Monday, February 11, 2008

Daily Meditation 02/11/09


Blessed are those for whom Easter is...
not a hunt, but a find;
not a greeting, but a proclamation;
not outward fashions, but inward grace;
not a day, but an eternity.


Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 41, 52; PM Psalm 44
Gen. 37:1-11; 1 Cor. 1:1-19; Mark 1:1-13

From Forward Day by Day:

Genesis 37:1-11. When Joseph's brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him.

I find the conjunction of Old and New Testament texts especially haunting today: Jesus is baptized by John; he sees the heavens open and hears a voice declare him God's beloved Son; he is driven into the wilderness and tempted by Satan. His public life begins.

At the same time, we embark upon the ancient story of Joseph, who is betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold for twenty pieces of silver, and reported to their father as dead.

Treachery, deception, and heartless abandonment--nonetheless ending at last in unimaginable redemption.

Jesus, as a devout Jew, would have grown up hearing this story. I wonder if, perhaps in the midst of his own betrayal by those he loved, Jesus began
to remember what had happened to Joseph: a man sold by his own, but who became, by grace, lord of all Egypt and great among his people, the Israelites.

May God open our hearts to stories within stories, hope hidden in darkness, providence at the bottom of even the darkest pits.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Athabasca - (Rupert's Land, Canada)

40 Ideas for Lent: A Lenten calendar


Over the days of Lent, read through the entire Book of Psalms in order.

Idea by: jlg

The poet and spiritual writer Jim Cotter has produced his own version of all 150 psalms, called Psalms for a Pilgrim People. They are a paraphrase rather than a translation: some of them are fairly close to the original, while others are more of a meditation sparked off by the psalm. They are certainly worth reading alongside if not in place of the scriptural text.

A Celtic lenten Calendar

The Earth is Alive with the Glory of God

1. All Creation is alive with the presence of God. "Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Celtic Christianity is its affinity with nature. (Iona is an absolutely stunning island, where the line between God and the world is what MacLeod called 'tissue thin'.) The Celts enthusiastically affirmed the psalmist's declaration, 'The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims (God's) handiwork' (Psalm 19:1). The Celts believed that all creation is alive with God's presence. Because God's Spirit dwells in all living things, everything is inherently good... Every moment, every location could therefore become a time and place for encountering God.

For a Celtic Lent: "Celebrate the wonder of creation. Plant a flower and watch it grow. Take time each day to sense the changes taking place, even those changes you cannot see. Do what is necessary to nurture its growth. Marvel at the wonder of Creation and give thanks to God for the gift of life.

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

St. Ignatius of Antioch: Letter to the Ephesians

Speaking to the Soul:

Bread or obedience

Daily Reading for February 11

Temptation does not usually come when we are ready for it. It does not come when we are strongest, when we are at our best. It comes when we are weak. It came to Jesus when he was hungry, very hungry. . . . When he had grown weak, when he was not physically strong, when it became hard to see straight and clearly in the dazzling sun of that sun-drenched land, it was then that temptation came.

Jesus was exposed to terrible hunger, his body giving him no rest. Perhaps he was looking at the smooth round stones that lay at his feet. They looked something like the smooth loaves just out of a baker’s oven, and then it struck him, “Turn these stones into bread.”

It was a temptation to use his powers to bring comfort to his body, to use his unique relationship to God as a magic wand to care for his earthly needs. That was a personal temptation he faced: to avoid the pains of a bodily life. More broadly, it was to avoid being subject to one of the common human conditions we face. It was a temptation to reject a condition set by God, namely, that we are to seek him as beings who must eat, who are vulnerable to starvation, as beings who are made to desire material goods and who can therefore become greedy, covetous, envious. To use his powers to provide food in a miraculous way when he was in trouble would have been to reject a condition his Father sets for us. He could hardly have pioneered a new way for us to the Father if he rejected one of the conditions to which we are subject in our pilgrimage.

But it was also for him a temptation that concerned the welfare of others. He could have made his mission to the world an attempt to satisfy people’s bodily needs. He could have tried to see to it that everyone had food, clothing, and shelter; to see that everyone’s sensuous needs and desires were fully satisfied.

His Father faced that decision when he made the universe; he could have protected us from all shortages, from being vulnerable to starvation. But clearly we are vulnerable and we are not fully protected. Whatever the reason for this situation, it is where we are. The decision the Father made at creation, to allow this, was now faced by Jesus. He had to ratify or to reject his Father’s decision by deciding what his mission was to be—bread or obedience to his Father’s will.

That was for him a temptation, a terrible temptation. For are not we all, as he was, frequently moved by compassion at the suffering of people, their terrible suffering? All people are not being fed. At the same time do not we all know that people do not live by bread alone? None of us is hungry. . . . We consume and consume and consume, and we learn the hard way—if we learn at all—that we cannot be satisfied this way. We need it; it is good; yet it does not fill us. We find here that we are tempted into evil, not by something that is evil, but by something that is good.

From Temptation by Diogenes Allen. A Seabury Classic from Church Publishing. Copyright © 2004. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

Spiritual Practice of the Day

Remember that sometimes monsters only need to be kissed to be turned into beautiful princes and princesses.
— Madeleine L'Engle in <>Anytime Prayers

To Practice This Thought: Visualize the most despicable person you know. Then envision the prince or princess who also resides in him or her.
++++++++++ Reflections

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

Reading from the Desert Christians


Even a pious person is not immune to spiritual sickness if he does
not have a wise guide -- either a living person or a spiritual
writer. This sickness is called _prelest_, or spiritual delusion,
imagining oneself to be near to God and to the realm of the divine
and supernatural. Even zealous ascetics in monasteries are
sometimes subject to this delusion, but of course, laymen who are
zealous in external struggles (podvigi) undergo it much more
frequently. Surpassing their acquaintances in struggles of prayer
and fasting, they imagine that they are seers of divine visions,
or at least of dreams inspired by grace. In every event of their
lives, they see special intentional directions from God or their
guardian angel. And then they start imagining that they are God's
elect, and often try to foretell the future. The Holy Fathers
armed themselves against nothing so fiercely as against this
sickness -- prelest.

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Words That Create

Words, words, words. Our society is full of words: on billboards, on television screens, in newspapers and books. Words whispered, shouted, and sung. Words that move, dance, and change in size and color. Words that say, "Taste me, smell me, eat me, drink me, sleep with me," but most of all, "buy me." With so many words around us, we quickly say: "Well, they're just words." Thus, words have lost much of their power.

Still, the word has the power to create. When God speaks, God creates. When God says, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3), light is. God speaks light. For God, speaking and creating are the same. It is this creative power of the word we need to reclaim. What we say is very important. When we say, "I love you," and say it from the heart, we can give another person new life, new hope, new courage. When we say, "I hate you," we can destroy another person. Let's watch our words.

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

Day Eleven - The Third Aim, cont'd

Although we possess property and earn money to support ourselves and our families, wo show ourselves to be true followers of Christ and of Saint Francis by our readiness to live simply and to share with others. We recognize that some of our members may be called to a literal following of Saint Francis in a life of extreme simplicity. All of us, however, accept that we avoid luxury and waste, and regard our possessions as being held in trust for God.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Love Is Found
February 11th, 2008
Monday’s Reflection

that even in the darkest
places on earth
some love is found
and music abounds.

- Richard Morgan
Settling In: My First Year in a Retirement Community

From p. 155 of Settling In by Richard Morgan. Copyright © 2006 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Weekly Merton Reflection

True sanctity does not consist in trying to live without creatures. It consists in using the goods of life in order to do the will of God. It consists in using God's creation in such a way that everything we touch and see and use and love gives new glory to God. To be a saint means to pass through the world gathering fruits for heaven from every tree and reaping God's glory in every field. The saint is one who is in contact with God in every possible way, in every possible direction. He is united to God by the depths of his own being. He sees and touches God in everything and everyone around him. Everywhere he goes, the world rings and resounds (though silently) with the deep harmonies of God's glory.

Thomas Merton. Seasons of Celebration. (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1950): 137

Thought for the Day

The word of the Gospel is understood only when it is obeyed. It is known to those who strive to practice it.

Seasons of Celebration: 217.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection


Question of the day:
How are you being shown your humanness?

All this is only the beginning of the birthpangs. (Matthew 24:8, JB)

Birthpangs is an image of something painful that is bringing about something better. The price for bringing about something better is to go through the pain of birth. Male gods create by a flick of their creative finger. Female gods create by labor pains. Much of patriarchal Christian interpretation has been trying to avoid pain; it thought birthpangs were unnecessary. That's why we couldn't hear Jesus.

If we had an image of God as the great Mother who is birthing, I think birthpangs would have been preached about a lot more. And a woman—at least a woman who has had a child—understands something I will never understand: the connection between pain and life.

from Sermon on the Mount

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

Welcoming those who have strayed

In the veiled words of the parable I see there a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. When one of them became separated from the flock and wandered away lost, that shepherd did not stay with the sheep who remained together grazing, but set out to look for the lost one. He crossed many chasms and ravines, he climbed high mountains, he endured great hardship in the wilderness, searching until he found his sheep. Then when he found it he did not beat it or roughly drive it back, but placed it on his own shoulders and gently carried it home, taking more joy in this one sheep that was lost than in all the others.

Now there is a hidden meaning in this parable which we must try to penetrate. The sheep is not really a sheep and the shepherd is certainly not a man who looks after senseless beasts. These are illustrations which contain sacred teaching. They warn us against making off-hand judgments that anyone is beyond hope of salvation and against abandoning those who are in peril. On the contrary, it is our duty to seek out those who have gone astray and restore them to the fold. To welcome them back among those leading good and holy lives should be a great joy for us.

Asterius of Amasea

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


"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose imagination is stayed on Thee." Isaiah 26:3 (R. V. marg.)

Is your imagination stayed on God or is it starved? The starvation of the imagination is one of the most fruitful sources of exhaustion and sapping in a worker's life. If you have never used your imagination to put yourself before God, begin to do it now. It is no use waiting for God to come; you must put your imagination away from the face of idols and look unto Him and be saved. Imagination is the greatest gift God has given us and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him. If you have been bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, it will be one of the greatest assets to faith when the time of trial comes, because your faith and the Spirit of God will work together. Learn to associate ideas worthy of God with all that happens in Nature - the sunrises and the sunsets, the sun and the stars, the changing seasons, and your imagination will never be at the mercy of your impulses, but will always be at the service of God.

"We have sinned with our fathers; . . . and have forgotten" - then put a stiletto in the place where you have gone to sleep. "God is not talking to me just now," but He ought to be. Remember Whose you are and Whom you serve. Provoke yourself by recollection, and your affection for God will increase tenfold; your imagination will not be starved any longer, but will be quick and enthusiastic, and your hope will be inexpressibly bright.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

February 11, June 12, October 12
Chapter 9: How Many Psalms Are to Be Said at the Night Office

In winter time as defined above,
there is first this verse to be said three times:
"O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall declare Your praise."
To it is added Psalm 3 and the "Glory be to the Father,"
and after that Psalm 94 to be chanted with an antiphon
or even chanted simply.
Let the Ambrosian hymn follow next,
and then six Psalms with antiphons.
When these are finished and the verse said,
let the Abbot give a blessing;
then, all being seated on the benches,
let three lessons be read from the book on the lectern
by the brethren in their turns,
and after each lesson let a responsory be chanted.
Two of the responsories are to be said
without a "Glory be to the Father"
but after the third lesson
let the chanter say the "Glory be to the Father,"
and as soon as he begins it let all rise from their seats
out of honor and reverence to the Holy Trinity.

The books to be read at the Night Office
shall be those of divine authorship,
of both the Old and the New Testament,
and also the explanations of them which have been made
by well known and orthodox Catholic Fathers.

After these three lessons with their responsories
let the remaining six Psalms follow,
to be chanted with "Alleluia."
After these shall follow the lesson from the Apostle,
to be recited by heart,
the verse
and the petition of the litany, that is "Lord, have mercy on us."
And so let the Night Office come to an end.

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

St. Mark 12:13-17 (2/11) Gospel for Monday of the Week of the
Publican & the Pharisee

Comprehensible or Incomprehensible: St. Mark 12:13-17, especially vss.
14, 15: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or
shall we not pay?" These verses from St. Mark are the first in a series
of accounts that record the efforts of the Lord Jesus' enemies to
destroy Him (see Mk. 11:18; 12:12-13). So greatly did these opponents
hate Him that an unlikely political alliance formed between the
Pharisees - members of a devout, separatist religious sect - and the
Herodians - the worldly officials of Herod's court. Together they
sought to lure Jesus into a treasonous, blasphemous, or libelous remark
by which to indite, try, and execute Him. They slyly framed a question,
deferring to the sovereignty of God, by observing that the Lord Jesus
did "not regard the person of men, but [taught] the way of God in truth"
(vs. 14). Following this ploy, they asked if God's people should or
should not pay taxes to the idolatrous Roman government.

The question of the Pharisees and Herodians appears to be about Caesar
and taxes, but actually it set up the Lord Jesus to pit loyalty to God
against obedience to government. Christ exposed the deep error of ever
making God an alternative to Caesar. Comparing the infinite God to a
human ruler is gross over-simplification that distorts the theology of
God into manageable concepts. An impossible effort, because, as
Vladimir Lossky learned from St. Gregory of Nyssa: "...every concept
relative to God is a simulacrum, a false likeness, an idol."1

The Pharisees and Herodians were engaging in "reductionism"- the attempt
to minimize, obscure, or distort complex reality, concepts, or issues.
As rational creatures, we finite humans are incapable of speaking
definitively about the essence of God except in negative or superlative
statements - uncontainable, incomprehensible, all-wise, almighty. As
St. Gregory the Theologian says, " define Him in words is
impossible." God is not some "thing" to be compared to other things,
such as governments. He exists beyond all thought categories.

Therefore, one may learn what to render to God only as God reveals
Himself and His will. Otherwise, God and His will remain
incomprehensible. On the other hand, it is quite possible to comprehend
what a Caesar expects. Emperors mint coins with their own images. They
issue decrees "...that all the world should be registered" for taxation
(Lk. 2:1). They tax.

The motive behind theological reductionism is a vain attempt to manage
God. If one could reduce God to ideas and principles comprehensible to
humans, then the essential unknowability of God would be eliminated.
Simplistic thinking has "god" conveniently in hand, and uses "god"
however it will. The Saints who know the Lord never brook such
theology. Isaiah records well God's response to all men: "But as the
heaven is distant from the earth, so is My way distant from your ways,
and your thoughts from My mind." (Is. 55:9).

In his Gospel, St. Mark discloses the Lord Jesus' answer to
reductionism, a celebration of the incomprehensible majesty of God.
Stand with the Prophet Jeremiah and reject self-serving theologizing,
those who say: "...These things are not so; no evils shall come upon
us..."(Jer. 5:12). True faith always says, "Though the Mighty One
should lay hand upon me, forasmuch as he has begun, verily I will speak,
and plead before him." (Job 13:15).

In teaching hope in God, Solomon says: "Joy rests long with the
righteous: but the hope of the ungodly shall perish" (Prov. 10:28). The
wicked do not expect God to interfere, but He frustrates their ways.
The Prophet Malachi says frankly: " provoked God with your
words. But ye said, Wherein have we provoked Him? In that ye say,
every one that does evil is a pleasing object in the sight of the Lord,
and He takes pleasure in such..." (Mal. 2:17). Our ways are not hid
from God, "and there is no searching of His understanding" (Is. 40:28).

Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible,
ever-existing and eternally the same, Thou and Thine Only-begotten Son
and Thy Holy Spirit. Glory to Thee!


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