Monday, December 10, 2007

Dec 10, Mon wk of ADVENT 2, 2007


the white-hot beam of annunciation
fused heaven with dark earth,
his searing, sharply focused light
went out for a while,
eclipsed in amniotic gloom:
his cool immensity of splendor,
his universal grace,
small-folded in a warm, dim
female space—
the Word stern-sentenced to be
nine months’ dumb—
infinity walled in a womb,
until the next enormity—
the Mighty One, after submission
to a woman’s pains,
helpless on a barn’s bare floor,
first-tasting bitter earth.

I in him surrender
to the crush and cry of birth.
Because eternity
was closeted in time,
he is my open door to forever.
From his imprisonment
my freedoms grow,
find wings. Part of this body,
I transcend this flesh.
From his sweet silence my mouth sings.
Out of his dark I glow.
My life, as his,
slips through death’s mesh,
time’s bars,
joins hands with heaven,
speaks with stars.

“Made flesh,” in Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation by Luci Shaw (Eerdmans, 2006).


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 25; PM Psalm 9, 15
Amos 7:1-9; Rev. 1:1-8; Matt. 22:23-33

From Forward Day by Day:

Revelation 1:1-8. I am the Alpha and the Omega.

Two of the first Greek words I ever learned, as a young member of the Girls' Choir, were "Alpha" and "Omega." (The others, of course, were "Kyrie," "Christe," and "eleison.") The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, these words symbolize God's nature as the first and last of all things.

Something else I learned in my childhood reading is that the human mind cannot comprehend the infinite. We certainly cannot comprehend the infinity that is God.

That can be hard for those of us who like to think that we can wrap our brains around just about any puzzle that comes our way. It can be difficult for people who want explanations for everything, and demand to know how things--including God--tick.

The mysteries of God's nature, and the "why" of the way the world works, are too much for us. We have to take them on faith. But because Jesus Christ took on our human nature, we can assume that they're based on love.

The radii of knowledge have only pushed back--and enlarged--the circumference of mystery.
--Wendell Berry (b. 1934)

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Western Newfoundland (Canada, Canada)

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 10

Do we feel seen, heard, remembered, and blessed by God? In our busy lives, we easily forget that we are precious in the sight of God. “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30). Indeed, it is our faith in God that reminds us we are forever in the sight of God. Our search for meaning as Christians is to come to this realization of knowing that we are always in God’s view. To live in the sight of God calls us to trust the providence and the workings of God.

The more we attune our lives to this reality, the more we take on the eyes of God. Numerous times throughout the Scriptures we hear God described as seeing the suffering of individuals and entire peoples. God does see the suffering of our hearts, which we try so hard to conceal from one another. God sees the suffering of millions of poor and homeless people, whom our society tries to hide from our view. God sees us when we are Leah, needing to give birth. God sees us when we are Jacob, struggling to make sense of God’s promises. God sees us when we are Rachel, desperate to have things work out.

Advent is also a time to be heard by God. To approach Christmas without prayer is to go to the airport without a ticket. God wants to hear our prayers, our hopes, our conflict, our pain, and our joys. In an ever more talkative society, we have distanced ourselves from talking to our Creator. As Christmas approaches, we spend a lot of time talking to friends, but few of us spend sufficient time giving God a chance to hear us. God knows that we are happy, but God wants us to sing thanks. God knows that we hurt, but God wants us to proclaim a ballad. God knows that we can speak, but God wants to hear our voices. How often do we cry out to God? How often do we sing God’s praises? When was the last time we said “I love you” to God?

Do we remember that we are beginning again, starting over and growing? It is a joyful season and also a difficult one. By the end of the year, the last thing most of us want is to be asked to improve and to grow. The weather and the light contribute to a desire to give up, to lie down and not do much. For us as Christians the call goes out to wake up and be watchful. Pay attention, the Scriptures remind us over and over again. In the quiet and in the cold, we listen attentively to God, and we warm our hearts by drawing close to God. Who knows the birth places deep within us that God will open?

How do we grow in the areas where we feel forgotten by God? How do we grow when we feel barren like Leah and Rachel? How do we grow in the quiet and the dark? Spend some time today reflecting on your spiritual journey in the dark night of the soul. Let us be still, let us be contemplative in our actions, not for our own sake, but because God needs us to be light, even as the night approaches.

From The Womb of Advent by Mark Bozutti-Jones. Copyright © 2007. Seabury Books, an imprint of Church Publishing. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.


Spiritual Practice of the Day

The Amish call house-raisings a "frolic." It's a frolic because it's the time when an entire community gathers for neighborliness and assistance. When it comes to building houses, the Amish don't "work at it"; they "play at it."
— Leonard Sweet in SoulTsunami

To Practice This Thought: Make one of your chores into a frolic.
++++++++++ Reflections

A novice was grieving about her numerous distractions during prayer: "I too, have many," replied St. Therese of the Child Jesus, "but I accept all for love of the good God, even the most extravagant thoughts that come into my head."
St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Reading from the Desert Christians


The evil one cannot comprehend the joy we receive from the
spiritual life; for this reason he is jealous of us, he envies us
and sets traps for us, and we become grieved and fall. We must
struggle, because without struggles we do not obtain virtues.

Elder Ieronymos of Aegina

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

The Peaceable Kingdom

All of creation belongs together in the arms of its Creator. The final vision is that not only will all men and women recognise that they are brothers and sisters called to live in unity but all members of God's creation will come together in complete harmony. Jesus the Christ came to realise that vision. Long before he was born, the prophet Isaiah saw it:

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the panther lie down with the kid,
calf, lion and fat-stock beast together,
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear will graze,
their young will lie down together.
The lion will eat hay like the ox.
The infant will play over the den of the adder;
the baby will put his hand into the viper's lair.
No hurt, no harm will be done
on all my holy mountain,
for the country will be full of knowledge of Yahweh
as the waters cover the sea.
(Isaiah 11:6-9)

We must keep this vision alive.

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

Day Ten - The Third Aim

To live simply

The first Christians surrendered completely to our Lord and recklessly gave all that they had, offering the world a new vision of a society in which a fresh attitude was taken towards material possessions. This vision was renewed by Saint Francis when he chose Lady Poverty as his bride, desiring that all barriers set up by privilege based on wealth should be overcome by love. This is the inspiration for the third aim of the Society, to live simply.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Holy Anticipation
December 10th, 2007
Monday’s Reflection

that breathtaking space in-between
what has been, what is, what is-to-come.
Where winter dreams reveal secret longings
and winged angels announce the coming of Love.
You draw us to the edge of Advent possibility
like the song of angels drawing shepherds–
eyes wide and breath held–
waiting, watching.
Come, settle into our living for awhile
and do not let us settle for too little.

- Pamela C. Hawkins
Simply Wait

From p. 22 of Simply Wait: Cultivating Stillness in the Season of Advent by Pamela C. Hawkins. Copyright © 2007 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Prayer and Justice

We've got to know the true source of our truth. In my attempts to dismantle the false system of our American political system, am I just fighting for my Richard Rohr truth, or am I really in touch with the great truth that Jesus calls the reign of God? I've got to know that it's not just what I do but why I do it and where it comes from. I think the sequence of Jesus' words about himself is significant. He is first Way and only then Truth, which is finally Life (see John 14:6).

Without prayer, we social activists end up as ideologues. We're trapped in our heads, our opinions, our righteous selves. Maybe we're doing the right thing, but from an egocentric place, not a place of unitive consciousness, the place where all things are one. In other words, we might be doing our own agenda instead of God's. As soon as we fail, you'll see the difference. That's why failure, rejection and humiliation are so important for us. They are the only things that tell us whether we're operating out of the center place, the place of prayer, or whether we're basically doing our own thing and calling it God's thing. When people are doing God's thing, they have freedom—they can laugh at themselves, they can take humiliation and non-success because their own reputation is not at stake. The mature believer will probably look more like a holy fool than a do-gooder or a "saint."

from Catholic Agitator, "Finding a Place for Prayer"


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

The Book of Life

Those who possess the spirit of true prayer will have the Book of Life, that is, the life of Jesus Christ, God and man, set before them, and everything they could want, they will find there. Thus they will be filled with its blessed teaching—which does not puff anyone up—and will find there every doctrine they and others need. Hence if you wish to be superenlightened and taught, read this Book of Life. If you do not simply skim through it but rather let it penetrate you while reading it, you will be taught everything needed for yourself and for others, no matter what your state of life. Also, if you read it carefully and not casually, you will be so inflamed by divine fire that you will accept every tribulation as the greatest consolation. It will even make you see that you are most unworthy of these tribulations, and what is more, if success or human praise should come your way because of whatever quality God has placed in you, you will not become vain or put on airs because of it. By reading in the Book of Life, you will see and know that, in truth, the praise is not meant for you. Not boasting or feeling superior about anything always remaining humble is one of the signs by which one can detect that one is in the state of divine grace.

Angela of Foligno

The Merton Reflection for the Week of December 10, 2007

When psalms surprise me with their music
And antiphons turn to rum
The Spirit sings; the bottom drops out of my soul.

And from the center of my cellar, Love,
louder than thunder
Opens a heaven of naked air.

New eyes awaken.

I send Love's name into the world with wings
And songs grow up around me like a jungle.
Choirs of all creatures sing the tunes
Your Spirit played in Eden.

Thomas Merton. [Selection from] "Psalm" in The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. New York: New Directions Publishing Co., 1977: 220- 221.

Thought to Remember:

Go out from yourself with all that one is, which is nothing, and pour out that nothingness in gratitude that God is who He is.

Thomas Merton. "Dancing in the Water of Life." Journals, Volume 5. Rebert E. Daggy, editor. San Francisco: HarperSanFranciso, 1997: 178

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


"Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman." Galatians 4:22

Paul is not dealing with sin in this chapter of Galatians, but with the relation of the natural to the spiritual. The natural must be turned into the spiritual by sacrifice, otherwise a tremendous divorce will be produced in the actual life. Why should God ordain the natural to be sacrificed? God did not. It is not God's order, but His permissive will. God's order was that the natural should be transformed into the spiritual by obedience; it is sin that made it necessary for the natural to be sacrificed.

Abraham had to offer up Ishmael before he offered up Isaac. Some of us are trying to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God before we have sacrificed the natural. The only way in which we can offer a spiritual sacrifice to God is by presenting our bodies a living sacrifice. Sanctification means more than deliverance from sin, it means the deliberate commitment of myself whom God has saved to God, and that I do not care what it costs.

If we do not sacrifice the natural to the spiritual, the natural life will mock at the life of the Son of God in us and produce a continual swither. This is always the result of an undisciplined spiritual nature. We go wrong because we stubbornly refuse to discipline ourselves, physically, morally or mentally. "I wasn't disciplined when I was a child." You must discipline yourself now. If you do not, you will ruin the whole of your personal life for God.

God is not with our natural life while we pamper it; but when we put it out in the desert and resolutely keep it under, then God will be with it; and He will open up wells and oases, and fulfill all His promises for the natural.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 10, August 10, December 10
Chapter 57: On the Artisans of the Monastery

If there are artisans in the monastery,
let them practice their crafts with all humility,
provided the Abbot has given permission.
But if any one of them becomes conceited
over his skill in his craft,
because he seems to be conferring a benefit on the monastery,
let him be taken from his craft
and no longer exercise it unless,
after he has humbled himself,
the Abbot again gives him permission.

If any of the work of the craftsmen is to be sold,
those responsible for the sale
must not dare to practice any fraud.
Let them always remember Ananias and Saphira,
who incurred bodily death (Acts 5:1-11),
lest they and all who perpetrate fraud
in monastery affairs
suffer spiritual death.
And in the prices let not the sin of avarice creep in,
but let the goods always be sold a little cheaper
than they can be sold by people in the world,
"that in all things God may be glorified" (1 Peter 4:11).

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

There are three major points made in the chapter on the artists of the monastery: first, that there may be artists in a monastery; second, that they must themselves be humble about it; and third, that an art is not to be practiced for the sake of money. All three points have a great deal to do with the way we look at religious dedication, personal development and contemporary society in the development of spiritual life today.

The points made in the Rule are relatively plain: The development of the spiritual life does not depend on the suppression of beauty or the destruction of the self. The gifts we have been given are for the doing of them, not the denial of them. We do not smother great gifts in the name of great spirituality. The painter, the writer, the musician, the inventor, the scholar, all have to figure out how to put their gifts at the disposal of their spiritual life, not how to build a spiritual life at the expense of the gift.

The unusually gifted person or the person with the unusual gift, however, is also required to see that their giftedness does not get in the way of their striving for sanctity. No gift is given to tyrannize the community. On the contrary, we are expected to learn to take our gifts in stride, to practice them because they deserve to be practiced and because the community can profit from them. Aristotle wrote: "The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." Any great gift is a revelation of the more in life, a natural expression of the spiritual, a necessary expression of the sacred. To stamp out the artist in the name of religious rigor is to stamp out the spiritual eye itself and that kind of blindness plunges any group, any family, any person into darkness indeed. Without the artist to show us what we ourselves do not see of the beauty of the world around us, we lose sight of the beauty of God as well. Benedictine spirituality never substitutes conformity in discipline for fullness of expression in life. The function of the artist in the monastery--and in the life of us all--is to make the transcendent visible; to touch the soul in ways that match the soul; to enshrine beauty so that we may learn to see it; and to make where we live places of wonder.

A monastery without an artist could be a poor place spiritually indeed.

Of all the paragraphs in the Rule that are contrary to the cultural climate in which we live, this is one of the clearest. "Money often costs too much," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote and Benedictine spirituality would surely agree. Not just dishonesty but even the standards of the marketplace are un-Benedictine according to this chapter. Benedictine spirituality develops goods so that people can have them, not in order to make them available only to the highest bidder or to make excessive profits. Money gained in that fashion costs us compassion and community and our role as co-creators of the reign of God. It hollows out our souls and leave us impoverished of character and deprived of the bounty of largesse. It is Benedictine to develop our gifts and distribute their fruits as widely and broadly as possible so that justice, but not profit, is the principle that impels us.

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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