Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Moved in Spirit

“...Perhaps what we modern people need most is to be genuinely shaken, so that where life is grounded, we would feel its stability; and where life is unstable and uncertain, immoral and unprincipled, we would know that, also, and endure it. Perhaps that is the ultimate answer to the question of why God has sent us into this time, why He permits this whirlwind to go over the earth, and why He holds us in such a state of chaos and in hopelessness and in darkness—and why there is no end in sight. It is because we have stood here on the earth with a totally false and inauthentic sense of security. So now, God lets the earth resound, and now He shudders it, and then He shakes it, not to call forth a false anxiety—I will speak of that later. He does it to teach us one thing again: how to be moved in spirit. Much of what is happening today would not be happening if people were in the state of inner movement and restlessness of heart in which man comes into the presence of God the Lord and gains a clear view of things as they really are. Then man would have let go of much that has thrown all our lives into disorder one way or another and has thrashed and smashed our lives. He would have seen the inner appeals, would have seen the boundaries, and could have coordinated the areas of responsibility. Instead, man stood on this earth in a false pathos and a false security, under a deep delusion in which he really believed he could single-handedly fetch stars from heaven; could enkindle eternal lights in the world and avert all danger from himself; that he could banish the night, and intercept and interrupt the internal quaking of the cosmos, and maneuver and manipulate the whole thing into the conditions standing before us now.

That is the first Advent message: before the end, the world will be set quaking. And only where man does not cling inwardly to false security will his eyes be capable of seeing the Ultimate...

...it is time for each individual to use every opportunity to guide life into this order now—and to do it with the same ‘unshakeability’ with which the Lord will come. Where life heeds your word, you must not misrepresent the message. Where life rebels before your very eyes, you must set it right. These days life lacks people who can come through the final shakings—as well as through these present shakings—with the knowledge and the consciousness: those who are watching for the Lord will not be affected, in the eternal sense, even if they are hunted off the face of the earth.”

~Alfred Delp
(From his homily for the First Sunday of Advent – preached in Munich – November 30, 1941 – He was a German priest/philosopher who was imprisoned, tortured, and executed in Berlin by the Nazis in 1945)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Isaiah 40:1-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
   says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
   that her service is at an end,
   her guilt is expiated;
Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
   double for all her sins.

   A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
   Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
   every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
   the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
   and all people shall see it together;
   for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says, “Cry out!”
   I answer, “What shall I cry out?”
“All flesh is grass,
   and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
   when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.
   So then, the people is the grass.
Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
   the word of our God stands forever.”

Go up onto a high mountain,
   Zion, herald of glad tidings;
Cry out at the top of your voice,
   Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
   and say to the cities of Judah:
   Here is your God!
Here comes with power
   the LORD God,
   who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
   his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
   in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
   and leading the ewes with care.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Shepherd


(Picture found here)
On clear cold nights when far stars speckle skies
& woodsmoke goes straight up & disappears
a dozen constellations to my eyes
are dull blurs when I think back through the years
to when the angel spoke to us that night
joined by the brilliant vast angelic choir
which overcame our senses with such light
& planted in each man the same desire
that prodded us till we reached Bethlehem
& led us to an unmarked cattle shed
We stumbled in and startled both of them
those parents by the baby’s manger bed
The townsfolk were astounded by our story
of uncouth shepherds blessed to see God’s glory

~D. S. Martin
  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Jerusalem, Lift Up Your Voice!

Jerusalem, lift up your voice!
Daughter of Zion, now rejoice!
Your King is come, whose mighty hand
Henceforth shall reign o’er every land.

He comes to every tribe and race,
A messenger of truth and grace:
With peace he comes from heaven above
On earth to found his realm of love.

In God’s eternal covenant,
He comes for our salvation sent.
The star of hope moves on before,
And hosts assemble to adore.

Let all the world with one accord
Now hail the coming of the Lord:
Praise to the Prince of heavenly birth
Who brings God’s peace to all the earth.

Tune: Von Himmel Hoch L.M.
Music: Geistliche Lieder, Leipzig, 1539
Text: Johan O. Wallin, 1814
Translation: Ernst W. Olsen, 1870-1958, alt.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Living the Wondrous Adventure


(Picture found here)
“An adventure is just an inconvenience rightly considered.”
~G. K. Chesterton

“...The way to see these little adventures in the right light is to recognize the great adventure of which they are all but a small part. All of these little details fit in the great adventure of our life like panes of glass in a great baroque window. Coming to know God, to discover the plan that He has laid before our feet, is this great life-long adventure. To learn how God is calling us to Himself puts each of the little events of life in perspective and makes it sparkle with wonder. 

Keeping in sight the wonders of this great adventure, the soul avoids getting lost in this project at work, this business deal, or even this long-awaited vacation. Its eyes fixed on the final prize, the soul finds that every moment becomes more of a delight and every little thing becomes more wondrous, as the pane of emerald glass is even more wondrous when seen in its place in the window.

If we can see each day and each hour and our whole life in expectation of some great adventure, each sunrise trembles with anticipation as each hour ripens with the question ‘what adventure does the Lord have in store for me today?’ In a life lived thus, if we can learn to see life as the adventure of coming to know the Lord and learning to walk in His way, death itself ceases to be a mere inconvenience or welcome rest, but rather the last and greatest adventure for which we prepare our whole life long.”
~Joseph Graziano
 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Shrinking from Christ's Coming

“...We too are looking out for Christ's coming,—we are bid look out,—we are bid pray for it; and yet it is to be a time of judgment. It is to be the deliverance of all Saints from sin and sorrow for ever; yet they, every one of them, must undergo an awful trial. How then can any look forward to it with joy, not knowing (for no one knows) the certainty of his own salvation? And the difficulty is increased when we come to pray for it,—to pray for its coming soon: how can we pray that Christ would come, that the day of judgment would hasten, that His kingdom would come, that His kingdom may be at once,—may come on us this day or tomorrow,—when by so coming He would be shortening the time of our present life, and cut off those precious years given us for conversion, amendment, repentance and sanctification? Is there not an inconsistency in professing to wish our Judge already come, when we do not feel ourselves ready for Him? In what sense can we really and heartily pray that He would cut short the time, when our conscience tells us that, even were our life longest, we should have much to do in a few years?

I do not deny that there is some difficulty in the question, but surely not more so than there is on every side of us in religious matters. Religion has (as it were) its very life in what are paradoxes and contradictions in the eye of reason. It is a seeming inconsistency how we can pray for Christ's coming, yet wish time to ‘work out our salvation,’ and ‘make our calling and election sure.’ It was a seeming contradiction, how good men were to desire His first coming, yet be unable to abide it; how the Apostles feared, yet rejoiced after His resurrection. And so it is a paradox how the Christian should in all things be sorrowful yet always rejoicing, and dying yet living, and having nothing yet possessing all things. Such seeming contradictions arise from the want of depth in our minds to master the whole truth. We have not eyes keen enough to follow out the lines of God's providence and will, which meet at length, though at first sight they seem parallel.”
~John Henry Newman

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Child of the Snows

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

~G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Levers

“Our interests and affections naturally govern our life and its activities. To succeed in the spiritual life, it is necessary for us to labor to place our affections at the service of our faith. Attachments are our great obstacle. The readiest means to overcome them is, not to turn in on ourselves to combat them directly, for sooner or later we would lose in the struggle, but to turn outward and upward and combat them indirectly by creating counter attachments, in the spiritual order. Progress will necessarily be slow for us as long as our emotions are at variance with the dictates of our faith. To make our course easier, it will be necessary to effect a union between the two. The purely spiritual, because it is such, makes little or no appeal to our sensibility. Something must be sought out between God and our soul, which may serve as a lever to lift us above the earth and bring us as it were into God’s reach. This lever must contain elements that, whilst giving free exercise to our senses, our feelings, and our imagination, still tend to carry us on to God and to bring us into relations with Him.”

The writer then shows how Church Liturgy is one such lever. Here is an excerpt: “The soul that is in sympathy with, and which enters into this liturgical life, gradually assimilates that enthusiastic love of Jesus Christ, with which the Church palpitates. In this pure and spiritual love the soul goes outside of itself, relinquishes itself, and espouses the interests of its Beloved. It makes its own the interests of Jesus Christ and those of His Church, which are identical. These interests are simply one absorbing interest, the salvation of [souls]. . . . The soul that is possessed by it finds therein the great lever by which it is lifted up above that preoccupation about self which is the chief obstacle to progress. In this selflessness it will find that quality of simplicity which Jesus so admired in children, and which He postulated as the condition of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is realized for us here on earth, in close and intimate union with God.” . . . “Lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven . . . for where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.”
~Edward Leen

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Excerpt from: The Practice of the Presence of God

“Brother Lawrence told me he had always been governed by love without selfish views. Since he resolved to make the love of God the end of all his actions, he had found reasons to be well satisfied with his method. He was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of God, seeking Him only, and nothing else, not even His gifts.

He said he had been long troubled in mind from a certain belief that he should be damned. All the men in the world could not have persuaded him to the contrary. This trouble of mind had lasted four years during which time he had suffered much. Finally he reasoned: I did not engage in a religious life but for the love of God. I have endeavored to act only for Him. Whatever becomes of me, whether I be lost or saved, I will always continue to act purely for the love of God. I shall have this good at least that till death I shall have done all that is in me to love Him. From that time on Brother Lawrence lived his life in perfect liberty and continual joy. He placed his sins between himself and God to tell Him that he did not deserve His favors yet God still continued to bestow them in abundance.

Brother Lawrence said that in order to form a habit of conversing with God continually and referring all we do to Him, we must at first apply to Him with some diligence. Then, after a little care, we would find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.

He expected after the pleasant days God had given him, he would have his turn of pain and suffering. Yet he was not uneasy about it. Knowing that, since he could do nothing of himself, God would not fail to give him the strength to bear them.

When an occasion of practicing some virtue was offered, he addressed himself to God saying, ‘Lord, I cannot do this unless Thou enablest me.’ And then he received strength more than sufficient. When he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault saying to God, ‘I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss.’ Then, after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”
~Joseph de Beaufort & Brother Lawrence

Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent, 1971

       When will he come
and how will he come
and will there be warnings
and will there be thunders
and rumbles of armies
coming before him
and banners and trumpets
When will he come
and how will he come
and will we be ready
       O woe to you people
you sleep through the thunder
you heed not the warnings
the fires and the drownings
the earthquakes and stormings
and ignorant armies
and dark closing on you
the song birds are falling
the sea birds are dying
no fish now are leaping
the children are choking
in air not for breathing
the aged are gasping
with no one to tend them
       a bright star has blazed forth
and no one has seen it
and no one has wakened

~Madeleine L’Engle

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Hark, The Glad Sound!

Hark, the glad sound! The Savior comes,
the Savior promised long!
Let ev'ry heart prepare a throne,
and ev'ry voice a song.

He comes the pris'ners to release,
in Satan’s bondage held;
the gates of brass before Him burst,
the iron fetters yield.

He comes the broken heart to bind,
the bleeding soul to cure,
and with the treasures of His grace
t'enrich the humbled poor.

Our glad Hosannas, Prince of Peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim;
and heav'n’s eternal arches ring
with Thy beloved Name.

Text: Philip Doddridge; based on Isaiah 61:1-2
Tune: Thomas Haweis; adapt. Samuel Webbe

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Advent Vigil

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ
came to us in great humility;
so that, at the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty,
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
world without end. Amen.
(Advent Vigil Liturgy)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Unseen

Air is the main thing. The selvage
of landscape and the glistens of water
are merely the floor, or some kind of hem,
an edge of what we can’t see.
Now and then clouds form a roof,
a soft ceiling. A cap for the gap.

Open space may rant and rave
invisibly. We feel it, so we are obliged
to name it: Wind.

Why equate visibility
with value? (You, solid in your
purple velvet jacket and heels
may attract attention.
But where would you be
without breath?)

So self-effacing, air, except
in dialogue with the visible,
a sigh among leaves,
a moan at the window,
a draft under the door,
a cough in the face.

A suspension of our
disbelief.

~Luci Shaw

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Peace and the Opposite

“Wherever God is — there is peace. And the opposite is self-evident: where there is envy, enmity, impatience, self-love — there is the devil. Wherever the devil is — there, everything is ruinous, proud and hostile.”
~St. Anatoly of Optina

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Collection, Recollection

Can the arrow forget the bow-string
and the bow, their pent-up passion
to let fly, the sudden snap and twang,
the relief of release?

The fledgling, having just
chipped herself free into the nest,
how does she practice
the wide threat of space?

A clear lens, the drop of rain
carries in its orb an image of the sky
from which it fell—a piece of cloud—and
with it a recollection of thunder.

And the predestined satchel
of tomorrow, how can it not be packed
with the finely-orchestrated
chaos of today?

~Luci Shaw

Monday, November 27, 2017

Tradition

“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”
~G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Two Truths

“The Christian religion, then, teaches men these two truths; that there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally important to men to know both these points; and it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer who can free him from it. The knowledge of one of these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have known God, or to the despair of the atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer…. We cannot know Jesus Christ without knowing at the same time both God and our own wretchedness.”
~Blaise Pascal (Pensées, Section VIII)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Grateful Heart

Thou that hast given so much to me
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart whose pulse may be thy praise.

Thou that hast given so much to me
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.

~George Herbert

Friday, November 24, 2017

A River

"What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn't have any doubt - it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn't want to go anywhere else."
~Hal Boyle

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sometimes It’s Easy to Know What I Want

On a road that cuts through the richest, non-irrigated land
in the nation, according to some Lancaster, PA, natives,

a minivan slowed, and a woman with a good haircut yelled,
Do you want a ride, or are you walking because you want to?

I didn’t reply because my life felt so wrecked—
no matter the reason, either you get this or you don’t—

wrecked in the way that makes gestures of tenderness
devastating, like the time I showed up in Minnesota, brittle

with sorrow, and the professor sent to fetch me
asked if I wanted heat in the seat of his sports car

or the local apple he’d brought in case I arrived hungry.
I didn’t know people make seats to hold a body in radiance

like the merciful hand of God. The apple was crisp and cold
and sweet. Maybe I looked in his eyes and shook his hand

in both of mine when I left, I don’t remember. Months later,
he sent an empty seed packet, torn open, lithographed

with a fat, yellow annual no one grows any more, flamboyant
as Depression-era glassware. That was all, thank you.

Thank you, oh thanks so much, I finally told the woman
framed by a minivan window, but yes, I do want to walk.

~Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Creator Obeys A Carpenter

“The creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; a child of a prince, to a peasant.”
~St. Anthony of Padua

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

El Train Magnificat

Just when I think I’ve entered my rest
the dull glare of the office two blocks behind me,
a woman under the Wells Street tracks
opens her arms and shouts, Lord, I thank you!
Her massive breasts quake in a gray T-shirt;
a sprig of hair trembles in a rubber band.
You made me! I’m here! I’m here!
The metallic rumble of the Green Line
can’t drown her voice. She swings her hips,
clapping to the rhythm. I cross through a line of taxis
to avoid her. Now she is turning in grand circles,
her face lifted toward the tracks.
Thank you, thank you, Lord of mine.
I hum to myself, count sidewalk squares, anything
to escape the eye of her swirl. I quicken my stride
around the corner of Madison, until her voice is nothing
but a drift in the storm of buses and horns.
Yet at night, in the cool hour of unrest,
I feel her words rumbling through me
in a constant loop—I thank you, Lord;
I thank you, Lord— sparks flickering along my bones,
singeing the edges of my silent life.

~Tania Runyan

Monday, November 20, 2017

Gratitude

In his prison letters, Bonhoeffer is thankful
for a hairbrush, for a pipe and tobacco,
for cigarettes and Schelling’s Morals Vol. II.
Thankful for stain remover, laxatives,
collar studs, bottled fruit and cooling salts.
For his Bible and hymns praising what is
fearful, which he sings, pacing in circles
for exercise, to his cell walls where he’s hung
a reproduction of Durer’s Apocalypse.
He’s thankful for letters from his parents
and friends that lead him back home,
and for the pain of memory’s arrival,
his orderly room of books and prints too far
from the nightly sobs of a prisoner
in the next cell whom Bonhoeffer does not know
how to comfort, though he believes religion
begins with a neighbor who is within reach.
He’s thankful for the few hours outside
in the prison yard, and for the half-strangled
laughter between inmates as they sit together
under a chestnut tree.  He’s thankful even
for a small ant hill, and for the ants that are
all purpose and clear decision.  For the two
lime trees that mumble audibly with the workings
of bees in June and especially for the warm
laying on of sun that tells him he’s a man
created of earth and not of air and thoughts.
He’s thankful for minutes when his reading
and writing fill up the emptiness of time,
and for those moments when he sees himself
as a small figure in a vast, unrolling scroll,
though mostly he looks out over the plains
of ignorance inside himself.  And for that,
too, he’s thankful: for the self who asks,
Who am I?—the man who steps cheerfully
from this cell and speaks easily to his jailers,
or the man who is restless and trembling
with anger and despair as cities burn and Jews
are herded into railroad cars—can
without an answer, say finally, I am thine,
to a God who lives each day,
as Bonhoeffer must, in the knowledge
of what has been done, is still being done,
his gift a refusal to leave his suffering, for which,
even as the rope is placed around his neck
and pulled tight, Bonhoeffer is utterly grateful.

~Robert Cording

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Praise

I praise you because
you are artist and scientist
in one. When I am somewhat
fearful of your power,
your ability to work miracles
with a set-square. I hear
you murmuring to yourself
in a notation Beethoven
dreamed of but never achieved.
You run off your scales of
rain water and sea water, play
the chords of the morning
and evening light, sculpture
with shadow, join together leaf
by leaf, when spring
comes, the stanzas of
an immense poem. You speak
all languages and none,
answering our most complex
prayers with the simplicity
of a flower, confronting
us, when we would domesticate you
to our uses, with the rioting
viruses under our lens.

~R. S. Thomas

Saturday, November 18, 2017

O Lord Our God, Who Made The Day

O Lord our God, who made the day
To gladden us with its fair light,
We praise your name, imploring aid,
For day will soon give place to night.

The evening shadows grow apace,
Advancing, they will hide the sun,
As darkness creeps upon the earth
When daylight hours their course have run.

We beg you, Lord and God Most High,
Protect us with your presence blessed,
Though weary, keep our souls in peace
And not by gloom of night oppressed.

Let not the setting sun go down
On hearts distressed with sin, and sore,
But sheltered by your gentle grace,
May we behold the day once more.

To you, O Christ, most kindly King,
And to the Father, glory be,
Praise to the Spirit Paraclete,
In ev’ry age, eternally. Amen.

Tune: CREATOR ALMA SIDERUM – L.M.
Text: Deus, qui claro humine, Anonymous from the seventh or eighth century
Translation: the Benedictines of Saint Cecilia’s Abbey

Friday, November 17, 2017

How did they not more quickly find its Lord?

All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God,
   and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is,
   and from studying the works did not discern the artisan;
But either fire, or wind, or the swift air,
   or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water,
   or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods.
Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods,
   let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these;
   for the original source of beauty fashioned them.
Or if they were struck by their might and energy,
   let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them.
For from the greatness and the beauty of created things
   their original author, by analogy, is seen.
But yet, for these the blame is less;
For they indeed have gone astray perhaps,
   though they seek God and wish to find him.
For they search busily among his works,
   but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.
But again, not even these are pardonable.
For if they so far succeeded in knowledge
   that they could speculate about the world,
   how did they not more quickly find its Lord?
~Wisdom 13:1-9

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Adversity

“This, in short, is the difference between us and others who know not God, that in misfortune they complain and murmur, while the adversity does not call us away from the truth of virtue and faith, but strengthens us by its suffering.”
~St. Cyprian

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Books

“I would like to know what actually goes on in a book as long as it’s closed.
. . . One has to read it to experience it, that’s clear. But it’s already there beforehand. I would like to know, how?”
~Michael Ende

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Jesus Was A Healer

Jesus was a healer
never turned a patient down

never charged coin or conversion
started off with dust and spittle

then re-tuned lives to pattern
simply by his attention

often surprised himself a little
by his unbounded ability

Jesus was a healer
reattached his captor’s ear

opened senses, unjammed cripples
sent pigs to drown delirium

cured a shy tug at his hem
learned to transmit resurrection

could have stood more Thank You
for God’s sake, which was his own

Jesus was a healer
keep this quiet, he would mutter

to his learners. Copy me
and they did to a degree

still depicted on church walls
cure without treatment or rehearsals.

~Les Murray