Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Lord is in this year (Part 2 of 2)

“...We can enter this year creatively, but only on condition that we enter with hope, that is with the certainty that the Lord is in this year, that He is the master and will lead us to the right place, and with the faith that nothing in this year will happen without the will or acquiescence of God. If this is our attitude we shall see that nothing is chance, (whoever believes in chance does not believe in God) that there are no pointless meetings and every person is sent us by the Lord. And if we enter this year with the knowledge that everything — light and dark, good and terrifying — is a gift of God and is sent us so that through us faith, hope, love, joy and the strength of the Lord should enter the world, if we firmly believe that every person who crosses our path is sent in order that we may bring him the word or action of the Lord or receive it from him, life will be meaningful and rich. Otherwise it will remain a matter of chance, an endless string of fortuitous events. Let us enter upon the new year with this faith and hope and this burning of the spirit, let us receive each other and anyone whom God may send us as the Lord receives us on our way, and let us accept anything that befalls us as coming from the hand of God, and in all circumstances let us be Christ’s; then all will be well.”
~Anthony Bloom

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Lord is in this year (Part 1 of 2)

“Once again a new year is approaching. When we are young we greet the new year with open hearts and it seems to us that everything is possible in it. It stretches before us like an endless plain of virgin snow; no footprint has yet marked the whiteness. Everything is possible, everything is pure and shining. In declining years we await the new year with a kind of inner patience, we feel that it will be a repetition of the past. There may be new events in plenty but they will be familiar, earthly happenings which we know how to live with. In both cases we are mistaken. Yes, the new year lies before us like a path that no one has yet trodden, a clear, virgin plain that must flower with a wealth of human good deeds. Whatever our age a path lies ahead of us and it is up to us to make it the way of the Lord, or not. It depends on us whether for those around us and for future generations we make a track to Heaven or to Hell, either eternal Hell, or simply the cruel human hell on earth. And at the same time what lies before us is, as old age sees it, the usual and familiar, only that it has never happened to us before. Life may be as ordinary as ever, but we may be different, the same events may occur again but be quite new because we have changed...”
~Anthony Bloom

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Good News

“The good news comes knocking on doors that we didn’t even know we had; it flings open the curtains on windows we didn’t know existed to reveal the rising sun flooding the room with glory when we had imagined that all light came from candles; it woos our cold hearts and awakens them, like someone falling in love for the first time, to a joy and fulfillment never before imagined.”
~N. T. Wright

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Te Deum

You are God: we praise You;
You are the Lord; we acclaim You;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships You.

To You all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
     Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
     heaven and earth are full of Your glory.

The glorious company of apostles praise You.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise You.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise You.

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims You;
     Father, of majesty unbounded,
     Your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
     and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When You became man to set us free
You did not shun the Virgin's womb.

You overcame the sting of death
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God's right hand in glory.
We believe that You will come and be our judge.

Come then, Lord, and help Your people,
bought with the price of Your own blood,
and bring us with Your saints
to glory everlasting.

V.  Save Your people, Lord, and bless Your inheritance.
R.  Govern and uphold them now and always.

V.  Day by day we bless You.
R.  We praise Your name for ever.

V.  Keep us today, Lord, from all sin.
R.  Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.

V.  Lord, show us Your love and mercy,
R.  For we have put our trust in You.

V.  In You, Lord, is our hope:
R.  Let us never be put to shame.

(Early Christian hymn of praise – Authorship is traditionally ascribed to Saints Ambrose and Augustine, on the occasion of the latter's baptism by the former in AD 387 – re-post)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Monet's Snow Scene


(Road to Giverny in Winter - found here)
“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.”
~Claude Monet
 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmastide

I may not go to-night to Bethlehem,
Nor follow star-directed ways, nor tread
The paths wherein the shepherds walked, that led
To Christ, and peace, and God’s good will to men.

I may not hear the Herald Angels’ song
Peal through the oriental skies, nor see
The wonder of that Heavenly company
Announce the King the world had waited long.

The manger throne I may not kneel before,
Or see how man to God is reconciled,
Through pure St. Mary’s purer, holier child;
The human Christ these eyes may not adore.

I may not carry frankincense and myrrh
With adoration to the Holy One;
Nor gold have I to give the Perfect Son,
To be with those wise kings a worshipper.

Not mine the joy that Heaven sent to them,
For ages since Time swung and locked his gates,
But I may kneel without—the star still waits,
To guide me on to holy Bethlehem.

~Pauline Johnson

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Magi

Now as at all times I can see in the mind's eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depths of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary's turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

~William Butler Yeats

Saturday, December 24, 2016

O Little Town Of Bethlehem

Brooks wrote about his horseback journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where he assisted with the midnight service on Christmas Eve, 1865:

“I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the Wonderful Night of the Savior’s birth.”

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

~Words: Phillips Brooks & Music: Lewis Redner

Friday, December 23, 2016

He came to His own...

“Then, as the afternoon shadows lengthened into evening, Joseph began his search for a proper place for Mary, whose hour had come. Some scholars have suggested reading ‘the inn was no place for them,’ rather than ‘there was no place for them in the inn.’(Luke 2:7) The need was admittedly not just for any shelter, but for privacy and propriety. Yet the traditional meditation is forever valid: The heartsick Joseph on the first Christmas Eve knocking on doors and hearts was repeatedly rejected; Mary waiting prayerfully, quietly abandoned to God’s providence, astride that blessed noble donkey; the Child within her about to be born. ‘He came to His own, and His own received Him not.’ (John 1:11) People closed their doors in the face of the Creator, Savior, and Judge of the universe. It was a prophetic forecast of so many rejections in all the generations yet to come.

The Advent application good Christians have always drawn was to listen for Joseph’s knocking and his plea to open the doors of our homes and hearts for Mary and her Child. ‘To those who did receive Him, He gave them power to become children of God.’(John 1:12)”
~Richard Gilsdorf

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Infinite Dignity

"I cannot describe what the heart feels when it accepts in the divine will in such humble, poor and mean disguises. Ah! how the sight of God, poor and humble, lodged in a stable, lying on straw, weeping and trembling, pierced the loving heart of Mary! Ask the inhabitants of Bethlehem what they thought of the Child. You know what answer they gave, and how they would have paid court to him had he been lodged in a palace surrounded by the state due to princes.

"Then ask Mary and Joseph, the magi and the shepherds. They will tell you that they found in this extreme poverty an indescribable tenderness, and an infinite dignity worthy of the majesty of God. Faith is strengthened, increased and enriched by those things that escape the senses; the less there is to see, the more there is to believe."
~Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Trees



“The best Christmas trees come very close to exceeding nature. If some of our great decorated trees had been grown in a remote forest area with lights that came on every evening as it grew dark, the whole world would come to look at them and marvel at the mystery of their great beauty.”
~Andy Rooney
   

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Creative Buds of New Life

“[Christians] in general need to ‘un-plug’ from the nearly universal dominance of commercial entertainment culture, by which I mean electronic culture. If we were to do so, we would no longer fear silence, and we would experience a new richness of life as we move away from the psychological cosmos of frantic consumerism. We would also grow in gratitude, reverence, and attentiveness to the holy, which is all around us. But we first have to recognize that we’ve been drugged—yes we believers, no less than unbelievers. If we hope for a true new renaissance, we will have to first of all deal with our addiction to mediocrity, and at the same time keep our eyes open for those creative buds of new life that rise up, against all odds, in the midst of the soul-killing tsunami of contemporary culture. We must encourage this new life wherever it appears. We must give the coming generation the courage to believe in the impossible.”
~Michael O’Brien

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Come Lord Jesus

"Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, 'Come Lord Jesus!' Amen."
~Henri Nouwen

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Isaiah 45:1-13

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, Cyrus,
   whose right hand I grasp,
Subduing nations before him,
   and making kings run in his service,
Opening doors before him
   and leaving the gates unbarred:

I will go before you
   and level the mountains;
Bronze doors I will shatter,
   and iron bars I will snap.
I will give you treasures out of the darkness,
   and riches that have been hidden away,
That you may know that I am the Lord,
   the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.

For the sake of Jacob, my servant,
   of Israel my chosen one,
I have called you by your name,
   giving you a title, though you knew me not.
I am the Lord and there is no other,
   there is no God besides me.
It is I who arm you, though you know me not,
   so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun
   men may know that there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, there is no other;
   I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make well-being and create woe;
   I, the Lord, do all these things. 

Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
   like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
   let justice also spring up!
   I, the Lord, have created this.

Woe to him who contends with his Maker;
   a potsherd among potsherds of the earth!
Dare the clay say to its modeler, “What are you doing?”
   or, “What you are making has no hands?
Woe to him who asks a father, “What are you begetting?”
   or a woman, “What are you giving birth to?”

Thus says the Lord,
   the Holy One of Israel, his maker:
You question me about my children,
   or prescribe the work of my hands for me!
It was I who made the earth
   and created mankind upon it;
It was my hands that stretched out the heavens;
   I gave the order to all their host.
It was I who stirred up one for the triumph of justice;
   all his ways I make level.
He shall rebuild my city
   and let my exiles go free
Without price or ransom,
   says the Lord of hosts.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Relativism

“Morality especially has come to seem to [Hamlet] completely dependent on his own opinions. ‘There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so,’ he declares.

How wild was this? Shakespeare had predicted post-modernism and moral relativism hundreds of years before they came into being! ...

But there was one big difference. Hamlet said these things when he was pretending to be mad. My professors said them and pretended to be sane. Shakespeare was telling us, it seemed to me, that relativism was not just crazy, it was make-believe crazy, because even the people who proclaimed it did not believe it deep down. If, after all, there is no truth, how could it be true that there is no truth? If there is no absolute morality, how can you condemn the morality of considering my culture better than another? Relativism made no sense, as Shakespeare clearly saw.”
~Andrew Klavan (excerpt from: The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Star of Hope

“Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope...”
~Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Journal Entry – December 9, 1962

“Hurt my hand falling on a sharp stone in the garden (in the dark) on the way to Prime. Moral: don’t be looking at the stars on the way to Prime.

It is beautiful Advent weather, grayish and cold, with clouds of light snow howling across the valley, and I see it is really winter. I put some bread out for the birds.

Twenty-one years tomorrow since I landed here! I feel closer to my beginning than ever, yet perhaps I am near my end. The Advent hymns sound as they first did, as if they were the nearest things to me that ever were, as if they had been decisive in shaping my heart and my life, as if I had received their form, as if there could never be any other melodies so deeply connatural to me. They are myself, words and melody and everything...”
~Thomas Merton

Monday, December 12, 2016

Night sky at Deep Bay

Midnight, and the sky above the lake
ablaze with a zillion fires lit while I slept.
Each flame a declaration, each solemn planet bright.
I tilt my head way back, and there's The Milky Way,
there's Cassiopeia, Orion, Ursa Major the Pleiades,
a whole bright host.

Years ago while snow fell quietly on Latvia,
I entered the majestic Riga Dom.
From the balcony a choir sang, a capella,
from Schubert's Deutsche Messe,
the Sanctus.

The Baltic Sea slept
while the sanctuary's hushed, cold corners
overflowed with: Holy, Holy, Holy
and our eyes with tears.

On the beach tonight I shiver, not with cold,
but overcome—unwitting witness
to the firmament's explosion—with astonishment.
As if the host of Bethlehem's angels
and the celestial Latvian voices joined
to wake the midnight world
with radiant, resounding Glorias.

(When I am old or ill
will all the stars be there, still
burning, still untarnished,
declaring truth and beauty
are not dead, not even dormant?
And will that choir sing?)

~Sarah Klassen

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Word and the voice

“John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever.

Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound. The voice without the word strikes the ear but does not build up the heart. 

However, let us observe what happens when we first seek to build up our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine.

In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word already in my heart may find a place also in yours, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then passes away. The word which the sound has brought to you is now in your heart, and yet it is still also in mine.

When the word has been conveyed to you, does not the sound seem to say: The word ought to grow, and I should diminish? The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word, and has gone away, as though it were saying: My joy is complete. Let us hold on to the word; we must not lose the word conceived inwardly in our hearts.”
~St. Augustine

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Army-Navy Game

I missed the game this year but remembered the prayer from last year. It was worth re-posting...

Invocation from the Army-Navy Game 2015
“Gathered on this gridiron, we are grateful for such rough and rugged souls as these cadets and midshipmen—strong in spirit and in sinew. We are especially mindful of our first-class cadets and midshipmen bristling on the brink of becoming soldiers, sailors, marines ready today to happily visit violence on each other and if need be someday, sometime soon on the enemies of the world so that our citizens, our allies’ citizens, indeed the sane citizens of all countries can sleep safe and sound in peace. For those of us who have fought, who can fight, who will fight our country's wars, pray for peace more than those who have never served can ever know. For we willingly face the horrors from which others are thankfully spared. But, if peace on earth be not granted us in this season of our lives, then we pray, almighty God, that on these fields of friendly strife be sown the seeds that on other fields, on other days will bear the fruits of victory. Amen!”

~Chaplain Matthew Pawlikowski
(this was typed from the television – any grammatical errors are mine)

Friday, December 9, 2016

On the Mystery of the Incarnation

It's when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind's shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.

~Denise Levertov

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mosaic of the Nativity: Serbia, Winter, 1993

On the domed ceiling God
is thinking:
I made them my joy,
and everything else I created
I made to bless them.
But see what they do!
I know their hearts
and arguments:

“We’re descended from
Cain. Evil is nothing new,
so what does it matter now
if we shell the infirmary,
and the well where the fearful
and rash alike must
come for water?”

God thinks Mary into being.
Suspended at the apogee
of the golden dome,
she curls in a brown pod,
and inside her the mind
of Christ, cloaked in blood,
lodges and begins to grow.

~Jane Kenyon

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

“Adoro te supplex, lateens deitas”

(beginning stanzas)

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for true I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.

On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men;
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

~Thomas Aquinas 
(Gerard Manley Hopkins translated this Aquinas poem)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent

(On A Theme by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Look how long
the weary world waited,
locked in its lonely cell,
guilty as a prisoner.

As you can imagine,
it sang and whistled in the dark.
It hoped. It paced and puttered about,
tidying its little piles of inconsequence.

It wept from the weight of ennui,
draped like shackles on its wrists.
It raged and wailed against the walls
of its own plight.

But there was nothing
the world could do
to find its own freedom.
The door was shut tight.

It could only be opened
from the outside.

Who could believe the latch
would be turned by a pink flower —
the tiny hand
of a newborn baby?

~Pamela Cranston

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Journey To Christmas

“The scriptures tell us that there is a time and season for everything, for each particular event. There is a time of preparing for Christmas, and that is Advent, and then there is a time for Christmas itself. There is no doubt in my mind that the more serious we are about our personal Advent journey, the greater the joy we shall reap during our Christmas celebration.

It is a good practice to make concrete plans on how best to keep our Advent observance. Often, if no plans are made in advance, much of Advent goes unnoticed and wasted. Since Advent is basically a quiet time of waiting for the arrival of the Light at Christmas, it is good to start by trying to become more internally quiet during this rather brief season.

Above all, we must make the most of these moments of stillness by remaining calm, silent, and spending quality time with the Lord. The words from one of the psalms counsel us: Be still, and know that I am God. Monks always strive to preserve a more quiet recollected spirit during these lovely Advent days and thus enjoy the Lord’s intimate company.

There is no reason why others, in a monastery or elsewhere, could not do the same wherever they are. It is a question of resolving to do so and making the effort. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. Come, Holy Spirit.
~Victor-Antoine D’Avila-Latourrette

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Enters Into Our Lives

“The Christian notion of incarnation is holistic and integrative. Jesus Christ came into the world as a whole, integrated person -- not as a ‘pretend’ person... Moreover, he was involved in all of life, not just its so-called ‘sacred’ aspects. The primary theological significance of this holistic and integrative involvement is not just to qualify him as the Second Adam and make retribution for our fragmented relationship to God. Rather, it is in and by such involvement that God enters into our lives and we into God’s.”
~Jerry Gill

Friday, December 2, 2016

Desire for the Vision of God


("Hope" by Lois Andersen - oil on canvas - found here)
“Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors. Make a little time for God and rest a while in Him.

Enter into your mind’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek Him; and when you have shut the door, look for Him. Speak now to God and say with your whole heart: I seek Your face; Your face, Lord, I desire.

Lord, my God, teach my heart where and how to seek You, where and how to find You. Lord, if You are not here where shall I look for You in Your absence? Yet if You are everywhere, why do I not see You when You are present? ...

...Look upon us, Lord, hear us and enlighten us, show us Your very self. Restore Yourself to us that it may go well with us whose life is so evil without You. Take pity on our efforts and our striving toward You, for we have no strength apart from You.

Teach me to seek You, and when I seek You show Yourself to me, for I cannot seek You unless You teach me, nor can I find You unless You show Yourself to me. Let me seek You in desiring You and desire You in seeking You, find You in loving You.”
~St. Anselm
 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Make Haste

“The shepherds made haste, partly no doubt from human curiosity, in order to see this great thing that had been announced to them. But surely, too, they were driven by their joy on hearing that now, truly, the Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord had been born, the one so long awaited—and they would be the first to see him. How many Christians make haste today, where the things of God are concerned? Surely if anything merits haste—so the evangelist is discreetly telling us—then it is the things of God.”
~Benedict XVI