O Emmanuel

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

December 21, 2019

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O Emmanuel

Today, in Mercy, we pray:

O Emmanuel,
Who loved us so
You took our flesh,
come,
open our eyes
to see You here
ever near,
ever within us.

As Earth turns –
in so many ways –
to greatest darkness,
light the candle of
Your Indwelling
deep within our
longing hearts.

As Mary knew your
Closeness,
let us know You.

As Joseph held You
in mutuality of trust,
let us hold You and
be held by You.

Be born again
in the love that
we return to You
by loving one another
well and tenderly.

Cleave us to
Your Brilliant Light
though hidden in
life’s puzzling shadows,
God with Us,
God ever with Us!

O Emmanuel, come
be with us
on our longest nights.
Let us lean
soft into You
on our hardest days.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Music: Winter Cold Night – John Foley, SJ
(Lyrics below)

Winter Cold Night – John Foley, SJ

Dark, dark, the winter cold night, lu-lee-ley
Hope is hard to come by, lu-lee-ley
Hard, hard, the journey tonight, lu-lee-ley.
Star, guide, hope, hide
our poor, winter cold night.

And on earth peace, good will to men.

Lean, lean, the living’ tonight, lu-lee-lay.
Star seems darker sometimes, lu-lee-lay.

Unto you is born this day a Savior.

Pain, yes, in the bornin’ tonight, lu-lee-lay.
Star, guide, hope, hide
our poor, winter cold night.

O Key of David

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

December 20, 2019

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key of david

 

Today, in Mercy, we pray:

O Key of David,

O Blessed Freedom,
Who unlocks the secret of eternal life
within our hearts!

Come absolve
the sad incarcerations
shackling us!

We hold ourselves
and one another captive
by our fears, our greed,
our terrible need
to control
Your power within us.

We are afraid of Love,
because once released in us,
Love asks for everything…

… for everything to be
unbound, unbarred
and given to Your
Unrestricted Grace,
in flesh named “Jesus”.

Love asks us to
become like You,
but we are locked
in smaller dreams.

O Key of David,
come free our dreams
with Yours.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Music:  O Clavis David

O Adonai

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

December 18, 2019

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O Adonai

Today, in Mercy, we pray:

O, Adonai,
we reach for your outstretched arm.

How we need to lean on You,
to be upheld by You,
to be embraced by You,

Compassionate Lord, who
leads us through a life
that can be unbearable
alone.

We pray, with longing hearts,
that You uplift all the fallen –
whether into pain, or loss,
confusion, or the sad distress
we inflict upon ourselves
and one another.

Adonai, Beautiful One,
set a fire before us,
as You did for Moses.

Lead the way for us
with Flame of Love
and Light of Faith
into your outstretched Mercy.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Music: O Adonai – Gloriae Dei Cantores

O Wisdom

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

December 17, 2019

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Wisdom_2019

Today, in Mercy, we pray:

O, Wisdom,
how we need You!

Around us,
and at times within us,
there is a foolishness
that has forgotten You.

There is a shallowness
that skims this
sacred well of life
on the thinest surface of
our pretenses,
our distractions, 
our frightened preoccupations.

Take us to the depth
where Your Wisdom
dwells within us.

There let us find
peace
undisturbed by circumstance;
justice
fed by lavish mercy;
Love
beyond boundaries,
beyond definition,
beyond imagination,
beyond time.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!


Music: Who Has Known – John Foley, SJ

O the depth of the riches of God;
and the breadth of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
For who has known the mind of God?
To Him be glory forever.

A virgin will carry a child and give birth,
and His name shall be called Emanuel.

For who has known the mind of God?
To Him be glory forever.

The people in darkness have seen a great light;
for a child has been born, His dominion is wide.
For who has known the mind of God?
To Him be glory forever.

God Sings

Once, in a half-hidden glen in Waller Mill Park in Williamsburg, Virginia, I stood in a silence so complete, I could hear nothing but God humming. Even the birds had stopped to listen. If you can, take the time to find a spot like this in your life. Wait there long enough to lose the noise of your own anxieties. Wait for Love and Lavish Mercy to sing with you.

glen


Every Riven Thing ~ Christian Wiman

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: Walking through Clouds – Berward Koch

 

Catching Hope!

Monday of the First Week of Advent

December 2, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our first reading sets us out on nearly two weeks of passages from Isaiah. The passionate hope of Isaiah’s writing, as well as its literary elegance, can reach into our hearts and powerfully renew us.

Is4_6 glory

For these reasons, “Isaiah’s Vision” is among the most beloved and influential books of the Bible. The book has so influenced Christianity that it often is referred to as “The Fifth Gospel”.

We begin today with a passage that captures Isaiah’s prophecy for the restoration of Israel after the Assyrian and Babylonian decimation. You might think, “So what! That was ancient history and my life is now. What can Isaiah say to me?”

But that is the magic of Isaiah! He is a prophet and a magnificent poet. What he says for “then” can be lifted out of time and wrapped in “now”. In the transformation of prayer, Isaiah can be laid in revelation over our world, our times … my life.

On this second day of Advent, as we faithfully seek to find God in our deep-heart, what do today’s lines say to us:

  • Is there a “branch” of hope in us that we pray will blossom?
  • Is there a holy confidence we may have lost for a while that we hunger to have returned?
  • Is there a barren field in our world or our lives that longs to be brought to life?
  • Do we pray for the graceful restoration of our Church, our world, our country, our families, our own hearts?
  • Do we long for signs of God’s Presence in our lives – not smoking clouds and flaming fire necessarily – but the joyful peace and freedom that would bless and comfort us?

Isaiah today is about assuring us in these longings. He says:

For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection:
shade from the parching heat of day,
refuge and cover from the storm and rain.

In our Advent prayer,
we open our spirits to that Promise!

Music: Beautiful Zion- sung by Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Lyrics

1. Beautiful Zion, built above;
Beautiful city that I love;
Beautiful gates of pearly white;
Beautiful temple—God its light;
He who was slain on Calvary
Opens those pearly gates for me.

Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

2. Beautiful heav’n, where all is light;
Beautiful angels clothed in white;
Beautiful strains that never tire;
Beautiful harps thru all the choir;
There shall I join the chorus sweet,
Worshiping at the Savior’s feet.

Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

3. Beautiful crowns on ev’ry brow;
Beautiful palms the conq’rors show;
Beautiful robes the ransomed wear;
Beautiful all who enter there;
Thither I press with eager feet;
There shall my rest be long and sweet.

Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Text: George Gill, 1820–1880
Music: Joseph G. Fones, 1828–1906

A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day, 1687

Saint_Cecilia
Poster of fresco after John Dryden’s poem “A Song for Saint Cecilia’s Day
Stanza 1
From harmony, from Heav’nly harmony
               This universal frame began.
       When Nature underneath a heap
               Of jarring atoms lay,
       And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
               Arise ye more than dead.
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
       In order to their stations leap,
               And music’s pow’r obey.
From harmony, from Heav’nly harmony
               This universal frame began:
               From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
       The diapason closing full in man.
Stanza 2
What passion cannot music raise and quell!
                When Jubal struck the corded shell,
         His list’ning brethren stood around
         And wond’ring, on their faces fell
         To worship that celestial sound:
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
                Within the hollow of that shell
                That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot music raise and quell!
Stanza 3
         The trumpet’s loud clangor
                Excites us to arms
         With shrill notes of anger
                        And mortal alarms.
         The double double double beat
                Of the thund’ring drum
         Cries, hark the foes come;
Charge, charge, ’tis too late to retreat.
Stanza 4
         The soft complaining flute
         In dying notes discovers
         The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whisper’d by the warbling lute.
Stanza 5
         Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs, and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains and height of passion,
         For the fair, disdainful dame.
Stanza 6
But oh! what art can teach
         What human voice can reach
The sacred organ’s praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their Heav’nly ways
         To mend the choirs above.
Stanza 7
Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees unrooted left their place;
                Sequacious of the lyre:
But bright Cecilia rais’d the wonder high’r;
         When to her organ, vocal breath was giv’n,
An angel heard, and straight appear’d
                Mistaking earth for Heav’n.
GRAND CHORUS
As from the pow’r of sacred lays
         The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator’s praise
         To all the bless’d above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
   This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
         The dead shall live, the living die,
         And music shall untune the sky.

 

Advice to a Prophet – Richard Wilbur

Speaking of prophets, a beautiful poem, Advice to a Prophet, came across my email today thanks to Joe Riley at Panhala. The poem is fitting as we close this Season of Creation. I have included it in a second post in case you’d like to read it.

deer

 

Advice to a Prophet

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God’s name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us?–
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,
A stone look on the stone’s face?

Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without
The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.


(If you would like to receive a wonderful poem daily, you can subscribe to Panhala. Send a blank email to Panhala-subscribe@yahoogroups.com)

 

On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Meditate (Psalm 145)

 

seashore

by Mary Oliver

1.
All day up and down the shore the
fine points of the waves keep on
tapping whatever is there: scatter of broken
clams, empty jingles, old
oyster shells thick and castellated that held
once the pale jewel of their bodies, such sweet
tongue and juice. And who do you
think you are sauntering along
five feet up in the air, the ocean a blue fire
around your ankles, the sun
on your face on your shoulders its golden mouth whispering
(so it seems) you! you! you!

2.
Now the afternoon wind
all frill and no apparent purpose
takes her cloud-shaped
hand and touches every one of the
waves so that rapidly
they stir the wings of the eiders they blur
the boats on their moorings; not even the rocks
black and blunt interrupt the waves on their
way to the shore and one last swimmer (is it you?) rides
their salty infoldings and outfoldings until,
peaked, their blue sides heaving, they pause; and God
whistles them back; and you glide safely to shore.

3.
One morning
a hundred pink and cylindrical
squid lay beached their lacy faces,
their gnarls of dimples and ropy tentacles
limp and powerless; as I watched
the big gulls went down upon
this sweetest trash rolling
like the arms of babies through the
swash—in a feathered dash,
a snarl of delight the beaks fell
grabbing and snapping; then was left
only the empty beach, the birds floating back over the waves.

4.
How many mysteries have you seen in your
lifetime? How many nets pulled
full over the boat’s side, each silver body
ready or not falling into
submission? How many roses in early summer
uncurling above the pale sands then
falling back in unfathomable
willingness? And what can you say? Glory
to the rose and the leaf, to the seed, to the
silver fish. Glory to time and the wild fields,
and to joy. And to grief’s shock and torpor, its near swoon.

5.
So it is not hard to understand
where God’s body is, it is
everywhere and everything; shore and the vast
fields of water, the accidental and the intended
over here, over there. And I bow down
participate and attentive
it is so dense and apparent. And all the same I am still
unsatisfied. Standing
here, now, I am thinking
not of His thick wrists and His blue
shoulders but, still, of Him. Where, do you suppose, is His
sage and wonderful mind?

6.
I would be good—oh, I would be upright and good.
To what purpose? To be shining not
sinful, not wringing out of the hours
petulance, heaviness, ashes. To what purpose?
Hope of heaven? Not that. But to enter
the other kingdom: grace, and imagination,
and the multiple sympathies: to be as a leaf, a rose,
a dolphin, a wave rising
slowly then briskly out of the darkness to touch
the limpid air, to be God’s mind’s
servant, loving with the body’s sweet mouth—its kisses, its words—
everything.

7.
I know a man of such
mildness and kindness it is trying to
change my life. He does not
preach, teach, but simply is. It is
astonishing, for he is Christ’s ambassador
truly, by rule and act. But, more,
he is kind with the sort of kindness that shines
out, but is resolute, not fooled. He has
eaten the dark hours and could also, I think,
soldier for God, riding out
under the storm clouds, against the world’s pride and unkindness,
with both unassailable sweetness, and tempering word.

8.
Every morning I want to kneel down on the golden
cloth of the sand and say
some kind of musical thanks for
the world that is happening again—another day—
from the shawl of wind coming out of the
west to the firm green
flesh of the melon lately sliced open and
eaten, its chill and ample body
flavored with mercy. I want
to be worthy—of what? Glory? Yes, unimaginable glory.
O Lord of melons, of mercy, though I am
not ready, nor worthy, I am climbing toward you.

Music: Vangelis – Dreams of Surf

Bright with Love

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

May 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, the inevitable shadow falls over the early Christian community. Stephen is martyred – the first, the proto-martyr of many, down through the centuries, who will die for their faith.

Acts8_2 Stephen

This slaughter of innocence happened at the feet, and at the approbation, of Saul – yet untouched by the glorious grace of Christ.

How the community must have mourned beloved Stephen who, as our hymn describes him, was “bright with Love”:

  • Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5)
  • Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8)
  • All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen and saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15)
  • Stephen, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God  (Acts 7:8)
  • Stephen, as they were stoning him, called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. ( Acts 7:55)
  • What a treasure of a man! What a devastation to see his young, gracious life crushed by rejection, suffering and pain!

It is so hard to lose our prophets and saints!

I still remember, with great awe, the funeral of our Sister Mary Joanna Regan – one of the graced treasures of the Sisters of Mercy. Our Beloved Community was raw with her loss – as was the larger community of her love and influence.

Joanna’s dear friend, Father John Comey, SJ – now also of beloved memory – preached the sermon at her funeral liturgy. This was his first sentence:

How can such a woman die?

Dear Readers, haven’t we all felt that way in the face of some great loss? Whenever human frailty seems to bend to the powers of death, hatred, or oppression, our souls are crushed. We are astounded that life and goodness seem to yield. So was the early Christian Church when Stephen seemed to fall to hateful hands.

Nevertheless, they believed that there is an eternal life in God beyond that apparent yielding.  They persisted in the ardent work of building up the reign of Christ.

Now those who had been scattered
continued preaching the word. … and
there was great joy in that city.

And the witness of Stephen impelled not only them, but twenty centuries of committed Christians who find their fullness of life in Jesus Christ.

Certainly our Church, with its many recent fractures and falls, needs a resilient, faithful community to lift it up and carry it forward. Let’s pray to St. Stephen today that we may be that community!

(English and Latin canticle today, plus lovely poem after them)

Music:  Sancte Dei, Pretiose  – sung by the Benedictine Monks of St. Michael’s de Laudes

Latin Version
Sancte Dei, pretiose,
Protomartyr Stephane,
Qui virtute caritatis
Circumfulsus undique,
Dominum pro inimico
Exorasti populo
Et coronae qua nitescis
Almus sacri nominis,
Nos, qui tibi famulamur,
Fac consortes fieri :
Et expertes dirae mortis
In die Judicii.
Gloria et honor Deo
Qui te flora roseo
Coronavit et locavit
In throno sidereo :
Salvet reos, solvens eos
A mortis aculeo. Amen.

English Version
Saint of God, elect and precious,
Protomartyr Stephen, bright
With thy love of amplest measure,
Shining round thee like a light;
Who to God commendest, dying,
Them that did thee all despite.
Glitters now the crown above thee,
Figured in thy honored name:
O that we, who truly love thee.
May have portion in the same;
In the dreadful day of judgment
Fearing neither sin nor shame.
Laud to God, and might, and honor,
Who with flowers of rosy dye
Crowned thy forehead, and hath placed thee
In the starry throne on high:
He direct us, He protect us,
From death’s sting eternally.


Poem: St. Stephen by Malcolm Guite

Witness for Jesus, man of fruitful blood,
Your martyrdom begins and stands for all.
They saw the stones, you saw the face of God,
And sowed a seed that blossomed in St. Paul.
When Saul departed breathing threats and slaughter
He had to pass through that Damascus gate
Where he had held the coats and heard the laughter
As Christ, alive in you, forgave his hate,
And showed him the same light you saw from heaven
And taught him, through his blindness, how to see;
Christ did not ask ‘Why were you stoning Stephen?’
But ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
Each martyr after you adds to his story,
As clouds of witness shine through clouds of glory