Monday, November 30, 2015

Fasting


(St. Antony - picture found here)
“Fasting is not dieting. Fasting is not about keeping a Christian version of kosher. Fasting is about hunger and humility (which is increased as we allow ourselves to become weak). Fasting is about allowing our heart to break.”

“Why do we fast? Perhaps the more germane question is ‘why do we eat?’ Christ quoted Scripture to the evil one and said, ‘Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ We eat as though our life depended on it and it does not. We fast because our life depends on the word of God.”
~Stephen Freeman

“Fasting appears gloomy until one steps into its arena. But begin and you will see what light it brings after darkness, what freedom from bonds, what release after a burdensome life.”
~St. Theophan
 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come

Peace be to you and grace from Him
Who freed us from our sin
Who loved us all, and shed his blood
That we might saved be.

Sing holy, holy to our Lord
The Lord almighty God
Who was and is, and is to come
Sing holy, holy Lord.

Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein
Rejoice on earth, ye saints below
For Christ is coming, is coming soon
For Christ is coming soon.

E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come
And night shall be no more
They need no light, no lamp, nor sun
For Christ will be their All!

~Paul and Ruth Manz

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Telling Stories

“We tell some of the best stories to ourselves. ... We ask our friend, ‘What’s up?’ or ‘What’s new?’ and we begin to narrate our lives to one another, trading tales back and forth over cups of coffee ... unconsciously shaping and embellishing to make the tales hum. And every night, we reconvene with our loved ones at the dinner table to share the small comedies and tragedies of our day.”
~Jonathan Gottschall

Friday, November 27, 2015

When My Love Grows Weak

When my love for man grows weak,
When for stronger faith I seek,
Hill of Calvary, I go
To thy scenes of fear and woe.

There behold His agony,
Suffered on the bitter tree;
See His anguish, see His faith,
Love triumphant still in death.

Then to life I turn again,
Learning all the worth of pain,
Learning all the might that lies
In a full self-sacrifice.

~Words: John Wreford & Music: Charles Vincent, Jr. (excerpt from When My Love To God Grows Weak)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving and Praise

You will say in that day:
I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    and you comforted me.

Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
    he has become my salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

Give thanks to the Lord,
    call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
    proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be known in all the earth.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

~Isaiah 12:1-6

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On Giving

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have--and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.
And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

And you receivers... and you are all receivers... assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.

~Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Treatment

“The person who truly wishes to be healed is he who does not refuse treatment. This treatment consists of the pain and distress brought on by various misfortunes. He who refuses them does not realize what they accomplish in this world or what he will gain from them when he departs this life.”
~St. Maximus the Confessor

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thy Kingdom Come

“Everybody in this room has been taught to pray daily. 'Thy kingdom come.' Now, if we hear a man swear in the streets, we think it very wrong, and say 'he takes God's name in vain.' But there's a twenty times worse way of taking His name in vain, than that. It is to ask God for what we don't want. He doesn't like that sort of prayer. If you don't want a thing, don't ask for it: such asking is the worst mockery of your King you can mock Him with: the soldiers striking Him on the head with the reed was nothing to that. If you do not wish for His kingdom, don't pray for it. But if you do, you must do more than pray for it; you must work for it. And to work for it, you must know what it is; we have all prayed for it many a day without thinking.”
~John Ruskin

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ephesians 4:15-16

Let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Against Loose Talk

One who trusts others too quickly has a shallow mind,
    and one who sins does wrong to himself.
One who rejoices in wickedness will be condemned,
    but one who hates gossip has less evil.
Never repeat a conversation,
    and you will lose nothing at all.
With friend or foe do not report it,
    and unless it would be a sin for you, do not reveal it;
for someone may have heard you and watched you,
    and in time will hate you.
Have you heard something? Let it die with you.
    Be brave, it will not make you burst!
Having heard something, the fool suffers birth pangs
    like a woman in labor with a child.
Like an arrow stuck in a person’s thigh,
    so is gossip inside a fool.

Question a friend; perhaps he did not do it;
    or if he did, so that he may not do it again.
Question a neighbor; perhaps he did not say it;
    or if he said it, so that he may not repeat it.
Question a friend, for often it is slander;
    so do not believe everything you hear.
A person may make a slip without intending it.
    Who has not sinned with his tongue?
Question your neighbor before you threaten him;
    and let the law of the Most High take its course.
~Sirach 19:4-17

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Kingdom in the Street (Part 3 of 3)

...There I saw all the things I had seen before, all the death and destruction, the vacuous teenagers, and the old people on the corners.  But I saw something I had never seen before.  A great banquet table was all set up in the city streets.  There were hundreds of thousands of people sitting around the banquet table feasting and singing.  There was great dancing and music everywhere.  They were singing something like this:

            When all of the world shall feast again,
            Hurrah, hurrah;
            Injustice and crime are ended then,
            Hurrah, hurrah.
            Then all the valleys with joy shall ring,
            And all the people on Earth shall sing.
            And we will not rest 'til all of the world shall feast.

            When weapon is plow and hoe again,
            Hurrah, hurrah;
            Shall mercy like rivers flow again,
            Hurrah, hurrah.
            Then darkness shall be done away,
            And we shall see salvation's day.
            And we will not rest 'til weapon is plow and hoe
            And we will not rest 'til all of the world shall feast.

And I along with the others sat at the table and enjoyed the great feast.  Then it was that the Man of Sorrows came to me—to all of us who were gathered there at the table—and he said, “What will you do in my city?”  To some who had the gift of building things he said, “Go build more tables so that there will be tables for everyone to enjoy my banquet.  Go build shelters for the homeless and the hungry and the cold.”  To some who had the gift of telling, “Go and tell the story of my banquet table.  Write it, fax it, send it on computers, put it on the telephone lines, put it everywhere that there is room at my table for everyone.”

And then the Man of Sorrows gave to those who had the gift of disruption the assignment to go the holy mountain fortress and to break the dam which had blocked the river of life from running in the city.  Then he came to me.  “What will you do, son?”

I said, “I don't know. I don't belong here.”  I could hear the ringing of bells.

“Son, what will you do in my city?” said the Man of Sorrows.

“I don't know,” I said, “I'm frightened!  I would rather be up in the holy mountain fortress.”  The ringing of the bells was like the ringing of a death bell, the death of all the life I had known.

“What will you do in my city?” said the Man of Sorrows.

“I'm afraid!” I said.  “I'm afraid!”  I heard the ringing of the bell and suddenly the ringing of the bell became the ringing of the alarm bell on my bedside table.  I shut off the alarm and I lay there for a long time thinking about the images in my dream, the Man of Sorrows, and the table in the city streets.  Still I could hear the call: “What will you do in my city, my child?”  So while I lay there in bed, I wrote my last verse to the song that the wind had taught me when we were flying high above the city streets.

            Come see the kingdom coming,
            Come see the victory day,
            There will be no need for fortress walls,
            For there is a better way.
            The Prince will lift the lowly,
            And the proud will know defeat,
            Don't look for the kingdom on the mountain,
            For it's coming in the street.

                        For it's a long night,
                        And weary grow the feet
                        That walk the long road,
                        But the morning will come sweet.
                        Yes, it's a long night
                        And the Prince is in the streets tonight.

~Ken Medema 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Kingdom in the Street (Part 2 of 3)

And the wind said, “Certainly, my child, I will remove you from this place.”

The wind began to blow again and it lifted me high above the city streets.  I said to the wind, “Where are we going now?”

 The wind said, “Listen and I will tell you.”

            Well, just outside that city
            Far from the blight and pain,
            Is a holy mountain fortress
            Where life seems calm and sane.
            There is feasting there and singing
            By tranquil waterfalls,
            And the street folks never come there,
            'Cause they cannot climb the walls.

            At the gateway to the fortress,
            The Man of Sorrows cries.
            A Prince in beggar's clothing,
            With compassion in His eyes.
            And the mountain folk won't hear Him,
            So He turns His feet around,
            And the ruler of the mountains
            Becomes a servant in the town.

                        For it's a long night,
                        And weary grow the feet
                        That walk the long road,
                        But the morning will come sweet.
                        Yes, it's a long night
                        And the Prince is in the streets tonight.

Suddenly I was deposited on the top of a great and tall hill.  There on the top of the hill was a holy mountain fortress cathedral.  I could hear the bells ringing everywhere and the folk were all coming to worship. I said, “Yes!  This is the place I want to be!”  There were lovely houses all around the cathedral.  There was a lake there that I knew had been made when the river that used to run through the city was dammed up.  “I want to go in and worship,” I said to the wind.

The wind shouted, “No. You will stay here.”  Then they closed the door of the holy mountain cathedral and I could hear in the background the music.

“May I please go in?” I said to the wind.

And again the wind said, "No. You will stay here."

And then I saw him coming up the hill looking like a Man of Sorrows who bore the weight of all the world on his shoulders.  And he sang these words:

            If anybody would come after me,
            Let him take up his cross and follow me.
            If anybody would come after me,
            Let him take up his cross and follow me.

Well, some of the people in the holy mountain fortress cathedral must have heard him because they came out the back door.  They knelt at his feet and they said, “What shall we do?”  They cried as if in abject sorrow.  And he said with a smile on his face, “Get up, for we have great things to do in the city.”  And then he led them down the hill toward the city.

The wind said to me, “You will go, too.”

I said, “No.  I am afraid!”

The wind said, “You will go, too.”

So I followed the little band into the city...

~Ken Medema

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Kingdom in the Street (Part 1 of 3)

I want to tell you about a dream.  The dream begins with a real event in my life.  I was just finishing my master's degree in music in college and I had been asked to sing the tenor solos in the performance of Messiah.  Now, this was a big deal at Michigan State University!  In my dream I can remember being on that stage and the orchestra beginning the introduction.  My heart was beating so fast.  This was my great moment...

Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people;
Comfort ye.

In the middle of the aria, suddenly I was accosted by a great wind. It howled around my face, it whistled around my back, and it lifted me right off the stage.  I kicked and screamed and I said, “No.  I've got to finish the aria.  Please don't take me away from here!”  And the wind blew and I sailed higher and higher until I was flying right out the back door of that auditorium.  The wind would not let me go.  I said to the wind, “Where are we going?”

And the wind said, “Listen to me, child, and I will tell you.”

            Come walk with me in the darkness,
            And as we walk along;
            I'll tell you quite a story,
            And I'll sing you quite a song.
            I'll sing of light and darkness,
            Of victory and defeat;
            Corruption on the mountains,
            And compassion in the streets.
  
                        For it's a long night,
                        And weary grow the feet
                        That walk the long road,
                        But the morning will come sweet.
                        Yes, it's a long night
                        And the Prince is in the streets tonight.

            We're walking to the city,
            And Chaos is its name,
            And in its streets and alleys
            Are the blind, the sick, the maimed
            And the children cry for water,
            And relief seems out of sight,
            And they dream about tomorrow
            In the darkness of the night.

                        For it's a long night,
                        And weary grow the feet
                        That walk the long road,
                        But the morning will come sweet.
                        Yes, it's a long night
                        And the Prince is in the streets tonight.

And suddenly the wind put me down and I was in the middle of the streets of a great and tumultuous city. The city was named Chaos and death was everywhere.  Children with distended stomachs lay on the streets and vacuous teenagers stood on the corners wondering what to do with themselves.  Old people rocked back and forth on their porches.  The stench of death was everywhere.  I could see that running through the middle of the city there was what used to be a river and now the river was dry.  Between its banks was nothing but trash and weeds and refuse.  A horrible place.  I screamed at the wind, “Take me out of here!  I can't stand to be here!  I don't belong here!”

...

~Ken Medema

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2 Peter 3:8-15a

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? What we await are new heavens and a new earth where, according to his promise, the justice of God will reside. So, beloved, while waiting for this, make every effort to be found without stain or defilement, and at peace in his sight. Consider that our Lord’s patience is directed toward salvation.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terrorism

“[T]here’s one thing we must all be clear about: terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate goals by some sort of illegitimate means. Whatever the murderers may be trying to achieve, creating a better world certainly isn’t one of their goals. Instead they are out to murder innocent people.”
~Salman Rushdie

“Monsters remain human beings. In fact, to reduce them to a subhuman level is to exonerate them of their acts of terrorism and mass murder — just as animals are not deemed morally responsible for killing. Insisting on the humanity of terrorists is, in fact, critical to maintaining their profound responsibility for the evil they commit.”
~Andrew Sullivan

Friday, November 13, 2015

May God Help Us...


(By Nikola Sarić - found here)
This modern icon depicts the beheading of the 21 Christians martyrs in Libya at the hands of ISIS.
 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Live Simply

“Live simply and without thinking too much, like a child with his father. Faith without too much thinking works wonders. The logical mind hinders the Grace of God and miracles. Practice patience without judging with the logical mind.”
~Elder Paisios

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Do It Justice

“Now the best relation to our spiritual home is to be near enough to love it. But the next best is to be far enough away not to hate it. It is the contention of these pages that while the best judge of Christianity is a Christian, the next best judge would be something more like a Confucian. The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard. He does not judge Christianity calmly as a Confucian would; he does not judge it as he would judge Confucianism. ...Their anti-clericalism has become an atmosphere, an atmosphere of negation and hostility from which they cannot escape. Compared with that, it would be better to see the whole thing as something belonging to another continent, or to another planet. It would be more philosophical to stare indifferently at bonzes than to be perpetually and pointlessly grumbling at bishops. It would be better to walk past a church as if it were a pagoda than to stand permanently in the porch, impotent either to go inside and help or to go outside and forget. For those in whom a mere reaction has thus become an obsession ...I recommend these critics to try to do as much justice to Christian saints as if they were Pagan sages.”
~G. K. Chesterton (from The Everlasting Man)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Will of God

“The Lord has given the Holy Spirit upon the earth, and in whomsoever He dwells, that one feels paradise within himself. You might say: why hasn't this happened to me? Because you have not given yourself over to the will of God, but you live according to yourself. Look at the one who loves his own will. He never has peace in himself and is always displeased with something. But whoever has given himself over to God's will perfectly has pure prayer. His soul loves the Lord, and everything is acceptable and good to him.”
~St. Silouan

Monday, November 9, 2015

Contemplation

“...Contemplation is a matter of immersing ourselves in the heart of reality. And to anyone who is capable of taking the plunge, reality suddenly unveils itself, presents itself in its truth, reveals its truth.

But this revelation is possible only if our gaze is pure enough to penetrate this secret sanctuary without violating it or seeking to possess it.

Contemplation is an attitude of mind... We can develop this contemplative gaze which penetrates to the heart of reality in order to reach its soul in the midst of our ordinary everyday life. Contemplation is the capacity to live out the present fully.”
~Henri Boulard

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns



The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills,
And life to joy awakes.

Nor as of old a little child
To bear, and fight, and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun
That lights the morning sky.

O brighter than the rising morn
When He, victorious, rose,
And left the lonesome place of death,
Despite the rage of foes.

O brighter than that glorious morn
Shall this fair morning be,
When Christ, our King, in beauty comes,
And we His face shall see.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light and beauty brings:
Hail, Christ the Lord! Thy people pray,
Come quickly, King of kings!

Amen

~Words: Greek Text (Unknown Author); Translated to English by John Brownlie & Music: William Jones (re-post)
     

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Ocean of Mankind

“Look closely. Here is the ocean of mankind. See the depths and the surface waves, the currents converging or parting, swift and silent or turbulent. There are riptides and calm, and monsters from which all recoil, and the marvels of beauty that draw us toward themselves, and every rank of complexity between the two. Among them are beautiful perils and virtues with repellent features. All of these are present, dwelling together within these waters, each in its place and depth. Each strives for mastery of microscopic realms or for sufficiency in the larger ones, a few of them sure of their right to be, others uncertain, many more indifferent.”
~Michael O’Brien

Friday, November 6, 2015

Compline

READING
Jeremiah 14:9a

You are in our midst, O Lord,
   your name we bear:
   do not forsake us, O Lord, our God!

RESPONSORY

Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.

You have redeemed us, Lord God of truth.
– I commend my spirit.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.

GOSPEL CANTICLE
Luke 2:29-32

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:

my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:

a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and will be for ever. Amen.

Ant. Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.

CONCLUDING PRAYER

Let us pray.

All-powerful God
keep us united with your Son
in his death and burial
so that we may rise to new life with him,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
– Amen.

BLESSING

May the all-powerful Lord
grant us a restful night
and a peaceful death.
– Amen.

~(Excerpt from Compline - Night Prayer)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Live For Something

“It's not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.”
~Michael O’Brien (from Island of the World)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Progress

“If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.”
~St. Charles Borromeo

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Poem For Christ The King

See how this homeless babe lifted
himself down into his humble Crèche
and laid his tender glove
of skin against that splintered wood —
found refuge in that rack
of raspy straw — home
on that chilly dawn, in sweetest
silage, those shriven stalks.
See how this outcast King lifted
himself high upon his savage Cross,
extended the regal banner
of his bones, draping himself
upon his throne — his battered feet,
his wounded hands not fastened
there by nails but sewn
by the strictest thorn of Love.

~Pamela Cranston

Monday, November 2, 2015

Inexhaustible Riches

“The same truth, the same virtue, the same God, can belong to us all in like manner. . .such are the inexhaustible riches of the Spirit. . .only then do we possess a truth completely when we teach it to others, when we make others share our contemplation. . .Give money away or spend it and it is no longer yours. But give God to others, and you possess Him more fully for yourself.”
~Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Sunday, November 1, 2015

You Should Want To Be A Saint

“What you should say”– Lax told me — ”what you should say is that you want to be a saint.”

A saint! The thought struck me as a little weird. I said: “How do you expect me to become a saint?”

“By wanting to,” said Lax, simply.

“I can’t be a saint,” I said, “I can’t be a saint.” And my mind darkened with a confusion of realities and unrealities: the knowledge of my own sins, and the false humility which makes men say that they cannot do the things that they must do, cannot reach the level that they must reach: the cowardice that says: “I am satisfied to save my soul, to keep out of mortal sin,” but which means, by those words: “I do not want to give up my sins and my attachments.”

Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

~Thomas Merton (from The Seven Storey Mountain)