Monday, September 03, 2007

09/03/07 Monday in the 14th week after Pentecost


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.


Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 25; PM Psalm 9, 15
2 Chron. 6:32-7:7; James 2:1-13; Mark 14:53-65

From Forward Day by Day:

Psalm 25. Show me your ways, O LORD, and teach me your paths.

September can be the most beautiful month in the mountains where I live. The summer flowers are still out, and it's still warm, but not usually stifling hot. Only the longer nights hint at the bitter cold to come. This year I'm waiting until the very last minute to bring things in from the cold. If I end up rushing
out in the middle of the night one step ahead of the frost to drag in the hundred-pound ficus and scattered geraniums, so be it. I'm not letting winter intrude on fall's glory any sooner than necessary.

Some might say it's silly, if not positively dangerous, to let one's plans be made by external events--people need a sense of being in control, of having a plan and following it out, whatever happens in the world outside of the plan. But I feel that leaving as much of the planning as possible to God is a pretty good idea.

The older I get, the less I think I have to control, the less I know I do control, and the more willing I am to wait upon the Lord and rejoice in what each day brings on its own, not insisting that it conform to my specifications. God's ways, revealed in God's good time, are better than anything I could ever think up.

Today we remember:

All those who labor:

Ecclesiasticus 38:27-32a
Psalm 107:1-9 or Psalm 90:1-2, 16-17
1 Corinthians 3:10-14
Matthew 6:19-24


Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Sokoto (Kaduna, Nigeria)

Speaking to the Soul:

Daily Reading for September 3 • Labor Day

In whatever work that you do, you should say to yourself at every moment: “If God looks at me, what does he see?” Then see how you answer yourself. If you condemn yourself, leave immediately. Stop the work that you were doing and take up something else in order to be sure to reach your destination. For it is necessary that the traveler be always ready to continue his journey. When you are seated at manual labor, when you are walking along the road, when you are eating, tell yourself this: “If God called me now, what would happen?” See how your conscience answers and hurry to do what it tells you.

From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, quoted in Essential Monastic Wisdom: Writings on the Contemplative Life by Hugh Feiss (HarperSanFrancisco, 1999).

++++++++++ Reflections

There are times when we are wearied with travelling, and the Lord grants our faculties tranquillity and our soul quiet, and while they are in that state, He gives us a clear understanding of the nature of the gifts he bestows on those whom He brings to His kingdom.
St Teresa of Jesus
Way, 30.6

Reading from the Desert Christians

(Abba Isidore of Pelusia) said, 'Prize virtues and do not be the slave of glory; for the former are immortal, while the latter soon fades.'

He also said, 'The heights of humility are great and so are the depths of boasting; I advise you to attend to the first and not to fall into the second.'

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Waiting with Our Response

Choosing life instead of death demands an act of will that often contradicts our impulses. Our impulses want to take revenge, while our wills want to offer forgiveness. Our impulses push us to an immediate response: When someone hits us in the face, we impulsively want to hit back.

How then can we let our wills dominate our impulses? The key word is wait. Whatever happens, we must put some space between the hostile act directed toward us and our response. We must distance ourselves, take time to think, talk it over with friends, and wait until we are ready to respond in a life-giving way. Impulsive responses allow evil to master us, something we always will regret. But a well thought-through response will help us to "master evil with good" (Romans 12.21).

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

Day Three - The Object, cont'd

Jesus calls those who would serve him to follow his example and choose for themselves the same path of renunciation and sacrifice. To those who hear and obey he promises union with God. The object of the Society of Saint Francis is to build a community of those who accept Christ as their Lord and Master and are dedicated to him in body and spirit. They surrender their lives to him and to the service of his people. The Third Order of the Society consists of those who, while following the ordinary professions of life, feel called to dedicate their lives under a definite discipline and vows. They may be female or male, married or single, ordained or lay.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Day Three - The Object, cont'd

Jesus calls those who would serve him to follow his example and choose for themselves the same path of renunciation and sacrifice. To those who hear and obey he promises union with God. The object of the Society of Saint Francis is to build a community of those who accept Christ as their Lord and Master and are dedicated to him in body and spirit. They surrender their lives to him and to the service of his people. The Third Order of the Society consists of those who, while following the ordinary professions of life, feel called to dedicate their lives under a definite discipline and vows. They may be female or male, married or single, ordained or lay.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"The Liberation of Men"

Our liberation as men is different from feminine liberation. Our sisters are fighting patriarchal culture that has oppressed women in so many ways, but men didn't realize it because we were on top. We must stand at our sisters side to begin to understand their struggle. Yet men have their own liberation agenda, too.

Western men need liberation from the whole set of expectations that culture puts upon us and we put upon ourselves: to be overachievers, competitive, focused and necessarily unfeeling, successful, hard-and-strong cannon fodder for wars. That pressure is instilled from boyhood, both by women and other men. Both men and women profit from it; both men and women suffer from it.

Our liberation is to recognize and counter these voices inside us that give us false definitions of success. That may be even a more difficult form of liberation than women's. I think that is why men are behind in the process of liberation. One is more trapped at the top. At least that's what the gospel says.

In family after family, the woman has moved in her masculine journey farther than most of us men have moved into our feminine journey. A lot of men intuitively recognize that their wife is stronger in many ways than they are. In many families she knows how to organize life or get things done better than her husband. That becomes the pattern of the family. She becomes an androgynous person, really in her own way much more liberated than the man. The man stands on the side, earning money to support the whole system and losing the respect of his children, his wife, and often himself.

It has been much harder, culturally, for men to journey into their feminine side than for women to integrate their masculine. We need our sisters to recognize our entrapment.

from A Mans Approach to God

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

The word of the Lord is the nourishment of the mind

Be careful that the word you have received through your ears remains in your heart. Be careful that the seed does not fall along the path, for fear that the evil spirit may come and take it from your memory. Be careful that the seed is not received in stony ground, so that it produces a harvest of good works without the roots of perseverance. Many people are pleased with what they hear and resolve to undertake some good work, but as soon as difficulties begin to arise and hinder them they leave the work unfinished. The stony ground lacked the necessary moisture for the sprouting seed to yield the fruit of perseverance.

Good earth, on the other hand, brings forth fruit by patience. The reason for this is that nothing we do is good unless we also bear with equanimity the injuries done us by our neighbors. In fact, the more we progress, the more hardships we shall have to endure in this world; for when our love for this present world dies, its sufferings increase. This is why we see many people doing good works and at the same time struggling under a heaven burden of afflictions. They now shun earthly desires, and yet they are tormented by greater sufferings. But, as the Lord said, they bring forth fruit by patience, because, since they humbly endure misfortunes, they are welcomed when these are over into a place of rest in heaven.

Gregory the Great

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


"Nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord." 2 Samuel 23:16

What has been like water from the well of Bethlehem to you recently - love, friendship, spiritual blessing? Then at the peril of your soul, you take it to satisfy yourself. If you do, you cannot pour it out before the Lord. You can never sanctify to God that with which you long to satisfy yourself. If you satisfy yourself with a blessing from God, it will corrupt you; you must sacrifice it, pour it out, do with it what common sense says is an absurd waste.

How am I to pour out unto the Lord natural love or spiritual blessing? In one way only - in the determination of my mind. There are certain acts of other people which one could never accept if one did not know God, because it is not within human power to repay them. But immediately I say - This is too great and worthy for me, it is not meant for a human being at all, I must pour it out unto the Lord, then these things pour out in rivers of living water all around. Until I do pour these things out before the Lord, they endanger those I love as well as myself because they will turn to lust. We can be lustful in things which are not sordid and vile. Love has to get to its transfiguration point of being poured out unto the Lord.

If you have become bitter and sour, it is because when God gave you a blessing you clutched it for yourself; whereas if you had poured it out unto the Lord, you would have been the sweetest person out of heaven. If you are always taking blessings to yourself and never learn to pour out anything unto the Lord, other people do not get their horizon enlarged through you.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

January 3, May 4, September 3

And the Lord, seeking his laborer
in the multitude to whom He thus cries out,
says again,
"Who is the one who will have life,
and desires to see good days" (Ps. 33:13)?
And if, hearing Him, you answer,
"I am the one,"
God says to you,
"If you will have true and everlasting life,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips that they speak no guile.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek after peace and pursue it" (Ps. 33:14-15).
And when you have done these things,
My eyes shall be upon you
and My ears open to your prayers;
and before you call upon Me,
I will say to you,
'Behold, here I am'" (Ps. 33:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9).

What can be sweeter to us, dear ones,
than this voice of the Lord inviting us?
Behold, in His loving kindness
the Lord shows us the way of life.


In Benedict's mind, apparently, the spiritual life is not a collection of asceticisms, it is a way of being in the world that is open to God and open to others. We struggle, of course, with temptations to separate the two. It is so easy to tell ourselves that we overlooked the needs of others because we were attending to the needs of God. It is so easy to go to church instead of going to a friend whose depression depresses us. It is so easy to want silence rather than the demands of the children. It is so much easier to read a book about religion than it is to listen to a husband talk about his job or a wife talk about her loneliness. It is so much easier to practice the privatized religion of prayers and penances than it is to make fools out of ourselves for the Christian religion of globalism and peace. Deep, deep spiritual traditions everywhere, however, reject those rationalizations: "Is there life after death?", a disciple once asked a Holy One. And the Holy One answered, "The great spiritual question of life is not 'Is there life after death?' The great spiritual question is, 'Is there life before death?'" Benedict obviously believes that life lived fully is life lived on two planes: attention to God and attention to the good of the other.

The godly are those, this paragraph says, who never talk destructively about another person--in anger, in spite, in
vengefulness,--and who can be counted on to bring an open heart to a closed and clawing world.

The godly know when the world they live in has them on a slippery slope away from the good, the true, and the holy and they refuse to be part of the decline. What's more striking, they set out to counter it. It is not enough, Benedict implies, simply to distance ourselves from the bad. It is not enough, for instance, to refuse to slander others; we must rebuild their reputations. It is not enough to disapprove of toxic waste; we must do something to save the globe. It is not enough to care for the poor; we must do something to stop the poverty. We must be people who bring creation to life. "Once you have done this," the Rule reminds us, "my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers." Once you have done these things, you will be in the presence of God.

Finally, as far as Benedict is concerned, the spiritual life depends on our being peaceful peacemakers.

Agitation drives out consciousness of God. When we're driven by agitation, consumed by fretting, we become immersed in our own agenda and it is always exaggerated. We get caught up in things which, in the final analysis, simply don't count, in things that pass away, in things that are concerned with living comfortably rather than with living well. We go to pieces over crying children and broken machines and the length of stop lights at intersections. We lose touch with the center of things.

At the same time, a kind of passive tranquillity is not the aim of Benedictine life. The call of this spirituality is to be gentle ourselves and to bring nonviolence in our wake. It is an amazing position for a sixth century document to take in a violent world. There is no Armeggedon theology here, no call to a pitched battle between good and evil in a world that subscribed to dualism and divided life into things of the spirit and things of the flesh.

In this Rule of life, violence is simply discounted. Violence doesn't work. Not political violence, not social violence, not physical violence, not even the violence that we do to ourselves in the name of religion. Wars haven't worked. Classism hasn't worked. Fanaticism hasn't worked. Benedictinism, on the other hand, simply does not have as its goal either to beat the body down or to vanquish the world. Benedictinism simply sets out to gentle a universe riddled with violence by being a peaceful voice for peace in a world that thinks that everything--international relations, child rearing and economic development, even in the spiritual life--is accomplished by force.

Benedictinism is a call to live in the world not only without weapons raised against the other but by doing good. The passage implies clearly that those who make God's creation their enemy simply do not "deserve to see the Holy One."

It is a strong passage clothed in words long dulled by repetition.

Dynamis is a daily Bible meditation based upon the lectionary of the Holy Orthodox Church.

Monday, September 3, 2007 The Uncovering of the Relics of
Nektarios of Pentapolis
Kellia: Joshua 8:1-13 Epistle: Galatians
2:11-16 Gospel: St. Mark 5:24-34

Right Action: Joshua 8:1-12 LXX, especially vss 1, 2: "And the Lord said
to Joshua, Fear not, nor be timorous: take with thee all the men of war,
and arise, go up to Ai: behold, I have given into thy hands the king of
Ai and his land....set now for thyself as an ambush for the city
behind." Abba Dorotheos teaches that "the sufferings of combat purify [a
man] little by little and bring him back to the natural state." His
reference is to spiritual combat, of course. Yet, as Metropolitan
Hierotheos Vlachos notes, "besides man's effort, if the Holy Spirit does
not descend, the dead nous cannot be purified and brought to life."
Right action, he adds, requires "the working together of divine grace
and the human will." Given the necessity of Divine-human cooperation to
achieve right action, one should compare the three preparations that
Joshua and Israel made before their battles 1) at Jericho (Josh.
5:13-6:5), 2) against Ai initially (Josh. 7:2-5), and 3) against Ai in
their second assault, described in the present passage (Josh. 8:1-2).

The noticeable omission in preparing for the first assault at Ai was the
absence of seeking the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Any working
together of divine grace and the human will was forestalled. How could
there be right action under such circumstances? In the first assault
against Ai, the spies set the battle plan and not God (Josh. 7:3)! Even
Joshua as a Prophet failed, for he did not send out the spies to Ai
after first invoking prayer for Divine guidance. Rather, he accepted
the plan of the spies without consideration of the Lord's will and
word. As the text says plainly, "And Joshua sent men to Ai" (Josh
7:2). No directions from the Lord are mentioned, yet right action must
include prayer, God's guidance, and direction. Be aware that this truth
applies to right action in all circumstance of life that we may confront
as members of Christ.

Next, let us examine closely the direction that came from the Lord to
help His People cooperate rightly in a new plan of action. Before the
Lord gave instructions on this occasion, Joshua opened himself to God in
prayer, and God specifically addressed his fear caused by the earlier
defeat. The Lord built confidence with a promise. He set general
conditions - a holocaust offering. He made a gracious gift, and
outlined an ambush as the plan of attack (Josh. 8:1-2).

Having been thoroughly chastened at Ai by the earlier defeat, Joshua
faced the same city of dangerous opponents who had proven their ability
to defeat his troops. However, this time the Prophet displayed a
renewed spiritual balance - he turned first to prayer. While the
passage begins with the phrase, "And the Lord said...." (vs. 1), we
should note that among the instructions that followed was the command,
"arise" (vs. 1). Was Joshua already in prayer, prostrate before God?
Clearly, the Prophet was open to hearing the word of the Lord. He was

How good was God in this instance! He knew the fear and trepidation
both of Joshua and of the People generated by their earlier mistake and
bitter defeat. Thus, He began with assurance and words to strengthen
the Prophet's heart: "fear not, nor be timorous" (vs. 1).

The Lord then followed with a promise: " I have given into thy hands the
king of Ai and his land" (vs. 1). He treated the coming action as a
fait accompli. God meets awakened trust.

Along with the general conditions for a holocaust - "thou shalt do to Ai
as thou didst to Jericho" (vs. 2) - the Lord added to the coming
engagement the unexpected gift of cattle (vs. 2).

Most significant, and typical of all truly right action, God was the One
to provide the basic plan, from the start (vs. 2): "set now for thyself
as an ambush for the city behind" (vs. 2). Largely this reading is
devoted to the careful carrying out of God's plan - always a right action!

Strengthen us, O Lord, in all our doings and further us with Thy
continual help; that in all our works begun, continued and ended in
Thee, we may glorify Thy holy Name.



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