Thursday, October 11, 2007

11/10/07 Thurs 18th 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.


Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy God, no one is excluded from your love, and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: As your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 131, 132, [133]; PM Psalm 134, 135
2 Kings 23:4-25; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; Matt. 9:18-26

From Forward Day by Day:

Matthew 9:18-26. Jesus got up and followed him.

Today we read two dangerous and misleading stories of Jesus' healing. In the first a distinguished man asks the Lord to restore his daughter to life. In the second a long-suffering woman seeks healing by simply touching his garment. Both get what they want from Jesus. Such things do happen, but the danger in these stories is the image of Jesus as "on call" for our emergencies. Picture Jesus boxed on the wall of your house with a tiny hammer and the words "In case of emergency break the glass." Consider the temptation we all feel in times of crisis when we would like for Jesus to follow us rather than the other way around. Our motives are pure and good like those of the people in the story--why wouldn't Jesus restore and heal as we request?

Life is not ours to order and direct even when we are motivated by genuine love and concern. I cannot explain why God seems to intervene in one situation and not another. I believe in miracles but I have learned not to rely on them. God does not promise to rise and follow us in times of crisis no matter how sincerely we ask it. God has promised us strength and guidance as we seek to rise and follow him.

Today we remember:

Philip the Deacon
Psalm 67
Isaiah 53:7-11 or Acts 8:26-40; Matthew 28:18-20

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Taita-Taveta (Kenya)

Speaking to the Soul:

The seven preachers?

Daily Reading for October 11 • Philip, Deacon and Evangelist

Deacons have constantly been inspired by the story of the seven Greek men who were presented to the apostles who, in turn, ‘prayed and laid their hands on them’ (Acts 6:6). Tradition has seen in these men, and in particular the most famous of them, Stephen, the forerunners and prototype of the church’s deacons. Ancient authority and nineteenth-century scholarship give to the idea of an original seven deacons the look and feel of authenticity. And yet Lightfoot himself was aware that the idea of deacons so early in the church’s life—and in this passage in particular—had been ‘much disputed’. A prominent contemporary voice here would be that of James Monroe Barnett, a long-standing champion of the diaconate, who closes his pages on the subject with the plain statement, ‘we must conclude that the Seven were not deacons’. This too has been the view which my own study of Acts 6 has demanded. . . .

Luke does not use a diakon- word again until Acts 6:1, where he refers to ‘the daily ministry/diakonia’ (which we have already met in the phrase of the modern translation, ‘daily distribution [of food]’). Then, in the same part of the story, the Twelve rededicate themselves to their original commission of ‘the ministry/diakonia of the word’ (6:4). Luke then closes the scene of the Seven with the tell-tale phrase, ‘the word of God continued to spread’ (6:7).

With these touches Luke keeps us in mind of his major theme as he moves into the great preaching event in the brief career of Stephen, one of the Seven (7:2-53). With Stephen’s death immediately following, the theme of the progress of the Word re-emerges in the account of another member of the Seven, Philip, engaging in a mission to Samaria; Samaria is the first station outside Jerusalem and Judea according to the stages of the Lord’s programme outlined by Luke (1:8). This mission leaves Philip poised at Caesarea, the port leading to Rome (8:4-14, 26-40), which is Luke’s ultimate objective in the trajectory of the Word. . . .

What does this make of the Seven? It makes of the Seven a new group of preachers, directed at first to the needs of the Hellenists—note how happily the story ends at 6:7: ‘the word of God continued to spread; the number of disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem. . . ’ —and then, after the death of Stephen in Jerusalem, to the wide worlds beyond, as begun in Philip’s mission (8:5). Indeed the only other time we hear of Philip he is called simply ‘the evangelist, one of the seven’ (21:8).

From Deacons and the Church: Making Connections between Old and New by John N. Collins. Copyright © 2002. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Spiritual Practice of the Day

In nature, one never really sees a thing for the first time until one has seen it for the fiftieth.
— Joseph Wood Krutch in The Desert Year

To Practice This Thought: Recall one thing that you have come to know better as a result of honing your attention over time.

++++++++++ Reflections

In this temple of God, in this Mansion of His, He and the soul alone have fruition of each other in the deepest silence.
St Teresa of Jesus
Interior Castle, III.3

Reading from the Desert Christians


The Lord's Day is a mystery of the knowledge of the truth that is
not received by flesh and blood, and it transcends speculations.
In this age there is no eighth day, nor is there a true Sabbath.
For he who said that `God rested on the seventh day,' signified
the rest [of our nature] from the course of this life, since the
grave is also of a bodily nature and belongs to this world. Six
days are accomplished in the husbandry of life by means of keeping
the commandments; the seventh is spent entirely in the grave; and
the eighth is the departure from it.

St. Isaac of Syria, The Ascetical Homilies.I

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Knowing One Another in Christ

Often we think that we first have to know and understand one another before we gather around the Eucharistic table. Although it is good if those who share in the Body and Blood of Christ know one another personally, coming together regularly for the Eucharist can create a spiritual unity that goes far beyond the various levels of "knowing one another" in human ways. As we enter together into the sacred mysteries of the death and resurrection of Jesus by participating in the Eucharist, we gradually become one body. We truly come to know one another in Christ.

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

Day Eleven - The Third Aim, cont'd

Although we possess property and earn money to support ourselves and our families, wo show ourselves to be true followers of Christ and of Saint Francis by our readiness to live simply and to share with others. We recognize that some of our members may be called to a literal following of Saint Francis in a life of extreme simplicity. All of us, however, accept that we avoid luxury and waste, and regard our possessions as being held in trust for God.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Faithful Relationship
October 11th, 2007
Thursday’s Reflection

ALTHOUGH WORK, MONEY, and home maintenance are important, we need a growing, faithful relationship with God to bring our joys and tasks into perspective. We need God, who can help us when the rest of our lives are falling apart.

- Paul E. Stroble
You Gave Me a Wide Place: Holy Places in Our Lives

From page 83 of You Gave Me a Wide Place: Holy Places in Our Lives by Paul E. Stroble. Copyright © 2006 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

A Church We Can Trust

If our Church is to be properly political and apolitical (and it must know how and when), then it must also be properly mystical—again and always seeking the contemplative center. That is the only Church we can trust, the only Church worth waiting for, the only Church that has a future created by God.

More than ever, this global village needs a Church that is truly catholic (literally, "according to the whole"). And after naming our gifts and shadows, we must also say that this Catholic Church needs the American charism, also more than ever. We might be Peter and we might be Paul, but we are also John Carroll, Elizabeth Seton, Flannery O'Connor, Junipero Serra, Katherine Drexel, Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, John Courtney Murray, Kateri Tekakwitha, Raymond Hunthausen, Thomas Merton, Frank O'Malley, Maisie Ward and Robert Kennedy. We are the American face of Christ.

This gives me joy. I believe it gives Christ joy. Why should it not give joy and great hope to this universal Church? I have no doubt that it will.

from The Future of the American Church

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

uffering with joy

When we suffer anything for Christ's sake, we should do so not only with courage, but even with joy. If we have to go hungry, let us be glad as if we were at a banquet. If we are insulted, let us be elated as though we had been showered with praises. If we lose all we possess, let us consider ourselves the gainers. If we provide for the poor, let us regard ourselves as the recipients. Anyone who does not give in this way will find it difficult to give at all. So when you wish to distribute alms, do not think only of what you are giving away; think rather of what you are gaining, for your gain will exceed your loss.

And not only in the matter of almsgiving, but also with every virtue you practice: do not think of the painful effort involved, but of the sweetness of the reward; and above all remember that your struggles are for the sake of our Lord Jesus. Then you will easily rise above them, and live out your whole lifetime in happiness; for nothing brings more happiness than a good conscience.

John Chrysostom

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


"When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days in the same place where he was." John 11:6

Has God trusted you with a silence - a silence that is big with meaning? God's silences are His answers. Think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything analogous to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking for a visible answer? God will give you the blessings you ask if you will not go any further without them; but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into a marvellous understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? You will find that God has trusted you in the most intimate way possible, with an absolute silence, not of despair, but of pleasure, because He saw that you could stand a bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, praise Him, He is bringing you into the great run of His purposes. The manifestation of the answer in time is a matter of God's sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you said - "I asked God to give me bread, and He gave me a stone." He did not, and to-day you find He gave you the bread of life.

A wonderful thing about God's silence is that the contagion of His stillness gets into you and you become perfectly confident - "I know God has heard me." His silence is the proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, He will give you the first sign of His intimacy - silence.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

February 10, June 11, October 11
Chapter 8: On the Divine Office During the Night

In the winter time,
that is from the Calends of November until Easter,
the sisters shall rise
at what is calculated to be the eighth hour of the night,
so that they may sleep somewhat longer than half the night
and rise with their rest completed.
And the time that remains after the Night Office
should be spent in study
by those sisters who need a better knowledge of the Psalter
or the lessons.

From Easter to the aforesaid Calends of November,
the hour of rising should be so arranged that the Morning Office,
which is to be said at daybreak,
will follow the Night Office after a very short interval,
during which they may go out for the necessities of nature.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Among the Sayings of the Desert Monastics there is a story that may explain best Benedict's terse, clear instructions on prayer:

Once upon a time the disciples asked Abba Agathon, "Amongst all good works, which is the virtue which requires the greatest effort?" Abba Agathon answered, "I think there is no labor greater than that of prayer to God. For every time we want to pray, our enemies, the demons, want to prevent us, for they know that it is only by turning us from prayer that they can hinder our journey. What ever good work a person undertakes, if they persevere in it, they will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath."

There are three dimensions of the treatment of prayer in the Rule of Benedict that deserve special attention. In the first place, it is presented immediately after the chapter on humility. In the second place, it is not a treatise on private prayer. In the third place, it is scriptural rather than personal. Prayer is, then, the natural response of people who know their place in the universe. It is not designed to be a psychological comfort zone though surely comfort it must. And lastly, it is an act of community and an act of awareness.

Prayer, as Abba Agathon implies, is hard and taxing and demanding work. It breaks us open to the designs of God for life. It brings great insights and it demands great responses. It is based on the psalms, the very prayers that formed Jesus himself. And, most of all, it is unceasing. Day and night, Benedict says, day and night we must present ourselves before the face of God and beg for the insight and the courage it will take to go the next step.

There are volumes written on the structure and the history of the Divine Office: psalms, scripture readings and prayers that are identified as the official prayer of the church. What is most noteworthy here is not so much the ordering of the parts of the Office which Benedict himself says in another place is not absolute but the demonstration of humanity that undergirds the place of the Divine Office in the life of the monastic. The way Benedict deals with prayer says a great deal about the place of prayer in the life of us all even fifteen centuries later.

At first reading, the prayer life of Benedict's communities seems to be inhumanly rigorous and totally incompatible with modern life, either religious or lay. The monks are "to arise at the eighth hour of the night," the Rule says and that is at least impossible for most people if not downright fanatical or destructive. It is important for a modern reader to realize, however, that the Roman night in a world without electric lights was computed from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, from sundown to sunup. In this culture, in other words, the monks went naturally to bed at about 6:00 pm. To wake at the eighth hour, then, was to wake at about 2:00 am, after eight full hours of sleep and the natural restoration of the body, to use the remaining hours before the beginning of the workday in prayer and study. The difference between us and the early monastic communities is that we extend our days at the end of them. We go to bed hours after sundown. They extended their days at the beginning of them; they got up hours before sunrise. The only question, given the fact that we both extend the workday hours, is what we do with the time. We stay up and watch television or go to parties or prolong our office hours. We fill our lives with the mundane. They got up to pray and to study the scriptures. They filled their souls with the sacred.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2007
The Holy Apostle Philip the Deacon
Kellia: Jeremiah 45:14-28 Epistle: Philippians
3:1-8 Gospel: St. Luke 8:7-11

Cowardice: Jeremiah 45:14-28 LXX, especially vs.19, "And the king said
to Jeremiah, I
consider the Jews that have gone over to the Chaldeans, lest they
deliver me into their hands,
and they mock me." St. John of the Ladder describes well the effects
which fear and cowardice
wreak in the heart of a man whose mourning for sins has ceased. "Fear
is a rehearsing of danger
beforehand; or again, fear is a trembling sensation of the heart,
alarmed and troubled by unknown
misfortunes. Fear is a loss of assurance." His description is a
perfect portrait of King Zedekiah
shown in the present verses. He arranges a meeting with Jeremiah, a
true man of God, in private
quarters lest their conversation be overheard. He desperately seeks out
the Prophet, because he
knows that Jeremiah will give him an honest answer even though he knows
in himself that he
will not follow the Prophet's counsel. He is paralyzed from trusting
any course of action by
imagined misfortunes. He strives to let out no incriminating evidence,
lacking true assurance.

The portrait reveals a sad, cowardly man. The king is pitiful
because he has fallen "away
from a faith that comes of expecting the unexpected," as St. John of
Sinai puts it. Read the
passage carefully and learn how to rid yourself of cowardice by going
where you usually fear
while being thankful to God for His protection, and by learning
contrition and mourning. "He
who has become the servant of the Lord will fear his Master alone, but
he who does not yet fear
Him is often afraid of his own shadow."

Consider the meeting place the king arranges in calling Jeremiah to
himself - "the house
of Aselisel, which was in the house of the Lord" (vs. 14): not the
palace, not the public throne
room, but in a private place within the Temple precincts where they
would likely not be heard.
Cowardice avoids the public eye to protect one's self from criticism,
threat, attack, or harm.

Dire circumstances drive the coward to seek out a fearless and
honest man that he might
draw strength from him to buoy up his weakness. The king hopes to gain
assurance from
Jeremiah, for he knows the Prophet has no fear of anyone except God. He
hopes against hope
that his worst fears will not be realized, yet events are closing in on
him, despite his efforts to
push away from his heart and mind that which he knows is coming
inexorably. He is haunted by
this specter which gives him no rest. Do you see that Jeremiah, having
a pure heart, free of
cowardice, knows the king better than the monarch knows himself? "If I
tell thee, wilt thou not
certainly put me to death? and if I give thee counsel, thou wilt not at
all hearken to me" (vs. 15).

Jeremiah's record reveals what cowardice does to a man, paralyzing
him from right action
or even evil deeds simply because of imagined fears. On the one hand,
"the king said to
Jeremiah, I consider the Jews that have gone over to the Chaldeans, lest
they deliver me into their
hands, and they mock me" (vs. 19). He believes it will do no good to
surrender to the Chaldeans,
but on the other hand, Zedekiah swears the Prophet to tell his own
advisers only the "innocent"
part of what passed between them. "Then thou shalt say to them, I
brought my supplication
before the presence of the king, that he would not send me back into the
house of Jonathan, that I
should die there" (vs. 26). He fears that no one will save him from
death. "Actual freedom from
cowardice comes when we eagerly accept all unexpected events with a
contrite heart."

You overcome cowardice, not by men "at peace with thee" who "have
deceived thee" as
Zedekiah will hear when the city falls (vs. 22). Rather, like Tsar
Nicholas you must face threat
and fear with "unshakeable faith" and the patience to drink "the cup of
suffering to the dregs."

O Christ, my Creator, cleanse my soul. Make firm my knees, and my
bones likewise.
Establish me wholly in Thy fear that every evil deed and all cowardice
may flee as from fire.



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