Psalm 138: Favors Received

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

February 25, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 138, an ardent thanksgiving for favors received.

Lord, on the day I called for help,
you answered me.

Psalm 138:3
Queen Esther by Andrea del Castagno – 15th C.

The psalm today reflects back to our first reading from the Book of Esther. The “favor received” in that story is a monumental one: saving the Jewish people from extinction. This deliverance is commemorated on the Jewish Feast of Purim which, coincidental to our liturgical reading, is celebrated this year on February 25th.


 Reflecting on “favors received”, we might be moved to thank God for the blessings in our lives. Some blessings are evident from the get-go. But some come initially wrapped in challenge, worry, even anguish:

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, 
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. 
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.

Esther C: 12-16

What is it that changes these darknesses into Light? Psalm 138 offers us this clue:

When I called, you answered me;
    you built up strength within me.
    Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
    your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
    forsake not the work of your hands.

Psalm 138: 3,7-8

Certainly a positive outcome to our prayer, like Esther’s, allows us to see a blessing. But what about the times when the outcome disappoints or even devastates us?

The answer has something to do with spiritual “strength”, with a long faith like Esther’s. She puts her hope in the Lord and waits for the answer to unfold even at the risk of her life.

Trusting God like this means that we believe in God’s bigger picture for us and for all that we love. 

  • It means that, by faith, we live partly in the eternal world we cannot yet see. 
  • It means that the quintessential things of our heart and soul exist beyond time, in the unbounded love of God.
  • It means that we trust God to complete all things in lavish mercy.

The LORD is with me to the end.
LORD, your Mercy endures forever.
Never forsake the work of your hands!

Psalm 138: 7-8

That kind of faith won’t just pop up when we are in trouble. It has to be ingrained – the very fabric of our lives, knitted there by the prayerful surrender of our daily lives to God’s amazing Grace.


Poetry: Rock of My Salvation BY MORDECAI BEN ISAAC
TRANSLATED BY SOLOMON SOLIS-COHEN

Mighty, praised beyond compare,
Rock of my salvation,
Build again my house of prayer,
For Thy habitation!
Offering and libation, shall a ransomed nation
Joyful bring
There, and sing
Psalms of Dedication!

Woe was mine in Egypt-land,
(Tyrant kings enslaved me);
Till Thy mighty, out-stretched Hand
From oppression saved me.
Pharaoh, rash pursuing, vowed my swift undoing—
Soon, his host
That proud boast
’Neath the waves was rueing!

To Thy Holy Hill, the way
Madest Thou clear before me;
With false gods I went astray—
Foes to exile bore me.
Torn from all I cherished, almost had I perished—
Babylon fell,
   Ze-ru-ba-bel
Badest Thou to restore me!

Then the vengeful Haman wrought
Subtly, to betray me;
In his snare himself he caught—
He that plann’d to slay me.
(Hauled from Esther’s palace; hanged on his own gallows!)
Seal and ring
Persia’s king
Gave Thy servant zealous.

When the brave Asmonéans broke
Javan’s chain in sunder,
Through the holy oil, Thy folk
Didst Thou show a wonder—
Ever full remained the vessel unprofanèd;
These eight days,
Lights and praise,
Therefore were ordainèd.

Lord, Thy Holy Arm make bare,
Speed my restoration;
Be my martyr’s blood Thy care—
Judge each guilty nation.
Long is my probation; sore my tribulation—
Bid, from Heaven,
Thy shepherds seven
Haste to my salvation!

Music: Rock of My Salvation – Maranatha Music

Psalm 128: Fear?

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

February 11, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 128 which some describe as a blueprint for a happy home.

Happy are they all who fear the Lord, 
and who follow in the ways of God!
You shall eat the fruit of your labor;
happiness and prosperity shall be yours.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine 
within your house, 
your children like olive shoots 
round about your table.

Psalm 128, Canadian Inclusive Psalter

As lovely as it is, this interpretation may be overly simple. 


Psalm 128, written in the post-exilic period, is the people’s song of gratitude for the chance to return to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity.

For Israel, the captivity was the result of their faithlessness to their covenant with God. The core sentiment of the psalm is awareness, repentance, and conviction to live life more intentionally – to live in fear of the Lord and thus preserve oneself from future calamity:

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
    who walk in the Lord’s ways!


For us, that word “fear” is a tough one. It seems to contradict our desired relationship with the God who is Love, the God we have met in the person of Jesus Christ. How do we reconcile the contradiction?

Proverbs tells us this:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

So this “fear” is significantly different from the emotion we might feel when, for example, we hear an unfamiliar noise in our darkened house.

Thus the ‘fear of the Lord’ is a relational term signifying the Israelites’ response to God’s grace displayed in salvation (especially the Exodus). As Walter Brueggemann has aptly written, it means: to take God with utmost seriousness as the premise and perspective from which life is to be discerned and lived. That ‘utmost seriousness’ requires attentiveness to some things rather than others, to spend one’s energies in response to this God who has initiated our life.

Mark J. Boda, Professor of Old Testament, McMaster Divinity College

This, in fact, is the rich sentiment underlying Psalm 128, and that will yield the security of an intimate relationship with God

May the LORD bless you from Zion;
may you see Jerusalem’s prosperity
all the days of your life,
and live to see your children’s children.
Peace upon Israel!

Psalm 128: 4-5
…as our life unfolds in God’s grace.

The psalmist’s “fear” might be more akin to awe, reverence, glad obedience to our God who loves us and wills our good. It is a virtue rooted in our search for a holy awe and wisdom as our life unfolds in God’s Grace:

Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, says we live in a technological society that has grossly confused knowledge and wisdom. He says wisdom is the mystery, held by God, about how and why life works…how creation holds together…and how human reason has its limits. Wisdom is God’s secret and even our bold Enlightenment expectations barely lay a finger on that secret. Wisdom involves recognizing limits before the mystery of God. Knowledge has to do with control, says Brueggemann. Wisdom has to do with awe.

William M. Klein, Pastor, Lexington Presbyterian Church

Poem: I Am Bending My Knee
Originally from the Carmina Gadelica I, 3. Taken from Esther de Waal, editor, The Celtic Vision (Liguori, MO: Liguori/Triumph, 1988, 2001), p. 7.

I am bending my knee
In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who purchased me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In friendship and affection.
Through Thine own Anointed One, O God,
Bestow upon us fullness in our need,
Love towards God,
The affection of God,
The smile of God,
The wisdom of God,
The grace of God,
The fear of God,
And the will of God
To do on the world of the Three,
As angels and saints
Do in heaven;
Each shade and light,
Each day and night,
Each time in kindness,
Give Thou us Thy Spirit.

Music: The Fear of the Lord – First Baptist Dallas (Wow! How about this music ministry!)

Psalm 27: Unchained Psalmody

Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr

February 5, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 27, a song of intimate relationship with God. The psalmist is suffused with God’s Presence in the way morning light permeates the shadows.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
    whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
    of whom should I be afraid? 

Psalm 27:1

Because of this deeply abiding Love,  the psalmist fears nothing – not armies, nor any other threat to peace and grace-filled confidence.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
    even then will I trust.

Psalm 27:3

We have little, or maybe big, wars at times, don’t we? Armies of pain, or sadness, struggle or confusion standing at the border of our hearts? In such times, Psalm 27 invites to remember and trust:

For God will hide me in the holy abode
    in the day of trouble;
will conceal me in the shelter of God’s tent,
    will set me high upon a rock.

With the psalmist, we pray with longing – we implore God to show us this comforting, protective love.

Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
    do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.


Poetry: from The Spiritual Canticle – John of the Cross

Oh, then, soul, 
most beautiful among all creatures, 
so anxious to know 
the dwelling place of your Beloved 
so you may go in search of him 
and be united with him, 
now we are telling you that 
you yourself are his dwelling 
and his secret inner room and hiding place. 
There is reason for you to be elated 
and joyful in seeing that all your good and hope 
is so close as to be within you, 
or better, that you cannot be without him. 
Behold, exclaims the Bridegroom, 
the kingdom of God is within you.

Music: Unchained Melody – sung by Susan Boyle

Psalm 27 reminds me of this modern classic which, no doubt, was written about a different kind of love. But listening to the song as a prayer, a holy longing can be unchained in our spirits.

Psalm 31: An Inextinguishable Light

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

February 1, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 31 which assures us that we can rest in God’s love if we will just hope.

Let your hearts take comfort,
all who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 31: 25

Hope can be a complex virtue to understand.
The Catholic Catechism describes Hope in this way:
Hope is the theological virtue
by which we desire the kingdom of heaven
and eternal life as our happiness,
placing our trust in Christ’s promises
and relying not on our own strength,
but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
(CCC 1817)


This definition offers an important key. The kind of hope we are praying about in our psalm is a “virtue”, not a feeling. And in particular, hope is one of the three theological virtues which, according to the brilliant Thomas Aquinas means this:

… these virtues are called theological virtues
“because they have God for their object,
both in so far as by them we are properly directed to Him,
and because they are infused into our souls by God alone,
as also, finally, because we come to know of them
only by Divine revelation in the Sacred Scriptures”.



Now, you know, Thomas wasn’t probably that fun to talk with, given all that theological Latin. But, wow, he nailed this one.

What I think he meant, in other words, is that we are not talking about the feeling of hope, as when we put a soufflé in the oven and hope it doesn’t collapse. Or when we study like crazy and hope the right questions are on the exam. Or even when, more importantly, we make a life choice like marriage or religious life and hope it will bring us a fulfilling, lasting joy.

These kinds of “hopes” might be better defined as optimistic expectations. If they fail to be fulfilled, we might give up on them, perhaps even stop trying to achieve the kind of joy they promised. (That’s a whole other reflection! 🙂 )

Instead, the Hope we are praying about today is not a feeling. It is a gift, given by God and nurtured by our faithful practice of scriptural prayer.

Just like “Life” which is breathed into us by God without any cooperation of our own, the virtue of Hope – along with Faith and Love – is infused into our souls in God’s loving act of creation.

And just like the principle of life,
Faith, Hope, and Love
reside in us forever.


These theological realities can be hard to grasp. To make it easier, I turn them into images for my prayer. I picture Faith, Hope and Love as three small but inextinguishable candle flames deep in my spirit. God is the One who fires their light and warmth.

The circumstances of my life, chosen or imposed, can affect my ability to see and feel the power of these gifts. But circumstances cannot extinguish them because they belong to God not to me.

Once I said in my anguish,
    “I am cut off from your sight”;
Yet you heard the sound of my pleading
    when I cried out to you.

Psalm 31: 23

By prayer, and the faithful effort to be open to God’s Presence in my life, these virtues deepen in me. I can rest assured in their divine constancy. Their power and energy fuel my life both in the favorable and unfavorable “winds” of my circumstances.

Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
    The LORD keeps those who are constant,
    but more than requites those who act proudly.

Psalm 31: 24

I found this tender transliteration of Psalm 31 by Christine Robison helpful for my prayer:

I have come to you, O God, please, take me in.
Hear my prayers, be my rock, my stronghold, my castle.
Help me untangle myself from the web of confusions 
and self-deceptions that I’m stuck in.

I put my trust in you—I give you my life.
I have turned
from the temptation to trust the ten thousand things.
I have turned
from the temptation to despair of your love and help.

I have learned
to see you in my sorrows and afflictions
A lot of my life went by before I managed this,
which makes me sad.

Now, I practice trust and open-hearted acceptance
of my life as it is.
Now I practice trust and open-hearted acceptance
of You as You are.

Poetry: Hope – Lisel Mueller

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.
It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

Music: Lavender Shadows – Michael Hoppé

Psalm 111: Keeping the Promise

Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

January 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 111, a song of reassurance and hope.

God, renowned for grace and mercy,
Who gives to those living in awe,
will forever be mindful
of the covenant once promised.

Psalm 111: 4-5

It is a wonderful thing when we can trust someone to remember a promise made to us. Psalm 111 tells us we can trust God like that.

Maybe some of you share this experience. When I was a little girl, my Dad often did the food shopping. Sometimes, he went to the new “big store” (supermarkets were the new thing in the early ‘50s). When he did, I always asked him to remember to bring me a surprise, and he never forgot. 

Usually the surprise would be a little bag of M&Ms or Hershey kisses. But once it was a carrot- remarkably like the carrots he bought for the week’s cooking!

Had Dad forgotten his promise,
or was he just in to a healthier form of surprise?😂😉


Sometimes it feels like that with God’s Promise. Its fulfillment doesn’t always come to us in the ways we expect or pray for. Instead of special, surprising sweetness, God’s signs feel like carrots … ordinary carrots that we see every day, that we mix into the soup of our daily unsurprising lives.

Our Alleluia Verse today is a good prayer when our life seems full of “carrots”:

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to our call.

Ephesians 1: 17-18

May our eyes be enlightened to see God’s Promise fulfilled in the amazing blessings of our lives:

I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
    in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
  exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111: 1-2

My Dad loved me with all his heart and would have given me anything good that was in his power to give.

We can be assured, as in Psalm 111, that all- powerful God is like that too. It’s just that sometimes those good things look like ordinary carrots and we need enlightened eyes to recognize their exquisiteness.


Poetry: Mindful – Mary Oliver

Everyday
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Music: Blessed Assurance

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
Chorus:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

Psalm 105: Wondrous Deeds

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 13, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105 celebrating God’s covenanted faithfulness to us.

Give thanks to the LORD, invoke God’s name;
    make known among the nations God’s deeds.
Sing, sing God’s praise,
    proclaim all God’s wondrous deeds.
(because…) The Lord remembers the covenant for ever.

Psalm 105: 1-2, 8

We certainly can spend some time in prayer today remembering God’s faithfulness to us personally. A grateful review of our life journey can always offer new insights into God’s love and generosity.

But more specifically, our psalm calls us to plumb the two readings which it connects.

  • Hebrews reminds us that God’s love is so extreme that God took Flesh in Jesus to teach us, in terms we could understand, the degree of God’s love.
  • In Mark, we see the early expression of that love, as Jesus reveals his healing power to the wretchedly suffering crowds.

In these readings, we learn that God’s promise endures to each generation:

God remembers the covenant forever
    which was made binding for a thousand generations– 
Which was entered into with Abraham
    and by God’s oath to Isaac.

Psalm 105: 8

In Chronos Time, this enduring covenant was enfleshed in Jesus. It continues in Kairos Time through each person’s Baptism into Christ through the Holy Spirit.

In other words,
we are the agents of God’s covenant with the world. Our lives must enflesh God’s Mercy for our times.

In his letter to Titus, Paul puts this clearly:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, we were saved not because of righteous things we had done, but because of God’s mercy. God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by God’s grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  

Titus 3: 4-7

May the message of these readings free us,
inspire us, and impel us
to a grace-filled response.


Poetry: Grace by Jill Peláez Baumgartner

Is it the transparency
and lift of air?
Is it release
as when the pebble
flings out of the slingshot
or the tethered dog
suddenly is without lead?

Or is it more like standing
on a dark beach
at midnight,
the surf loud
with its own revolution,
the horizon invisible,
the entire world the threat
of rushing water?

No one who swims 
at night in the ocean
feels weightless
embracing armfuls of water
against the ballast
of the waves’ fight.

Swimming:
toward the shore lights
or out into the vast bed
of the sea's white fires?

Music: Confitemini Domino – Psalm 105 – Orlando di Lasso (first published in 1562)

Confitemini Domino et invocate nomen ejus,

annuntiate inter gentes opera ejus,

cantate ei et psallite ei.

Narrate omnia mirabilia ejus,

laudamini in nomine sancto ejus,

laetetur cor quaerentium Dominum.

Give glory to the Lord, and call upon his name,

declare his deeds among the Gentiles,

sing to him, yea sing praises to him.

Relate all his wondrous works,

Glory ye in his holy name,

let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.

Psalm 8: What Are We?

Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 8, a brief, beautiful, and highly personal hymn to an awesome Creator.

Charles Spurgeon, celebrated 19th century Baptist preacher, calls this psalm “the song of the Astronomer”, as gazing at the heavens inspires the psalmist to meditate on God’s creation and the human person’s place in it. 

The core of Psalm 8 asks a question:
What are we that you are mindful of us,
we humans that you care for us?

Psalm 8:5-6

Indeed, what are we, who are we? It is a question which each of us spends a lifetime answering.

If you were asked to introduce yourself to a total stranger, how would you begin?

  • With your name, expressing your unique identity?
  • Any group to which you belong?
  • Or where you’re from?
  • What you life work is?
  • Where you fit in society, to whom you are related?
  • How you have been defined by your accomplishments?

For example, might the self-introduction sound something like this:

Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely unintentional 🙂

Hi, I’m Mary Smith.
I’m a dentist, born and raised in Schenectady.
I wrote the book, “How Gumdrops Ruin Kid’s Teeth”.
You may have heard of my great-grandfather and his brother,
the cough drop magnates.


Psalm 8 suggests a whole other way of self-definition:

Hi, I’m Mary, a child of God, 
part of an infinite universe 
that spills from God’s creative love.
 
I am in awe of our Creator
who loves and cares for me,
who has ennobled me in grace.
I try to let all my actions give God praise.

I take seriously my role
in cherishing all Creation.
As I do this,
my own divinely-given nature is revealed
and made available to God 
for the transformation of the world.

I will sing of your majesty above the heavens
When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in plac
e.

What are we that you are mindful of us,
that you care for us?
Yet you have made us little less than angels
crowned us with glory and honor.


You have given us rule over the works of your hands, put all things at our feet:
O LORD, our Lord,
how awesome is your name through all the earth!


Poetry (well really prose): from Hamlet by William Shakespeare 

Shakespeare uses Psalm 8 as his reference point for Hamlet’s monologue.
Hamlet is saying that although humans may appear to think and act “nobly” they are essentially “dust”. Hamlet is expressing his melancholy to his old friends over the difference between the best that men aspire to be, and how they actually behave; the great divide that depresses him. (Spark Notes)

I offer the passage to say that Hamlet has become disillusioned, lost his awareness of his own awesome identity in God. Don’t be like Hamlet.

Hamlet, played by Edwin Booth – c.1870 (source: wikipedia)
I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, 
forgone all custom of exercises, 
and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition 
that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; 
this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, 
this brave o'erhanging firmament, 
this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—
why, it appears no other thing to me 
than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. 
What a piece of work is a man! 
How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! 
In form and moving how express and admirable! 
In action how like an angel, 
in apprehension how like a god! 
The beauty of the world. 
The paragon of animals. 
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? 
Man delights not me. 
No, nor woman neither, 
though by your smiling you seem to say so.

Music: Domine, Deus Noster (Psalm 8) by Marc-Antoine Charpentier 

The Epiphany of Our Lord

January 3, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, and on this glorious feast, we pray with Psalm 72.

It is a gorgeous psalm that fills our senses with lights, and scents, and the tactile experience of an ancient and sacred world:

  • we inhale the flower of justice
  • wrap ourselves in its profound peace
  • gaze on a distant, moonless universe
  • stretch our prayer from sea to sea,
  • and our praise to the ends of the earth

We see the ancient nations gather in homage,
carrying the gems, spices and bounty of their homelands.

We, too, kneel in astounded wonder that this vulnerable child, 
hidden in the far reaches of both geography and imagination,
carries to us the Promise of the Ages.

We, too, trust the star, rising in our own hearts.


Psalm 72 echoes our beautiful first reading from Isaiah, another masterpiece that, in itself, is enough simply to read and savor:

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  
Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.

Isaiah 60: 1-2

In Isaiah, these magnificent verses follow two chapters of gloom and darkness. They break forth in true epiphany to say, “Your Light has come!” – now your life must begin to shine as well.

Epiphany is not simply about kings and camels. It is not simply about a  crèche and a star. 

It is about Divine Revelation hovering over our dailyness. It is about us, opening our eyes in faith and responsiveness to our ever-present God.

The feast of Epiphany reminds us:

Look at your life today.
The star did not pass you by.
Open your eyes and find it.
Once you have seen it,
live in its Light.

Poetry: The Journey of the Magi – T.S. Eliot

Eliot wrote the poem after his conversion to Anglicanism ( He had been a Unitarian.) The poem conveys his struggle to grow in the light of his new faith. The “journey” is life-long and demanding in a world that often  contradicts that faith.

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.


Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


Music: The People that Walk in Darkness – Bob Dufford, SJ

The people that walk in darkness 
 have seen, have seen a great light.
 And on those who dwell in endless gloom, 
 a light has shone.
 
Refrain: 
For a Child is born this day: 
Rejoice, rejoice.
Daughter of Zion, awake. 
The glory of God is born.
 
And they shall name Him counselor, 
shall call Him mighty God.
And He shall rule from age to age: 
Prince of Peace.
 
Refrain
 
Darkness covers the earth; 
thick clouds govern its pe0ple.
But the Lord will bring them light; 
the Lord will bring them light.
 
Refrain
 
The people that walk in darkness 
have seen, have seen a great light.
And on those who dwell in endless gloom, 
a light has shone.
 

Refrain

The Word

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

December 31, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, which set the tone for us to more deeply appreciate our beautiful Gospel today on this New Year’s Eve.

The LORD comes,
comes to align the earth in Grace.
The LORD shall tender the world
with merciful justice
and the peoples with divine constancy.

Psalm 96: 13

Who is this Lord Who comes,
comes to each of us and all of us?

I think no one describes this mysterious, yet enfleshed, God more beautifully that the writer of John’s Gospel and Epistles.

For our prayer, let’s savor that beauty from today’s Gospel.

Click the little white triangle in the grey bar above to hear some lovely accompanying music
as you slowly move through the slides below by pressing the right arrow on the slide.

Poetry: a prayer from Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179 – O Eternal Lord 

Dear Friends, perhaps we might pray Hildegard’s prayer for one another as we leave this painful year and move toward New Hope.

O eternal Lord,
it is pleasing to you
to burn in that same fire of love,
like that from which our bodies are born,
and from which you begot your Son
in the first dawn before all of Creation.
So consider this need which falls upon us,
and relieve us of it for the sake of your Son,
and lead us in joyous prosperity.

Psalm 31: Soak in the Graces

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

December 26, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, we pray with Psalm 31.

The Stoning of St. Stephen – Giovanni Lucini

Even while the gentle lights of Christmas linger, the Church reminds us that life in Christ requires a complete self-donation. Like Stephen, we pray to embrace that cost with courage and faith:

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.

Psalm 31: 6-8

Liturgically, we will be in the Christmas and Epiphany Season until January 10th. We have plenty of time to soak up the heavenly lights and the angelic songs as we slowly step back into an often shadowy world.

And I think the Church puts Stephen’s martyrdom so starkly at this juncture to remind us to SOAK – to fill our tanks with Christmas grace so that we are ready to accompany Christ in his ministry.

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.

Psalm 31: 3-4
Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco – Caravaggio

While your crèche is still enshrined in your home, take a morning to kneel beside Mary. Ask to learn her secrets for living fully in Christ. 

  • Do the same one morning with Joseph. Learn from his silent strength.
  • Learn from the shepherds who received astounding revelation with simple, unquestioning faith.
  • Learn from the animals who stand pure and guileless in the presence of God.
  • Ask to be ready, like Stephen, to give everything for what you learn.

I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My destiny is in your hands;
rescue me from any darkness,
from all pulls me away from you.
Let your face shine on your me
embrace me completely in your mercy.

Psalm 31: 16-17

Poem: THE STABLE by Sr. M. Chrysostom, O.S.B.

The winds were scornful,
Passing by;
And gathering Angels 
Wondered why
A burdened Mother 
Did not mind 
That only animals 
Were kind.
For who in all the world 
Could guess 
That God would search out 
Loneliness.

Music: Martyr Dei ( Martyr of God)

Martyr Dei, qui (quæ) unicum
Patris sequendo Filium,
victis triumphas hostibus,
victor (victrix) fruens cælestibus.
Tui precatus munere
nostrum reatum dilue,
arcens mali contagium,
vitæ repellens tædium.
Soluta sunt iam vincula
tui sacrati corporis;
nos solve vinclis sæculi,
amore Filii Dei.
Honor Patri cum Filio
et Spiritu Paraclito,
qui te corona perpeti
cingunt in aula gloriæ.

Martyr of God, whose strength was steeled
To follow close God’s only Son,
Well didst thou brave thy battlefield,
And well thy heavenly bliss was won!
Now join thy prayers with ours, who pray
That God may pardon us and bless;
For prayer keeps evil’s plague away,
And draws from life its weariness.
Long, long ago, were loosed the chains
That held thy body once in thrall;
For us how many a bond remains!
O Love of God release us all.
All praise to God the Father be,
All praise to Thee, eternal Son;
All praise, O Holy Spirit, to Thee
While never ending ages run.