Saturday, December 31, 2011
Friday, December 30, 2011
The blessed son of God only
In a crib full poor did lie;
With our poor flesh and our poor blood
Was clothed that everlasting good
The Lord Christ Jesu, God's son dear,
Was a guest and a stranger here;
Us for to bring from misery,
That we might live eternally.
All this did he for us freely,
For to declare his great mercy;
All Christendom be merry therefore,
And give him thanks for evermore.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Here's something the great theologian, Karl Barth, said:
“This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before.”I would submit that this is one reason it is important to experience Christmas in a fresh way each year. Even though we may know the old story very well indeed, we have the opportunity to see and understand in a greater way every time we celebrate this great Feast of the Incarnation.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Remember, it's still Christmas, people, and will be through January 5 - Twelfth Night.
,,,there is a...kind of peace...(that) does not come either from the denial of evil or the acceptance of oppression. This kind comes from the center of us and flows through us like a conduit to the world around us. This kind of peace is the peace of those who know truth and proclaim it, who recognize oppression and refuse to accept it, who understand God’s will for the world and pursue it. This kind of peace comes with the realization that it is our obligation to birth it for the rest of the world so that what the mangers and crèches and crib sets of the world point to can become real in us—and because of us—in our own time.
Sr. Joan is definitely one of my heroes in the religious life.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Here is a wonderful thought to keep before us during Christmastide:
“By virtue of Creation, and still more the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.”
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
I'm offering the following largely because of the words, "exuberant armfuls". That strikes me as very wonderful image:
Let me not wrap, stack, box, bag, tie, tag, bundle, seal, keep Christmas.~~~
Christmas kept is liable to mold.
Let me give Christmas away, unwrapped, by exuberant armfuls.
Let me share, dance, live Christmas unpretentiously, merrily,
responsibly with overflowing hands, tireless steps and sparkling eyes.
Christmas given away will stay fresh—even until it comes again.
-- Linda Felver
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Here's a delightful story:
A few years back, under a cultural exchange program, a Texan family hosted a rabbi from Russia. It was Christmas time. The family took him to a local Chinese restaurant to celebrate a traditional Jewish Christmas. At the end of the meal, the waiter brought the check and presented each of them with a small brass Christmas tree ornament. They all laughed when someone pointed out that the ornaments were stamped “Made in India”, but the Rabbi began quietly crying. The family assumed that he was offended by the focus on Christmas but he smiled and said to them, “No. I was shedding tears of joy to be in a wonderful country in which a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu.”You can find it here.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Part of a reflection by one of my favorite preachers, Kathryn Matthews Huey:
"Barbara Brown Taylor, not surprisingly, addresses with great insight the question of Mary's "choice," her freedom to respond in this most unusual situation, and our freedom as well. Yes, Taylor has said that the angel announced the impending birth and didn't ask Mary for her assent, but there is a choice for Mary, "whether to say yes to it or no, whether to take hold of the unknown life the angel held out to her or whether to defend herself against it however she could." We have a similar choice in our own lives, Taylor says: "Like Mary, our choices often boil down to yes or no: yes, I will live this life that is being held out to me or no, I will not; yes, I will explore this unexpected turn of events, or no, I will not." You can say no to your life, Taylor says, "but you can rest assured that no angels will trouble you ever again." And then she takes a bold turn that calls for courage on our part, if we say yes to our lives: "You can take part in a thrilling and dangerous scheme with no script and no guarantees. You can agree to smuggle God into the world inside your own body" ("Mothers of God" in Gospel Medicine). How are you bearing God in this world?"I would suggest that this is probably the most important question we could ask ourselves this time of year. (Or at any time, for that matter.)
Thursday, December 15, 2011
"The bridegroom is arising." And so it seems that the following is wonderfully appropriate for Advent:
“It is not for the concept, but for the experience, that we use the term the Beloved. The experience of this enormity we falteringly label divine is unconditioned love. Absolute openness, unbounded mercy and compassion. We use this concept, not to name the unnameable vastness of being-- our greatest joy-- but to acknowledge and claim as our birthright the wonders and healings within.”
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Lindy Black offers the following for Advent on her Sermon Nuggets page:
Rabbi Hugo Grynn was sent to Auschwitz as a little boy. In the midst of the concentration camp, the death and horror many Jews held onto what ever shreds of their religious observance they could. One cold winter's night Hugo's father gathered the family in the barracks. It was the first night of Chanukah...the feast of Lights. The young child watched in horror as his father took the family's last pd of butter and made a makeshift candle using a string from his ragged clothes. He then took a match and lit the "candle". "Father , no!" Hugo cried. "That butter is our last bit of food! How shall we live?"
"We can live for many days without food! We cannot live for single minute without hope. This is the fire of hope. Never let it go out. Not here. Not anywhere."
Monday, December 5, 2011
Here's another problem with the so-called "prosperity gospel". If we only believe that God is made known in the things we want and prefer, we miss an experience of God's precense in the things that are difficult:
We can't love what we won't experience.... God enters the world through those of us who are willing to let God participate fully in our lives, in our suffering as well as our celebrations.
-- Nancy Mairs
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Advent is a time of being deeply shaken, so that man will wake up to himself. The prerequisite for a fulfilled Advent is a renunciation of the arrogant gestures and tempting dreams with which, and in which, man is always deceiving himself.... The shaking, the awakening: with these, life merely begins to become capable of Advent. It is precisely in the severity of this awakening, in the helplessness of coming to consciousness, in the wretchedness of experiencing our limitations that the golden threads running between Heaven and earth during this season reach us; the threads that give the world a hint of the abundance to which it is called, the abundance of which it is capable.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
I certainly agree with this:
Perhaps this is part of what St. Paul meant by "the peace that passes understanding".
"PEACE. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all of those things and still be calm in your heart."
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Image from Wikimedia Commons
“Theologians in all the great faiths have devised all kinds of myths to show that this type of kenosis, of self-emptying, is found in the life of God itself. They do not do this because it sounds edifying, but because this is the way that human nature seems to work. We are most creative and sense other possibilities that transcend our ordinary experience when we leave ourselves behind.”
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Image from Wikimedia commons
“If contemporary Christians took seriously the possibility that those outside the boundaries of the church might hold the promise of renewal, if we ceased regarding ourselves as the source of salvation and the secular world as a potential threat, and if we emulated Jesus' example in accepting the faith and the courage of those who live beyond conventional standards of purity, well, I can hardly imagine how things would look.”
-- Greg Carey
Sunday, November 6, 2011
In Palestine, young couples wouldn't go away for a week-long honeymoon, instead, they would stay at their home and would have a sort of "open house" for their friends. Everyone treated the couple as royalty, the week following their wedding ceremony was undoubtedly the best week of their lives. Before the wedding, the maidens kept the bride company outside of the groom's house as she waited for him to arrive. They'd bring lamps to use while they waited because they were not allowed in the streets at night without light. Because the groom could come at any time, even at night, they had to stay and wait. No one knew exactly when he'd arrive. They didn't print invitations and invite people to come at a precise time for the wedding, it happened whenever the bridegroom came. It could be today, it could be tomorrow or it could be next week. When the bridegroom approached, a messenger would go out into the streets and declare, "Behold, the bridegroom is coming" then the maidens would accompany the bride into the house for the wedding ceremony and the week-long celebration to follow. (Barclay 354) There was a small window of opportunity to walk through the door into the house. Once the wedding began, no one else was admitted. In other words, it wasn't possible to be too early, but it was possible to be too late, you couldn't just walk in and find a seat in the back, when the door was shut, it was shut and it wouldn't be opened again. So when Jesus told this parable, His listeners had a cultural point of reference that made it come alive to them. They immediately got his point about the importance of preparation.
Back in the days when only young men prepared for pastoral ministry, a certain Dr. Eislen, president of Garrett Seminary, preached on this parable in chapel. When he reached the climax of his message, he yelled at his seminarians, "Young men, tell me, would you rather be in the light with the wise virgins, or out in the dark with the foolish virgins?" Such laughter arose that chapel was dismissed early that day!
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Sometimes the saint is loved not simply for his closeness to God but for his patent humanity. The saint has a temper, flies off the handle, loses his or her cool in pursuit of a great ideal. St. Jerome, the first translator of the Bible into Latin, was famously irascible, once writing that one of his detractors "walked like a tortoise." To take another example, St. Peter is beloved not only because he was a great apostle, but for his many flaws: denying Jesus three times before the crucifixion, among them. Holiness makes its home in humanity. That insight says, “They’re not perfect. Maybe I could aspire to this level of achievement.”-- James Martin
Sunday, October 30, 2011
The great lesson from the true mystics . . . is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's back yard.— Abraham H. Maslow in Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Sometimes letting go of a spiritual practice can be as important as adding a new one. Sometimes reshaping one to account for a new set of circumstances is needed. Sometimes there is a hole in our spiritual practice that must be filled, and we can tell it because we are beginning to run on empty.
No one knows those things unless they have a rule, formal or informal, and unless they stop to look at it from time to time and make note of what is to be found there.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Amma Syncletica said, "There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town; they are wasting their time. It is possible to be a solitary in one's mind while living in a crowd; and it is possible for those who are solitaries to live in the crowd of their own thoughts."
Friday, October 21, 2011
The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God's presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God's hand at work in our whole experience.
The method presented here is adapted from a technique described by Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius thought that the Examen was a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible. One of the few rules of prayer that Ignatius made for the Jesuit order was the requirement that Jesuits practice the Examen twice daily-at noon and at the end of the day. It's a habit that Jesuits, and many other Christians, practice to this day.
This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced.
1. Become aware of God's presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
“...Our challenge as Christians is not to try to covert people around us to our way of belief but to love them, to be ourselves living incarnations of what we believe, to live what we believe and to love what we believe.”
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Image from Wikimedia Commons
“From time to time, to remind ourselves to relax and be peaceful, we may wish to set aside some time for a retreat, a day of mindfulness, when we can walk slowly, smile, drink tea with a friend, enjoy being together as if we are the happiest people on Earth.”It's by the marvelous Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. But now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives. It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter. And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving it to Christ.
Monday, October 10, 2011
The primary joy of life is acceptance, approval, the sense of appreciation and companionship of our human comrades. Many people do not understand that the need for fellowship is really as deep as the need for food, and so they go throughout life accepting many substitutes for genuine, warm, simple relatedness....There comes a time in the development of every ego when it must love its neighbors or become a twisted and stunted personality. The normal mature man and woman has with him a surplus "urge to give."...Man's restless yearning to give something of himself, whether it be a physical child or a spiritual child - the child of his mind - a bridge, a poem, a song, an invention, a cure of disease - is the true answer to all cynics and pessimists who maintain that man is total selfishness.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
~~~What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
...If God gives you a watch, are you honoring Him more by asking Him what time it is or by simply consulting the watch?
Friday, September 30, 2011
Every single one of us has a good work to do in life. This good work not only accomplishes something needed in the world, but completes something in us. When it is finished, a new work emerges that will help make green a desert place as well as scale another mountain inside ourselves.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy. Let your Holy Angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace and let your blessing be upon us always. Amen.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Here is a mystery: If sweeping through the door of my heart there moves continually a genuine love for you, it by-passes all your hate and all your indifference and gets through to you at your center. You are powerless to do anything about it. You may keep alive in devious ways the fires of your bitter heart, but they cannot get through to me. Underneath the surface of all the tension, something else is at work. It is utterly impossible for you to keep another from loving you.~~~
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Do you love someone only to find yourself trying to change that person? Take a look at this observation:
It is very hard to be the one who is twisted to conform to another's image. And there is nothing more wonderful than to be loved for oneself. Looking for our own reflection in another, however, can stem from an unhealthy degree of narcissism.
The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Image from Wikimedia Commons
One of my heroes said this. I refer, of course, to Oscar Romero:
A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone's skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed - what gospel is that? Very nice, pious considerations that don't bother anyone, that's the way many would like preaching to be. Those preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed, so as not to have conflicts and difficulties, do not light up the world they live in.~~~
Monday, September 19, 2011
Adherents of different faith traditions can come together with great success through meditation. The mind works the way the mind works. This is true for all of us regardless of our belief system.
I believe in the fundamental truth of all great religions of the world. I believe that they are all God-given and I believe that they were necessary for the people to whom these religions were revealed. And I believe that if only we could all of us read the scriptures of the different faiths from the standpoints of the followers of these faiths, we should find that they were at bottom all one and were all helpful to one another.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Religion is not to be defended by putting to death, but by dying. Not by cruelty, but by patient endurance. Not by guilt, but by good faith. For the former belongs to evil, the latter to the good... For if you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, tortures, and guilt, it will no longer be defended. Rather, it will be polluted and profaned. For nothing is so much a matter of free will as religion. If the mind of the worshiper is disinclined to it, religion is at once taken away and ceases to exist...
We (Christians), on the contrary, do not require that anyone should be compelled to worship our God, whether he is willing or unwilling.
Nor do we become angry if anyone does not worship Him. We trust in the majesty of Him who has the power to avenge contempt shown towards Him.
We leave vengeance to God. We do not act as those persons who would have it appear that they are defenders of their gods, who rage without restraint against those who do not worship them.
-- Lactantius (about 260 -340 C.E.)
Friday, September 9, 2011
Image from Wikimedia Commons
It is the suffering already present in the world which we can either ignore or identify with. If pain were not real, if it were not the lot of so many, the way of the cross would be pathological. But in our world with its hungry and homeless and hopeless, it is pathological to live as if pain did not exist. The way of the cross means letting pain carve one's life into a channel through which the healing stream of the spirit can flow to a world in need.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
"Jesus truly was dangerous. He was creating a following with a kind of thinking that was much more on the side of inclusiveness than exclusiveness.... Jesus is always moving the boundaries out while still respecting the center. That's the key to wisdom: being grounded in the center and still, from that deep foundation, knowing how to move out."
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Today's society - in the United States at any rate - is very caught up with the idea of personal and individual worthiness. Many of us believe that we shouldn't assist anyone who isn't worthy of being assisted according to our own understanding of what that means. Such an approach is not, however, the Christian way:
"Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can."
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Many, many years ago (I was a teenager, probably) I learned from the writings of Rainer Maria Rilke to love questions more than answers. Here is one of his poems:
I am, you anxious one.
Don’t you sense me, ready to break into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?
I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am that wanting.
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold your cities made by time.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
I've always been bothered by what has seemed to me to be an almost supersitious need to tack on "in Christ's name" at the end of prayers as if were some sort of incantation. It is eroneous to believe that we are required to do this as Christians so that in an interfaith setting we feel we must impose certain language on non-Christians. The following expresses my views on this subject wonderfully:
Many people have a very strangely childish notion, that "praying in the name of Christ" means simply the addition of the words "through Jesus Christ our Lord" at the end of their prayers. But depend upon it, they do not by adding these words, or any words, bring it about that their prayers should be in the name of Christ. To pray in the name of Christ means to pray in such a way as represents Christ. The representative always must speak in the spirit and meaning of those for whom he speaks. If Christ is our representative, that must be because He speaks our wishes, or what we ought to make our wishes; and if we are to pray in the name of Christ, that means that we are, however far off, expressing His wishes and intentions.
-- Charles Gore
Friday, September 2, 2011
Literalism gets its name from its insistence that what we find in the Bible is not just the Word of God but the very words of God. The distinction is of tremendous importance. The phrase "Word of God" as used in the Bible itself, notably in the opening sentences of the Fourth Gospel, is an English translation of a Greek word, Logos, which was in wide use among philosophers at the time the New Testament was written. It connotes the creative, outgoing, self-revealing activity of God. The Logos was not a particular divine utterance, but God's overall message to mankind. It was not necessarily communicated verbally in speech or writing. Indeed, the whole point of Christianity is that the supreme communication of the Word took place when it was expressed through a human life and personality in Jesus Christ.
"Yet another interpretation equates Om with the Greek, “logos,” “the word”, found at the beginning of St John’s gospel."
Sunday, August 28, 2011
“Precarious” comes from the same Latin root as the word “prayer.” Here prayer does not mean pleading with a distant deity who may or may not pay attention. It may not even be a request at all. Prayer in this sense means rather that we reconnect with the very Source from which we come. We open the eyes of our heart to the inner light abiding in everything. We feel connected to this Source – through a hovering hummingbird, a toddler’s giggle, the aroma of fresh-baked bread – yet in a flicker, the connection seems gone and we are plunged into grief. This teaches us to let go, courageously, again and again. None of us would have the heart for this task if we did not begin to see that the light has a steady presence in spite of appearances. With joy we realize that the radiance we glimpse flows steadily and illumines all creation in an everlasting glow.This is from a marvelous essay called Grief/Joy on the Gratefulness.org site.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Ah! Just let yourself be cradled by this soothing and gorgeous music.
Rejoice O Virgin, Theotokos [God-bearer],~~~
Mary full of grace, the Lord is with You.
Blessed are You among women,
and blessed is the Fruit of Your womb,
for You have borne the Savior of our souls.
Friday, August 26, 2011
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.It is, of course, by Thomas Merton from his wonderful book, Thoughts in Solitude.
An editorial review on Amazon says this about the book:
What has made this book such an enduring and popular work is that it recognizes how important solitude is to our morality, integrity, and ability to love. One does not have to be a monk to find solitude, notes Merton; solitude can be found in the act of contemplation and silent reflection in everyday life. Also, this is not a pious book that assumes that a relationship with the divine can be obtained only by denying our humanity and striving for saintliness. Instead, Merton asserts that connection with God can most easily be made through "respect for temperament, character, and emotion and for everything that makes us human."Sadly, a lot of common approaches to Christian formation do suggest that we need to deny our humanity in order to please God. Of course, paradoxically, that has the effect of making us more self-conscious rather than less. Making friends with ourselves is an important first step on the spiritual path. Think about it. Why would we give a self that we hate as an offering to God? I actually like that old T-shirt that says, "God doesn't make junk". So do remember this wonderful saying of Irenaeus: "The glory of God is the human being fully alive!"
Thursday, August 25, 2011
This is a repeat from a while back. But I think it is actually quite timely given the political and religious climate of today. And so I offer it again.
It has grieved me for some time now that the fundamentalist expression of Christianity has held sway in the public imagination and has conditioned many people in our society to believe that Christianity is all about condemning others and controlling its own. And so I really loved this quotation when I stumbled upon it - particularly the last sentence:
There are a number of Hebrew words about salvation which also mean "to bring into a spacious environment", "to be at one's ease", "to be free to develop". "Salvation" can be seen then as the new life in Christ, in which we are to be "free to develop" into Christ-like people. For this maturing to take place, there needs to be a breaking down of barriers, a breaking up of the soil of our personalities, and a healing of inner wounds and hurts. The soil is softened, the clay becomes malleable through the experience of the tender love of God and the accepting, non-judgmental love of Christians. We cannot be beaten into shape.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask - half our great theological and metaphysical problems - are like that.Therefore, I would assert that it behooves us not to become too attached to our theological constructs. From our limited viewpoint, we can't really know if they actually make any sense or not.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Teaching about Christ begins in silence.... In so far as the Church proclaims the Word, it falls down silently in truth before the inexpressible: 'In silence I worship the unutterable' (Cyril of Alexandria). The spoken Word is the inexpressible; this unutterable is the Word.... Although it is cried out by the Church in the world, it remains the inexpressible. To speak of Christ means to keep silent; to keep silent about Christ means to speak. When the Church speaks rightly out of a proper silence, then Christ is proclaimed.