Advent Prayer

PRAYER: Second Saturday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 15, 2018

From Season of Promises Place no hope in the feeling of assurance, in spiritual comfort.  You may well have to get along without this.  Place no hope in the inspirational preachers of Christian sunshine, who are able to pick you up and set you back on your feet and make you feel good for three or four days – until you fold up and collapse into despair. (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation) Feelings, feely-feely feelings.  We hear so much about feelings.  It’s the triumph of the therapeutic.  The self-help gurus proclaim the gospel of getting in touch with your feelings.  Thus do they rake in the dough, the bucks, the greenbacks, the moolah.  Thus do they rake it in.  But genuine spiritual guides, to a one, over the [...]

PRAYER: Second Friday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 14, 2018

From Season of Promises My commonest attitude is this simple attentiveness, an habitual, loving turning of my eyes to God, to whom I often find myself bound with more happiness and gratification than that which a babe enjoys clinging to its nurse’s breast.  So, if I dare use this expression, I should be glad to describe this condition as “the breasts of God,” for the inexpressible happiness I savor and experience there. (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God) In Advent, we look forward to commemorating the arrival on this Earth of the Son of God as a helpless infant.  Look.  Take the infancy of the Son of God seriously.  Here is God, present in a tiny newborn baby.  How can this be?  We take it for granted.  [...]

PRAYER: Second Thursday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 13, 2018

From Season of Promises The person who cares nothing for praise or blame knows great inward peace, and it is easy for the person whose conscience is clear to find contentment and quiet.  Praise does not make you holier than you are, nor blame more wicked.  You are exactly what you are – you cannot be said to be any better than you are in the eyes of God. (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ) Advent is a time to cultivate genuine humility.  Be only what you are, no more, no less.  Take Mary as the model of humility.  When the angel says, guess what, you’re going to be the mother of the Messiah, what does Mary say?  “Oh gosh, I’m way too unworthy, you’d better find somebody else”?  No.  Mary says, “Let it be with [...]

PRAYER: Second Wednesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 12, 2018

From Season of Promises Sometimes it may seem to us that there is no purpose in our lives, that going day after day for years to this office or that school or factory is nothing else but waste and weariness.  But it may be that God has sent us there because but for us Christ would not be there, that alone makes it worthwhile. (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God) Let the quiet spirit of Advent soak into your heart.  Let the spirit of waiting patiently for the coming of Christ at Christmas soak into your heart.  Now listen.  Listen.  The spirit of Advent is the spirit of the gospel, plain and simple.  To open our heart to the true spirit of Advent is to open our heart to the gospel, the Good News that invites us to a new way of [...]

PRAYER: Second Tuesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 11, 2018

From Season of Promises The nearness of silence means also the nearness of forgiveness and the nearness of love, for the natural basis of forgiveness and of love is silence.  It is important that this natural basis should be there, for it means that forgiveness and love do not have first to create the medium in which they appear. (Max Picard, The World of Silence) Where are you right now, this minute, as you read these words?  Where are you?  Where are you not only physically – in a house or apartment, in a church, riding on a train, bus, airplane, or subway – but where are you in your heart and in your mind?  In your mind, are you in a quiet place or a noisy place?  Is your heart quiet or full of noise? To wait quietly during [...]

PRAYER: Second Monday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 10, 2018

From Season of Promises I set my heart on God with all my trust and with all my might.  He wills that our hearts should be lifted high above the depths of Earthly and vain sorrows, and rejoice in him.  He loves us and enjoys us, and so he wills that we love him and enjoy him, and firmly trust him; and all shall be well. (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love) Advent has one message that is rock bottom.  The rock bottom message of Advent is a message of hope.  Hope is not in vain, the spirit of Advent sings to us.  If we listen.  The heart of Advent is hope, and the spirit of Advent sings in our heart.  If we listen.  Hope, hope.  Look forward to the birth of Christ with hope because no hope is more reliable.  No matter [...]

PRAYER: Second Sunday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 9, 2018

From Season of Promises Every one of us forms an idea of Christ that is limited and incomplete.  It is cut according to our own measure.  We tend to create for ourselves a Christ in our own image, a projection of our own aspirations, desires, and ideals.  We find in him what we want to find.  We make him not only the incarnation of God but also the incarnation of the things we and our society and our part of society happen to live for. (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation) Who is the Jesus you look forward to during Advent?  What does he look like?  Your description reveals more than you think.  If you describe Jesus one way, remember that your description does not rule out other acceptable descriptions.  Does your Jesus have [...]

PRAYER: First Saturday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 8, 2018

From Season of Promises God does not ask much of us – an occasional remembrance, a small act of worship, now to beg his grace, at times to offer him our distresses, at another time to render thanks for the favors he has given, and which he gives in the midst of your labors.  At table and in the midst of conversations, lift your heart at times towards him.  It is not needful at such times to cry out loud.  He is nearer to us than we think. (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God) Advent is a quiet season.  Quiet.  Listen.  Advent whispers, and we must be quiet if we are to hear its message.  Advent whispers.  Listen carefully.  Advent carries a quiet message, it says that God is near, our God is near, our God who [...]

PRAYER: First Friday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 7, 2018

From Season of Promises “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life,” says the Lord.  By these words, Christ urges us to mold our lives and characters in the image of his, if we wish to be truly enlightened and freed from all blindness of heart.  Let us therefore see that we endeavor beyond all else to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ. (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ) We think of “meditation” as esoteric, the concern of folks who live in monasteries, of interest to the occasional odd duck.  The wandering guru from India teaches “meditation.”  Certainly, we think, meditation is not to be taken seriously by your average person with a real life to live, mortgage or rent [...]

PRAYER: First Thursday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 6, 2018

From Season of Promises Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions.  Those who complain in these circumstances of the emptiness of their lives are usually afraid to allow space or silence or pause in their lives. (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God) Quiet now.  Pause.  Attend.  Advent is a time to cultivate the sheerest, most blissful emptiness.  Advent is a time to cultivate – metaphorically speaking – the emptiness of the waiting womb, the womb waiting to receive and give birth to the Son of God.  Quiet now.  Pause.  Attend. During the Shopping Season our lives fit the description [...]

PRAYER: First Wednesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 5, 2018

From Season of Promises Silence makes things whole again, by taking them back from the world of dissipation into the world of wholeness.  It gives things something of its own holy uselessness, for that is what silence itself is: holy uselessness. (Max Picard, The World of Silence) Advent is a quiet time.  But Advent is sometimes overwhelmed by the noise and activity of the Shopping Season.  What can we do?  What?  We can carve out a few minutes each day – at the beginning of the day, perhaps, or at the end of the day – when nothing happens except waiting in silence for the coming of Christ.  Nothing except waiting in silence, holy silence. In the first decade of the 20th century, a young Swiss physician, Max Picard, grew [...]

PRAYER: First Tuesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 4, 2018

From Season of Promises God is our clothing.  In his love he wraps and holds us.  He enfolds us for love, and he will never let us go.  I saw that he is to us everything that is good. (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love) The Advent season is a season of homely things – “homely” in the dictionary’s first meaning of the word, “characteristic of the home or of home life.”  Advent is a season of homely things because during this season we prepare for the coming of a homely God, a God who is at home with us.  Our God is so at home with us that Dame Julian of Norwich, a 13th-century homely English mystic and all-around practical person, said that God is “our clothing.”  Imagine that. Here we go through our day [...]

PRAYER: First Monday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 3, 2018

From Season of Promises If you have money, consider that perhaps the only reason God allowed it to fall into your hands was in order that you might find joy and perfection by giving it all away. (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation) Sometimes it is easy for Advent to get mixed up with the great American season of shopping.  We call it the “Shopping Season,” even capitalizing the first letters of the words.  Heavy duty stuff, here.  The Shopping Season! Peculiar things go on in our heads during the Christmas Shopping Season.  We get discombobulated.  In our heart, and in our mind, we get discombobulated.  We get the Shopping Season mixed up with the most remarkable things.  Love, for example.  We get Shopping mixed up with [...]

PRAYER: First Sunday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 2, 2018

From Season of Promises I turn my little omelet in the pan for the love of God.  When it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself on the ground and worship my God, who gave me the grace to make it, after which I arise happier than a king.  When I can do nothing else, it is enough to have picked up a straw for the love of God. (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God) Advent graces the weeks before Christmas, but if we’re not careful it gets lost in the holiday shuffle.  We all do the holiday shuffle.  The weeks before Christmas can be hectic, so full of pre-Christmas activities that we miss its true spirit, which is a spirit of holiness in the midst of the ordinary. What is Christmas but the celebration [...]

PRAYER AND POETRY: Advent Collect

November 26, 2018

From Book of Common Prayer Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and for ever.  Amen. The Advent Collect (paraphrased as a sonnet) Almighty Lord and everlasting God, Come in the silence of our human night And give us grace that we may cast away The works of darkness; from eternal day Now send to us the armor of your light; In this brief mortal life protect and [...]

EPIPHANY PRAYER: Epiphany by Martin Shannon

January 6, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 72 May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! (v. 11) Psalm 72 is the culmination of Book II in the Psalter, which began with Psalm 42, called the “prayers of David,” (v. 20) – not that David necessarily wrote all these psalms, but they at least represent the spirit of David’s hopes and desires before the Lord.  They are in keeping with a heart that followed after God’s own heart, (see 1 Samuel 13:14, 16:7).  Scholars tell us that Psalm 72 probably was written for the coronation of a king of Judea and Israel, perhaps even by David himself for his son Solomon.  In any case, the prayer came to be used at the coronation ceremonies of subsequent kings, and possibly at the yearly [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 5 by Martin Shannon

January 5, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 100 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the Earth. Worship the Lord with gladness. (vv. 1-2) Psalm 100 is the final in a series of psalms (95-100) that have been grouped together to celebrate the glorious reign of God over all Heaven and Earth.  Remember that the Psalter is actually a prayer book that editors carefully arranged in order to make it most useful for worship in the temple.  (Other groupings like this include Psalms 113–118, 120–134, and 146–150.)  In some ways, the whole of Psalm 100 has already appeared in the psalms that precede it: make a joyful noise (Psalm 98:4); be glad in the Lord (96:11-12); the invitation to come into God’s presence (95:6, 96:8); we are God’s sheep and are pastured [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 4 by Martin Shannon

January 4, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 87 Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. (v. 3) Every year, when we celebrate the feast of the dedication of our monastery church, the Church of the Transfiguration, we read these words from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “So when you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,” (2:19-20).  The imagery of a physical building as the house of God is part of what has made this passage fitting for the dedication of a church for almost two millennia.  But if we limit ourselves to envisioning only the beauty of stone walls [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 3 by Martin Shannon

January 3, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 91 My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust. (v. 2) Drawing upon an already familiar pattern in the sixth century, Saint Benedict directed in his rule for monastery life that Psalm 91 be sung at the hoursof Compline, the night service of prayer that closed every day of the week. Here, most certainly, is a prayer that “puts the church to bed,” with confident assurance in the all-encompassing protection of God. It is, above all, a song of trust. If there is a New Testament counterpart to its succinct message, it would be found in Paul’s rhetorical questions to the Romans: “If God is for us, who is against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:31, 35). The self-evident [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 2 by Martin Shannon

January 2, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 46 Be still, and know that I am God. (v. 10) Sometime around 1529 the church reformer and former Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, paraphrased Psalm 46 into one of the most beloved hymns of Protestantism: Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott.  Later translated into English, the opening words are: A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; Our helper he, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing. Psalm 46 is one of liturgical psalms in praise of Mount Zion, God’s “dwelling place,” (see also Psalms 48, 76, 84, 87, and 122).  The common theme running through these psalms is the incomparable beauty and unshakable security of the City of God.  The place where God makes his abode is the most glorious and [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 1 by Martin Shannon

January 1, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 147 It is good to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is seemly. (v. 1) When the people of Israel drew near to the end of their journey in the wilderness, Moses prepared them for what lay ahead by reminding them of what had brought them to this point.  After generations of slavery in Egypt, they were not a free people, great in number and filled with promise.  They carried with them the wealth of their oppressors and stood on the verge of possessing the land promised to their fathers.  Lest they succumb to thinking that their own hand had accomplished their deliverance, Moses reminded them of the true reason for their good fortune: “It was not because you were more in number than [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: December 31 by Martin Shannon

December 31, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 90 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (v. 12) There are five “books” in the collection that is the Psalter, and Psalm 90 is the first psalm of Book IV.  Both Jewish and Christian scholarship notes that the emphasis of the final two books (sixty-one psalms in all) is on God’s sovereignty and glory.  Three begin with the words, The Lord reigns (vv. 93, 97, 99), and the only ten psalms beginning with, Praise the Lord, are in these closing volumes.  Psalm 90 was chosen as a fitting introduction to these songs of praise, and its title tells us why: “God’s Eternity and Human Frailty.” For creatures of dust we are remarkably blind to matters of our own mortality.  We spend a [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: December 30 by Martin Shannon

December 30, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 113 He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap. (v. 7) Psalm 113 presents us with the juxtaposition of two seemingly contrasting wonders about the nature of God – his incomparable majesty and his tender mercy.  To describe them, the psalmist draws upon a very familiar social concept: status.  The Lord rules in glory from on high, yet lives among the poorest of the poor. The psalm opens with a call to praise the Lord, perhaps directed by one of the temple priests to the choir of cantors, (v. 1).  Their response builds rapidly into a crescendo of sound, glorifying God for his rule over all time and space, (vv. 2-4).  Their repeated use of “the name of the Lord” shows the [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: December 29 by Martin Shannon

December 29, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 19 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight. (v. 14) How are you to know and bring your life into harmony with the ways of God?  In some of the most poetically descriptive language of the psalmody, Psalm 19 unfolds a three-part answer to this question.  The varying structures and vocabularies of the psalm reveal distinct styles that have been merged to create a single voice of prayer, an eloquent triptych that moves the reader from a general acknowledgment of God’s ways to a personal commitment to live by them. In part one, verses 1–6, the psalmist describes the splendor of the heavens as a vehicle for displaying the glory of God.  Interestingly, in these verses, [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: Feast Of The Holy Innocents by Martin Shannon

December 28, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (v. 1) There is probably no other psalm that has been copied, recited in worship, prayed in private, and set to music more than Psalm 23.  The tones of rest and trust that permeate its six short verses strike a resonant chord in every human heart, for they describe that world of contentment and serenity for which we all long.  It is not a world that exists out there somewhere, however.  It is a world that exists because of someone.  It is the world created for his sheep by the Good Shepherd.  The Lord is the maker of this world, and only because of his guiding hand and provision – his loving-kindness and mercy – do the sheep dwell within its blessed gates. The [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: Feast Of Saint John by Martin Shannon

December 27, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 86 In the day of my trouble I call on thee, for thou dost answer me. (v. 7) At the start of Psalm 86, we are inclined to think we are reading an ordinary cry of lament.  The psalmist is in some kind of trouble and turns to the Lord for assistance.  But as we read further, we encounter a mixture of petition and praise that goes on through the entire psalm.  The psalmist’s situation may be dire, but good things have happened as well.  I am poor and needy; thou art good and forgiving, (vv. 1, 5).  I call on thee; thou dost answer me, (v. 7).  Teach me thy way; thou, Lord, hast helped and comforted me, (vv. 11, 17).  The psalm goes back and forth between calling out to God in need, and thanking God for needs [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: Feast Of Saint Stephen by Martin Shannon

December 26, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 31 Into thy hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. (v. 5) “Into thy hands I commit my spirit” is the most well-known verse of this psalm.  His own hands helplessly nailed to a cross, Jesus quoted it – with the all-important addition, “Father” – as he “breathed his last” upon the cross, (Luke 23:46).  Stephen prayed much the same as he was being stoned to death, the first martyr of the fledgling church: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” (Acts 7:59).  With these words of trusting relinquishment at its center, and read in the light of Jesus’s passion and death – really, the consummation of his incarnation – the whole of Psalm 31 takes on a depth of meaning [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: The Nativity Of The Lord by Martin Shannon

December 25, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 150 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (v. 6) The Psalter is actually a collection of five books of psalms, each of which ends with a brief doxology, (see Psalms 41:13, 72:18-19, 89:52, 106:48).  Considering all that has been said about the Lord God in the previous 149 psalms, what else can be said?  Here, at the conclusion of the entire Psalter, what can possibly bear the weight of being the last word?  Psalm 150 – it is as if all of the previous doxologies have multiplied and expanded into one final and glorious eruption of jubilant praise. The genius of this psalm is how much it says with so very few words.  First, it answers all the basic questions about praising God: where [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Fourth Sunday Of Advent by Martin Shannon

December 24, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 89 I will sing of thy steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim thy faithfulness to all generations. (v. 1) Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo – the opening words of Psalm 89, as they are sung in Latin (I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever) – appear on a banner issuing from the mouth of Teresa of Ávila in a famous portrait done of the saint in 1576, while she was still living.  The painting portrays the elderly Teresa being visited by the Holy Spirit who descends in the form of a dove, a vision she had on the eve of Pentecost.  With these words taken from the psalm, the artist expresses the theme of Saint Teresa’s life: her continued response of praise to God [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Saturday Of Advent III by Martin Shannon

December 23, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 42 & 43 Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. (v. 5) In several Hebrew manuscripts, these two psalms are joined together, which indicates that at one time they probably were a single psalm.  The fact that they share a common refrain – “Why are you cast down, O my soul,” (see Psalms 42:6, 11, and 43:5) – is strong support for this view.  The song is the prayer of someone who is experiencing an excruciating sense of separation from God.  The psalmist uses poignant imagery: Just as a thirsty deer pants after the life-giving drink that comes from your presence, O Lord, (v. 42:1).  While the Hebrew word nephesh is translated here and elsewhere in the psalms as soul, meaning a [...]