Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Daily Meditation Dec 11, 2007


Father, in the wilderness of the Jordan
you sent a messenger to prepare people's hearts
for the coming of your Son.
Help me to hear his words and repent of my sins,
so that I may clearly see the way to walk,
the truth to speak, and the life to live for Him,
our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

God our Father,
you loved the world so much
you gave your only Son to free us
from the ancient power of sin and death.
Help us who wait for his coming
and lead us to true liberty.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Liturgy of the Hours, Saturdays in Advent

Both of the above from:


Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 26, 28; PM Psalm 36, 39
Amos 7:10-17; Rev. 1:9-16; Matt. 22:34-46

From Forward Day by Day:

Matthew 22:34-46. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Jesus has a way of cutting through the nonessentials to get to what really matters. In the gospels, he repeatedly takes on those who would trip him up with legalisms, giving them straight answers that leave them speechless.

Here Jesus boils down the 613 laws of the Hebrew Bible into the two on which everything depends: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind....You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

If everyone who professes the Christian faith were to live truly by those commandments, it would transform our world. If we conscientiously acted with the love of God and our fellow human beings foremost in our minds, lawyers would find themselves underemployed, the helpless would be aided and the grieving comforted, crime would plummet,and political campaigns would be marked by their generosity of spirit.

We can each individually strive to abide by those laws. There's no better time to start than in this season of Advent.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Western North Carolina (United States)

Advent Calendars online:

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC:

Alternatives Calendar:

St. Mary Margaret, Napierville, IL:

Westminsiter, UK City Council:

Speaking to the Soul:


Daily Reading for December 11

Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise. Every year we roll up all our needs and yearnings and faithful expectation into one word: “Come!”

And yet, what a strange prayer this is! After all, you have already come and pitched your tent among us. You have already shared our life with its little joys, its long days of tedious routine, its bitter end. Could we invite you to anything more than this with our “Come”? Could you approach any nearer to us than you did when you became the “Son of Man,” when you adopted our ordinary little ways so thoroughly that it’s almost hard for us to distinguish you from the rest of our fellow men?

In spite of all this we still pray: “Come.” Is it true, then, that we only “celebrate” this season, or is it still really Advent? Are you the eternal Advent? Are you he who is always still to come, but never arrives in such a way as to fulfill our expectations? Are you the infinitely distant One, who can never be reached?

You promised that you would come, and actually made good your promise. But how, O Lord, how did you come? You did it by taking a human life as your own. You became like us in everything: born of a woman, you suffered under Pontius Pilate, were crucified, died, and were buried. And thus you took up again the very thing we wanted to discard. You began what we thought would end with your coming: our poor human kind of life, which is sheer frailty, finiteness, and death.

From “The God Who Is to Come” by Karl Rahner, in Encounters with Silence, translated by James M. Demske (St. Augustine’s Press, 1999).


Spiritual Practice of the Day

We only have to go a little beyond the frontier of sensible appearances in order to see the divine.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin quoted in Silent Hope by John Kirvan

To Practice This Thought: Look for images of God beyond the usual suspects.
++++++++++ Reflections

All things praise You, Lord of all the World!
St Teresa of Jesus
Life, 25.17

Reading from the Desert Christians


When you pray to God in time of temptation do not say, 'Take this
or that away from me', but pray like this: 'O Jesus Christ,
sovereign Master, help me and do not let me sin against Thee. . .'

Abba Isaiah the Solitary

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

A New Heaven and a New Earth

Long before Jesus was born the prophet Isaiah had a vision of Christ's great unifying work of salvation. Many years after Jesus died, John, the beloved disciple, had another but similar vision: He saw a new heaven and a new earth. All of creation had been transformed, dressed with immortality to be the perfect bride of Christ. In John's vision the risen Christ speaks from his throne, saying: "Look, I am making the whole of creation new. .... Look, here God lives among human beings. He will make his home among them; they will be his people, and he will be their God, God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain. The world of the past has gone" (Revelation 21:5; 21:3-4).

Both Isaiah and John open our eyes to the all-inclusive nature of Christ's saving work.

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

Day Eleven - The Third Aim, cont'd

Although we possess property and earn money to support ourselves and our families, wo show ourselves to be true followers of Christ and of Saint Francis by our readiness to live simply and to share with others. We recognize that some of our members may be called to a literal following of Saint Francis in a life of extreme simplicity. All of us, however, accept that we avoid luxury and waste, and regard our possessions as being held in trust for God.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

The Well of Prayer
December 11th, 2007
Tuesday’s Reflection

PRAYER CAN BE LIKE descending into a deep well. Not content with a quick drink, we may become immersed in the pure, cool water of the depths of divine love. This can be profoundly gratifying. But it can also be frightening. Immersed, we are wholly absorbed in God. We lose sight of things that have been comforting. We lose touch with our normal securities and enter a place of pure faith and love.

Actually, divine light penetrates this place that seems so dark. We are bathed in the pure light of Christ. It seems dark because the brilliance blinds us, just as we cannot gaze directly at the sun without being blinded. In the deep darkness of total surrender, we are enlightened.

- J. David Muyskens
Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God: The Practice of Centering Prayer

From p. 62 of Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God: The Practice of Centering Prayer by J. David Muyskens. Copyright © 2006 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Don't Name Darkness Light

We're not waiting for the darkness to go away, brothers and sisters. I've certainly worked long enough in ministry to know it won't go away.

We wish it would go away, especially in some of the great social issues. We wish world hunger would be eliminated. We wish we'd stop creating all these arms and killing people. But one has to surrender at a certain point and admit that the darkness is here. How do we deal with that? We've got to find the freedom within our spirits and within our communities to at least recognize that darkness and learn how to live in relationship to it.

In other words, don't name darkness light! Don't name darkness good. I think many of our people have been seduced into doing that. The way out is to simply stop calling it OK. When we refuse to name darkness, we are trapped by it. That's dangerous and false innocence. When we can name the darkness, we can learn how to live so that the darkness does not overcome us.

The problem of the liberation of the First World countries is that the edges between darkness and light in middle-class society have become very, very vague. When nothing is forbidden, nothing is required. We are close to that today. I believe it is what Thomas Merton predicted as "organized despair."

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.

Need for a savior

The coming of a savior was necessary, the presence of Christ is indispensable for people harassed like this. O that he may so come to us in his gracious bounty, that dwelling in us through faith he may enlighten our blindness, abiding with us support our weakness, and taking the field for us protect and guard our frailty! If he is in us who can ever deceive us? If he is with us, what can we still find too hard in him who strengthens us? If he is for us, who is against us? He is a trusty counselor incapable of deceiving or being deceived, a mighty ally who does not grow weary, an effective champion who will swiftly crush Satan under our feet and shatter all his stratagems.

Christ is the Wisdom of God, so it is simple for him to instruct the ignorant; he is the Power of God, so it is easy for him to restore those who sin and to rescue those in peril. Let us have recourse to this great teacher in all our uncertainties, invoke this ready helper in all our labor, and commit our souls to this trusty defender in all our struggles. He came into the world for this very purpose, so that by living among us, with us, and for us, he might enlighten our darkness, alleviate our toil, and ward off the dangers that threaten us.

Bernard of Clairvaux

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


"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself." Matthew 16:24

Individuality is the husk of the personal life. Individuality is all elbows, it separates and isolates. It is the characteristic of the child and rightly so; but if we mistake individuality for the personal life, we will remain isolated. The shell of individuality is God's created natural covering for the protection of the personal life; but individuality must go in order that the personal life may come out and be brought into fellowship with God. Individuality counterfeits personality as lust counterfeits love. God designed human nature for Himself; individuality debases human nature for itself.

The characteristics of individuality are independence and self-assertiveness. It is the continual assertion of individuality that hinders our spiritual life more than anything else. If you say - "I cannot believe," it is because individuality is in the road; individuality never can believe. Personality cannot help believing. Watch yourself when the Spirit of God is at work. He pushes you to the margins of your individuality, and you have either to say - "I shan't," or to surrender, to break the husk of individuality and let the personal life emerge. The Holy Spirit narrows it down every time to one thing (cf. Matthew 5:23-24). The thing in you that will not be reconciled to your brother is your individuality. God wants to bring you into union with Himself, but unless you are willing to give up your right to yourself He cannot. "Let him deny himself" - deny his independent right to himself, then the real life has a chance to grow.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 11, August 11, December 11
Chapter 58: On the Manner of Receiving Sisters

When anyone is newly come for the reformation of her life,
let her not be granted an easy entrance;
but, as the Apostle says,
"Test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in her knocking,
and if it is seen after four or five days
that she bears patiently the harsh treatment offered her
and the difficulty of admission,
and that she persists in her petition,
then let entrance be granted her,
and let her stay in the guest house for a few days.

After that let her live in the novitiate,
where the novices study, eat and sleep.
A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls,
to watch over them with the utmost care.
Let her examine whether the novice is truly seeking God,
and whether she is zealous
for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.
Let the novice be told all the hard and rugged ways
by which the journey to God is made.

If she promises stability and perseverance,
then at the end of two months
let this rule be read through to her,
and let her be addressed thus:
"Here is the law under which you wish to fight.
If you can observe it, enter;
if you cannot, you are free to depart."
If she still stands firm,
let her be taken to the above-mentioned novitiate
and again tested in all patience.
And after the lapse of six months let the Rule be read to her,
that she may know on what she is entering.
And if she still remains firm,
after four months let the same Rule be read to her again.

Then, having deliberated with herself,
if she promises to keep it in its entirety
and to observe everything that is commanded,
let her be received into the community.
But let her understand that,
according to the law of the Rule,
from that day forward she may not leave the monastery
nor withdraw her neck from under the yoke of the Rule
which she was free to refuse or to accept
during that prolonged deliberation.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

The spiritual life is not a set of exercises appended to our ordinary routine. It is a complete reordering of our values and our priorities and our lives. Spirituality is not just a matter of joining the closest religious community or parish committee or faith sharing group. Spirituality is that depth of soul that changes our lives and focuses our efforts and leads us to see the world differently than we ever did before. The Mezeritizer Rabbi taught: "There are sparks of holiness in everything. They constitute our spirituality." Benedict, too, wants proof of this commitment to truth and perseverance in the search before a new member is even admitted to the community. "Test the spirits," the Rule says, and test he does, in more than one place. Even the newcomer is left sitting in the guesthouse until the community is sure that the applicant is sure. No one is to enter a Benedictine community on impulse and, once there, no one is to treat life as a series of hapless circumstances. In fact, life itself is a discipline. Life is something that we are to live with purpose and control right from the very beginning. Life is not easy and life is not to be lived as if it were, for fear that when we really need internal fortitude we will not have developed it.

It is an important insight for all of us. We must develop the rigor it takes to live through what life deals us. We can't set out to get holy in the hope that we will then automatically become faithful. We must require fidelity of ourselves even when we fail, in the hope that someday, as a result, we will finally become holy.

There are two elements of this paragraph that may come as a surprise in the wake of early twentieth century spirituality with its emphasis on particular examens and reparation for sin. The first is that it is not perfection that Benedict insists on in a newcomer to the spiritual life; it is direction. "The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life," Robert Browning wrote. The Rule of Benedict wants to know at what we're aiming: prayer, concern for the will of God, commitment--whatever the cost--or lesser things?

The second surprise in a document that was written in a century of harsh penances and rigorous pious disciplines is that the director is not asked to be harsh and demanding but "skilled in winning souls," someone who can make a hard way possible.

In the spiritual life we may fail often but we may never change course and we must always seek the help of those whose ways are wiser and more tried than ours.

Benedict allows no one to take on the monastic life without knowing what it entails--in full and without gloss. At the same time, the Rule makes it quite clear that this is the process of a lifetime. It is not a year's experience; it is not a degree once gotten and then ignored. This is not a spiritual quick-fix. It is a way of life and it takes a lifetime to absorb. Nothing important, nothing life-altering, nothing that demands total commitment can be tried on lightly and easily discarded. It is the work of a lifetime that takes a lifetime to leaven us until, imperceptibly, we find ourselves changed into what we sought.

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 Nativity Fast Venerable Daniel,
Stylite of Constantinople
Kellia: Susanna 31-64 Epistle: Hebrews
4:1-13 Gospel: St. Mark 8:22-25

Before Man & God: Susanna 31-64 LXX, especially vs. 60: "With that all
the assembly cried out with a loud voice, and praised God, who saveth
them that trust in Him." In the proceedings of all courts of law, the
decision-making of solemn assemblies, and the trials through which
anyone may pass, men are present and God is present. Yes, outcomes are
important. Who is not appalled at the travesties that pass for some
judicial processes? How many ill-conceived laws have entered the
statutes in societies across the world? Do not our hearts ache for
those who suffer well-meant therapies and still die? In all cases men
have acted as they believed and chose, but God also was present and
active. Blessed are those who endure the actions of men, knowing that
God is present. Following her sentence to die, "Susanna cried out with
a loud voice, and said, O everlasting God, that knowest the secrets, and
knowest all things before they be" (vs.42).

Again, consider this account: "Father Nicholas came out of the altar
with the Chalice pronouncing: 'With fear of God and faith and love draw
nigh!' He took it back into the altar and went out to read the prayer
of dismissal. At that moment, four cheka men, without removing their
hats, walked into the church and headed toward the altar. Fr. Nicholas
blocked their way and said, 'You may step in only over my corpse. You
may not stand here.'
'We need to talk to you,' they said.
'When I finish!' decisively answered Fr. Nicholas, 'then you can talk
with me. I cannot talk with you now. Move away from here.'
They waited. In the meantime the church emptied little by little. The
parishioners abandoned him, and only five people stood through to the
end. Fr. Nicholas consumed the Holy Gifts, removed his vestments and
came out.
'Your church is closed,' the chekists announced....Fr. Nicholas was
probably executed immediately after his arrest."

In Susanna's case, there was a miracle, a divine reversal, caused by
prophetic action. In the case of the Priest Nicholas Derzhavin, there
was a glorious crown of martyrdom. Do not fail to see that God was
present at both trials. Embrace His presence in these cases and during
the struggles of all men. The people condemned Susanna "legally" (vs.
41), according to the testimony of two witnesses (Deut. 17:6). They
were wrong. Then, the Prophet Daniel challenged the verdict and resumed
the proceedings, and the same assembly "arose against the two
elders....and according to the law of Moses they did unto them in such
sort as they maliciously intended to do to their neighbour: and they put
them to death" (Sus 61,62). Well-meaning people make mistakes.
Evil-minded men succeed in their plots. And God always is present.

The two elders never mentioned God (vss. 1-40). Concerning Susanna it
is recorded from the start that she was "one that feared the Lord" (vs.
2). In the face of her sentence to death, her relationship with God
remained foremost - she prayed (vss. 42,43). At her acquittal, all
praised God. In the midst of the proceedings touching on their lives
only the two on trial - Susanna and Father Nicholas - remained firmly
rooted in the knowledge of God until "the Lord raised up the holy spirit
of a young youth whose name was Daniel" in Susanna's case (vs. 45).

Let the account of these brave servants of God plant in your heart the
knowledge that "God is everywhere present and fillest all things."
Nothing happens apart from His will, even when men successfully oppose
Him. Remember that all actions of men occur before God's eyes.

Almighty God unto Whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from
Whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the
inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit.

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