Sunday, December 23, 2007

Daily Meditation 12/23/07


Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
Words: Charles Wesley


Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 24, 29; PM Psalm 8, 84
Gen 3:8-15; Rev. 12:1-10; John 3:16-21

From Forward Day by Day:

Matthew 1:18-25. When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.

The account of Jesus' birth found in the Gospel of Matthew focuses on Joseph, and is rather legalistic. Joseph was engaged to Mary, which meant they had a legally binding contract. When Mary turned up pregnant, he naturally assumed she had been unfaithful.

Joseph "planned to dismiss her quietly." But on learning how Mary's child had been conceived, Joseph went through with the marriage; when the boy was born, he named him, legitimizing him and adopting him into Joseph's family and line.

One website had this to say about Joseph: "Noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God told him." I like that phrase. It's as down to earth and practical as, well, basic carpentry.

How many of us are noted for our willingness to immediately get up and do what God tells us? Granting that God's messages to us today are less likely to involve angelic visions, I suspect that most of us could still do better. I know I could.

No one wants to know about your faith or unbelief. Your orders are to perform the act of obedience on the spot.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (d. 1945)

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Yirol (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 Virgin of virgins

Daily Reading for December 23 • The Fourth Sunday of Advent

O Virgin of virgins, tell us how shall this be? For neither before you was any like you nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why do you marvel at me? The thing which you behold is a divine mystery.

Although this antiphon, unlike the others, is not addressed to Christ, it is nevertheless an attempt on our part to know and understand that which we worship. It is as though we are asking for a sharing into Mary's human insight and intuition in order to help us understand. But when all is said and done, God's incarnation must remain for us a mystery beyond human comprehension. We can imagine such love, but only imagine, for the depth and breadth of God's love for us is immeasurable—inestimable—by any standards that we have.

Perhaps, by drawing close to Mary, the God-bearer—Theotokos in Greek: she who gave birth to God—we will understand. But no, even then our "knowing" and "understanding" will always remain and require a leap of faith. God with us remains a divine mystery!

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

Framed in light,
Mary sings through the doorway.
Elizabeth’s six-month joy
jumps, a palpable greeting,
a hidden first encounter
between son and Son.

And my heart turns over
when I meet Jesus
in you.

“Salutation,” based on Luke 1:39-45, in Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation by Luci Shaw (Eerdmans, 2006).

Spiritual Practice of the Day

The roots of love sink down and deep and strike out far, and they are arteries that feed our lives, so we must see that they get the water and sun they need so they can nourish us. And when you put something good into the world, something good comes back to you.
— Merle Shain in Hearts That We Broke Long Ago

To Practice This Thought: Recall a time when you felt nourished by the love of others.
++++++++++ Reflections

How can I fear a God who is nothing but mercy and love.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Reading from the Desert Christians


I pray Thee, compassionate Lord, do not allow me to be condemned
because of the unworthy and ungrateful manner in which I
contemplate the great mysteries that Thou hast revealed to Thy
saints and through them to me, a sinner and Thy unworthy servant.
For see, Lord, Thy servant stands before Thee, idle in everything,
speechless, as one who is dead; and I do not dare to say anything
more or to presumptuously contemplate further. But as always I
fall down before Thee, crying from the depths of my soul. . .

St. Peter of Damascus

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

The Heart of Jesus

Jesus is the vulnerable child, the humble preacher, the despised, rejected, and crucified Christ. But Jesus also is "the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, ... [who] exists before all things and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:15,17). Jesus is the King, ridiculed on the cross and reigning from his throne in the heavenly Jerusalem. He is the Lord riding into the city on a donkey, and the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is cursed by the world but blessed by God.

Let's always look at Jesus, because in his crucified and glorified heart we will see ourselves called to share in his suffering as well as in his glory.

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

Day Twenty Three - The First Note, cont'd

Humility confesses that we have nothing that we have not received and admits the fact of our insufficiency and our dependence upon God. It is the basis of all Christian virtues. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said, "No spiritual house can stand for a moment except on the foundation of humility." It is the first condition of a joyful life within any community.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Liberating God
December 23rd, 2007
Sunday’s Reflection

THE LORD will give you a sign.
Look, the young woman
is with child and shall bear a son,
and shall name him Immanuel.

Liberating God,
teach us
how to refuse the evil
and choose the good. Amen.

- Alive Now

From p. 53 of Alive Now, November/December 2007. Copyright © 2007 by The Upper Room. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Loving the Lover

Sit by the stream, on the edge. Don't let the ego try to fix, to control, categorize or ensure any of your experience. The ego wants to ensure that things are significant, that events make us important. Our activities become little righteousness trips, and we stand on our certitude.

"I've done 'this much' in my life," we say. "I was faithful to my husband; I raised my children; I sent them to a Catholic school; I paid my bills." But these are often self- serving kinds of duty and responsibility. Much religion is using God to bolster our own self-image. True religion is not attached to self-image, but to God.

Christian life has little to do with me doing anything right. It has everything to do with falling in love with a Lover who does everything right. What I love is that Lover and not my own accomplishments.

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.

Don't shut out Christ

The divine Word, coming and knocking at the door of our soul, challenges our indolence and rouses us from slumber. His desire is always to enter and make his home with us. It is our own fault, therefore, if he does not always do so, or if, having once entered, he does not always stay with us.

Let your door stand open to receive him, unlock your soul to him, lay bare the hidden recesses of your mind. Show him the coffers of innocence, the treasure house of peace; let him see how beautiful his grace has made you. Throw wide the gate of your heart, run toward the sun whose unfailing light shines on every human being. That true light shines for everyone, but those who close their windows deprive themselves of its eternal radiance. If you shut the door of your mind you shut out Christ. Though he has the power to enter, he does not care to burst in uninvited or to force himself upon us against our will.

Born of a virgin, Christ came forth from the womb to shed his light over the whole world, so that everything might be illumined by his rays. His light is received by all who long to see the splendor of that everlasting glory which no darkness can ever dim. Here, the sun of our daily experience is succeeded by the darkness of night; but the sun of holiness knows no setting, since wisdom can never give place to evil.

Guerric of Igny

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


"But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ." Galatians 6:14

The Gospel of Jesus Christ always forces an issue of will. Do I accept God's verdict on sin in the Cross of Christ? Have I the slightest interest in the death of Jesus? Do I want to be identified with His death, to be killed right out to all interest in sin, in worldliness, in self - to be so identified with Jesus that I am spoilt for every thing else but Him? The great privilege of discipleship is that I can sign on under His Cross, and that means death to sin. Get alone with Jesus and either tell Him that you do not want sin to die out in you; or else tell Him that at all costs you want to be identified with His death. Immediately you transact in confident faith in what Our Lord did on the Cross, a supernatural identification with His death takes place, and you will know with a knowledge that passeth knowledge that your "old man" is crucified with Christ. The proof that your old man is crucified with Christ is the amazing ease with which the life of God in you enables you to obey the voice of Jesus Christ.

Every now and again, Our Lord lets us see what we would be like if it were not for Himself; it is a justification of what He said - "Without Me ye can do nothing." That is why the bedrock of Christianity is personal, passionate devotion to the Lord Jesus. We mistake the ecstasy of our first introduction into the Kingdom for the purpose of God in getting us there; His purpose in getting us there is that we may realize all that identification with Jesus Christ means.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 23, August 23, December 23
Chapter 65: On the Prior of the Monastery

To us, therefore, it seems expedient
for the preservation of peace and charity
that the Abbot have in his hands
the full administration of his monastery.
And if possible let all the affairs of the monastery,
as we have already arranged,
be administered by deans according to the Abbot's directions.
Thus, with the duties being shared by several,
no one person will become proud.

But if the circumstances of the place require it,
or if the community asks for it with reason and with humility,
and the Abbot judges it to be expedient,
let the Abbot himself constitute as his Prior
whomsoever he shall choose
with the counsel of God-fearing brethren.

That Prior, however, shall perform respectfully
the duties enjoined on him by his Abbot
and do nothing against the Abbot's will or direction;
for the more he is raised above the rest,
the more carefully should he observe the precepts of the Rule.

If it should be found that the Prior has serious faults,
or that he is deceived by his exaltation and yields to pride,
or if he should be proved to be a despiser of the Holy Rule,
let him be admonished verbally up to four times.
If he fails to amend,
let the correction of regular discipline be applied to him.
But if even then he does not reform,
let him be deposed from the office of Prior
and another be appointed in his place who is worthy of it.
And if afterwards he is not quiet and obedient in the community,
let him even be expelled from the monastery.
But the Abbot, for his part, should bear in mind
that he will have to render an account to God
for all his judgments,
lest the flame of envy or jealousy be kindled in his soul.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

The problems dealt with in this chapter are the problems of loyalty, honesty, humility and role and their effect on a group. The prior or subprioress in a Benedictine monastery are equivalent to the first assistant of any organization. They act as vicars, representatives, of the abbot or prioress but they do not have any specific role description or authority of their own. Most local constitutions of Benedictine communities to this day, in fact, say simply that the subprioress or prior are appointed by the prioress or abbot to "do whatever the abbot bids them to do." The point is that every community has one, single, ultimate authority, the abbot or prioress, and that any other arrangement or assumption is not only incorrect, it is dangerous to the unity and formation of the community.

Underlying the theological and organizational considerations, however, is the dark warning that the temptation to use a position, any position--vice-principal, vice-president, assistant, department director--to wrest authority away from the center or to promote our own careers by undermining the legitimate leader in order to make ourselves look good, is a sin against community. It uses a group for personal gain instead of for the good of the group. It is the story of a Rasputin or a Lucretia Borgia. It is a grasp at power for its own sake. It corrodes what we say we support. It eats like acid at anything in us that we say is real. It is cheap popularity and expensive advancement because, eventually, it will destroy what we say we value, the very community for which we are responsible.

The Tao Te Ching teaches: "Shape clay into a vessel; It is the space within that makes it useful." Every group has a distinct structure and history but without a single driving spirit,it may lack the heart to make a common impact. In Benedictine spirituality the abbot and prioress are the center of the community. They are the one voice, the one light, the one heart that the entire community can trust to act always in its true and total interest. In every group, in fact, it is that inspiriting space within that gives it energy. Destroy the axis, stop the heart, collapse the core of a world and the world shrivels or shatters or disintegrates in space. That's what rivalry between the leaders of a group does to a community. That's what divergence between husband and wife does to the family. That's what tension between idols does to a world. Benedictine spirituality sees the community as something to mold us, not something to be used for the interests and vanity and power struggles of a few. It is a life dedicated to the spirit, not enmeshed in the agendas of the political. Where the authority of the abbot or prioress is constantly contested, routinely ignored, mockingly ridiculed or sharply questioned, then the eye of the soul is taken off of the Center of the life and shifted instead to the multiple minor agendas of its members. At that moment, the mystical dimension of the community turns into just one more arm wrestling match among contenders. At that point, the Rule says, get rid of the people who lower the purpose of the group to the level of the mundane, making light of the great enterprise of life and diminishing its energy.

It is good advice in any human endeavor whose higher purpose is being fed to the appetites of the immature and the selfish to rid itself of those who have given over the lode star of the group to a lesser direction.

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

Sunday before the Nativity of Christ: Holy Fathers Nativity Fast
Tone 5 Dec. 23, 2007
1st Royal Hour: Micah 5:2-4 Epistle: Hebrews 11:9-10, 17-23,
32-40 Gospel: St. Matthew 1:1-25

What to Expect: Micah 5:2-4 LXX, especially vs. 2: "And thou, Bethlehem,
house of Ephratha, art few in number to be reckoned among the thousands
of Judah; yet out of thee shall One come forth to Me, to be a ruler of
Israel." In the centuries before Jesus' birth, God planted intimations
throughout the Old Testament of what was in store for His People. Thus,
by the time Jesus was born, a general consciousness existed that One
anointed of God, the Messiah (the Christos in Greek), would come and
improve Israel's standing in the world. This prophecy through Micah is
one of the most important of those early prophecies. It gave ancient
Israel seven signs that they should expect; but today, the Church is
enjoying all of them in Christ.

First, Israel was to expect that, as God set about restoring His fallen
creature Man to Himself, He would select a specific person: early there
had been Noah "who found grace before" Him (Gen. 6:9). Of Noah's three
sons, Shem was the grandsire of Abraham to whom God promised that "all
the tribes of the earth be blessed" (Gen 12:3) through his seed. And
from Abraham the blessing descended to one of Jacob's twelve sons, Judah
- One of whose grandsons should be "the expectation of nations" (Gen.
49:10). Clearly, through the Prophet Micah, God told the tribe of Judah
to expect that "out of thee shall One come forth to Me" (Micah 5:2). We
are blessed to worship the King of Judah, God the Word, Who for our
salvation became man.

Second, they were to expect that the One would come from Bethlehem of
Judah, as Jesus did. St. Augustine notes that ancient Israel knew
"where the Christ was to be born." It was like a milestone - "in
Bethlehem of Judah;" yet while it "showed the way, [they] were incapable
of walking along it." We are blessed to go to Him in the cave and even
worship at His Birthplace.

Third, Israel expected the Messiah to be the centerpiece of God's plan
for them, and He is, "for Eden hath verily been opened at the coming
forth of God," He opened it for us all!

Fourth, God intimated that the Incarnate One would be Divine, "His
goings forth were from the beginning, even from eternity" (vs. 2).
Notice, in verse two, the shift of tense in the verbs from future -
"shall...come forth" - to a past, even before the beginning of time -
"were...from eternity." To the Jews this was "a stumbling block and to
the Greeks, foolishness" - but now the Church knows "the power of God
and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:23).

Fifth, the Lord blessed Micah to warn ancient Israel to expect "travail"
(Mic. 5:3), pain most certainly, as a result of their sins, but the
specific pain of birthgiving, which would bring forth to a remnant of
their brethren One Who would usher in the return of mankind to God.
What can we say? "Christ is born, Glorify Him!" They expected; today,
we make ready, "for the Tree of Life hath blossomed forth in the
cave....whereof eating we shall live and not die."

Sixth, Micah told them to expect a "remnant of their brethren [to]
return" (vs. 3). In Adam and in Noah, all men are brethren. Now a
remnant of Israel's brethren is returning. The gentiles, the peoples of
the earth, are flooding into Israel for the gate opened by the Child of
Bethlehem. "The Maker of the entire creation [is] the Grantor of Great
mercy to the world."

Seventh, from Micah they learned that "the Lord [would] stand, and see,
and feed His flock with power, and they [would] dwell in the glory of
the Name of the Lord their God" (vs. 4). Indeed, "let us go before, O
nations, and celebrate the Nativity of Christ," singing "Rejoice, O
honored Prophet [Micah], who did organize well the law of the Lord, and
appeared as [a] stable, unshakeable [pillar] of faith," mediating "the
New Covenant of Christ." Christ is born!

Wherefore, O Holy Prophet Micah, having been translated to heaven, plead
with Christ to grant safety to the world and to save our souls.


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