Christianity

POETRY: Thirst by Mary Oliver

November 22, 2017

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 8 by W. Robert Godfrey

November 21, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 8 is another song of David, but it is very different from Psalm 3.  Psalm 8 is one of the small number of psalms in Book One that do not express distress on the part of God’s people.  Instead, it represents a psalm that celebrates the great creative work of God.  The psalmist uses this celebration of the glory and power of God as a way to build confidence in God. The focus in the psalm is very much on God and his splendor.  Again, the form of the psalm makes that point clear.  The first and the last declarations of the psalm are the repeated praise of God: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the Earth!”  In this verse, we hear an echo of Genesis 1.  Genesis 1:2 tells us [...]

POETRY: In Pilgrim Life Our Rest by Edwin Sandys

November 21, 2017

For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all [...]

ANGELS: Worship God by Martin Shannon

November 21, 2017

From: All God’s Angels The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:13) We began these reflections with the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible and the book of beginnings.  We end with the Revelation to John, the final book of the Bible and the book of new beginnings.  The author, who identifies himself as John, is thought to have been living in [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—The Faithfulness At The Heart Of All Things by Brother David Steindl-Rast

November 20, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The idea behind all this [living by the Word of God means feeding on it] is one of the deepest insights in the Bible: God speaks.  What does this mean?  It is image language, of course.  But what experience stands behind the idea that God speaks?  It is the experience of listening with our heart.  For there is an aspect to that experience which we overlook all too easily.  When we truly listen with the heart, we do not merely overhear something that is going on “out there,” with or without us, regardless.  No. We find ourselves addressed.  We realize in a flash: Whatever is “out there” concerns us, because it is somehow concerned with us, it is “toward” us in some mysterious [...]

MUSIC: Children Of Process by Thomas H. Troeger

November 20, 2017

From: Music As Prayer When I was a teenager, I studied the flute with one of the instrument’s great teachers, John Oberbrunner.  I learned all the Handel sonatas and then all the Bach sonatas.  I played most of them in church services, and later in recitals during my college years.  But when I began to study theology, I put the instrument away for many years. Now I am playing again, and I have been revisiting some of those sonatas.  They are the same collections that I used forty years ago, but it seems the music has changed.  I play and I find in the music things I never knew were there before.  I begin to think Handel and Bach must have sneaked out of the cloud of witnesses and fiddled with their compositions in the [...]

PRAYER: Hear My Voice by Pope John Paul II

November 20, 2017

To you, creator of nature and humanity, of truth and beauty, I pray: Hear my voice, for it is the voice of the victims of all wars and violence among individuals and nations. Hear my voice, for it is the voice of all children who suffer and who will suffer when people put their faith in weapons and war. Hear my voice when I beg you to instill into the hearts of all human beings the vision of peace, the strength of justice, and the joy of fellowship. Hear my voice, for I speak for the multitudes in every country and in every period of history who do not want war and are ready to walk the road of peace. Hear my voice and grant insight and strength so that we may always respond to hatred with love, to injustice with total dedication to [...]

GOD 101: The Shape Of Change

November 17, 2017

I have had periods in my life when I feel perfectly comfortable with a concept God has given me to study, but don’t know how to express it in ordinary English language.  It feels, sometimes, as though I think in one language, but speak in another. This is one of those times. If we go to church, or read the Bible to the point of knowing it, or even if we listen to sermons on television, sooner or later we run up against the wall that is God’s final day for us.  The Day of Judgment.  We might also start to wonder why or how there is going to be a “New Heaven” and a “New Earth.” So we might be able to find a kind of theme facing us down: I’m going to come and sort you all out.  Those who pass my [...]

SURRENDER: Holiness Made Easy by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

November 16, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender I believe that if those who are seriously striving after holiness were instructed as to the conduct they ought to follow they would be spared a good deal of trouble.  I speak as much of laypersons as of religious.  If the former (that is, laypersons) could realize the merit concealed in the actions of each moment of the day – I mean in each of the daily duties and actions belonging to their state of life – and if the latter (that is, those who are members of religious orders) could be persuaded that holiness is found in what seems unimportant to them, they would all indeed be happy.  If, in addition, they understood that the crosses sent them by Providence – crosses that they constantly find in the [...]

WISDOM STORY: Saint Francis And The Wolf by Nathalie Leone

November 16, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom Francis loved animals.  He saw a sacred link between animals and men and spoke to all his brothers in the same way, whether they were feathered or furred, and whether they walked upright or on all fours. One day Francis was on his way to the abbey of Gubbio.  He walked at a brisk pace, leading his donkey by its bridle.  Just as he began to see the towers of the abbey coming into view above the trees, his path was blocked by some peasants. “Brother Francis, do not go any further!  Ferocious wolves are prowling around.  They are starving and will devour you if you go on!” “I have not hurt them at all and neither has my soul.  Don’t worry.  Return to God!  Good night.” Francis then passed by [...]

MYSTICISM: Caryll Houselander—An Appreciation by Robin Maas

November 15, 2017

From Crisis Magazine In the midst of all the shouting it can be extremely difficult to hear the voices of spiritually powerful women who have come to terms with Holy Mother Church. Such women have found in the church, in their own femininity as well as in hers, a deep and satisfying sacramentality. One such voice is that of the lay spiritual theologian Caryll Houselander. Both her substantial corpus of writing and the particulars of her personal history provide a rich source of hope and encouragement for all who struggle with flawed family relationships, unfulfilled dreams, and personal disappointment – for these were her legacy. She became perhaps the most popular spiritual writer of her day, sought out for her guidance, and dearly [...]

POETRY: The Rosary by Frances Caryll Houselander

November 15, 2017

In the doorway of a low grey house, built of stones as old as the Crusades, a woman of Bruges sits in the sunlight, among the flowers, saying her Rosary. She seems to be carved out of season walnut and polished smooth by the constant touch of the hand of God, and the beads that twine her crippled fingers are scarlet berries on the thorny twigs. The running rhythm and the repetition of the Paters and the Aves is like the rhythm that in nature moves through the seasons from seed to harvest with the unity and the pause and stress of music; like the bloodstream of Christ, that flows through the seasons from Advent to Easter in the Liturgy of the Church, the ebb and flow of the tide of love in the Mystical Body of Christ. II God has given His [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 3 by W. Robert Godfrey

November 14, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 3 bears a title indicating the author and the historical situation that inspired the psalm: “A psalm of David.  When he fled from Absalom his son.”  Although the psalm comes from the pen of the king and representative of Israel and relates to events of his life, the tone of the psalm is deeply personal.  It expresses perfectly the prevailing theme of this book: real distress linked to deep confidence in God. The poetic center of the psalm is verse 5: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.”  Here David confesses his confidence in the Lord even while he is asleep – a time of great potential weakness and danger.  David may be thinking of how he had received a [...]

POETRY: The King of Love my Shepherd Is by Henry W. Baker

November 14, 2017

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23) The King of love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never, I nothing lack if I am His And He is mine forever. Where streams of living [...]

ANGELS: Divine Reminders by Martin Shannon

November 14, 2017

From: All God’s Angels We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard.  When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss.  I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.  For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong [...]

MUSIC: The Necessity Of Beauty by Thomas H. Troeger

November 13, 2017

From: Music As Prayer During this time of economic distress I find myself reading the business section of the newspaper with a degree of interest I have never before taken in such matters.  Being a rank amateur when it comes to economics and often puzzled by the technical terms, I plow through editorials and analyses hoping to gain at least a small grasp of the causes and possible solutions.  But there is always a sharp debate about policies and strategies, and there are even profounder questions about whether or not we ought to try to return to the consumer-based economy that has fed our prosperity since World War II. Amidst all of the financial turmoil and the toll it is taking on millions of families, individuals, and communities, I [...]

PRAYER: Four Prayers by Frances Caryll Houselander

November 13, 2017

Descend, Holy Spirit of Life! Come down into our hearts, that we may live. Descend into emptiness, that emptiness may be filled. Descend into the dust, that the dust may flower. Descend into the dark, that the light may shine in the darkness. Amen. Be born in us, Incarnate Love. Take our flesh and blood, and give us your humanity; take our eyes, and give us your vision; take our minds, and give us your pure thought; take our feet and set them in your path; take our hands, and fold them in your prayer; take our hearts and give them your will to love. Amen. By your heaviness and fear in Gethsemane, comfort the oppressed and those who are afraid By your loneliness, facing the Passion while the Apostles slept, comfort those who face evil alone [...]

SPIRITUALITY: Divine Presents, The Sacramental Mysteries—The Sacramental Mystery of Baptism by Gregory Collins

November 11, 2017

From Meeting Christ in His Mysteries O useful element and clear! My sacred wash and cleanser here, My first consigner unto those Fountains of life, where the Lamb goes! What sublime truths and wholesome themes, Lodge in thy mystical, deep streams! Such as dull man can never find Unless that Spirit lead his mind, Which first upon thy face did move, And hatched all with his quick’ning love. (Henry Vaughan) In holy scripture this mystery has such an overwhelming significance that a great variety of images and metaphors are used to describe it such as illumination (Ephesians 5:8), rebirth and renewal (2 Titus 3:5), and clothing with Christ (Galatians 3:27).  One of the most suggestive images, the one which has most influenced [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Paraclete, A “Person” by Raniero Cantalamessa

November 10, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit “Paraclete” is the title that most clearly expresses the personal character of the Holy Spirit.  Using that title, the author of the hymn takes us a decisive step forward in contemplating the Holy Spirit.  If by the term, “Creator,” he affirmed that the Spirit was by nature divine, now by the term “Paraclete” he affirms that the Spirit is also a divine person.  The other titles and symbols of the Spirit – water, fire, love, and the very name Spirit  – might of themselves at the very most convince us that there is “something divine” about the Holy Spirit.  Paraclete, however, is in itself a personal title: it can be attributed only to a person, because it implies both intellect and [...]

VIRTUES: Freedom From Within (Detachment) by Gary L. Thomas

November 9, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit If you desire to undertake a devout life, you must not only cease to sin, but also cleanse your heart from all affections to sin.  Souls that are recovered from the state of sin, and still retain these affections, eat without joy, and drag themselves along rather than walk.  They do good, but with such a spiritual heaviness that it takes away all the grace from their good exercises. (Francis de Sales) For me, the saddest flowers in all the world will always be yellow roses. The last time I purchased them was twenty years ago, after the fifth or sixth breakup with “Sharon.”  Yellow roses were her favorite. Sharon and I were involved in a tempestuous relationship during high school, and, try as we [...]

WISDOM STORY: The Clothes Chest by Nathalie Leone

November 9, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom Father Poemen used to say, “If you have a chest full of clothes and do not open it for a long time, the clothes inside will go moldy.” The same is true of the thoughts in our heart.  If we do not act upon them, they eventually spoil and change for the [...]

MYSTICISM: The Nature Of Mysticism—A Heuristic Sketch (Part One) by Bernard McGinn

November 8, 2017

From The Foundations of Mysticism According to the great mystical Doctor of the Church, Saint Teresa of Ávila: I used sometimes, as I have said, to experience in an elementary form, and very fleetingly, what I shall now describe.  When picturing Christ in the way I have mentioned, and sometimes even when reading, I used unexpectedly to experience a consciousness of the presence of God of such a kind that I could not possibly doubt that he was within me or that I was wholly engulfed in him.  This was in no sense a vision: I believe that it is called mystical theology. This quotation from Teresa’s Vida, or, Life, introduces some of the major issues that govern the account of mysticism to be presented in these volumes, especially the [...]

POETRY: The Invisible Seen by Saint Athanasios

November 8, 2017

When our dull wits had so declined as to set us mid the squalor of the merely sensible creation, the Very God consented to become a body of His own, that He as one among us might gather our dim senses to Himself, and manifest through such incommensurate occasion that He is not simply man, but also God, the Word and Wisdom of the One. Thereafter, He remained His body, and thus allowed Himself to be observed. His becoming joined to us performed two appalling works in our behalf: He banished death from these our tendered frames, and made of them something new and (take note here) [...]

PSALMS: The Character And Structure Of Book One by W. Robert Godfrey

November 7, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms The realism of the Psalter in facing the great difficulties of the Christian life is one of its most appealing and refreshing features.  The psalms don’t sugarcoat the life of faith.  They state problems and struggles openly and clearly.  The serious emotions evoked by the disappointments, pains, and frustrations of life are expressed strongly and honestly.  At the same time, the psalms present powerful responses of faith.  Over and over in Book One, God’s king puts our problems in the context of God’s presence.  His love, and his deliverance.  In the midst of trouble, the king and the people grow in trusting God.  Here is the great theme of Book One of the Psalter: The King’s Confidence in [...]

POETRY: The First Six Verses Of The Ninetieth Psalm by Robert Burns

November 7, 2017

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the Earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.  For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. (Psalm 90:1-6) O Thou, the first, the greatest friend Of all the human race! Whose strong right hand has ever been Their stay and dwelling-place! Before the [...]

ANGELS: A Guardian Angel At Work by Martin Shannon

November 7, 2017

From: All God’s Angels It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.  He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.  When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also.  This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.  After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each.  Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—The Ascent Of Faith by Brother David Steindl-Rast

November 6, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The faith of the heart, our primordial faith, is something we have all experienced in our peak moments of aliveness.  How did we experience it?  As simple trust, as confidence: trust in life; confidence that we won’t be let down.  At those moments, when we live from our heart, we are in touch with the heart of things.  Spontaneously we realize: “There is faithfulness at the heart of all things,” as Oscar Cullmann put it so well.  Spoken or unspoken, this conviction of faith is the root from which our beliefs spring.  It is the touchstone also to test beliefs.  If they are genuine, they will express that core conviction and so serve as helpful reminders.  Beliefs can never replace the [...]

MUSIC: An Antidote To Cognitive Imperialism by Thomas H. Troeger

November 6, 2017

From: Music As Prayer The columnist and commentator David Brooks has written that one of the major ways we are changing as a culture is in how we understand human cognition.  We are coming to see that our varied ways of knowing need to be integrated.  Brooks begins one of his columns by observing that an exclusive focus on rational ways of knowing distorts who we are as human beings.  It makes us what he calls “divided creatures.”  In a culture of divided creatures, things operate this way: “Reason, which is trustworthy, is separate from the emotions, which are suspect.  Society progresses to the extent that reason can suppress the passions.   This has created a distortion in our culture.  When we raise our kids, [...]

PRAYER: For Unity Of Faiths by Thomas Merton

November 6, 2017

O God, we are one with you.  You have made us one with you.  You have taught us that if we are open to one another, you dwell in us.  Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts.  Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection.  O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you, and we love you with our whole being, because our being is in your being, our spirit is rooted in your spirit.  Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world, and which makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is [...]

WISDOM STORY: The Miser by Nathalie Leone

November 2, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom Once upon a time there was a miser, a man whose hands were shaped like an eagle’s claws.  The moment he held anything, he was unable to let it go.  This was useful for grabbing hold of branches if he fell from trees, but painful if he grasped a poker the wrong way. If his stomach had functioned the way his money did, it would have split as soon as he was born, like a bag bursting at the seams.  And yet his avarice ruined even his health, for the larger his nest egg grew, the more worn out the merchant became.  In fact, he constantly checked his stash of money; he no longer slept or ate, as he was so anxious about its security. However, one night in the small hours an idea occurred to him.  In his [...]