Saturday, January 05, 2008

Daily Meditation 01/05/08


O God
Who by a star
guided the wise men to the worship of your Son
we pray you to lead to yourself
the wise and great of every land
that unto you every knee may bow,
and every thought be brought into captivity
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East


Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Old Testament

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 2, 110:1-5(6-7);
Jonah 2:2-9; Eph. 6:10-20; John 11:17-27,38-44

From Forward Day by Day:

Psalm 2. Happy are they all who take refuge in him!

One of William Shakespeare's most popular and funny plays is Twelfth Night, an entertaining story of mistaken identity, the battle of the sexes, disguises and deceit, and even human cruelty. The play takes place on this night which is the twelfth day of Christmas.

The Christmas season gives way this evening to Epiphany. The Advent message of waiting for Christ and the Christmas story turn into the showing of the Savior to the world. Epiphany is the revealing of Jesus before all who will come to know him as Lord. Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany are the beginnings of the Christian story. All the pieces and characters of this account of the Incarnation come together.

Coming together in seasons and spirit is good. Coming together in the refuge of the Lord is a safe place. We come together as refugees in the name of a Redeemer. The coming of a New Year can be confusing and difficult. Remember that the changes and chances of life are in the hands of God. Let us resolve to live the Incarnation that reaffirms the promise that creation is good.

God has changed all our sunsets into sunrises.
-Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. 215)

Today we remember:

Eve of Epiphany:
PM Psalm 29, 98
Isa. 66: 18-23; Rom. 15:7-13

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Abuja (Abuja, Nigeria)

From: Christmas CLARESHARE December 2006
Ty Mam Duw Poor Clare Colettine Community

5th January
On this day your little sisters at Ty Mam Duw keep a centuries' old custom of
drawing at random cards on which are the names of the people who were around
Christ's manger: Mary, Joseph, the ass.... Each of these people has a
prayer intention attached that relates to their person, for example with
Joseph you would pray for the unemployed, (he had a rough time in Egypt!)
Choose a character and a related prayer intention and offer your daily work
for that intention today.

Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Dennis Bratcher

The Twelve Days of Christmas is probably the most misunderstood part of the church year among Christians who are not part of liturgical church traditions. Contrary to much popular belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in most of the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th but the following day is considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th).

The origin of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to observe this holy day in various cultures (see Christmas). In the Western church, Epiphany is usually celebrated as the time the Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Traditionally there were three Magi, probably from the fact of three gifts, even though the biblical narrative never says how many Magi came. In some cultures, especially Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings (Span: la Fiesta de Reyes, el Dia de los Tres Reyes, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos; Dutch: Driekoningendag). Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, January 6th is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Since Eastern Orthodox traditions use a different religious calendar, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and observe Epiphany or Theophany on January 19th.

By the 16th century, some European and Scandinavian cultures had combined the Twelve Days of Christmas with (sometimes pagan) festivals celebrating the changing of the year. These were usually associated with driving away evil spirits for the start of the new year.

The Twelfth Night is January 5th, the last day of the Christmas Season before Epiphany (January 6th). In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day. Twelfth Night often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. French and English celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King's Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi, and ale or wine (a King's Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA). In some cultures, the King's Cake was part of the celebration of the day of Epiphany.

The popular song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is usually seen as simply a nonsense song for children. However, some have suggested that it is a song of Christian instruction dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Faith. They contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the "days" represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.

However, many have questioned the historical accuracy of this origin of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. It seems that some have made an issue out of trying to debunk this as an "urban myth," some in the name of historical accuracy and some out of personal agendas. There is little "hard" evidence available either way. Some church historians affirm this account as basically accurate, while others point out apparent historical discrepancies. However, the "evidence" on both sides is mostly in logical deduction and probabilities. One internet site devoted to debunking hoaxes and legends says that, "there is no substantive evidence to demonstrate that the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was created or used as a secret means of preserving tenets of the Catholic faith, or that this claim is anything but a fanciful modern day speculation. . .." What is omitted is that there is no "substantive evidence" that will disprove it either.

It is certainly possible that this view of the song is legendary or anecdotal. Without corroboration and in the absence of "substantive evidence," we probably should not take rigid positions on either side and turn the song into a crusade for personal opinions. That would do more to violate the spirit of Christmas than the song is worth. So, for the sake of historical accuracy, we need to acknowledge this uncertainty.

However, on another level, this uncertainty should not prevent us from using the song in celebration of Christmas. Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, historical accuracy is not really the point. Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God's grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was a secular "nonsense song," they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world. After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas anyway?

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Day 12, January 5
Twelve Drummers Drumming
The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2006, Dennis Bratcher, All Rights Reserved
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Speaking to the Soul:

Uncontrollable mystery

Daily Reading for January 5

E. M. Forster said that the most deep and terrible line written on the nativity is the last line of Yeats’s poem, “The Magi”:

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor. The magi mysteriously shimmer as faces in the sky, forever peering back behind Calvary to their encounter with the baby lying on the stable floor among oxen and asses, a revelation so mysterious that its depths still baffle them, ever preventing them from being satisfied.

The key to their dissatisfaction is the terrible word “uncontrollable.” Magi were spiritual technicians. Their role was to assist people in getting control of their destinies through divinizing, augury, and horoscope. They offered means of controlling divine presences and forces through spells, charms, and rites. Human religiosity is about control. If the divine is close at hand, right here, then we can manipulate it. It is within our grasp, susceptible to our control. If, on the other hand, the divine is far away in a remote heaven, then we are on our own, and our religious practices serve just as well to calm our fears and put a spiritual gloss on our attempts to keep order.

What met the magi at Bethlehem was the mystery of divine creativity itself, which cannot be usurped or deflected; the uncontrollable mystery of God’s sheer initiative, which cannot be bent or blocked. What met them was the mystery of suffering love, which cannot be bought or seduced, there, right there, lying on its back on the bestial floor. Here is the uncontrollable mystery of Love present in all its fullness as a vulnerable baby.

All at once their potions, their horoscopes, their charts and crystals, their incantations and secret lore collapse into nothing. So they unload onto the floor where the baby lies gazing at them their obsolete bag of tricks—the talismans of gold, the incense with which they fogged and scented their rituals, the myrrh they used for magic ointments. They let all these go in the presence of the uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

From “The Uncontrollable Mystery” in Nativities and Passions: Words for Transformation by Martin L. Smith (Cowley Publications, 1995).


Spiritual Practice of the Day

The things we call impossible may be only one more step away from where we are right now. Don't stop trying too soon.
— Joan Chittister in Becoming Fully Human: The Greatest Glory of God
++++++++++ Reflections

It used to help me to look at a field, or water, or flowers. These reminded me of the Creator … they awakened me, helped me to recollect myself and thus served as a book.
St Teresa of Jesus
Life, 9.5

Reading from the Desert Christians


Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit,
our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His
love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is
by mercy that we shall be saved.

St. John Chrysostom

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Living the Moment to the Fullest

Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let's be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.

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

Day Five - The First Aim of the Order

To make our Lord known and loved everywhere.

The Order is founded on the conviction that Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of God; that true life has been made available to us through his Incarnation and Ministry, by his Cross and Resurrection, and by the sending of his Holy Spirit. The Order believes that it is the commission of the church to make the gospel known to all, and therefore accepts the duty of bringing others to know Christ, and of praying and working for the coming of the of the Kingdom of God.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Witnessing to God’s Presence
January 5th, 2008
Saturday’s Reflection

YOU ARE A GOD OF SO MANY FACES and disguises — and always a God of surprises. You make powerless the rich and famous, and make strong the poor and weak. You make mysteriously pregnant the very young or the extremely old, each for your purposes. And throughout, you insist on the importance of women in all you do. May our living be like music, setting a joyous “nevertheless” in the midst of the contrary, thereby witnessing to your presence. Amen.

- W. Paul Jones
An Eclectic Almanac for the Faithful

From p. 114 of An Eclectic Almanac for the Faithful by W. Paul Jones. Copyright © 2006 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection


Question of the day:
How is Christ actively passing between you and your community?

God's basic building block for his self-communication is not the "saved" individual or the richly informed believer - or even personal careers in ministry. It is the journey and bonding process that God initiates in marriages, families, tribes, nations, peoples and Churches who are seeking to involve themselves in his love. The body of Christ, the spiritual family, is God's strategy. It is both medium and message. It is both beginning and end: "May they all be that the world may believe it was you who sent me...that they may be one as we are one, with me in them and you in me" (John 17:21-22, JB). Until Christ is someone happening between people, the gospel remains largely an abstraction. Until he is passed on personally through faithfulness and forgiveness, through bonds of union, I doubt whether he is passed on at all.

from Sojourners, "Building Family: God's Strategy for the Reluctant Church

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

The road to Christ

Just as Christ once came on earth in the flesh to accomplish our salvation, so he comes daily in the spirit to save each individual soul; the difference is that his first coming was visible to the eye, whereas the second is unseen. As scripture says: Christ the Lord is the breath of life to us, and the hidden nature of this spiritual coming is shown in the continuation of the same text: Under his shadow we shall live among the nations. For this reason, even if you are too sick to go very far to meet the Lord, it is appropriate for you to respond to the great physician’s visit by making an effort at least to raise your head and lift yourself up a little to greet him on his arrival.

The road pointed out to you is not a long one; you do not have to cross the seas or pierce the clouds or climb mountains to meet your God. Enter into your own soul and you will find him, for his word is near you; it is on your lips and in your heart. Go down deep into your heart until you are stirred to compunction; make your confession, and so at least turn your back on a conscience so defiled as to be unworthy of entertaining the author of purity.

Bernard of Clairvaux

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


"Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards." John 13:36

"And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me." Three years before, Jesus had said - "Follow Me," and Peter had followed easily, the fascination of Jesus was upon him, he did not need the Holy Spirit to help him to do it. Then he came to the place where he denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit, and now Jesus says again - "Follow Me." There is no figure in front now saving the Lord Jesus Christ. The first "Follow Me" had nothing mystical in it, it was an external following; now it is a following in internal martyrdom (cf. John 21:18).

Between these times Peter had denied Jesus with oaths and curses, he had come to the end of himself and all his self-sufficiency, there was not one strand of himself he would ever rely upon again, and in his destitution he was in a fit condition to receive an impartation from the risen Lord. "He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." No matter what changes God has wrought in you, never rely upon them, build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives.

All our vows and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to carry them out. When we have come to the end of ourselves, not in imagination but really, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit. "Receive ye the Holy Ghost" - the idea is that of invasion. There is only one lodestar in the life now, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

January 5, May 6, September 5

Hence the Lord says in the Gospel,
"Whoever listens to these words of Mine and acts upon them,
I will liken to a wise person
who built a house on rock.
The floods came,
the winds blew and beat against that house,
and it did not fall,
because it had been founded on rock" (Matt. 7:24-25).

Having given us these assurances,
the Lord is waiting every day
for us to respond by our deeds to His holy admonitions.
And the days of this life are lengthened
and a truce granted us for this very reason,
that we may amend our evil ways.
As the Apostle says,
"Do you not know that God's patience is inviting you to repent" (Rom. 2:4)?
For the merciful Lord tells us,
"I desire not the death of the sinner,
but that the sinner should be converted and live" (Ezech. 33:11).

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Clearly, for Benedict, God is not something to be achieved; God is a presence to be responded to but to whom without that presence, we cannot respond. God isn't something for which spiritual athletes compete or someone that secret spiritual formulas expose. God is the breath we breathe. It is thanks to God that we have any idea of God at all. God is not a mathematical formula that we discover by dint of our superior intelligence or our moral valor. God is the reason that we can reach God. It is to this ever-present Presence that the Rule of Benedict directs us. It is to God already in our lives that Benedict turns our minds. The Hasidim tell the story of the preacher who preached over and over, "Put God into your life; put God into your life." But the holy rabbi of the village said, "Our task is not to put God into our lives. God is already there. Our task is simply to realize that."

The words of the Rule are as fresh on this point as the day they were written. The fact is that we still compartmentalize God. We tell ourselves that we are working on reaching the spiritual life by saying prayers and doing penances and making pilgrimages and giving things up. And we keep score: so many daily masses, so many rosaries, so many fastdays, so many spiritual books read, so many conferences attended equal so many steps toward the acquisition of God. The Rule of Benedict sets us straight. God is with us, for the taking, but not for any spiritual payment, only for realizing what we already have.

God is neither cajoled nor captured, the Rule makes plain. God is in the Here and Now in Benedictine spirituality. It is we who are not. It is we who are trapped in the past, angry at what formed us, or fixated on a future that is free from pain or totally under our control. But God is in our present, waiting for us there.

"Life is only loaned to us," a Jewish proverb instructs and the Rule of Benedict explains further "by way of a truce." Long life, in other words, is given for the gift of insight: To give us time to understand life and to profit from its lessons and to learn from its failures and to use its moments well and make sense out of its chaos. That, perhaps, is why we expect the elderly to be wise. That, perhaps, is why we look back over the years of our own lives and wonder what happened to the person we were before we began to see more than ourselves. The problem is that there is a lot of life that dulls the senses. Too much money can make us poor. Too much food can make us slow. Too much partying can make us dull. Only the spiritual life enervates the senses completely. All life takes on a new dimension once we begin to see it as spiritual people. The bad does not destroy us and the good gives us new breath because we are always aware that everything is more than it is. The family is not just a routine relationship; it is our sanctification. Work is not just a job; it is our exercise in miracle making. Prayer is not just quiet time; it is an invitation to grow. We begin to find God where we could not see God before, not as a panacea or an anesthetic, not as a cheap release from the problems of life, but as another measure of life's meaning for us.

Clearly, living life well is the nature of repentance. To begin to see life as life should be and to live it that way ourselves is to enable creation to go on creating in us.

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

St. Luke 18:2-8 (1/5) For Saturday of the 31st Week
after Pentecost (Sat of P&P)

Our Adversaries: St. Luke 18:2-8, especially vs. 3: "Now there was a
widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me
from my adversary.'" St. Cyril of Alexandria, in commenting on the Lord
Jesus' parable of the unjust judge, challenges all Christians to
"examine who it is that offends against them." It is an intriguing
question for the Faithful in Christ to explore in this advanced age.
The Patriarch identifies a number of adversaries who troubled the "holy
ministers, teachers....and servants" of the Lord during the fifth
century: heretics, those who "smite and scorn us, even...inflict
violence upon us," those who "make merchandise of the word of
uprightness and prevail on many to abandon a sound faith, involving them
in inventions of devilish error,"and those who fiercely resist "those
who would live well: who cast into the pitfalls of wickedness whoever
slumbers; who plant in us the seeds of every sin."

It does not take much by way of extrapolation to see that we have the
same adversaries today as existed in fifth century Alexandria. Our
present ones function under different banners and with names unknown in
St. Cyril's generation, but they are just as active to draw the unwary
from the Gospel of life and truth. Instead of the heretics of St.
Cyril's day, we may point to a horde of sectarians, self-appointed
theologians and experts in matters of faith. Many of these, with
impressive degrees and credentials, hold forth in so-called seminaries
and universities. There are those today who openly vow to smite and
inflict violence upon us and are diligently seeking ways to do so. The
media are filled with a rising tide of those who hawk religion to the
unwary. And who can even begin to account for the numerous purveyors of
moral corruption who are seeking to convince the innocent that evil is
good and good evil? Pray for us, Holy Father Cyril, that Christ will
find abiding faith among His People in our generation!

Notice our Lord's warning at the conclusion of His parable: "Hear what
the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry
out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?" (vss. 6,7).
Christ calls our attention to the fact that, in time, the persistence of
the importunate widow broke through the judge's self-interest, so that
he granted her a settlement against her adversary. Are we to identify
God with the judge? Not at all! Take hold of the point the Lord is
trying to reveal: that if a wicked, self-serving, callous human judge
can respond to persistent pleas - for his own motives - then be assured
that our compassionate, caring, loving God will most definitely "avenge
His own elect who cry out day and night to Him" (vs. 7). That is the
exact point where the story enjoins upon us unremitting prayer.

Hence, the issue for you and me as Christians is maintaining persistent
prayer - shall we be found standing before God unwavering in prayer for
justice before our adversaries (1 Thess. 5:17)? And what keeps one
steady at prayer? Principally, it is faith. So the final question is:
"when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
(vs. 8). Father Matthew the Poor observes: "Faith and will are
intimately related, distinct but indivisible." Thus, in asking the
paralytic, "Do you want to be made well?" (Jn. 5:6), Christ stresses the
primacy of will or desire in faith. "It is only when we will something
that we can be counted worthy of God's response." And, take the Lord's
warning into consideration - God sometimes "bears long" with us - seems
to delay. Yet, as St. John of the Ladder assures us: "Do not say, after
spending a long time at prayer, that nothing has been gained; for you
have already gained something. What higher good is there than to cling
to the Lord and persevere in unceasing union with Him?"

Accept the prayer of us sinners and make us worthy to find grace in Thy
sight, that our prayers may be acceptable unto Thee, and the good Spirit
of Thy grace may dwell upon us.

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