Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday (2) Prayer of St. Ephriam

In the Western Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and occurs forty days before Easter (excluding Sundays). It falls on a different date each year, because it is dependent on the date of Easter; it can occur as early as February 4 or as late as March 10.

On this day ashes are placed on the foreheads of the faithful to remind them of Christ's sacrafice, of the sorrow they should feel for their sins, and of the necessity of changing their lives. The practice, which dates from the early Middle Ages, is common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Episcopalians, and many Lutherans; it was also adopted by some Methodists and Presbyterians in the 1990s.

St. Ephraim the Syrian (AD 305-373)

O Lord and Master of my life,

give me not the spirit of laziness,despair,

lust of power, and idle talk. (prostration)

But give rather the spirit of sobriety,humility,

patience and love to Thy servant. (prostration)

Yea, O Lord and King,

grant me to see my own transgressionsand

not to judge my brother,

for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages.

Amen (prostration)

Scriptures for reflection for ash wednesday this year
Joel 2:1-2,12-17

Isaiah 58:1-122

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

Psalm 103 or 103:8-14

see Living water ancient well ash wednesday (1)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Praying and Singing the Psalms (part 2)

Like all good poetry, the psalms reflect a variety of moods. Some are affectionate and comforting. For example the well-loved Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Others reflect a desolate and broken heart: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Psalm 22). Still others are jubilant: "Cry out with joy to the Lord, Cry out all the world!" (Psalm 66). And then there are the infamous "cursing psalms,".

The psalms are not prose prayers, but poems of praise. They can be recited as readings but the one thing that all the psalms have in common is that they are songs. Psalms are properly called Tehillim ("songs of praise") in Hebrew and psalm-oi ("songs to be sung to the lyre") in Greek.

Many of these songs were originally intended for use in a group, for example during a festival or worship in a synagouge. Others are more introspective and more readily lend themselves to private reflection.

In fact, the psalms have a musical quality that determines their correct style of delivery. Even when a psalm is recited and not sung or is said silently in private, its musical character can still direct its application. A psalm does present a text to the mind, but its objective is to move the heart of those saying, singing, accompanying(on lyre and harp, piano or guitar) or listening to it .

In Christian monastic tradition, integrating the singing of psalms into regular intervals throughout the day--a practice known as the "Divine Office"(Opus Dei)--furnishes the basic rhythm of the monastic day and the grounding for both daily work and contemplative prayer.

To sing the psalms then, is a way to meditate on them verse by verse. The one who inspired the psalmist is still active in the psalms. For this reason the singing of psalms with open hearts is a prime way to engage the living presence of God.

complied from multiple sources

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Notes from a prayer Journal

entries from praying John Hyde's Prayer journals

written one year after his arrival in india
Yesterday eight low-caste persons were baptized at one of the villages. It seems a work of God in which man, even as an instrument, was used in a very small degree. Pray for us. I learn to speak the language very, very slowly: can only talk a little in public or in conversation.”


Have felt led to pray for others this winter as never before. I never before knew what it was to work all day and then pray all night before God for another… In college or at parties at home, I used to keep such hours for myself, or pleasure, and can I not do as much for God and souls?”

written days before his death

On the day of prayer, God gave me a new experience. I seemed to be away above our conflict here in the Punjab and I saw God's great battle in all India, and then away out beyond in China, Japan, and Africa. I saw how we had been thinking in narrow circles of our own countries and in our own denominations, and how God was now rapidly joining force to force and line to line, and all was beginning to be one great struggle. That, to me, means the great triumph of Christ. We must exercise the greatest care to be utterly obedient to Him who sees all the battlefield all the time. It is only He who can put each man in the place where his life can count for the most.

Febuary 17th /08
see living water thumb nail life of a saint on praying John Hyde

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fixed Hour Prayer (part5) Getting Started

Here is some helpful information to help you get started on the wonderful journey of Fixed Hour Prayer also know as the daily office or the Liturgy of the hours.

Fixed hour prayer is a time honured prayer tradition common to the three Abrhamic faiths. In Islam salat,and shacharit in Judaism. In the Christian tradition we find it carried on in the new testament by Christ and his Jewish followers.

For the early desert monastics praying daily at fixed times became central to their life rhythm. This practice has become know as the liturgy of the hours.

When our children were younger we had a family rhythm going where we prayed together with the children in the morning, at lunch and at family time in the evening. This was long before we embraced fixed hour prayer. This rhythm helped me in my personal life. At the time this practice grew out of our families personal schedule due to homeschooling not due to a previous knowledge of the hours. When our family grew up i lost that rhythm and tried a number of things to help facilitate "daily devotions' or quite time. None were particularly successful for me.

It wasn't until we "rediscovered" the importance of rhythm at Celtic retreat that we incorporated the hours into our lives, and rediscovered our natural rhythm again.

Mary and i originally started this form of prayer by keeping the morning office.Then we added the evening. Eventually we included the midday. We eased into this rhythm inside a year. We found it quit natural and easy to adapt to.
We have found personally that through praying the hours we sense a deep connection with the universal christian community and a rootedness to the rich heritage of the Christian faith.

I would suggest you try to incorporate at least two of the times into your daily routine. You can add them as you go. The other option is to jump in with both feet.

There are also some great tools available, one in particular being Phyllis Tickles wonderful series of fixed hour prayer books. A link to her Home page is provided on the left side in helpful links. Mary and I generally use the Northumbrian Communities Book of Worship that contains their version of the hours.
If your so inclined you can get started right away. I have provided a link to the Northumbrian Office on the left hand margin.

For a more in depth explanation of fixed hour prayer see Living Water From an Ancient Well Article Brief History of Praying the Office/ Fixed Hour Prayer

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells also known as the Book of Columba is one of many Gospel manuscripts produced by Celtic monks from the late sixth century to the early ninth century in the monasteries in Scotland, northern England, and Ireland. Written in latin the Book of Kells represents the high point in the production of these artistic manuscripts.
Among other surviving examples of this Biblical style are the Cathach of St. Columba, the Book of Durrow, the Durham Gospels, Lindisfarne Gospels, and the Macregal Gospels.

 The name for the Book of Kells come from the Abbey of Kells in Kells, County Meath in Ireland where it was kept between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries. It remained there when the abbey was dissolved in the twelfth century and turned in to a parish church. In 1654, the book was moved to Dublin for safekeeping. Eventually it was presented to Trinity College Dublin where it still rests. The book has been re-bound a number of times and exists today in four volumes after a re-binding in 1953.

The place, or places, where the Book of Kells was created is not known. Traditionally, it is thought the book was begun in the time of St. Columba in the sixth century. Among the theories of its creation ,it was begun in Scotland, possibly at the Monastery of Iona, and then brought to Kells Abbey when the monks of Iona moved to Kells to escape Viking raids at Iona.

The book contains the complete texts of three of the synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Gospel of John ends with John 17:13. The whereabouts of the missing pages of John a is not known. These may have been lost when the book was stolen in the eleventh century. The text is not marked by chapters. Whether this is because the manuscript was not completed is also not known.

The text of the book written in Insular Script is accompanied by full pages of detailed and ornate celtic artwork, in a varied mix of color. No gold or silver leaf was used. Each page is covered with illustrations, and the opening words of each Gospel are decorated lavishly, often to the extent that the text is almost illegible.
The book was most probably produced for liturgical use and not as an instructional volume.

graphic: page from the Book of Kells

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Praying and Singing the Psalms (part 1)

Praying and sing the psalms

Jesus himself would have been raised to recite and sing the psalms, a tradition that was already a thousand years old when he was born. Jesus often responded to questions about himself and his mission through reference to the psalms, most poignantly in his last words on the cross: in Matthew, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Psalm 22:1); and in Luke, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (Psalm 31:5).

The early Christians, followed this Jewish tradition. By the third century A.D. this practice was firmly in place in the lives of the Desert Fathers and Mothers whose ascetic experiments in the deserts of Syria and Egypt constitute the most powerful and sustained exploration of the path of inner transformation ever to have arisen in Christianity.

The psalms became the hymn book of the desert and laid the ground work for nearly two thousand years of spiritual practice. They were incorporated into monastic life through the daily office. Benedict in the early 6th century explained in his rule how his monks were to daily pray the psalms.
"The psalms are the path you must follow," said St. Romuald, the 11th-century founder of the Camaldolese Benedictine order, "--never leave it."
For centuries followers of Christ have processed their own spiritual journeys through them. When we pray or sing the psalms, we are walking on a well-trod path.

Graphic: A Dead Sea Scroll manuscript containing the Psalms

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Book of Armagh

The Book of Armagh also known as the Canon of Patrick is a 9th-century Irish manuscript written mainly in Latin. It is preserved at the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. The document contains early texts relating to St Patrick and some of the oldest surviving specimens of Old Irish. It also contains a near complete copy of the New Testament.
The text is done in Insular script the type developed in Ireland in the 7th century (Latin: insula, "island"). This script later spread to Continental Europe under the influence of Celtic Christianity. It is associated with Insular art, the most famous examples being illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Kells..
The manuscript was once thought to have belonged to St. Patrick and, at least in part, to be a product of his hand. Research has determined, that the earliest part of the manuscript was the work of a scribe named Ferdomnach of Armagh (died 845 or 846). Ferdomnach wrote the first part of the book in 807 or 808, for Patrick's heir (comarba) Torbach. Two other scribes are known to have assisted him.
The first part contains important early texts relating to St. Patrick. These include two Lives of St. Patrick, one by Muirchu Maccu Machteni and one by Tírechán. Both texts were originally written in the 7th century.
The manuscript also includes significant portions of the New Testament, based on the Vulgate Bible. In addition the has prefaces to Paul's Epistles (most of which are by Pelagius)and the Eusebian Canon Tables ( the system of dividing the four Gospels used between late Antiquity and the Middle Ages). The manuscript also contains St. Jerome's letter to Damasus and closes with the Life of St. Martin of Tours by Sulpicius Severus.
graphic: A page of text from the Book of Armagh.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bridgid in the book of Armagh

The Book of Armagh copied in about 807 states that St Bridget (or Bride) journeyed to Mann to receive ordination at the hands of Bishop McCuill; and that she founded the Nunnery at Douglas. Below is the account:

The renown of his [St Maughold's] sanctity was so great that it was divulged of him as that the famous St Bridget, one of the three patrons of Ireland, left her native country of Ireland, then commonly called the Island of Saints, yet was she not veiled by St. Patrick, although very familiar with him, and made the shroud wherein he died, but it may be by his command that she came into the Island of Man with three virgins more in her company, all which received the white veil of virginity at the hands of the venerable bishop St. Maughold, as her own nephew Cogitosus (who lived in her time and wrote her hfe) has said, and after it seems she would not part from that house wherein so holy a man lived, and he had given her such satisfaction, and builded a monastery there for herself and the three virgins that accompanied her in this Isle of Man. And there lived, died, and was buried, and after was translated into Duno in Ireland, to be put in the same tomb where was buried St. Patrick and St. Columbus [sic]
Graphic: the ornatley designed leather case that contained the book of Armagh

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Brigid (453-524)

Bridget (Brigid, Bride, Bridey, or in Welsh, Ffraid) of Kildare was born around 450 into a Druid family, being the daughter of Dubhthach, court poet to King Loeghaire. At an early age, she decided to become a Christian, and she eventually took vows as a nun.

Together with a group of other women she established a community at Kildare (meaning, Church of the Oak). She was later joined by a group of monks led by Conlaed. Kildare had formerly been a pagan shrine where a sacred fire was kept perpetually burning. Instead of stamping out the fire Bridget and her nuns kept it going but gave it a Christian interpretation*.

Bridget as an abbess participated in several Irish councils, and her influence on the policies of the Church in Ireland was considerable.

Brigid's feast day falls on February 1, the traditional pagan celebration of Imbolc. Brigid's day is sometimes still celebrated in Ireland with the making of crosses, woven basket-like from rushes. The crosses are fastened in the rafters of houses and left there throughout the year.

It is said that Brigid, in her travels around Ireland, used to take a handful of rushes from the floor of the place she was visiting (in those days, rushes were a common floor covering), and weave them together into the shape of a cross. When asked what she was doing, she explained that she was making a cross in honor of the Virgin Mary's son, who died upon a cross of wood. She would then go on to tell how Christ came to save mankind by His death. She apparently converted many celts in this manner.

Although there are few written records of Brigid's life, there are a a great many stories about her:
One story recounts a time Seven Bishops came to visit Bridgid in a place she had in the north of Kildare. Her cook Blathnet informed her there wasn't enough food to serve the visitors. Brigit was was without food to give those holy men, and she prayed to the Lord. Then angels came and bade her to milk the cows for the third time that day. So she milked them herself, and they filled the pails with the milk, and the whole of Leinster. And the milk overflowed the vessels till it made a lake that is called the Lake of Milk to this day.

Another story recounts a time when a leper came to Brigit, asking a cow. And Brigit said "Would you sooner have a cow or be healed of your disease?" "I would sooner be healed" he said "than to have the sway over the whole world. For every sound man is a king" he said. Then Brigit prayed to God; and the leper was healed, and served her afterwards.

Manyof these stories concern her adventures on the road. She travelled extensively, tending to the poor and the sick, sharing the good news, and setting up monastic communities across Ireland. Many cures and other miracles are attributed to her. Like Saint Patrick before her and Mother Teresa after her, she spoke of her charity as something she was doing to serve God in the form of loving his creatures..

Brigid died of natural causes at Kildare around 525 A., and is buried in Downpatrick, Ireland with Saint Patrick and Saint Columba

see the Living water from an ancient well thumbnail bio of Bridgid of kildare

* (This was in keeping with the general process whereby Druidism in Ireland gave way to Christianity with very little opposition, the Druids for the most part saying that their own beliefs were a partial and tentative insight into the nature of God, and that they recognized in Christianity what they had been looking for.)

compiled from a number of sources
the graphic is of a Bridgid's cross