Christianity

ANGELS: In The Stillness Of The Night by Martin Shannon

September 19, 2017

From: All God’s Angels Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.  When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph [...]

PRAYER: Contemplation And Leisure—The Sense of Measure by Brother David Steindl-Rast

September 18, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Stonehenge, the mysterious monument in England, more than three and a half thousand years old, is a circular arrangement of enormous rock pillars.  There are scores of them up to thirty feet in height and fifty tons in weight.  No one knows by what ingenious means they were moved to this place from a quarry twenty miles away or how they were capped with huge slabs of rock for lintels.  No one is even sure who accomplished this feat.  Neither the ideas that bound them together nor the ideals that inspired their common effort are known to us.  All is shrouded in the darkness of pre-history.  We look at the intricate pattern of pillars, ditches, banks, and pits as we would look at runes inscribed [...]

MUSIC: The Freedom Of Constraint by Thomas H. Troeger

September 18, 2017

From: Music As Prayer There are notes our voices cannot reach and our instruments cannot play.  Even the king of instruments is not the king of every sound.  Any one organ has only so many pipes.  To sing or to play music is to experience finitude. As a flutist, I had long understood that every musical performer has to deal with finitude.  For example, my breach often runs out before a phrase.  But I had not extended that same insight about creaturely limitation to composers.  I thought of composers as the masters of whatever they were moved to create, until I read the following reflection by Igor Stravinsky: I experience a sort of terror when, at the moment of setting to work and finding myself before the infinitude of possibilities [...]

PRAYER: A Hermit’s Desire attributed to Saint Kevin

September 18, 2017

I wish, ancient and eternal King, to live in a hidden hut in the wilderness. A narrow blue stream beside it, and a clear pool for washing away my sins by the grace of the Holy Spirit. A beautiful wood all around, where birds of every kind of voice can grow up and find shelter. Facing southwards to catch the sun, with fertile soil around it suitable for every kind of plant. And virtuous young men to join me, humble and eager to serve you. Twelve young men – three fours, four threes, two sixes, six pairs – willing to do every kind of work. A lovely church, with a white linen cloth over the altar, a home for you from Heaven. A Bible surrounded by four candles, one for each of the gospels. A special hut in which to gather for meals, [...]

POETRY: Of Being by Denise Levertov

September 17, 2017

I know this happiness is provisional: the looming presences— great suffering, great fear— withdraw only into peripheral vision: but ineluctable this shimmering of wind in the blue leaves: this flood of stillness widening the lake of sky: this need to dance, this need to kneel: this [...]

POETRY: Do People Moulder Equally by Emily Dickinson

September 16, 2017

For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.  Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28) Do People moulder equally, They bury, in the Grave? I do believe a Species As positively live As I, who testify it Deny that I—am dead— And fill my Lungs, for Witness— From Tanks—above my Head— I say to you, said Jesus— That there be standing here— A Sort, that shall not taste of Death— If Jesus was sincere— I need no further Argue— That statement of the Lord Is not a controvertible— He told me, Death was [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Baptism Of The Spirit by Raniero Cantalamessa

September 15, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit The first verse of the Veni Creator is given muscles, so to say, by the three verbs positioned strongly at the beginning or at the end of a line: “Come, visit, fill!”  They give the verse a rhythm of tremendous energy, like a musical crescendo.  But these three verbs, if you think carefully about it, also pose a problem for our theology.  How can the church now invite the Holy Spirit to “Come, visit, and fill!”?  Does not the church believe that she has already received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and that we have already received the Holy Spirit in our individual baptism?  What sense can it make to say, “Come, visit, fill!” to someone who is already present? The problem [...]

POETRY: Sacred Heart 2 (A Fragment—) by Thomas Merton

September 15, 2017

Geography comes to an end, Compass has lost all earthly north, Horizons have no meaning Nor roads an explanation: I cannot even hope for any special borealis To rouse my darkness with a brief “Hurray”! O flaming Heart, Unseen and unimagined in this wilderness, You, You alone are real, and here I’ve found You. Here will I love and praise You in a tongueless death, Until my white devoted bones, Long bleached and polished by the winds of this Sahara, Relive at Your command, Rise and unfold the flowers of their everlasting [...]

SURRENDER: The Work Of Making Us Holy by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

September 14, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender If the work of making us holy seems such a hard and impossible task, it is because we do not have the right idea of what it truly is. In truth, holiness consists of one single thing: faithfulness to the will of God. Now, this faithfulness is within the reach of everyone, whether it calls for active or passive practice of our faith. Active faithfulness means fulfilling the duties that are ours by the general laws of God and of the church, or by our particular state of life. Passive faithfulness consists in the loving acceptance of all that God sends us each moment. Is either of these practices beyond our ability? Not active faithfulness, because any duties it might impose are no longer duties when we do not [...]

WISDOM STORY: A Conscientious Monk by Nathalie Leone

September 14, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom A monk, having at a very young age entered the monastery where he spent twenty years, had misgivings as to his progress. He decided to visit Father Joseph, who welcomed him warmly and listened to him. “Father,” began the monk, “I am trying to follow the rules. I fast, I observe the contemplative silence, I carry out the work in monastery, I pray, I endeavor to banish vain thoughts. What more can I do?” The old man stood up, looked at the sky, raised his arms, and, stretching out his fingers that resembled rays, said to him, “Why don’t you turn yourself into a flame [...]

HEALING: What About Free Will? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

September 14, 2017

From: Good Goats Does Jesus’s descent into hell to be with those who seem to have rejected God violate free will?  Or, could it be that by his loving and healing presence to those in hell, Jesus restores free will?  Free will has often been defined as the capacity to say, “Yes,” or, “No,” to God.  However, Karl Rahner and other theologians suggest that free will is the capacity to choose in a God-like way.  Thus a truly free person paradoxically, like God, can only choose the good.  Saying, “No,” to God is not a sign of free will but rather of how a person still needs healing in order to become free.  Once healed and truly free, that person, like Jesus, can only say, “Yes,” to [...]

MYSTICISM: A Homegrown Mystic—Catherine of Siena by John Michael Talbot

September 13, 2017

From The Way of Mystics Giacomo Benicasa was a practical, hard-working man who made his living as a wool dyer in Siena’s bustling textile market.  His wife, Lapa, was a simple woman who was well acquainted with heartbreak.  She gave birth to twenty-five children, only twelve of whom survived infancy.  All Lapa wanted for Catherine – her next-to-last child – was a normal childhood, an early marriage to a good husband, and a happy, predictable life. But Catherine had other plans, none of them “normal” (for example, she lavished care on lepers and plague victims) or predictable (for example, after sensing God wanted her to live a more simple life, she began giving away her family’s possessions).  Her life was [...]

POETRY: Inebriated Soul In Love by Catherine of Siena

September 13, 2017

Then that soul, even as one drunk, appeared to be beside herself, parted from her bodily senses due to union with her Creator. She raised her spiritual eyes, her nous, and gazed into eternal Truth. As she now came to know the Truth, she knew herself to be in love with it. She said aloud: O high eternal Goodness, O my God! What am I—the wretched one—to You, O soaring, everlasting Father, that You have shown Your truth to me? that You have shown the snares the evil one has set? the snares my own selfish heart lays out for me? What moved in You to do such things for us? Love alone, love unreturned, You have poured out Your love without my answering love! O fire of love Who burns [...]

PSALMS: The Difficulty With The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

September 12, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms If the psalms are so rich, why is it that many of us today do not treasure and appreciate them as the church did in the past? There are several reasons.  The first is the diminished use of the King James Version of the Bible.  The movement away from the King James Version has meant that the familiar poetic expressions of that version which had been passed down through many generations have largely been forgotten.  With no one Bible translation replacing the King James Version, that poetry has not been effectively replaced for many contemporary Christians. The second is the failure of many Christians in our time to study and use the psalms.  Few Christians sing the psalms anymore.  Even if a songbook [...]

POETRY: Lord, Hear My Prayer by John Clare

September 12, 2017

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.  Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.  For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.  My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.  By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.  I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.  I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.  Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me.  For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.  Because of thine indignation and thy [...]

ANGELS: Hail, O Favored One by Martin Shannon

September 12, 2017

From: All God’s Angels In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and [...]

PRAYER: Prayers And Prayerfulness—Genuine Prayer by Brother David Steindl-Rast

September 11, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Once we realize how the interplay between prayerfulness and prayers builds the temple of our prayer life, we should be able to ask the right questions to see where we stand in this process and how we need to proceed.  Our prayers have a twofold relationship to our prayerfulness, as we have seen.  Prayers both express and reinforce our prayerfulness.  Hence we need to ask two basic questions: Are my prayers a genuine expression of my prayerfulness?  Do they make me more prayerful? Since these two questions go to the heart of the matter, we can use them to check both prayers in community and prayers by ourselves.  The context will be so different, however, that we shall here test these two areas [...]

MUSIC: How Beautiful And Astounding Are The Feet by Thomas H. Troeger

September 11, 2017

From: Music As Prayer Many years ago I was president of the Denver Bach Society, a group that sponsored several concerts each year featuring the music of J. S. Bach.  In addition to full-scale performances of the Mass in B Minor and many of Bach’s cantatas, orchestral, and keyboard works, we gave a special presentation for grade-school children.  Twelve hundred children filled the Episcopal cathedral not only to hear Bach’s music but to see the master musician himself interviewed by a member of the Denver Brass.  We were fortunate to have a radio announcer from one of the local classical stations whose countenance was the very likeness of the 1746 Bach portrait by Gottlob Haussmann that peers from the cover of so many [...]

PRAYER: A Pilgrim’s Plea attributed to Saint Brendan

September 11, 2017

Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home? Shall I turn my back on my native land, and my face towards the sea? Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy, without silver, without a horse, without fame and honor? Shall I throw myself wholly on you, without sword and shield, without food and drink, without a bed to lie on? Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under your yoke? Shall I pour out my heart to you, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness, tears streaming down my cheeks? Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach, a record of my final prayer in my native land? Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict? Shall I take my tiny coracle across the [...]

POETRY: Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity by John Keble

September 10, 2017

And He turned unto His disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: for I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them: and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. (Luke 10: 23–24) On Sinai’s top, in prayer and trance, Full forty nights and forty days The Prophet watch’d for one dear glance Of Thee and of Thy ways: Fasting he watch’d and all alone, Wrapt in a still, dark, solid cloud, The curtain of the Holy One Drawn round him like a shroud: So, separate from the world, his breast Might duly take and strongly keep The print of Heaven, to be express’d Ere long on Sion’s steep. There [...]

POETRY: A Word Made Flesh Is Seldom by Emily Dickinson

September 10, 2017

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. (John 1:14) A Word made Flesh is seldom And tremblingly partook Nor then perhaps reported But have I not mistook Each one of us has tasted With ecstasies of stealth The very food debated To our specific strength— A Word that breathes distinctly Has not the power to die Cohesive as the Spirit It may expire if He— “Made Flesh and dwelt among us” Could condescension be Like this consent of Language This loved [...]

HEALING: Crossing The Line

September 9, 2017

My first healing miracle occurred in a public place.  A seminary, in fact. At morning Mass.  During the service.  At the rail. And while the event disturbed me deeply, I was still conscious enough to watch people around me and how they reacted to me now. Now. Now that they knew. I didn’t know I had this ability. But the next second in my life after the touch, they knew. My reaction, of course, as it has been my whole life, was to curl up like a mole somewhere soft and dark and just stay there until the commotion was over. Commotion. We don’t think of that word being attached to God. Mostly we think, Yes, I believe in God, but this morning’s newspaper is a lot more interesting than to think about than God. We [...]

POETRY: Our Lost Angels by Scott Cairns

September 9, 2017

Ages ago, clouds brought them near and rain brought them to our lips; they swam in every vase, every cupped palm. We took them into ourselves and were refreshed. For those luckier generations, angels were the sweet, quickening substance in all light, all water, every morsel of food. Until the day the sun changed some, as it had, took them skyward, but thereafter the clouds failed to restore them. In time, streams gave up every spirit, and the sea, unreplenished, finally became the void we had feared it would become, the void we had imagined. And, as now, clouds brought only rain, and the emptied rain brought only the chill in which we must now be [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Spirit Of Grace by Raniero Cantalamessa

September 8, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit By now it must be clear: the message of this part of the Veni Creator is all contained in the little word, “grace.”  This is the “honeycomb” from which we need to “draw all the honey”; this is the key that will open for us the door to a whole new chamber in the treasure-house of revelation concerning the Holy Spirit.  Grace is one of the words that we need to revive and restore to its original splendor, because it has been spoiled just as a fresco is spoiled by too many attempts at restoration, each imposing traces of the transient taste of the moment. The first thing that jumps out at us when we read the New Testament, especially Paul, is the close similarity, not to say [...]

POETRY: Cancer Blues by Thomas Merton

September 8, 2017

It’s a long hot night for cancer blues I sing I listen to the tree frogs and rain while someplace Else my Baby grows to be a magic Indian healer My sweet Babe with special ways to fight a fever and cure The biting black root-idea With levelheaded advice and love for the hopeless hunted SOUL. It is a long night of rain to pass my time with cancer of the heart But my Baby glows like medicine out there in the dark Growing to be a living healer and radium I grub these roots alone in the mud I thrash around In my solitary swamp amid the hot frog blues. But all the time She grows a little wiser and draws near With that sweet healing temperament and compassion Busy knocking out the Cannibal TRIBES. All alone out here in a mess of wild Animals I [...]

VIRTUES: The Beautiful Spirit (Humility, Part Two) by Gary L. Thomas

September 7, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit Humility is the bloom and the beauty of holiness. (Andrew Murray) Unless we make the increase of humility our study, we may find that we have been delighting in beautiful thoughts and feelings, in solemn acts of consecration and faith, while the only sure mark of the presence of God – the disappearance of self – was all the time wanting. (Andrew Murray) Following the stunning victory at Yorktown, the American colonies seemed determined to clutch defeat out of the jaws of victory.  Many assumed the Revolutionary War was over, but since George Washington was well aware that the British forces on North American soil still outnumbered the Continental Army, the American soldiers weren’t let go.  The [...]

WISDOM STORY: Bernard and Francis by Nathalie Leone

September 7, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom Francis had just withdrawn from the world and had embraced complete poverty. But the people of Assisi, his friends, his parents, and his acquaintances of long standing all thought him mad. They held him in contempt. When he went into town, people jostled him, threw nuts at him, and scolded him. They insulted him to his face and hurled at him all abuse they could think of. Francis bore everything, without getting angry. He never even answered them. Now a man was observing him from the window of his house. He was surprised to see him put up with such scorn so readily. “Either he really is completely mad,” he said to himself, “or he has received special grace from God.” This man’s name was Bernard [...]

HEALING: Jesus Comes To Be With Us In Hell by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

September 7, 2017

From: Good Goats What if it appears that some people, such as Hitler or the Nazis who hung the innocent child before Elie Wiesel’s eyes, have closed the door of their heart from the inside, and chosen hell?  Is there anything God can do?  By descending into hell, God can come to heal us even there.  The common understanding of Jesus’s descent into hell, (1 Peter 3:19), is that Jesus goes to preach the good news only to the just souls awaiting redemption.  However, according to the New Jerusalem Bible, this understanding overlooks that Jesus goes also to the chained demons mentioned in the Book of Enoch and those in Noah’s time who were punished by the flood because they “refused to believe.” Theologian [...]

POETRY: Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis by Denise Levertov

September 6, 2017

Maybe he looked indeed much as Rembrandt envisioned Him in those small heads that seem in fact portraits of more than a model. A dark, still young, very intelligent face, a soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging. That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth in a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions. The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him that He taste also the humiliation of dread, cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go, like any mortal hero out of his depth, like anyone who has taken a step too far and wants herself back. The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how, in the midnight Garden, or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross, He went through with even the [...]

MYSTICISM: The Evolution Of Christian Mysticism by Carl McColman

September 6, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.  God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. (1 John 4:16) I have found Heaven on Earth, since Heaven is God, and God is in my soul.  The day I understood this, everything became luminous in me, and I wish to tell this secret to those I love, discretely. (Elizabeth of the Trinity) The basics of Christian thought put forth in the New Testament are foundational to all subsequent Christian mysticism.  In their time, these interpretations of spirituality were the religious equivalent of dynamite.  They emerge out of the revolutionary concept that a flesh-and-blood human being, Jesus of Nazareth, was [...]