Wednesday, September 12, 2007

12/09/07 WED 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.

Revive your Church, Lord God of hosts, whenever it falls into complacency and sloth, by raising up devoted leaders like your servant John Henry Hobart whom we remember today; and grant that their faith and vigor of mind may awaken your people to your message and their mission; 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 119:49-72; PM Psalm 49, [53]
1 Kings 17:1-24; Phil. 2:1-11; Matt. 2:1-12

Spiritual Practice of the Day

The original Pali word for a Buddhist monk or renunciant, bhikkhu, means "fear seer," one who can tolerate his own terror.
— Mark Epstein in Going on Being

To Practice This Thought: Become more familiar with your fears.

From Forward Day by Day:

Philippians 2:1-11. He did not count equality with God as a matter of grasping, but humbled himself. (Moule)

Holy Cross Day, for which St. Paul's great hymn in this passage is the epistle, is two days away, but any time is a good time to read these marvelous words that tell us not only about Jesus but about the God he reveals to us. The quote above is how C.F.D. Moule translates the words usually given as "He did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped." To call it "a matter of grasping" is more radical. It tells us not just where Jesus' humility ends up, but also where it comes from. In Paul's theology, equality with God is what Jesus starts out with; his task is to show us what that means. His life and death of service are indeed not a matter of grasping-those hands outstretched on the cross, are open, defenseless, spread wide in compassion and welcome for the whole world.

This represents not the opposite of the "equality with God" that Jesus at all times possessed, but its ultimate demonstration. The compassion of the not-grasping hands of our Lord is the very compassion of God, reaching out in love to embrace a fallen creation, and his helpless suffering the sign of how that love always "ventures all, its all expends."

Today we remember:

John Henry Hobart
Psalm 78:3-7 or 133
Jude 20-21,24-25; John 17:11b-19

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Southeast Florida (U.S.) and the Diocese of Southeastern Mexico (Mexico)

Speaking to the Soul:

John Henry Hobart

Daily Reading for September 12 • John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York, 1830

In uniting us to a visible society, for the purpose of redeeming us from the corruptions of our evil nature and of the world, and for training us for the purity and bliss of a celestial and eternal existence, the Divine Author of our being has not only exercised that sovereign power which makes us in all things dependent on his will, but has mercifully accommodated himself to the social principle which so strongly characterizes us. This, uniform and powerful in its influence, prompts us in spiritual as in temporal matters, to mingle with our fellow men our thoughts, our feelings, our pursuits, our hopes. Most conversant are we, too, with material objects, and most affected by them; what an aid to our conception of spiritual truths, what an excitement to our hopes of spiritual blessings, when they are exhibited as conveyed and pledged by external symbols. Hence the doctrine that the ministrations and ordinances of the church are the means and pledges of salvation to the faithful, to all true believers, is not more enforced by the plainest declarations of sacred writ, than it is conformable to a rational and philosophical view of our nature.

From a sermon by the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hobart, quoted in A Year With American Saints by G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber. Copyright © 2006. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.
++++++++++ 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

Abba Cyrus of Alexandria was asked about the temptation of fornication, and he replied, 'If you do not think about it, you have no hope, for if you are not thinking about it, you are doing it. I mean, he who does not fight against the sin and resist it in his spirit will commit the sin physically. It is very true that he who is fornicating in fact is not worried about thinking about it.

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Holding Our Ground

In a world so full of social and political turmoil and immense human suffering, people of faith will often be ridiculed because of their so-called ineffectiveness. Many will say: "If you believe that there is a loving God, let your God do something about this mess!" Some will simply declare religion irrelevant, while others will consider it an obstacle to the creation of a new and better world.

Jesus often tells his followers that, as he was, they will be persecuted, arrested, tortured, and killed. But he also tells us not to worry but to trust in him at all times. "Make up your minds not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict" (Luke 21:14-15). Let's not be afraid of skepticism and cynicism coming our way, but trust that God will give us the strength to hold our ground.

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

Day Twelve - The Third Aim, cont'd

Personal spending is limited to what is necessary for our health and well-being and that of our dependents. We aim to stay free from all attachment to wealth, keeping ourselves constantly aware of the poverty in the world and its claim on us. We are concerned more for the generosity that gives all, rather than the value of poverty in itself. In this way we reflect in spirit the acceptance of Jesus' challenge to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

JOURNEY AND MOVEMENT are central metaphors in the spiritual life. The recognition that humans are separated from God by sin and that our life of faith involves the mutual movement of humans toward God and God toward us is absolutely fundamental to our understanding of life on earth.

- Daniel Wolpert
Leading a Life with God

From page 116 of Leading a Life with God: The Practice of Spiritual Leadership by Daniel Wolpert. Copyright © 2006 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"Sorry, Boys!"

It is no accident that we Catholics had a psychological need to exalt Mary to the role of a goddess. I am not sure if it was an inherent need to balance ourselves, a disguise for the patriarchy underneath, a love affair with the denied woman within or just a work of the Spirit, but it is an overwhelming example of instinct winning out over logic and theory. So much so, in fact, that the only two infallible statements of this Roman patriarchal Church are, ironically, the Assumption of the physical body of Mary into heaven and her privileged choice and protection by God, the Immaculate Conception.

We even celebrate her "Coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth." I'm really all for it, but none of these are found in Scripture or public revelation. It's amazing how this male Church was in some ways always feminist—and unwittingly ready to bend all the rules to say so! That healthy instinct has now come to our service. I call it "women-stuff." Sorry, boys, we Catholics have always been there. Proud and orthodox in public, but Mama's boys whenever we could find an excuse for it. Feminism is not new or liberal or dangerous; it's very old, quite conservative, and as traditional as Mary and the eight Beatitudes.

from Radical Grace, "Is This Women-Stuff Important?"

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

Natural illumination

Wisdom has built her house. The substantive power of God the Father has made his own dwelling-place in both the whole earth, in which he lives in actuality, and in the human race itself, created in the image and likeness of God, composed of visible and invisible nature.

To human beings themselves, re-created after their rebirth in Christ, while they believe in him and keep his commandment, he has also given the seven gifts of the Spirit. With the help of these, virtue being animated by knowledge, and knowledge in turn embodied in virtue, the spiritual human being is made complete, brought to perfection by perfect faith and participation in supernatural things.

So Christians attain to natural illumination through the spirit, and have strength to make an eager start in the right direction, led of course by the holy desires by which all things have come into being. They have deliberation to help them distinguish the kind of desires which are entirely good and come from God, being uncreated and immortal, and permissible in thought, speech, and action, from those that are not so. They also have understanding which makes them consent to and delight in one kind and not the other.

Procopius of Gaza

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


"Ye know not what ye ask." Matthew 20:22

There are times in spiritual life when there is confusion, and it is no way out to say that there ought not to be confusion. It is not a question of right and wrong, but a question of God taking you by a way which in the meantime you do not understand, and it is only by going through the confusion that you will get at what God wants.

The Shrouding of His Friendship. Luke 11:5-8. Jesus gave the illustration of the man who looked as if he did not care for his friend, and He said that that is how the Heavenly Father will appear to you at times. You will think He is an unkind friend, but remember He is not; the time will come when everything will be explained. There is a cloud on the friendship of the heart, and often even love itself has to wait in pain and tears for the blessing of fuller communion. When God looks completely shrouded, will you hang on in confidence in Him?

The Shadow on His Fatherhood. Luke 11:11-13. Jesus says there are times when your Father will appear as if He were an unnatural father, as if He were callous and indifferent, but remember He is not; I have told you - "Everyone that asketh receiveth." If there is a shadow on the face of the Father just now, hang onto it that He will ultimately give His clear revealing and justify Himself in all that He permitted.

The Strangeness of His Faithfulness. Luke 18:1-8. "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" Will He find the faith which banks on Him in spite of the confusion? Stand off in faith believing that what Jesus said is true, though in the meantime you do not under stand what God is doing. He has bigger issues at stake than the particular things you ask.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

January 12, May 13, September 12
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be

Let her make no distinction of persons in the monastery.
Let her not love one more than another,
unless it be one whom she finds better
in good works or in obedience.
Let her not advance one of noble birth
ahead of one who was formerly a slave,
unless there be some other reasonable ground for it.
But if the Abbess for just reason think fit to do so,
let her advance one of any rank whatever.
Otherwise let them keep their due places;
because, whether slaves or free, we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3:28)
and bear in equal burden of service
in the army of the same Lord.
For with God there is no respect of persons (Rom. 2:11).
Only for one reason are we preferred in His sight:
if we be found better than others in good works and humility.
Therefore let the Abbess show equal love to all
and impose the same discipline on all
according to their deserts.


If Benedict of Nursia was anything, he was not a pious romantic. He knew the Gospel and he knew life and he set out to bring the two together.

In one paragraph of this chapter, he shapes a completely new philosophy of authority, in another paragraph he hints at a different philosophy of religious life and in this one he rejects, out of hand, the common social structures of the period. In his communities, slave and free are equal as the gospels demand.

This is the Jesus life. What is insane in the streets is common coin here. What is madness to politicians is life breath here. What is unheard of in nice company is taken for granted here. Here people are ranked in the order in which they came to the group--not by education, not by money, not by social status but simply according to the moment they came to Christ. There is, as a result, no rank at all and this is very disconcerting to a world that loves uniforms and titles and knowing people who are in Who's Who.

But do not be misled. Benedict is a realist, not a feckless libertarian. There are differences among us and he recognizes those. There is a kind of natural hierarchy of gifts. Some of us are business people and some of us are not. Some of us are musicians and some are not. Some of us are leaders and some are not. The question is not whether or not some of us should be put over others of us. The question is how we get there and why we're put there.

Here Benedict draws another sharp contrast with life as we know it. The monastic life, the spiritual life, is not a life dedicated to climbing and clawing to the top. The monastic mind is not set on politicking or groveling. Abbots and prioresses, good leaders anywhere, are not in the business of forming kitchen cabinets or caucuses.

No, favoritism and intrigue are not the mint of the monastic mindset, commitment is.

Benedict doesn't just want a business manager who can make money for the monastery. He doesn't want workers for their productivity only. He doesn't take for leaders simply those who know how to control a group or build a business. Whom Benedict wants appointed to positions of responsibility are people who are distinguished "in goods works and obedience," in "good works and humility." It is a model for leadership in those places where profit and power and the party line take precedence over what the business or the diocese or the social service agency proclaims it is about.

He does not want people in positions simply to get a job done. He wants people in positions who embody why we bother to do the job at all. He wants holy listeners who care about the effect of what they do on everybody else.
Imagine a world that was run by holy listeners.

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Hieromartyr Autonomos & Coronatos of Iconium
Kellia: Jeremiah 4:23-34 Epistle: Galatians
6:2-10 Gospel: St. Mark 7:14-24

Prophet to the Nations ~ Desolation: Jeremiah 4:23-31 LXX, especially
vss. 27, 28: "Thus saith the Lord, The whole land shall be desolate; but
I will not make a full end. For these things let the earth mourn, and
let the sky be dark above; for I have spoken, and I will not repent; I
have purposed, and I will not turn back from it." The year 605 BC was
fateful for the peoples of Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, for on the
west bank of the Euphrates River, close to the point where today it
flows south out of Turkey into Syria, a major battle took place at
Carchemish between the armies of Egypt and the forces of Babylon. Crown
Prince Nebuchadnezzar, the eldest son of the Babylonian king, leading
his nation's army, routed the Egyptian troops although a few were able
to flee south to Hamath, in present day Syria; but there the Babylonians
overtook them and massacred the last remnants of the Egyptian army.
This crushing defeat of Egypt allowed the Babylonians to begin the
conquest of the whole Hatti [Syrian] territory.

Nebuchadnezzar's father died during this first Syrian campaign, and the
crown prince returned to Babylon and assumed the throne. In the years
following, he launched a new campaign against Lebanon and brought it
into his empire. The king of nearby Judah readily submitted to
Nebuchadnezzar and paid tribute as the price of national survival (4
Kngs. 24:1). Nebuchadnezzar's real target was Egypt. Hence, in the
fourth year of his reign, the Babylonians and Egyptians fought another
major battle just south of Byblos, close to modern Beirut. That battle
produced many casualties on both sides and resulted in a standoff. That
stalemate tempted the king of Judah, trusting in the power of nearby
Egypt, to rebel against the Babylonians.

Jeremiah, with keen historical acuity, foresaw the error of the king of
Judah's decision. The Prophet's visions of utter desolation, portrayed
in the present passage, foretell the coming doom of Judah (Jer.
4:23-26). He understood well that Nebuchadnezzar would come back and
settle accounts with the rebellious little nation and its "independent"
king. Notice in the visions, how the four sentences begin: "I looked, I
beheld, I looked, I saw" - phrases aptly expressing the visionary
character of the revelation that the Prophet received.

The next section of the reading is a spoken word from the Lord
confirming what Jeremiah "saw" (vss. 27-29). In the final verses, the
Lord chastises the leadership of Judah, the king and his advisers, for
"flirting" like a seductress with the Egyptians: "thy beauty will be in
vain: thy lovers have rejected thee, they seek thy life." (vs. 30). In
the end, the nation was to perish like a woman wasted by childbirth as
the Lord asserts (vs. 31). The whole reading makes clear that the
people are the victims who suffer in the shoals of national "power
politics." Judah might not have gone through the utter destruction that
followed, when Nebuchadnezzar finally took full revenge on them, but the
king of Judah would not remain as a vassal of Babylonia.

Jeremiah's visions of desolation accurately predicted what happened
across the Judean countryside. They also remind us that decisions
excluding God's will create devastation in nations, communities and
families. The Ukrainian Holocaust in 1933, created by Stalin's godless
choices, fits Jeremiah's prophecy that "there was no man, and...all the
cities were burnt with fire" (vss. 25,26). In Ukraine, "death from
starvation mowed down the villages....At first they dug graves...and
then, as things got worse, they stopped. Dead people lay there in the
yards, and in the end they remained right in their huts. Things fell
silent. The whole village died." Choices without God hurt innocent and
guilty alike. Have your selfish choices hurt others?

O Lord, all trials of this life are given by Thee for our chastisement
when we drift away from Thee. Deal not with us after our sins, but
according to Thy bountiful mercies.



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