Psalm 130: The Depths

Friday of the First Week of Lent

February 26, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 130, the De Profundis. This is a transformative prayer whose power we may not fully realize.

Have you ever been disappointed with God? Have you ever let God know it in your prayer? 

Psalm 130 is the psalmist’s complaint to God that things are as bad as they can get and God doesn’t appear to care. It is a plea – even a demand- for God to pay attention and do something. (See my poem, sent a little later, called “These Things”.)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
    LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to my voice in supplication.


But Psalm 130 is not just a private complaint. As well as being a penitential psalm, 130 is marked as a “Psalm of Ascent”. This means that it was sung by the community as they went to the Temple to worship.

Psalm 130 carries the tone of a national or global lament. It has the feeling of a deeply bruised people bearing a desperate hope mixed with some bewilderment. It is a feeling we all recognize.

Remembrance of Lives Lost to Covid 19

Yesterday in my neighborhood, we had our first hint of spring weather. On a short walk, I met a few people whose winter-weary eyes, above their masks, held a spark of resurrection hope.

With distribution of COVID vaccines, hope for deliverance from the pandemic surfaces like a tentative bud. We are starting the slow ascent from the depths we have all shared. We are on our way to the temple of thanksgiving and praise.


But Psalm 130 reminds that, on that ascent, fully voicing our lament is imperative for true healing. In reference to the pandemic, and to any other devastation we face in life, we must be honest with God about our fear, confusion, sadness, hopelessness, and shaken faith … about our disappointment in God, our splintered expectations which need healing.

If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
    LORD, who can stand?

It is only by asking God how these things – whatever they might be – could be allowed to happen to us, or to any of God’s beloved, that we will open ourselves to the Divine answer – a mystery too deep for words.

I trust you, LORD;
    my soul trusts in your word.
My soul waits for you
    more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
    Let me wait for the LORD.

Such prayer heals, leading us to a deeper, truer relationship with God.

For with the LORD is kindness
    and plenteous redemption;
And the Lord will redeem Israel
    from all their suffering and sin.

Poetry: Spring – Mary Oliver

Somewhere
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her 
rising
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against 
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming 
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness, 
her perfect love.

Music: Pié Jesu – Michael Hoppé

Psalm 32: Forgiveness

Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

February 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 32, a classic penitential psalm.

It is an uncomplicated description of repentance and forgiveness which, nevertheless, discloses profound insights into the human spirit.

Blessed is the one whose fault is taken away,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed the one to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
    in whose spirit there is no guile. 

Psalm 32:1-2

This relational sequence of confession and forgiveness is probed in depth in Psalm 32 (where) the speaker describes his silence and his consequent bodily disability (vv. 3–4). One can observe in the psalm an inchoate theory of repression that became definitive for Sigmund Freud. Repression immobilizes, says the psalmist! The abrupt move in verse 5 concerns the process of making his sin known, saying it aloud, confessing it.

It is confession that makes forgiveness possible. It is denial that precludes assurance and that immobilizes the perpetrator.

Walter Brueggemann, From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

Praying with Psalm 32 this morning reminded me of a story I wrote a few years ago.

The Earring

Young Emma, skewered by indecision, had stared into her mother’s jewelry box. She had always loved those silver earrings, a gift to her mother from her grandmother—an heirloom now, a treasure beyond price. She wanted so to wear them on this special date, but they were “hands off” and she knew it. Still, her mother at work and unaware of her desire, Emma had succumbed to temptation.

The dance had been wonderful, a whirlwind of such delight that Emma had not noticed when her left earring had brushed against her partner’s shoulder, tumbling hopelessly under the dancers’ trampling feet. Only at evening’s end, approaching her front door exhausted and dreamy, had she reached up to unclip the precious gems.

Her mother sat waiting for her in the soft lamplight, having already noticed the earrings missing from her dresser. Awaiting retribution, Emma knelt beside her mother and confessed the further sacrilege of loss. But her mother simply cupped Emma’s tearful face in her hands, whispering, “You are my jewel. Of course I forgive you.”  Though accustomed to her mother’s kindness, this act of compassion astonished Emma, filling her with an indescribable, transformative gratitude.

As we pray Psalm 32, there may be a great forgiveness we are thankful for, or just the small kindnesses that allow us to rise each morning with joy and hope. Perhaps there is a memory of compassion, like Emma’s, that we treasure—one that in turn has made us kinder and more honest.

But maybe, on the other hand, there is a “lost earring”, never acknowledged. With time, that unacknowledgement burrows deeper into the spirit restricting our capacity to love.

Psalm 32 reminds us that God is our Mother waiting in the lamplight to cup our face with love, to receive our joyful thanks for divine mercies. 

For this shall every faithful soul pray to you 
    in time of stress.
Though deep waters overflow,
    they shall not reach us. 

Psalm 32:6

Like Emma, we may be astonished at the graciousness that has been given to us. We may respond by pouring out our thanks to God in a silent act of prayer.

May we also have the courage to become like our merciful God, anticipating the other’s need for our forgiveness. May we seek the strength not to harbor injury, but too release it to make room for further grace in our hearts.


Poetry: FIRST FORGIVENESS - Irene Zimmerman
The usually mild evening breeze
became a wailing wind
when the gates clanged shut behind them. 
They shivered despite their leathery clothes
as they searched for the fragrant blossoms
they’d grown accustomed to sleep on,
but found only serpentine coils
that bit and drew blood from their hands. It was Eve who discovered the cave.
When she emerged, she saw Adam
standing uncertainly at the entrance. A river of fire flooded her face
as she remembered his blaming words—
“The woman you gave me,
she gave me fruit from the tree,
and I ate.”

“Spend the night wherever you choose,”
she told him bitterly.
“You needn’t stay with me.” Long afterwards, when even the moon’s
cold light had left the entrance
and she’d made up a word
for the hot rain running from her eyes,
she sensed Adam near her in the dark. His breath shivered on her face.
“Eve,” he moaned,
“I’m sorry. Forgive me.” In the darkness between them
the unfamiliar words
waited, quivering.
She understood their meaning
when she touched his tears.

Music: Father, I Have Sinned – Eugene O’Reilly

Our story above was about a “prodigal daughter”. Our music is about a “prodigal son”.

Psalm 24: The Gates Are Lifted

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

February 2, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once more with Psalm 24, still knocking on God’s door. As it is the Feast of the Presentation, we might picture Anna and Simeon murmuring this psalm as they await the appearance of their Savior.

Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
    reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!

Psalm 24: 7

Anna and Simeon longed for the promised Redemption. They hoped and believed that Creation would be restored by the Messiah. They waited faithfully in the dark for the Light to come. And on that wondrous morning, sparks flew through the Temple door wrapped in a baby blanket!


In pre-Vatican II days, we nuns had sparse communication with our families. Throughout my over 1000 days of initial formation, I spoke with my mother fewer than 30 times. I stood it well because I was all wrapped up in my new life. But Mom languished. She pined for me and for our little daily chats.

So when the post-Vatican II era hit, Mom got on that phone. She called me every night just about seven o’clock – a brief, but treasured, check-in. Mom likened our phone calls to Stevie Wonder’s popular song at that time. Every now and again, even though it has been over thirty years, I still long for that ring.

For Mom and me, the gates had been unlocked, the lintels lifted up. The ancient portals had opened at the touch of John XXIII and his like-minded buddies. A mother-child light flowed back into us. We were both renewed by the reconnection.


On the Feast of the Presentation, we pray with Anna and Simeon, two so deeply practiced in prayer. As the child Jesus was carried into the Temple that morning, the plea of Psalm 24 was answered before their eyes. In our prayer today, let us joyfully welcome God into our hearts. Let us talk and walk with God as easily as we might with a beloved parent or a dearest friend on any given evening.

Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
    reach up, you ancient portals,
    that the God of glory may come in!

Poem: You, neighbor God, if sometimes in the night — Rainer Maria Rilke

You, neighbor God, if sometimes in the night
I rouse you with loud knocking, I do so
only because I seldom hear you breathe
and know: you are alone.
And should you need a drink, no one is there
to reach it to you, groping in the dark.

Always I hearken. Give but a small sign.
I am quite near.
Between us there is but a narrow wall,
and by sheer chance; for it would take
merely a call from your lips or from mine
to break it down,
and that without a sound.

The wall is builded of your images.
They stand before you hiding you like names.
And when the light within me blazes high
that in my inmost soul I know you by,
the radiance is squandered on their frames.

And then my senses, which too soon grow lame,
exiled from you, must go their homeless ways.

Music: He Walks with Me – Anne Murray

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The son of God discloses

And he walks with me and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of his voice
Is so sweet, the birds hush their singing
And the melody that he gave to me
Within my heart is ringing

And he walks with me and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

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 2: A Political World

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious

January 4, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 2. The prayer seems a fitting reminder to all of us, and especially US citizens, as our new political season opens.

And now, O rulers, give heed;
take warning, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice before God;
with trembling rejoice…
Blessed are all who take refuge in God!


Although I was relieved to lessen my political attention after the November election, I realize that we always have a moral imperative both to pray for our leaders and to measure their efforts, and our own, against the standards of social justice. 

Click right triangle above to hear how Handel felt about it as he uses Psalm 2 in his Messiah.
Why do the nations so furiously rage together,
and who do the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord,
and against His Anointed.
George Frederic Handel: Messiah 
Psalm 2: 1-2

The interplay of politics and morality is on-going, and its energy rises once again with this month’s seating of the new Congress and inauguration of President Biden.

The U.S. and the world has been given stark lessons under the tenure of the exiting president. Some have learned from these experiences. Some have allowed their ignorances to be confirmed.

It has not been easy. We live in an age when truth and morality have been rendered elastic – seemingly malleable to multiple alternative narratives.


Another verse of Psalm 2 from Handel’s Messiah
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
(Psalm 2:3)

Psalm 2 reminds us of the one true narrative:
we are all creatures of God
charged to live in harmony
with one another and with the Creator.

Seen in a political light, we are a long way from achieving that charge. 

Our elected leaders have an almost impossible job to guide this fractured nation closer to our moral hope. But our prayer, and our sincere contribution to the effort, can make a huge difference in the result.

Despite any partisan leanings, can we pledge that contribution?


Poetry: The Paths of Love and Justice – Christine Robinson

Why are the nations in an uproar?
Why do the peoples mutter and threaten?
Why do the rich plot with the powerful?
They are rebelling against the demands of Love and Justice.
God laughs, cries, and says with anger:
I have set my Love in your hearts and my Justice in your minds.
You are my children and I have given you the universe
your lives, and the tasks of your days.
Be wise
Be warned
Stick to the paths of Love and Justice.
Your restless hearts will find me there.


Music: Justice and Mercy – Matt Redman

Psalm 98: An Ever-New Song

January 2, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98 which, once again, enjoins us to “sing a new song”.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
Who has done wondrous deeds;
Whose right hand has won victory,
by the holy arm.

You know what? We’re trying, aren’t we? God knows, we need a new song! And the coming of the New Year gives us the push to find it in ourselves. Right?

Because that’s where it has to come from — within each one of us. 

Other people can sing with us, accompany our song, or applaud our a cappellas.  But our song is not out there somewhere. Our song is deep within us, breathed there by a virtuoso God at our creation. It was meant to be sung – and sung by us.

Sing praise to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and melodious song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn
shout with joy to the King, the LORD.

Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell there.

Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy,

Psalm 98:7-9

The beauty of our song is that it can change
to adapt to the tone of our days
– sometimes an aria, sometimes a dirge.
Sometimes an anthem, sometimes a ballad.
Sometimes a canticle, sometimes a lullaby.
A requiem, a Kyrie, a Sanctus, an Alleluia!


Each song is inspired by the One Divine Song, whose voice is sounded in Creation by the consecration of our own song, given in sincerity and love.

The Lord has remembered us 
In mercy and faithfulness
All the ends of the earth have seen
the power of our God.
So shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth;
break into song; sing praise.

Psalm 98: 3-5

Let’s listen to God singing over us today, so that we can respond with our own heart-song:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
The Lord will rejoice over you with gladness;
will quiet you with love;
will exult over you with passionate singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

Poetry: Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman

Listen. 
God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.

Music: Romance for the Violin – Michael Hoppé

Under Mary’s Protection

January 1, 2021
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

( I was invited to offer a reflection for my community for the celebration of New Year’s. I wanted to share it with our larger community here.)


Over the threshold of midnight, we step into the New Year 2021.

And, oh, how we have longed for it

  • run toward it 
  • run away from what the old year pressed on us 
  • from what we heard unceasingly referred to as “these unsettling times”

Dear friends the phrase puts it mildly, doesn’t it?


Every one of us- to some degree- has felt the

  • loss 
  • sadness 
  • fear 
  • anxiety 
  • loneliness

We have been tested in our faith

  • our hope 
  • our love 
  • and, surely, our courage

Some have walked through the middle of hell
and some only on the edge.
But we have all felt its fire.

We are a world truly brought to its knees as we clothe ourselves in 2021’s first morning.


We come to our prayer to do as our reading from Numbers encourages us, emboldens us to do – to seek a blessing for the New Year:

May the Lord bless us and keep us 
shine the face of mercy on us 
be gracious to us 
look upon us kindly 
give us peace

But how will we find such a blessing, my friends, when we know that its hope is hidden in the unrelenting circumstances of our lives?


Let’s consider our Gospel today.
Just as Christ lay shining 
but in the damp hay of a dark manger…
Just as the word of his coming was announced 
but by rude shepherds who carried the angelic words,
so the blessing will come to us….clothed in the ordinariness of what we already know.

And it is this:

The power of God is always hidden 
in the flesh of our daily lives.


Let us turn to Mary today to remind ourselves of this mystery.

Before the Annunciation, when young Mary imagined the Messiah’s coming, do you think she pictured a godforsaken manger and a birth in a barn?

Do you think she imagined herself receiving ponderable angelic words through the mouths of illiterate shepherds?

Our inscrutable God comes to us
in ways we never imagine … yes, dear friends, even through pandemic suffering,
and the painful graces
it breaks open in our hearts.

Mary, whom we celebrate and invoke today, shows us how to take the next step into a new year —a year that will not perceptibly change in its challenges for some time to come.

It, too, will be filled with what looks like mangers and shepherds rather than the heavenly palaces and angels we might desire.

But Mary shows us that faith finds God by surrender to the grace of our ordinary lives.

Today, what we pray for one another through Mary’s intercession, is the grace to find the blessing in this mystery.

We pray to be encouraging witnesses for one another of:

  • faith even in darkness
  • resilience and courage during extraordinary challenge
  • hope in the face of discouragement
  • perseverance when we languish
  • loving service despite fear
  • Mercy pouring over pain

When we do these things, we become the blessing that we seek.

When we, like Mary, keep these things in our heart, we allow Christ to be born again even in our “unsettling” times.


Maria de Mercede, fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio (c. 1472)

The most ancient prayer to Mary is the Sub Tuum Praesidium, dating from the 2nd century. It seems a perfect way to close our reflection today, and to open our hearts to hope for the New Year:

Under your protection,
we take our refuge, 
O Holy Mother of God:
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us from all evil,
O pure and blessed one.
Amen.

A truly blessed and joyful New Year to you all, Beloveds.


Music: Sub Tuum Praesidium in Latin (see above for English)

Praying with Anna

December 30, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, since our Responsorial is again Psalm 96, let’s pray with Anna the Prophetess from today’s Gospel.

We have so much to learn from Anna,
a woman completely wrapped in mystery
until she bursts through these verses
in the brilliance of prophecy!


Anna:

  • advanced in years – yet still vitally engaged in the search for God
  • widowed early – then giving the long, solitary years to a Messianic Hope
  • a faster and a prayer – witnessing the fruitfulness of a contemplative life

Even in today’s brief Gospel appearance, Anna calls us to spiritual depths by her

  • Steely fidelity 
  • Pregnant solitude
  • Eternal hope
  • Quiet intimacy with God

Anna spent decades, waiting in her own “Cloud of Unknowing”. In the miraculous inverse of the spiritual life, her shadows were filled with Light.

When you first begin, you find only darkness, and as it were a cloud of unknowing. You don’t know what this means except that in your will you feel a simple steadfast intention reaching out towards God. Do what you will, and this darkness and this cloud remain between you and God… Reconcile yourself to wait in this darkness as long as is necessary, but still go on longing after him whom you love.

from “The Cloud of Unknowing”

In today’s Gospel, we meet Anna, a First Witness, stepping out of the deepened shadows and sharing her long-nurtured Light:

And coming forward at that very time,
Anna gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke 2:38

In our prayer today,
let’s listen to what Anna might reveal to us.

Reflective Prose: from The Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous 14th century work on mysticism and prayer.

The nature of love 
is that it shares everything. 
Love Jesus, and everything he has is yours.
…He may, perhaps, 
send out a shaft of spiritual light, 
which pierces this cloud of unknowing beteween you, 
and show you some of his secrets… 
then will you feel your affection flame 
with the fire of his love, 
far more than I could possibly describe…

In place of music today: Anna the Prophetess by Leddy Hammock and Sue K. Riley

Now, in this moment I close my outer eyes 
and look within with my inner eyes.
I see a vision of wonder,
for I am the daughter of the vision of God,
of the tribe of the blessed ones,
a soul under grace.
I judge not by appearances.
I believe in God’s promises.
I fast from shadows and I live on light.

From my youth, I have served at the temple,
a vessel to a holy purpose.
Prayer is the temple where I dwell
Here I behold the image of the Lord.
I close my eyes and behold that image,
the eyes of the Infinite beholding me
all through the ages,
so tenderly gazing with love and compassion,
enfolding me.

Prayer is the temple where I dwell.
Here, I behold the image of the Lord.
The thoughts held in mind 
are mirrored in kind all around me,
reflecting through all that I see.
Now, I behold with inner vision
the wonders that will be in the fullness of time.

The dreams of all my days and nights
are incensed in the inner sanctum.
My thoughts of truth are flowers on the altar of light.
In the presence of the Holy of Holies,
I keep the high watch.
Gifted with the inner sight,
I see beyond the present.

I am an old, old soul, yet ageless in eternity.
Though outer eyes may seem to dim with time,
the inner eyes are crystal clear.
Though outer vision may seem obscured by time and place,

or clouded by the sorrows and the slavery of sense,
another world’s revealed so clear.
And what I see will be.
My thoughts are giving form,
And held in mind, shall reproduce in kind.

O Lord, I take a long loving look at the real.
I prophesy.
Christ is here.
I have seen the Lord, Thine image, 
and held that image to my own heart.
I am the Spirit of Imagination.
I am Anna, the prophetess, woman of power.

Antiphon: O Wisdom

December 17, 2020
Thursday of the Third Week of Advent


Today, in Mercy, we begin the recitation of the O Antiphons.

The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphonies used at Vespers of the last seven days of Advent. They are also used as the Alleluia Verse during the daily Mass.

Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture. They are:

  • 17 December: O Sapientia (O Wisdom
  • 18 December: O Adonai (O Beautiful Lord)
  • 19 December: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
  • 20 December: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
  • 21 December: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
  • 22 December: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
  • 23 December: O Emmanuel (O God With Us)

We begin today
with a heartfelt plea to God
to fill our world with a Wisdom
that orders all things
and teaches us prudence.

Oh, how our world needs this prayer to be answered!  How we need to discover a Wisdom rooted in truth, justice and mutual love!

Let us pray this prayer together today, dear friends, and wrap the whisper of longing around our whole aching world:

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!


As we begin this final week before Christmas, may each one of you feel a dawning of new grace and courage in your hearts. This will certainly be a very different, and perhaps difficult time for many. But let Wisdom teach us that there may be a new and unexpected grace even in this strange season.

Poetry:

Deep into Advent
white morning rises
out of night’s dark mystery.
It will be cold today in some corners
even of the heart.

Still, in a distant belfry
sweet bells awaken
Slowly, the western horizon
warms enough to melt stars.

It is a time of promises
dancing in and out of hope.
Once, we see Glory.
Once, we see Void.
Our stark challenge is just to hope,
no matter what we see.

Deceptively simple, it is a call
with caverns unimagined,
each one offering
its own circuitous journey
into Wisdom.

For when peaceful stillness encompassed everything and night had run half its course,
your Almighty Word leapt down from heavens throne into a doomed land.
Wisdom 18:14-15


Music: O Wisdom – Michael G. Hegeman, Performed by: The Lauda! Chamber Singers