Thursday, November 15, 2007

15/11/07 Thurs, 24th 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.


O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm [83] or 34; PM Psalm 85, 86
1 Macc. 1:1-28; Rev. 19:1-10; Matt. 16:1-12

From Forward Day by Day:

Psalm 83. Let them know that you, whose Name is YAHWEH, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

Setting priorities helps achieve success. We need to know what is most important to us and to act accordingly. When everything gets our attention we usually end up in a muddle, accomplishing little.

It is not only our daily schedule that requires prioritizing. Our spiritual life benefits by keeping in mind that God comes first. When I start my day with meditation and prayer, the day seems to go better. Actually, what goes better is me. I am better able to cope with what happens during the day when I have asked God to guide me. I have also discovered that I sleep better when I end the day offering thanks for the blessings and help I received that day. It is not a matter of having time to spend in prayer. It is a matter of taking time to be in God's presence. When I do so, I seem to have enough time to do whatever else I need to accomplish during the day.

Prayer is dominant, our principal employment. The work of prayer goes with us everywhere....The whole issue of finding time to pray just washes away.
-Ann and Barry Ulanov

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza (Tanzania)

Speaking to the Soul:

Life in the slow lane

Daily Reading for November 15

My move from New York City to western South Dakota changed my sense of time and space so radically I might as well have gone to sea. In journeying on the inland ocean of the Plains, the great void at the heart of North America, I've discovered that time and distance, those inconveniences that modern life with its increasingly sophisticated computer technologies seeks to erase, have a reality and a terrifying beauty all their own.

Like all who choose life in the slow lane—sailors, monks, farmers—I partake of a contemplative reality. Living close to such an expanse of land I find I have little incentive to move fast, little need of instant information. I have learned to trust the processes that take time, to value change that is not sudden or ill-considered but grows out of the ground of experience. Such change is properly defined as conversion, a word that at its root connotes not a change of essence but of perspective, as turning around; turning back to or returning; turning one’s attention to.

Both monasteries and the rural communities on the Plains are places where nothing much happens. Paradoxically, they are also places where being open to conversion is most necessary if community is to survive. The inner impulse toward conversion, a change of heart, may be muted in a city, where outward change is fast, noisy, ever-present. But in the small town, in the quiet arena, a refusal to grow (which is one way Gregory of Nyssa defined sin) makes any constructive change impossible. Both monasteries and small towns lose their ability to be truly hospitable to the stranger when people use them as a place to hide out, a place to escape from the demands of life.

Because of the monotony of the monastic life, the bad thought of boredom (or acedia, the noonday demon) has traditionally been thought to apply particularly to monks, but I think most people have endured a day or two along the lines of this fourth-century description by the monk Evagrius:

I makes it seem that the sun barely moves, if at all, and the day is fifty hours long. Then it constrains the monk to look constantly out the window, to walk outside the cell to gaze carefully at the sun and determine how far it stands from the dinner hour, to look now this way and that to see if perhaps one of the brethren appears from his cell.

Anyone living in isolated or deprived circumstances, whether in a monastery or a quiet little town on the Great Plains, is susceptible to the noonday demon. It may appear as an innocuous question; “Isn’t the mail here yet?” But as monks have always known, such restlessness can lead to profound despair that makes a person despise his or her neighbors, work, and even life itself.

From Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris (Houghton Mifflin, 1993).

Spiritual Practice of the Day

The Place you are right now
God circled on a map for you.
— Hafiz quoted in Marrow of Flame by Dorothy Walters

To Practice This Thought: Recognize that you are where you are supposed to be, and it's holy ground.
++++++++++ 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


We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that "the
eyes of the Lord are looking on the good and the evil in every
place." But we should believe this especially without any doubt
when we are assisting at the Work of God. To that end let us be
mindful always of the Prophet's words, "Serve the Lord in fear"
and again, "Sing praises wisely" and "In the sight of the Angels I
will sing praise to Thee." Let us therefore consider how we ought
to conduct ourselves in the sight of the Godhead and of His
Angels, and let us take part in the psalmody in such a way that
our mind may be in harmony with our voice.

St. Benedict

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Embracing the Universe

Living a spiritual life makes our little, fearful hearts as wide as the universe, because the Spirit of Jesus dwelling within us embraces the whole of creation. Jesus is the Word, through whom the universe has been created. As Paul says: "In him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible - all things were created through him and for him - in him all things hold together" (Collosians 1:16-17). Therefore when Jesus lives within us through his Spirit, our hearts embrace not only all people but all of creation. Love casts out all fear and gathers in all that belongs to God.

Prayer, which is breathing with the Spirit of Jesus, leads us to this immense knowledge.

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

Day Fifteen - The First Way of Service, cont'd

The heart of our prayer is the Eucharist, in which we share with other Christians the renewal of our union with our Lord and Savior in his sacrifice, remembering his death and receiving his spiritual food.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

An Undivided Heart
November 15th, 2007
Thursday’s Reflection

WE NEED HELP IN SEEING with an “undivided heart” how we are to live our faith. The good news is that Christ is willing to help us. As in the story of the healing of the blind man, even after meeting Christ and experiencing his touch, we may still see people “like trees, walking.” (See Mark 8:22-26.) But just as Christ stayed with that man, touching him again until he could see clearly, we can trust Christ to stay with us and keep touching us. Christ will help us see clearly so we can come to a clear sense of God’s purpose for us.

- Mary Lou Redding
The Power of a Focused Heart: 8 Life Lessons from the Beatitudes

From p. 76 of The Power of a Focused Heart: 8 Life Lessons from the Beatitudes by Mary Lou Redding. Copyright © 2006 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection


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

Let us not be found ungrateful

Let us all in time learn to love as we should, God above all things, and all other things for him. And whatsoever love be not referred to that end, namely, to the good pleasure of God, is a very vain and unfruitful love. And whatsoever love we bear to any creature whereby we love God the less, that love is a loathsome love and hinders us from heaven. Love no child of yours so tenderly but that you could be content to sacrifice it to God, as Abraham was ready with Isaac, if God so commanded you. And since God will not do so, offer your child in another way to God's service. For whatever we love that makes us break God's commandment, we love better than God, and that is a love deadly and damnable. Now, since our Lord has so loved us, for our salvation, let us diligently call for his grace that in return for his great love we be not found ungrateful.

Thomas More

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


"Lord, what shall this man do? . . What is that to thee? Follow thou Me." John 21:21,2

One of our severest lessons comes from the stubborn refusal to see that we must not interfere in other people's lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God's order for others. You see a certain person suffering, and you say - He shall not suffer, and I will see that he does not. You put your hand straight in front of God's permissive will to prevent it, and God says - "What is that to thee?" If there is stagnation spiritually, never allow it to go on, but get into God's presence and find out the reason for it. Possibly you will find it is because you have been interfering in the life of another; proposing things you had no right to propose; advising when you had no right to advise. When you do have to give advice to another, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit; your part is to be so rightly related to God that His discernment comes through you all the time for the blessing of another soul.

Most of us live on the borders of consciousness - consciously serving, consciously devoted to God. All this is immature, it is not the real life yet. The mature stage is the life of a child which is never conscious; we become so abandoned to God that the consciousness of being used never enters in. When we are consciously being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, there is another stage to be reached, where all consciousness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is eliminated. A saint is never consciously a saint; a saint is consciously dependent on God.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

March 16, July 16, November 15
Chapter 37: On the Old and Children

Although human nature itself is drawn to special kindness
towards these times of life,
that is towards the old and children,
still the authority of the Rule should also provide for them.

Let their weakness be always taken into account,
and let them by no means be held to the rigor of the Rule
with regard to food.
On the contrary,
let a kind consideration be shown to them,
and let them eat before the regular hours.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

There are two ages of life that lack the energy of the prime: youth and old age. Both, Benedict implies, have something to give us provided that we give them something as well. It is a vital lesson. People do not become useless simply because they do not have the strength or stamina of middle age. Life is a series of phases, each of them important, all of them worthwhile. Nothing must ever deter that, not even religious rigor or pious fervor. Fasting is good for the soul but if it takes too much from the body of the old or the young, it ceases to be an expectation or a virtue. Prayer at the proper hours is good for the spiritual memory of life but if it taxes the physical energy beyond the bearable, then those times are to be "anticipated," adjusted, changed for the person rather than destroy the person for the sake of the prayer. Exceptions are the way of life and when they are not, something is wrong with life itself, Benedict reasons. Benedict builds compassion right into the Rule so that oppression in the name of God will not become a monastic sin. It is a sobering thought, this commitment to moderation and good sense, for people who set out to make the spiritual life central to their own.

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

Thursday, November 15, 2007 Nativity Fast Begins Venerable
Paissios Velichkovsky
Kellia: Judges 20:12-44 Epistle: 2 Thessalonians
2:13-3:5 Gospel: St. Luke 16:1-9

Brotherhood ~ Tested: Judges 20:12-44 LXX, especially vss. 12, 13: "And
the tribes of Israel sent men through the whole tribe of Benjamin,
saying, What is this wickedness that has been wrought among you? Now
then give up the men the sons of transgressors that are in Gibeah, and
we will put them to death, and the children of Benjamin consented not to
hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel." Sir
Walter Scott in his novel, Guy Mannering, provided English speakers with
the famous saying: "Blood is thicker than water." In this present
passage, we have an instance of the truth in that aphorism, but the
truth was attended with the most terrible consequences for the entire
people of God. First, with due restraint, Israel sought to punish only
the men who committed the vile atrocity against the concubine of the
Levite from the hill country of Ephraim, for, after counsel, they asked
that just "the sons of transgressors" from Gibeah be surrendered for
execution (vs. 13). However, all the men of the tribe of Benjamin
participated in the guilt of the men of Gibeah by refusing to surrender
the culprits (vs. 13). In addition, by then going to their defense (vs.
14), the larger bond of brotherhood among the twelve tribes of Israel
was rejected and sorely tested by the Benjaminites in favoring a few men
of their own tribe - despite their being guilty of a heinous crime
(Jdgs. 19:22-28)!

The community of Israel could not let the offense rest, for, thereby,
they would have exposed all the tribes to the judgment of God for not
addressing the sin in their midst. The entire nation would have become
subject to the sort of consequences that befell the city of Sodom for
similar wickedness. God had, after all, made it quite clear: "if thou
wilt not hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe all His
commandments...cursed shalt thou be" (Deut. 28:15,16). Civil war among
the tribes became inevitable. It is right to seek redress of grievances.

How surprising that Israel suffered terrible casualties in the first two
battles at the hands of the men of Benjamin (Jdgs. 20:20-25). Their
losses came despite the fact that they had consulted the Lord before
taking to the field (vs. 18). In 'body count' alone, the majority paid
a heavy price for seeking to rectify the wrongs committed in Gibeah.
The decision of the Benjaminites to resist on behalf of the small group
of men at Gibeah deeply tested the bonds of brotherhood among the twelve
tribes, down to the very survival of Benjamin (vss. 35,44).

There is no predicting what happens when the bonds of brotherhood are
tested. A numerically small initial tragedy can widen into wholesale
losses beyond what any could imagine at the outset. Such was true in
the American Civil War, which most felt would be ended soon and settled
with little bloodshed. There is a price for setting right the
violations of justice.

Note that God does not restrain His People in their prayer-led efforts
to set injustices right, even should the cost run very high. The Lord
would have you and me understand the pain of breaching and testing the
bonds of brotherhood. Be careful never carelessly or brashly to offend
your brethren, split a parish fellowship, or alienate other Orthodox
Christians. Do not be the occasion for costly outcomes to come upon the
Church by your deeds.

One of the important lessons to be learned from the series of battles
between Israel and Benjamin at Gibeah is the need of those who would
correct injustice to maintain themselves in prayer before God throughout
the process of settlement. Be like Israel. Go back repeatedly to stand
before the Lord and inquire of Him how to proceed (see Jdgs
20:8-11,18,23,26; 21:3). Never plunge ahead mindlessly once a course of
action is chosen. Always remain open to God.

O Lord God, strengthen us with great courage, self-denial, and
intercession that we may turn the hearts of the erring to the wisdom of
the just and ever persevere in confessing Thy Truth.



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