Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Daily Meditation 12/19/07



Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 50; PM Psalm [59, 60] or 33
Zech. 4:1-14; Rev. 4:9-5:5; Matt. 25:1-13

From Forward Day by Day:

Psalm 49. My mouth shall speak of wisdom, and my heart shall meditate on understanding.

Each week I lead a service of Morning Prayer at a nearby assisted living residence. I've been doing it since the place opened. Over several years, the group has changed, as the women--and they are almost all women--die or need more specialized care. But we make strong connections in our time together.

They help each other find places to sit, find pillows to prop up backs, find the right page in the booklet. Those who can see well help those who can't to find the right page and say the responses.

They help me, too. I've learned to be more patient, to relax with the liturgy, to slow down and speak up. I've learned something about living gracefully with pain and disability, about recognizing who needs help and who needs to do something on her own.

There is sorrow here as abilities wane, but there is also wisdom, fellowship, and camaraderie, blessings at the end of life. Each week they thank me for coming. Each week I thank them. My life is far richer for praying with them.


Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Yambio (Sudan)

Advent Calendars online:

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC:

Alternatives Calendar:

St. Mary Margaret, Napierville, IL:

Westminsiter, UK City Council:

Speaking to the Soul:

O Clavis David

Daily Reading for December 19

O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no one can close; you close and no one can open: Come and bring captives out of the prison house, those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

Only those who have been incarcerated can know fully the isolation and dehumanization of being physically locked in prison—the humiliation of strip searches, the desolation of loneliness, the fear of physical and sexual abuse from officers and other inmates, the terror of nightmares, the often unabated guilt and anger over past mistakes. It is no wonder that the scriptural texts for today’s antiphon refer to prisons as an analogy for darkness and captivity, and then also echo a hope of future release and freedom.

It is only because Christ comes as the Key of David that prison can also be a place of transformation. In his book, Summons to Serve, Richard Atherton shared his vision of one redeeming influence of prison life. Atherton, for many years a prison chaplain in England, knew first hand of the harshness of prison life. “Using the imagery of Scripture, I like to think of prison as a desert; a place where the human spirit may be purified and ennobled but, alas, more easily twisted and damaged; a place that is often threatening and almost always unpredictable; a place where faith is put to the test—the faith of the inmates, but that of their pastor too; a place of loneliness and powerlessness and frustration, where [one] begins to feel . . . the truth of our Lord’s words: ‘Without me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5); and so ultimately a place of encounter with God.”

For those who have not experienced life in an actual prison, there are, nevertheless, other “prison” experiences—prisons that can be rigorously isolating and dehumanizing in their own way. There is a prison of fear and hate, a prison of anger, and a prison of resistance to openness and change; there is a prison of physical limitation and disability, of painful relationships, of difficult employment, and of unemployment. Most often we lock ourselves into these prisons; with Christ, however, even here we can encounter God. And it is this encounter that will begin the unlocking, opening process to freedom.

O Key of David,
unlock my prison of self-distrust and fear,
of secrecy and doubt,
of injustice and unkindness.
Unlock my blindness
to the splendor and glory of your light.
Unlock my deafness
to the melody of the world
and the harmony of the universe.
Unlock my stumbling lameness
to the dance of your life.
Unlock my depression and gloom
to the majesty and gentleness of your love.

From Hasten the Kingdom: Praying the O Antiphons of Advent by Mary Winifred, C.A. (Liturgical Press, 1996).

Spiritual Practice of the Day

I believe that the true moral path of the twenty-first century will be very different from the modern era because it will be marked by generosity: not "Everyone for himself (or herself)" but "Who can give away the most?" — the most time, the most of one's gifts, the most of one's dreams and hopes and accomplishments of hands, head and heart.
— Matthew Fox in Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh

To Practice This Thought: Give away something — work without compensation, don't take credit for something you've done.
++++++++++ Reflections

Confidence, nothing but confidence leads to the love of God.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Reading from the Desert Christians


I consider those fallen mourners more blessed than those who have
not fallen and are not mourning over themselves; because as a
result of their fall, they have risen by a sure resurrection.

St. John of the Ladder

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

The Mountaintop Experience

At some moments we experience complete unity within us and around us. This may happen when we stand on a mountaintop and are captivated by the view. It may happen when we witness the birth of a child or the death of a friend. It may happen when we have an intimate conversation or a family meal. It may happen in church during a service or in a quiet room during prayer. But whenever and however it happens we say to ourselves: "This is it ... everything fits ... all I ever hoped for is here."

This is the experience that Peter, James, and John had on the top of Mount Tabor when they saw the aspect of Jesus' face change and his clothing become sparkling white. They wanted that moment to last forever (see Luke 9:28-36). This is the experience of the fullness of time. These moments are given to us so that we can remember them when God seems far away and everything appears empty and useless. These experiences are true moments of grace.

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

Day Ten - The Third Aim

Day Nineteen - The Third Way of Service - Work

Jesus took on himself the form of a servant. He came not to be served, but to serve. He went about doing good: healing the sick, preaching good news to the poor, and binding up the broken hearted.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Advent Celebrations
December 19th, 2007
Wednesday’s Reflection

WHAT WE CELEBRATE during Advent and Christmas is the completely new way God comes to us in Jesus Christ. We also celebrate the new persons we are becoming because God sent Jesus, God’s own beloved Son, to the world God loved so much. … Our Advent celebrations are based on our hope that God will bring a new heaven and a new earth in which all creatures have everything they need for life and live together in harmony with one another.

- Blair Gilmer Meeks
Expecting the Unexpected

From pp. 16-17 of Expecting the Unexpected by Blair Gilmer Meeks. Copyright © 2006 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Let Reality Get at Me

Many of our people create for themselves a permanently maintained happiness in the midst of so much public suffering. That state is based on an illusion about the nature of reality. It can only work if we block ourselves from a certain degree of that reality. That's what's meant by denial.

The Christian, though, is always saying, "Come, Lord Jesus." In other words, "Let reality get at me, the full reality, the Cosmic Christ, all that is."

The Incarnation is the refusal of all denial. It is God saying yes to the muddy, the messy, the partial, the powerlessness of it all.

from Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr


The Merton Reflection for the Week of December 17, 2007

St. Ambrose [Bishop of Milan, d. 397], in his succinct little tract De Institutione Virginis (On the Education of a Virgin), blends mysticism and humanism together in a manner that merits much more detailed study than we can attempt here. The full maturity of the Christian life is attained in a virginal union with Christ which itself implies the perfect integration of the whole human person. Union with Christ implies His entrance into a personality which is perfectly united in all its three traditional elements of body, soul, and spirit-corpus, anima, spiritus.
 This treatise of St. Ambrose's is particularly interesting for its outspoken defense of women in general. Basing himself on the creation narrative of Genesis and on St. Paul's doctrine of the mystery of Christ typified in the union of Adam and Eve, the mystical humanism of Ambrose declares that man without woman is physically and spiritually incomplete, and that woman is in a very deep sense the "glory" of man, his spiritual completion, his "grace," without whom he cannot fully possess or recover his true being in Christ. . . .
 [T]he beauty of woman's body is a great work of God, meant to be a sign of that far greater interior beauty, the special clarity and loveliness of her spirit. Indeed, St. Ambrose declares, it is quite evident that women are more generous, more virtuous, more self-sacrificing then men. . . . .
 This totally refreshing defense of woman gives us some indication of the depth and reality of patristic humanism. Indeed, how can there be true "humanism" when half of the human race is ignored or excluded? Pagan humanism, the exclusive preserve of man, only exalts his complacency and justifies his selfishness with a veneer of philosophy. A humanism for men only is, as we have seen, nothing but a barbarous falsehood. The light of true humanism is kindled by the Incarnate Word.

Thomas Merton. "Virginity and Humanism" in Mystics and Zen Masters. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1961: 118-119.

Thought to Remember:

We do not hear the soft voice, the gentle voice, the feminine voice, the voice of the Mother: yet she speaks everywhere and in everything. Wisdom cries out in the market place-"if anyone is little let him come to me."

Thomas Merton. "Turning Toward the World," Journals Volume 3. Victor A. Kramer, editor. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996: 17.

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

Announcement of John the Baptist

There are certain testimonies proclaimed by the Holy Spirit through the mouths of Isaiah and Jeremiah which, though properly referring to the person of our Lord and Savior, are also by the Church's divinely given authority and the consensus of the faithful fittingly applied to the forerunner. But even more clearly has the Holy Spirit borne witness to John. The gospel tells us how John was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother's womb and leapt for joy in the presence of the mother of his Lord, moved by no natural impulse but by the stirring of divine grace. Later John bore witness to Christ the Lord in the words: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! and Christ in his own preaching gave testimony to John, saying: Among the sons of women there has never arisen a greater than John the Baptist. Calling him the greatest among those born of women, he drew attention to John's constancy and austere manner of life and declared him to be a prophet and more than a prophet. By his own divine power Christ endowed John with privileges and graces in excess of all others, describing him, through the lips of the prophet Malachi, as the messenger who was to go before him to prepare the path of his salvation.

Odilo of Cluny

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


"I came not to send peace, but a sword." Matthew 10:34

Never be sympathetic with the soul whose case makes you come to the conclusion that God is hard. God is more tender than we can conceive, and every now and again He gives us the chance of being the rugged one that He may be the tender One. If a man cannot get through to God it is because there is a secret thing he does not intend to give up - I will admit I have done wrong, but I no more intend to give up that thing than fly. It is impossible to deal sympathetically with a case like that: we have to get right deep down to the root until there is antagonism and resentment against the message. People want the blessing of God, but they will not stand the thing that goes straight to the quick.

If God has had His way with you, your message as His servant is merciless insistence on the one line, cut down to the very root, otherwise there will be no healing. Drive home the message until there is no possible refuge from its application. Begin to get at people where they are until you get them to realize what they lack, and then erect the standard of Jesus Christ for their lives - "We never can be that." Then drive it home - "Jesus Christ says you must." "But how can we be?" "You cannot, unless you have a new Spirit." (Luke 11:13.)

There must be a sense of need before your message is of any use. Thousands of people are happy without God in this world. If I was happy and moral till Jesus came, why did He come? Because that kind of happiness and peace is on a wrong level; Jesus Christ came to send a sword through every peace that is not based on a personal relationship to Himself.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 19, August 19, December 19
Chapter 63: On the Order of the Community

The juniors, therefore, should honor their seniors,
and the seniors love their juniors.

In the very manner of address,
let no one call another by the mere name;
but let the seniors call their juniors Brothers,
and the juniors call their seniors Fathers,
by which is conveyed the reverence due to a father.
But the Abbot,
since he is believed to represent Christ,
shall be called Lord and Abbot,
not for any pretensions of his own
but out of honor and love for Christ.
Let the Abbot himself reflect on this,
and show himself worthy of such an honor.

And wherever the brethren meet one another
the junior shall ask the senior for his blessing.
When a senior passes by,
a junior shall rise and give him a place to sit,
nor shall the junior presume to sit with him
unless his senior bid him,
that it may be as was written,
"In honor anticipating one another."

Boys, both small and adolescent,
shall keep strictly to their rank in oratory and at table.
But outside of that, wherever they may be,
let them be under supervision and discipline,
until they come to the age of discretion.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

This paragraph is clearly about the place of respect, experience and wisdom in life. Obviously, the chapter on rank is not meant to grind the community down to its least common denominator. It is not meant to diminish in us the natural respect that differences should bring. Quite the opposite, in fact. This chapter is meant to freshen our eyes so that we can see all the gifts of the human community clearly: the gifts of old peasant farmers and the gifts of young artists, the gifts of young thinkers and the gifts of old keepers of the monastery door. Age, the Rule teaches, does not give us the right to dismiss the values of the young as if they were useless. Social class does not give us the right to overlook the insights of the poor. Education does not give us the right to snub the needs of the simple. We are to call one another by titles of love and respect. We are to care for the needs of the elderly, no matter our own needs or rank or station. We are to teach what we know so that the next generation grows in good air.

Once upon a time, the Zen masters teach, wealthy donors invited Master Ikkyu to a banquet. The Master arrived there dressed in beggar's robes. His host, not recognizing him in this garb, hustled him away: "We cannot have you here at the doorstep. We are expecting the famous Master Ikkyu any moment." The Master went home, changed into his ceremonial robe of purple brocade, and again presented himself at his host's doorstep where he was received with great respect and ushered into the banquet room. There, he took off his stiff robe, sat it upright at the dinner table and said, "I presume that it is my robe you have invited since when I first arrived without it a little while ago, you showed me away." In Benedictine spirituality reverence for the other based on the spark of the divine that is in us all is a gift to be given to a century alive with distinctions it will not admit and an insight into the sacred, scarred and bleeding, which it does not see.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007 Nativity Fast Boniface the Merciful,
Bishop of Ferentino
Kellia: Exodus 24:8-14 Epistle: Hebrews
10:1-18 Gospel: St. Mark 10:11-16

Foreshadows ~ III * Sealing the Covenant: Exodus 24:8-14 LXX, especially
vs. 8: "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with
you concerning all these words." Salesmen are trained to "close" the
deal with the buyer's signature on a contract. In high, solemn moments,
people and nations agree in common ventures, unite in helpful
organizations, marry, adopt, or pledge allegiance one to another. Holy
Scripture records a number of different agreements between human beings,
but only a few covenants between God and men. The principal
Divine-human covenants to which Scripture attests are the ancient one
ratified in the life-time of the Prophet Moses (circa 1500 BC), called
the Old Covenant, and the one sealed between the God-man, Jesus Christ
and those united to Him, called the New Covenant.

The present reading is the account in the Old Testament book of Exodus
concerning the initial sealing of the Old Covenant. It will allow you
to examine the essential elements of all Divine-human covenants: sealing
in blood, Divine Self-revelation, a communion meal, and commandments for
living. As we approach the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ, may this
passage enrich your appreciation of the joy in the Church of celebrating
the birth of our Savior.

The Child Whose birth we are preparing to worship is He Who says to you
as one of His Faithful ones, "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood"
(1 Cor. 11:25). The reading speaks of the blood used to seal the Old
Covenant, being thrown or sprinkled upon the People (vs. 8). That blood
was taken from oxen sacrificed as peace offerings to the Lord (Ex.
24:5). In the rite of ratifying the Old Covenant, Moses caught the
blood of these animals in basins. First, he sprinkled half of it on the
altar where animals were wholly offered up to God as "whole burnt
offerings" - that is, they were completely consumed by fire. Then, his
second action was to throw the other half on the People, declaring to
them as he did, "Behold the blood of the Covenant, which the Lord has
made with you concerning all these words" (Ex. 24:8).

Why blood? God's reasons for sealing His covenants with His People in
blood are stated in the Book of Leviticus: "for the life of flesh is in
its blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for
your souls; for its blood shall make atonement for the soul" (Lev.
17:11). The difference between the Old and New Covenants lies in the
blood offered. In the New Covenant it is not animal blood, but "My
Blood" which is "shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of
sins," as the Priest recites during the Divine Liturgy.

In both covenants, God revealed Himself to the leaders of the People
with whom He made the covenant. In the Exodus account, the leadership
"went up, and...they saw the place where the God of Israel stood" (Ex.
24:9,10). The mystery of the Nativity lies in God's emptying of His
heavenly majesty, gloriously enthroned with "work of sapphire slabs"
under His feet (vs. 10). Instead, Christ became a human child wrapped
in cloths and laid down in a feeding trough.

The Old Covenant and the New Covenant both were completed with a
Communion meal: "they appeared in the place of God, and did eat and
drink" (vs. 11). And you, "enjoy the banquet of the Lord, an immortal
table...receiving with uplifted minds exalted words from the Word."

Finally, note that the Lord laid down laws and commandments for the
instruction of His People (vs. 12) in establishing both of the great
Covenants. The Lord Jesus is very explicit concerning what He expects
of us His followers: that each take up his cross (Mt. 16:24), that you
and I love one another (Jn. 13:34), and that we disciple the nations
(Mt. 28:19).

O Lord, Who was smitten for the sake of mankind, and was not wroth,
deliver our lives from corruption and save us!


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