Sunday, September 09, 2007

09/09/07 Sun in the 15th 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.


Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 63:1-8(9-11), 98; PM Psalm 103
1 Kings 12:21-33; Acts 4:18-31; John 10:31-42

From Forward Day by Day:

Philemon 1-20. I hear of your love...and faith....I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.

In the church I grew up in, the pastor inscribed in the Bibles we were given at confirmation scripture verses he had chosen especially for each confirmand.

These were my verses, a brief letter from Paul to a friend he's trying to talk into something. At fourteen, in my first struggles with vocation to holy orders, without a shred of encoragement for it, this message blew my mind: could it be that someone else saw this might be the right thing for me? The pastor was probably referring only to the sharing of faith that
all Christians do. It seems unlikely, looking back, that he meant me to cherish dreams of a place still forbidden to those of my gender. But forty years later, as I stood before that church's altar to celebrate my first eucharist, I remembered my reaction to these words and resolved to look for and support signs of such vocation among young people I meet.

Not long ago I suggested to a fourteen-year-old in my parish that he think about a possible call to be a priest. We all need to be far less shy about such encouragement, for the kids' and the church's sake.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of South West Tanganyika (Tanzania)

Speaking to the Soul:

What on earth is holiness?

By Martin L. Smith

I was in the presence of a holy man last month, and the evening I spent with him has set me thinking about holiness, that core concept most of us find so puzzling. Let’s admit it. The word holiness is infested with all sorts of unattractive connotations: otherworldliness, intense piety, life on a plane much higher than our own mundane existence. What on earth is holiness?

The man I am referring to is a Roman Catholic layman with a ministry of spiritual healing, and we met with him in a friend’s home, a typical domestic setting for the sessions of prayer and laying on of hands that he conducts up and down the country and abroad. There were remarkable healings that a number of us received and yet, quite apart from these experiences, I am just as grateful to God for refreshing my own faith in the reality of holiness. We were in direct contact with genuine holiness, the real thing, and it bears no resemblance to stereotypes at all. He was about as grounded a man as you could ever find. An unremarkable everyman, as my friend put it, who spoke about the work of God in plain, workmanlike terms. There was no drama, no manipulation, no ‘charisma’, no religiosity, just straightforward teaching and witness, and a kind of steady detachment salted with gentle humor. He had simply accepted this rarest of vocations as the agent of miracles, while continuing his regular life as a working man and volunteer in a soup kitchen, and undergoing the spiritual purging that kept ego out of the way.

Meeting Paul has sent me back to a quotation I once jotted down a few weeks after my ordination from Marcel Proust’s novel Swann’s Way. “When in the course of my life I have had occasion to meet with, in convents for example, saintly examples of practical charity, they have generally had the brisk, decided, undisturbed and slightly brutal air of a busy surgeon, the face in which we can discern no commiseration, no tenderness in the sight of suffering humanity and no fear of hurting it, the face devoid of gentleness or sympathy, the sublime face of true goodness.”

Proust has put his finger on another of our stereotypes about holiness. We tend to think that a really holy person would be a paragon of meekness and gentleness who would never dream of doing anything to make us feel uncomfortable in any way. On the contrary, one of the manifestations of holiness is a kind of detachment, a non-dependency, that lets a person get on with the work of God, even though that might be a somewhat painful to everyone involved. And Paul was prepared to say some very direct things about the vocation of suffering and the meaning of pain that we never hear from the pulpit where preachers need to court popularity.

The more we reflect about this, the more likely we will find holiness closer at hand. We might find it in all sorts of areas, including that very risky one—the ministry of leadership. Just as people have this fantasy of the saint as someone who would never do or say anything that could ever cause us pain, so they imagine that good leaders are those who ooze empathy and concern and lovingly cocoon us with personal affirmation and uplift. In fact authentic leaders—holy leaders—are quite prepared to get on with God’s work fully prepared for that fact that that is bound to be upsetting and sometimes quite painful to us.

Few people have been as fearless as the late Rabbi Edwin Friedman in exposing the dynamics in which religious leaders get caught up, and he was as perceptive in his teaching as Proust was canny as an artist, about the way the ‘real thing’ stands out against counterfeits. Bogus leadership is soggy with dependency, collusion and denial; real leadership draws on inner resources of detachment and invariably draws fire from those who demand to be ‘cared for.’ Friedman didn’t pull his punches: here’s an example from his posthumous A Failure of Nerve; Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. “This tendency to adapt to immaturity and to sabotage strength is so often characteristic of chronically anxious systems that a good rule of thumb for leaders who are trying to pull any institution out its regression is that when people start calling you “cruel,” “autocratic,” “heartless,” “unfeeling,” “uncooperative,” and “cold,” there is a good chance you are going in the right direction.” (p. 69) Talk about hitting the nail on the head!

What is holiness? We need to keep probing this mystery in contemporary terms so that we get used to recognizing it. We find it wherever direct reliance on God day by day gives people freedom to act on his behalf without being hampered by the need to feed their own egos—or ours.

Martin Smith is well-known in the Episcopal Church and beyond as a priest, writer, preacher and leader of retreats. Through such popular works as A Season for the Spirit and The Word is Very Near You and in numerous workshops, lectures and retreats, he continues to explore a contemporary spirituality that encourages a lively conversation between new knowledge and the riches of tradition.
++++++++++ Reflections

Your heart is made to love Jesus, to love Him passionately.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Reading from the Desert Christians

Your heart is made to love Jesus, to love Him passionately.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Living in the End-Time

We are living in the end-time! This does not mean that creation will soon come to its end, but it does mean that all the signs of the end of time that Jesus mentions are already with us: wars and revolutions, conflicts between nations and between kingdoms, earthquakes, plagues, famines, and persecutions (see Luke 21:9-12). Jesus describes the events of our world as announcements that this world is not our final dwelling place, but that the Son of Man will come to bring us our full freedom. "When these things begin to take place," Jesus says, "stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand" (Luke 21:28). The terrible events surrounding us must be lived as ways to make us ready for our final liberation.

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

Day Nine - The Second Aim, cont'd

As Tertiaries, we are prepared not only to speak out for social justice and international peace, but to put these principles into practice in our own lives, cheerfully facing any scorn or persecution to which this may lead.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

God, the Friend
September 9th, 2007
Sunday’s Reflection

WE TALK ABOUT GOD in the third person. We teach about God. However, we don’t teach about our spouses or about good friends. We introduce them, not teach about them. Too often we relate to God as a myth or a theorem to be talked about and not as a friend.

- Norman Shawchuck
A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God

From page 396 of A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God by Norman Shawchuck and Rueben P. Job. Copyright © 2003 by the authors. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"Parents' Prayer, Everyone's Prayer: "Be Done Unto Me"

A family came out to visit me in Albuquerque a few weeks ago, with three little ones sick with croup. The house sounded like barking dogs for three days! I did five full loads of laundry—they had vomited on everything in the house. I couldn't believe life could be that hard. You couldn't have one conversation or one meal undisturbed. And I thought we religious had the harder life. It's not even in the same ballpark! What parents go through to raise children is above and beyond the call of duty. Yet they rise to the occasion, more often than not.

I can see why God ordered the continuation of the human race through parenting: God had to find a way for all of us to get out of ourselves. We need reality checks that are simply there, like a brick wall; that demand a response, with no room for choice or discernment. That's the best way to become holy. It's not what you do; it's what you allow to be done to you.

Seeking God and holiness becomes too self-conscious unless you allow it to lead you farther than you intended. Holiness comes from what you allow to be done to you by the circumstances of life, by the people who are there right in front of you. We don't convert ourselves; we are converted.

from Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction

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

A wonderful divine work

The soul is a great and wonderful divine work. God created her according to the image of the virtues of the Spirit, without any evil in her nature. He placed in her the laws of the virtues, discernment, knowledge, understanding, faith, love, and the rest of the virtues, according to the image of the Spirit. Even now the Lord is found and revealed to the soul in knowledge, understanding, love, and faith; he has placed in her intelligence, imagination, will, and reason to rule them. He has given her the ability to come and go in a moment, and to serve him in thought wherever the Spirit wills. In a word, he created her as one who was to become his bride and companion, so that he might be united with her and she might be one spirit with him, according to the words of scripture: whoever is united to the Lord is one spirit with him. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Macarius of Egypt

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


"Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5

This is another aspect of the strenuous nature of sainthood. Paul says, "I take every project prisoner to make it obey Christ." (Moffatt.) How much Christian work there is to-day which has never been disciplined, but has simply sprung into being by impulse! In Our Lord's life every project was disciplined to the will of His Father. There was not a movement of an impulse of His own will as distinct from His Father's - "The Son can do nothing of Himself." Then take ourselves - a vivid religious experience, and every project born of impulse put into action immediately, instead of being imprisoned and disciplined to obey Christ.

This is a day when practical work is overemphasized, and the saints who are bringing every project into captivity are criticized and told that they are not in earnest for God or for souls. True earnestness is found in obeying God, not in the inclination to serve Him that is born of undisciplined human nature. It is inconceivable, but true nevertheless, that saints are not bringing every project into captivity, but are doing work for God at the instigation of their own human nature which has not been spiritualized by determined discipline.

We are apt to forget that a man is not only committed to Jesus Christ for salvation; he is committed to Jesus Christ's view of God, of the world, of sin and of the devil, and this will mean that he must recognize the responsibility of being transformed by the renewing of his mind.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be

An Abbess who is worthy to be over a monastery
should always remember what she is called,
and live up to the name of Superior.
For she is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery,
being called by a name of His,
which is taken from the words of the Apostle:
"You have received a Spirit of adoption ...,
by virtue of which we cry, 'Abba -- Father'" (Rom. 8:15)!

Therefore the Abbess ought not to teach or ordain or command
anything which is against the Lord's precepts;
on the contrary,
her commands and her teaching
should be a leaven of divine justice
kneaded into the minds of her disciples.


The social revolution of the Rule starts in this paragraph on authority. This will be a different kind of life than the sixth century Roman ever saw. The head of the monastery will not be a chief or a queen or a feudal lord. The superior of a monastery of Benedictines will be a Christ figure, simple, unassuming, immersed in God, loving of the marginal, doer of the gospel, beacon to the strong.

Once you begin to understand that, you begin to understand the whole new type of authority that the Rule models for a world gone wild with power. You begin to understand that it is not the laws of the mighty that will govern this group. It is the law of God that will preempt all other considerations.

Like Christ, this leader does not lead with brute force. This leader understands the leavening process. This leader, called appropriately abbot or abbess or prioress, is a spiritual parent, a catalyst for the spiritual and psychological growth of the individual monastic, not a border guard or a warden. This leader is not a parent who terrorizes a child into submission; this leader believes in the best and gives people the opportunities to make the mistakes that lead to growth.

The prioress and abbot provide an environment that confronts the monastic with the presence of God, that shows them the Way. After that it is up to the monastic to let the practices of the community and the rhythm of the prayer life work their way until the piercing good of God rises in them like yeast in bread.

"If you meet the Buddha on the road," the Zen master teaches the disciple, "kill him." Don't let any human being become the measure of your life, the Zen implies. Eliminate whatever you would be tempted to idolize, no matter how worthy the object. The role of the spiritual leader, in other words, is not to make martinets out of people; it is to lead them to spiritual adulthood where they themselves make the kind of choices that give life depth and quality. Like the teacher of Zen, Benedict does not make the superior of the monastery the ultimate norm of life. Pleasing the abbot is not what monastic life is all about. Becoming what the abbess or prioress thinks you should be is not the goal of monasticism. Following the leader is not the end for which we're made; finding God is. Benedict makes the superior of his monasteries a lover of people, a leader who can persuade a person to the heights, show them the mountain and let them go.

In our own culture, becoming someone important, climbing the corporate and ecclesiastical ladder has so often meant pleasing the person at the top rather than doing what conscience demands or the situation requires. That kind of leadership is for its own sake. It makes the guru, rather than the gospel, the norm of life. That kind of obedience puts the business before the soul. That kind of authority is not monastic and it is not spiritual. That kind of authority so often leads to the satisfaction of the system more than to the development of the person and the coming of the reign of God. That kind of authority breeds Watergate and My Lai in the face of a tradition that holds up for public emulation Joan of Arc and Thomas More whose obedience was always to a much higher law than the institutions of the country.

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

Sunday, September 9, 2007 Tone 6
Nektarios of Pentapolis, the Wonderworker
3rd Vespers, Nativity Theotokos: Proverbs 9:1-11 Epistle: Galatians
6:11-18 Gospel: St. John 3:13-17

The Perfect Servant: Proverbs 9:1-11, especially vs. 6: "Leave folly,
that ye may reign for ever; and seek wisdom, and improve understanding
by knowledge." The Church understands that the Wisdom spoken of in this
reading is none other than Christ our King and our God; for it is He Who
sends forth "servants with a loud proclamation" (vs. 3). What hides the
Lord Jesus' identity as Wisdom from some minds is that the grammatical
pronouns used with Wisdom are feminine - "she, her, and herself."
Hebrew and Greek speakers know that hokma or sophia are feminine nouns,
but they tend to read past the feminine gender of the nouns that their
languages demand, attending strictly to the Person of Wisdom Who speaks
in these verses.

The Prophet Solomon, by whose blessing we have this passage, rightly
perceived the Divinity of the Person of Wisdom - feminine pronouns
aside. Notice (in vss. 4-6) that Wisdom's proclamation urges all who
hear what His servants declare to leave folly and seek Wisdom that they
"may reign forever" (vs. 6). After all, only God Himself can make the
offer of eternal life and dominion. Thus, Solomon was not troubled by
feminine pronouns for hokma or sophia.

When you read the passage as Solomon did, you will perceive the house of
Wisdom, built with its seven pillars, is the Body of Christ, and refers
to Wisdom Incarnate of the Virgin as well as Wisdom in His Body, the
Church (vs. 1). The feast that Holy Wisdom spreads for the Faithful
(vs. 2) is His Eucharistic banquet. Wisdom's servants, whom He sends
forth with His proclamation (vs. 3), are "every righteous spirit made
perfect in faith, especially our all-holy, immaculate, most blessed and
glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary." She herself, you should
note, is a perfect Servant; for she would not touch folly, but sought
Wisdom in her Son, and now reigns forever to make intercession for us
before His throne (vs. 6).

In the concluding verses of this present passage (7-11), Wisdom briefs
all His servants whom He has assigned to take up the task of inviting
mankind to the Feast of His Divine Liturgy. Holy Wisdom carefully warns
us who herald His proclamation: dishonor, disgrace, and hatred may be
your lot, when evil and ungodly men hear what you offer as Christ's
servant in His behalf. On the other hand, as His servant you may have
the joy of seeing others grow in Wisdom and eagerly "receive more
instruction" (vs. 9). There will be those who hear the message of
Wisdom's servants, and, having already attained a "fear of the Lord,"
readily receive "the counsel of the Saints," and struggle to acquire a
truly "sound mind" (vs. 10).

Our Lady and Champion, the most holy Theotokos, was born to serve
Wisdom, both with the expectation of potential scorn and of eager
acceptance. Gross public opprobrium would certainly have been her lot
had not God intervened with Joseph, her Betrothed, "when she was found
to be with child of the Holy Spirit" (Mt. 1:18). However, Joseph "being
a just man" and a good servant himself, did not want "to make Mary a
public example" (Mt. 1:19). Hence, when he was "aroused from sleep,
[he] did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife
and did not know her till she had brought forth her first born" (Mt.

>From her miraculous birth, the Virgin revealed herself as the perfect
servant of God. At the Archangel's announcement, she continued as the
unblemished handmaid of the Lord, readily accepting the prospect of the
Holy Spirit overshadowing her that the "Holy One" might be born of her -
"the Son of God" (Lk. 1:35). Hence, after her Son's Ascension, many
years were added to her earthly life (Prov. 9:11) along with eternal
service before Him as our loving intercessor.

In thy womb, O virgin Mother, thou didst hold the Holy Wisdom Whom all
creation doth praise and before Whom the celestials tremble. Wherefore,
beseech Him to save our souls.



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