Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Daily Meditation Dec 12, 2007


All-powerful God,
help us to look forward in hope
to the coming of our Savior.
May we live as he taught,
ready to welcome him with burning love and faith.
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

Stir up thy power, O Lord, and come,
that by thy protection we may be rescued
from the dangers that beset us through our sins;
and be a Redeemer to deliver us;
Who livest and reignest with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
ever one God, world without end.


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 38; PM Psalm 119:25-48
Amos 8:1-14; Rev. 1:17-2:7; Matt. 23:1-12

From Forward Day by Day:

Matthew 23:1-12. For they do not practice what they teach.

"Do as I say, not as I do," parents and other grown-ups often say. We want to give our children principles to live by, but sometimes we find it hard to live by them ourselves.

Children are observant little creatures, though, and they call us on it. It can be difficult to explain to them why we tell them one thing and then proceed to do its opposite, whether it's indulging in a little white lie, leaving our vegetables on the side of the plate, or accelerating through a yellow light.

Hypocrisy in high places is a greater problem. Last year was marked by sex scandals involving politicians and preachers--well, most years are marked by sex scandals involving politicians and preachers, but these scandals involved outspoken promoters of traditional moral values.

The scandals provide fodder for some in the news media, but they also undermine public trust in important institutions. When people become too cynical, when trust in those institutions is eroded, it's a problem. For all of us in positions of authority, whether priests or parents, it's important to live up to the standards that we preach and teach.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Western Tanganyika (Tanzania)

Advent Calendars online:

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC:

Alternatives Calendar:

St. Mary Margaret, Napierville, IL:

Westminsiter, UK City Council:

Speaking to the Soul:

Behold, you come

Daily Reading for December 12

Contrary to all our fond hopes, you seized upon precisely this kind of human life and made it your own. And you did this not in order to change or abolish it, not so that you could visibly and tangibly transform it, not to divinize it. You didn’t even fill it to overflowing with the kind of goods that men are able to wrest from the small, rocky acre of their temporal life, and which they laboriously store away as their meager provision for eternity.

No, you took upon yourself our kind of life, just as it is. You let it slip away from you, just as ours vanishes from us. You held on to it carefully, so that not a single drop of its torments would be spilled. You hoarded its every fleeting moment, so you could suffer through it all, right to the bitter end.

Is that your real coming? Is that what humanity has been waiting for? Is that why men have made the whole of human history a single great Advent-choir, in which even the blasphemers take part—a single chant crying out for you and your coming? Is your humble human existence from Bethlehem to Calvary really the coming that was to redeem wretched humanity from its misery?

It is said that you will come again, and this is true. But the word again is misleading. It won’t really be “another” coming, because you have never really gone away. In the human existence that you made your own for all eternity, you have never left us.

But still you will come again, because the fact that you have already come must continue to be revealed ever more clearly. It will become progressively more manifest to the world that the heart of all things is already transformed, because you have taken them all to your heart.

Behold, you come. And your coming is neither past nor future, but the present, which has only to reach its fulfillment. Now it is still the one single hour of your Advent, at the end of which we too shall have found out that you have really come.

O God who is to come, grant me the grace to live now, in the hour of your Advent, in such a way that I may merit to live in you forever, in the blissful hour of your eternity.

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

Consumerism is the worship of the god of quantity; advertising is its liturgy. Advertising is schooling in false longing.
— John O'Donohue in Eternal Echoes

To Practice This Thought: Play hooky from the school of advertising for a week.
++++++++++ Reflections

Be not afraid to tell Jesus that you love Him; even though it be without feeling, this is the way to oblige Him to help you, and carry you like a little child too feeble to walk.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Reading from the Desert Christians


Why do you beat the air and run in vain? Every occupation has a
purpose, obviously. Tell me then, what is the purpose of all the
activity of the world? Answer, I challenge you! It is vanity of
vanity: all is vanity.

St. John Chrysostom

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Energizing Visions

Are the great visions of the ultimate peace among all people and the ultimate harmony of all creation just utopian fairy tales? No, they are not! They correspond to the deepest longings of the human heart and point to the truth waiting to be revealed beyond all lies and deceptions. These visions nurture our souls and strengthen our hearts. They offer us hope when we are close to despair, courage when we are tempted to give up on life, and trust when suspicion seems the more logical attitude. Without these visions our deepest aspirations, which give us the energy to overcome great obstacles and painful setbacks, will be dulled and our lives will become flat, boring, and finally destructive. Our visions enable us to live the full life.

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

Hearing the Cries
December 12th, 2007
Wednesday’s Reflection

you hear the cry of the poor, the needy, and the lonely ones.
May we also hear the cries of our brothers and sisters,
responding in love as you have shown us
in your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

- Adapted by Elise S. Eslinger
The Upper Room Worshipbook

From p. 34 of The Upper Room Worshipbook edited by Elise S. Eslinger. Copyright © 2006 by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Women in Jail

I'm a jail chaplain in Albuquerque. I'm delighted by the way I can preach to those guys in the jail. They don't have all of our sophistication, and they're not lost in worlds of words whereby everything is made vague. It's very clear to them what death is, very clear to them what's destroying people and how it's destroying people. There simply isn't a lot of self-protection in the psyche because their situation is forcing them to face reality.

One of my three Sunday Masses there is for women. These women feel so bad about themselves. For some reason, men are supposed to go to jail; men are bad, you know. But women aren't supposed to be bad; women are good. Women have children. Women are wise. These women in prison carry an extra dose of guilt. They're constantly asking me, "Why am I here? What did I do?" Their children are at home, and they're in jail. And how do they tell their children they're in jail and their mother is a bad person or an evil person?

To be any kind of minister for them, I have to dig into places that you and I don't often look. "Religion" isn't enough; these women have to scratch their way back to faith—faith in themselves and faith in a God who seems to have abandoned them. It's not just their own mistakes that tell them they are bad; the structure of their reality also condemns them.

By necessity, much of the system is based on the self-interest of the dominant class. The examples I love to use are the Fifth and Sixth Commandments. A theologian once asked, "Why were there no exceptions to the Sixth Commandment, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' while we find ways around the Fifth Commandment, 'Thou shall not kill'?" Because the governments, the powers that be always wanted to have their excuses for why they could kill. And we gave them their justifications for capital punishment and "just" war. I call it institutionalized darkness.

Paul uses the pre-psychological language of his time to describe the same: "For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and Powers who originate the darkness of this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens" (Ephesians 6:12, JB). Whether we speak of "the world"—principalities and powers or structural sin—we are in each case trying to describe the overarching power that the system itself has in driving us toward evil. Such corporate evil can only be countered by corporate good; individualism alone will never survive.

The women and men in jail need a positive community to stand against the negative community of the system. Now we call it a support group; we need to call it the Church.

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.

Be ready

Be ready to go and meet the Lord, O Israel, for he is coming. You too must be ready, for at a time when you do not expect it the Son of Man will come. Nothing is more certain than that he is coming, nothing more uncertain than when he is coming. So far is it from being our province to know the times and seasons which the father has appointed by his own authority, that not even to the angels who stand in his presence is it granted to know that day and hour.

As for our own last day, it is most sure that this will come upon us, but most unsure when, or where, or from what quarter it will come. All we know is that, as the traditional saying has it, what is knocking at the door of the elderly lies in ambush for the young. Death which lurks in ambush is the more to be feared in that it can the less be seen and guarded against. There is only one security, and that is never to feel secure. Thus our fear, prompting us to watch ourselves carefully, keeps us always prepared until fear gives way to security, not security to fear.

Guerric of Igny

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


"That they may be one, even as we are one." John 17:22

Personality is that peculiar, incalculable thing that is meant when we speak of ourselves as distinct from everyone else. Our personality is always too big for us to grasp. An island in the sea may be but the top of a great mountain. Personality is like an island, we know nothing about the great depths underneath, consequently we cannot estimate ourselves. We begin by thinking that we can, but we come to realize that there is only one Being Who understands us, and that is our Creator.

Personality is the characteristic of the spiritual man as individuality is the characteristic of the natural man. Our Lord can never be defined in terms of individuality and independence, but only in terms of personality, "I and My Father are one." Personality merges, and you only reach your real identity when you are merged with another person. When love, or the Spirit of God strikes a man, he is transformed, he no longer insists upon his separate individuality. Our Lord never spoke in terms of individuality, of a man's "elbows" or his isolated position, but in terms of personality - "that they may be one, even as We are one." If you give up your right to yourself to God, the real true nature of your personality answers to God straight away. Jesus Christ emancipates the personality, and the individuality is transfigured; the transfiguring element is love, personal devotion to Jesus. Love is the outpouring of one personality in fellowship with another personality.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 12, August 12, December 12
Chapter 58: On the Manner of Receiving Sisters

When she is to be received
she promises before all in the oratory
fidelity to monastic life
and obedience.
This promise she shall make before God and His Saints,
so that if she should ever act otherwise,
she may know that she will be condemned by Him whom she mocks.
Of this promise of hers let her draw up a document
in the name of the Saints whose relics are there
and of the Abbess who is present.
Let her write this document with her own hand;
or if she is illiterate, let another write it at her request,
and let the novice put her mark to it.
Then let her place it with her own hand upon the altar;
and when she has placed it there,
let the novice at once intone this verse:
"Receive me, O Lord, according to Your word, and I shall live:
and let me not be confounded in my hope" (Ps. 118[119]:116).
Let the whole community answer this verse three times
and add the "Glory be to the Father."
Then let the novice prostrate herself at each one's feet,
that they may pray for her.
And from that day forward
let her be counted as one of the community.

If she has any property,
let her either give it beforehand to the poor
or by solemn donation bestow it on the monastery,
reserving nothing at all for herself,
as indeed she knows that from that day forward
she will no longer have power even over her own body.
At once, therefore, in the oratory,
let her be divested of her own clothes which she is wearing
and dressed in the clothes of the monastery.
But let the clothes of which she was divested
be put aside in the wardrobe and kept there.
Then if she should ever listen to the persuasions of the devil
and decide to leave the monastery (which God forbid),
she may be divested of the monastic clothes and cast out.
Her document, however,
which the Abbess has taken from the altar,
shall not be returned to her, but shall be kept in the monastery.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Benedictine life is rooted in three dimensions: commitment to a community, fidelity to a monastic way of life and obedience. It is a life that sees sanctification as a by-product of human society, the development of a new way of thinking and living, and a total openness to the constantly emerging challenges of the God-life within us. To pursue a Benedictine spirituality, we must carry our part of the human race and allow it to mold and polish and temper us. We are to be people who see the globe through eyes softened by the gospel. We are to see change and challenge in life as God's voice in our ears. Benedictine spirituality goes into the heart in order to embrace the world. It forms us differently than the world forms us but it does not attempt to shape us independently of the real world around us. The whole point of the profession ceremony itself is quite the opposite. We are, in fact, to make this commitment consciously and knowledgeably and publicly, in the presence of the community, the communion of saints that are represented by the relics of the church, and the leader of the community. This is a declaration that binds us to others and raises us beyond the changing feelings of the day to the obligations of a lifetime.

This passage of the Rule points out in a particularly graphic way that Benedictine spirituality demands a total change of the way we relate to life. In the first place, monastics are to depend entirely on the community for their support. They don't bring with them the family wealth and they don't have any claim to personal property, not even their clothes. They give everything that they have gained up to the time of their entry into the community either to the poor or to the monastery itself. From then on, it is the support of the community and the providence of God upon which they are to depend, not on their savings, not on their business acumen, not on their relatives and connections. From then on they go through life as a people whose trust is in God and who are responsible for one another. The purpose, of course, is to free a person forcibly from the agenda of the world. "Those who have cattle have care," an African proverb teaches. We "can't serve God and mammon," the scriptures say. The point of Benedictine spirituality is that we have to decide, once and for all, what we are about and then live in a way that makes that possible and makes that real.

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 Nativity Fast Spyridon,
Wonderworker of Trimythous
Kellia: Sirach 7:29-36 Epistle: Hebrews
5:11-6:8 Gospel: St. Mark 8:30-34

The Totality of Life: Sirach 7:29-36 LXX, especially vs. 36: "Whatsoever
thou takest in hand, remember the end, and thou shalt never do amiss."
When the wisdom authors addressed their brethren under the Old Covenant
they could refer to their shared identity as the People of God, with the
whole of life understood as an endowment from the Lord to be conducted
according to His commandments. It is the same for Christians, but made
Christ-specific since God has revealed Himself to us in the Christ
Jesus. So you should read their words as Holy Scripture, but receive
them "in the unity more [as] a child of the body, but
[as] a child of [God's] Kingdom," and as a member of the Church. Since
your holy Illumination in Baptism, you are no longer part of the old man
- no longer of Adam (a human being in general) nor of the Patriarch
Judah (a Jew ethnically) - but of the New Man, Christ our King and our God.

So then, as you live and undertake a great multitude of activities,
the advice of Jesus-ben-Sirach, one of the ancient writers of wisdom,
applies to you, but in Christ: "remember the end" (vs. 36)! It does
matter what you choose to take in hand, because it must be done with the
end in mind - your accountability to your God and King never neglected.
You do not choose a career, you do not marry, you do not have children,
you do not buy a home or rent an apartment, you do not buy clothes, you
do not pick up groceries, you do not purchase a car, you do nothing
outside the context of the end of your life - its purpose, its goal, its
mission, its totality. The beauty of this vision of living perfectly
that you have chosen is that "thou shalt never do amiss" (vs. 36).

Certain things follow from the end to which you have committed
yourself. Ben-Sirach touches on seven elements that must be themes of
your life in Christ: 1) fear of God, 2) reverence for your priests, 3)
giving to the church, 4) special provision for the poor, 5) generosity
toward all, 6) sharing in the grief of others, and 7) visiting the
sick. In a large, complex urban setting, carrying out these themes must
necessarily be influence by the environment and setting.

The first element, fear of the Lord, is the litmus test for all the
others: (vs. 29). Impulses to act and ideas to be carried out should be
measured against Christ's will. The Lord Jesus resisted some requests
set before Him when they would have taken Him from His primary purpose:
"I Am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt.
15:24). This prayer is appropriate regularly: what wouldst Thou have me
do, Lord?

You must reverence the Lord's Priests (vs. 29), which includes remaining
under their pastoral guidance and not forsaking them on your own whim
(vs. 30), but honoring them (vs. 31) and their counsel. Do not look to
your Priest merely for his actions in public worship or as a confessor
when you sin; but turn to him in advance of undertakings. Trust God's
Spirit in him.

Tithes and offerings are a regular part of a planned, godly life (vs.
31). God commands this in Holy Scripture (Deut. 12:5,6). When you do
not give ten percent of your increase, there is no fear of the Lord in
you but only disdain for Him, His People, and His Priests.

The poor and needy must be considered according to your ability, but
always you can "stretch thine hand unto the poor, that thy blessing may
be perfected" (vs. 32).

Remember the newly weds, new babies, or a new home; for "a gift hath
grace" (vs. 33).

Join those in grief from your heart (vs. 34), as the Apostle teaches
(Rom. 12:15).

Also, embrace the sick and suffering from your heart, those you know and
those for whom your community makes special collections, "for that shall
make thee...beloved" (Sir. 7:35).

O Master, enable me always to serve Thee, Thy Holy Church, our Pastors,
the needy poor, children, captives, orphans, widows, the sick, and the
suffering - and only as Thou willest.

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