Christianity

SATURDAY READING: Kneeling In Prayer by Abraham Kuyper

July 22, 2017

From Our Worship It is appropriate to say a few words about kneeling in prayer, especially in connection with the “Prayer of Confession of Sin.”  We should realize that in this question also custom does not make liturgical law.  The present custom in our churches is for men to stand during prayer and for women to remain seated, while one kneels only at adult baptisms, when a minister is ordained, and at wedding services.  This may not hold true for all churches.  It is possible that in remote communities kneeling is also done on other occasions, but in the majority of our churches the custom, mentioned above, is followed, possibly with this minor variation, that some men remain seated even when others rise for prayer. [...]

THE MECHANICS OF PRAYER: Praying For Someone With No Knees

July 22, 2017

Lately, there is something that I have been forced to sit quietly and consider: the act of praying for someone who doesn’t pray for themselves. On the surface it’s a no-brainer.  Someone is in need of God’s grace and mercy, and so we pray for him.  No matter what the need. No matter the person’s relationship with God. We pray. Right? Right.  That’s what we do. But what exactly are we doing when we do that?  Get down on our knees.  Find the words we are looking for.  Make our petition. Again and again and again. For a person who has no knees of their own. No faith. No belief in any power other than themselves. That shouldn’t matter to us, should it? Perhaps it’s not a matter of matter. Perhaps [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Creator Spirit In Scripture by Raniero Cantalamessa

July 21, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit The Fathers, attributing the role of Creator to the Spirit, are taking the Bible as their base.  A great deal of their argument is negative in character; in other words, they intend to show that the Spirit is “not a creature.”  However, in doing so they also affirm that the Holy Spirit is in fact “Creator.”  They were not mistaken in the substance of their teaching.  The scripture contains the idea of the “Creator” Spirit.  The difference is that the Fathers accentuated the ontological meaning of the word, understanding “Creator” as a designation of the essence or the nature of the Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit is Creator and hence he is God), whereas the Bible [...]

SPIRITUAL FORMATION: Mercy Within Mercy Within Mercy by Christine M. Bochen

July 20, 2017

(Presidential Address – ITMS Seventh General Meeting June 7, 2001) Epiphanies of Mercy Christians, who celebrate annually the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles, know that an epiphany is a manifestation of the divine in our midst. Epiphany is revelation. Mercy, Thomas Merton writes in the opening paragraph of The Climate of Mercy, is the “epiphany of hidden truth and of God’s redeeming Love.” Mercy is a “revelation of God,” a revelation of God’s very Self – “as Love, as Creator and Father, as Son and Savior, as Life-Giving Spirit.” Mercy is not an intellectual deduction; it is a happening: “an event in which God reveals himself to us [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: Repentance, Both Door And Path by Frederica Mathewes-Green

July 20, 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) The first time Jesus appears, in the first gospel, the first instruction he gives is “Repent.” From then on, it’s his most consistent message.  In all times and every situation, his advice is to repent.  Not just the scribes and Pharisees, not just the powerful – he tells even the poor and oppressed that repentance is the key to eternal life.  In an incident that would [...]

HEALING: Jesus’s Response to Vengeful Punishment by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

July 20, 2017

From: Good Goats Changing our image of God from child abuser to child lover was the core of Jesus’s mission.  Jesus was always trying to change people’s vengeful image of God.  Often Jesus tried to heal on the sabbath, or touch a leper, or forgive someone.  But the priests, scribes, and Pharisees would forbid Jesus to do these things because they interpreted literally the vengeful punishment passages of their Bibles which spelled out the consequences of such “illegal” actions. For example, in the story of the adulterous woman (John 8:5), the scribes and Pharisees want to stone her to death.  They justify themselves by telling Jesus, “Moses has ordered us in the law to condemn women like this to death by [...]

MYSTICISM: Defining Mysticism by Carl McColman

July 19, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8) What, then, is time? I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled. (Augustine) Some people think mysticism means having powerful spiritual experiences, like seeing Heavenly visions, or hearing supernatural voices, or feeling a sense of communion with God, or undergoing profound shifts in consciousness.  Others see it as a spiritual dimension to (and beyond) religion, in which the cultural, ethical, and theological differences between religions are somehow resolved in a trans-verbal state of unity.  Still others dismiss it as [...]

PSALMS: Suffering by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 18, 2017

From Psalms Where do you find more miserable, more wretched, more depressing words than in the psalms of lamentation?  There you see into the heart of all the saints as into death, even as into hell.  How sad and dark it is there in every wretched corner of the wrath of God. (Luther) The Psalter gives us ample instruction in how to come before God in a proper way, bearing the frequent suffering which this world brings upon us.  Serious illness and severe loneliness before God and men, threat, persecution, imprisonment, and whatever conceivable peril there is on Earth are known by the psalms (13, 31, 35, 41, 44, 54, 55, 56, 61, 74, 79, 86, 88, 102, 105, and others).  They do not deny it or try to deceive us about it with pious words.  [...]

POETRY: Cognitabo Pro Peccato Meo by William Habington

July 18, 2017

O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.  For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee. My heart [...]

ANGELS: When Wounding Is Healing by Martin Shannon

July 18, 2017

From: All God’s Angels The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.  Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.  Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.”  But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”  So he said to him, “What is your name?”  And he said, “Jacob.”  Then the man said, “You shall no longer [...]

SPIRITUALITY: Deepening Insights Into The Mystery Of Divine Persons by Gregory Collins

July 17, 2017

From Meeting Christ in His Mysteries Still greater depths are contained in the revealed mystery of Christ but to sound them one must turn to later New Testament letters such as Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus.  Although as we have seen, they are probably not directly from Paul’s hand they do represent the expansion and consolidation of his teaching within the wider circle of his disciples and have always been recognized by the churches as authentically “Pauline” in the sense that their authors deepened and developed his ideas.  Since we are not concerned with the process by which the New Testament reached its final form but with how the finished product operates in the church, I shall follow the [...]

MUSIC: The Deeper Meaning Of Inspiring Music by Thomas H. Troeger

July 17, 2017

From: Music As Prayer I recall delivering a series of brief homilies during a service of beautiful anthems, hymns, and organ works.  The occasion gave me an opportunity to reflect on why listening to great choral and organ music in a sacred space is not simply pleasurable but restorative and uplifting.  We commonly describe such an experience as “inspiring,” which literally means the spirit being poured into us.  I began reflecting in greater detail on exactly what happens to my heart and mind when I am inspired, when I listen to music with my whole being, giving myself over completely to the river of sound. As I thought about the matter, I recalled an academic paper by the German scholar Alexander Deeg in which he shares [...]

PRAYER: The Liturgy Of Saint Basil The Great

July 17, 2017

O Lord, the helper of the helpless, the hope of those who are past hope, the savior of the tempest-tossed, the harbor of the voyagers, the physician of the sick; you know each soul and our prayer, each home and its need; become to each one of us what we most dearly require, receiving us all into your kingdom, making us children of light; and pour on us your peace and love, O Lord our God.  Amen. Complete and perfected, so far as in us lies, is the mystery of your redeeming work, Christ our God.  We have made the memorial of your death, we have seen the symbol of your resurrection, we have been filled with your unending life, we have tasted your inexhaustible joy, of which, we pray, you will count us worthy in the age to come, through the [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Spirit As Creator In Tradition by Raniero Cantalamessa

July 14, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit Veni Creator Spiritus.  Come, Creator Spirit!  The title, “Creator,” is new and unusual.  Our hymn is perhaps the only liturgical text in which the Spirit is called by this name instead of by the other “canonical” name, Holy.  It is the strongest word, not only in the first verse but in the whole hymn.  Using “Creator” in this way is like throwing open the window to a view of the Bible and Tradition.  A window is a small opening, but looking through it one can see an immense panorama; the closer one gets to the window, the wider the panorama one can see.  In a similar way, Creator is just a little word, but the deeper we dig into its history, the more it reveals [...]

POETRY: After The Night Office—Gethsemani Abbey by Thomas Merton

July 14, 2017

It is not yet the grey and frosty time When barns ride out of the night like ships: We do not see the Brothers, bearing lanterns, Sink in the quiet mist, As various as the spirits who, with lamps, are sent To search our souls’ Jerusalems Until our houses are at rest And minds enfold the Word, our Guest. Praises and canticles anticipate Each day the singing bells that wake the sun, But now our psalmody is done. Our hasting souls outstrip the day: Now, before dawn, they have their noon. The Truth that transsubstantiates the body’s night Has made our minds His temple-tent: Open the secret eye of faith And drink these deeps of invisible light. The weak walls Of the world fall And heaven, in floods, comes pouring in: Sink from your [...]

AGING WITH DIGNITY: Meaning And Value Of Old Age by The Pontifical Council For The Laity

July 13, 2017

People today live longer and enjoy better health than in the past.  They are also able to cultivate interests made possible by higher levels of education.  No longer is old age synonymous with dependence on others or a diminished quality of life.  But all this seems not enough to dislodge a negative image of old age or encourage a positive acceptance of a period of life in which many of our contemporaries see  nothing but an unavoidable and burdensome decline. The perception of old age as a period of decline, in which human and social inadequacy is taken for granted, is in fact very widespread today.  But this is a stereotype.  It does not take account of a condition that is in practice far more diversified, because older people are [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: Why We Don’t Like Repentance by Frederica Mathewes-Green

July 13, 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) When I began writing this book I ran into a road bump.  I said to my husband, “I’m having a hard time figuring out how to make repentance appealing.”  And I realized that that statement summarized the whole problem.  We’re a nation of shoppers.  Everything has to be appealing. Before we begin to learn about Anna’s understanding of repentance, we need to find out [...]

HEALING: What About Vengeful Punishment In Scripture? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

July 13, 2017

From: Good Goats At first I found it hard to believe in Hilda’s loving God.  I had grown up reading Matthew 25, about what God would do to goats, and other seemingly vengeful punishment passages in scripture.  For example, Matthew 5:29 says that if your right eye is a temptation, it would be better to pluck it out than to have God throw you into the fires of hell.  Such passages made God seem to be a child abuser, much like Good Old Uncle George. Assuming that what I had learned from Hilda might be true, I began asking myself, how do those who love us the most use vengeful punishment language?  Then I began to notice that those who love the most – grandparents, parents, lovers – often use the same words of vengeful punishment [...]

POETRY: Marie Magdalene by George Herbert

July 12, 2017

When blessed Marie wiped her Savior’s feet (Whose precepts she had trampled on before) And wore them for a jewel on her head, Showing his steps should be the street, Wherein she thenceforth evermore With pensive humbleness would live and tread; She being stained herself, why did she strive To make him clean, who could not be defiled? Why kept she not her tears for her own faults, And not his feet? Though we could dive In tears like seas, our sins are piled Deeper than they, in words, and works, and thoughts. Dear soul, she knew who did vouchsafe and deign To bear her filth; and that her sins did dash Ev’n God himself; wherefore she was not loath, As she had brought wherewith to stain, So to bring in wherewith to wash: and yet [...]

MYSTICISM: The Need Of Retreat by Evelyn Underhill

July 12, 2017

From Light of Christ A first retreatant lately told me that when she confessed to her husband what she intended to do, he took his pipe from his mouth and said earnestly: “Go my dear.  Go, by all means!  You’re just about due for a spot of re-birth.”  That man, it seems to me, had a very clear idea of one function of a retreat: its power of causing the re-birth of our spiritual sense, quickening that which has grown dull and dead in us, calling it out into light and air, giving it another chance. Most of us are bitterly conscious of the extent in which we are at the mercy of our surroundings: which grow ever more and more insistent in their pressure, their demands on our attention and time; less and less suggestive of [...]

POETRY: Light Of Splendor by Mechthild of Magdeburg

July 12, 2017

With the dull hearing of my misery— A light of utmost splendor Glows on the eyes of the soul. Therein have I seen the inexpressible ordering Of all things, and recognized God’s unspeakable glory— That incomprehensible wonder— The tender caress between God and the soul, The sufficiency in the Highest, Discipline in understanding, Realization with withdrawal, According to the power of the senses, The unmingled joy of union, The living love of Eternity As it now is and evermore shall [...]

PSALMS: Life by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 11, 2017

From Psalms Many earnest Christians are struck as they pray the psalms by how often the petition for life and good fortune occurs.  From a glance at the cross of Christ there comes to many the unhealthy thought that life and the visible, Earthly blessings of God are in themselves at least a questionable good, and in any case a good not to be desired.  They take, then, the corresponding prayers of the Psalter to be an incomplete first stage of Old Testament piety, which is overcome in the New Testament.  But in doing so they want to be more spiritual than God himself. As the petition for daily bread includes the entire sphere of the necessities of physical life, so the petition for life, health, and visible evidences of the friendliness [...]

POETRY: Psalm III by Allen Ginsberg

July 11, 2017

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1) To God: to illuminate all men. Beginning with Skid Road. Let Occidental and Washington be transformed into a higher place, the plaza of eternity. Illuminate the welders in shipyards with the brilliance of their torches. Let the crane operator lift up his arm for joy. Let elevators creak and speak, ascending and descending in awe. Let the mercy of the flower’s direction beckon in the eye. Let the straight flower bespeak its purpose in straightness—to seek the light. Let the crooked flower bespeak its purpose in crookedness—to seek the light. Let the crookedness and straightness bespeak the light. [...]

ANGELS: Heaven To Earth To Heaven by Martin Shannon

July 11, 2017

From: All God’s Angels Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran.  He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.  And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the Earth, the top of it reaching to Heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you live I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the Earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and [...]

PRAYER: Surprise And Gratefulness by Brother David Steindl-Rast

July 10, 2017

From Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer A rainbow always comes as a surprise.  Not that it cannot be predicted.  Surprising sometimes means unpredictable, but it often means more.  Surprising in the full sense means somehow gratuitous.  Even the predictable turns into surprise the moment we stop taking it for granted.  If we knew enough, everything would be predictable, and yet everything would remain gratuitous.  If we knew how the whole universe worked, we would still be surprised that there was a universe at all.  Predictable it may be, yet all the more surprising. Our eyes are opened to that surprise character of the world around us the moment we wake up from taking things for granted.  Rainbows have a way of waking us up.  A [...]

MUSIC: Plucked From The Universe by Thomas H. Troeger

July 10, 2017

From: Music As Prayer While reading the biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe, I was enchanted to learn that the great theoretical physicist was also a violinist and sometimes even performed at scientific gatherings.  After the response of several colleagues to a lecture, Einstein declined to provide further comment, saying instead, “It will perhaps be pleasanter and more understandable if instead of making a speech I play a piece for you on the violin.”  He proceeded to perform a sonata by Mozart with, according to Frank [the host of the event], “his simple, precise, and therefore doubly moving manner.”  What a splendid scene this is: one of the greatest scientific minds in history responding to colleagues [...]

PRAYER: The Liturgy Of Saint James

July 10, 2017

From The Apostolic Constitutions Almighty God, whose glory the heavens are telling, the Earth his power, and the sea his might, and whose greatness all feeling and thinking creatures everywhere herald; to you belongs glory, honor, might, greatness, and magnificence now and for ever, to the ages of ages, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. O Lord our God, the bread from Heaven, the food of the whole universe, I have sinned against Heaven, and before you, and I am not worthy to receive your most holy mysteries.  But, in your compassion, grant me by your grace uncondemned to partake of your holy body and your precious blood, to remission of sins and life eternal.  Amen. Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and stand with fear and trembling, [...]

SERMON: Mystical Vineyards And The Prudence Of The Flesh by Bernard of Clairvaux

July 9, 2017

“They made me the keeper of the vineyards.” (Song of Solomon 1:6)  Who are they? Do you mean those opponents to whom you recently referred? Listen and understand. Perhaps she is saying that she has been given this charge by the very people who persecuted her. No need to wonder at this if she was attacked for the purpose of correcting her. Everybody knows that lots of people are frequently opposed in a well-intentioned way for their good. Every day we meet with people whose ideals are purified, who advance to perfection through the friendly corrections of their superiors. Therefore let us rather show, if we can, hew her mother’s sons fight against the church with hostile purpose and with a loss that is her gain. This is [...]

POETRY: The Invitation by George Herbert

July 8, 2017

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. (Isaiah 55:1-2) Come ye hither all, whose taste Is our waste; Save your cost, and mend your fare. God is here prepared and dressed, And the feast, God, in whom all dainties are. Come ye hither all, whom wine Doth define, Naming you not to your good: Weep what ye have drunk amiss, And drink this, Which before ye drink is blood. Come ye hither all, whom pain Doth arraign, [...]