Thursday, December 20, 2007

Daily Meditation 12/20/07



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:

Matthew 25:1-13. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.

It's time to separate the wise from the foolish. Foolish? That would be me.

Once again, my Christmas shopping isn't finished. Once again, I've put off sending the Christmas cards; if my past is any indicator, I won't send them at all. Once again, I underestimate the amount of time it takes to wrap and pack gifts. Once again, I panic at the post office, praying that they'll be more efficient than I am.

It's that time of year when the foolish--and even a few of the wise--say, "I'm stretched to the breaking point; I'm stressed out to the point of exploding; I can't handle it." It can be depressing, especially for the perfectionists among us.

Well, I work full-time, and I have a family and a house, and I have responsibilities at my church. I can't do it all. What's more, it's okay if I can't do it all. I'll decide what really has to be done and let the rest of it slide; I'll delegate more to other members of my family. Most of all, I'll keep my sense of humor--and my sense of proportion--and try to remember the real point of the celebration.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Church of the Province of Myanmar and Diocese of Yangon

Advent Calendars online:

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC:

Alternatives Calendar:

St. Mary Margaret, Napierville, IL:

Westminsiter, UK City Council:

Speaking to the Soul:

Daily Reading for December 20

O Day-Spring, Brightness of Light everlasting, and Sun of Righteousness: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

There can be few words of such universal significance as ‘light’. It is both a common metaphor and a potent religious symbol. One of the most beautiful prayers in the Hindu scriptures is ‘Lead me from the unreal to the real, lead me from darkness to light, lead me from death to immortality’, words which have been incorporated into the baptismal liturgy of the Church of South India. The Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, which, incidentally, usually falls quite close to Advent, celebrates the hope of returning light when the days are getting shorter. Muslims affirm ‘God is the light of the heavens and earth’ (Qur’an 24:35). The religion of ancient Persia, Zoroastrianism, calls God ‘Ahura Mazda’, Wise Lord and Lord of Light, and the sacred, ever burning fire symbolizes the eternal divine light. The first specific thing which God created, according to the Genesis account, was light (Genesis 1:3).

The universal idea of light as closely related to God finds its fulfillment in the Jewish and Christian scriptures and preeminently in Christ, the light of the world. The Antiphon O Oriens brings out a special aspect of the light of Christ by its use of the word Oriens, rising sun, day-spring, dawn. It is new light, light after darkness, light which has conquered darkness. In some ways the most welcome light of all is the dawn which brings the long, weary night to an end. Jesus is the dawn which we long for above all things. He is the new light that fills us with hope, putting to flight the darkness of despair. The new light also guides us when we have been floundering in the darkness of ignorance, uncertainty and indecision by leading us into the way of peace, the wholeness of communion with God.

From O Come Emmanuel: Scripture Verses for Advent Worship by William Marshall. Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

O Day-Spring,
dawn of day,
bright clearness of the light:
Sometimes, in the very early morning,
I watch for your coming
to unravel the darkness,
to unhide the unknown,
to unmask the shapes and shadows of the night;
And in your sun-brilliant shining
to discover the secrets of righteousness and justice,
to discern and learn that where you are,
there is no shadow,
no darkness,
no death.

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

Spiritual Practice of the Day

Whales and redwoods both make us feel small and I think that's an important experience for humans to have at the hands of nature. We need to recognize that we are not the stars of the show. We're just another pretty face, just one species among millions more.
— Roger Payne in Talking on the Water

To Practice This Thought: Visit the woods or the zoo. Admire all the pretty faces ther
++++++++++ Reflections

Enter within yourself and work in the presence of your Spouse Who is ever present loving you.
St John of the Cross
Spiritual Canticle, 1.8

Reading from the Desert Christians


The Holy Spirit often visits us; but if He does not find rest how
can He remain? He departs. Joy is in the hearts of those who are
cleansed and who are able to maintain within themselves the grace
of the Holy Spirit of the All-holy Trinity. There is no greater
joy and happiness for man. I am not able to describe to you how
one feels then.

Elder Ieronymos of Aegina

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Seeing God for Others

The experience of the fullness of time, during which God is so present, so real, so tangibly near that we can hardly believe that everyone does not see God as we do, is given to us to deepen our lives of prayer and strengthen our lives of ministry. Having experienced God in the fullness of time, we have a lifelong desire to be with God and to proclaim to others the God we experienced.

Peter, years after the death of Jesus, claims his Mount Tabor experience as the source for his witness. He says: "When we told you about the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were not slavishly repeating cleverly invented myths; no, we had seen his majesty with our own eyes ... when we were with him on the holy mountain" (2 Peter 1:16-18). Seeing God in the most intimate moments of our lives is seeing God for others.

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

Day Twenty - The Third Way of Service, cont'd

Tertiaries endeavor to serve others in active work. We try to find expression for each of the three aims of the Order in our lives, and whenever possible actively help others who are engaged in similar work. The chief form of service which we have to offer is to reflect the love of Christ, who, in his beauty and power, is the inspiration and joy of our lives.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Calling Up Visions
December 20th, 2007
Thursday’s Reflection

IN JOYOUS ANTICIPATION of her firstborn, Mary sings revolution. Enraptured that God chose her, a maiden of no prominence, a woman with no voice, to bear the world’s savior, her joy calls up visions of the rich tasting the dust of poverty, the powerful limping with the burden of oppression. …

Mary would, I suspect, have us dream dreams and tell tales of hope, the kind of hope that the rich and powerful are too busy and satisfied to entertain, the kind of hope that sustains us in our poverty. That takes knowing our poverty, if not poverty of money, the poverty of intimacy and belonging — the very things our souls need most, the very things that require setting aside possessions and power. Mary’s anger frees us to celebrate her son’s birth. Let her in.

- J. Marshall Jenkins
The Upper Room Disciplines 2006

From p. 365 of The Upper Room Disciplines 2006. Copyright © 2005 by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Base Communities

We have a lot to learn from people like Quakers and Mennonites. They're well practiced in being a minority. They don't need to have crowds around them to believe in the truth. They gather in little groupings and share the word of God. Thank God this is also happening now, again, in the Catholic Church, in the base communities.

Out of the people who don't consider themselves experts or theologians comes a special gospel wisdom. It surpasses the wisdom that we ever came to by thinking that white, materially secure celibate males were the group who could best interpret the word of God. Whatever gave us the idea that a select group of overeducated people would best understand what God was saying to all people?

The poor and uneducated are reclaiming the word of God. The word of God is being reclaimed by women, by people of color and by people who still understand community and family relationships, by people who look at life from the side of the victims instead of the victors.

The word of God is being reclaimed by those who haven't been beneficiaries of the system. And we're finding that the word of God is being read with a vitality, with a truth, with a freedom that is frightening and makes some of us wonder if we've ever understood it before.

When we see what the gospel demands of our lives, we may not even want to understand it.

from Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr

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

Announcement of the birth of Jesus

There came a deep silence. Everything was still. The voices of prophets and apostles were hushed, since the prophets had already delivered their message, while the time for the apostles' preaching had yet to come. Between these two proclamations a period of silence intervened, and in the midst of this silence the Father's almighty Word leaped down from his royal throne. There is a beautiful fitness here: in the intervening silence the Mediator between God and the human race also intervened, coming as a human being to human beings, as mortal to mortals, to save the dead from death.

I pray that the Word of the Lord may come again today to those who are silent, and that we may hear what the Lord God says to us in our hearts. Let us silence the desires and importunings of the flesh and the vainglorious fantasies of our imagination, so that we can freely hear what the Spirit is saying. Let our ears be attuned to the voice that is heard above the vault of heaven, for the Spirit of life is always speaking to our souls; as scripture says, a voice is heard above the firmament which hangs over our heads. But as long as we fix our attention on other things, we do not hear what the Spirit is saying to us.

Julian of Vezelay

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


"I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me." John 12:32

Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is a farce, there was no need for it. What the world needs is not "a little bit of love," but a surgical operation.

When you are face to face with a soul in difficulty spiritually, remind yourself of Jesus Christ on the Cross. If that soul can get to God on any other line, then the Cross of Jesus Christ is unnecessary. If you can help others by your sympathy or understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You have to keep your soul rightly related to God and pour out for others on His line, not pour out on the human line and ignore God. The great note to-day is amiable religiosity.

The one thing we have to do is to exhibit Jesus Christ crucified, to lift Him up all the time. Every doctrine that is not imbedded in the Cross of Jesus will lead astray. If the worker himself believes in Jesus Christ and is banking on the Reality of Redemption, the people he talks to must be concerned. The thing that remains and deepens is the worker's simple relationship to Jesus Christ; his usefulness to God depends on that and that alone.

The calling of a New Testament worker is to uncover sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Saviour, consequently he cannot be poetical, he must be sternly surgical. We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful discourses. We have to probe straight down as deeply as God has probed us, to be keen in sensing the Scriptures which bring the truth straight home and to apply them fearlessly.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 20, August 20, December 20
Chapter 64: On Constituting an Abbess

In the constituting of an Abbess
let this plan always be followed,
that the office be conferred on the one who is chosen
either by the whole community unanimously in the fear of God
or else by a part of the community, however small,
if its counsel is more wholesome.

Merit of life and wisdom of doctrine
should determine the choice of the one to be constituted,
even if she be the last of the order of the community.

But if (which God forbid)
the whole community should agree to choose a person
who will acquiesce in their vices,
and if those vices somehow become known to the Bishop
to whose diocese the place belongs,
or to the Abbots, Abbesses or the faithful of the vicinity,
let them prevent the success of this conspiracy of the wicked,
and set a worthy steward over the house of God.
They may be sure
that they will receive a good reward for this action
if they do it with a pure intention and out of zeal for God;
as, on the contrary, they will sin if they fail to do it.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

April 20, August 20, December 20
Chapter 64: On Constituting an Abbess

In the constituting of an Abbess
let this plan always be followed,
that the office be conferred on the one who is chosen
either by the whole community unanimously in the fear of God
or else by a part of the community, however small,
if its counsel is more wholesome.

Merit of life and wisdom of doctrine
should determine the choice of the one to be constituted,
even if she be the last of the order of the community.

But if (which God forbid)
the whole community should agree to choose a person
who will acquiesce in their vices,
and if those vices somehow become known to the Bishop
to whose diocese the place belongs,
or to the Abbots, Abbesses or the faithful of the vicinity,
let them prevent the success of this conspiracy of the wicked,
and set a worthy steward over the house of God.
They may be sure
that they will receive a good reward for this action
if they do it with a pure intention and out of zeal for God;
as, on the contrary, they will sin if they fail to do it.

The way an abbot or prioress is chosen is, like most other things in the rule, left up to the changing needs of the group. Why an abbot or prioress is chosen is not. As far as the rule is concerned, only "those who show goodness of life and wisdom in teaching" are fit for the position. Fund raisers and business people, efficiency experts and pious ascetics, administrators and philosophers are not ruled out, they are simply not defined in as categories that demand consideration. The implication is that if we choose those good of life and wise of heart then everything else will follow. We, of course, are always tempted to look for short cuts to success: we look for the people who can trim our organizations or shape up our projects or stabilize our ministries. Benedictine spirituality cautions us always to follow only the good and the wise, only those who call us to our best selves, our fullest selves, knowing that if we live according to the scriptures and choose according to the deepest and highest and greatest of human ideals, then life cannot fail for us, whatever its struggles, whatever its cost. "If I do not acquire ideals in my youth, " Maimonides wrote, "when will I? Not in old age."

Benedictine spirituality tells us to choose for ideals at every turn, even at those times when management seems more important than vision.

There is no such thing as a private life in a globalized world. For a monastery, there never was. The monastery is that model of a place where the doors are always open, the environment is always gentle, the rhythm is always ordered and God is always the center of life. A monastery is to be a light to remind all of us how beautiful the world would be if we shaped our own lives out of the same values. A Benedictine monastery is not of the church in the sense that a diocesan seminary or diocesan college is. It is not built by the church or operated by local diocesan officials. But it is definitely in the church and for the church. What happens in a Benedictine monastery should touch the spiritual life of an entire region. For that reason, whatever might erode monastic life--a breakdown of lifestyle, a contrived election, a loss of authenticity--is definitely everybody else's business. And the Rule takes care to guarantee and to maintain that sense of public acknowledgement and accountability. "The voice of the people is as the voice of God," a Jewish midrash writes. In this paragraph, Benedict requires the people to be the voice of God so that the house of God can be saved. If the monastery calls the public to commitment, there is no doubt that Benedict intends the public to call monasteries to authenticity as well so that Benedictine spirituality can continue to permeate the Church. We are all guides for one another.

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

Thursday, December 20, 2007 Nativity Fast Hieromartyr
Ignatios, Bishop of Antioch
Kellia: Exodus 32:1-7, 15-28 Epistle: Hebrews 10:35-11:7
Gospel: St. Mark 10:17-27

Foreshadows ~ IV * Sin and Shame: Exodus 32:1-7, 15-28 LXX, especially
vs. 27: "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every one his sword on
his thigh, and go through and return from gate to gate through the camp,
and slay every one his brother, and everyone his neighbor, and every one
him that is nearest to him." A few idealists have longed to return the
Church of today to the "New Testament Church," an imagined entity of
pure and uncorrupted fellowship and practice. Such longing is fantasy,
springing from confused thinking and failure to read Holy Scripture with
the Church. St. Paul points out "There is none righteous, no, not one"
(Rom. 3:10). Sin plagues us all. Even among those who knew the Lord
Jesus in the flesh, even among the beloved Twelve whom the Lord Himself
chose, there were those "who would betray Him" (Jn. 6:64). And after
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, still there were those who tried to
trouble the Faithful and "pervert the Gospel of Christ" with their own
ideas (Gal. 1:7).

The present passage records one more example from the long history of
the People of God in which men from among the chosen took upon
themselves to fashion the Faith to their own liking. Yes, there have
been heretics and schismatics who have asserted themselves and their
God-given liberty "as an opportunity for the flesh" (Gal. 5:13). Sadly,
sin does arise in the Church and brings shame on God's People and the
Gospel of Christ. Read this present passage carefully and learn how
easily you may be corrupted (Ex. 32:7). Further, pray to God that He
will aid you and all of us to remain honorable members of His Church and
heirs of His Kingdom.

A symptom of which to be wary, one that should alert us to spiritual
danger, is impatience with those whom God has provided to guide the
Church. Let us be cautious within ourselves when we find irritation in
our hearts toward our Bishops or Priests. "When the people saw that
Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered
themselves together" (vs. 1). They grew restless waiting for the
Prophet to return, and so they descended on Aaron like a mob, not to
express fears and concerns, but to demand action. Notice the two
imperative verbs, "Arise, make us gods...." (vs. 1). How ready they
were to cast Moses aside rather than to wait until God should send him
to them again (vs. 1). "Be subject unto God, O my soul, for from Him is
my patient endurance....I shall not be moved from hence" (Ps. 61:5,6 LXX).

Next, be attentive to the subtle temptation of making gods in your own
image. There is a special danger in this scientific age to discount the
possibility of falling into idolatry. The action of the Israelites
seems so unsophisticated, demanding "gods who shall go before us" (Ex.
32:1). Yet, the modern mind has proved quite capable of being
captivated by things and ideas and of falling into the trap of giving
persons, programs, movements, or theories the worship and devotion that
is due to God alone. Doing so is idolatry, the making of other gods.
The temptation is especially active as men are inconvenienced, fearful,
or insecure. "Let the peoples give Thee praise, O God, let all the
peoples praise Thee" (Ps. 66:3 LXX).

Finally, in this passage there is a warning against another sin sure to
shame us before God: desiring to have our Faith be nothing but feasting
and dancing, craving only the pleasures, and being unwilling to
undertake any of the efforts required to remain "on the Lord's side"
(Ex. 32:26). What of the four seasons of Fasting, what of
self-examination and confession, what of regular attendance at worship,
what of sacrificial giving? Let us beware of becoming "scattered" to
the "rejoicing" of our "enemies" (vs. 25).

"O Lord, before Thee is all my desire, and my groaning is not hid from
Thee. For in Thee have I hoped, O Lord; Thou wilt hearken unto me, O
Lord, my God" (Ps. 37:9,15 LXX).


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