Friday, October 29, 2010

A Sanhain Liturgy

Let's just spend a moment or two in quietness:
Yours is the day, yours also the night; you established the luminaries and the sun. You have fixed all the bounds of the earth; you made summer and winter.
(Psalm 74:16-17)

In the fading of the summer sun,
the shortening of days, cooling breeze,
swallows' flight and moonlight rays


In the browning of leaves once green,
morning mists, autumn chill,
fruit that falls frost's first kiss


Creator God, forgive our moments of ingratitude,
the spiritual blindness that prevents us
from appreciating the wonder that is this world,
the endless cycle of nature,
of life and death and rebirth.
Forgive us for taking without giving
reaping without sowing.
Open our eyes to see
our lips to praise
our hands to share
and may our feet tread lightly on the road.

Listen to the profound words of the French novelist Albert Camus, and just think about them for a moment :

'Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower'

Here a song, chant or hymn might be sung

We see signs of summer's passing in golden leaves,
shortening days, misty mornings, autumn glow.
We sense its passing in rain that dampens,
winds that chill, Harvest's bounty placed on show.
Creator God, who brings forth
both green shoot and hoar frost,
sunrise and sunset,
we bring our thanks
for seeds that have grown,
harvests gathered,
storehouses filled,
mouths fed.
And, as your good earth rests
through winter's cold embrace,
we look forward to its re-awakening
when kissed by Spring's first touch.
For summer's passing
and harvest home


For autumn's splendour
and winter's chill


For seed that has fallen
the promise of spring


As a part of nature's wondrous cycle
Of new birth, growth, fruitfulness and death
We rejoice in the creation of new life,
For parenthood, the passing on of knowledge,
For understanding and the wisdom of years.
We are grateful for those who have gone before
Passing on to us our spiritual heritage.
May our lives blossom as the apple tree in Spring
May we become fruitful in thought and deed
And may the seed of love that falls to the ground
Linger beyond our time on this earth.

St. Francis of Assisi wrote these wise words: 
'Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received…but only what you have given'

The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap... (Psalm 92:12ff)

For fruitfulness

For a generous spirit

For wisdom and faith

For old age and new birth

For those who have gone before us
Seeds planted in your rich pasture
With the hope of life eternal
May their enduring spirit live on
Enriching and empowering our lives
Their love linger
Their presence be near
Until we meet once more.

'The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power' (1 Cor 15:42-43)

For your embracing love
A Father's love
A Mother's love
The love that sees our failings
And forgives us
The love that sees our joys
And embraces us
The love that knows no end
or beginning
A love that could die for us
We bless you.

We bless you, God of Seed and Harvest
And we bless each other
That the beauty of this world
And the love that created it
Might be expressed though our lives
And be a blessing to others
Now and always


thanx to  John Birch at Christian Prayers and Resources
photo: BC

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Celtic Year

The Celtic year was divided into four main parts based on the farming cycle. The Celtic year begins with Samhain. In Ireland the year was divided into two periods of six months by the feasts of Beltane (May 1) and Samhain ( November 1), and each of these periods was equally divided by the feasts of Imbolc (February 1st or 2nd), and Lughnasadh (August 1)

Samhain (pronounced 'sow'inn' and the word for November in some Gaelic languages) which is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. It was also the time of year when the veils between this world and the Other world were believed to be at their thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most readily mingle with the living once again. Later, when the festival was adopted by Christians, they celebrated it as All Hallows' Eve, followed by All Saints Day, though it still retained elements of remembering and honoring the dead (not forgetting the festival of Harvest Thanksgiving which tends to be a movable feast these days)

Imbolc most commonly is celebrated on February 2nd, since this is the cross-quarter day on the solar calendar, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere. Among agrarian peoples, Imbolc has been traditionally associated with the onset of lactation of ewes, soon to give birth to the spring lambs. The Christian Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple celebrating  an early episode in the life of Jesus, and falls on or around February 2nd.

Beltane (the Gaelic names for either the month of May or the festival that takes place on the first day of May) is a festival celebrating the beginning of summer and open pasturing in Ireland and Scotland. There were similar festivals held at the same time in the other Celtic countries of Wales, Brittany and Cornwall. The festival persisted widely up until the 1950s, and in some places the celebration of Beltane continues today. Pilgrimages to holy wells are traditional at this time.

Lughnasadh marked the beginning of the harvest season, the ripening of first fruits, and was traditionally a time of community gatherings, market festivals, horse races and reunions with distant family and friends. On mainland Europe and in Ireland many people continue to celebrate the holiday with bonfires and dancing. The Christian church has established the ritual of blessing the fields on this day and in some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, August 1st is Lammas Day (loaf-mass day), the festival of the first wheat harvest of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Desert Wisdom (8)

In the days of the Desert Fathers, a young monk sought out an elder monk who was known for his great holiness. The elder agreed to teach the young man everything he knew about prayer and the spiritual life.

He took the young man to a river and instructed him to immerse himself. The young man did and immediately the older man pushed the young man’s head under the water and held him down. The young man submitted to this for a short time, but then he became frightened that he was going to drown. He began to struggle against the old monk’s grip, fighting for air.

Finally, when the young man thought his lungs would burst, the old man released him. The young man stood up, gasping for air, looking at the old man in astonishment.

The elder monk looked at him calmly. “What did you experience while you were under the water?”

“I thought I was going to die,” he spluttered.

“Why were you going to die?”

The young man was angry. “Old man,” he spat, “I needed to breathe. I came here to learn the ways of God, and of prayer. And instead you tried to murder me!”

“You wanted that breath of air more than anything else?”

“Of course.”

“When you desire God as much as you desired that breath of air, then you will understand.”

graphic: abba-siseos

Monday, October 18, 2010

George Macdonald: (1823 -1905)

"Diary of an Old Soul"

C. S. Lewis often referred to George MacDonald as his "spiritual master/teacher."

George MacDonald published over fifty volumes of fiction, verse, children's stories, and sermons. His verse is delicate, graceful, and tender in feeling, with a pervading spiritual quality. The Diary of an Old Soul strikes a deeper note of thoughtfulness. His stories for children rank among the classics of juvenile literature.

"Nothing is inexorable but love. For Love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love's kind must be destroyed. And 'our God is a consuming fire.' It is the nature of God so terribly pure that it destroys all that is not pure as fire. He will have purity. It is not that the fire will burn us until we worship thus, if we do not worship God, but that the fire will burn us until we worship thus, but as the highest consciousness of life, the presence of God. In the outer darkness, where the worst sinners dwell, God hath withdrawn himself, but not lost his hold. His face is turned away, but his hand is laid upon him still. His heart has ceased to beat into the man's heart, but he keeps him alive by his fire. And that fire will go searching and burning on in him, as in the highest saint who is not yet pure as he is pure. But at length, O God, wilt thou not cast death and hell into the lake of fire even into thine own consuming self? Death shall then die everlastingly, and hell itself will pass away, and leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day. Then indeed will thou be all in all. For then our poor brothers and sisters, every one,-O God, we trust in thee, the consuming fire, shall have been burnt clean and brought home."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Teresa of Avilia (1515-1582)


Teresa wrote Interior Castle as a spiritual guide to union with God. The inspiration for the work came from a vision she received. In it, there was a crystal globe with seven mansions, God inhabiting  in the innermost mansion. Teresa interpreted this vision as an allegory of the soul's relationship with God. Each mansion represents a step on the path towards the "spiritual marriage",  union--with God reached in the 7th mansion. One begins this journey through prayer and meditation. She also spends much time examining  the resistance that the Devil places in various rooms, keeping the pilgrim from union with God. The  work contains excellent encouragement and advice for spiritual growth. Beyond its spiritual merit, Interior Castle is a fine  literary  work of the Spanish Renaissance. A  deeply challenging book, Interior Castle stands on par with other great works of this time, such as Dark Night of the Soul.

 LW thumbnail life of Theresa of Avilia

picture: old graphic of  Interrior castle

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanks Giving (3)

We Thank Thee 

Lord, behold our family here assembled.
We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell;
for the love that unites us;
for the peace accorded us this day;
for the hope with which we expect the morrow;
for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies,
that make our lives delightful;
and for our friends in all parts of the earth.
Let peace abound in our small company.

Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.
Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere.
Give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders.
Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully
      the forgetfulness of others.
Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind.
Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies.

Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors.
If it may not, give us the strength to encounter
      that which is to come,
that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation,
      temperate in wrath,
and in all changes of fortune, and, down to the gates of death,
      loyal and loving one to another.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cowper's Onley Hymns (2)

Jehovah Our Righteousness

(Jeremiah, xxiii.6)

My God, how perfect are Thy ways!
But mine polluted are;
Sin twines itself about my praise,
And slides into my prayer.

When I would speak what Thou hast done
To save me from my sin,
I cannot make Thy mercies known,
But self-applause creeps in.

Divine desire, that holy flame
Thy grace creates in me;
Alas! impatience is its name,
When it returns to Thee.

This heart, a fountain of vile thoughts.
How does it overflow,
While self upon the surface floats,
Still bubbling from below.

Let others in the gaudy dress
Of fancied merit shine;
The Lord shall be my righteousness,
The Lord forever mine. 

William Cowper

Thursday, October 7, 2010

There's a wideness in God's Mercy

There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.

There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than in heaven;
there is no place where earth's failings
have such kind judgment given.
There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head.

For the love of God is broader
than the measure of man's mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we should take him at his word;
and our life would be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.

 Words: Frederick William Faber, 1862;

Monday, October 4, 2010

Francis of Assisi (316-397)

 Francis and the Celtic Connection

When Fancis of Assisi came on the scene in 1200 he embraced a style of Christianity with an emphasis on creation, care of the poor, the place of women in monastic communities that seemingly came out of nowhere.

In 613 Columbanus a Celtic missionary monk responsible for planting over 50 monastic communites throughout Europe arrives in Milan. The King of Lombardy offers Columbanus a site seventy miles south to establish a community. The location is where the Bobbio stream flows into the Trebbia. Columbanus gladly accepts. In 614 before the winter sets in, a new Irish monastery called Bobbio takes shape in the foothills of the Apennines. It is to be the last of Columbanus' foundations and his final resting place.

When Columbanus died, every branch of knowledge known in his day was represented in the library he established at Bibbio. The school of Bobbio became the intellectual center of northern Italy. His memory was so stamped upon the history of the region that the Roman Church sainted him despite it's opposition while he was alive.

Bibbio is 167 km from Assisi.

The similarities between Francis's vision of monastic life and the values of the Celtic monastics has not been lost on some historians. It is very possible Francis was wittingly or unwittingly influenced by the substantial mark left by Columbanus and his foundation some 600 years earlier in the area.

photo: the tomb of Columbanus in the Basilica of San Columbano in Bibbio

a living wate classic repost

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lectio in monastic settings

Through the practice of Lectio Divina by monastics in group settings, three other steps are sometimes added to the four to the basic four steps:

  • statio (position)

  • lectio (reading)

  • meditatio (meditation)

  • oratio (prayer)

  • contemplatio (contemplation)

  • collatio (discussion)

  • actio (action)

The Steps in Detail

First, we arrange a place so it is restful, warm, and non-distracting. This may involve the lighting of candles, the burning of incense, the shutting of doors and drawing of curtains -- whatever makes one feel calm and at peace. Then we assume a bodily posture that is conducive to prayer and reading. We breathe slowly, focusing on the Holy Name of Jesus and nothing else, until we are relaxed and able to focus our attention solely on Scripture.  If our minds wander, we gently bring our attention back to the holy name of Our Lord, breathing in and out rhythmically. Note that, unlike in Eastern prayer which seeks to empty oneself to be open to some great "Nothing", we are ever mindful of the One Almighty Triune and Transcendent God, and are trying to calm ourselves so that what He might reveal to us through His Word may more easily be perceived.

It is good if the place chosen for Lectio Divina is a comfortable area chosen just for this and other prayerful activities. The presence of relevant icons and other visual aids to meditation can be of great benefit. Now pray a prayer to the Holy Ghost, such as this one:
A Prayer Before the Reading of Any Part of the Holy Scripture

Come Holy Ghost, fill the hearts and minds of the faithful servants, and inflame them with the fire of Thy divine love.

Let us pray: O God, who by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, didst instruct the hearts of thy faithful servants; grant us in the same Spirit, to discern what is right, and enjoy His comfort forever, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth, one God, with Thee and the same Spirit, world without end. Amen.
When we are relaxed and in a contemplative mode, we trace the sign of the cross on the book of Scripture, kiss the Cross we traced, and then open it to read. Some may want to focus on Scripture from that day's Propers. Others may want to read the Bible straight through, starting with Genesis. Others may want to focus only on the New Testament or the Psalms. We aren't trying to "accomplish a goal" of reading X amount; we read what is easily digested at that time. Whichever selection we choose, we read it with our minds, slowly, gently, coming to an understanding of the words themselves.

Having a solid orthodox Catholic commentary (pre-Vatican II commentary with imprimatur or the rare, well-chosen post-Vatican II commentary), a nice Concordance, etc., in order to get a good grasp of the meaning of the actual words -- their historical cultural context, their etymologies, the Fathers' thoughts on the relevant Scripture, etc. -- is imperative. We should always approach Scripture with the mind of the Church, in the spirit of the Ethiopian eunuch who asked Philip to guide him:
Acts 8:30-31
And Philip running thither, heard him reading the prophet Isaias. And he said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest? Who said: And how can I, unless some man shew me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
We should always keep in mind Peter's admonition that "no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20) and that Scripture can be difficult to understand, something "which the unlearned and unstable their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16).

If you come to a verse you don't understand, or that you understand in a way that is contrary to Catholic teaching, seek traditional Catholic commentary on it. Any apparent contradiction between Scripture and Catholic teaching is just that: apparent, and not real. As an example, even a simple verse such as one that refers to Mary's "firstborn" will be misunderstood if one is ignorant of Jewish law, as are many Protestants who believe that reference to a "firstborn" means there must be a "second born," and who then go on to deny Mary's virginity. Seek a Catholic commentary which would refer you, in this case, to the Old Testament law of the "firstborn" and will teach you what that word really means (see Exodus 13:2, Exodus 13:14-15, Numbers 18:15 and research the term "pidyon ha-ben").

At any rate, in Lectio, we are reading for the literal sense of the words, trying to understand the reality the writer of the text intended to convey.

Now we meditate on what we have read, perhaps even reading it again, visualizing it and listening for the aspect of it that reveals the Divine Mysteries. We want the deeper, spiritual meanings of the words now, and read for its analogical (or "eschatalogical") sense and its typical (or "allegorical") sense -- i.e., we consider types and shadows in order to understand the deeper reality the Holy Ghost intends to convey by arranging nature and history as He did, thereby inspiring the writer of the text to write as he did.

We ask God to for the grace to be changed by what we have read, to come more fully into being what He wants us to be, and to help us apply the topological (or "moral") sense of the Scripture to our lives.

We rest in gratitude for God and His Word.

If we are engaging in Lectio Divina with others, we discuss what we've learned.

We live what we have learned.
Consider engaging in Lectio Divina with your family, perhaps on the Lord's  each week (if not daily). Discuss Scripture together, encouraging even the littlest ones of your family to participate (the very small can draw pictures of the stories you are reading). Make the Bible a familar and integral part of their lives. 

 compiled by from several sources