Blog posts

SATURDAY READING: To Sing Is A Lover’s Thing by Edith M. Humphrey

August 5, 2017

From Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth As In Heaven Can you hear them? They’re singing, singing a song as strong as the sea, as sure as the rock, as heartrending as a glimpse of sapphire sky caught through a tear in an ominous bank of clouds. Can you hear them? Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, The One who was, and who is, and who is to come… Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, To receive glory and honor and power: For thou didst create all things, And by thy will they came to be, and were created.  (Revelation 4:8, 11) The song surrounds John, directed by the cherubim who sing the thrice-holy hymn, and entered with abandon and reverence by the twenty-four elders, representative of God’s people.  Encircled by the celestial [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: Experience Of The Spirit As Creator by Raniero Cantalamessa

August 4, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit The most important thing, also in the matter of the Holy Spirit as Creator, is not to understand or explain what this might mean, but to experience the Spirit as Creator.  In the strictest sense, to create means to draw forth being out of nothingness.  How, then, can someone who already exists invoke the Spirit as Creator?  If you invoke, you must exist, and if you exist, how can you still experience being created? This point has a profound religious implication.  To invoke the Creator Spirit upon oneself is to carry oneself back, in faith, to that moment when God still retained all power over you, when you were only “a thought in God’s heart,” and God could have made of you whatever God [...]

POETRY: Wisdom by Thomas Merton

August 4, 2017

I studied it and it taught me nothing. I learned it and soon forgot everything else: Having forgotten, I was burdened with knowledge— The insupportable knowledge of nothing. How sweet my life would be, if I were wise! Wisdom is well known When it is no longer seen or thought of. Only then is understanding [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: More About The Passions, And Disciplines Of The Mind by Frederica Mathewes-Green

August 3, 2017

From: The Illuminated Heart Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings, for thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God. (Prayer before the reading of the Gospel Liturgy of St. James, Fourth Century) “Pray constantly” is another very good piece of advice.  But how do you ever do it?  Not just saying prayers or interceding for others – how can you abide in a state of prayer, so that your every heartbeat, your very breath, is united with Christ? Some of us are familiar with customs like holding oneself mindful of the presence of God, or of asking what Jesus would do.  These [...]

HEALING: God’s Twenty-Thousand-Year Pout by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

August 3, 2017

From: Good Goats My tendency to read the vengeful punishment language in scripture literally came in part from a common understanding of the teaching of Saint Anselm (1033–1109).  In Redemptive Intimacy, Dick Westley quotes theologian Walter Imbiorski who describes how Anselm’s thinking has often been caricatured by popular Christian teaching: You see, part of the difficulty is that most of us are caught up emotionally in what I would call Anselmian Salvation Theology, which goes something like this.  God created the world.  Adam and Eve sinned.  God got pretty damn sore, goes into a 10,000 year pout, slams the gates of Heaven and throws the scoundrels out.  So he’s up there pouting and about 5,000 years ago by and the [...]

POETRY: Reason by Scott Cairns

August 2, 2017

It could be a late night phone call, or a note you find troubling the bed. It could be a telegram you can’t help going back to, but something has died, or has left you, and you can’t remember which. You do know that you sit alone, that you have ten strange fingers, and that something whistles in your lungs. Odd, the way a face hangs so heavily, and can seem to pull you over, can seem to pull you down. If your hand were to change, become something altogether different, say, a grip of flowers, or a club of dirt, you might understand the strangeness, might say out loud, There, now that’s the problem; something’s changed my hand to [...]

MYSTICISM: The Way Of Joy — Francis of Assisi by John Michael Talbot

August 2, 2017

From The Way of the Mystics Late one moonlit night, the citizens of Assisi, Italy, were awakened from their slumber by a frightful commotion.  The cause of the disturbance was a local youth named Francis, but none of the townspeople realized that yet.  All they knew was that the bells of their town church were clanging chaotically in the middle of the night. These were the same bells that sounded throughout the daylight hours, chiming out familiar tones at morning, noon, and dusk.  But this wasn’t daylight, and this noise was no pretty melody.  It sounded like a pack of hyenas had been let loose in the bell tower. When a few droopy-eyed town fathers made their way to the central square in their nightshirts and slippers, they were [...]

POETRY: The Sacraments by Francis of Assisi

August 2, 2017

I once spoke to my friend, an old squirrel, about the Sacraments— he got so excited and ran into a hollow in his tree and came back holding some acorns, an owl feather, and a ribbon he had found. And I just smiled and said, “Yes, dear, you understand: everything imparts His [...]

PSALMS: The Enemies by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 1, 2017

From Psalms No section of the Psalter causes us greater difficulty today than the so-called imprecatory psalms.  With shocking frequency their thoughts penetrate the entire Psalter (5, 7,. 9, 10, 13, 16, 21, 23, 28, 31, 35, 36, 40, 41, 44, 52, 54, 55, 58, 59, 68, 69, 70, 71, 137, and others).  Every attempt to pray these psalms seems doomed to failure.  They seem to be an example of what people think of as the religious first stage toward the New Testament.  Christ on the cross prays for his enemies and teaches us to do the same.  How can we still, with these psalms, call for the wrath of God against our enemies?  The question is therefore: Can the imprecatory psalms be understood as God’s word for us and as the prayer of Jesus [...]

POETRY: Flying Fowl, And Creeping Things, Praise Ye The Lord by Isaac Watts

August 1, 2017

Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl. (Psalm 148:9-10) Sweet flocks, whose soft enamel’s wing Swift and gently cleaves the sky; Whose charming notes address the spring With an artless harmony. Lovely minstrels of the field, Who in leafy shadows sit, And your wondrous structures build, Awake your tuneful voices with the dawning light; To nature’s God your first devotions pay, E’er you salute the rising day, ‘Tis he calls up the sun, and gives him every ray. Serpents who o’er the meadows slide, And wear upon your shining back Numerous ranks of gaudy pride, Which thousand mingling colors make Let the fierce glances of your eyes Rebate [...]

ANGELS: Before And Behind by Martin Shannon

August 1, 2017

From: All God’s Angels The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them.  It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel.  And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night. I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.  Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him.  But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a [...]

PRAYER: Heart And Mind (Part Two) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

July 31, 2017

From Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer Restless Is Our Heart The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke celebrates both our longing for healing and wholeness and our primordial conviction that God’s healing power wells up in our own innermost heart.  He finds God in “the spot that is healing,” while we, like children picking on a scar, keep ripping it open with the sharp edges of our thoughts.  If only we could quiet all that agitation within and around us, the din that distracts us.  In our silence a thousand scattered thoughts would be gathered into one.  And in the thousandfold power of that concentration we would be able to hold God one smiling moment long in a single thought.  Just long enough to give that divine [...]

MUSIC: Church Organist Declared Greatest Composer by Thomas H. Troeger

July 31, 2017

From: Music As Prayer Anthony Tommasini, chief music critic for the New York Times, once wrote a series of articles on the ten greatest classical music composers.  He acknowledged all the limitations of such a question and that even the word classical is problematic, not adequately conveying the richness and dynamism of our musical legacy.  Tommasini, a champion of contemporary music, decided he would not consider living composers because “we are too close” to them “to have perspective.  Besides, assessing greatness is the last thing on your mind when you are listening to an involving, exciting, or baffling new piece.” Despite these limitations, Tommasini still wanted to pursue the matter: “I began this [...]

PRAYER: Praise To God Most High by Francis of Assisi

July 31, 2017

(Found on the other side of the parchment from St. Francis’s blessing of Brother Leo.) You alone are holy, Lord God, you do wonderful things. You are strong. You are great. You are the Most High. You are the almighty King, the holy Father, King of Heaven and Earth. You are Trinity and Unity, O Lord God, all goodness. You are good, all good, the supreme good, Lord God, living and true. You are charity and love. You are wisdom. You are humility. You are patience. You are serenity. You are peace. You are joy and gladness. You are justice and self-restraint. You are our wealth, our treasure, and our satisfaction. You are beauty. You are mercy. You are our protector. You are our guardian and defender. You are strength. You are [...]

POETRY: Stars by Louise Glück

July 30, 2017

I’m awake; I am in the world— I expect no further assurance. No protection, no promise. Solace of the night sky, the hardly moving face of the clock. I’m alone—all my riches surround me. I have a bed, a vase of flowers beside it. And a nightlight, a book. I’m awake; I am safe. The darkness like a shield, the dreams put off, maybe vanished forever. And the day— the unsatisfying morning that says I am your future, here is your cargo of sorrow: Do you reject me? Do you mean to send me away because I am not full, in your word, because you see the black shape already implicit? I will never be banished. I am the light, your personal anguish and humiliation. Do you dare send me away as though you were waiting for something [...]

VIRTUES: Living Where You Are (Humility, Part One) by Gary L. Thomas

July 30, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit Saints agree they are sinners; only sinners think they are saints. (Peter Kreeft) The truth is this – pride must die in you, or nothing of Heaven can live in you. (Andrew Murray) “So how’d your morning work go?”  My wife, Lisa, asked me. “I lost a good bit of it.  My computer crashed.” She looked at me with astonishment.  “I can’t believe you’re taking it so well.” I shrugged.  “I’ve written by hand and I’ve written on computers.  Over the long run, computers have saved me a lot of time.  I can’t complain if they take a little time back now and then.” “But your attitude,” Lisa sad.  “I think I’d be [...]

POETRY: The Collar by George Herbert

July 29, 2017

I struck the board, and cry’d, No more. I will abroad. What? shall I ever sigh and pine? My lines and life are free; free as the rode, Loose as the winde, as large as store. Shall I be still in suit? Have I no harvest but a thorn To let me bloud, and not restore What I have lost with cordiall fruit? Sure there was wine Before my sighs did drie it: there was corn Before my tears did drown it. Is the yeare onely lost to me? Have I no bayes to crown it? No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted? All wasted? Not so, my heart: but there is fruit, And thou hast hands. Recover all thy sigh-blown age On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage, Thy rope of sands, Which pettie thoughts have made, and made [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Title “Creator,” An “Open Structure” by Raniero Cantalamessa

July 29, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit What does the title “Creator” mean to us today, first of all from the point of view of theology and faith?  The fundamental point is still the same as was brought to light by the Fathers: The Holy Spirit of God!  Using the title “Creator,” the author of the hymn wanted to put a solemn profession of faith in the divinity of the Holy Spirit at the very start, ahead of everything else.  The title “Creator” is like the clef placed at the beginning of a symphonic score, determining how the whole symphony and every note in it is to sound: this hymn is about God himself, and not about God’s attributes or about a nebulous kind of “divine energy.”  A beautiful [...]

POETRY: Wind And A Bobwhite by Thomas Merton

July 28, 2017

Wind and a bobwhite And the afternoon sun. By ceasing to question the sun I have become light, Bird and wind. My leaves sing. I am earth, earth All these lighted things Grow from my heart. A tall, spare pine Stands like the initial of my first Name when I had one. When I had a spirit, When I was on fire When this valley was Made out of fresh air You spoke my name In naming Your silence: O sweet, irrational worship! I am earth, earth My heart’s love Bursts with hay and flowers. I am a lake of blue air In which my own appointed place Field and valley Stand reflected. I am earth, earth Out of my grass heart Rises the bobwhite. Out of my nameless weeds His foolish [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: Introduction To The Passions, And Disciplines Of The Body by Frederica Mathewes-Green

July 27, 2017

From: The Illuminated Heart Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings, for thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God. (Prayer before the reading of the Gospel Liturgy of St. James, Fourth Century) In the last chapter we heard Saint Paul say, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”  That sounds like a fine prescription, but perhaps a little vague.  How would a person begin to grapple with his own mind?  Wouldn’t it be that same fallen mind that was doing the grappling? And, hey, what about this body that’s always hanging around?  Wherever the mind goes, [...]

HEALING: Reading Vengeful Punishment Passages Literally Can Drive Us Crazy by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

July 27, 2017

From: Good Goats The time when I understood most clearly the dangers of reading the vengeful punishment passages in the Bible literally was when I was called to a mental hospital to see my friend, Bill Wilson.  Guards ushered me into his room.  Bill’s hands were chained to his bed and he had a bandage over the right side of his face.  That morning he had tried to gouge out his right eye.  When I asked him why, he quoted to me Matthew 5:29: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your member than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Everyone knew Bill was crazy for taking the first part of that passage, “If your right eye causes you to sin, [...]

POETRY: A Warning To My Readers by Wendell Berry

July 26, 2017

Do not think me gentle because I speak in praise of gentleness, or elegant because I honor the grace that keeps this world. I am a man crude as any, gross of speech, intolerant, stubborn, angry, full of fits and furies. That I may have spoken well at times, is not natural. A wonder is what it [...]

MYSTICISM: The Living Flame Of Love — Stanza 2 by John of the Cross

July 26, 2017

From The Living Flame of Love Stanza II O sweet burn! O delicious wound! O tender hand! O gentle touch That savors of eternal life, And pays every debt! In slaying you have changed death into life. EXPOSITION We learn here that it is the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who accomplish the divine work of union in the soul.  The “hand,” the “burn,” and the “touch” are in substance one and the same; and the three terms are employed because they express effects peculiar to each.  The “burn” is the Holy Spirit; the “hand” is the Father, and the “touch” is the Son.  Thus the soul magnifies the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, [...]

POETRY: The Living Flame Of Love by John of the Cross

July 26, 2017

1. O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center! Since now you are not oppressive, now consummate! if it be your will: tear through the veil of this sweet encounter! 2. O sweet cautery, O delightful wound! O gentle hand! O delicate touch that tastes of eternal life and pays every debt! In killing you changed death to life. 3. O lamps of fire! in whose splendors the deep caverns of feeling, once obscure and blind, now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely, both warmth and light to their Beloved. 4. How gently and lovingly you wake in my heart, where in secret you dwell alone; and in your sweet breathing, filled with good and glory, how tenderly you swell my heart with [...]

PSALMS: Guilt by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 25, 2017

From Psalms More seldom than we expect, the prayer for the forgiveness of sins meets us in the psalms.  Most psalms presuppose complete assurance of the forgiveness of sins.  That may surprise us.  But even in the New Testament the same thing is true.  It is an abbreviation and an endangering of Christian prayer if it revolves exclusively around the forgiveness of sins.  There is such a thing as the confident leaving behind of sin for the sake of Jesus Christ. Yet in no way does the Psalter omit the prayer of repentance.  The seven so-called repentance psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) but not only they (also Psalms 14, 15, 25, 31, 39, 40, 41, and others) lead us into the total depth of the recognition of sin before God.  They [...]

POETRY: Hexameters by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

July 25, 2017

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the Earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the Earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the Earth. He [...]

ANGELS: Drawing Us To The Fire by Martin Shannon

July 25, 2017

From: All God’s Angels Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”  When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”  And he said, “Here I am.”  Then he said, “Come no closer!  Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”  He [...]

PRAYER: Heart And Mind (Part One) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

July 24, 2017

From Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer Together Gratefulness is a mindful response, as we have seen.  Our intellect, our will, our feelings are all engaged when we are grateful.  But when we say mindful, someone might still get the impression that we want to stress the mind over against the rest of our person.  It might be less misleading to speak of the heart rather than the mind.  Gratefulness is a full response.  We sense that.  And we sense also that this kind of fullness cannot go together with halfheartedness.  Gratefulness is always wholehearted.  Our whole person is engaged in it.  And this is precisely what the symbol of the heart stands for – the whole person. When lovers say to one another, I will give you my [...]

MUSIC: The Whole Company Of Musicians by Thomas H. Troeger

July 24, 2017

From: Music As Prayer I once attended an organ recital by my colleague Martin Jean that exclusively featured the music of Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637–1707).  I was eager to hear this concert because J. S. Bach – while a young organist at Arnstadt – had walked two hundred miles to hear Buxtehude perform his own music in the city of Lübeck.  Although I often listen to Bach, I had never heard an all-Buxtehude concert.  Since Martin Jean would be performing on an organ styled after those of the great North European organ builder Arp Schnitger, I thought his recital would be a wonderful way to enter a sonic universe that had held Bach so enthralled that he overstayed his paid furlough from the church in Arnstadt by two or possibly [...]

PRAYER: The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom

July 24, 2017

The Trisagion: Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal, have mercy on us. The Cherubic Hymn: We who in a mystery represent the cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity, let us now lay aside all Earthly cares, that we may receive the king of all, invisibly escorted by the hosts of angels.  Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Before Communion: Let us pay attention: holy things for those who are holy. Only one is holy, only one is Lord. Jesus Christ, in the glory of God the Father. Amen. Before Receiving Communion: At your mystical supper, Son of God, today receive me as a partaker; I will not speak of the mystery to your enemies; I will not let my lips touch your body with a Judas-kiss; but like the thief I will [...]