Saturday, December 08, 2007

Dec 8, Sat in the wk of Advent 1, 2007


Come, Sun and Savior, to embrace Our gloomy world,
its weary race,
As groom to bride, as bride to groom:
The wedding chamber, Mary's womb.
At your great Name, O Jesus, now
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
All things on earth with one accord,
Like those in heaven, shall call you Lord.
Come in your holy might, we pray,
Redeem us for eternal day;
Defend us while we dwell below,
From all assaults of our dread foe.


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 20, 21:1-7(8-14); PM Psalm 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117
Amos 5:18-27; Jude 17-25; Matt. 22:15-22

From Forward Day by Day:

Psalm 20. May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble, the Name of the God of Jacob defend you.

There is always trouble, whether our own or that of someone close to us. There is never any shortage of names for the prayer list, and always sorrow--for a parent, for a friend, for a spouse, for a child, or for oneself--to spare.

Some of our problems we bring on ourselves; others can seem well-nigh incomprehensible. Not long ago I suffered one that fell in both categories: a complaint that I should have kept to myself was met with anger and cruelty.

Devastated, I found comfort in the psalms. In my grief and pain, they spoke to me as never before; their cries from the heart became real through thousands of years. Things that had bothered me about the psalms in the past--calls for the downfall of enemies, gloating over victories--worked when those enemies were reconfigured as my own interior weaknesses.

The Lord did answer me in the day of trouble. The Lord answers me still, whenever I call, and I am comforted.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Western Michigan (United States)

Advent Calendars online:

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC:

Alternatives Calendar:

St. Mary Margaret, Napierville, IL:

Westminsiter, UK City Council:

Speaking to the Soul:

The double Advent

Daily Reading for December 8

When we call God ‘Father’, we are called to step out, as apprentice children, into a world of pain and darkness. We will find that darkness all around us; it will terrify us, precisely because it will remind us of the darkness inside our own selves. The temptation then is to switch off the news, to shut out the pain of the world, to create a painless world for ourselves. A good deal of our contemporary culture is designed to do exactly that. No wonder people find it hard to pray. But if, as the people of the living creator God, we respond to the call to be his sons and daughters; if we take the risk of calling him Father; then we are called to be the people through whom the pain of the world is held in the healing light of the love of God. And we then discover that we want to pray, and need to pray, this prayer. Father; Our Father in heaven; Our Father in heaven, may your name be honoured. That is, may you be worshipped by your whole creation; may the whole cosmos resound with your praise; may the whole world be freed from injustice, disfigurement, sin, and death, and may your name be hallowed. And as we stand in the presence of the living God, with the darkness and pain of the world on our hearts, praying that he will fulfill his ancient promises, and implement the victory of Calvary and Easter for the whole cosmos—then we may discover that our own pain, our own darkness, is somehow being dealt with as well.

This, then, I dare say, is the pattern of Christian spirituality. It is not the selfish pursuit of private spiritual advancement. It is not the flight of the alone to the alone. It is neither simply shouting into a void, nor simply getting in touch with our own deepest feelings, though sometimes it may feel like one or other of these. It is the rhythm of standing in the presence of the pain of the world, and kneeling in the presence of the creator of the world; of bringing those two things together in the name of Jesus and by the victory of the cross; of living in the tension of the double Advent, and of calling God ‘Father’.

From The Lord and His Prayer by N. T. Wright (Eerdmans, 1996).

Spiritual Practice of the Day

Befriending myself seems to be about opening my heart as a homeless shelter for all the destituted and prostituted aspects of my being that I have been running from for years without even knowing that's what I have been doing.
— Dawna Markova in I Will Not Die an Unlived Life

To Practice This Thought: Give refuge to the parts of yourself you'd rather not invite to dinner.
++++++++++ Reflections

Though we are always in the presence of God, it seems to me that the manner is different for those who practice prayer, for they are aware that he is looking at them.
St Teresa of Jesus
Book of Her Life, ch. 8

Reading from the Desert Christians


For now is the time to labour for the Lord, for salvation is found
in the day of affliction: for it is written: 'In your patience
gain ye your souls' (Luke 21:19)

Abba Isidore of Skete

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

The Renewal of the Whole Creation

Our final homecoming involves not just ourselves and our fellow human beings but all of creation. The full freedom of the children of God is to be shared by the whole earth, and our complete renewal in the resurrection includes the renewal of the universe. That is the great vision of God's redeeming work through Christ.

Paul sees the whole created order as a woman groaning in labour, waiting eagerly to give birth to a new life. He writes: "It was not for its own purposes that creation had frustration imposed on it, but for the purposes of him who imposed it - with the intention that the whole creation itself might be freed from its slavery to corruption and brought into the same glorious freedom as the children of God" (Romans 8:20-21). All that God has created will be lifted up into God's glory.

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

Day Eight - The Second Aim, cont'd

Members of the Third Order fight against all such injustice in the name of Christ, in whom there can be neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for in him all are one. Our chief object is to reflect that openness to all which was characteristic of Jesus. This can only be achieved in a spirit of chastity, which sees others as belonging to God and not as a means of self-fulfillment.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

The Message of Advent
December 8th, 2007
Saturday’s Reflection

IN JOHN THE BAPTIST, the messenger of God’s Advent … came in a most unlikely person. So let us not be surprised if the messengers of God’s Advent among us are not the highly visible, duly advertised spokespersons of God and society in our midst. If we want to see signs of God’s coming among us, perhaps the persons to seek out are those whose lives quietly but profoundly reveal the fruits of repentance announced by John: fruits of sharing from abundance, fruits of practicing vocations in ethical ways, fruits of translating Sunday words into weekday works.

- John Indermark
Setting the Christmas Stage

From p. 33 of Setting the Christmas Stage by John Indermark. Copyright © 2001 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Commit Yourself to Joy

Zephaniah, addressing a slum of Northern Kingdom refugees in Jerusalem (Zephaniah 3:14–18), and Paul, writing to the Philippians from his chains (Philippians 4:4–7), counsel an unprecedented joy to their listeners. They are calling us to wholeness and holiness. They have gone far beyond our existential states and happy feelings to an objective source, a bottomless well where joy is drawn and received in obedience. They know that joy is finally a decision. They are no longer preoccupied with creating a fault- free environment which will ensure their own happiness, but they know that joy is finally in entering into another, the Other, an objective Presence, love itself, the Lord. Joy is the Lord.

What freedom when we no longer have to wait upon ourselves to be in love! We are led beyond loving just ourselves, our own adequacy and our own personal responses. We are, instead, commanded to recognize joy—to trust it and believe it. We are daringly commanded to love God and thereby assured of an unfailing reservoir of true and profound joy in the Other.

Undoubtedly this is the "baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire" that John the Baptizer announces in the gospel. It is baptism not created, like mere water baptism, but a baptism that can only be waited for, longed for, believed in and therefore received. We see that the people listening to John "were filled with expectation" (Luke 3:15, NAB). They were predisposed and ready for joy to reveal itself. The seers and listeners, the contemplatives of every age, will be prepared to recognize joy and to recognize its possibility everywhere.

I have committed myself to joy. I have come to realize that those who make space for joy, those who prefer nothing to joy, those who desire the utter reality, will most assuredly have it.

We must not be afraid to announce it to refugees, slum dwellers, saddened prisoners, angry prophets. Now and then we must even announce it to ourselves. In this prison of now, in this cynical and sophisticated age, Christians must believe in 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.

No one else has like you been possessed from the first by purifying grace

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God that can never be lost. You have won from God a most glorious favor, a grace long-desired, a grace of great splendor, a saving grace, an unfailing grace, a grace that will last forever. Many before you have been holy, but no one has been as favored as you, no one as blessed as you, no one as perfectly sanctified as you, no one as highly praised as you. No one else has like you been possessed from the first by purifying grace, no one else has approached so close to God as you, or been enriched with such divine gifts, or endowed with such heavenly grace.

You surpass all human desire; you surpass all the gifts given by God to the whole human race, for God's dwelling within you has made you richer than all others. No one else has been able to contain God as you do; no one else has been capable of receiving God as you have; no one else has deserved to be so enlightened by God. And therefore you have not only received God, the Creator and Lord of the universe, but he has in an unheard-of way taken flesh from you; you bear him in your womb, and will later give birth to him who will redeem humankind from the Father's sentence, and confer on it eternal salvation.

Sophronius of Jerusalem

Mary without sin

At the moment when this Virgin, worthy of bearing such a Son, was conceived in the womb of her mother, how could one believe that divine wisdom which "reaches from one end of the universe to the other" and which fills and governs all things did not flood the hearers, the earth, and everything in them with a new and ineffable joy? Did they not jump for mysterious joy in contemplating, through a mysterious inspiration of God, the rehabilitation that would be theirs through this Virgin? And since the conception of Mary is, as we have said, the foundation of the dwelling of the sovereign Good, what would be our reaction if she were found stained by some sin stemming from original sin?

The voice of God says to Jeremiah. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. Likewise, the angel who has come to announce the birth of John the Baptizer also declares that he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. Thus, in view of the fact that Jeremiah was to be a prophet to the nations he was dedicated from his mother's womb; and in view of the fact that John was to be the forerunner of the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, he was filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth.

Eadmer of Canterbury

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


"For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Hebrews 10:14

We trample the blood of the Son of God under foot if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. The only explanation of the forgiveness of God and of the unfathomable depth of His forgetting is the Death of Jesus Christ. Our repentance is merely the outcome of our personal realization of the Atonement which He has worked out for us. "Christ Jesus . . . is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." When we realize that Christ is made all this to us, the boundless joy of God begins; wherever the joy of God is not present, the death sentence is at work.

It does not matter who or what we are, there is absolute reinstatement into God by the death of Jesus Christ and by no other way, not because Jesus Christ pleads, but because He died. It is not earned, but accepted. All the pleading which deliberately refuses to recognize the Cross is of no avail; it is battering at another door than the one which Jesus has opened. I don't want to come that way, it is too humiliating to be received as a sinner. "There is none other Name . . ." The apparent heartlessness of God is the expression of His real heart, there is boundless entrance in His way. "We have forgiveness through His blood." Identification with the death of Jesus Christ means identification with Him to the death of everything that never was in Him.

God is justified in saving bad men only as He makes them good. Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong. The Atonement is a propitiation whereby God through the death of Jesus makes an unholy man holy.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren

For bedding let this suffice:
a mattress, a blanket, a coverlet and a pillow.

The beds, moreover, are to be examined frequently by the Abbot,
to see if any private property be found in them.
If anyone should be found to have something
that he did not receive from the Abbot,
let him undergo the most severe discipline.

And in order that this vice of private ownership
may be cut out by the roots,
the Abbot should provide all the necessary articles:
cowl, tunic, stockings, shoes, belt,
knife, stylus, needle, handkerchief, writing tablets;
that all pretext of need may be taken away.
Yet the Abbot should always keep in mind
the sentence from the Acts of the Apostles
that "distribution was made to each according as anyone had need" (Acts 4:35).
In this manner, therefore,
let the Abbot consider weaknesses of the needy
and not the ill-will of the envious.
But in all his decisions
let him think about the retribution of God.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

"The best way to know God," Vincent Van Gogh wrote, "is to love many things." Things do not destroy us. It is the way we approach things that entraps us. The Rule of Benedict provides for human needs without frugality, without abstemious control, without small-mindedness and without indulgence. False asceticism is not a Benedictine virtue. Deprivation is not a Benedictine ideal. On the contrary, the point of Benedictine life is to live simply, joyfully and fully. Benedict wants the monastic to have enough, to have it from the community and to avoid hoarding, accumulating, consuming and conniving. The Rule recognizes that people who lack the necessities of life often spend their time either consumed with thoughts of subsistence or struggling against bitterness and clawing for survival. On the other hand, people smothered by things run the risk of slipping into indolence or becoming blinded to the important things of life. In striking a balance between the two, Benedictine spirituality seeks to free the body so that the soul can soar. It is a gift long lost in a consumer society.

Self-control is one value in the lexicon of monastic spirituality but compassion is another. Benedict may expect simplicity from the monastic but he clearly expects great largesse from the abbot and the prioress. The function of authority, in other words, is to hold the Rule aloft in the community, to be clear about its standards and respectful of its values, without ever using the Rule as an excuse to frustrate people or irritate them or control them.

There is a great deal of pain administered in the interest of virtue. Righteousness allows no exceptions. As a result, laws meant to free the spirit so often enslave it to ideals far beneath its purpose. Benedictine spirituality, practiced in the little things of life like the distribution of clothing that calls for a minimum and then allows more, says that we must always grasp for what we cannot reach, knowing that the grasping itself is enough.

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

Saturday, December 8, 2007 Fish, Wine, & Oil
Venerable Patapios of Thebes
2nd Vesper Hierarch: Proverbs 10:31-11:12 Epistle: Ephesians
1:16-23 Gospel: St. Luke 13:18-29

Grace-Filled Pastors: Proverbs 10:31-11:12, especially vss. 31, 32: "The
mouth of the righteous drops wisdom...." and "the lips of just men drop
grace...." Through the centuries, men not only have been elevated to
the clerical ranks, but some have attained such a measure of God's grace
that the Church now recognizes them as Saints. However, at every
ordination prayers are offered for the candidate that "the grace of the
all-holy Spirit may come upon him." How may we understand the
exceptional attainment of the Saints?

The present passage describes God's outstanding servants as "righteous"
(vss. 31,10), "just" (vs. 32), "humble"(vs. 2), and "sensible" (vs.
12). The Holy Spirit surely raises many men to godliness, yet the
interior labors of Saints working with the Spirit must be given special
notice. Matthew the Poor asserts that it is human submission to the
grace of God that enables a man to become righteous, just, humble, and
sensible - "submission of the human ego to God...effected in such a
manner as to release the soul and let it live in total surrender to the
will of God."

Indeed, all godly Pastors meet Abba Matthew's guidelines: they submit to
the Lord, never rely on their own wisdom, remain wary of thinking
highly of themselves, embrace discipline as a gift of great profit, obey
as the Spirit leads, confess their weakness and ignorance, and in
regular prayer examine their thoughts, intentions, purposes, words, and
deeds in the light of God's word and the counsel of their superiors.
However, Beloved, these are the actions that God requires of you and of
every one God calls to Himself. Pray for your pastors and your self.

Examine the speech of godly Pastors - the sermons, the teaching, the
counsel, and the writings. Being righteous, their mouths drop wisdom
(vs. 31) - not just information nor popular phrases, but wisdom that
illumines, transforms, and guides men toward salvation in Christ. As
Saint Demetrius of Rostov sums up the pastoral style of St. Nicholas of
Myra: "His way of life became known to that the Christians
might be edified and glorify God."

We learn further that "the understanding of righteous men is prosperous"
(vs. 10). We recognize that the grace of the Holy Spirit and the
submission of a Pastor to the will of God often result in a depth of
perception and a grasp of situations that enable the Gospel message to
take hold in the hearts of the Faithful. As fellow servants in Christ
with our Pastors, let us likewise seek God's will along with them that
we ourselves may bring glory to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Being true in their spoken defense of the Gospel, "the lips of just men
drop grace" (vs. 32), not that their words are always warmly received.
As a Deacon, Athanasios the Great led the First Ecumenical Council to
refute the Arian heresy, as St. Nikolai of Zica notes: "his devotion and
his zeal for Orthodoxy...contributed very greatly to the containing of
the Arian heresy." Still, during the forty years afterwards as the true
Archbishop of Alexandria, he was exiled on false charges most of the
time. Be prepared to stand with your pastor in defense of the truth.
Being a humble man, the mouth of a gracious pastor "meditates wisdom"
(vs. 2) - in what sense? The verb in this case, meletao, conveys not
only study and reflection into the depths of Scripture, but diligence to
put truth into practice. As the Prophet David says, "My heart grew hot
within me, and in my meditation a fire was kindled. I spake with my
tongue" (Ps. 38:4,5 LXX).

Finally, being "a sensible man," a gracious Pastor maintains "quiet"
(Prov. 11:12). The word quiet here is hesychia, which the Fathers have
shown us to mean a search for Christ the Truth in the silent prayer of
the heart. Again, this is a task for Pastors and for every Christian.

O God of grace, lead Thy Pastors and Thy People by Thy Holy Spirit,
edify all, restore the wayward, proclaim the Gospel of Thy Kingdom, and
minister the word of Truth to Thy glory.



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