Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Daily Meditation, 01/08/08 Mon in the week of EPIPHANY 1


A Collect for the Epiphany

O God
Who on this day
through the guidance of a star
didst manifest
Thine Only-Begotten Son to the Gentiles;
mercifully grant
that we who know Thee now by faith,
may one day be brought
to the contemplation of the beauty of Thy majesty.
Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Benedictine Monastic Diurnal


O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Holy God, you chose your faithful servant Harriett Bedell to exercise the ministry of deaconess and to be a missionary among indigenous peoples: Fill us with compassion and respect or all people, and empower us for the work of ministry throughout the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 117, 118; PM Psalm 112, 113
Exod. 17:1-7; Col. 1:15-23; John 7:37-52

From Forward Day by Day:

Colossians 1:15-23. [Christ Jesus] is the head of the body, the church.

There is a saying in Spanish that translates, "Every head is its own world."

St. Paul's letter to the Colossians eloquently describes the person and purpose of Jesus Christ. He comes from God. He is like the head of a body, and this body is like the church. We are the church.

At our parochial school we sing, "We are the church." Its simple and profound lyrics remind our community of several beliefs: "You are the church; I am the church; we are the church together..."

While Christ is the head of the church, in another sense every one of us is a head, and every head counts. Everyone in the assembly is important. Every soul is reconciled. Every person is called to faith. The core beliefs, community structure, and spiritual DNA are set. Our role is simply to participate in the life and work before us. The Book of Common Prayer says that "the Church is the community of the New Covenant" in which "all baptized persons are members" (p. 854). It is "the People of God, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and the pillar and ground of truth." May we be one in the church and the church be one for all time.

Today we remember:

[Harriet Bedell]
Psalm 96:1-7;
Romans 16:1-2; Matthew 5:1-12


Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, and the Diocese of Southern Brazil

Speaking to the Soul:

Harriet Bedell

Daily Reading for January 8 • Harriet Bedell, Deaconess and Missionary, 1969

St. Andrew's Mission at Stephen's Village on the Yukon River between Fort Yukon and Rampart, deserves a special word because its actual starting was the result of a really clamorous importunity on the part of the Indians themselves. So long as the white man's town of Rampart was large enough to warrant a resident missionary, Stephen's Village, with its native catechist, was visited from that post, eighty miles away. It was on a Christmas journey thither that the Rev. John Huhn, our last resident clergyman at Rampart, contracted the illness from which he died, in 1906. He is buried on the hill above the old native village near Rampart, in the burying ground of the Indians whom he loved.

As Rampart decayed many of the natives who had flocked thither when it was prosperous (to their demoralization and general detriment) returned to the more eligible Indian residence at Stephen's Village, situate just on the edge of the Yukon Flats, ten or twelve miles above the abrupt beginning of the Lower Ramparts of the Yukon. The village thus grew by accretions until it numbered nearly an hundred souls. There had been a Government school there for a few years, but it burned down and was not rebuilt (for lack of funds) and the teacher was withdrawn. Every time that the Bishop stopped there on his visitations there were eager demands for a mission of their own. At length the Bishop told them that if they would build a church themselves (so far as the log structure was concerned) he would send a missionary, and the next summer the church was built and the missionary demanded.

So Miss Effie Jackson was sent and for two years taught school and held service in the church, and a convenient cabin was built for her. She was followed by Miss Harriet Bedell, of long experience in Indian work, who for three years past has lived all alone in the village, exercising all the functions of a woman missionary and swaying almost undisputed influence over the native mind. Off the steamboat track in summer--for the steamboats do not like to cross the river amidst sandbars and make the turn necessary to reach the place unless they have freight to discharge--entirely cut off from communication in the winter, for there is now no mail route down the Yukon and the nearest post office is eighty miles away, this is one of the most isolated spots in interior Alaska, although it is situated on the main Yukon. And again this very isolation makes for more intensive educational and religious work. Such a post requires a missionary entirely absorbed and happy in the work, and such a one is Miss Bedell.

From The Alaskan Missions of the Episcopal Church: A brief sketch, historical and descriptive by Hudson Stuck, D.D., Archdeacon of the Yukon (New York: Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, 1920).


Spiritual Practice of the Day

Each time you go to an art or sporting event, look for one imperfection and give thanks for it.
— Gregory F. A. Pierce in Spirituality @ Work

To Practice This Thought: Be more appreciative of the mistakes in life.
++++++++++ Reflections

Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends - it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.
St Teresa of Jesus
Life, 8.14


Reading from the Desert Christians


Have unfeigned love among yourselves, keep the tradition, and may
the God of peace be with you and confirm you in love.

St. Paul of Obnora

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Enough Light for the Next Step

Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, "How will next year be for me? Where will I be five or ten years from now?" There are no answers to these questions. Mostly we have just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let's rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.

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

Genuine Community
January 8th, 2008
Tuesday’s Reflection

IN A WORLD where rugged individualism is highly valued, discovering and participating in a genuine community of Christian fellowship may be among the most radical acts of our age. One of the primary ends of the gospel is to befriend and include all who are willing to become Christ-followers around the communal table.

- Trevor Hudson and Stephen D. Bryant
The Way of Transforming Discipleship

From p. 73 of The Way of Transforming Discipleship by Trevor Hudson and Stephen D. Bryant. Copyright © 2005 by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection


Question of the day:
When have you wrestled with God?

Our faith is not in words. Our faith is in a person. Our faith is in God, who is revealing the divine self to us in Christ and in the lives of the Body of Christ. The word calls us into a personal dialogue, not a slavish idealism of words, not a rigid love affair with ideas. That is fundamentalism.

The scriptures call us into a personal struggle like Jacob’s. He wrestled with the angel of Yahweh (Genesis 32:24-31). In that personal involvement, in our personal wrestling match with the mystery of God, we come to faith. Faith is not just another competing ideology. It is more a process than a conclusion, more a way of relating than a way of explaining, more a wrestling match than a classroom lesson.

from The Great Themes of Scripture

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

God made Christ the way itself

God promised human beings divinity, mortals immortality, sinners justification, outcasts glory. But because his promise that we who are mortal, corruptible, weak and of low estate, mere dust and ashes, were to be equal to the angels seemed incredible, God not only made a written covenant with us to win our faith, but he also gave us a mediator of his pledge. This mediator was not a prince, an angel, or an archangel, but his only Son; through his own Son he meant both to show us and give us the way by which he would lead us to the promised goal. He was not satisfied with sending his Son to show us the way. He made him the way itself.

God’s only Son, then, was to come among us, take our human nature, and in this nature be born as a man. He was to die, to rise again, to ascend into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, and to fulfill his promises among the nations. After that he was also to fulfill his promise to come again, to demand what he had previously requested, to separate those deserving his anger from those deserving his mercy, to give the wicked what he had threatened and the just what he had promised.

All this had to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future so that we should not be terrified by its happening unexpectedly, but wait for it with faith.

Augustine of Hippo

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


"And Abraham built an altar . . and bound Isaac his son." Genesis 22:9

This incident is a picture of the blunder we make in thinking that the final thing God wants of us is the sacrifice of death. What God wants is the sacrifice through death which enables us to do what Jesus did, viz., sacrifice our lives. Not - I am willing to go to death with Thee, but - I am willing to be identified with Thy death so that I may sacrifice my life to God. We seem to think that God wants us to give up things! God purified Abraham from this blunder, and the same discipline goes on in our lives. God nowhere tells us to give up things for the sake of giving them up. He tells us to give them up for the sake of the only thing worth having - viz., life with Himself. It is a question of loosening the bands that hinder the life, and immediately those bands are loosened by identification with the death of Jesus, we enter into a relationship with God whereby we can sacrifice our lives to Him.

It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a "living sacrifice," to let Him have all your powers that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus. This is the thing that is acceptable to God.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

January 8, May 9, September 8
Chapter 1: On the Kinds of Monks

It is well known that there are four kinds of monks.
The first kind are the Cenobites:
those who live in monasteries
and serve under a rule and an Abbot.

The second kind are the Anchorites or Hermits:
those who,
no longer in the first fervor of their reformation,
but after long probation in a monastery,
having learned by the help of many brethren
how to fight against the devil,
go out well armed from the ranks of the community
to the solitary combat of the desert.
They are able now,
with no help save from God,
to fight single-handed against the vices of the flesh
and their own evil thoughts.

The third kind of monks, a detestable kind, are the Sarabaites.
These, not having been tested,
as gold in the furnace (Wis. 3:6),
by any rule or by the lessons of experience,
are as soft as lead.
In their works they still keep faith with the world,
so that their tonsure marks them as liars before God.
They live in twos or threes, or even singly,
without a shepherd,
in their own sheepfolds and not in the Lord's.
Their law is the desire for self-gratification:
whatever enters their mind or appeals to them,
that they call holy;
what they dislike, they regard as unlawful.

The fourth kind of monks are those called Gyrovagues.
These spend their whole lives tramping from province to province,
staying as guests in different monasteries
for three or four days at a time.
Always on the move, with no stability,
they indulge their own wills
and succumb to the allurements of gluttony,
and are in every way worse than the Sarabaites.
Of the miserable conduct of all such
it is better to be silent than to speak.

Passing these over, therefore,
let us proceed, with God's help,
to lay down a rule for the strongest kind of monks, the Cenobites.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

In this chapter, Benedict describes each of the four main classes of religious life that were common at the time of his writing. The effects of the descriptions and definitions are apparent. He is for all intents and purposes telling us the characteristics that he values most in spiritual development and emphasizing the qualities which in his opinion are most important to spiritual growth.

In one brief sentence, then, Benedict describes the life of the cenobite. Cenobites are the seekers of the spiritual life who live in a monastery--live with others--and are not a law unto themselves. Holiness, he argues, is not something that happens in a vacuum. It has something to do with the way we live our community lives and our family lives and our public lives as well as the way we say our prayers. The life needs of other people affect the life of the truly spiritual person and they hear the voice of God in that.

Cenobites, too, live "under a Rule." Meaningless spiritual exercises may not be a Benedictine trait but arbitrariness or whim are not part of Benedict's prescription for holiness either. Monastic spirituality depends on direction. It is a rule of life. Self-control, purpose and discipline give aim to what might otherwise deteriorate into a kind of pseudo-religious life meant more for public show than for personal growth. It is so comforting to multiply the practices of the church in our life and so inconvenient to have to meet the responsibilities of the communities in which we live.

But the spiritual life is not a taste for spiritual consolations. The spiritual life is a commitment to faith where we would prefer certainty. It depends on readiness. It demands constancy. It flourishes in awareness. The ancients say that once upon a time a disciple asked the elder,

"Holy One, is there anything I can do to make myself Enlightened?"

And the Holy One answered, "As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning."

"Then of what use," the surprised disciple asked, "are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?"

"To make sure," the elder said, "that you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise."

The Rule prescribes directions that will keep us, like the mythical disciple, awake until what we live, lives in us.

Then, Benedict says, the cenobite lives under an abbot or prioress, someone who will mediate past and future for us, call us to see where we have come from and where we are going, confront us with the call to the demands of living fully in the now when we might be most likely to abandon our own best ideals for the sake of the easy and the selfish. It is a basic Christian call. Everyone in life lives under someone and something. Adulthood is not a matter of becoming completely independent of the people who lay claim to our lives. Adulthood is a matter of being completely open to the insights that come to us from our superiors and our spouses, our children and our friends, so that we can become more than we can even begin to imagine for ourselves.

The cenobite, like most of the people of the world, works out the way to God by walking with others. In monastic spirituality, there is no escape from life, only a chance to confront it, day after day in all its sanctifying tedium and blessed boredom and glorious agitation in the communities of which we are a part at any given moment of our lives.

If any paragraph in the Rule dispels the popular notion of spirituality, surely this is it. Modern society has the idea that if you want to live a truly spiritual life, you have to leave life as we know it and go away by yourself and "contemplate," and that if you do, you will get holy. It is a fascinating although misleading thought. The Rule of Benedict says that if you want to be holy, stay where you are in the human community and learn from it. Learn patience. Learn wisdom. Learn unselfishness. Learn love. Then, if you want to go away from it all, then and only then will you be ready to do it alone.

There is, of course, an anchorite lurking in each of us who wants to get away from it all, who finds the tasks of dailiness devastating, who look for God in clouds and candlelight. Perhaps the most powerful point of this paragraph is that it was written by someone who had himself set out to live the spiritual life as a hermit and then discovered, apparently, that living life alone is nowhere near as searing of our souls as living it with others. It is one thing to plan my own day well with all its balance and its quiet and its contemplative exercises. It is entirely another rank of holiness to let my children and my superiors and my elderly parents and the needs of the poor do it for me.

There's passion in the Rule of Benedict, lots of it, and sarabaites come in for good share. Benedict calls this sort of "spirituality" detestable.

Anchorites separate themselves from a community in order to concentrate their energies and strengthen their virtues apart from the distractions of everyday life. They are seasoned seekers who want to center their lives in God alone, naively perhaps but sincerely nevertheless.

Sarabaites separated themselves also. Before the codification of religious law, people could assume a habit without formal training or approval. Sarabaites presented themselves as religious but separated themselves from a disciplined life and spiritual guidance and serious purpose in order to concentrate their energies on themselves. They called themselves religious but they were the worst of all things religious. They were unauthentic. They pretended to be what they were not.

They lived lives of moderate commitment, chaste and even simple to a point, but they listened to no one's wisdom but their
Perhaps the real importance of the paragraph for today is to remind ourselves that it's not all that uncommon for people of all eras to use religion to make themselves comfortable. It is a sense of personal goodness that they want, not a sense of gospel challenge. They are tired of being challenged. They want some proof that they've arrived at a spiritual height that gives consolation in this life and the promise of security in the next. There comes a time in life for everyone where the effort of it all begins to seem too much, when the temptation to settle down and nestle in becomes reasonable.

After years of trying to achieve a degree of spiritual depth with little result, after a lifetime of uphill efforts with little to show for it, the lure is to let it be, to stop where we are, to coast. We begin to make peace with tepidity. We begin to do what it takes to get by but little that it takes to get on with the spiritual life. We do the exercises but we cease to "listen with the heart." We do the externals--the churchgoing and churchgiving--and we call ourselves religious, but we have long since failed to care. A sense of self-sacrifice dies in us and we obey only the desires and the demands within us.

The gyrovagues, whom Benedict rejected out of hand, actually had a noble beginning. Founded to follow the Christ "who had nowhere to lay his head," the earliest gyrovagi threw themselves on the providence of God, having nothing, owning nothing, amassing nothing. Originally, therefore, a sign of faith and simplicity to the Christian community, gyrovagi soon became a sign of indolence and dissipation.

Gyrovagues went from community to community, living off the charity of working monks, begging from the people, dependent on the almsgiving of others. But they never stayed anyplace long enough to do any work themselves or to be called to accountability by the community. As admirable as their call to total poverty may have been in the beginning, it began to be their own particular brand of self-centeredness. They took from every group they visited but they gave little or nothing back to the communities or families that supported them. Gyrovagues abound in religious groups: they talk high virtue and demand it from everybody but themselves. They know how to shop for a parish but they do little to build one. They live off a community but they are never available when the work of maintaining it is necessary. They are committed to morality in the curriculum of grade schools but completely unmoved by the lack of morality in government ethics. Gyrovagues were an extreme and undisciplined kind of monastic and Benedict decried them, not so much because of their ideals surely as because of their lack of direction and good work.

Benedict's reference to the gyrovagues teaches a good lesson yet today. Extremes in anything, he implies, even in religion, are dangerous. When we go to excess in one dimension of life, the unbalance in something else destroys us. Work, for instance, is good but not at the expense of family. Love is good but not at the expense of work.

Too much of a good thing can creep into life very easily and become our rationalization for avoiding everything else. Achievement becomes more important than family. Prayer becomes more important than work. Religious exercises become more important than personal responsibilities. There is a little gyrovague in us all.

The Tao Te Ching, the Chinese Book of the Way, an ancient manual on the art of living that is the most widely translated book in world literature after the Bible, says on the same subject:

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

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

St. Luke 19:45-48 (1/8) For Tuesday of the 33rd Week after
Pentecost (Tue 28th Week)

Cleanse Thy Church: St. Luke 19:45-48, especially vs. 46: "...My house
is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." The
Apostle Paul reminds us that, being the Church, we "are the temple of
the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk among
them. I will be their God, and they shall be My People'" (2 Cor. 6:16;
Lev. 26:12; Ezek. 37:27). To recognize that we are the Temple of God
changes today's Gospel into an admonition, for any community of the
earthly Church can meet the same tragic destiny as did the ancient
Temple of God.

History supports the possibility of this tragedy. In order to advance
the material prosperity of the institutional Church, segments of the
Church have rejected the primary task of God's People - to be a "house
of prayer." Yes, agents of material success have subtly and sometimes
blatantly treated Christ as an inconvenience needing "reinterpretation"
to fit into their material desires. "...the chief priests, the scribes,
and the leaders of the people [who] sought to destroy [Jesus]" (Lk.
19:47), were clear in their diagnosis that the God Who is met and known
in and through prayer can be a dangerous inconvenience to worldly agendas.

Therefore, it is incumbent on all Christians, since we are those whom
God has "chosen" as " stones...being built up a
spiritual house" (1 Pet. 2:4,5), to be alert to protect the holy
communities and jurisdictions of God's Church against the tragic,
destructive course of "making over" some portion of the Church - whether
a committee, a parish, a diocese, or whatever - into a successful,
growing, materially-oriented program or institution. Prayerful
reflection on this Gospel will show us the Lord Jesus' way for avoiding
such a pitfall.

First, we are to purify our hearts so that worship in our communities
are love feasts of the Kingdom of God. Only thus will we avoid becoming
"a den of thieves" (Lk. 19:46). As St. John Chrysostom urges:
"love...then let us plant in our own souls, that we may stand with all
the Saints. For they all pleased God by their love for their
neighbor." If we will but let Christ's love transform us, then in our
Eucharistic gatherings we will be a Father Schmemann describes:
"standing in the presence of Christ, and like Moses before God...covered
with His glory." Then in our assemblies, we will only say, "Christ is
among us: He is and He shall ever be!" There never will be a thought of
devising in the secret of our hearts to seek how we can destroy Him.
(cf. vs. 47).

The second means for preventing " materialist thieves" from making over
any portion of the living Temple of God into a measurably profitable
program or a successful earthly institution is "for all the people [to
be] very attentive to hear [Christ our God]" (vs. 48). St. Gregory of
Nyssa has us note that "the human mind..., as long as its current
spreads itself in all directions over the pleasures of the sense, has no
power that is worth the naming of making its way toward the Real Good;
but once call it back and collect it upon itself, so that it may begin
to move without scattering and wandering toward the activity which is
congenital and natural to it, it will find no obstacle in mounting to
higher things, and in grasping realities." It is not by accident that
so often in the Liturgy we are called to "Be attentive!"

Finally, lest we fall into delusion to become some part of the den for
thieves, let us pray that Christ our God will come and "drive out" (vs.
45) all thoughts and inclinations within us to embrace the world's
offers of quick success, proven programs, growth through promotional
solutions for our Orthodox communities. Rather, let us sing: "Come let
us worship and fall down before Christ. O Son of God, Who art risen
from the dead, save us who sing unto Thee!"

O Lord, cleanse us by Thy cords of light and truth, driving out all base
loves and making the glories of the blameless life and a worship in
spirit and in truth to shine forth in us.



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