Monday, December 03, 2007

Dec 3, Mon in the wk of Advent 1, 2007


A Legend

Christ, when a Child, a garden made,
And many roses flourished there.
He watered them three times a day
To make a garland for His hair.
And when in time the roses bloomed,
He called the children in to share.
They tore the flowers from every stem,
And left the garden stript and bare,
"How wilt Thou weave Thyself a crown
Now that They roses are all dead?"
"Ye have forgotten that the thorns
Are left for Me, the Christ child said.
They plaited then a crown of thorns
And laid it rudely on His head;
A garland for His forehead made;
For roses: drops of blood instead.

translation Nathan Haskell Dole, 1852-1935

Divine Hymn of Love

Come down, O true Light!
Come down, Life Eternal.
Come down, Hidden Mystery.
Come down, Ineffiable treasure

Come down, O Constant Rejoicing.
Come down, Light that never fadeth

Come down, Eternal Joy.
Come down, Garland that never withereth.
Come down,
Thou whom my miserable soul ardently longs for and loves.
Come down, Thou who art alone, to another,
for I also am alone

Come down, Thou who hast transformed Thyself
into my desire..

-St. Symeon the New Theologian


Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 1, 2, 3; PM Psalm 4, 7
Amos 2:6-16; 2 Pet. 1:1-11; Matt. 21:1-11

From Forward Day by Day:

Matthew 21:1-11. Look, your king is coming to you.

Advent is barely upon us, but in the world outside the church, it's been Christmas for weeks now. That's the commercial Christmas, the "how-many-shopping-days-until" Christmas, the Christmas in which comfort and joy are measured by how much loot is stacked beneath the Christmas tree. That tree has been up since Thanksgiving, and is due to be tossed out with the tinsel on December 26.

At our house, the tree will go up just before Christmas. In the meantime, we light our Advent candles and open the windows on Advent calendars, and try to remember the purpose of the season. In a neighborhood where a riot of exterior Christmas decorations lights up the night, being so subdued does make us different, but we've adjusted to that.

We try to find a happy balance between the sacred and the secular, and to make our preparations prudently. In Advent there are gifts to be bought and sent, contribution checks to be written, music to be learned, and prayers to be made. The King is coming: we must make ready.

A gift of $100.00 to Forward Movement will provide 120 copies of
Forward Day By Day to incarcerated persons.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of West Virginia (United States)

Advent Calendars online:

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC:

Please go to this website to view: Wise Men (Ireland)
The cast stone nativity was created by the studio of Kieran Forde in Kilcullen. The figures are derived from those found on traditional Celtic High Crosses. In spite of the simplicity of the carvings, the kings are identifiably European, Asian and African in origin. They hold simple, stylized gifts in their hands.

Christmas, Christian Style:

Alternatives Calendar:

Thought for the Day from Alternatives’ Calendar:
Caring for All God’s Creation Through Simpler Living
Responsible Celebrating: Ten Tips for a Simpler, More Meaningful Christmas
12/3­Tip #2. Avoid debt. Refuse to be pressured by advertising to overspend. Use credit cards wisely. Avoid cash advances. They have no grace period, interest accumulates immediately.

Your Daily Advent/Christmas Guide
12/3 - The best things in life are free.... The best things in life are not things.

St. Mary Margaret, Napierville, IL:
Click each day for inspirational photograph

Family Activities for every day of Advent from Westminsiter, UK City Council:

Feeling crafty? There will be lots of ideas for decorating your tree a little later in the month, but if you're inspired to take your creativity further, or if you've still not got all your presents, here are some handy websites:

* Make a wreath
* Hobby craft - loads of Christmassy craft ideas, from decorations to cards & toys.
* Home-made Christmas Presents
* 101 Home-made Christmas pressies

Speaking to the Soul:

I gave this day to God

Daily Reading for December 3

I gave this day to God when I got up, and look,
look what it birthed! There, up the hill, stood

the apple tree, bronze leaves, its fallen apples
spilling richly down the slope, the way God spilled

his seed into Mary, into us. In her the holy promise
came to rest in generous soil after a long

fall. How often it ends in gravel, or dry dust.
Blackberry patches thorny with distraction. Oh,

I pray my soul will welcome always that small
seed. That I will hail it when it enters me.

I don’t mind being grit, soil, dirt, mud-brown,
laced with the rot of old leaves, if only the seed

can find me, find a home and bear a fruit
sweet, flushed, full-fleshed—a glory apple.

“I gave this day to God,” in Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation by Luci Shaw (Eerdmans, 2006).


Spiritual Practice of the Day

Mystery is not much in favor these days. The notion that there are limits to what we can do, what we can know, limits to our dominion, does not set well with kings and queens of the hill. Humility and reverence, we hear, are attitudes of cowards. Why worship a face we cannot measure on a meter? Why tell stories about a power we cannot photograph?
— Scott Russell Sanders in Staying Put

To Practice This Thought: Be a counterculture activist by championing mystery.
++++++++++ Reflections

Well and good if all things change, Lord God, provided we are rooted in you.
St John of the Cross
Sayings of Light and Love, 34.

Reading from the Desert Christians


What, then, are the things which are being prepared for those who
wait for Him? The Creator and Father of the ages, the All-holy
One, Himself knows their greatness and beauty. Let us then strive
to be found among the number of those that wait, that we may
receive a share of the promised gifts.

St. Clement of Rome

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Death, a New Birth

There comes a time in all our lives when we must prepare for death. When we become old, get seriously ill, or are in great danger, we can't be preoccupied simply with the question of how to get better unless "getting better" means moving on to a life beyond our death. In our culture, which in so many ways is death oriented, we find little if any creative support for preparing ourselves for a good death. Most people presume that our only desire is to live longer on this earth. Still, dying, like giving birth, is a way to new life, and as Ecclesiastes says: "There is a season for everything: ... a time for giving birth, a time for dying" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).

We have to prepare ourselves for our death with the same care and attention as our parents prepared themselves for our births.

The Merton Reflection for the Week of December 3, 2007

Unfortunately, the true Christian concept of love has sometimes been discredited by those who have sentimentalized it, or formalized it in one way or another. A sincere subjective disposition to love everyone does not dispense from energetic and sacrificial social action to restore violated rights to the oppressed, to create work for the workless, so that the hungry may eat and that everyone may have a chance to earn a decent wage. It has unfortunately been all too easy in the past for the man who is well fed to entertain the most laudable sentiments of love for his neighbor, while ignoring the fact that his brother is struggling to solve insoluble and tragic problems.
  Mere almsgiving is no longer adequate, especially if it is only a gesture which seems to dispense from all further and more efficacious social action. This is not always, of course, a question of genuine insincerity: but the "good works" that measured up to the needs of small medieval communities can no longer serve in the fantastic and worldwide crisis that is sweeping all mankind today, when the population of the world is counted in billions, which double in forty, twenty, and then fifteen years. In such a case, the dimensions of Christian love must be expanded and universalized on the same scale as the human problem that is to be met. The individual gesture, however commendable, will no longer suffice.

Thomas Merton. "Christian Humanism" in Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979: 124.

Thought to Remember:

The key problem of humanism is the problem of that authentic love which united man to man not simply in a symbiotic and semiconscious relationship but as person to person in the authentic freedom of a mutual gift.

Love and Living: 130

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

Jesus calls those who would serve him to follow his example and choose for themselves the same path of renunciation and sacrifice. To those who hear and obey he promises union with God. The object of the Society of Saint Francis is to build a community of those who accept Christ as their Lord and Master and are dedicated to him in body and spirit. They surrender their lives to him and to the service of his people. The Third Order of the Society consists of those who, while following the ordinary professions of life, feel called to dedicate their lives under a definite discipline and vows. They may be female or male, married or single, ordained or lay.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Needing Hope
December 3rd, 2007
Monday’s Reflection

“A SHOOT SHALL come out from the stump of Jesse,” the reading begins. A sure sign of hope is a sign of life where at first there seems to be no life. As winter leaves a sparse and barren landscape, spring brings rooted signs of newness in the unfolding of each day. The prophet Isaiah understood this image of hope for the imaginations of God’s people.

As you sit with this psalm from Isaiah, write down the names of three people in your life who come to mind as you think of persons who need a sign of hope. For what do they hope? What “shoot” or “bud” would be a sign of life to them and to those who love them? Pray for each one by name, and in your prayer, speak aloud their individual hope. Plant these prayers in the winter soil of Advent and release them to God, asking God to tend to them through this season and beyond.

- Pamela C. Hawkins
Simply Wait

From p. 47 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

Recognize the Lord

We, like Bethlehem, are too tiny to imagine the greatness within us:

You Bethlehem–Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule my people Israel. (Micah 5:1–2, NAB)
Wholeness of God is to be found everywhere, but it is only apparent as every part learns to love every other part. I suspect that those who, by grace, can recognize the Lord within their own puny souls will be the same who freely and intelligently affirm the Lord's presence in the body of Jesus and the body of the universe.

"But who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Elizabeth says. Perhaps if I can recognize and trust this little graciousness, this hidden wholeness, this child in the womb, then my spirit will be prepared for the greater visitation, the revelation of the Son of God. Yet I am always aware that God is not just an experience of mine; more rightly, I am an experience in the mind and heart of God. This is very difficult for us self-centered moderns to comprehend. But if we dare to trust this holy mystery, we participate in a Presence which is at once overwhelming gift and precious surprise—not really demanded or necessary, but actually not difficult to believe at all!

So we Christians prepare to make festival. God goes ahead "enfleshing" the spirit and inspiriting the flesh, while for those of us who have learned, like Elizabeth, to trust these holy visitations, our life leaps within us for joy!

from Sojourners, "Baptism of Joy"

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

The liturgy of the veil

The prophets were friends of the Father who had initiated them in his mysteries. To them he entrusted enigmas, allusions to his beloved. He veiled Moses that the world might recognize that it belongs to the nature of prophecy to be veiled. The whole Old Testament presents itself to us veiled, like Moses who represented prophecy. Behind that veil, spread out on the books of the prophets, there is Christ, majestic judge, seated on his glorious throne.

Our Lord raised that veil when he explained the mysteries to the whole world. By his coming, the Son of God has shown the face of Moses that was veiled until then, and explained words that had been unintelligible. The new covenant has come to shed light on the old covenant. Now the world can comprehend those words that are no longer covered. The Lord, our Sun, has risen over the world and has enlightened every creature. Mysteries, enigmas, have finally been explained. The veil that was lying on the books has been removed and the world contemplates the Son of God no longer hidden.

Jacob of Sarugh

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


"And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." 1 Corinthians 2:4

If in preaching the Gospel you substitute your clear knowledge of the way of salvation for confidence in the power of the Gospel, you hinder people getting to Reality. You have to see that while you proclaim your knowledge of the way of salvation, you yourself are rooted and grounded in faith in God. Never rely on the clearness of your exposition, but as you give your exposition see that you are relying on the Holy Spirit. Rely on the certainty of God's redemptive power, and He will create His own life in souls.

When once you are rooted in Reality, nothing can shake you. If your faith is in experiences, any thing that happens is likely to upset that faith; but nothing can ever upset God or the almighty Reality of Redemption; base your faith on that, and you are as eternally secure as God. When once you get into personal contact with Jesus Christ, you will never be moved again. That is the meaning of sanctification. God puts His disapproval on human experience when we begin to adhere to the conception that sanctification is merely an experience, and forget that sanctification itself has to be sanctified (see John 17:19). I have deliberately to give my sanctified life to God for His service, so that He can use me as His hands and His feet

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 3, August 3, December 3
Chapter 52: On the Oratory of the Monastery

Let the oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer;
and let nothing else be done there or kept there.
When the Work of God is ended,
let all go out in perfect silence,
and let reverence for God be observed,
so that any sister who may wish to pray privately
will not be hindered by another's misconduct.
And at other times also,
if anyone should want to pray by herself,
let her go in simply and pray,
not in a loud voice but with tears and fervor of heart.
She who does not say her prayers in this way, therefore,
shall not be permitted to remain in the oratory
when the Work of God is ended,
lest another be hindered, as we have said.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister


April 3 - Aug. 3 - Dec. 3

The oratory ought to be what it is called, and nothing else is to be done or stored there. After the Opus Dei, all should leave in complete silence and with reverence for God, so that anyone who may wish to pray alone will not be disturbed by the insensitivity of another. Moreover, if at other times some choose to pray privately, they may simply go in and pray , not in a loud voice, but with tears and heartfelt devotion. Accordingly, those who do not pray in this manner are not to remain in the oratory after the Opus Dei, as we have said; then they will not interfere with anyone else.

Richard Sullivan, a professor of creative writing at Notre Dame University in the 60's and a writer himself, taught his classes that the two most important physical dimensions of the writing profession were time and space. "Write every single day at the same time and in the very same place," he said. "Whether you have anything to say or not, go there and sit and do nothing, if necessary, until the very act of sitting there at your writer's time in your writer's place releases the writing energy in you and begins to affect you automatically." Teachers of yoga, too, prescribe a set of basic postures and places to dispose the soul to the transcendent. Teachers of meditation prescribe times and places and mantras, a type of personal chant, to center the soul. In every tradition, in other words, we are taught that it is not a matter of separating the sacred and the secular. It is a matter of staying conscious of the fact that the sacred is in the secular. There is, in other words, such a thing as a spiritual well where simply being in that place can tap open that special part of our souls and enable us to touch the sacred in the secular. "Let the oratory be what it is called," Benedict said. Have a place where you can go in order to be about nothing but the business of being in the presence of God so that every other space in your life can become more conscious of that presence as well. More than that, Benedict asks us to be there in a special way--with quiet and with awareness, not laughing or talking or lounging or distracting but alert and immersed and enshrouded in the arms of God. Americans, of course, have made of God a casual circumstance. We have prayer meetings with coffee cups in our hands and listen to psalmody with our legs crossed and our arms spread-eagled on the backs of our pews. We avoid churches and say that since God is everywhere, anyplace is good enough. All of which is true, at one level. But, Benedictine spirituality says also that to know God in time and space we must regularly seek to find God in one time and space that enables us to recognize God more easily in every other one.

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

Monday, December 3, 2007 Nativity
Fast The Holy Prophet Zephaniah
Kellia: Zephaniah 3:8-18 Epistle: 2 Timothy
2:2-26 Gospel: St. Luke 20:27-44

The New Age of Joy: Zephaniah (Sophonios) 3:8-18 LXX, especially vss.
16, 17: "At that time the Lord shall say to Jerusalem, Be of good
courage, Zion; let not thine hands be slack. The Lord thy God is in
thee; the Mighty One shall save thee: He shall bring joy upon thee, and
shall refresh thee with His love." In these two verses, the Lord God
revealed to Zephaniah the Prophet a wonderful future age when He would
transform His covenant with the human race. The two verses remind us
that the new age is now. The fundamental change between man and God is
now operating - the result of what God accomplished by taking our flesh
and becoming a man in the Lord Jesus. His birth from the Virgin Mary,
His life, ministry, and death on the Cross culminated in His
Resurrection, Ascension, and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to "as
many as received Him" (Jn. 1:12). We are now living in the age of the
Church under the New Covenant.

What a blessing! Not only can you read Zephaniah's prophecy, but what
he foresaw you may receive for yourself. Access to God's grace and love
are available in the community of God's People! Sadly, many who call
themselves Christians fail to realize what is open to them, which is why
St. Paul asks, "do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into
Christ Jesus were baptized into His death....that our old man was
crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that
we should no longer be slaves of sin?" (Rom. 6:3,6). Today, if you
will, you can "lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of
[you]" (Phil. 3:12). To make this accessible for us, Zephaniah also
recorded, in this present passage, seven aspects of what we now call
"the life in Christ" to help us lay hold of what God offers us in His

1) God promised that in the age of the Church He would "turn to the
peoples a tongue for her generation," a new language for calling "on the
name of the Lord" (Zeph. 3:9). In the Church, we are born anew that we
may learn to say, "My Lord and my God!" (Jn. 20:28).

2) God showed Zephaniah that the entire human race would be able to
unite "under one yoke" (Zeph. 3:9), as one people all over the world.
This is exactly what Christ offers at this moment: "take My yoke upon
you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will
find rest for your souls" (Mt. 11:29). Orthodox Christians in Syria,
Russia, Greece, Egypt, Romania, Albania, France, Chile, or in North
America are one people, yoked together in Christ.

3) As Zephaniah foresaw, God is removing each one's "disdainful pride"
(vs. 11). Hence, within the Church, we strive to be "a meek and lowly
people" (vs. 12) who do not fret when wronged, defend against slander,
or seek sympathy when calumniated, but earnestly forgive and ask for
forgiveness from those with whom we are in conflict!

4) Attaining a humble life is open to all who "shall fear the Name of
the Lord" (vs. 13), for when fear of God is realized within anyone, then
"abstention from evil" becomes natural.

5) Hence, as we follow what the Church teaches, by the grace of God, we
"shall do no iniquity" (vs. 13), but walk in God's commandments, finding
Truth and Life in them.

6) Being fed with both Truth and the Life of God in the Church, the
Faithful are led to speak no vanity so that no "deceitful tongue be
found in their mouth" (vs. 13).

7) In this way, all dread in this world is removed; for being united to
the Lord Jesus, and cared for in His pasture, the Church, "there shall
be none to terrify [us]" (vs. 13).

Beloved, Christ Jesus "has taken away thine iniquities, He has ransomed
thee from the hand of thine enemies: the Lord, the King of Israel, is in
the midst of thee" (vs. 15). Walk in joy!

O Lord, look upon Thy servants, prove us, search us and root out of us
every operation of the Devil and give us victory over him, that we may
be worthy of Thy heavenly Mysteries.

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