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PRAYER: Christmas Eve by Mitch Finley

December 24, 2018

From Season of Promises Marriage, which seems to us to be such a wonderful consummation of love, is only a faint shadow, a kind of symbol, of the wedding of the Spirit of God to humanity; and it is from that wedding that Christ is born into the world. (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God) Christmas Eve, the day before the deep and holy Feast of the Incarnation.  The day before.  Can it be?  Is Advent over already?  “Time went by so quickly,” wrote singer/songwriter John Stewart, “that I didn’t see it go. / But I never saw it coming so how was I to know?” That’s life, and that’s Advent.  Over so quickly. Time, sacred time.  Weeks gone so soon, and now we verge on Christmas.  It’s such a great mystery that we find [...]

PRAYER: Fourth Sunday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 23, 2018

From Season of Promises In winter silence is visible: the snow is silence become visible. The space between Heaven and Earth is occupied by silence; Heaven and Earth are merely the edge of the snowy silence. Snowflakes meet in the air and fall together on to the Earth, which is already white in the silence.  Silence meeting silence. People stand silent on the side of the street.  Human language is covered by the snow of silence.  What remains of man is his body standing in the snow like a milestone of silence.  People stand still and silence moves between them. (Max Picard, The World of Silence) Do you live in a snowy land?  Or do you remember living in a snowy land at an earlier time in your life, waking up to find the world under [...]

PRAYER: Third Saturday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 22, 2018

From Season of Promises As truly as God is our father, so just as truly is he our mother.  In our father, God Almighty, we have our being; in our merciful mother we are remade and restored.  Our fragmented lives are knit together and made perfect man.  And by giving and yielding ourselves, through grace, to the Holy Spirit we are made whole. (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love) One of the images of Advent: the Christmas manger scene in the church or in our home, all the figures arranged, Mary here, Joseph there, the shepherds thus, the animals just so, maybe the magi over there.  But during Advent, the season of patient waiting, the crib is empty, waiting, ready to be the resting place of the Child. What does this image of [...]

PRAYER: Third Friday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 21, 2018

From Season of Promises If we are not humble, we tend to demand that faith must also bring with it good health, peace of mind, good luck, success in business, popularity, world peace, and every other good thing we can imagine.  And it is true that God can give us all these good things if he wants to.  But they are of no importance compared with faith, which is essential.  If we insist on other things as the price of our believing, we tend by that very fact to undermine our own belief.  I do not think it would be an act of mercy on God’s part simply to let us get away with this! (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation) The messages and meanings of Advent are many.  Advent, oh Advent, what do you have to say to us?  Come.  Hold [...]

PRAYER: Third Thursday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 20, 2018

From Season of Promises The time of action does not differ from that of prayer.  I possess God as peacefully in the bustle of my kitchen, where sometimes several people are asking me for different things at the same time, as I do upon my knees before the Holy Sacrament. (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God) A brief meditation upon Advent leads us to ask a question: Where do we find God?  In the months prior to the birth of the Christ child, what did Mary do?  According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary does not sit around contemplating the mystery of what is happening to her.  Instead, she dashes off to visit her cousin Elizabeth for three months.  No doubt she helped Elizabeth prepare for the birth of her own child. We [...]

PRAYER: Third Wednesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 19, 2018

From Season of Promises You have given your holy body to strengthen my weak mind and body, and you have given your word for a lamp to my feet.  Without these two things I cannot live as I ought, for the word of God is the light of my soul, and your sacrament the bread that gives me life. (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ) Advent is a time of quiet hope and expectation.  But it is also a time to recall that we cannot live as we ought as long as we simply “go with the flow.”  The secular world bombards us daily with secular values, beliefs, and assumptions that know nothing of God’s love or a spiritual life.  Advent is a special time that reminds us that our values, beliefs, and assumptions are different.  We look forward [...]

PRAYER: Third Tuesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 18, 2018

From Season of Promises There are people who cannot keep the first commandment because in their heart or hearts they are afraid to keep the second.  They look upon human love as something which competes with the love of God, not as it is – something which completes it.  This in spite of the words of Christ, who said that it is IMPOSSIBLE to love God and not to love one another, and who implored his followers with his dying breath to love one another. (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God) Advent is not completely overwhelmed by the Great Shopping Binge.  Not completely.  In most cities and towns we also hear about activities geared to nothing more than giving to those who have less.  Food banks.  Toys for Tots.  Winter coat [...]

PRAYER: Third Monday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 17, 2018

From Season of Promises Radio is a machine producing absolute verbal noise.  The content hardly matters any longer; the production of noise is the main concern.  It is as though words were being ground down by radio, transformed into an amorphous mass. (Max Picard, The World of Silence) Listen.  Do you want to know a secret?  Doo-dah-doo.  Closer.  Let me whisper in your ear.  Here it is.  Advent is a quiet season, but everywhere we go we are surrounded by noises, music, words flying through the air, pummeling our ears constantly.  Often, we become dependent on the noises, music, and words produced by electronic devices.  We get jumpy and nervous if we don’t have them.  We get so we can’t cope with quiet.  Put the average [...]

PRAYER: Third Sunday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 16, 2018

From Season of Promises God says, “Do not blame yourself too much, thinking that your trouble and distress is all your fault. For it is not my will that you should be unduly sad and despondent.” (Julia of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love) You got trouble and distress, I got trouble and distress, all God’s children got trouble and distress.  So don’t feel like the Lone Ranger.  Thing is, it is not God’s will that we should feel bummed out all the time.  Someone said, “A sad Christian is a sad Christian.” Why do we think that if we have “trouble and distress” it must be all our fault?  Why are we so inclined to beat up on ourselves for the slightest reason?  Advent is the season of hope and expectation, hope and [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: Matins by George Herbert

February 7, 2018

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

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

January 31, 2018

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

POETRY: The Innkeeper: An Epiphany Poem by Carol Penner

January 24, 2018

They were grateful lodgers, considering the humble accommodations. We did the best we could, the place full up, our stable the last corner we had. Mary, who had a baby coming, wanting only peace and privacy, was happy with anything. It was a birth like any other, the mother spent, the baby crying, the father bewildered. I gave her swaddling clothes, the ones my Daniel used. Daniel was on my hip as I gave them, and he wanted down, and toddled over to the baby, leaning close, patting his face. We all laughed. They stayed a couple of weeks, we had no trouble with them. Some shepherds came to visit, the night that bright star had us all out and staring. Then there were those foreign fellows, I don’t know how they knew them… but they [...]

POETRY: Third Sunday After Epiphany by John Keble

January 21, 2018

When Jesus heard it he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel. (Matthew 8:10) I mark’d a rainbow in the north, What time the wild autumnal sun From his dark veil at noon look’d forth, As glorying in his course half done, Flinging soft radiance far and wide Over the dusky Heaven and bleak hillside. It was a gleam to memory dear, And as I walk and muse apart, When all seems faithless round and drear, I would revive it in my heart, And watch how light can find its way To regions farthest from the fount of day. Light flashes in the gloomiest sky, And Music in the dullest plain, For there the lark is soaring high Over her flat and leafless reign, And chanting in so [...]

POETRY: Revelation by Christos Victor

January 17, 2018

Father breathes with us; true maiden bears a son census in a tribal village hosts herald good tidings acquit sleeping shepherd’s quake to visit scant inn’s trough three sibylline kings seek infant thwart vassal Herod’s cunning route; swathe him in myrrh, frankincense, gold seraph warns Joseph flee to Egypt, in Bethlehem swords sing; first-blood spilled rewind path to Nazareth, carpenter’s son teaches priests; on blighted tree hung spurned lamb’s sacrifice frees dead to receive resurrection; children sing, dance, and open gifts “the happy give don’t take”; jews and “dogs” eat at the groom’s wedding [...]

POETRY: The Magi by William Butler Yeats

January 10, 2018

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye, In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones, And all their helms of silver hovering side by side, And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more, Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied, The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial [...]