Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Samhain Liturgy

Samhain 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

Origin:Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature. Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. In much of the Gaelic world, bonfires were lit and there were rituals involving them, as at Beltane. Samhain was seen as a time when the "door" to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings, to come into our world.
graphic: bc

Monday, October 15, 2012

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

"Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world." 

                        from the writing of Teresa of Avila

Friday, October 12, 2012

early chruch teaching; the Incarnation (12)

The Revealing of the Hidden Mystery
from the Treatise of Hippolytus against the heresy of Noetus, 3rd century

There is one God, and we can come to know him through sacred scripture. So then, let us look at what scripture proclaims, let us discover what its teaching is.  As the Father wants to be believed, so let us discover what its teaching is.  As the Father wants to be believed so let us believe; as he wants the Son to be glorified, so let us glorify him; as he wants the Holy Spirit to be given, so let us receive him.  We must not act in accordance with our own mind or our own will; we must not do violence to what God has given.  We must look at things rather as God has chosen to make them known through scripture.
God, existing alone, without contemporary of any sort, decided to make the world. He conceived it in his mind, willed it, spoke the word, and so made it, and immediately it came into being, formed as he had willed it.  It is enough for us simply to know that God had no contemporary; apart from him there was nothing.  But though alone, God was manifold.  He was not without reason or wisdom or power or counsel.  All things were in him and he was all.  When he willed, and as he willed, he revealed his Word, at times which he himself had determined.  Through his Word he made all things.
The Word was in God and was invisible to the created world, but God made him visible.  He spoke, as he had done before, and, begetting light from light, he sent forth his own mind to the world as its Lord.  He who formerly had been visible only to God and invisible to the world was now made visible, so that through this manifestation the world could see him, and be saved.
The Word is the mind of God; he came into the world and was shown forth as Son of God.  All things, then, come into being through him, and he alone is from the Father.
It was this one God who gave the law and the prophets.  In giving them, he made them speak by the Holy Spirit: the Father’s power inspires them, and they proclaim the Father’s purpose and will.
And so the Word was manifested.  Saint John sums up what the prophets said and shows that this is the Word through whom all things came to be: ‘In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.  Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him’.  Later he goes on: ‘The world had its being through him, and the world did not know him.  He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him’.

graphic: byzantine Icon

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to do Lectio: (4)

How to do Lectio Divina


Lectio divina is a way of getting in touch daily in a personal way with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; it is a way of getting in touch with Jesus Christ our Lord and our brother. It is away of reading centered on God and, if you do it with faith you will be able to hear what he has to say to you here at this moment.  It is a way of reading which is slow so that the words are savored in meditation. It moves from the literal meaning to what only the Spirit can make clear to you. It calls for action by your involvement and for passive surrender as it draws you into the heart of God. It is disinterested; the text must be read for its own sake and not for the achievement of having read it.

Lectio is a way of experiencing Christ. You will encounter him personally in the sacred scriptures because he is there hidden in the pages of your Bible and you ought to believe in his presence with greater assurance than if you could see him with your eyes.  He has the same power there as he revealed in the gospels and he cures you of your physical and moral ailments, brings his light to your everyday life and leads you to eternal life.

Your encounter is with the Word who loves you unconditionally and is ever present and real in your life. From all eternity God has had a plan for the whole course of your life, your personal fulfillment, your vocation, your happiness. You will surely stray from the right path and become alienated from your true self through serving other gods, if you do not allow him to reveal himself to you daily through his word. It is in your Bible that the true story of your life is written. If you don't at once understand what you read, then have confidence that the Lord will reveal it to you in his own time, because no word comes form the mouth of the Lord without achieving in you the work he intended. If your thoughts and imagination get in the way of your prayer, then fling them immediately before Christ.  Make no attempt to master them by your own strength, but try to turn back to your prayer.

You ought to do lectio every day, even if it is only one single verse of the Bible, because, "It is not on bread alone that man lives but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)  Your reading of the word of God should be deliberate, moving slowly from verse to verse, from word to word, watching for the context, paying close attention to each passage, looking out for the answers that are there in sacred scripture itself and the echoes they evoke, watching the notes and marginal references and always treasuring silence so as to make space to listen. You should know that the word you hear is directed to you personally and individually. When you read the word of God, it speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to the word and so turn your prayer into conversation.

Your prayer may be simply staying with the word in silence, or it may be a thanksgiving, or a petition, or praise, or blessing, or contrition, or intercession, or one single word on which you pause and then repeat at will, or it may be a prayer of inspiration. If you are taking part in shared lectio, the way to share what the scripture has said to you is by means of a personal comment spoken in the first person singular and applied to your own life, or else it may be a prayer out loud offered directly to God.

By José Manuel Eguiguren Guzman of the Manquehue Movement, Chile; translated by Abbot Patrick Barry, O.S.B.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Celtic Blessing of Thanks Giving


Toirt Taing

Thanks to thee, 0 God, that I have risen to-day,
To the rising of this life itself;
May it be to Thine own glory, 0 God of every gift,
And to the glory of my soul likewise.

0 great God, aid Thou my soul
With the aiding of Thine own mercy ;
Even as I clothe my body with wool,
Cover Thou my soul with the shadow of Thy wing.

Help me to avoid every sin,
And the source of every sin to forsake ;
And as the mist scatters on the crest of the hills,
May each ill haze clear from my soul, 0 God.

Graphic: the blessing in the Gaelic

Thursday, October 4, 2012

St Francis (1181- 1226) and the Celtic Connection

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

In 613 Columbanus a Celtic missionary monk responsible for planting over 50 monastic communities 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 Francois'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: top left: Francis Icon  top right: the tomb of Columbanus in the Basilica of San Columbano in Bibbio

a living water from an ancient well classic re-post

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monasticism (11)

Mount Athos / Holy Mountain   (part 2)

The Byzantine Empire was conquered in the 15th century and the Ottoman Empire took its place. The Athonite monks tried to maintain good relations with the Ottoman Sultans and therefore when Murad I conquered 
Thessolonika in 1430 they immediately pledged allegiance to him. In return, Murad recognized the monasteries' properties, something which Mehemed II formally ratified after the fall of Constantinople  in 1453. In this way the Athonite independence was somewhat guaranteed.

The 15th and 16th centuries were particularly peaceful for the Athonite community. This led to relative prosperity for the monasteries. An example of this is the foundation of  Stavroniktia monasterywhich completed the current number of Athonite monasteries. Following the conquest of the Serbian Despote by the Ottomans many Serbian monks came to Athos. The extensive presence of Serbian monks is depicted in the numerous elections of Serbian monks to the office of the protos during the era. 

Sultan Salem I was a substantial benefactor of the  Xiropotamu monastery. In 1517, he issued a fatwa and a Hatti Sharif ("noble edict") that "the place, where the Holy Gospel is preached, whenever it is burned or even damaged, shall be erected again." He also endowed privileges to the Abbey and financed the construction of the dining area and underground of the Abbey as well as the renovation of the wall paintinin the central church that were completed between the years 1533–1541.

 Despite the fact that most time the monasteries were left on their own, the Ottomans heavily taxed them and sometimes they seized important land parcels from them. This eventually culminated in an economic crisis in Athos during the 17th century. This led to the adoption of the so called "idiorrhythmic" lifestyle by a few monasteries at first and later, during the first half of the 18th century, by all.

This new way of monastic organization was an emergency measure taken by the monastic communities to counter their harsh economic environment. Contrary to the cenobitic system, monks in idiorrhythmic communities have private property, work for themselves, they are solely responsible for acquiring food and other necessities and they dine separately in their cells, only meeting with other monks at church. At the same time, the monasteries'abbots were replaced by committees and at Karyes the Protos was replaced by a four member committee.

In 1749 with the establishment of the Athonite Academy near Vatopedi monastery, the local monastic community took a leading role in the modern Greek enlightenment movement of the 18th century.This institution offered high level education, especially under Egenius Valgarus, where ancient philosophy and modern physical science were taught.

Russian tsars, and princes from Moldavia, Wallachia and Serbia (until the end of the 15th century) helped the monasteries survive with large donations. The population of monks and their wealth declined over the next centuries, but were revitalized during the 19th century, particularly by the patronage of the Russian government. As a result, the monastic population grew steadily throughout the century, reaching a high point of over 7,000 monks in 1902.

complied from several sources 

grahic:top left: Mount Athos
         : bottom right: The Holy Mountain of Athos has a long and elaborate history