Friday, December 14, 2007

Daily Meditation Dec 14, 2007



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 31; PM Psalm 35
Haggai 1:1-15; Rev. 2:18-29; Matt. 23:27-39

From Forward Day by Day:

Matthew 23:27-39. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!

We'd all like to think ourselves enlightened, beyond prejudice, and above reproach. America is increasingly diverse; for a generation, academics, politicians, religious groups, and journalists (I'm one) have worked, sometimes stridently, to root out prejudices--against blacks, women, gays, the disabled, and others--from our society.

Well, good luck. "Suspicion of the other" seems to be hard-wired in us; stereotypes have staying power. I've dealt with prejudice against women (particularly assertive women) all my life. As a professional singer, I encountered one set of assumptions; as a journalist, I'm faced with others.

Not that I'm immune to prejudices myself. I regard members of religions that proselytize door-to-door, certain kinds of lawyers, and substance abusers in ways that probably wouldn't bear much examination. I'm cool on race, but fall short on certain issues of class: Deliver me, O Lord, from self-righteousness.

Part of the message of Christianity is that we are all sisters and brothers in Christ. Our differences are erased in him. It's one we all should bear in mind.

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

Advent Calendars online:

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC:

Alternatives Calendar:

St. Mary Margaret, Napierville, IL:

Westminsiter, UK City Council:

Speaking to the Soul:

O Come, Emmanuel

Daily Reading for December 14

Advent. A time of waiting and watching and preparation. A time, if we are not careful, of rampant materialism and tension that looks forward only to a too-secularized and too-commercialized Christmas holiday. On the other hand, Advent can be a time like no other—a time in which we pause and ask Christ into our hearts, invite God into our world.

But who is this God who comes to us and enters into our life? How do we invite God into our lives? How do we know Christ Jesus? One way to discover Christ and to pray for God’s coming is to use the ancient prayers of the early church together with a present-day understanding of what Christ’s coming will mean for us.

The well-known carol, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” provides just such a passageway linking the old and the new. The carol’s familiar names for Christ are based on the Advent Antiphons—the “Great O’s”—which date back possibly to the sixth century. These antiphons—short devotional texts chanted before and after a psalm or canticle—were sung before and after the Magnificat, the Song of Mary, at Vespers from December 16 through December 23. Each of the antiphons greets the Messiah and ends with a petition of hope. The simple refrain of the carol, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!” sets the tone for this Advent time of waiting and expectation.

From Hasten the Kingdom: Praying the O Antiphons of Advent by Mary Winifred, C.A. (Liturgical Press, 1996).

Spiritual Practice of the Day

Yesterday's E-mail is no less significant than the New Testament, and no more.
— Deepak Chopra in How to Know God

To Practice This Thought: Be on the lookout for new messages from the Most High.
++++++++++ Reflections

By how many paths, in how many manners, through how many means do you reveal your love to us.
St Teresa of Jesus

Reading from the Desert Christians


My soul, seek the Only One . . . My soul, you have no part with
the earth; for you are from heaven. You are the image of God: seek
your First Image. For like strives after like. Each object finds
its rest in its center and element -- fish in water, fire in its
upward movement everything strives to its center. My soul, you are
an immaterial spirit, immortal. . . In Him alone you will find
your rest.

St. Tikhon of Voronezh

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Heaven and Hell

Is everybody finally going to be all right? Are all people ultimately going to be free from misery and all their needs fulfilled? Yes and no! Yes, because God wants to bring us home into God's Kingdom. No, because nothing happens without our choosing it. The realisation of the Kingdom of God is God's work, but for God to make God's love fully visible in us, we must respond to God's love with our love.

There are two kinds of death: a death leading us into God's Kingdom, and a death leading us into hell. John in his vision saw not only heaven, but also hell. He says: "The legacy for cowards, for those who break their word, or worship obscenities, for murderers and the sexually immoral, and for sorcerers, worshippers of false gods or any other sort of liars, is the second death in the burning lake of sulphur" (Revelation 21:8). We must choose for God if we want to be with God.

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


Tertiaries seek to live in an atmosphere of praise and prayer. We aim to be constantly aware of God's presence, so that we may indeed pray without ceasing. Our ever deepening devotion to the indwelling Christ is a source of strength and joy. It is Christ's love that inspires us to service, and strengthens us for sacrifice.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Active Waiting
December 14th, 2007
Friday’s Reflection

ADVENT is an active waiting; we participate in the works of God within ourselves and within our world. While waiting for Advent, we give ourselves up to God’s use for goodness.

- Marjorie Suchocki
Child of the Light: Walking through Advent and Christmas

From p. 366 of Upper Room Disciplines 2000. Copyright © 1999 by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Managing Life

"It comes like a gentle dew" (Isaiah 45:8). Isn't that what so many of your Christmas cards are going to say and what the readings from the Old Testament say during Advent? Grace comes when you stop being preoccupied and stop thinking that, by your own meddling, managing and manufacturing, you can create it.

We're trained to be managers, to organize life, to make things happen. That's what's built our culture, and it's not all bad. But if you transfer that to the spiritual life, it's pure heresy. It doesn't work.

You can't manage and maneuver and manipulate spiritual energy. It's a matter of letting go. It's a matter of getting the self out of the way, and becoming smaller, as John the Baptist said. It's a matter of the great kenosis, as Paul talks about in Philippians 2:6–11: the emptying of the self so that there's room for another.

It's very hard for us not to fix and manage life and to wait upon it, "like a gentle dew."

Are we to be passive? No, very much the opposite. When Buddha asked a question similar to the one Jesus asked, "Who do people say that I am?" his disciples all gave reasons—Oh, you're this, you're that. The Buddha replied, "I am awake." To be awake is to be vigilant and active.

Many of the Advent readings call us to the single, most difficult thing: to be awake.

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.

My heart is ready

How blessed are those who can confidently say: My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready! Having gathered the fruit of grace from the Lord's first coming, they will reap a harvest of salvation and glory from the second; for the first opens up the way for the second, and the second prepares us for the third. Lowly and unspectacular in his first coming, secret and gentle in his second, Christ will come openly the third time, and his final coming will fill the world with dread. He came to us at his first coming in order to come into us at the second, and he comes into us at his second coming in order not to have to come against us at the third. At his first coming he showed mercy, in the second he brings grace, at the third he will give glory, for scripture says: The Lord will confer grace and glory.

At this final coming the Lord will reward his saints for their labors, as he himself promises: I am coming, soon, bringing my recompense according to what each person has done. O that it may be in accordance with his great mercy that he treats us then, and not as our evil deeds deserve! Though we do indeed expect Christ Jesus to come to us as our judge, we know that he has come to us already and we have accepted him as our Savior.

Peter of Blois

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


"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: . . Let not your heart be troubled." John 14:27

Whenever a thing becomes difficult in personal experience, we are in danger of blaming God, but it is we who are in the wrong, not God, there is some perversity somewhere that we will not let go. Immediately we do, everything becomes as clear as daylight. As long as we try to serve two ends, ourselves and God, there is perplexity. The attitude must be one of complete reliance on God. When once we get there, there is nothing easier than living the saintly life; difficulty comes in when we want to usurp the authority of the Holy Spirit for our own ends.

Whenever you obey God, His seal is always that of peace, the witness of an unfathomable peace, which is not natural, but the peace of Jesus. Whenever peace does not come, tarry till it does or find out the reason why it does not. If you are acting on an impulse, or from a sense of the heroic, the peace of Jesus will not witness; there is no simplicity or confidence in God, because the spirit of simplicity is born of the Holy Ghost, not of your decisions. Every decision brings a reaction of simplicity.

My questions come whenever I cease to obey. When I have obeyed God, the problems never come between me and God, they come as probes to keep the mind going on with amazement at the revelation of God. Any problem that comes between God and myself springs out of disobedience; any problem, and there are many, that is alongside me while I obey God, increases my ecstatic delight, because I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this thing.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 14, August 14, December 14
Chapter 60: On Priests Who May Wish to Live in the Monastery

If any ordained priest
should ask to be received into the monastery,
permission shall not be granted too readily.
But if he is quite persistent in his request,
let him know
that he will have to observe the whole discipline of the Rule
and that nothing will be relaxed in his favor,
that it may be as it is written:
"Friend, for what have you come (Matt. 26:50)?"

It shall be granted him, however, to stand next after the Abbot
and to give blessings and to celebrate Mass,
but only by order of the Abbot.
Without such order let him not make any exceptions for himself,
knowing that he is subject to the discipline of the Rule;
but rather let him give an example of humility to all.

If there happens to be question of an appointment
or of some business in the monastery,
let him expect the rank due him
according to the date of his entrance into the monastery,
and not the place granted him
out of reverence for the priesthood.

If any clerics, moved by the same desire,
should wish to join the monastery,
let them be placed in a middle rank.
But they too are to be admitted only if they promise
observance of the Rule and stability.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Benedictine life was monastic and lay, not diocesan and clerical. It's role was not to serve parishes or to develop dioceses but to create a way of life immersed in the scriptures, devoted to the common life, and dedicated to the development of human community. It was simple, regular and total, a way of living, not a way of serving; it was an attitude toward life, not a church ministry. Benedict, in other words, is not trying to create a clerical system. He is trying to create a human family. He is not out trying to collect priests though he does recognize that a priest may well have a monastic vocation.

More interesting, then, than the fact that he does not see priesthood as essential to the achievement of his vision of life is the fact that he actually seems to discourage the idea. If they come and ask to be received, "do not agree too quickly," he cautions and actually puts some restrictions on their membership: no elevated rank, no special attention, no official place. Why? And what can that possibly say to the rest of us now?

Benedict knew what most of us learn sooner or later: it is hard to let go of the past and yet, until we do, there is no hope whatsoever that we can ever gain from the future. Priests, Benedict knew, came to the monastery having already been formed in another system. They were accustomed to living a highly independent and highly catered life. They had been a world unto themselves and leaders of others. In the monastery, they would have to be formed in a whole new way of life and spirituality. They would have to defer to the presence and needs of others. They, who had given so many orders, would have to take some. They would have to begin again. It could be done but it would not be easy. The Tao Te Ching reads:

The Master leads
by emptying people's minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.

The insights are important ones for all of us. Everyone has to put down some part of their past sometime. Everyone makes a major life change at some time or other. Everyone has to be open to being formed again. The only thing that can possibly deter the new formation is if we ourselves refuse to let go of what was. If we cling to the past, the future is closed to us.

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

Friday, December 14, 2007 Nativity Fast Martyrs
Thyrsos, Leukios & Kallinikos
Kellia: Sirach 14:20-15:6 Epistle: Hebrews
7:18-25 Gospel: St. Mark 9:33-41

Wisdom: Sirach 14:20-15:6 LXX, especially vs. 20: "Blessed is the man
that doth meditate good things in wisdom." Fear of the Lord within the
heart is an indispensable safeguard assuring the likelihood of acting
faithfully in Christ. Still, one must take steps along the path of life
using wisdom when conducting any given action. Hence, this final
reading from the little trilogy of ben Sirach focuses on wisdom. Ben
Sirach teaches that wisdom must be sought through the heart (vs. 15:1),
with determined effort (vss. 14:21-27), and on the basis of a thorough
knowledge of Holy Tradition (vs. 15:1). Then, as a companion, wisdom
will sustain life, foster growth, stabilize thought and action, and
yield joy, gladness, and eternal blessings (vss. 15:2-6).

Actions taken when fear of the Lord is not in the heart cannot
accomplish God's will, including the search for wisdom. However, "he
that considereth her ways in his heart shall also have understanding in
her secrets" (vs. 4:20). By contrast, modern education emphasizes the
training of the rational mind, through postulating theorems, testing
them by control of variables, analyzing the data from repeated tests,
identifying correlations among factors, and establishing the probability
of proposed theorems. Immensely powerful data and conclusions are
generated by this means - all very heady stuff, with a demonstrated
capacity to yield useful results in many arenas. However, such
education does not focus on the heart.

The wisdom of which Sirach speaks is not found through rational
processes of the mind, but within the heart, in "the place where the
entire spiritual life develops, the place energized by God's uncreated
energy," to quote from Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos. As education
cannot be gained without discipline and determination, neither can
wisdom. Therefore, one must "go after her as one that traceth, and lie
in wait in her ways" (vs. 4:22), like a hunter stalking prey, a lover
courting the beloved. Thus, Sirach asserts that one must "hearken at
her doors" (vs. 4:23), "lodge near her house" (vs. 4:24), "pitch his
tent nigh unto her" (vs. 4:25).

The question arises, Near what? Sirach answers, "He that hath the
knowledge of the law shall obtain her" (vs. 15:1). The "doors and
windows" of wisdom would appear to be in the law of the Lord. Thus, we
are talking about Scripture and Tradition, drawing near the ways of the
Holy Fathers, a kind of wisdom that is learned through personal contact,
life in the Church, worship, the hearing and study of the Bible and the
writings of Fathers.

One approaches the acquisition of wisdom as a child with its mother, as
a young, uncertain husband with a virginal bride (vs. 15:2). There is
dependency, humility, and a hunger that marks this kind of learning. It
comes not by awarded degrees but by feeding upon the "bread of
understanding" drinking "the water of wisdom" (vs. 15:3). Notice ben
Sirach's words, "stayed upon her" and "rely upon her" which represent a
mistrust of what one "knows" in favor of what wisdom discloses. There
is a suspicion in Sirach's outlook that grievous error, darkness, and
confusion lurk for those who give up the search for wisdom.

To those who will listen, ben Sirach encourages the search for wisdom
with assurances for those who continue to rely on her: Yes, one will do
God's will, for he "shall not be confounded" (vs. 15:4). Wisdom will be
the secret of his life, exalting him above the morass in which so many
of his neighbors are mired down (vs. 15:5). Wisdom will become a gift
in him "in the midst of the congregation" for helping others (vs.
15:5). The seeker "shall find joy and a crown of gladness, and she
shall cause him to inherit an everlasting name" (vs. 15:6).

I bowed down mine ear a little, and received wisdom, and gat much
learning. I profited therein, therefore will I ascribe the glory unto
[Thee] that giveth me wisdom. (Sir. 51:16, 17).



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