Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Daily Meditation 02/06/08 Ash Wednesday


Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works.

If you see a poor man, take pity on him.
If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him.
Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the
feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies.
Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which issinful.
Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and
devour our brothers and sisters?
May He who came to the world to save sinners strengthen us to complete
the fast with humility, have mercy on us and save us.

St. John Chrysostom


O God, who before the passion of your only­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; 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 95[for the invitatory] & 32, 143; PM Psalm 102,130
Amos 5:6-15; Heb. 12:1-14; Luke 18:9-14

From Forward Day by Day:

Psalm 103. The LORD remembers that we are but dust.

Once, on the Greek island of Santorini, I walked along a trail made of cinders spewed aeons ago from the island's central volcano.

The black grit beneath my feet was not just dust, but dust of ashes: once fiery lava, now spent and dry, turned to stone that crumbles more each day.

Ashes literally ground to dust--a fitting image for this holy day, when we remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

But it is also important to remember just how fertile dust can be: in the vineyards beyond the cliff path, the volcanic soil on Santorini is wonderfully rich, growing grapes for the local wines--one of which is appropriately enough named "Lava."

With redeeming rain, and time out of mind, ash turns to dust and then to fecund earth that produces abundantly. Death comes full circle.

Dust and ashes we may be, but in Christ that need not be a dead end. The same merciful and generous God who can bring potent wine from cold ashes can work the same sort of miracle in us.

May this Lenten season bring us to new life in Christ.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Armidale (New South Wales, Australia)

40 Ideas for Lent: A Lenten calendar


Take some time to find online resources you can use throughout the days of Lent.

Church Fathers Lenten Reading Plan
Read Excerpts from the Church Fathers during Lent

Today's reading: The Didache or the Teachings of the Twelve Apostles

Speaking to the Soul:

Entering the wilderness

Daily Reading for February 6 • Ash Wednesday

Lent is not a temporary affectation of gloom or a brisk interlude for self-improvement. It is for being in the wilderness, which means stopping long enough to recognize the truth of our inertia and faithlessness. This deadness inside is a fact. On Ash Wednesday we are called first to face this fact—but then what? What shall we do?

This may seem strange, but this year every time I have asked myself the question “What shall I do for Lent?” I have immediately thought of a brief exchange that occurs in a droll Russian novel by Goncharov. The hero, Oblomov, is asked what he does. The question astonishes and offends him. “What? What do I do? why, I am in love with Olga!” To him, the question about what he does is a question about his identity. He is a man in love, and that is who he understands himself to be.

The question that should be put to us all at the beginning of Lent is not “What shall we do?” The right question is the one to which the answer is, “Why, I am in love with God!” What begins to enliven our inertia is remembering and realizing that we are in love with God. True repentance, true change of heart, consists in grasping the fact that we are called to be in love with God, and that the love with which we love God is something already given to us. Repentance is coming alive to our given identity as lovers of God.

So, what shall we do for Lent? We shall act on our identity as women and men who are in love with God. We shall do whatever helps us remember and realize that identity and do what arises from it.

From “What Shall We Do For Lent?” in Nativities and Passions: Words for Transformation by Martin L. Smith (Cowley Publications, 1995).

Spiritual Practice of the Day

Sure, people need Jesus, but most of the time, what they really need is for someone to be Jesus to them.
— Reuben Welch quoted in The Body Broken by Robert Benson

To Practice This Thought: Make a vow to stay open to new ways to be like Jesus in your relationships, your work, your community, and the wider world.
++++++++++ Reflections

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

Reading from the Desert Christians


Wine makes glad the heart of man' (Ps. 104:15). But you who have
professed sorrow and grief should turn away from such gladness and
rejoice in spiritual gifts. If you rejoice in wine, you will live
with shameful thoughts and distress will overwhelm you.

St. Theodore of Edessa

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Returning to God's Ever-Present Love

We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God doesn't approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God's love. Evil does not belong to God.

God's unconditional love means that God continues to love us even when we say or think evil things. God continues to wait for us as a loving parent waits for the return of a lost child. It is important for us to hold on to the truth that God never gives up loving us even when God is saddened by what we do. That truth will help us to return to God's ever-present love.

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

Day Six - The First Aim, cont'd

The primary aim for us as tertiaries is therefore to make Christ known. This shapes our lives and attitudes to reflect the obedience of those whom our Lord chose to be with him and sent out as his witnesses. Like them, by word and example, we bear witness to Christ in our own immediate environment and pray and work for the fulfillment of his command to make disciples of all nations.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Wednesday’s Reflection

IT ALL BEGINS IN DUST. The creativity of an Amadeus Mozart, the compassion of a Mother Teresa, the brilliance of a Stephen Hawking, the faith of a young Nazarene woman named Mary — all begotten of dust. …

We are formed of dust — which suggests, among other things, not only our humble beginnings but our startling potential. For if God can breathe life into soil, what does that say about the latent potential in our lives? Who can tell what God’s breath might make of us yet — of will and mind, of imagination and compassion — opened to the One whose breath is life?

You are formed of dust, a child of God’s creation. Think of the particular ways in which God graces your existence: with relationships, with faith, with love, with community. Add to that list those things (and persons) that trigger your gratitude. In each of those life-gracing gifts, God breathes life into you.

- John Indermark
Genesis of Grace: A Lenten Book of Days

From pp. 16-17 of Genesis of Grace by John Indermark. Copyright © 1997 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Path of Descent

Question of the day: What if you gave up being ‘right’ for Lent?

The second temptation of Jesus: Satan takes him up to the pinnacle of the Temple, symbolizing the religious world, and tells him to play righteousness games with God. “Throw yourself off and he’ll catch you” (Matthew 4:6). It’s the only time when the devil quotes Scripture. The second temptation is the need to be right and to think of the self as saved, superior, the moral elite standing on God and religion, and quoting arguable Scriptures for your own purpose.

More evil has come into the world by people of righteous ignorance than by people who’ve intentionally sinned: Being convinced that one has the whole truth and has God wrapped up in my denomination, my dogmas and my right response (I am baptized, I made a personal decision for Jesus, I go to church).

It’s not wrong to be “right”. Once in a while if something works out, that’s sure nice. The spiritual problem is the need to be right. We are called to do the truth and then let go of the consequences. One stops asking the question of spiritual success, which is the egocentrism of the rich young man: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Jesus refused to answer him because it is the wrong question. It is again “the devil” quoting Scripture and not really wanting an answer, only affirmation.

As Mother Teresa loved to say, “We were not created to be successful [even spiritually successful!] but to be obedient.” True obedience to God won’t always make us look or feel right. Faith is dangerous business!

from Radical Grace

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

God provides

Was it not God whose first request to us is that we should show generosity in return? Having already received so much from him and hoping for so much more, we should surely be ashamed to refuse God the one thing he asks of us, which is to show generosity to others. When he, our Lord and God, is not ashamed to be called our Father, can we repudiate our own kith and kin?

Let us follow the first and most important law of God. He sends down rain on the righteous and on sinners and makes his sun rise for all alike. For creatures that live on land he has spread out the earth, the springs, the rivers, and the forests. He has given the air to the birds and water to the fish. He has provided all with the necessities of life in great abundance. They were not meant to be seized by force, limited by law, or separated by boundaries. And although everything was given to be enjoyed by all in common, this did not cause the supply to become less plentiful. To all who were equal by nature God wanted to give equal gifts and thus to show the greatness of his generosity.

Gregory Nazianzen

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


"I am already being poured out as a drink offering." 2 Timothy 4:6 (R. V. Marg.)

"I am ready to be offered." It is a transaction of will, not of sentiment. Tell God you are ready to be offered; then let the consequences be what they may, there is no strand of complaint now, no matter what God chooses. God puts you through the crisis in private, no one person can help an other. Externally the life may be the same; the difference is in will. Go through the crisis in will, then when it comes externally there will be no thought of the cost. If you do not transact in will with God along this line, you will end in awakening sympathy for yourself.

"Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar." The altar means fire - burning and purification and insulation for one purpose only, the destruction of every affinity that God has not started and of every attachment that is not an attachment in God. You do not destroy it, God does; you bind the sacrifice to the horns of the altar; and see that you do not give way to self-pity when the fire begins. After this way of fire, there is nothing that oppresses or depresses. When the crisis arises, you realize that things cannot touch you as they used to do. What is your way of fire?

Tell God you are ready to be offered, and God will prove Himself to be all you ever dreamed He would be.

G K Chesterton Day by Day


NOR shall all iron doors make dumb
Men wondering ceaselessly,
If it be not better to fast for joy
Than feast for misery?

'Ballad of Alfred.'

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict
February 6, June 7, October 7
Chapter 7: On Humility

The ninth degree of humility
is that a monk restrain his tongue and keep silence,
not speaking until he is questioned.
For the Scripture shows
that "in much speaking there is no escape from sin" (Prov. 10:19)
and that "the talkative man is not stable on the earth" (Ps. 139:12).

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

St. Mark 11:23-26 (2/6) For Wed. of the 37th Week after
Pentecost (Wed, 32nd Week)

Our Father In Heaven: St. Mark 11:22-26, especially vs. 23: "For
assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and
be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes
that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says."
Many survey life and says confidently: "I have achieved a great deal,
and I need no help from God." A man of the world reads the verse
quoted above, and being sleek, fed well on self-reliance, and fully
self-confident, believes that he is ready by good industrious efforts to
"move mountains," tear down his old barns, put up bigger ones, stuff
them full of achievements, and take his ease for years to come (Lk.
12:17-19) - yes, to have a good retirement.

On the other hand, the Lord Christ by these words bids us pray (Mk.
11:24,25), trust God to provide (vs. 24), forgive (vs. 25), and call
God, our "Father in heaven" (vss. 25,26). Yes, He asks us to work upon
the fabric of this world, relying on Him; for self-confidence is
unnatural. He would have us assume that "Our help is in the Name of the
Lord" (Ps. 123:8 LXX).

Beloved, you pray to our "Father in heaven;" look to Him to provide what
you require. Above all, consider well Who this Father of yours is, of
Whom you say, He is in heaven. Search the Scriptures and you will find
a consistent record of His self-disclosure. God, as the Church shows us
in Holy Scripture, ultimately is "our Father in heaven." His character
is thoroughly documented, and discloses what He expects. And what does
the Lord require? "To do justice, and to love mercy, and be ready to
walk with the Lord thy God" (Mic. 6:8 LXX).

In summary, in our Father's household, we learn that our "Father in
heaven" created us, sustains us in our existence (Acts 17:28), outlines
how we are to live, act, speak, think, and feel, and provides everything
we need to obey Him. Good fathers do that, as you know.

Consider, therefore, our earthly fathers: children depend on them, seek
to respect them, and try to do their will. Likewise, we say to our
heavenly Father, "Hallowed be Your Name; Your Kingdom come; Your Will be
done on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt. 6:9-10).

Hence, to live with God year-in-and-year-out, means to "be diligent to
present your self approved to God, a worker who does not need to be
ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). The child
of God who genuinely cares about the will of his "Father in heaven"
seeks carefully to discern and carry out the will of God as his Father
(Jn. 14:15).

The continuing consideration of the will of God leads the Faithful in
Christ to worship the Lord among His People, pray honestly, and live as
He instructs. In the bosom of the family of "our Father in heaven,"
from our Fathers in Christ and our brethren, we learn how greatly each
one needs the healing of our Father to be transformed and restored to
His original design.

Therefore, apply your Father's many basic lessons: forgive that you may
receive His forgiveness, love that you may receive His love, rid
yourself of hate because He has no hate in Him. Learn never to murder,
not even in thought. Learn not to steal, lie, corrupt others, nor
misuse your body that He has given you. You know all this well.

Our greatest obstacle before God as His children is pride, the delusion
of self-reliance. Of this Blessed Theophylact says: "a proud man should
rebuke this mountain, this passion of pride which besets him and strives
to drive him away from God's protection and providence, for it is pride
that makes a proud man say that he can accomplish all things by himself
without God's help. Such a man ought to say to his pride, 'Be thou
removed, and be thou cast into the sea....'"1

Our Father in heaven, make us worthy to live before Thee with a seemly
disposition and virtuous life, guided by Thy righteousness on the path
of salvation which Thou dost provide.

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