Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Daily Meditation 12/25/07

On the First day of Christmas

Collects for the Nativity of Our Lord:

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

or this

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

or this

Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalm 96
Isaiah 9: 2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14(15-20)


Psalm 97
Isaiah 62:6-12; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:(1-7) 8-20


Psalm 98
Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-4.(5-12); John 1:1-14

From Forward Day by Day:

Luke 2:1-14(15-20). While they were there, the time came for her to deliver a child.

Luke 2:(1-7)8-20. Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!

Each Christmas morning I try to give myself a special gift, the gift of quiet worship. After all the busy-ness of Christmas Eve-after last-minute wrapping, cooking, stage-managing in the pageant, singing in the choir at Midnight Mass, with Santa chores after arriving back home and maternal duties in the too- early morning, I slip away and head back to church.

I love the services of Christmas Eve, but after the noisy, crowded early service (filled with junior wrigglers) and the nonstop musical responsibilities of the late one, this eucharist is peaceful, calm, and quiet. My only duty is to worship God in the beauty of holiness; that, and time to reflect on the miracle of Christ's birth, is just what I need right then.

Our lives are overloaded, and sometimes they demand too much. Even in the busiest of seasons, we need to give ourselves time to reflect, to worship, and to be with God. There is nothing more valuable.

Eternal God, in the stillness of this night you sent your almighty Word to pierce the world's darkness with the light of salvation: Give to the earth the peace that we long for and fill our hearts with the joy of heaven through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

When the contrast between the cosmic creation and the little local infancy has been repeated, reiterated, underlined, emphasized, exulted in, sung, shouted, roared, not to say howled, in a hundred thousand hymns, carols, rhymes, rituals, pictures, poems, and popular sermons, it may be suggested that we hardly need a higher critic to draw our attention to something a little odd about it... In the riddle of Bethlehem it was heaven that was under the earth.
--G. K. Chesterton

Anglican Cycle of Prayer: Diocese of Yola (Jos, Nigeria)

From: Christmas CLARESHARE December 2006
Ty Mam Duw Poor Clare Colettine Community
Upper Aston Hall Lane, Hawarden, CH5 3EN WALES GB

We thought you might enjoy a 12 days of Christmas Poor Clare style. We have done it primarily for one of our beloved Fathers, who is on his own in southern Africa, in a hotel, to whom this comes especially but we share it with you all - whatever your faith background, it might be a real bit of Christmas!

25th December: Christmas day
Find a baby and give her/him a special Christmas blessing.
Eat your dinner with thanksgiving.

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

Let us celebrate the coming of our salvation from Augustine of Hippo

If God has not been born in time, you would have suffered eternal death. If he had not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh, you would never have been freed from it. But for his mercy, you would have experienced everlasting misery; had he not shared your death, you would never have returned to life. Unless he had hastened to your aid, you would have been lost; if he had not come, you would have perished.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption, honoring the festive day when he who is the great and everlasting day came from the endless day of eternity into our own brief day of time. He has become our justice, our holiness, and our redemption. And so, as scripture says, let those who boast make their boast in the Lord.

CHRISTMAS MORNING by St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom’s homily on the nativity was delivered during a period
of great theological pluralism and fierce debate over the identity and work
of Jesus Christ. In this sermon St. John enlists the words of Cyril of
Alexandria (c. a. _382-444) to place us securely before the mystery of the
one who is both fully God and fully human: “Nor yet by any loss of divinity
became He man, nor through increase became He God from man.” This view
would, find normative expression some fifty years after Chrysostom’s death
in the Chalcedonian Formula faith (45IAD.). In our own time of pronounced
theological fluidity, may Chrysostom’s words help us appreciate the
stunning force of the news that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song,
piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels
sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn
their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise
this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven.
He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was
lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of
angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every
side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order
of nature yields. For He willed, He had the power, He descended, He
redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is
Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He
became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any
loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from
man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of
impassability, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has
come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor
Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a
new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming
amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know
that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten
before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to
venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too
curiously with wordy speech. For with God we look not for the order of
nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has
brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of
His conception I cannot comprehend.

Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The
Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be
perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is
visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us
he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men
cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than
the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned
to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.

Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a
living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin;
and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our
nature’. For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made.
Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own
Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made
before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible
body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this
wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an
infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a
manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity,
and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken
the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed
that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total
humiliation the measure of His Goodness.

For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking
my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He
prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me;
He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole
chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the
devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken,
paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us,
error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness
diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ‘in
planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now
hold speech with angels.

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side
all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was
God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a
manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by
whom all things arc nourished, may receive an infant’s food from His Virgin
Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in
the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day
the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and
the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to
the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever.
* How has your life “resembled Bethlehem”—how has Christ been born anew in your life?—- In the lives of your students and staff? * Have you learned new things, or relearned previous lessons about who Christ is? In what ways has your “slavery been ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death broken, paradise unlocked, the curses taken away, sin removed error driven out, truth brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused and spread on every side, a heavenly way of life implanted on earth, angels communicate with humans without fear and humans now hold speech with angels”? Go through this list and remember—Worship—allow these things to inform your waiting.

'He bowed the heavens and came down...'
The Nativity of Christ (Christmas)

25 December / 7 January:

When the Creator beheld man, whom He had made with His hands, about to perish, He bowed the heavens and came down; and He was endued with man’s nature in very truth, becoming incarnate of a Virgin divinely pure: for He has glorified Himself. [1]

There is no mystery greater than that of the Incarnation of God. In the quiet majesty of an archangel’s salutation, months before in Nazareth, a wonder beyond description was begun; and here, on this night, that wonder will be fully manifest. The great mystery which the holy Virgin, now holy Mother, had for long days stored up and treasured in her heart, the reality hidden but to a select few, is now to shine forth in all the radiance of a heavenly star. Sages shall travel the world to see it, shepherds shall clamour to behold it, a king shall feign to prevent it. But nothing shall thwart this great, salvific act of the One who ‘beheld man, whom He had made with His hands, about to perish’. In the troubled agony of a rushed birth, in the mire of an animals’ dwelling, the miracle that is the foundation of the Christian life takes place. Here God ‘bows the heavens and comes down’ into the full reality of His creation.

Yet, despite our songs, there was no crèche in Bethlehem. The night may have been holy, but it was not silent. Soldiers hunted a mysterious ‘newborn king’ while travellers packed into overcrowded hostelries to appease the census mandates of a new taxation. This will have been a loud night indeed. And in the stable: a squalor, a filth, a stench. Nowhere, here, the serene harmony of our usual vision of the child’s birth. Nor was this but a child. The whole setting of the mystery speaks to us of something different, something abnormal. Something impossible.

Today a Virgin brings forth the Super-substantial, and the earth offers a cavern to the Unapproachable. Angels, together with the shepherds, sing praises; the wise men journey onward with the star. For, for our sakes, God, who is before all the ages, is born a little child. [2]

All the noise of the surroundings, the terrible paradox of the Virgin ‘divinely pure’ stationed in the muddy squalor of the stable, shocks us to consider the full reality of the present moment. One is brought into the substance of human nature who is beyond substance, beyond nature. Magi draw near to Him who cannot be approached. Shepherds gaze upon Him at whom none may look and live. God, who before time fashioned all things, cries and breathes the breath which at first He gave to man, now as an infant child.

This night was not silent, and the shepherds did not merely sing. These gathered at the feet of one most pure (herself a miracle) to behold the human birth of Purity Himself. The shepherds came to the Mother of God to set eye upon the coming of God to man.

This notion of the coming together of God and man is at the heart of the present mystery, and is often hailed in the liturgical texts of the Church. As the shepherds approached the newborn Son, and as later the wise men from the East, so, says the Church, do I:

A mystery strange and most glorious do I behold: The cavern, heaven; the Virgin, the cherubic throne; the manger, the receptacle wherein lies Christ our God, whom nothing may contain. Him, therefore, do we magnify, praising Him in song. [3]

In the glory of the Incarnation, the divine and the worldly are suddenly, triumphantly, united and transformed. This filthy cavern is no more a mere stable, but one stands here in all the radiance of heaven itself. The Mother of God, human even as am I, holds in her arms the pre-eternal Son and is in her material person the divine throne of more honour than the cherubim. The wood of the feeding trough, for all its rancour, is here and now the bed which holds in its embrace the God whom all the heavens and the earth cannot contain. Divine things and human are, in this moment, indistinguishable. Do I behold woman, or throne? Cave, or heaven? Man, or God? The earthly has been brought to the divine and the divine has come to the earthly, and in this most awesome mystery we behold a thing ‘strange and most glorious’. I come and I gaze, but I am struck with awe, for I behold the things of Paradise resting in a cavern [4].

Indeed, it is this mixture of the heavenly and earthly that is the whole point of our chief of mysteries. It is in the union of heaven and earth, of man and God, says the Church, that our salvation takes form. Thus can we cry out to Christ:

O Christ, who has conformed Thyself unto our base, mortal mould, and by that participation in our lowly flesh has imparted unto us a share of the nature divine; who, though Thou didst become earthborn, yet didst remain still God and hast exalted our horn: Holy art Thou, O Lord! [5]

Christ has ‘imparted to us a share of the divine’. We must hear these words a thousand times, receive their wonder anew at each hearing. This feast, this mystery beyond description, is not solely about God becoming man. We are not to be struck with wonder, when gazing into the manger, only in that we behold there the eternally begotten second Person of the holy Trinity—awesome mystery though this truly be. As I approach the cave of the birth on this night, the most terrible, the most wondrous and the most ineffable awe is borne in my heart when I behold in the manger not only God, but me. It is my nature that the Son has taken for Himself in this unspeakable act of love, and I behold today, before mine eyes, this nature imparted the nature of my God. I behold Adam, a mortal, made of clay [6], made perfect in the grace of Christ.

This is the wonder of the Nativity. God comes to us, gives Himself to us, and not only in deed and action. Our very nature is taken up into His, and to our mortal frame is imparted a portion of the divine life. This life, we eagerly remember, is that which conquers all—the life that conquers evil, sin, darkness, even death itself, as we sing with such fervour in the light of Pascha. That this life has, in the Incarnation, become our life, is the source of all our hope, confidence and joy in the Christian faith. It is the motivation for our struggle, for our labour, and it is the light yoke by which we are set free. Our bonds may now be broken. Our slavery may be overturned. Our long bondage to sin and exile from Paradise may now be ended. It is both telling and fitting that the Israelite lament at captivity, enshrined in the Psalm by which we, at another point in our year, enter into the purifying sorrow of Great Lent [7], is deliberately brought to mind in the hymnography of the Nativity:

Grief put aside the instruments of song, for the children of Sion sang no more in alien lands. Yea Christ, in that He hath shone forth in Bethlehem, sets us free from every error, and sets free also the musical harmony of Babylon. Wherefore let us sing the song: Let all creation bless the Lord, and magnify Him unto all the ages! [8]

As human and divine meet in the Incarnation, our captivity at last is ended and the people of Sion again find voice for their song. No longer does our nature dwell exiled in an alien land, separated eternally from its Creator by sin, by the wiles of the Evil One, by any power whatever. The deep-set sorrow of hopeless exile is banished when Christ ‘sets us free from every error’ and unites in His person what is fallen in mine and perfect in His. There is no better refrain of awe at this mystery than the words sung at Vespers on the eve of the feast:

O come, let us rejoice in the Lord as we declare this present mystery: The partition wall of disunion has been destroyed, the flaming sword is turned back, the cherubim withdraw from the Tree of Life, and I partake of the food of Paradise, whence I had been expelled because of disobedience. For the immutable Image of the Father, the Image of His eternity, takes the form of a servant, having come forth of a Mother unwedded, yet having suffered no change. For that which He was, He remains, being very God; and that which He was not, He has assumed, becoming true man because of His love for humankind. Unto Him let us cry aloud: O God, who was born of a Virgin, have mercy upon us! [9]

(Text by M.C. Steenberg, 2003)


[1] Troparion from Canticle 1 of the Matins Canon for the Nativity.
[2] Kontakion of the Matins Canon.
[3] Irmos from Canticle 9 of the Matins Canon.
[4] Cf. the Ikos of the Matins Canon.
[5] Troparion from Canticle 3 of the Matins Canon.
[6] Cf. the troparia from Canticle 2 of the Matins Canon.
[7] Psalm 136 (137 in the Hebrew Bible): ‘By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered Sion […] Those who captured us required of us a song […] but how shall we sing the Lord’s song in an alien land?’ This Psalm is sung first in Lent on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son.
[8] Troparion from Canticle 8 of the Matins Canon.
[9] Sticheron in tone 2, from Vespers on the eve of the Nativity.

Daily Meditation Henri Nouwen

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)
The Task of Reconciliation

What is our task in this world as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus? Our task is reconciliation. Wherever we go we see divisions among people - in families, communities, cities, countries, and continents. All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible. Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life.

Why is that our task? Because God sent Christ to reconcile us with God and to give us the task of reconciling people with one another. As people reconcile with God through Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation" (see: 2 Corinthians 5:18). So whatever we do the main question is, Does it lead to reconciliation among people?

Richard Rohr:

John the Baptist: Wild Wise Man

For many reasons, we have chosen St. John the Baptist as the patron of our Center for Action and Contemplation. Our feast day is celebrated on June 24, as the sun (reminiscent of John 3:30) agrees to decrease. John the Baptist is the prophet who rejects the system without apology, eats the harsh food of that choice and wears the clothes of rejection. Like our native people here in New Mexico, he goes on his vision quest into the desert where he faces his aloneness, boredom and naked self. He returns with a message, a clarity, a surety of heart that reveals a totally surrendered man. First he listens long and self-forgetfully; then he speaks, acts and accepts the consequences. Surely he is the ultimate wild man! Or is it wise man? He is both.

Always pointing beyond himself, ready to get out of the way, finally beheaded by the powers that be, John represents the kind of liberation and the kind of prophecy that we need in our affluent culture. He is not just free from the system; he is amazingly free from himself. These are the only prophets God can use, the only prophets we can trust.

John is seen by his contemporaries and by Jesus himself as a return and image of Elijah the Prophet. Elijah, of course, is the contemplative on Mount Horeb who met the Holy One "not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the sound of a gentle breeze" (1 Kings 19:11–13). He has fled to the prayer of the mountain from the hostility of king and queen, who see him as "the troubler of Israel" (1 Kings 18:17), who makes clear their idolatries.

Who wants to be a troubler? Who would dare to think of himself as a prophet? What did we come out to the desert to see? John the Baptist seems to tell us that it is the only place bare enough, empty enough to mirror our own motives and disguises. The desert is the prophet to the prophet. We had to come here, we had to come to the quiet, we have to trust men like John to begin to trust our own action and contemplation. Trouble us, John! You're our pointing-patron-prophet. We're not wild yet.

from Radical Grace, "Masculine Spirituality"

The Nativity in the Flesh of our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus
Christ December 25, 2007
Prophecy 6th Royal Hour: Isaiah 7:10-16; 8:1-4, 8-10
Epistle: Galatians
Gospel: St. Matthew 2:1-12

Immanuel: Isaiah 7:10-16; 8:1-4, 8-10 LXX, especially vs. 14: "Therefore
the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold, the Virgin shall
conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call
His Name Immanuel." This present passage begins (vs. 10) in the middle
of a conversation (Is. 7:3-9) between God the Almighty, "the Lord of
Hosts" (Is. 7:7), and King Ahaz of Judah. The Lord spoke to the king
through His Prophet Isaiah. It was a time of national crisis, an attack
on the nation of Judah. Rezin, the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of
Remaliah, the king of Israel, had formed a military coalition and come
up "against Jerusalem to war against it" (Is. 7:1). Their intent had
been to remove Ahaz as king of Judah and put "the son of Tabeel" (Is.
7:6) on the throne. They were motivated by the desire to survive the
aggression of the Assyrian empire, actively conquering the entire
region. The Syrian and Ephraimite kings first tried to convince Ahaz to
join them in an anti-Assyrian coalition, but Ahaz refused, and so they
sought to effect a coup d'etat and establish a friendly government in

Isaiah reports that the soul of King Ahaz "was amazed, and the soul of
his people, as in a wood a tree is moved by the wind" (Is. 7:2). In
response, God was seeking to reassure the king: "take care to be quiet,
and fear not, neither let your soul be disheartened because of these two
smoking firebrands: for when My fierce anger is over, I will heal
again....This counsel shall not abide" (Is. 7:4,7). However, King Ahaz
was not convinced, and so the Lord invited the nervous king, "ask for
yourself a sign of the Lord your God, in the depth or in the height"
(Is. 7:11). Ahaz, not able to see beyond his fear, evaded the Divine
offer of reassurance with a pious demur: "I will not ask, neither will I
tempt the Lord" (vs. 12).

The Lord's response to King Ahaz touched both the depth of the creation,
that is, the lowly earth and all its inhabitants, as well as the height
of all God's creation, the visible and the invisible. By the power of
God from Heaven, that which is impossible in the depths of earth is to
occur: "the virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a
son" (vs. 14). And thus, the poor, ineffectual, unbelieving, and timid
king of Judah is told of the wondrous Incarnation of God in the flesh.
Further, he is informed of the child's dual nature (being fully God and
fully man), "you shall call his name Immanuel" (vs. 14), that is, to
say, "God with us."

The remainder of the reading focuses on the work of Immanuel - of God
with us. First, the sinlessness of the Lord Jesus is revealed: "before
the child shall know good or evil, He refuses evil, to choose the good"
(vs. 7:16). In this prophetic utterance, the Lord declared centuries in
advance the birth of our Savior that the Apostle affirmed after the
death and Resurrection of Christ our God: "we do not have a High Priest
who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but [One Who] was in all
points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).

Then, God directed His counsel to the immediate circumstances of the
Syro-Ephraimite invasion and the looming threat of Assyria. These were
temporal threats with consequences for the nations of mankind at a
certain point in history, but in no way would their plans disrupt the
counsel of God. Centuries later the counsel of Herod and Pilate would
lead to the crucifixion of Christ and would scatter the Disciples, but
those decisions did "not stand...for God is with us" (Is. 8:10).
"Whatsoever counsel [men] shall take, the Lord shall bring it to nought"
wherever it conflicts with His purpose to give eternal life in Christ
Jesus. "For God did not send [Immanuel] into the world to condemn the
world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (Jn. 3:17).

God is with us, understand, O ye nations, and submit yourselves: for God
is with us. Hear ye unto the ends of the earth, for God is with us (Is.
8:10, as used in Great Compline).


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