Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve (4)

In Scottland and the Northern parts of England New Years ( known as Hogmanay) is an important celibration steeped in tradition. Shortly after 'the bells' - the stroke of midnight when public clocks would chime to signal the start of the new year neighbours go from house to house, wishing each other well for the coming year ahead. Good wishes are celibrated with food and plenty of drink. This visiting was known as first footing. Great importance was placed on who would be the first to eneter the home and " bring in the new year" once midnight passed.

Tradition has it a tall, dark and handsome man was the prefered first footer, red heads were always considered bad luck. (that leaves me out, or would have.. lol)

First-foots brought symbolic gifts to the house: coal for the fire, to ensure that the house would be warm and safe, and shortbread or black bun (a type of fruit cake) to symbolise that the household would never go hungry that year.

First-footing has faded in recent years, particularly with the growth of the major street celebrations in Edinburgh and Glasgow

graphic /an old etching of first footing in edinburgh

classic living water post

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day (3): the incarnation (5)

 O Christian, be aware of  your nobility

from a Sermon by Leo the Great, 5th century

This is the day our Savior was born: what a joy for us, my beloved!  This is no season for sadness, this, the birthday of Life - the Life which annihilates the fear of death, and engenders joy, promising, as it does, immortality.

Nobody is an outsider to this happiness.  The same cause for joy is common to all, for as our Lord found nobody free from guilt when he came to bring an end to death and to sin, so he came with redemption for all.  Let the saint rejoice, for he hastens to his crown; let the sinner be filled with joy, for pardon is offered him; let the Gentile be emboldened, for he is called to life.
When the designated time had come, which God in his deep and impenetrable plan had fixed upon, God's Son took the nature of man upon himself in order to reconcile man to his Creator.  Thus would the devil, the father of death, be himself overcome by that self-same human nature which he had overcome.
The angels therefore exult at the birth of the Lord: they sing ‘Glory to God in high heaven'; they announce ‘Peace on earth for men on whom his favor rests'.  For they behold the heavenly Jerusalem being constructed from out of all the peoples on earth.  How greatly ought mere men rejoice at this mysterious undertaking of divine love, when the angels on high thrill so much at it!
My beloved, let us offer thanksgiving to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit.  In the great mercy with which he loved us, he had pity on us, and ‘in giving life to Christ, gave life to us too, when we were dead through sin', so that in him we might be a new creation, a new work of his hands.
Let us then be quit of the old self and the habits that went with it.  Sharers now in the birth of Christ, let us break with the deeds of the flesh.
O Christian, be aware of your nobility - it is God's own nature that you share: do not then, by an ignoble life, fall back into your former baseness.  Think of the Head, think of the Body of which you are a member.  Recall that you have been rescued from the power of darkness, and have been transferred to the light of God, the kingdom of God.
Through the sacrament of baptism you have been made a temple of the Holy Spirit; do not, by evil deeds, drive so great an indweller away from you, submitting yourself once more to the slavery of the devil.  For you were bought at the price of Christ's blood.

graphic from the film the Nativity

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve (3)



Nativity Prayer

Let Your goodness Lord appear to us, that we
made in your image, conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength
we cannot imitate Your majesty, power, and wonder
nor is it fitting for us to try.
But Your mercy reaches from the heavens
through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love
Caress us with Your tiny hands,
embrace us with Your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Antiphons: Day 7

Incarnation (4)

God puts on a frame of Flesh: some modern voices chime in

The mystery of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.
Martin Luther

Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of man. If the holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there too.
And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in two and re-create the human heart, because it is just where he seems most helpless that he is most strong, and just where we least expect him that he comes most fully.
– Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

As far as the Incarnation is concerned, I believe firmly in it. I believe that God did lean down to become Man in order that we could reach up to Him, and that the drama which embodies that Incarnation, the drama described in the Creed, took place.
Malcolm Muggeridge

Our imitation of God in this life … must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions.
- C.S. Lewis, from his book The Four Loves

"There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation."
Madalene L'Engil

Nowhere is salvation conceived of as a flight from history as in Greek thought; it is always the coming of God to man in history. Man does not ascend to God; God descends to man.
George Eldon Ladd

graphic: the birth of christ by william blake

some of this material has been previously posted on living water from ancient well

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Incarnation (3)

Truth sprang from the earth and justice looked down from heaven

from a Sermon by St Augustine, 5th century

 Wake up, O man - it was for you that God was made man!  Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.  For you, I say, was God made man.  Eternal death would have awaited you had he not been born in time.  Never would you be freed from your sinful flesh, had he not taken to himself the likeness of sinful flesh.  Everlasting would be your misery, had he not performed this act of mercy.  You would not have come to life again, had he not come to die your death.  You would have broken down, had he not come to help.  You would have perished, had he not come.
Let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption.  Let us celebrate the hallowed day on which the great eternal day came from the great eternal day into this, our so short and temporal day.  He has become our justice, and our sanctification, and our redemption.  And so, as scripture says: ‘Let him who glories, glory in the Lord'.
Truth, then, is sprung out of the earth: Christ who said, ‘I am the truth', is born of a virgin.  And justice looked down from heaven: man, believing in him who has been born, has been justified not by himself, but by God.
Truth is sprung out of the earth, for the Word was made flesh.  And justice looked down from heaven, for every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above.
Truth is sprung out of the earth - flesh born of Mary.  And justice looked down from heaven, for a man cannot receive anything, unless it be given him from heaven.
Being justified by faith, let us have peace with God, for justice and peace have kissed each other, through our Lord Jesus Christ, for Truth is sprung out of the earth.  Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we glory in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  Saint Paul does not say, ‘our glory', but ‘the glory of God'; because justice does not proceed from us, but has looked down from heaven.  Let him who glories then, glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.  Because of this, when the Lord was born of the Virgin, the angels announced, ‘Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will'.
Whence is peace on earth, if not from the fact that Truth is sprung out of the earth, that is, Christ is born of flesh?  And he is our peace, who has made both one, that we might be men of good will, bound together by the sweet bonds of unity.
Let us, then, rejoice in this grace, that our glory may be the testimony of our conscience, and we may glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord.  Obviously, it was because of this that it was said, ‘my glory, who lifts up my head'.
For what greater grace could have dawned upon us from God, than that he, who had only one Son, made him the son of man, and so in turn made the son of man a son of God.  Ask yourself whether this involved any merit, any motivation, any right on your part; and see whether you find anything but grace!

O antiphon day 5:

Day 5 O Antiphon

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Incarnation (2)

Wonder of the Incarnation

Gregory Nazianze

 The very Son of God, older than the ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal, the beginning of beginning, the light of light, the fountain of life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father: he it is who comes to his own image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and unites himself to an intelligent soul for the good of my soul, to purify like by like. He takes to himself all that is human, except for sin. He was conceived by the Virgin Mary, who had been first prepared in soul and body by the Spirit; his coming to birth had to be treated with honor, virginity had to receive new honor. He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit. Spirit gave divinity, flesh received it.

He who makes rich is made poor; he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity. He who is full is made empty; he is emptied for a brief space of his glory, that I may share in his fullness. What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me? I received the likeness of God, but failed to keep it. He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.

Holiness had to be brought to man by the humanity assumed by one who was God, so that God might overcome the tyrant by force and so deliver us and lead us back to himself through the mediation of his Son. The Son arranged this for the honor of the Father, to whom the Son is clearly obedient in all things.

The Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, came in search of the straying sheep to the mountains and hills on which you used to offer sacrifice. When he found it, he took it on the shoulders that bore the wood of the cross, and led it back to the life of heaven.

Christ, the light of all lights, follows John, the lamp that goes before him. The Word of God follows the voice in the wilderness; the bridegroom follows the bridegroom’s friend, who prepares a worthy people for the Lord by cleansing them by water in preparation for the Spirit.

We need God to take our flesh and die, that we might live. We have died with him, that we may be purified. We have risen again with him, because we have died with him. We have been glorified with him, because we have risen again with him.

Gregory of Nazianzen was archbishop of Constantinople (now Istanbul) at the time of the First Council of Constantinople which in 381 revised the Nicene Creed .  He is one of the great of the Early Church Fathers.  This excerpt from his writings (Oratio 45, 9, 22.26.28;  PG 36, 634-635. 654,658-659. 662)  is a beautiful tribute to the wonder of the mystery of the Incarnation

graphic: head of Christ painted by Manuil Panelinos, Mt. Athos, 14th century

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Last week O Antiphons

Dec. 17th- the 24th

The "Late Advent Weekdays" or December 17-24, mark the singing of the Great Advent O Antiphons. These are the antiphons for the Magnificat at Vespers, or Evening Prayer (in the Roman Catholic Church) and Evensong (in the Anglican Church) each day, and mark coming birth of the Messiah. They cover the Advent period known as Octave.
No one is absolutley sure of the exact orgin of the "O Antiphons". There is a reference to them in the early 500's by Boethius a Christian Philosopher, suggesting there presence at that time.

The O Antiphons were originally chanted. They form the basis for the verses of the popular Advent hymn, "O come, O come, Emmanuel" which was translated into English in 1851 by John Mason Neale. It is believed that the present melody is of French origin and was added to the text somewhere in the 12th century.
I have added a scripture from Isiaiah as was the original tradition and a small prayer to each day, followed by the O Antiphon and the refrain. Enjoy...

for a very cool and in-depth explanation of the Atiphons please check out
Antiphons chanted in latin
for more information on Anicius Boethius go to

classic living water from an ancient well post

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cowpers Onley Hymns: The Names of God

Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord Send Peace

 (Judges, vi.25) 

Jesus! whose blood so freely stream'd
    To satisfy the law's demand;
    By Thee from guilt and wrath redeem'd,
    Before the Father's face I stand.
    To reconcile offending man,
    Make Justice drop her angry rod;
    What creature could have form'd the plan,
    Or who fulfil it but a God?
    No drop remains of all the curse,
    For wretches who deserved the whole;
    No arrows dipt in wrath to pierce
    The guilty, but returning soul.
    Peace by such means so dearly bought,
    What rebel could have hoped to see?
    Peace by his injured Sovereign wrought,
    His Sovereign fasten'd to a tree.
    Now, Lord, Thy feeble worm prepare!
    For strife with earth and hell begins;
    Conform and gird me for the war;
    They hate the soul that hates his sins.
    Let them in horrid league agree!
    They may assault, they may distress;
    But cannot quench Thy love to me,
    Nor rob me of the Lord my peace.

William Cowper

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Incarnation ( 1 )

Ireneaus : Vision of the Incarnation

“…the Son of God being made the Son of man, that through Him we may receive the adoption—humanity sustaining, and receiving, and embracing the Son of God” (Against the Heresies, III.16.3).

“Now this is His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the last times was made a man among men, that He might join the end to the beginning, that is, man to God. Wherefore, the prophets, receiving the prophetic gift from the same Word, announced His advent according to the flesh, by which the blending and communion of God and man took place according to the good pleasure of the Father, the Word of God foretelling from the beginning that God should be seen by men, and hold converse with them upon the earth, should confer with them, and should be present with His own creation, saving it, and becoming capable of being perceived by it, and freeing us from the hands of all that hate us, that is, from every spirit of wickedness; and causing us to serve Him in holiness and righteousness all our days, in order that man, having embraced the Spirit of God, might pass into the glory of the Father” (Against the Heresies, IV.20.4)

“He might easily have come to us in His immortal glory, but in that case we could never have endured the greatness of the glory; and therefore it was that He, who was the perfect bread of the Father, offered Himself to us as milk, [because we were infants]. He did this when He appeared as a man, that we, being nourished, as it were, from the breast of His flesh, and having, by such a course of milk-nourishment, become accustomed to eat and drink the Word of God, may be able also to contain in ourselves the Bread of immortality, which is the Spirit of the Father” (Against the Heresies, IV.38.1).

“It was for this reason that the Son of God, although He was perfect, passed through the stage of infancy in common with the rest of mankind, partaking of it thus not for His own benefit, but for that of the infantile stage of man’s existence, in order that man might be able to receive Him” (Against the Heresies, IV.38.1).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

 Thomas Merton  (1915-1968)

Prayer for Peace
Almighty and merciful God, Father of all men, Creator and ruler of the universe,
Lord of all history, whose designs are without blemish, whose compassion for
the errors of men is inexhaustible, in your will is our peace.

Mercifully hear this prayer which rises to you from the tumult and desperation
of a world in which you are forgotten, in which your name is not invoked,
your laws are derided and your presence is ignored. Because we do not
know you, we have no peace.

From the heart of an eternal silence, you have watched the rise of empires
and have seen the smoke of their downfall. You have witnessed the impious
fury of ten thousand fratricidal wars, in which great powers have torn whole
continents to shreds in the name of peace and justice.

A day of ominous decision has now dawned on this free nation. Save us then
from our obsessions! Open our eyes, dissipate our confusions, teach us
to understand ourselves and our adversary. Let us never forget that sins
against the law of love are punishable by loss of faith, and those
without faith stop at no crime to achieve their ends!

Help us to be masters of the weapons that threaten to master us.
Help us to use our science for peace and plenty, not for war and
destruction. Save us from the compulsion to follow our adversaries
in all that we most hate, confirming them in their hatred and
suspicion of us. Resolve our inner contradictions, which now
grow beyond belief and beyond bearing. They are at once a torment
and a blessing: for if you had not left us the light of conscience,
we would not have to endure them. Teach us to wait and trust.

Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace.
But grant us above all to see that our ways are not necessarily
your ways, that we cannot fully penetrate the mystery of your
designs and that the very storm of power now raging on this earth
reveals your hidden will and your inscrutable decision.

Grant us to see your face in the lightning of this cosmic storm,

O God of holiness, merciful to men. Grant us to seek peace where
it is truly found. In your will, O God, is our peace.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Teachings of the early church (Intro)

For some time i have wanted to do a series on what the early followers of Christ taught and believed. The theology of the early church is what i guess it could be refered to.  This is always interesting because it is usually interpreted in light of what ever stream is doing the presenting. 

The thing i find extremely intriguing is that many things that we, particularly evangelicals hold dear are fairly new concepts that would have been forgien to the first followers of Christ. We have touched on some of these, for example early church practice when it came to war and the military, as well as  eluding to others, Theosis,  Imagio Dei, and Christus Victor.

This will be a project that will be interspersed among every thing else that gets posted here. So it will be on going.

Thought i would begin with the Incarnation being Advent and all,  though the main reason i thought i'd start here is that for early  Christ followers the  Incarnation was the lynch pin that held everything else together. Let us see. Emmanuel. God with us...


graphic: early last supper or agape feast

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

We Beseech Thee

let our hearts be enlightened by the holy radiance of Thy Son's Incarnation; 
that we may escape the darkness of this world, 
and by His guidance attain to the country of everlasting clearness. 


graphic: JV Harvey. Incarnation. 1994.