Friday, December 07, 2007

Dec 6, Fri in wk of Advent 1 2007, Feast Ambrose of Milan


What was the purpose of the Incarnation but this—that the flesh which had sinned could be redeemed by itself?

St. Ambrose: Of the Incarnation.

Lamb of God,
You once came to rid the world of sin;
cleanse me now from every stain of sin.
Lord, you came to save what was lost;
come once again with Your salvific power
so that those You redeemed will not be punished.
I have come to know You in faith;
may I have unending joy
when You come again in glory.

New Saint Joseph People's Prayer Book


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.

O God, you gave your servant Ambrose grace eloquently to proclaim your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of your Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching and faithfulness in ministering your Word, that your people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 16, 17; PM Psalm 22
Amos 5:1-17; Jude 1-16; Matt. 22:1-14

From Forward Day by Day:

Matthew 22:1-14. For many are called, but few are chosen.

A lot of boys want to be professional baseball players; many girls dream of becoming ballerinas. The woods are full of actors and singers who work at other jobs while studying and taking auditions. Few will have the talent, drive, and opportunities to succeed; anyone who tries to make it in those fields had better have a fallback position.

The same is true in other arenas. Most students aspiring to Harvard are turned down by the admissions committee; not every would-be Top Gun has the right stuff to be a pilot. Not all of us can make it to the positions or status of which we dream.

But something we can do is to follow Jesus, to try to live by God's law, humbly and consistently, wherever we find ourselves. Janitors and doctors, sales clerks and executives, entrepreneurs, priests, stay-at-home parents and teachers: we are all called to be God's faithful servants. Christ's saving grace extends to everyone; all we need do is accept it.

It was, perhaps, ordained by providence, to hinder us from tyrannizing over one another, that no individual should be of such importance as to cause, by his retirement or death, any chasm in the world. --Samuel Johnson (d. 1784)

Today we remember:

Ambrose of Milan:
Psalm 27:5-11 or 33:1-5,20-21
Ecclesiasticus 2:7-11,16-18; Luke 12:35-37,42-44


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

Advent Calendars online:

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC:

Alternatives Calendar:

St. Mary Margaret, Napierville, IL:

Westminsiter, UK City Council:

Speaking to the Soul:

Fountain of water

Daily Reading for December 7 • Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, c. 397

To Thee, O Fountain of mercy, my mother poured out still more frequent prayers and tears that thou wouldst hasten thy aid and enlighten my darkness, and she hurried all the more zealously to the church and hung upon the words of Ambrose [of Milan], praying for “the fountain of water that springs up into everlasting life” [Jn 4:14]. For she loved that man as an angel of God, since she knew that it was by him that I had been brought thus far to that wavering state of agitation I was now in, through which she was fully persuaded I should pass from sickness to health, even though it would be after a still sharper convulsion which physicians call “the crisis.”

Ambrose himself I esteemed a happy man, as the world counted happiness, because great personages held him in honor. Only his celibacy appeared to me a painful burden. But what hope he cherished, what struggles he had against the temptations that beset his high station, what solace in adversity, and what savory joys thy bread possessed for the hidden mouth of his heart when feeding on it, I could neither conjecture nor experience. I heard him, indeed, every Lord’s Day, “rightly dividing the word of truth” [2 Tim 2:15] among the people. And I became all the more convinced that all those knots of crafty calumnies which those deceivers of ours had knit together against the divine books could be unraveled.

From the Confessions of Augustine of Hippo, quoted in Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology, edited by John R. Tyson (Oxford University Press, 1999).


Spiritual Practice of the Day

At least if you're failing, you know you're alive; you're participating, engaged, learning, and therefore contributing to evolution. The Japanese have a phrase for this — they call it "the nobility of failure," implying, "Look at all the great things at which this person failed. She was really alive."
— Caroline W. Casey in Making the Gods Work for You

To Practice This Thought: Honor one of your noble failures.
++++++++++ Reflections

For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and faith.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus
Story of a Soul.

Reading from the Desert Christians


"But Adam did not wish to say, "I sinned," but said rather the
contrary of this and placed the blame for the transgression upon
God Who created everything "very good," saying to Him, "The woman
whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I
ate." And after him she also placed the blame upon the serpent,
and they did not wish at all to repent and, falling down before
the Lord God, beg forgiveness of Him. For this, God banished them
from Paradise, as from a royal palace, to live in this world as
exiles. At that time also He decreed that a flaming sword should
be turned and should guard the entrance into Paradise. And God did
not curse Paradise, since it was the image of the future unending
life of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. If it were not for this
reason, it would have been fitting to curse it most of all, since
within it was performed the transgression of Adam. But God did not
do this, but cursed only the whole rest of the earth, which also
was corrupt and brought forth everything by itself; and this was
in order that Adam might not have any longer a life free from
exhausting labors and sweat..."

St. Symeon the New Theologian

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Restored to Eternal Life

One thing we know for sure about our God: Our God is a God of the living, not of the dead. God is life. God is love. God is beauty. God is goodness. God is truth. God doesn't want us to die. God wants us to live. Our God, who loves us from eternity to eternity, wants to give us life for eternity.

When that life was interrupted by our unwillingness to give our full yes to God's love, God sent Jesus to be with us and to say that great yes in our name and thus restore us to eternal life. So let's not be afraid of death. There is no cruel boss, vengeful enemy, or cruel tyrant waiting to destroy us - only a loving, always forgiving God, eager to welcome us home.

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

Day Seven - The Second Aim

To spread the spirit of love and harmony

The Order sets out, in the name of Christ, to break down barriers between people and to seek equality for all. We accept as our second aim the spreading of a spirit of love and harmony among all people. We are pledged to fight against the ignorance, pride, and prejudice that breed injustice or partiality of any kind.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

As One of Us
December 7th, 2007
Friday’s Reflection

GOD doesn’t want us as a business partner, as a distant relative, even as a close friend. God wants to live with each one of us, as one of us. That is the miracle of Christmas. God takes on flesh. It sounds impossible. Do we choose to believe it anyway? …

God’s coming doesn’t depend on us, on the depth or steadiness of our believing. This miracle depends on God, whom we cannot understand or contain, who reaches out to us at Christmas and every day of our lives. … Finding ourselves slightly puzzled and in awe before this mystery is a faithful response.

- Mary Lou Redding
While We Wait

From pp. 83-84 of While We Wait: Living the Questions of Advent by Larry James Peacock. Copyright © 2002 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Love Is Like a Mirror

The Mirror, as Zen masters say, is without ego and without mind. If a face comes in front of it, it reflects a face. If a table comes by, it reflects a table. It shows a crooked object to be crooked and a straight object to be straight. Everything is revealed as it really is. There is no discriminating mind or self-consciousness on the part of the mirror.

If something comes, the mirror reflects it; if it moves on, the mirror lets it move on. The mirror is always empty of itself and therefore able to receive the other. The mirror has no preconditions for entry, no preconditions for acceptance. It receives and reflects back what is there—nothing more or nothing less. The mirror is the perfect lover and the perfect contemplative. It does not evaluate, judge or act. It takes the advice of the philosopher Wittgenstein: "Don't think, just look."

If we are to see as God sees, we must first become mirrors. We must become no-thing so that we can receive some-thing. That is probably the only way that love is ever going to happen. To love demands a complete transformation of consciousness, a transformation that has been the goal of all religious founders, saints, mystics and gurus ever since we began to talk about love. And the transformation of consciousness is this: we must be liberated from ourselves.

We really need to be saved from the tyranny of our own judgments, opinions and feelings about everything, the "undisciplined squads of emotions" that T.S. Eliot criticizes in his poetry. We must stop believing our false subjectivity, which chooses to objectify everybody and everything in the world—including God and our own soul. (The likely reason why most Western individualists hate themselves: we treat our own souls as objects to be dissected, judged and perfected.)

from "Image and Likeness: The Restoration of the Divine Image"


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

The desire of the nations

Holy and God-fearing people desire one thing only: the salvation God offers them in Christ Jesus. It is Jesus they long for, him they desire, and to him they reach out with all their strength, cherishing him in their inmost hearts, opening themselves up to him and pouring out their very being before him. Their only fear is that they may lose him. This means that the greater the desire of the soul to embrace its salvation, the more it wears itself out with longing. However, this very exhaustion and pining away have a strengthening effect upon the soul. David says in the sixty-second psalm: My soul pines for you, but a little later he adds: My soul clings to you, and your right hand bears me up.

A thirsty person wants to spend all his time beside a fountain. It seems as if his one desire is to be thoroughly drenched by it so that by this means his thirst may be assuaged. And so, Lord, your right hand bears me up and strengthens me, making a new person of me and enabling me to say: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Ambrose of Milan

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


"For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation." 2 Corinthians 7:10

Conviction of sin is best portrayed in the words -

"My sins, my sins, my Saviour,
How sad on Thee they fall."

Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a man. It is the threshold of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict of sin, and when the Holy Spirit rouses a man's conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not his relationship with men that bothers him, but his relationship with God - "against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight." The marvels of conviction of sin, forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven man who is the holy man, he proves he is forgiven by being the opposite to what he was, by God's grace. Repentance always brings a man to this point: I have sinned. The surest sign that God is at work is when a man says that and means it. Anything less than this is remorse for having made blunders, the reflex action of disgust at himself.

The entrance into the Kingdom is through the panging pains of repentance crashing into a man's respectable goodness; then the Holy Ghost, Who produces these agonies, begins the formation of the Son of God in the life. The new life will manifest itself in conscious repentance and unconscious holiness, never the other way about. The bedrock of Christianity is repentance. Strictly speaking, a man cannot repent when he chooses; repentance is a gift of God. The old Puritans used to pray for "the gift of tears." If ever you cease to know the virtue of repentance, you are in darkness. Examine yourself and see if you have forgotten how to be sorry.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 7, August 7, December 7
Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren

Let clothing be given to the brethren
according to the nature of the place in which they dwell
and its climate;
for in cold regions more will be needed,
and in warm regions less.
This is to be taken into consideration, therefore, by the Abbot.

We believe, however, that in ordinary places
the following dress is sufficient for each monk:
a tunic,
a cowl (thick and woolly for winter, thin or worn for summer),
a scapular for work,
stockings and shoes to cover the feet.

The monks should not complain
about the color or the coarseness of any of these things,
but be content with what can be found
in the district where they live and
can be purchased cheaply.

The Abbot shall see to the size of the garments,
that they be not too short for those who wear them,
but of the proper fit.

Let those who receive new clothes
always give back the old ones at once,
to be put away in the wardrobe for the poor.
For it is sufficient if a monk has two tunics and two cowls,
to allow for night wear and for the washing of these garments;
more than that is superfluity and should be taken away.
Let them return their stockings also and anything else that is old
when they receive new ones.

Those who are sent on a journey
shall receive drawers from the wardrobe,
which they shall wash and restore on their return.
And let their cowls and tunics be somewhat better
than what they usually wear.
These they shall receive from the wardrobe
when they set out on a journey,
and restore when they return.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Maimonides, one of the finest and best educated minds in twelfth century Jewish history, writes in the Mishneh Torah "The dress of the wise must be free of stains; they should not wear the apparel of princes, to attract attention, nor the raiment of paupers, which incurs disrespect." Clothing, in other words, was to clothe, neither to adorn nor to diminish the human person. Clothing was clothing.

Benedictines differ in their literal interpretation of the passage on clothing in the Rule. Some groups focus on the types of clothing described and devise a uniform from a sixth century wardrobe--a long dress, a cowl to protect against weather that was cold and damp, a scapular. Other groups emphasize that the clothing worn should simply be local and approved by the local prioress or abbot. Whatever the present demonstration of the passage, both groups believe in simplicity, sufficiency and a guard against excess. Slavery to style is not Benedictine. Excess is not Benedictine. Ostentation and pretension and fads are not Benedictine. Slovenliness and dirt are not Benedictine. The Benedictine is clean, simple and proper to the time and place because the stewardship of the universe demands a commitment to order, harmony and rightness if it is to survive. The Benedictine is one of the world's uncomplicated types who have what is necessary for every occasion and nothing more.

Dress is a mark of values and aspirations and ideals. It is as easy to call attention to ourselves by too little as too much; as easy to lose sight of what we really are about in life by too much as too little. If the chapter on clothing has anything to say to the modern world at all, it is certainly that we need to be who we are. We need to look inside ourselves for our value and not pretend to be what we are not. We need to stop putting on airs and separating ourselves out and pretending to be what we are not. Fraud is an easy thing. The honesty of humility, the humility of honesty is precious and rare.

Taking care of the self has something to do with taking care of the universe. If we do not care about our presentation of self, it is unlikely that we will care about littering the countryside or preservation of resources or stewardship of the earth. Being sloppy is not a monastic ideal. Just because a thing is not useful in the monastery anymore does not necessarily make it useless. It may, in fact, still be very useful to someone else and so should be given away. We owe what is useless to us to the poor. What is no longer important to us is to be made available to the other, in good condition, with quality and care. There is a Benedictine virtue in washing things and hanging them up and folding them nicely and keeping them neat and giving them to people who can use them, not because they are not worth anything but precisely because they are still worth something.

Benedictine spirituality recognizes the fact that a thing may become valueless to us before it actually becomes valueless. In that case it is to be given to someone else in good condition. Benedictine spirituality does not understand a world that is full of gorgeous garbage while the poor lack the basics of life.

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

Fri., Dec. 7, 2007 Nativity Fast Venerable Gregory, Founder
of Gregoriou Monastery
1st Vespers Hierarch: Proverbs 10:7,6; 3:13-16;
8:6,32,34,4,12,14,17,5-9; 1:23 LXX
Epistle: Titus
Gospel: St. Luke 21:37-22:8

The Constant Luminaries: Selections from Proverbs (see above),
especially vs. 1:23: "Behold, I will bring forth to you the utterance of
my breath, and I will instruct you in my speech." These verses from
Proverbs are much like a quilt, carefully selected and sewn together
that we might "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" them and acquire
wisdom. They are appointed for the feasts of the Church's most beloved
Hierarchs: Nicholas of Myra, Sergios of Radonezh, Innocent and Tikhon of
Moscow, and Raphael of Brooklyn. The chapters lead in steps (chap. 10)
from thoughts concerning the Saints, to (chap. 3) an overview of the
Wisdom that characterized them, to (chap. 8) a direct appeal from Wisdom
to attain Wisdom's benefits for one's self, and finally to (chap. 1) a
concluding appeal to accept Wisdom's instruction.

The Saints, constant Luminaries for the Church, enlighten us by their
words, deeds, and miracles, and, as "favored ones" with God, "plead for
our souls." Thus the opening verses from this passage from Proverbs
contrasts the Saints, called here the "just, righteous, or innocent"
(from dikaion), with the ungodly, the asebous, or impious. The reading
meets us in our commemoration of the righteous and affirms our honoring
them in hymns and songs. Men praise them (vs. 10:7) and God blesses
them (vs. 10:6).

But who is a Saint, one "blessed" by God (vs. 3:13)? "The man who has
found Wisdom, and the mortal who knows prudence" (vs. 3:13). The key
that unlocks the impenetrable mystery of spiritual superiority is
Wisdom. No wonder our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is called Wisdom, and
the Great Church of Christendom honoring Her Lord was known as Hagia
Sophia. The mistake of the worldly is to place supreme value in gold,
silver or precious stones - in material wealth, even enduring
valuables. It is the mad obsession of consumerism and acquisitiveness.
The Truth is, "no precious thing is equal to her in value" (vs. 3:15).

Why is Wisdom called her? It is a function of grammar in both Greek and
Hebrew that arbitrarily assigns masculine, feminine, and neuter to
nouns. Ships came to be called her in the same way that Wisdom was
called her. Thus ancients, before the Incarnation of the Word of God in
the man Jesus Christ, personified Wisdom as a woman. "She carries law
and mercy upon her tongue" (vs. 3:16). But the discovery of those who
"heard...looked upon, and...handled...the Word of life" (1 Jn. 1:1), the
Incarnate Lord, was to see that He is the Wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24).

Look over the profile of Wisdom in the verses from Proverbs 8: Who
speaks "solemn truths" and produces "right sayings" from His lips" (vs.
6)? Do we not read these words honoring His Saints because they
invariably hearkened to Him and kept His ways, watching and waiting for
Him (vs. 32)? The Church learned from the Lord Jesus to "crown with
songs of praise" those who attained their glory from Him, our common
Master, Christ our God, so that we might all gain "glory from the
presence of Christ the Savior."

Our Lord, the very Wisdom of God, exhorts (vs. 8:4), counsels (vs.
8:14), loves (vs. 8:17), meditates truths (vs. 8:7) and persists with
us: "I will bring forth to you the utterance of My breath, and I will
instruct you in My speech" (vs. 1:23). Christ our God does this, as St.
Seraphim of Sarov says, so that we should "trade in virtue. Distribute
the Holy Spirit's gifts of grace to those in need of them....For earthly
riches when distributed are diminished, yet when the heavenly riches of
God's grace are distributed, the more they increase in him who

Let the brightness of the Lord our God be upon us, and the works of our
hands do Thou guide aright upon us, yea, the work of our hands do Thou
guide aright. (Ps. 89:19 LXX)

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