the Church that so many are no longer proud of Jesus?

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.

Jesus commends us all to the Father

Jesus Christ, the immortal God, came not to save himself but to save those condemned to death; he suffered not for his own sake but for ours. He took upon himself our wretchedness and poverty so as to enrich us by his own wealth. His suffering is our freedom from pain; his death is our immortality; his grief is our joy, his burial our resurrection, his baptism our sanctification. For their sake, he says, I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth. His bruising is our healing, for by his stripes we were healed. His chastisement is our peace, for the chastisement of our peace is upon him, that is to say, for the sake of our peace he is chastised.

Moreover, when on the cross he says: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit, Jesus commends us all to the Father through himself, all of us who are being brought to life in him. They are his members, and many members are one body, and the body is the Church. As Saint Paul writes to the Galatians: You are all one in Christ Jesus. In himself, therefore, Jesus commends us all to the Father.

Marcellus of Ancyra, (~374) worked with Saint Athanasius to support the faith against the Arians.

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


"He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30

If you become a necessity to a soul, you are out of God's order. As a worker, your great responsibility is to be a friend of the Bridegroom. When once you see a soul in sight of the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been in the right direction, and instead of putting out a hand to prevent the throes, pray that they grow ten times stronger until there is no power on earth or in hell that can hold that soul away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we become amateur providences, we come in and prevent God; and say - "This and that must not be." Instead of proving friends of the Bridegroom, we put our sympathy in the way, and the soul will one day say - "That one was a thief, he stole my affections from Jesus, and I lost my vision of Him."

Beware of rejoicing with a soul in the wrong thing, but see that you do rejoice in the right thing. "The friend of the Bridegroom . . . rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." This is spoken with joy and not with sadness - at last they are to see the Bridegroom! And John says this is his joy. It is the absolute effacement of the worker, he is never thought of again.

Watch for all you are worth until you hear the Bridegroom's voice in the life of another. Never mind what havoc it brings, what upsets, what crumblings of health, rejoice with divine hilarity when once His voice is heard. You may often see Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it. (Cf. Matt. 10:34.)

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Chapter 44: How the Excommunicated Are to Make Satisfaction

One who for serious faults is excommunicated
from oratory and table
shall make satisfaction as follows.
At the hour when the celebration of the Work of God is concluded
in the oratory,
let her lie prostrate before the door of the oratory,
saying nothing, but only lying prone with her face to the ground
at the feet of all as they come out of the oratory.
And let her continue to do this
until the Abbess judges that satisfaction has been made.
Then, when she has come at the Abbess's bidding,
let her cast herself first at the Abbess's feet
and then at the feet of all,
that they may pray for her.

And next, if the Abbess so orders,
let her be received into the choir,
to the place which the Abbess appoints,
but with the provision that she shall not presume
to intone Psalm or lesson or anything else in the oratory
without a further order from the Abbess.

Moreover, at every Hour,
when the Work of God is ended,
let her cast herself on the ground in the place where she stands.
And let her continue to satisfy in this way
until the Abbess again orders her finally to cease
from this satisfaction.

But those who for slight faults are excommunicated
only from table
shall make satisfaction in the oratory,
and continue in it till an order from the Abbess,
until she blesses them and says, "It is enough."


"A community is too heavy for any one to carry alone," the rabbis say. Benedict argues that the community enterprise is such an important one that those who violate their responsibilities to it must serve as warning to others of the consequences of failing to carry the human community. The point, of course, is not that the group has the power to exclude us. The point is that we must come to realize that we too often exclude ourselves from the relationships we promised to honor and to build by becoming the center of our own lives and ignoring our responsibilities to theirs.

The correction seems harsh and humiliating by modern standards but the Rule is working with the willing if not with the ready who seek to grow rather than to accommodate. The ancients tell the story of the distressed person who came to the Holy One for help. "Do you really want a cure?" the Holy One asked. "If I did not, would I bother to come to you?" the disciple answered. "Oh, yes," the Master said. "Most people do." And the disciple said, incredulously, "But what for then?" And the Holy One answered, "Well, not for a cure. That's painful. They come for relief."
This chapter forces us to ask, in an age without penances and in a culture totally given to individualism, what relationships we may be betraying by selfishness and what it would take to cure ourselves of the self-centeredness that requires the rest of the world to exist for our own convenience.

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

St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: Chaps. 71-80

Saturday, March 24, 2007 Great Fast
Forefeast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos
Kellia: Ezekiel 43:27-44:4 Epistle: Hebrew
Gospel: St. Mark 8:27-31

O Uncrossed Gate: Ezekiel 43:27-44:4, especially vs. 2: "This gate shall
remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for
the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall
remain shut." In the Nicene Creed, the Church asserts that the Lord
"was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit 'and' the Virgin Mary and was made
man." We emphasize the grammatical conjunction, 'and,' to draw
attention to the assertion of St. John of Damaskos that on the day of
the Annunciation, Mary the pure Virgin "received from the Holy Spirit
both purifying grace and the power to receive and give birth to the Word
of God as man."

Thus, we see the Incarnation of God the Son as synergistic, an entirely
cooperative work of God and man, for the Virgin's assent overcomes the
disobedience of Eve - the mother of us all - and now Mary is revealed as
the New Eve, who, "in Christ," is Mother of all the Faithful.

The present passage from the Prophet Ezekiel is a vision of a perfect
Temple - a type of salvation in Christ. Being read at the Vespers of
the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, it emphasizes the
human-divine synergy of Christ's conception and, therefore, of our
Salvation. In addition it is important to note the verse in the
Prophecy in which God declares, "your burnt offerings...I will accept"
(vs. 27). In the perfect Temple "only the Prince may sit in it to eat
bread before the Lord" (vs. 3), and that Temple will be filled with "the
glory of the Lord" (vs. 4). The combination of God's acceptance of our
offerings and the gate which is closed to all except the Prince
illumines the synergistic role of the Theotokos in God's Salvation of

How so? When the Virgin faced with the choice that God placed before
her through the visitation of the Archangel Gabriel, she turned herself
over to God entirely, including her will: "Behold the maidservant of the
Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Lk. 1:38); and, thus,
the uncontainable God through her mingles with mankind forever thereafter.

The Church recognizes the "overshadowing" of the Theotokos by the Holy
Spirit (Lk. 1:35) as a natural result of her submission to God's will,
along with the cleansing of any taint of sin in her; for the purifying
grace of God met her self-surrender. And let us not miss the truth for
us that follows: God also promises that increasing submission to Him on
our part also will be honored as an acceptable "burnt offering"- "I will
accept you says the Lord God" (Ezek 43:27).

Taught by the Prophet's words, the Church hails the Theotokos, saying to
her "Rejoice, O tabernacle and table!" She became the sanctuary where
the Bread which comes from above was set out before God and for men.
The Prince who entered the world through her now eats "bread before the
Lord" with His people in the Holy Communion of the Divine Liturgy.

Furthermore, Mary was "filled with the glory of the Lord" (vs. 44:4),
which transformed her, such that we greet her as the "uncrossed
gate...and protection of those who hasten unto [her]" as intercessor.
Additionally, filled with the glory of God, she remains Ever-Virgin -
aeiparthenos in the original. The Church magnifies Mary as Birthgiver
of God - upholding the mystery of God the Eternal Word becoming Man in
the Person of Christ Jesus our Savior.

St. John of Damaskos asks, "How, indeed, would she have given birth to
God and have known the miracle from the experience of subsequent events
and then have allowed intercourse with a husband? Far be it! The
thinking of such things is beyond the bounds of prudent thought, let
alone the doing of them." The Fourth Ecumenical Council joined in
declaring "that Christ, born of the Virgin, is the true God Who became
man; and inasmuch as Mary gave birth to the perfect Man Who was at the
same time perfect God, she rightly should be revered as Theotokos."

O All praised one, thou hast attained maternal privilege: intercede for
our salvation.

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

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