Friday, September 14, 2007

14/09/07 Thurs in the 15th week after Pentecost Feast of the Holy Cross


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.

Today is the Feast of the Holy Cross


Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

O God, who by the passion of your blessed Son made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life and peace: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. [C of E]

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 66; Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:11-17
PM Psalm 118; Genesis 3:1-15; 1 Peter 3:17-22

From Forward Day by Day:

John 12:31-36a. Now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

This is one place where I think John gets it entirely right: his view of the cross. To him the crucifixion is not an event that accomplishes some part of God's purposes so much as one that perfectly reveals them. You would never know, in John's telling of the story, that this is an act designed to kill its victims with maximum pain and humiliation, or a grotesque parody of the rituals of sacrifice (as the letter to the Hebrews describes it).

Rather, John takes the hideous fact that we are capable of doing such things to each other and turns it into the supreme revelation of how God endures such evil rather than allow it to deflect his own purposes. The "lifting up"guarantees shame for the cross's victim; yet it becomes for Jesus the ascent to the Father's glory-his unquenchable love for his own-and that love's beacon and invitation to the whole world.

The cross of Christ is the only hope of the world. Our
constant danger is that we cry, "Behold this new opportunity. Behold our new methods. Behold our human--brotherhood," and forget to cry, "Behold the Lamb of God!"
--Samuel M. Zwemer

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Southern Highlands (Tanzania)

Speaking to the Soul:

Holy Cross Day

Daily Reading for September 14 • Holy Cross Day

Christ on the cross cries:
My people, what wrong have I done to you?
What good have I not done for you?
Listen to me. Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see if there is any sorrow like to my sorrow.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

From the Good Friday Reproaches, probably from tenth-century French rites. Quoted in 2000 Years of Prayer compiled by Michael Counsell. Copyright © 1999. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Spiritual Practice of the Day

Some smiles are sarcastic. Some smiles are artificial-diplomatic smies. These smiles do not produce satisfaction, but rather fear or suspicion. But a genuine smile gives us hope, freshness. If we want a genuine smile, then first we must produce the basis for the smile to come.
— His Holiness The Dalai Lama in The Path to Tranquility

To Practice This Thought: In a mirror, look at your smile. Keep smiling until you feel that it comes from a place of inner peace.
++++++++++ Reflections

Though we are always in the presence of God, it seems to me that the manner is different for those who practice prayer, for they are aware that he is looking at them.
St Teresa of Jesus
Book of Her Life, ch. 8

Reading from the Desert Christians

The same Abba Macarius while he was in Egypt discovered a man who owned a beast of burden engaged in plundering Macarius' goods. So he came up to the thief as if he was a stranger and he helped him to load the animal. He saw him off in great peace of soul saying, 'We have brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.' (1Tim.6.7) 'The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' (Job 1.21)

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Remaining Faithful

Many people live with the unconscious or conscious expectation that eventually things will get better; wars, hunger, poverty, oppression, and exploitation will vanish; and all people will live in harmony. Their lives and work are motivated by that expectation. When this does not happen in their lifetimes, they are often disillusioned and experience themselves as failures.

But Jesus doesn't support such an optimistic outlook. He foresees not only the destruction of his beloved city Jerusalem but also a world full of cruelty, violence, and conflict. For Jesus there is no happy ending in this world. The challenge of Jesus is not to solve all the world's problems before the end of time but to remain faithful at any cost.

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

Day Thirteen - The Three Ways of Service

Tertiaries desire to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, whom we serve in the three ways of Prayer, Study, and Work. In the life of the Order as a whole these three ways must each find full and balanced expression, but it is not to be expected that all members devote themselves equally to each of them. Each individual's service varies according to his/her abilities and circumstances, yet the member's personal rule of life includes each of the three ways.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Promises or Temptations?
September 14th, 2007
Friday’s Reflection

THE BEGINNINGS of Jesus’ ministry required after his baptism that he immediately enter the desert, where he was tempted. The basic temptations were the three “Ps” — power, prestige, and possessions. …

Here we reach the depth of the gospel’s foolishness. In our society, these three “Ps” are not temptations at all. Instead they are the basic promises advertised all around us as the rewards for living society’s values. There is no escaping the seriousness of Christianity. Either it is a stumbling block to the people in our society, or the values of modern society are foolishness to the serious Christian. It cannot be both ways.

- W. Paul Jones
The Upper Room Disciplines 2003

From page 91 of The Upper Room Disciplines 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection


We are called to know God personally, but we are essentially social beings. We only come to know who we are in the context of other people, in the context of living in a family, in a community. Would we be so arrogant to say that all the preceding centuries of Christians and Jews have not also known, listened to, and followed the Lord? Did Christian history begin in America? With my conversion? Or in Waco, Texas, around 1962? That is why the tradition of the Church is so important: We stand on the shoulders of all the wise persons and saints of the past. This is the true Tradition. Some historical accidents have been facilely passed on as universal tradition, yet are not the consistent, coherent pattern. So we need the Body to keep us beyond cultural arrogance and tied to all the ancestors. We can’t each start from zero. So many modern groups—street preachers, “Jesus” people—have lacked a sense of the Body, a sense of standing on the shoulders of the past. They have their God moment and they try to move forward simply based on their private experience alone and on the “Book.” Often a small group of followers become so like-minded that they lose that sense of the larger wisdom, of histories and cultures of the centuries. They can be expected to support the local government over and against the universal good. We call it civil religion, where Christ becomes a tribal god and the Church a mere echo chamber of the state. Both Catholics and Protestants have been guilty of this fundamentalism, but you would think Catholics would have known better by now.

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.

The fruit of the cross

How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return.

This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in hands, feet, and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom's pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness.

Theodore of Studios

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


"The simplicity that is in Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:3

Simplicity is the secret of seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly for a long while, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear, you have to obey it clear. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into cotton wool. If there is something upon which God has put His pressure, obey in that matter, bring your imagination into captivity to the obedience of Christ with regard to it and everything will become as clear as daylight. The reasoning capacity comes afterwards, but we never see along that line, we see like children; when we try to be wise we see nothing (Matthew 11:25).

The tiniest thing we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is quite sufficient to account for spiritual muddle, and all the thinking we like to spend on it will never make it clear. Spiritual muddle is only made plain by obedience. Immediately we obey, we discern. This is humiliating, because when we are muddled we know the reason is in the temper of our mind. When the natural power of vision is devoted to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the power of perceiving God's will and the whole life is kept in simplicity.

G. K. Chesterton Day by Day

I NEVER said a word against eminent men of science. What I complain of is a vague popular philosophy which supposes itself to be scientific when it is really nothing but a sort of new religion and an uncommonly nasty one. When people talked about the Fall of Man, they knew they were talking about a mystery, a thing they didn't understand. Now they talk about the survival of the fittest: they think they do understand it, whereas they have not merely no notion, they have an elaborately false notion of what the words mean.

'The Club of Queer Trades.'

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

January 14, May 15, September 14
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be

The Abbess should always remember what she is
and what she is called,
and should know that to whom more is committed,
from her more is required (Luke 12:48).
Let her understand also
what a difficult and arduous task she has undertaken:
ruling souls and adapting herself to a variety of characters.
One she must coax, another scold, another persuade,
according to each one's character and understanding.
Thus she must adjust and adapt herself to all
in such a way that she may not only suffer no loss
in the flock committed to her care,
but may even rejoice in the increase of a good flock.


There are some interesting distinctions made in this paragraph. The abbot and prioress are to remember what they are and what they are called. What they and every other leader are is painfully clear: they are people just like everybody else in the monastery. They are not royalty. They are not potentates. They are only people who also struggle and fail just like the people they lead.

But what they are and what they are called--abbot, abbess, spiritual father, spiritual mother--are not unrelated. They are not called to be either lawgivers or camp counselors. They are not expected to be either rigid moralists or group activity directors. They are to be directors of souls who serve the group by "coaxing, reproving and encouraging it"--by prodding and pressing and persuading it--to struggle as they have struggled to grow in depth, in sincerity and in holiness, to grow despite weaknesses, to grow beyond weaknesses.

Abbots or prioresses of Benedictine monasteries, then, parents and supervisors and officials and bishops everywhere who set out to live a Benedictine spirituality, are to keep clearly in mind their own weak souls and dark minds and fragile hearts when they touch the souls and minds and hearts of others.

But there is another side to the question as well. It is not easy for honest people who hold their own failures in their praying hands to question behavior in anyone else. "There but for the grace of God, go I," John Bradford said at the sight of the condemned on their way to execution. Aware of what I myself am capable of doing, how can I possibly censure or disparage or reprimand or reproach anyone else? On the other hand, Benedict reminds us, how can those who know that conversion is possible, who have been called to midwife the spiritual life, for this generation and the next, do less.

The Hasidim tell a story that abbots and prioress, mothers and fathers, teachers and directors may understand best. Certainly Benedict did:

When in his sixtieth year after the death of the Kotzker, the Gerer accepted election as leader of the Kotzker Hasidim, the Rabbi said: "I should ask myself: 'Why have I deserved to become the leader of thousands of good people?' I know that I am not more learned or more pious than others. The only reason why I accept the appointment is because so many good and true people have proclaimed me to be their leader. We find that a cattle-breeder in Palestine during the days when the Temple stood was enjoined by our Torah (Lev 27:32) to drive newborn cattle or sheep into an enclosure in single file. When they went to the enclosure, they were all of the same station, but when over the tenth one the owner pronounced the words: 'consecrated unto the Lord,' it was set aside for holier purposes. In the same fashion when the Jews pronounce some to be holier than their fellows, they become in truth consecrated persons."

Once chosen, it is their weakness itself that becomes the anchor, the insight, the humility and the gift of an abbot or prioress, a pope or a priest, a parent or a director. But only if they themselves embrace it. It is a lesson for leaders everywhere who either fear to lead because they know their own weaknesses or who lead defensively because they fear that others know their weaknesses. It is a lesson for parents who remember their own troubles as children. It is a lesson for husbands and wives who cannot own the weaknesses that plague their marriage. We must each strive for the ideal and we must encourage others to strive with us, not because we ourselves are not weak but because knowing our own weaknesses and admitting them we can with great confidence teach trust in the God who watches with patience our puny efforts and our foolish failures.

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

Universal Exaltation of the Life-giving Cross
Strict fast day with No Fish, No Wine, and No Oil.
Friday, Sept. 14, 2007
2nd Vespers: Proverbs 3:11-18 Epistle: 1
Corinthians 1:18-24
Gospel: St. John 19:6-11, 13-20, 25-28, 30-35

The Holy Cross ~ Wisdom: Proverbs 3:11-18 LXX, especially vs. 18: "She
[wisdom] is a tree of life to all that lay hold upon her; and she is a
secure help to all that stay themselves on her, as on the Lord." We
have been taught that in Paradise of old "the Lord God made to grow
every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food," and, more
specifically, that there was also "the tree of the midst of
the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen. 2:9).
There was one proviso we cannot forget - God commanded the man: "you may
freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it
you shall die" (Gen. 2:16,17).

Let us also recall how sin and death came. Our mortal enemy dangled a
lie before the woman's mind: "You will not die" (Gen. 3:4). Then, as
St. John Chrysostom points out, when "she not only failed to turn away"
from Satan, she even revealed "the whole secret of the Lord's direction,
thus casting pearls before swine....She exposed to swine, to that evil
beast, that is, to the demon acting through it, the divine pearls" of
God's mysteries. As a result, and exactly as the Apostle teaches, since
"evil company corrupts good habits" (1 Cor. 15:33), she also saw that
which she had not perceived before: "that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be
desired to make one wise" (Gen. 3:6), and she ate.

Beloved of God, consider: what is the wisdom, nay, presumption of taking
fruit that was forbidden by the Creator? What is the wisdom of
esteeming advice from the serpent as having greater worth than the
command of God? And do not think that the man was any better. He took
what he also knew is forbidden, and he ate. Listen to the word of God:
"Then the eyes of both were opened" (Gen. 3:7). Who opened them? St.
John Chrysostom also answers this: God "saw to it that they would now
experience their nakedness and the loss of the glory they enjoyed before
eating....From that event knowledge of sin then entered the scene, and
shame as well...." and death was not far behind; but they gained no
wisdom from their disobedience!

Wisdom was only available from that other tree in Eden, as today's
reading from Holy Scripture informs us (Prov. 3:18). However, since we
are excluded from the garden of Paradise, because God placed guardian
"cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way
to the tree of life" (Gen. 3:24), is true wisdom hopelessly beyond us?
Are we then consigned only to amass knowledge, but never to find
wisdom? That is not what the text says! The word of the Lord for us is
this: "Blessed is the man who has found wisdom" (Prov. 3:13).

How then do we find wisdom? Heed the Apostle: "Christ [is] the power of
God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). God made His Wisdom
Incarnate, that is, He made Himself tangibly available to human beings;
He became a man like us. Thus, God's advice in Proverbs ought to be
coupled with the insight: we are to "traffic" for wisdom (Prov. 3:14).
That word in the original means to "engage in trade." The Lord Jesus
agrees explicitly: "Sell all that you have...and come and follow Me"
(Lk. 18:22). He is the pearl of great price; He is Wisdom; He is
greater than all knowledge that we may obtain anywhere. Trade
everything for Him.

Everything that is said about wisdom in this passage from Proverbs
applies to Christ Who was crucified on the Tree of the Cross for us
(Prov. 3:14-18). He has made the Cross the tree of life! Since we are
excluded from Paradise, He came into this weariness and vexation of
spirit that we call life, offers us wisdom: life and glory and
righteousness and peace in Himself.

O most venerable Cross, surrounded in joy by the ranks of angels, raise
ye up Christ God, exceeding in goodness, and we shall fall down in faith
before thee, His divine footstool.

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