Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Daily Meditation 12/26/07 On the Second Day of Christmas



PASSIONATE peace is in the sky --
And in the snow in silver sealed
The beasts are perfect in the field,
And men seem men so suddenly --
(But take ten swords and ten times ten
And blow the bugle in praising men
For we are for all men under the snn,
And they are against us every one
And misers haggle and madmen clutch
And there is peril in praising much,
And we have the terrible tongues uncurled
That praise the world to the sons of the world).

The idle humble hill and wood
Are bowed about the sacred birth,
And for one little hour the earth
Is lazy with the love of good --
(But ready are you, and ready am I,
If the battle blow and the guns go by;
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one;
And the men that hate herd all together,
To pride and gold, and the great white feather,
And the thing is graven in star and stone
That the men who love are all alone).

Hunger is hard and time is tough,
But bless the beggars and kiss the kings,
For hope has broken the heart of things,
And nothing was ever praised enough.
(But hold the shield for a sudden swing
And point the sword when you praise a thing,
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one,
And mime and merchant, thane and thrall
Hate us because we love them all,
Only till Christmastide go by
Passionate peace is in the sky).

by G K Chesterton


We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand: where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.

Today's Scripture

Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon and First Martyr

AM: Psalm 28, 30; 2 Chronicles 24:17-22; Acts 6:1-7
PM: Psalm 118; Wisdom 4:7-15; Acts 7:59-8:8

From Forward Day by Day:

Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51c-60. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.

Nobody likes a critic; nobody likes to be told what's wrong or what might be better. The prophets were the first critics, their thumbs-down reviews of the powerful resounding through the Hebrew Bible. John the Baptist paid with his head for his blistering critique of Herod and Herodias's ghastly performances. Today we meet the first critic-and, not coincidentally, the first martyr-in the new Christian movement: the deacon Stephen, stoned to death for being too out spoken. He spoke truth to power, until power bit back.

We are often urged to exercise the "prophetic voice," to call society's dominant individuals and institutions to account, but speaking truth is risky. Power, no matter where it sits, is seldom keen on correction. Stephen, now portrayed in a stained-glass window near you for his witness, paid an awful price to get there.

We are unlikely to be canonized or rendered in paint and gold leaf as icons, but our responsibility to speak the truth remains. Complacency in the face of wrong is not an option.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of York (York, England)

From: Christmas CLARESHARE December 2006
Ty Mam Duw Poor Clare Colettine Community

26th December
St. Stephen's day
Stephen was a deacon. His job was to give out boxes to the poor.
Go and find someone in need and give them something.

Twelve Days of Christmas

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Day 2, December 26
Two Turtle Doves
The Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God's self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.

Two Turtle Doves
The Old Testament and The New Testament

God gave His greatest gift to believers, His son Jesus Christ. He also gave us his word, the Christian Holy Bible made up of the Old Testament and the New Testament, communicated by the Holy Spirit, first through the patriarchs and prophets and then through the apostles. The Old Testament was God's covenant with Israel.

Perhaps the simplest statement of the covenant is the sentence, "I will take you for my people, and I will be your God" (Exodus 6:7). The law, a part of the covenant, contains God's rules for behavior and for religious practices. The people witnessed God's goodness, His love, His power, His faithfulness, His righteous anger, yet continued to disobey. Through Old Testament prophecy, the reader catches a glimpse of the New Testament.

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them. You have given them great joy, Lord; you have made them happy. They rejoice in what you have done, as people rejoice when they harvest grain or when they divide captured wealth. For you have broken the yoke that burdened them and the rod that beat their shoulders." (Isaiah 9:2-4a [TEV])

The high point of Jeremiah's prophecies contains the only Old Testament reference to the "new covenant":

"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34 [NIV])

Through the prophet Isaiah the people were told of the coming of the Lord:

"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 40:1-5 [NIV])

So, what is this New Testament, this new covenant? In the biblical books God gave us His word. Through prophecy God revealed His Word, his Son. John reveals the mystery of the Word to us:

"In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word was with God and was truly God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. And with this Word, God created all things. Nothing was made without the Word. Everything that was created received its life from him, and his life gave light to everyone. The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out

The true light that shines on everyone was coming into the world. The Word was in the world, but no one knew him, though God had made the world with his Word. He came into his own world, but his nation did not welcome him. Yet some people accepted him and put their faith in him. So he gave them the right to be the children of God. They were not God's children by nature or because of any human desires. God himself was the one who made them his children.

The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us." (John 1: 1-5, 9-14 [CEV]).

So Jesus came, He taught, He performed miracles, and He showed the way that God would have us go in His new covenant with us. And through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, through the grace of God, we are freely given salvation and eternal life. His promises remain constant and with us today. Jesus himself reveals God’s great Plan:

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."

Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"

Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. "All this I have spoken while still with you.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. "You heard me say, `I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. "Come now; let us leave." (John 14 [NIV])

Yes, Jesus is God's greatest gift to us. The "two turtle doves", the Old Testament and the New Testament, testify to His goodness and mercy and love. In the end He leaves us with Peace and hope, the knowledge that He will return for us, the promise of eternal life with Him.

Today, the dove, a small white delicate bird, has become identified with Peace. From the first Peace, when the dove returned to Noah’s ark carrying a freshly plucked olive leaf, a sign that Peace between God and man had returned to the earth, to the new Peace, our redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Thank You Lord.

~ Gord Evans
Pefferlaw, Ontario, Canada

God of Revelation,

You have revealed Yourself to us in so many ways. Your creation abounds with the stamp of a Creator who is powerful, resourceful and plentiful. Your Son has given us the means by which we can approach Your Holy Throne in the power of his blood. And yet, You have also given us Your written word in which we find You, and your plan for our reconciliation to You. We are instructed to study, to keep, to learn, to live it. Thank You for yet another way to know You.


Speaking to the Soul:

St. Stephen

Daily Reading for December 26 • St. Stephen

It is the Feast of St. Stephen, 1983, bitterly cold. The chapel at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields has not warmed up by the time I arrive. The celebrant says he decided not to turn on the heat. “We’ll be done in thirty minutes.” He grins. “Besides, the cold is good for your soul.” We leave our coats on. A third person arrives, the other priest in the parish. She looks stunned by the cold. We stand close to the altar table, as if it were a hearth and we immobile stones.

The Mass begins, and we are still. The celebrant prays, “We offer you these gifts. Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us also. . . .”

Stephen also calls on this same Spirit. I think about his stoning. His claim to see Jesus at God’s right hand leads directly to his death. The stones break his body, spill his blood.

When the celebrant raises and breaks the consecrated bread, we look up at it. There is a moment of profound silence. We are frozen in time, locked in that space, enlightened. The Holy Spirit arrives abruptly. It is as if someone has flung open the door and burst into the room bringing all the cold of heaven. We are blown away, as Stephen is blown away. We yield our spirits, pass the bread and then the wine to each other. This presence enfolds the room so that our breath no longer crystallizes. All is changed, and we are changed. We are the Body and Blood, a consecrated people.

In the parish hall, holding hot cups of coffee, we say nothing for a while. Then one of the priests asks, “Did you feel it?”

We nod. We felt it.

From On the Way: Vocation, Awareness, and Fly Fishing by Kenneth Arnold. Copyright © 2000. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

Spiritual Practice of the Day

Those of us who aspire to meditation need only become like a rock. A rock is stable. It knows how to meditate.
— Deng Ming-Dao quoted in The Tao of Elvis by David Rosen

To Practice This Thought: Identify a natural object that is or could be a spiritual guide to you.
++++++++++ Reflections

I open the Scriptures... then all appears clear, full of light... holiness appears easy.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Reading from the Desert Christians


Why do you increase your bonds? Take hold of your life before your
light grows dark and you seek help and do not find it. This life
has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain

St. Isaac the Syrian

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Claiming our Reconciliation

How do we work for reconciliation? First and foremost by claiming for ourselves that God through Christ has reconciled us to God. It is not enough to believe this with our heads. We have to let the truth of this reconciliation permeate every part of our beings. As long as we are not fully and thoroughly convinced that we have been reconciled with God, that we are forgiven, that we have received new hearts, new spirits, new eyes to see, and new ears to hear, we continue to create divisions among people because we expect from them a healing power they do not possess.

Only when we fully trust that we belong to God and can find in our relationship with God all that we need for our minds, hearts, and souls, can we be truly free in this world and be ministers of reconciliation. This is not easy; we readily fall back into self-doubt and self-rejection. We need to be constantly reminded through God's Word, the sacraments, and the love of our neighbours that we are indeed reconciled.

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

Day Twenty Five - The Second Note -


Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35) Love is the distinguishing feature of all true disciples of Christ who wish to dedicate themselves to him as his servants.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

The Gift of Love
December 26th, 2007
Wednesday’s Reflection

we treasure you
and the gift of love
that you bring
to us today.

- Beth A. Richardson
Child of the Light

From p. 89 of Child of the Light: Walking through Advent and Christmas by Beth A. Richardson. Copyright © 2005 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Remember Everything

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship. Up Jerusalem! Stand upon the heights; Look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. (Baruch 5:1–5, NAB) Our remembrance that God remembers us will be the highway into the future, the straight path of the Lord promised by John the Baptizer (Luke 3:4). Memory is the basis of both pain and rejoicing: We cannot have one without the other.

Do not be too quick to heal all of those memories, unless that means also feeling them deeply and taking them all into your salvation history. God calls us to suffer the whole of reality, to remember the good along with the bad. Perhaps that is the course of the journey toward new sight and new hope. Memory creates a readiness for salvation, an emptiness to receive the love and a fullness to enjoy it.

Strangely enough, it seems so much easier to remember the hurts, the failures and the rejections. In a seeming love of freedom, God has allowed us to be very vulnerable to evil. And until we have learned how to see, evil comes to us easily and holds us in its grasp.

Yet only in an experience and a remembering of the good do we have the power to stand against death. As Baruch tells Jerusalem, you must "rejoice that you are remembered by God." In that remembrance we have new sight, and the evil can be absorbed and blotted out.

from Sojourners, "The Energy of Promise"

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

The first martyr

Yesterday we kept the feast of Christmas, the day the King of martyrs was born into the world. Today we celebrate the birthday of Stephen, the day the first of all the martyrs left this world. The immortal one had first to assume our flesh so that mortals might undergo death for his sake. The Lord was born to die for his servant, so that his servant would not fear to die for him. Christ was born on earth so that Stephen might be born in heaven.

Christ prayed for those who crucified him. Stephen also prayed for those who stoned him. The Lord Jesus prayed, nailed to the cross; Stephen prayed on bended knee. He stood to commend his spirit to the Lord; he knelt to pray for the sin of his attackers. He spoke to the Lord as he would to a friend, entreating him for his enemies.

Let us turn to the younger persecutor Saul to see how powerful was the prayer of the holy martyr Stephen. If Stephen had not prayed for his enemies, the Church today would have had no Paul. Let us then commend ourselves to Stephen. If his prayers for those who stoned him were heard, much more will they now be heard for those who venerate him.

Augustine of Hippo

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


"If we walk in the light, as He is in the light the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1 John 1:7

To mistake conscious freedom from sin for deliverance from sin by the Atonement is a great error. No man knows what sin is until he is born again. Sin is what Jesus Christ faced on Calvary. The evidence that I am delivered from sin is that I know the real nature of sin in me. It takes the last reach of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that is, the impartation of His absolute perfection, to make a man know what sin is.

The Holy Spirit applies the Atonement to us in the unconscious realm as well as in the realm of which we are conscious, and it is only when we get a grasp of the unrivalled power of the Spirit in us that we understand the meaning of 1 John 1:7, "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." This does not refer to conscious sin only, but to the tremendously profound understanding of sin which only the Holy Ghost in me realizes.

If I walk in the light as God is in the light, not in the light of my conscience, but in the light of God - if I walk there, with nothing folded up, then there comes the amazing revelation, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin so that God Almighty can see nothing to censure in me. In my consciousness it works with a keen poignant knowledge of what sin is. The love of God at work in me makes me hate with the hatred of the Holy Ghost all that is not in keeping with God's holiness. To walk in the light means that everything that is of the darkness drives me closer into the centre of the light.

Chesterton Day by Day


THERE fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the Yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam,
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost -- how long ago
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
Amid all men are at home.

The House of Christmas: 'Daily News.'

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 26, August 26, December 26
Chapter 68: If a Sister Is Commanded to Do Impossible Things

If it happens
that difficult or impossible tasks are laid on a sister,
let her nevertheless receive the order of the one in authority
with all meekness and obedience.
But if she sees that the weight of the burden
altogether exceeds the limit of her strength,
let her submit the reasons for her inability
to the one who is over her
in a quiet way and at an opportune time,
without pride, resistance, or contradiction.
And if after these representations
the Superior still persists in her decision and command,
let the subject know that this is for her good,
and let her obey out of love,
trusting in the help of God.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

An old Jewish proverb teaches, "When you have no choice, don't be afraid." A modern saying argues, "There's no way out but through." The straight and simple truth is that there are some things in life that must be done, even when we don't want to do them, even when we believe we can't do them. Is the rule cruel on this point? Not if there is any truth in experience at all. The reality is that we are often incapable of assessing our own limits, our real talents, our true strength, our necessary ordeals. If parents and teachers and employers and counselors and prioresses somewhere hadn't insisted, we would never have gone to college or stayed at the party or tried the work or met the person or begun the project that, eventually, changed our lives and made us more than we ever knew ourselves to be. Benedict understood clearly that the function of leadership is to call us beyond ourselves, to stretch us to our limits, to turn the clay into breathless beauty. But, first, of course, we have to allow it to happen.

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

Wednesday, December 26 , 2007 The Synaxis
of the Most Holy Theotokos
Prophecy 9th Royal Hour: Isaiah 9:6-7 Epistle: Hebrews
2:11-18 Gospel: St. Matthew 2:13-23

Divine Zeal: Isaiah 9:6-7 LXX, especially vs. 7: "The zeal of the Lord
of hosts will do this." In these two verses Isaiah describes a Divine
action that unites heaven and earth forever - glory enters humiliation.
Eusebios of Caesarea, considering the scope of this action of God,
asked, "What kind of zeal but that zeal, good and befitting Himself, by
which He desired to save all those who were subjected to the devil and
dragged down to godlessness?"

How you and I desperately need this Holy action of God! Consider
just for a moment the sordid daily news flowing in from every corner of
the globe with reports of children aborted; the Divinity of Christ our
God vigorously denied by sophisticated atheists; governments shouldering
arms against governments; Jesus' Name cursed; fallible men taking
counsel with other men as flawed as themselves;, might and power sought
only in weapons, money, and systems; the adulation of the nasty,
sensual, and brutish; increasing regulation, domination, and
corruption. It is the zeal of men assaulting every act of love,
decency, morality, and honor.

These actual conditions are not only "daily news," but also a
factual part of the massive evidence which allows our hearts to say,
"Yes," to St. Nikolai of Zica: that "all that is wonderful, all that is
new, comes to the human race from Him and through Him." The so-called
"daily news" makes the need for Divine action urgent. At the same time,
the daily news reports, when exposed to the light of the star over the
cave in Bethlehem, only add to our awe and wonder at the zeal of the
Lord God. He has zealously undertaken His Divine action for this sad
world that continues on its way generating terrible conditions year by
year, century upon century, from the murder of Cain to the latest grim
dispatch. But glory to God Whose zeal offers the Way to Life!

The Holy Prophet Isaiah said, "The zeal of the Lord....'shall perform
this" (vs. 7), and that holy man saw more than this world. He saw God
"high and lifted up" (Is. 6:1), and the Lord revealed to him, out of
time, from eternity, that "for us a Child is born" (Is. 9:6). Beloved,
you have the privilege of declaring the same truth with the shepherds
and the magi, with the all-pure Birthgiver of God, the Apostles, and all
the Saints, because in His zeal God launched an action in the world two
thousand years ago. "In clear and incontrovertible terms, there is
indicated by the prophecy the dispensation of His humanity," as St.
Gregory of Nyssa affirms. God is so zealous to change this world that
He became man, forever uniting Himself to us.

When Isaiah says, "to us a Son is given" (vs. 6), he also is proclaiming
the Divinity of the Child Who is born to us. Divine zeal cannot be
restrained because the two natures are united. Rather, it is manifest
because the God-man is born, and Wise men gave gifts to the Gift
Himself. Human governance is now in the right hands: the Divine
hands of Christ. Furthermore, we who "were dead in trespasses, [God]
made...alive together with Christ...and raised us up together, and made
us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:5,6).
The government of the whole universe, including our sordid little
planet, is on His shoulders, our "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, [and] Prince of Peace" (Is. 9:6).

Be sober, but despair not at the conditions of this world. The zeal of
God is now at work in human hearts, minds, and lives. Therefore, "the
increase of His government and of peace there will be no end" (vs. 7).
By the zeal of God, the Divine project is well underway and assured. He
is establishing His kingdom and upholding "it with justice and with
righteousness from this time forth and for evermore" (vs. 7). "The zeal
of the Lord of hosts will [complete] this" (vs. 7).

I shall return to the bliss of paradise from which I was driven away by
reason of iniquity, for the likeness of the Father hath taken the
likeness of a servant for His love of mankind.


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