PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Two) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

December 11, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Between The Already And The Not-Yet In the Bible we find, again and again, one key image for the quest of the heart: the image of the way.  This image will yield a deeper significance if we keep in mind that the Biblical way is always the way of a pilgrim.  It is the way on which one step, surprisingly, may lead us to the goal, and the goal may turn out to be, surprisingly, the first of many further steps on the road.  The image of the way tells us that we need not fear losing the thrill of the search, even though we find.  Nor need we fear losing the joyous possession of what we have found, even though there is no end to exploring.  T. S. Eliot, in his Four Quartets, speaks of the paradox of [...]

MUSIC: Music For Facing Temptation And Wild Beasts by Thomas H. Troeger

December 11, 2017

From: Music As Prayer I have always liked the conciseness of the Gospel according to Saint Mark.  While other gospel writers expand and elaborate on a story, Mark’s version is often as succinct as possible.  The temptation of Christ in the wilderness, the gospel lesson for the first Sunday in Lent, is a case in point.  Matthew and Luke each enumerate three different temptations and include dialogue between Jesus and Satan.  But Mark reduces the story of temptation to a single verse: “He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan: and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him,” (Mark 1:13).  Wilderness.  Temptation.  Wild beasts.  Angels.  In four dramatic images, we feel the strenuous challenge that [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Monday Of Advent II by Martin Shannon

December 11, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 34 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. (v. 1) The psalmist’s joy is so full that he is determined to do two things: praise God at all times, and get as many others as possible to join in.  Then, once he has the attention of his listeners, he invites them to live their entire lives to the glory of God. The poet begins: “I will bless the Lord at all times,” the Lord’s “praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  The praise of God should never cease, because the love of God never ceases.  Nothing weakens in God’s commitment to bless his people; should anything weaken in their whole-hearted gratitude for his kindness? The superscription of the psalm (“A [...]

SERMON: Detecting False Gods by L. R. Tarsitano

December 10, 2017

Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. (2 Timothy 3:8-9) “Jannes” and “Jambres” are the names that tradition gives to the court magicians who were brought forth by the Pharaoh to confront Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh, of course, wanted to do more than to prove that his magicians were as powerful as Moses and Aaron, the prophets of God. A prophet speaks for another, and Pharaoh did not want to hear what God had to say to him. He did not want to obey God’s commandment: “Let my people go.” And this is what [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Second Sunday Of Advent by Martin Shannon

December 10, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 66 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. (v. 16) The Hebrew inscription of this psalm reads: “To the choirmaster – a song – a psalm.”  Most of the early Greek manuscripts (known as the Septuagint) add another word: anastaseos, meaning, “of the resurrection.”  This tells us that, by the second, or even late in the first century, Psalm 66 was probably sung by Christians at Easter, the feast of the Lord’s resurrection. Before Christians adopted Psalm 66 as a song in celebration of the resurrection, it was a song in celebration of God’s deliverance of Israel.  You hear in these words the prayer of a faithful Jew, coming to make his sacrifice in the temple, in [...]

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Finding Reality In God

December 10, 2017

It was a long battle. Eight years in the fray.  And so many more in recovery. I was very aware that my marriage was an assignment from God.  I even verified that before the wedding took place. As it went on, I found I was being trained: lessons specific for handling what was before me that I rigorously worked to learn and apply. One lesson I was being taught – this was fresh knowledge for me – was about binding a soul.  This binding works to lessen the negative effect that an evil person can have on the world. This was something very new to me. Over the years of the battle I watched as my binding would take effect, then watch some more how, in time, the binding would ease and slip off.  And the rancid behavior, calmed for a time, [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Saturday Of Advent I by Martin Shannon

December 9, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 51 Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. (v. 1) The context of Psalm 51 is given in its superscription: “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”  The conversation between Nathan and David is recorded in 2 Samuel 12:1-13, and the story that led to the exchange is a familiar one, (2 Samuel 11).  Late one spring afternoon, the eyes – and then the hand – of King David falls lustfully upon Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah who was one of the kingdom’s faithful soldiers.  Bathsheba becomes pregnant with David’s child and, in a desperate attempt to cover his own unfaithfulness, [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: God’s Gift To You by Luis M. Martinez

December 9, 2017

From True Devotion to the Holy Spirit Not only to possess us does the Holy Spirit live in us, but also to be possessed by us, to be ours.  For love must possess, as well as be possessed.  He is the Gift of God Most High – Donum Dei Altissimi.  Now, the gift that belonged to the giver becomes the possession of the one who receives it.  The Gift of God is ours through the stupendous prodigy of love. Almost every time that sacred scripture speaks to the mission of the Holy Spirit in our souls, we find the word, give.  “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate.”  “In this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”  “For the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 1 by John Berryman

December 8, 2017

Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake, inimitable contriver, endower of Earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon, thank you for such as it is my gift. I have made up a morning prayer to you containing with precision everything that most matters. “According to Thy will” the thing begins. It took me off & on two days. It does not aim at eloquence. You have come to my rescue again & again in my impassable, sometimes despairing years. You have allowed my brilliant friends to destroy themselves and I am still here, severely damaged, but functioning. Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs: how can I “love” you? I only as far as gratitude & awe confidently & absolutely go. I have [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Friday Of Advent 1 by Martin Shannon

December 8, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 122 Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! (v. 2) “And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God,” wrote John the seer (Revelation 21:2).  The completion of all human history and the fulfillment of all Heaven’s promises are contained within this radiant vision of the glorified Jerusalem.  It is a far cry from the broken and conflicted city we see today.  Perhaps Psalm 122 can remind us that, even as we pray for peace in the Earthly city, we also join with Abraham, the father of faith, in looking “forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” (Hebrews 11:10). Of all the psalms called “Songs of Ascent” – the [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Thursday Of Advent I by Martin Shannon

December 7, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 97 The Lord reigns; let the Earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! (v. 1) Psalm 97 is one of a group sometimes referred to as enthronement psalms, named for their use in celebrating not the coronation of a king but the sovereignty of Almighty God.  These psalms serve as liturgical reminders that the supreme ruler of the universe – of all that is seen and all that is unseen – has never been nor ever can be dethroned by any other power, no matter how strong it might appear.  Other enthronement psalms are 47, 93, 96, and 99.  The psalmist perceives God’s matchless strength in some of the most dramatic displays of nature – thunder and lightning, stormy seas, earthquakes, fire, floods, and winds.  [...]

WRITING: Introduction—What Has No Name by Pat Schneider

December 6, 2017

From How The Light Gets In Beyond the name there lies what has no name (Jorge Luis Borges) Those colors which have no name are the real foundation of everything. (Vincent van Gogh) I sit writing these words in an old library in Berkeley, California.  Around me, Gothic windows let in California sunlight, and if I were to walk outside, the Golden Gate Bridge would be visible in the distance.  Pacific School of Religion is a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of theological schools that share a common library for several Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and other centers of study, offering traditional histories of theology and also curricula that include Black studies, Gay and Lesbian [...]

POETRY: Advent In Michigan by Sarah Arthur

December 6, 2017

In time the sons of men filled the earth with their evil deeds. And God beheld the desolate wastes the soiled streets the bitter brown of barren fields and the sin of the world cut him to the heart. “I will blot from the earth the memory of these things. Behold, I will make all things new!” So he gathered up clouds from the four corners of the sky, billows pregnant with promise. He gathered them in great, dark piles on the horizon of hills while the weathermen watched grandmothers gazed schoolchildren pressed their noses against the glass. And God said, “Let there be snow.” First, small white flakes like lace, drifting. Then—wind driving snow before it, a blizzard hiding hills from view (and the tops of church [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Wednesday Of Advent I by Martin Shannon

December 6, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 107 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. (vv. 6, 13, 19, 28) Psalm 107, which opens the fifth and final “book” of the complete Psalter, belongs to the type of psalms known as “historical” because it recounts events of God’s saving intervention in the lives of his people.  It is a story of God’s deliverance.  Indeed, it is four stories wrapped into one. The opening call to “give thanks to the Lord,” (1) is inspired by God’s steadfast love, a love that not only “endures forever” but also shows itself in very specific divine acts.  The psalmist illustrates the people of God being redeemed and gathered from the four compass points of the [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 21 by W. Robert Godfrey

December 5, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Although Book Two of the Psalter focuses in important ways on Israel’s king in his kingdom, we have already seen that the subject of the king is by no means absent from Book One.  Psalm 21 is obvious proof of the importance of the king in this first part of the Psalter.  Here is a psalm that glorifies Israel’s king while always recognizing that all that he has comes from his God. This psalm again gives us insight into its meaning through its form.  At the center of the psalm stands the faith of the king: “For the king trusts in the Lord,” (v. 7).  The calling of the king is to rest in God, confident of his love and good purpose.  The king of this psalm is a man of faith who relies on God [...]

MEDITATION: Psalm 1:6 by Alan J. Hommerding

December 5, 2017

From Everyday Psalms The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. We might think that the opposite of “wicked” is “good.”  But the scriptures offer us a different option: righteousness.  Acting righteously, in right relationship with the will of God and rightly toward others, is an active way of living, not merely a passive state of goodness.  How often is our passivity really the wickedness of inaction?  The scriptures have no time for those who are self-righteous, because the reign of God calls us to be God-righteous.   PRAYER Your will be done on Earth as in Heaven, O God our Father. Keep me steadfast and faithful in your way, turning away from wickedness, [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Tuesday Of Advent I by Martin Shannon

December 5, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 85 For he will speak peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts. (v. 8) Something is amiss in the land.  Is it a drought?  Is it the threat of defeat at the hand of the enemy?  Is it some sudden national disaster?  All we know for sure is that something has gone desperately wrong, behind which the psalmist sees the hand of God’s divine judgment.  His appeal is simple yet fervent: “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away thy indignation toward us!” Upon what does the psalmist base his petition?  He spends the opening verses of the song looking back upon multiple evidences of God’s faithfulness and love for his people: God has already been gracious in [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part One) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

December 4, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer A Passion For The Possible In moments when we are truly alive, we experience life as gift.  We also experience life as surprise.  Faith is the heart’s response to life as gift.  The heart’s response to life as surprise is hope, as we shall see.  The more the insight that life is freely given takes hold of us, the more our life will be a life of faith, a life of trust in the Giver.  Of course, that trust itself is gift: God gives us faith to respond to God’s own faithfulness.  And so we come to understand faith as an aspect of God’s own life within us.  Hope is another aspect of that same fullness of life.  The more the insight that life is surprising takes hold of us, the more our [...]

MUSIC: The Perfect Registration by Thomas H. Troeger

December 4, 2017

From: Music As Prayer I have always enjoyed hearing organists search for the perfect registration when they sit down to practice a piece of music.  Sometimes I am playing my flute with them; other times they are playing with a choir or entirely alone.  Often, they will talk to themselves, as if they were two people at once: the performer and an independent critic making judgments about the timbre and blend of the sounds.  “Let’s try this,” they say as they pull out a particular mixture of stops.  Then a few measures later, they lift up their fingers and feet, exclaiming: “No, that will never do.  Too much bass.  We need a little more brightness.”  They push in some stops and pull out new ones.  This time they play farther [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Monday Of Advent 1 by Martin Shannon

December 4, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 67 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us. (v. 1) Aaron and the Levitical priesthood were instructed to bless the people of Israel with these words: “The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace,” (Numbers 6:24-26).  Psalm 67 is a prayer of blessing that comes out of the same tradition.  It sees the blessing of God as the very source of life and health, without which there is no hope for prosperity or peace. A rich tone of thanksgiving is prevalent throughout the psalm, and this probably explains why it was used at the great autumn Feast of Sukkot, or [...]

SERMON: On The Advent Of Our Lord And Its Six Circumstances by Bernard of Clairvaux

December 3, 2017

Today we celebrate the beginning of Advent. The name of this great annual commemoration is sufficiently familiar to us; its meaning may not be so well known. When the unhappy children of Eve had abandoned the pursuit of things true and salutary, they gave themselves up to the search for those that are fleeting and perishable. To whom shall we liken the men of this generation, or to what shall we compare them, seeing they are unable to tear themselves from Earthly and carnal consolations, or disentangle their minds from such trammels? They resemble the shipwrecked who are in danger of being overwhelmed by the waters, and who may be seen catching eagerly at whatever they first grasp, how frail whatsoever it may be. And if anyone strive to [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: First Sunday Of Advent by Martin Shannon

December 3, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 33 Our soul waits for the Lord. (v. 20) The first word of Psalm 33 is one of six words for “praise” used by the author of this song.  It first appears in scripture in the book of Leviticus to describe the response of the Jewish assembly when the fire of God came down from Heaven and consumed the offerings made by Moses and Aaron in the tent of meeting.  When all the people saw the glory of the Lord unexpectedly appearing in this way, “they shouted for joy and fell facedown,” (Leviticus 9:24).  This was a spontaneous cry of rejoicing, elicited by an extraordinarily dramatic sign of God’s presence come among them. Psalm 33 is a call to praise and worship.  Unlike many psalms that were written in [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Introduction by Martin Shannon

December 2, 2017

From My Soul Waits In his rule for monastic life, Saint Benedict wrote that the life of a monk should be like a continuous Lent (chapter 49).  He acknowledged that not everyone has the strength to do this (how’s that for understatement?), so, at least during the liturgical season, he wanted his monks to take on some additional and intentional acts of self-denial, all the while never forgetting that the essential aim of Lent is to look forward to Easter with joy and longing.  Life has plenty of asceticism built in already (most of it unexpected), and it is nothing if not a hope and desire for resurrection in the end.  So, even though he didn’t, perhaps Benedict could have said something similar about Advent. I live in an [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: Be Paracletes by Raniero Cantalamessa

December 1, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit So it is that in the term Paraclete we reach in a certain sense to the apex of revelation concerning the Holy Spirit.  He is not merely “something,” but “Someone.”  The Spirit is one who dwells in us, a presence, one who speaks on our behalf, a defender, a friend, a consoler, the “sweet guest of the soul,” as the Sequence for Pentecost says.  The Spirit was the “inseparable companion” of Jesus during his Earthly life, and now wants to be just that to each one of us.  All that one person might hope for of another, of what is best and of what is delightful, we can find, and infinitely more, in the Spirit.  What “Paraclete” conveys to us opens up for us an inexhaustible field for our [...]

POETRY: Indoors by R. S. Thomas

December 1, 2017

It was easier to come out with you Into the fields, where birds made no claim On my poor knowledge and flowers grew With no thought but to declare God. Within I had the old problems To cope with: turning from the Book’s Comfortable words, I came face to face With the proud priests and their intolerant [...]

SURRENDER: God’s Hand Present Everywhere, by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

November 30, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender All creatures are living in the hand of God.  The senses perceive only the physical causes, but faith sees God’s hand in all things.  Faith believes that Jesus Christ lives in all things, that his divine operation continues to the end of time, and that every passing moment and the tiniest atom contain a portion of this hidden life and mysterious action.  The physical creation is a veil concealing the profound mysteries of the divine work.  After the Resurrection, Jesus took his disciples by surprise in his various appearances.  He showed himself to them under forms that they did not recognize, and, in the very act of making himself known to them, disappeared from their sight.  This same Jesus, ever [...]

WISDOM STORY: The Monk’s Three Sins by Nathalie Leone

November 30, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom A monk felt resentment toward the abbot of the monastery.  Unable to rid himself of this aggression – rather the reverse – he brooded over it, justifying it, and making excuses; thus, the hatred increased rapidly.  In the solitude of his cell he was assailed by a terrible thought: He wished to see the abbot dead. Hardly had this thought taken root in his mind than the abbot had an apoplectic fit.  He collapsed and died forthwith.  That very evening the Devil appeared to the monk.  He greeted the monk, but the poor brother did not reply.  He moaned, wrung his hands, rolled on the ground, and blamed himself for this vile act. The Devil deployed all his artifices, but the monk could not be [...]

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

November 29, 2017

From The Foundations of Mysticism The Nature Of Mysticism—A Heuristic Sketch (Part One) Inspired in part by the seminal work of Joseph Maréchal, but especially by my reading of the texts that have been accepted as mystical classics in the history of Christianity, both East and West, I have come to find the term “presence” a more central and more useful category for grasping the unifying note in the varieties of Christian mysticism.  Thus we can say that the mystical element in Christianity is that part of its belief and practices that concerns the preparation for, the consciousness of, and the reaction to what can be described as the immediate or direct presence of God. The ways in which this special form of encounter with God have [...]

POETRY: Immersion by Denise Levertov

November 29, 2017

There is anger abroad in the world, a numb thunder, because of God’s silence. But how naïve, to keep wanting words we could speak ourselves, English, Urdu, Tagalog, the French of Tours, the French of Haiti… Yes, that was one way omnipotence chose to address us—Hebrew, Aramaic, or whatever the patriarchs chose in their turn to call what they heard. Moses demanded the word, spoken and written. But perfect freedom assured other ways of speech. God is surely patiently trying to immerse us in a different language, events of grace, horrifying scrolls of history and the unearned retrieval of blessings lost for ever, the poor grass returning after drought, timid, persistent. God’s abstention is only from human dialects. The holy voice [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 18 by W. Robert Godfrey

November 28, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 18 is a psalm of David, a song celebrating “the day when the Lord rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.”  This psalm, the longest of Book One, praises God for his deliverance.  It is also recorded, with slight differences, in 2 Samuel 22.  At the center of this psalm is a strong confession of faith: “With the merciful you show yourself merciful,” (v. 25). This psalm begins (vv. 1-6) and ends (vv. 46-50) with praise offered to God.  It is praise filled with love and thanksgiving for God’s protection from enemies and from death.  The praise rejoices in the victories God has given his king and his people – victories displayed before the world. The [...]