POETRY: Luke 14, A Commentary by Kathleen Norris

October 18, 2017

So he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11) He is there like Clouseau [...]

JESUS: Jesus Wept, The Longest Verse In The Bible, by André Resner

February 2, 2017

(Meditation, Reflection, and Proclamation on John 11:35) From Living In-Between Lazarus came forth.  But what about the next day?  Did he no longer have that lower back pain after his resurrection?  He came forth to die yet again.  And there was no Jesus around to raise him the second time.  Mary and Martha had to go to their brother’s funeral twice, unless he was raised only to grieve at their funerals first. What do you say at someone’s second funeral? The heart yearns.  It yearns in the gap between the gnawing ache of our experience in the world and the dream of the promise.  The brokenness is sometimes all that we can see and feel. I wish I could fix these glasses.  My fourteen-year old son bought them.  He spent [...]

POETRY: Crivelli’s Pietà Angel by Katherine Soniat

July 20, 2016

In life it was just another spring plunging with trees and noon-dark weather. Things went on from there, betrayal aside. But this angel’s sopped eyes are beyond consolation, stopped with a brokenness the living feel about the dead. And Crivelli must have known it, with each gray, each plum daub to the sockets. Somewhere this angel must have a furious double, red eyes rolling from so much wandering and confusion in the desert before they settled into a sadness like winter— all there is. Long ago I watched birds arc back and forth over iron tracks outside a city, and departing that life, I could not see my hesitation as natural the jerking toward change and death the charm of all that is natural. This angel [...]

REFLECTION: Yea, Though We Walk Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

September 22, 2015

The world around us is changing.  The dark forest that is war grows taller and denser.  The light of God is increasingly being blocked out. We invite it more and more into our lives through our insistence on remaining ignorant to what is happening around us. Four million refugees from Syria alone seek asylum somewhere else in the world.  Anywhere else in the world.  And countries compete to turn their face away from them. Let the ocean swallow them up, the world seems to say.  Like our other trash. Some people wait hungrily for ISIS to release another film of executing people.  They yell when their pleasure is delayed.  Free snuff films.  And legal to watch.  Some of the best pornography out there. That’s where we are in the [...]

EXPOSITION: The Lord Is Signified By Bread, by Gregory the Great

May 7, 2015

From The Books Of The Morals As if he were to say in so many words; A mind under affliction believes that everything which used easily to satisfy, and give it pleasure, is turned into bitterness. For by bread is understood in Holy Scripture sometimes the Lord himself, sometimes spiritual grace, sometimes the instruction of divine teaching, sometimes the preaching of heretics, sometimes sustenance for this present life, sometimes the agreeableness of worldly pleasure. The Lord is signified by bread, as he himself says in the Gospel, I am the living bread, who came down from Heaven. (John 6:51) Again, by bread is understood the grace of spiritual gifts, as is said by the Prophet, who stoppeth his ears, that he should not hear of blood, and [...]

JESUS: I Am The Bread That Came Down From Heaven, by Ronald P. Byars

May 5, 2015

From The Sacraments in Biblical Perspective I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.  My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. (John 6:51, 55) John’s Gospel records that the crowds whom Jesus has fed continue to pursue him even after he has left the scene.  Jesus teaches them after the miracle, after the fashion of meal-symposium, rather than before the meal, as in Mark.  He proceeds to make a sharp distinction between ordinary food, such as they have received at his hands, and a different sort of food.  He exhorts them to work for the latter, “the food that endures for eternal life, which [...]

SERMON: The Paraclete, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

August 3, 2014

But now I go away to Him who sent me, and none of you asks me, “Where are you going?”  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you. And when he has come, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in me; of righteousness, because I go to my father and you see me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you [...]

SERMON: Transformed Nonconformist, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

July 13, 2014

Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2) “Do not conform” is difficult advice in a generation when crowd pressures have unconsciously conditioned our minds and feet to move to the rhythmic drumbeat of the status quo.  Many voices and forces urge us to choose the path of least resistance, and bid us never to fight for an unpopular cause and never to be found in a pathetic minority of two or three. Even certain of our intellectual disciplines persuade us of the need to conform.  Some philosophical sociologists suggest that morality is merely group consensus and that the folkways are the right ways.  Some psychologists say that mental and emotional adjustment is the [...]

THE CHURCH: The Church As Prodigal

February 11, 2014

The Parable of the Lost Son Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.  Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Light Of The World by Evelyn Underhill

December 18, 2012

Now burn, new born to the world, Doubled-natured name, The Heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame, Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne! Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came; Kind, but royally reclaiming his own; A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fire hard-hurled. (Gerard Manley Hopkins) When we come to the first window at the east end of the aisle, the morning light comes through it.  It is the window of the Incarnation.  It brings us at once to the mingled homeliness and mystery of the Christian revelation and of our own little lives.  It is full of family pictures and ideas — the birth of Christ, the shepherds and the magi, the little boy of [...]

ADVENT FIRE: December 11

December 11, 2012

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  Permeated Through and Through A person who has established the virtues in himself and is entirely permeated with them no longer remembers the law or commandments or punishment.  Rather, he says and does what excellent habit suggests. What the World Cried Out It was said about Abba Macarius the Great that one time when he was working the harvest with the brothers, a wolf opened its mouth and let out a great cry, its eyes staring up to Heaven to the Lord.  The saint stopped and smiled with tears in his eyes. When the brothers saw him, they were amazed.  They threw themselves down at his feet, beseeching him, “We beseech you, our father, tell us why you were [...]

ADVENT FIRE: December 8

December 8, 2012

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  Let the Shade Suffice Abba Evagrius said, “I paid a visit to Abba Macarius at the hottest time of the day.  I was burning with thirst and said to him, ‘I am very thirsty, my father.’ “He said to me, ‘Let the shade suffice.  There are numbers of people on the road right now who are burning who have no shade.’” A Mother Gives Her Child a Sweet A brother asked Abba Macarius, “My father, guide me concerning what is sweet and what is salty.” (James 3:11) Abba Macarius said to him, “They say that if the mother of a small child places the child on the ground, she puts some kind of sweet in his hand for him to lick so he won’t vex his mother.  The [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Concerning The Light by Isaac Pennington

December 3, 2012

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. (John 1:4-5) What is the darkness which comprehendeth not the light?  Is it not man in the unregenerate state?  “Ye were darkness,” saith the apostle, speaking concerning them as they had been in that state. Now it pleaseth the Lord, that in this darkness his pure light should shine, to gather man out of the darkness.  For unless light should shine on man in his dark state, he could never be gathered out of it; but he that is turned to the light, and followeth it, cannot abide in the darkness; but cometh into that which gathereth and preserveth the mind out of it. But of what nature is this light, which [...]

ADVENT FIRE: December 1

December 1, 2012

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  Wait a Second There A brother received the monastic habit.  He immediately withdrew to be by himself, saying, “I am an anchorite.”  The old men heard about it so they went to drive him out of his cell.  They made him go around to the cells of the brothers, repenting and saying, “Forgive me, I am not an anchorite but rather a sinner and a novice.” Glorifying God in the Desert One day, then, as Abba Bishoy sat in his cave with a divine hymn on his lips, the Savior appeared to him, saying, “Peace be with you, my beloved servant Bishoy.” Bishoy got up, filled with fear and trembling. (1 Corinthians 2:3, 2 Corinthians 7:15)  “Christ, my compassionate [...]

SERMON: The Wheat and the Tares, by Reinhold Niebuhr

November 25, 2012

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 growth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and growth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. 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 [...]

POETRY: The Victory, by Thomas Merton

November 23, 2012

Sing your new song in the winepress where these bloody pence Weep from the skin of our Gethsemani, Knowing that we must die to break the seed our prison And spring like wheat from the wet earth Of who knows what arena: Sing when the grinding locks Break up our little cages, Casting our exultation in those mills of teeth To praise God with the great Ignatius Martyr. Smile in the white eyes of the angry mist For we have heard the thunder of the thousand harpers Outside a blinded window, There on the silent cobblestones, Ring from the hobnails of a firing-squad Hard by the russet, russet wall. Shall we not love You, Christ, Best in a shuttered house, Although the silver windows sweat with dread? Shall we not praise You, Savior, Now at the [...]

MYSTICISM: Gazing On Jesus Unseen

November 13, 2012

In the church I am attending these days there are the most beautiful, Tiffany-made stained-glass windows all around the nave.  Above the altar is a triptych.  In the center stands Jesus.  His delicate feet are bare and pointed at us as though we could just reach up and touch them.  His arms are raised.  Are they saying, come to me?  Or are they telling us to praise God?  Or are they just telling us how happy he is to see us? The brilliant white and bright colors of his garments wrap around us as much as they do him. His head, his precious, delicate head, is tilted ever so slightly.  Is he thinking?  Or, again, happy to see us?  Or is he tired and wanting to rest? In the early morning service, the light from outside blasts [...]

SERMON: Of Submission To The Divine Will by Isaac Barrow

November 11, 2012

Nevertheless let not my will, but thine be done. (Luke 22:42) The great controversy, managed with such earnestness and obstinacy between God and Man, is this, whose will shall take place, his or ours: Almighty God, by whose constant protection and great mercy we subsist, doth claim to himself the authority of regulating our practice, and disposing our fortunes; but we affect to be our own masters and carvers; not willingly admitting any law, not patiently brooking any condition, which doth not sort with our fancy and pleasure.  To make good his right, God binds all his forces, and applies all proper means both of sweetness and severity (persuading us by arguments, soliciting us by entreaties, alluring us by fair promises, scaring us by [...]

PRAYER: Prayers For Spiritual Needs

November 5, 2012

From Treasury of Novenas To Love God Above All God, my Father, may I love you in all things and above all things. May I reach the joy you have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against your will, and all is good that comes from your hand. Place in my heart a desire to please you and fill my mind with thoughts of your love, and enjoy your peace. Amen. To Know the Way to Peace Father of Heaven and Earth, hear my prayer, and show me the way to peace. Guide each effort of my life, so that my faults and my sins may not keep me from the peace you promised. May the new life of grace you give me through the Eucharist and prayer make my love for you grow and keep me in the joy of your kingdom. Amen. To Live in God’s [...]

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Elements In Heaven’s Battle

November 2, 2012

Silence One of the strongest weapons that we carry with us in the face of chaos and evil is our ability to not respond.  Outwardly, anyway.  In my training for spiritual warfare, though I’m not quite clear how I was to distinguish the training from the actual warfare, it was made quite clear that what our enemy seeks is signs of our weakness.  It is their glory, in fact. Ah, he says, you cry out in pain!  You suffer because I caused you to suffer. Silence is our heroic stance of refusing to admit what is happening inside us.  It is the expression of ultimate courage to not let the enemy hear the sound of our anguish. The Dance In the midst of my training, I was taught this lesson: Question: How do you dance with the Great Bear [...]

PRAYER: The Spirit Prays For Us by D. W. Cleverley Ford

October 29, 2012

In the same way the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. We do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God’s people in God’s own way.  (Romans 8:26-27) Out of the many stories about the late Archbishop Ramsey I like this one.  Someone asked him how long he spent in prayer each morning.  “About one minute,” he replied.  And then noting the shock from the Archbishop confessing that he only spent so short a time in prayer, he added, “but it takes me twenty-nine minutes to get there.” 1.  God’s presence What lies behind this is an understanding of prayer very [...]

SERMON: Christ In Our Life, by Albert Schweitzer

October 28, 2012

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  Amen.  (Matthew 28:20) This promise is like the sunrise.  It is as though we were standing on a high mountain and saw the farthest peaks and valleys lighted by a ray of the morning sun.  I am with you unto the close of the age.  This was the last word the Risen One spoke to his disciples.  For some of us it might lose part of its beauty because we find it hard to believe that Jesus spoke in human terms to his disciples after his life on Earth had come to an end.  But, I believe, what really matters is the eternal truth enshrined in these words.  The outward form in which the Risen Lord addressed his [...]

POETRY: Evelyn Underhill (Five Poems)

October 24, 2012

Immanence I come in the little things, Saith the Lord: Not borne on morning wings Of majesty, but I have set my feet Amidst the delicate and bladed wheat That springs triumphant in the furrowed sod. There do I dwell in weakness and in power; Not broken or divided, saith our God! Is your strait garden plot I come to flower: About your porch my vine Meek, fruitful, doth entwine; Waits, at the threshold, Love’s appointed hour. I come in the little things, Saith the Lord: Yes! on the glancing wings Of eager birds, the softly pattering feet Of furred and gentle beasts, I come to meet Your hard and wayward heart. In brown bright eyes That peep from out the brake, I stand confessed. On every nest Where feathery patience is content to brood And [...]

SATURDAY READING: Revelation, by Flannery O’Connor

October 20, 2012

(Caution: this story is lengthy, and contains some offensive language.) This story gave Flannery O’Connor great pleasure.  She wrote of the two central characters, “I like Mrs. Turpin as well as Mary Grace.  You got to be a very big woman to shout at the Lord across a hogpen.  She’s a country female Jacob.  And that vision [at the end] is purgatorial.”  —Robert Ellsberg, Flannery O’Connor: Spiritual Writings The doctor’s waiting room, which was very small, was almost full when the Turpins entered and Mrs. Turpin, who was very large, made it look even smaller by her presence.  She stood looming at the head of the magazine table set in the center of it, a living demonstration that the room was inadequate and [...]

A REFLECTION: Vulnerability, The Church, And The World

October 9, 2012

I have been hit, literally struck, lately by appeals to view certain segments of our population as most vulnerable. The appeals I’ve most noted in recent days have been made from the pulpit. When I was hungry, you fed me. And yet it does not take a trained ear to be able to hear these appeals echoing not only in our own land, but around the world. In fact, the more I listen to these appeals, the more I see how the appeals themselves are bringing our churches, our nation, and the world to a kind of a standstill. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. To me, the honor of the term, most vulnerable, should be carefully preserved and applied only to those who have suffered to that degree that is beyond normal expression. [...]

POETRY: Lord, Make Me Laugh!, by Michael Quoist

September 19, 2012

I don’t know why, Lord, but when I was praying this morning I suddenly realized that I never imagined you laughing, laughing a really resounding laugh, echoing in waves, one after another, towards others who welcome it, enriched by the joy it offers. I imagine you, calm and peaceful, and occasionally smiling quietly, but above all serious, and sometimes weeping. In fact, Lord, I’m glad to know that you knew how to cry! But your evangelists thought it better not to tell us that one day, in one circumstance or another, you laughed out loud. And I’m sorry they didn’t tell us. I also see you, Lord, handsome, luminous, transfigured by prayer, or your eyes shining with anger, chastising moral and religious hypocrites. I see you [...]

JESUS: On His Baptism, with thanks to Evelyn Underhill

May 8, 2012

The other day I was listening to a priest talk on the subject of Eucharistic adoration, when all of a sudden he takes a sharp turn in his talk and starts in on baptism.  As a quick aside he goes, oh, and Jesus, he didn’t need to be baptized. It’s moments like this one that stay with me for years and years, that start the fingers of my mind searching my “files,” stroking the words of scripture, attempting to touch the reality that was the life of Jesus in a way that keeps him both man and God. After walking around harrumphing now and again and becoming increasingly distracted by the thought of Jesus’s  unnecessary baptism, I began to poke around the wonderful world of the internet. Immediately what came [...]

JESUS: On Swine, and the chasm between God and man

April 19, 2012

Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.   And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.  And forthwith Jesus gave them leave.  And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. (Mark 5:11-13) And so Jesus healed a man so disturbed in his mind that he spent his days cutting himself up with sharp rocks. But there was a price to pay: the demons demanded some place to go when they left the man.  They asked for, and received, a herd of pigs into which they could go and continue to wreak their havoc. I can just see God and [...]

JESUS: Why Do You Call Me Good? A distinction in the quality of goodness

March 1, 2012

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” When I took official, graduate-level courses in scripture I unfortunately had brought with me my official, undergraduate and graduate-level training as an English major.  Which is to say, I looked at the Bible as words on a page.  Inspired words, to be sure, but words nonetheless. My Roman Catholic Old Testament teacher was a hoot.  Literally.  I thought when I handed in a paper on how the women in Genesis were really antiheroes (not enemies) and that they all shared certain qualities (standing up to God, for one thing), I thought he would whack me about the head and shoulders.  Instead, he suggested that I show it to someone in [...]

WOMEN’S ORDINATION: Women are the Same as Men, they say (part one)

February 7, 2012

The topic of women in the church is floating around a lot these days.  Specifically, the topic of women as priests or ministers in the church.  In England, the Anglican Church is meeting to decide on whether or not to make women bishops.  They are already priests, but, for some reason, not bishops.  To those priests who do not believe in the priesthood of women, giving these same women oversight over “non-believing” priests would be onerous. As it has been in America in The Episcopal Church. So, somewhat reluctantly, I take up the standard of the Orthodox Anglicans and enter the fray. On equality and prejudice I went to India in a somewhat loosely held together group of people from around the world.  One of the members was [...]