Monday, December 24, 2007

Daily Meditation 12/24/07


Lord Our God
With the birth of Your Son,
your glory breaks on the world.
Through the night hours of the darkened earth
we your people watch for the coming of Your promised Son.
As we wait, give us a foretaste of the joy that
You will grant us
when the fullness of His glory has filled the earth,
who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever.
International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL)


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 61, 62; PM Psalm 112, 115
Zeph. 3:14-20; Titus 1:1-16; Luke 1:1-25

Christmas Eve:
PM Psalm 89:1-29
Isa. 59:15b-21; Phil. 2:5-11


From Forward Day by Day:

Isaiah 9:2-7. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

For most of human history, people depended on sunlight or firelight, or on the occasional brightness of the unreliable moon. When the sun went down or the fire sputtered out, darkness reigned, filled with dangers, monsters, and invisible pitfalls.

Even now, behind the artificial brightness that fills our world, there is darkness. There is darkness in the hearts of wrongdoers; there is darkness in the lives of those who live in illness and poverty. There is darkness in the despair that shrouds so many people, regardless of their material wealth.

But like a light that pierces the darkness, Jesus was born to illuminate our hearts and souls. He came, God made human, as the humblest of infants, to experience all the pains and temptations that afflict us.

Tonight church buildings will blaze with light as we celebrate Jesus' nativity with special music and special ceremony. They're a pale reflection of the Light of lights, too intense for us to comprehend now, but glowing with the promise of Christ's redeeming grace for all eternity. Thanks be to God, who has such overwhelming love for us.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Yokohama (Japan)

Advent Calendars online:

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC:

Alternatives Calendar:

St. Mary Margaret, Napierville, IL:

Westminsiter, UK City Council:

Speaking to the Soul:

Make haste

Daily Reading for December 24 • Christmas Eve

The shepherds who hear of the birth of the Child make haste to see what the angel told them. Notice how the shepherds decide to go together, and quickly.

Advent is a time to make spiritual haste. “Let us go now,” the shepherds say. It is never too late to set out to see Christ. The announcement of the birth to the shepherds came after the Child was born. In the same way, the invitation comes to us today. The Child is born, the promise is fulfilled: we need to go and take part in the ongoing story.

As Christians, we need to bring a certain urgency to how we live out our Christian values. Our urgency comes from a place of love: we are called to go see the helpless, newborn child. The Child, who resembles the weak among us, invites all of us to come and see him—and to see ourselves in him. Where do we encounter weakness in our own hearts? How do we become a neighbor to those who are weak in our society? How well do we represent the visiting and caring presence of God in the world?

When we live lives characterized by love and caring, we model who God is in the world today. Church communities that take seriously their call to model God’s reign offer what secular institutions cannot: devotion to the ideal of unmerited love and care, conscious effort to avoid evil, and an ideal of fruitfulness in which gain is understood through sharing. Following Jesus’ way of life, Christians have a school in which to live differently and better.

Strangely enough, we cannot model a better way of living without first encountering God. Many hear and see the angels, but choose to stay out in the fields. Advent calls us to respond differently. Advent calls us to be outstanding in our field, as opposed to be out standing in the field. To be outstanding in the field is to detach from the things and ways that are not of God and to stand with God.

Today is the day when we need to leave the things that keep us busy to go and see. God has come to us. The time has come. Let us go in haste. Let us go today.

From The Womb of Advent by Mark Bozutti-Jones. Copyright © 2007. Seabury Books, an imprint of Church Publishing. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.


Spiritual Practice of the Day

We need a faith community of friends to inspire, challenge, tease, and call us to be all we can be without unduly embarrassing us for being where we are now.
— Robert J. Wicks in Everyday Simplicity

To Practice This Thought: Touch base with one of your spiritual friends.
++++++++++ Reflections

How many remain at the foot of the mountain … who might climb to its summit!
St Teresa of Jesus
Conceptions, 2

Reading from the Desert Christians


The Seraph could not touch the fire's coal with his fingers, but
just brought it close to Isaiah's mouth: the Seraph did not hold
it, Isaiah did not consume it, but us our Lord has allowed to do

St. Ephraim the Syrian

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Holding On to the Christ

Life is unpredictable. We can be happy one day and sad the next, healthy one day and sick the next, rich one day and poor the next, alive one day and dead the next. So who is there to hold on to? Who is there to feel secure with? Who is there to trust at all times?

Only Jesus, the Christ. He is our Lord, our shepherd, our rock, our stronghold, our refuge, our brother, our guide, and our friend. He came from God to be with us. He died for us, he was raised from the dead to open for us the way to God, and he is seated at God's right hand to welcome us home. With Paul, we must be certain that "neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

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

Day Twenty Four - The First Note, cont'd

The faults that we see in others are the subject of prayer rather than of criticism. We take care to cast out the beam from our own eye before offering to remove the speck from another's. We are ready to accept the lowest place when asked, and to volunteer to take it. Nevertheless, when asked to undertake work of which we feel unworthy or incapable, we do not shrink from it on the grounds of humility, but confidently attempt it through the power that is made perfect in weakness.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Night of Nights
December 24th, 2007
Monday’s Reflection

that deepening darkness above and around,
light-pierced and silence-shrouded,
out of which little children are called in
and seeking shepherds are sent out.
O night of nights,
you spread across heaven
and touch the earth,
surrounding God’s people,
capturing us in a moment of holy time,
like a globe protects a precious flicker of Light.
draw us in,
hold us together
while we wait for the birth of the Light of lights,
the One who will guide us into the world anew. Amen.

- Pamela C. Hawkins
Simply Wait

From p. 104 of Simply Wait: Cultivating Stillness in the Season of Advent by Pamela C. Hawkins. Copyright © 2007 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

The Merton Reflection for the Week of December 24, 2007

Advent for us means acceptance of this totally new beginning. It means a readiness to have eternity and time meet not only in Christ, but in us, in Man, in our life, in our world, in our time. The beginning, therefore, is the end. We must accept the end, before we can begin. Or rather, to be more faithful to the complexity of life, we must accept the end in the beginning both together.
 The secret of the Advent mystery is then the awareness that I begin where I end because Christ begins where I end. In more familiar terms: I live to Christ when I die to myself. I begin to live to Christ when I come to the "end" or to the "limit" of what divides me from my fellow man: what I am willing to step beyond this end, cross the frontier, become a stranger, enter into a wilderness which is not "myself," where I do not breathe the air or hear the familiar, comforting racket of my own city, where I am alone and defenseless in the desert of God.
 The victory of Christ is by no means the victory of my city over "their" city. The exaltation of Christ is not the defeat and death of others in order that "my side" may be vindicated, that I may be proved "right." I must pass over, make the transition (pascha) from my end to my beginning, from my old life which has ended and which is now death to my new life which never was before and which now exists in Christ.

Thomas Merton. "Advent: Hope or Delusion?" in Seasons of Celebration. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1965: 96-97.

Thought to Remember:

Today, eternity enters in time, and time, sanctified, is caught up into eternity. Today, Christ, the Eternal Word of the Father, Who was in the beginning with the Father, in Whom all things were made, by Whom all things consist, enters into the world which He created in order to reclaim souls who had forgotten their identity.

Seasons of Celebration: 102.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

I Am Utter Absurdity and Paradox

People are odd creatures: We are at the same time very good and very sinful. These qualities do not cancel each other out. Faith is to live and to hold onto that paradox. Those with room for those two seemingly contradictory truths to coexist are the ones who can recognize the Kingdom of God.

The absurdity of human reality will not shock them: They've already faced it inside themselves. The enemy is not out there, the enemy is us. And when they see the paradox, they stop fighting the world. They stop hating and avoiding the world. They're free to live that threshold existence that we call the Kingdom.

Why call it threshold? Because the threshold is between the house and the outside. We live on the boundary, on the narrow house and the outside. We live on the boundary, on the narrow road that leads to life (Matthew 7:13–14), in between two undeniable truths. Can you live in that in-between? To care, yet not care at all? Those who can will be free to welcome the Kingdom. They are free to pass through because they don't have any turf—whether possessions, identity, reputation or self-image—to protect or maintain. The threshold experience is always getting slammed in the face—with paradox.

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.

The shepherds

The simple hasten eagerly to see the newborn king lying in a manger; they find him and acknowledge him; they adore and rejoice and mingle their artless praises with the heavenly hymns. These men and women are the first stones of the ecclesiastical structure: they are the first members of the new Church, and the Shepherd of shepherds at his very birth hired them, men skilled in feeding flocks, to care for his own sheepfold. Because he had determined that he would later on buy a great flock for himself with his own blood, from the outset he hired shepherds to whom he might afterward entrust the care of his sheepfold.

How the Virgin rejoiced at the devotion of these simple folk! How delighted and gladdened she was by their praises! For by his own announcement God had begun to make known to human beings the mystery of divine condescension which had occurred in her womb for their salvation.

Thomas of Villanova, O.S.A.

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


"Your life is hid with Christ in God." Colossians 3:3

The Spirit of God witnesses to the simple almighty security of the life hid with Christ in God and this is continually brought out in the Epistles. We talk as if it were the most precarious thing to live the sanctified life; it is the most secure thing, because it has Almighty God in and behind it. The most precarious thing is to try and live without God. If we are born again it is the easiest thing to live in right relationship to God and the most difficult thing to go wrong, if only we will heed God's warnings and keep in the light.

When we think of being delivered from sin, of being filled with the Spirit, and of walking in the light, we picture the peak of a great mountain, very high and wonderful, and we say - "Oh, but I could never live up there!" But when we do get there by God's grace, we find it is not a mountain peak, but a plateau where there is ample room to live and to grow. "Thou hast enlarged my steps under me."

When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him. When He says - "Let not your heart be troubled," if you see Him I defy you to trouble your mind, it is a moral impossibility to doubt when He is there. Every time you get into personal contact with Jesus, His words are real. "My peace I give unto you," it is a peace all over from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet, an irrepressible confidence. "Your life is hid with Christ in God," and the imperturbable peace of Jesus Christ is imparted to you.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 24, August 24, December 24
Chapter 66: On the Porters of the Monastery

At the gate of the monastery
let there be placed a wise old woman,
who knows how to receive and to give a message,
and whose maturity will prevent her from straying about.
This porter should have a room near the gate,
so that those who come may always find someone at hand
to attend to their business.
And as soon as anyone knocks or a poor person hails her,
let her answer "Thanks be to God" or "A blessing!"
Then let her attend to them promptly,
with all the meekness inspired by the fear of God
and with the warmth of charity.

Should the porter need help,
let her have one of the younger sisters.

If it can be done,
the monastery should be so established
that all the necessary things,
such as water, mill, garden and various workshops,
may be within the enclosure,
so that there is no necessity
for the sisters to go about outside of it,
since that is not at all profitable for their souls.

We desire that this Rule be read often in the community,
so that none of the sisters may excuse herself
on the ground of ignorance.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Of all the questions to be asked about the nearly 1500 year old Rule of Benedict, and there are many in the twentieth century, one of the most pointed must surely be why one of the great spiritual documents of the Western World would have in it a chapter on how to answer the door. And one of the answers might be that answering the door is one of the arch activities of Benedictine life. The way we answer doors is the way we deal with the world. Benedict wants the porter to be available, "not roaming around" so that the caller is not left waiting; responsible and "able to take a message," so that the community is properly informed; full of welcome; prompt in responding to people "with the warmth of love"; and actually grateful for the presence of the guest. When the person knocks--whenever the person knocks--the porter is to say, "Thanks be to God" or "Your blessing, please," to indicate the gift the guest is to the community. The porter is to be warmth and welcome at all times, not just when it feels convenient. In the Rule of Benedict, there is no such thing as coming out of time to the monastery. Come in the middle of lunch; come in the middle of prayer; come and bother us with your blessings at any time. There is always someone waiting for you.

The chapter on the porter of the monastery is the chapter on how to receive the Christ in the other always. It is Benedict's theology of surprise.

If there is any chapter in the rule that demonstrates Benedictine openness to life and, at the same time, models a manner of living in the midst of society without being consumed by it, this is surely the one. Guests are welcomed enthusiastically in Benedictine spirituality but, at the same time, life is not to be frittered away on work, on social life, on the public bustle of the day. The community is to stay as self-contained as possible so that centered in the monastery they stay centered in their hearts. More, this balance between public and private, between openness and centeredness, between consciousness of the outside world and concentration on interior growth is to be remembered and rehearsed over and over again: "We wish this rule to be read often," the rule says plaintively so that the monastic never forgets that the role of the committed Christian is always to grow richer themselves so that they can give richly to others. Abba Cassian, a desert monastic, told the following story: "Once upon a time, we two monks visited an elder. Because he offered us hospitality we asked him, "Why do you not keep the rule of fasting when you receive visiting brothers?" And the old monastic answered, "Fasting is always at hand but you I cannot have with me always. Furthermore, fasting is certainly a useful and necessary thing, but it depends on our choice while the law of God lays it upon us to do the works of charity. Thus, receiving Christ in you, I ought to serve you with all diligence, but when I have taken leave of you, I can resume the rule of fasting again."

The person with a monastic heart knows that the Christ and their salvation are not in religious gyrations of our design alone; they are in the other, our response to whom is infinitely more important than our religious exercises.

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

Monday, December 24, 2007 Nativity Fast The Eve of the Nativity
of Christ in the Flesh
3rd Royal Hour: Baruch 3:35-4:4 Epistle: Hebrews 1:
1-12 Gospel: St. Luke 2:1-20

The Incomparable God: Baruch 3:35-4:4 LXX, especially vs. 35: "This is
our God, and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison of
Him." St. Basil the Great speaks of God as the "Master of all, Lord of
heaven and earth, and of all creation both visible and invisible; Who
sittest upon the throne of glory, and beholdest the depths; Who art
without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, uncircumscript,
immutable, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our great God and
Savior, our hope, Who is the image of Thy goodness, the seal of equal
type, in Himself showing forth Thee, the Father the Living Word, the
true God, the Wisdom before all ages, the Life, Sanctification, Might,
the true Light, through Whom the Holy Spirit was manifested; the Spirit
of Truth, the Gift of Adoption, the pledge of an inheritance to come,
the first fruits of eternal good things, the life-giving Power, the
fountain of holiness; by Whom enabled, every rational and intelligent
creature doth serve Thee, and send up to Thee perpetual praises...."

Beloved, at this very moment we are in the presence of this great "Lord
of heaven and earth." There is no hiding from Him, not in the depths of
the earth, not in any secret place on this planet, nor even at the
outermost edge of the universe, incalculable light years from this place
and this moment. We are before Him, as are our thoughts, fears, dreams,
hopes, knowledge, and the movement of every cell and fiber of our
being. Nothing escapes His notice.

These verities being the truth of our existence at all times, our
present celebration of Christmas, of the Nativity of "our Lord Jesus
Christ - our great God and Savior, our hope, Who is the image of God's
goodness"- takes on a very special significance. Why? Because this
incomparable God, as the Prophet Baruch shows us, is the source of all
knowledge. He has shown Himself upon this earth, revealing Himself as
the Way, the Truth and the Life with the firm promise that all who keep
His way shall come not just to knowledge, but to Life!

Think closely about the Prophet's declaration that God "hath found out
all the way of knowledge" (vs. 3:36). Does this suggest that God passed
through some infinite course of learning until He found out every
approach to knowledge, until He exhausted the entire process of learning
itself, not only learning everything but discovering every existing
means of acquiring knowledge? Not at all! He is eternally at the
end-point of knowledge. What is there to learn that He does not know
and has not known always? The significance of the statement is that no
matter what avenue to learning that you and I may take, we shall find
the "Master of all" is present there. Pile up your university degrees,
your professional seminars, and all possible learning opportunities, and
God is there, ahead of you, far ahead of you.

How can we say this? Because God hath given this insight and knowledge
"unto Jacob His servant, and to Israel His beloved" (vs. 3:36) - to us!
Those who have united themselves to Him know that there is nothing He
does not know, including all the ways we learn and discover. We set
about learning with confidence and faith, assured that He is there
before us. He alone is all that we need to fear in learning. Hence,
let us not learn what offends Him!

How can you avoid false learning? Here is a Christmas present! He has
shown "Himself upon earth, and conversed with men" (vs. 3:37). We have
the great evangelical record of that Self-revelation, and the living
experience of Him in the life and worship of His Holy Church. Christ is
born! If we will but glorify Him, we shall learn the Way to knowledge
and discover the Truth that undergirds all that is worth knowing, for we
shall know Life Himself (vs. 4:4).

Be mindful, O Lord our God, of all Thy people, and upon them all pour
out Thy rich mercy, granting to all their petitions which are unto
salvation, O Thou Who knowest every man.


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