Wednesday, December 31, 2014

At The End Of The Year


(Picture found here)
   The particular mind of the ocean
   Filling the coastline's longing
   With such brief harvest
   Of elegant, vanishing waves
   Is like the mind of time
   Opening us shapes of days.

   As this year draws to its end,
   We give thanks for the gifts it brought
   And how they became inlaid within
   Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

   The days when the veil lifted
   And the soul could see delight;
   When a quiver caressed the heart
   In the sheer exuberance of being here.

   Surprises that came awake
   In forgotten corners of old fields
   Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

   The slow, brooding times
   When all was awkward
   And the wave in the mind
   Pierced every sore with salt.

   The darkened days that stopped
   The confidence of the dawn.

   Days when beloved faces shone brighter
   With light from beyond themselves;
   And from the granite of some secret sorrow
   A stream of buried tears loosened.

   We bless this year for all we learned,
   For all we loved and lost
   And for the quiet way it brought us
   Nearer to our invisible destination.

   ~John O’Donohue
 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Night


(Picture by Remo Savisaar)
“The day with its cares and perplexities is ended and the night is now upon us. The night should be a time of peace and tranquility, a time to relax and be calm. We have need of a soothing story to banish the disturbing thoughts of the day, to set at rest our troubled minds, and put at ease our ruffled spirits.”
~Samuel Johnson
 

Monday, December 29, 2014

1 John 1:1-3

This is what we proclaim to you:
what was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked upon
and our hands have touched—
we speak of the word of life.
(This life became visible;
we have seen and bear witness to it,
and we proclaim to you the eternal life
that was present to the Father
and became visible to us.)
What we have seen and heard
we proclaim in turn to you
so that you may share life with us.
This fellowship of ours is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 26, 2014

What Child Is This?

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

~Words: William Dix & Music: Green­sleeves, 16th Cen­tu­ry Eng­lish mel­o­dy

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!


(Picture found here)
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
   and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:
   a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A spirit of counsel and of strength,
   a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord,
   and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.

~Isaiah 11:1-3a
 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

“This is the night,
The immense night of origins,
And nothing exists except love,
Except love which now begins.
By separating sand from water,
God has prepared the earth
Like a cradle
For His coming from above.

This is the night,
The happy night of Palestine,
And nothing exists except the Child,
Except the Child of life divine.
By taking flesh of our flesh,
God our desert did refresh
And made a land
Of boundless spring.”

~From Ancient Christmas Eve Liturgy (re-post)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Meditation

“He who by a mother's love
Made the wandering world his own,
Every year comes from above,
Comes the parted to atone,
Binding Earth to the Father's throne.

Nay, thou comest every day!
No, thou never didst depart!
Never hour hast been away!
Always with us, Lord, thou art,
Binding, binding heart to heart!”

~George MacDonald

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wake, Awake, For Night Is Flying

Wake, awake, for night is flying;
The watchmen on the heights are crying:
Awake, Jerusalem, at last!
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices;
Come forth, ye virgins, night is past;
The Bridegroom comes, awake;
Your lamps with gladness take;
Alleluia!
And for His marriage feast prepare
For you must go and meet Him there.

Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her Star is risen, her Light is come.
Ah come, Thou blessed One,
God’s own beloved Son:
Alleluia!
We follow till the halls we see
Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee.

Now let all the heavens adore Thee,
And saints and angels sing before Thee,
With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone;
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where we are with the choir immortal
Of angels round Thy dazzling throne;
Nor eye hath seen, nor ear
hath yet attained to hear
What there is ours,
But we rejoice and sing to Thee
Our hymn of joy eternally.

Tune: Wachet Auf 898.898.664.88
Music: Philipp Nicolai, 1556-1608
Text: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, Philipp Nicolai
Translation: Catherine Winkworth, 1858

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As seers of old have sung.
It came a blossom bright,
Amid the cold of winter
When half-spent was the night.

Isaiah ‘twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind.
With Mary we behold it,
The Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright,
She bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel in glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death now save us;
And share our every load.

Tune: Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen 76.76.676
Music: Michael Praetorius, Speier Gesangbuch, 1599
Text: In the public domain

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mystery

“The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery. We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery. Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes, because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery. They are not yet finished with this world; they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do. We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary of our being, because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal, and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…. Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life, nothing of the mystery of another person, nothing of the mystery of the world; it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world. It means remaining on the surface, taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation. Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them.”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2014

What Good?


(Picture found here)
“What good does it do us to sense and feel our misery unless a bridge is thrown over to the other shore?
What help is it to be terrified at our lostness and confusion unless a light flashes up that is a match for darkness and always is its master?
What good does it do to shiver in the coldness and hardness in which the world freezes as it goes deeper astray in itself and kills itself, unless we also come to know of the grace that is mightier than the peril of oblivion?”
~Alfred Delp
 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Manger


(Artwork by Charles Emile Jacque - found here)
“The young clergyman and his wife do all the things you do on Christmas Eve. They string the lights and hang the ornaments. They supervise the hanging of the stockings. They tuck in the children. They lug the presents down out of hiding and pile them under the tree. Just as they’re about to fall exhausted into bed, the husband remembers his neighbor’s sheep. The man asked him to feed them for him while he was away, and in the press of other matters that night he forgot all about them. So down the hill he goes through knee-deep snow. He gets two bales of hay from the barn and carries them out to the shed. There’s a forty-watt bulb hanging by its cord from the low roof, and he lights it. The sheep huddle in a corner watching as he snaps the baling twine, shakes the squares of hay apart and starts scattering it. Then they come bumbling and shoving to get at it with their foolish, mild faces, the puffs of their breath showing in the air. He is reaching to turn off the bulb and leave when suddenly he realizes where he is. The winter darkness. The glimmer of light. The smell of the hay and the sound of the animals eating. Where he is, of course, is the manger.

He only just saw it. He whose business it is above everything else to have an eye for such things is all but blind in that eye. He who on his best days believes that everything that is most precious anywhere comes from that manger might easily have gone home to bed never knowing that he had himself just been in the manger. The world is the manger. It is only by grace that he happens to see this other part of the miracle.

Christmas itself is by grace. It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise. It could never have happened otherwise. Perhaps it is the very wildness and strangeness of the grace that has led us to try to tame it. We have tried to make it habitable. We have roofed it in and furnished it. We have reduced it to an occasion we feel at home with, at best a touching and beautiful occasion, at worst a trite and cloying one. But if the Christmas event in itself is indeed—as a matter of cold, hard fact—all it’s cracked up to be, then even at best our efforts are misleading.

The Word become flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space, time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: ‘God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God…who for us and for our salvation,’ as the Nicene Creed puts it, ‘came down from heaven.’ 

Came down. Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see. It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms. It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast.”
~Frederick Buechner
 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Contentment


Harlan Hubbard Woodcut
“Probably no moon has furnished me with as much light as this
one, in this clear weather. Now it is past full, and I can arise before
daybreak and see my way about, sawing firewood. One feels alone
on the earth, no sounds, no lights, anywhere, unless a boat passes.
In a light fog, as this morning, the isolation is even more strongly
felt. It brings peace, contentment and a sure faith that all is well.
~Harlan Hubbard
  

Monday, December 15, 2014

In The Dark

“The authentically hopeful Christmas spirit has not looked away from the darkness, but straight into it. The true and victorious Christmas spirit does not look away from death, but directly at it. Otherwise, the message is cheap and false. Instead of pointing to someone else’s sin, we confess our own. ‘In our sins we have been a long time’ [Isaiah 64]. Advent begins in the dark.”
~Fleming Rutledge

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

~Words: Charles Wesley & Music: Rowland Prichard

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Compensation

“...If you are wise, you will dread a prosperity which only loads you with more. ...In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody. Beware of too much good staying in your hand. It will fast corrupt and worm worms. Pay it away quickly in some sort.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lux Aurumque (Light and Gold)

Lux,
Calida gravisque pura velut aurum
Et canunt angeli molliter
modo natum.

Light,
warm and heavy as pure gold
and angels sing softly
to the new-born babe.

~Edward Esch

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Advent

 
“Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights,
Skies, and be perfect! Fly, vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet meteors,
And disappear.
You moon, be slow to go down,
This is your full!

The four white roads make off in silence
Towards the four parts of the starry universe.
Time falls like manna at the corners of the wintry earth.
We have become more humble than the rocks,
More wakeful than the patient hills.

Charm with your stainlessness these nights in Advent,
holy spheres,
While minds, as meek as beasts,
Stay close at home in the sweet hay;
And intellects are quieter than the flocks that feed by starlight.

Oh pour your darkness and your brightness over all our
solemn valleys,
You skies: and travel like the gentle Virgin,
Toward the planets' stately setting,

Oh white full moon as quiet as Bethlehem!”

~Thomas Merton
  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Advent: when the ladder climbing stops we are ready to gather around the manger


(Artwork by Alexandra Bircken)
“This is how Advent always begins. In the place where everything seems lost; where the human condition is experienced at its most starkly bleak. It is only within this manger of dread, desolation and despair that Christmas makes sense. Only there can we feel its new born warmth for ourselves and cradle its living truth in our arms. Nowhere else. God invites us to journey into our darkness on the strength of a promise, daring to believe that the incarnation of love will become real in the wombspace of our fragile faith.

This is always a collective endeavour. In Advent we travel for ourselves and we travel for the sake of others, always these two held together as one redefining purpose. The dread, desolation and despair may not be our own this time around, but it will be somebody’s truth, somewhere very close and somewhere far away. Advent is the great collectiviser of God’s economy: our imagined separation from the desperate plight of others is destroyed by the inclusive ardour of the divine will which places the manger where we would be least inclined to welcome it as gift.”
~David Perry
 

Monday, December 8, 2014

His Name Was Called Wonder!

    “This is the day that gladdened them, the Prophets, Kings, and Priests, for in it were their words fulfilled, and thus were the whole of them indeed performed! For the Virgin this day brought forth Immanuel in Bethlehem. The voice that of old Isaiah spake, to-day became reality. He was born thee who in writing should tell the Gentiles’ number! The Psalm that David once sang, by its fulfillment came to-day! The word that Micah once spake, to-day was come indeed to pass! For there came from Ephrata a Shepherd, and His staff swayed over souls. Lo! from Jacob shone the Star, and from Israel rose the Head. The prophecy that Balaam spake had its interpreting to-day! Down also came the hidden Light, and from the Body rose His beauty! The light that spake in Zachary, to-day shined in Bethlehem!
    Risen is the Light of the kingdom, in Ephratathe city of the King. The blessing where with Jacob blessed, to its fulfillment came to-day! That tree likewise, [the tree] of life, brings hope to mortal men! Solomon’s hidden proverb had to-day its explanation! To-day was born the Child, and His name was called Wonder! For a wonder it is that God as a Babe should show Himself.”
~St. Ephrem the Syrian c.306-373

Sunday, December 7, 2014

On Jordan's Bank

On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh;
awake and hearken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings.

Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
make straight the way for God within,
prepare we in our hearts a home
where such a mighty Guest may come.

For thou art our salvation, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward;
without thy grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.

To heal the sick stretch out thine hand,
and bid the fallen sinner stand;
shine forth and let thy light restore
earth's own true loveliness once more.

All praise, eternal Son, to thee,
whose advent doth thy people free;
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Ghost for evermore.

~Words: Charles Coffin (Trans. John Chandler) & Music: Winchester New

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Silent Night

Lo, in the silent night
A child to God is born
And all is brought again
That ere was lost or lorn.

Could but thy soul, O man,
Become a silent night!
God would be born in thee
And set all things aright.

~15th Century

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came


(Artwork "The Annunciation" by Henry Ossawa Tanner - found here)
The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

“For know a blessed Mother thou shalt be,
all generations laud and honor thee,
thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,
“my soul shall laud and magnify his holy Name.”
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
in Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
and Christian folk throughout the world will ever say--
“Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

~Words: Basque carol, Trans. Sabine Baring-Gould & Music: Gabriel's Message
 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

First Coming

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

~Madeleine L'Engle

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Wonder of the Incarnation

 
Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In the strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.

~G. K. Chesterton
 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Longing

“...I do not now feel either ashamed or dubious on the Eden myth. It has not, of course historicity of the same kind as the NT, which are virtually contemporary documents, while Genesis is separated by we do not know how many sad exiled generations from the Fall, but certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its very best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile.’”
~J. R. R. Tolkien