Blog posts

PILGRIMAGE: The Days After Ash Wednesday by Albert Holtz

February 13, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road SETTING OUT Imagine that we are in a church in Le Puy, up in the rugged central mountains of medieval France.  The group has been gathering for an hour already and there is a growing feeling of festivity and excitement in the air; we are about to set off on a pilgrimage to the great shrine of Saint James, Santiago de Compostela, in northwest Spain.  Many of the people in the church are carrying the walking stick and drinking gourd that mark them as pilgrims; some are wearing a scallop shell, the traditional badge of pilgrims on the difficult and dangerous 800-mile journey over mountains and across desolate uplands to Compostela.  There is a spirit of joyful anticipation as we greet friends and check our supplies while [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Via Crucis by Caryll Houselander

February 13, 2018

From The Way of the Cross  Three o’clock on a grey afternoon.  Outside, a steady drizzle of rain; inside the church, an odd motley of people. A smartly dressed woman, side by side with one who is shabby and threadbare.  A boy and girl who appear to be in love.  A very old man, so bowed that he is permanently in an attitude of adoration.  A stalwart young soldier whose polished buttons glitter like gems in the candlelight.  A couple of students, shabbily but elegantly dressed in corduroys and bright scarves, rubbing shoulders with a gaunt, round-shouldered man who looks like a tramp.  A sprinkle of small children.  And behind them all, as if he felt himself to be the modern Publican, though there is no reason why he should, a [...]

POETRY: Station Island XI by Seamus Heaney / John of the Cross

February 13, 2018

As if the prisms of the kaleidoscope I plunged once in a butt of muddied water Surfaced like a marvelous lightship And out of its silted crystals a monk’s face That had spoken years ago from behind a grille Spoke again about the need and chance To salvage everything, to re-envisage The zenith and glimpsed jewels of any gift Mistakenly abased …. What came to nothing could always be replenished. “Read poems as prayers,” he said, “and for your penance Translate me something by Juan de la Cruz.” Returned from Spain to our chapped wilderness, His consonants aspirate, his forehead shining, He had made me feel there was nothing to confess. Now his sandaled passage stirred me on to this: How well I know that fountain, filling, running, [...]

PRAYER: Love—A “Yes” To Belonging (Part One) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

February 12, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Belonging In the two preceding chapters we have seen that faith and hope are always there when one is grateful.  We saw that one must have trust in the giver before one can give thanks.  But trust of this kind is the very core of faith.  And we recognized also that one must be open for surprise before one can be grateful.  Deep down, every gift is a surprise.  But openness for surprise is the essence of hope.  Faith and hope, in this sense, are two aspects of the divine life within us.  The third one, often mentioned in the same breath, is love.  It, too, is intimately tied in with giving thanks.  The ties between love and gratefulness are what we shall explore in this chapter. In getting at [...]

LENT: Preparing For Lent

February 12, 2018

From Full Homely Divinity “The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.” (The Book of Common Prayer). By the middle of the fifth century, the church had taken a similar approach to preparing for Advent, then known as “Saint Martin’s Lent.” Much of what follows may also be profitably applied to Advent. Since Lent is itself a season of preparation, it may seem like overkill to have to prepare for Lent. Yet, how will we take full advantage of the opportunity of Lent if we wait until the last minute to decide how to keep it? Both the Eastern and Western [...]

PRAYER: The Prayer Of Saint Ephrem The Syrian

February 12, 2018

(To be used daily through Lent.) O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust of power, and idle talk; But grant rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother; For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. [...]

UNITY: Spiritual Warfare, or, The reason the church was created in the first place

February 12, 2018

Let us begin with an exercise in imagination. I want you to picture a pie chart. At first, when you look at it, it looks like it is all one color. Let’s say, white. But as you study it, even use a magnifying glass on it, you are able to see one very fine, black line. As you pull away from the chart, the black line blends into all the white. This is the pie chart of sin. The white represents sins for which a person can atone, ask for forgiveness, and receive it. That very fine, black line represents the one sin for which a person cannot atone or receive forgiveness. One sin. So if the overwhelming majority of sins can be forgiven, why do so many churches spend so much time on justifying judgment and condemnation? One of the very [...]

THE CHURCH YEAR: Gesima Sundays by Gregory Wassen

February 11, 2018

From The Anglican Breviary The three Sundays before Lent begin with Septuagesima, continue with Sexgesima, and conclude with Quinquagesima. They each put us in orbit around the theme of Easter. Septuagesima places us 70 days away from Easter, Sexagesima, 60, and Quinquagesima 50 days. The numbers don’t add up precisely, but that is besides the point. This is not about mathematics so much as about theology. The Lord said unto Adam, Of the tree which is in midst of paradise thou shalt not eat, * for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. The Lord said unto Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me: * make thee an ark of wood, that thereby the seed of all flesh may be saved. Mighty Abraham, the father of our faith, * [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 11 by John Berryman

February 9, 2018

Germanicus leapt upon the wild lion in Smyrna, wishing to pass quickly from a lawless life. The crowd shook the stadium. The proconsul marveled. “Eighty & six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no harm. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Polycarp, John’s pupil, facing the fire. Make too me acceptable at the end of time in my degree, which then Thou wilt award. Cancer, senility, mania, I pray I may be ready with my [...]

UNITY: The Art Of Quilting

February 8, 2018

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture [...]

SURRENDER: Especially For Us by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

February 8, 2018

From The Joy of Full Surrender We can be truly instructed only by the words that God speaks to us personally. No one grows in knowledge of God either by reading books or by curious historical research. These means give us only a vain and empty knowledge, which serves only to confuse us and inflate us with pride. That which truly instructs us is what comes to us by the will of God from moment to moment. This is the knowledge gained through experience, which Christ himself was pleased to acquire before teaching others. In fact, this was the only knowledge in which he could grow, according to the expression of the holy gospel, (Luke 2:52). This is because, being God, there was no degree of speculative knowledge that he did not already [...]

SIMPLICITY: Jesus Of Nazareth by Philip Harnden

February 8, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity Jewish carpenter whose life and teachings inspire the Christian faith. “And what I say unto you, I say unto all: Watch.” JESUS SENDS FORTH THE TWELVE Take nothing for your journey save a staff no knapsack no bread no money not two coats be shod with sandals Go, preach Heaven is at hand heal the sick cleanse the lepers raise the dead cast out [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 10 by John Berryman

February 7, 2018

Fearful I peer upon the mountain path where once Your shadow passed, Limner of the clouds up their phantastic guesses. I am afraid, I never until now confessed. I fell back in love with you, Father, for two reasons: You were good to me, & a delicious author, rational & passionate. Come on me again, as twice you came to Azarias & Misael. President of the brethren, our mild assemblies inspire, & bother the priest not to be dull; keep us week-long in order; love my children, my mother far & ill, far brother, my spouse. Oil all my turbulence as at Thy dictation I sweat out my wayward works. Father Hopkins said the only true literary critic is Christ. Let me lie down exhausted, content with [...]

POETRY: Matins by George Herbert

February 7, 2018

I cannot ope mine eyes, But thou art ready there to catch My morning-soul and sacrifice: Then we must needs for that day make a match. My God, what is a heart? Silver, or gold, or precious stone, Or star, or rainbow, or a part Of all these things, or all of them in one? My God, what is a heart, That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo, Pouring upon it all thy art, As if that thou hadst nothing else to do? Indeed man’s whole estate Amounts (and richly) to serve thee: He did not heav’n and earth create, Yet studies them, not him by whom they be. Teach me thy love to know; That this new light, which now I see, May both the work and workman show: Then by a sunbeam I will climb to [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 68 by W. Robert Godfrey

February 6, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 68 is at once one of the most solemn and most exuberant psalms in the Psalter.  It unites a key moment of communal celebration with very personal reflections and assurance about the character of God.  It is a psalm filled with joy and encouragement. Formally, this psalm is part of a great procession into the temple: “Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary – the singers in front, the musicians last, between them virgins playing tambourines: Bless God in the great congregation,” (vv. 24-26a).  The exact occasion of this triumphal procession cannot be determined.  The psalm may have been written for use at more than one victory or even for some [...]

MEDITATION: Psalm 8:2 by Alan J. Hommerding

February 6, 2018

From Everyday Psalms From the mouths of babes and infants you have raised a fortress, a defense to silence your enemies and avengers. It is easy to read this verse as a mere sentimental statement about how much God loves children.  But here the psalmist is using an extreme paradox to illustrate God’s power and God’s ability to wield power everywhere.  In Israel’s society, babes and infants were not only physically weak and helpless, their social standing was zero, since their future was not assured, given the high mortality rate.  Yet God can use even them to build up a defense, and can vanquish enemies through them.  How often do we think we are too insignificant or helpless to be a source for God’s power in [...]

MUSIC: Rehearsing For An Epiphany by Thomas H. Troeger

February 5, 2018

From: Music As Prayer Advent and Christmas: ‘Tis the season of extra rehearsals, the season of getting ready for special concerts and services.  When you are a church musician hauling music stands into the organ loft, trying to arrange them in a very cramped space, finding time to rehearse with a soloist, penciling cues into a musical score, and phoning a publisher to express-mail you some instrumental parts, you may begin to wonder: is it worth all this madness?  It takes such immense amounts of time and energy.  But when the moment of performance arrives, whether in a church or a school or a concert hall, there may be an epiphany: a manifestation of the divine, a disclosure of the spirit of a timeless musical work, a revelation that [...]

PRAYER: An Epiphany Prayer

February 5, 2018

From The Voice  Father, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in Jesus the Christ, we who once were not your people but whom you chose to adopt as your people. As ancient Israel confessed long ago, we realize that it was not because of our own righteousness, or our own superior wisdom, or strength, or power, or numbers. It was simply because you loved us, and chose to show us that love in Jesus. As you have accepted us when we did not deserve your love, will you help us to accept those whom we find it hard to love? Forgive us, O Lord, for any attitude that we harbor that on any level sees ourselves as better or more righteous than others.  Will you help us to remove the barriers of prejudice and to tear down the walls of bigotry, [...]

PARABLES: The Tares by Richard Chenevix Trench

February 4, 2018

From Notes on the Parables of our Lord Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: Water, Life, And The Spirit by Raniero Cantalamessa

February 3, 2018

From: Come, Creator Spirit If we can say, by analogy, that the whole of creation is sacrament, that is, sign of God, we can also see that certain elements of creation have become sacramental signs of the Holy Spirit also in a stricter sense: water in baptism as a sign of rebirth in the Spirit; oil and chrism in confirmation as signs of the Spirit anointing.  Water, then, is more than a mere symbol of the Spirit; it is an efficacious sign of the Spirit: it not only calls the Spirit to mind, but renders the Spirit present and active. From what source is the title of the Holy Spirit, “living fountain,” derived, and what does it signify?  The author of the hymn tells us, in another of his writings: The Holy Spirit was called water in the [...]

THE CHURCH: A Rant About The Job Description Of Shepherds by Allen Martin Bair

February 3, 2018

From The Rambles of a Wandering Priest I usually ramble.  Right now, I want to rant.  I feel like ranting and raving and making large gestures in the air with my hands and arms to the effect of, “What the…?  Are you kidding me?  How can you… Ughhhhhh!”  Yeah, something like that sounds about right. I used to work in a children’s home in a house full of teenage girls with emotional and psychological issues.  It’s not the only dorm on the campus, but it is the only one with girls in it.  On Sundays, a group from a local church came in and set up shop to do services with the boys on campus who want to go, but nothing is made available for the girls.  I was told that they used to do something for the girls, but they [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 9 by John Berryman

February 2, 2018

Surprise me on some ordinary day with a blessing gratuitous. Even I’ve done good beyond their expectations. What count we then upon Your bounty? Interminable: an old theologian asserts that even to say You exist is misleading. Uh-huh. I buy that Second-century fellow. I press his withered glorifying hand. You certainly do not as I exist, impersonating as well the meteorite & flaring in your sun your waterfall or blind in caves pallid fishes. Bear in mind me, Who have forgotten nothing, & Who continues. I may not foreknow & fail much to remember. You sustain imperial desuetudes, at the kerb a [...]

SURRENDER: The Hidden Work Of Divine Love by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

February 1, 2018

From The Joy of Full Surrender What great truths are hidden from the eyes even of Christians who think that they are the most enlightened!  How few among them understand that every cross, every circumstance, every leading of the will of God, gives us God himself in a way that can best be explained by comparing them with the most majestic mystery of all, the Holy Eucharist. Yet what is more certain?  Does not reason as well as faith reveal to us the presence of divine love in all creatures, and in all the events of life, just as indisputably as the words of Jesus Christ and of the church reveal the presence of the sacred flesh of our Savior under the Eucharistic elements?  Do we not know that by all created things, and by every event, [...]

SIMPLICITY: Bilbo Baggins by Philip Harnden

February 1, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity Son of Bungo Baggins, grandson of the Old Took, and diminutive hero of J. R. R. Tolkien’s mythological novel, The Hobbit. A hobbit hole means comfort, Tolkien tells us, and Bilbo Baggins is a very comfortable hobbit indeed.  His bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and dining rooms have paneled walls and carpeted floors.  He has cellars and pantries full of food and entire rooms devoted to clothes.  To Bilbo, “adventures” are nasty and uncomfortable affairs that make you late for dinner. But when he is visited by thirteen dwarfs and a wizard, “something Tookish” wakes inside him.  Before he can stop himself, he has left comfort behind to join one of the great adventures of modern literature. BILBO SETS [...]

POETRY: Going Home The Longest Way Around by Pat Schneider

January 31, 2018

we tell stories, build from fragments of our lives maps to guide us to each other. We make collages of the way it might have been had it been as we remembered, as we think perhaps it was, tallying in our middle age diminishing returns. Last night the lake was still; all along the shoreline bright pencil marks of light, and children in the dark canoe pleading “Tell us scary stories.” Fingers trailing in the water, I said someone I loved who died told me in a dream to not be lonely, told me not to ever be afraid. And they were silent, the children, listening to the water lick the sides of the canoe. It’s what we love the most can make us most afraid, can make us for the first time understand how we are rocking in a dark boat on the [...]

POETRY: Psalm 55 by Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess Of Pembroke

January 31, 2018

Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication. Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise; Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me. My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 51 by W. Robert Godfrey

January 30, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms According to its title, David wrote Psalm 51 in response to his sin with Bathsheba and the word of judgment that God sent to him through Nathan the prophet.  David had indeed sinned grievously, not only by committing adultery with Bathsheba, but also by arranging the murder of her husband, Uriah, to cover up his sin.  For these sins, Nathan had pronounced the Lord’s judgment: because David had had Uriah killed with the sword, the sword would never depart from the house of David; because he had taken the wife of Uriah from him, someone from David’s own household would take his wives from him; because David deserved to die for his sin, the Lord would take away his sin, but still the son conceived of the [...]

MEDITATION: Psalm 7:14 by Alan J. Hommerding

January 30, 2018

From Everyday Psalms Sinners conceive trouble, they are pregnant with wickedness, they give birth to lies. There is no greater physical connection between two human beings than that of a pregnant mother and her child.  The psalmist uses this very potent metaphor to describe how what we bear in our spiritual “wombs” is what we will, ultimately, give birth to.  It is a consistent theme of the scriptures: what is in our hearts is known only to God while it is there, but it will, eventually, be “born” in our actions.  Today we might think of this image this way: if we were to get a spiritual sonogram, would it show a healthy child?   PRAYER You see into my depths, O Lord. Help me to search my life so that it [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Seven) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 29, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The Surpassing Surprise Beauty is useless, superfluous, like all great things in life.  Is not the universe itself a totally superfluous firework of divine glory, and therefore so priceless?  Useful things have a price.  But who can assess the value of a poem in dollars and cents?  Who can put a price tag on a kiss?  If God’s glory is really all that matters, then the totally useless is not to be relegated to moments of spare time once in a month of Sundays.  We may have to learn that the useless deserves prime time.  The superfluous comes first in attention anyway.  To acknowledge this truth might mean a far more drastic transformation by divine glory than we were prepared to undergo.  It [...]

MUSIC: Waiting As Blessing by Thomas H. Troeger

January 29, 2018

From: Music As Prayer When I was a child, my least favorite season was Advent, the season before Christmas.  Why?  Because Advent means waiting, and if there is anything that most children cannot do gracefully, it is wait.  Why would any child want to wait for gifts?  Let’s have them right now!  Of course, we adults are also not that good at waiting.  Have you ever stood in the grocery store’s express lane where a sign said, “12 items,” yet someone whose cart is packed to overflowing was in front of you?  Have you stopped at a gasoline station behind someone who could not find their credit card or figure out how to operate the pump?  Have you heard the public announcer in an airport say that your flight has been delayed and [...]