Balance

By Faithful Finch

I’m finding that being a docent at the Church of the Transfiguration, I learn new things all the time! I was researching the vow of conversion. This is the demanding vow for everyday change from self, to be more like Christ. What I found was the push for change in conversion balances the vow of stability, and keeps us from becoming stagnant. In stability, we put down our roots; in conversion of life, we spread our branches in growth. Stability is always content, while conversion of life is always curious.

It made me think of the mosaic professional path of our church, which is a Tree of Life. At the end of the tree blossoms the three Benedictine vows of Conversion, Obedience, and Stability, each of them balancing the other.

Butterfly

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ADVENT I: A Season of Wonder

Birth: Wonder…Astonishment…Adoration. There can’t be very many of us for whom the sheer fact of existence hasn’t rocked us back on our heels. We take off our sandals before the burning bush. We catch our breath at the sight of a plummeting hawk. “Thank you, God.” We find ourselves in a lavish existence in which we feel a deep sense of kinship – we belong here; we say thanks with our lives to Life. And not just “Thanks” or “Thank It” but “Thank You.” Most of the people who have lived on this planet earth have identified this You with God or gods. This is not just a matter of learning our manners, the way children are taught to say thank you as a social grace. It is the cultivation of adequateness within ourselves to the nature of reality, developing the capacity to sustain an adequate response to the overwhelming gift and goodness of life.

Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, this is always beyond anything we can make.

Excerpted from God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, Edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press)

 

 

sunset

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Thanksgiving

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing
By James Weldon Johnson

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts

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The tiny door into the New Jerusalem

By Sunset Septuagint

One of my favorite things to contemplate in the Church of the Transfiguration’s mosaic apse is the New Jerusalem above Christ in Glory. The tesserae sparkle in brilliant shades of red, blue and gold. Buildings of different sizes line the path, and lead to a tiny door (almost like Alice in Wonderland) in the top center of the apse.

I look at all the buildings and wonder: will my whole Community family be in one big building, or will I be in one of the tiniest ones that look so welcoming? I do know one thing. God will be with me, and will wipe away every tear from my eyes, and there will be no more mourning or crying or pain. (Revelation 21:3, 4)

But how to get there? One of the clergy gave a little sermon about giving up everything to follow Jesus. He described a man who went to heaven carrying only a small suitcase of his most treasured possessions. He was welcomed at the door and given a new robe to put on. But the suitcase would not pass through the sleeve of his robe, so he had to leave it at the door.

Fortunately, most of us are not called to give up all our worldly possessions all at once, but we are a long way from one small suitcase. The more I unpack here, the less I’ll have to leave at the threshold of that tiny door to the New Jerusalem — and the more room I’ll make for Jesus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Preparations for Peace

By Sr. Fidelis

It never fails to amaze me that the texts chosen for a particular week in the Church Year have layers of meaning for us. This final week before Advent begins is no exception. The Introit takes verses from Psalm 85: “He will speak peace unto His people and to His saints, and to those who turn to Him in their hearts.” (RSV) The Latin actually says, “and on those who are converted to Himself.” On this threshold we receive assurance that if we are turned toward Him, that He will speak peace to us in the gift of His Son. The psalmist invites us to expect and prepare for the Prince of Peace.

Creche

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Stepping out of the shadows

bird7

By Melodius Monk

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” This is a most suggestive beatitude. If we had been writing it, we would have said, “Blessed is he who never has sinned.” But if it read thus, it would have no comfort for anyone in this world, for there are no sinless people here.
-J.R. Miller

The language of this psalm can be so commonplace to church-goers that we easily run right past its true meaning. If we pause a moment and think about the phrase, “Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven,” it’s mind-blowing. What do we do to forgive our sins? Nothing! It’s pure gift. And in addition to this gift, we are blessed. What type of God is this who blesses those who tell Him what they did wrong? If I stole something and then turned myself in, I would still be guilty of that crime; but with God this is not so. When confessed, our sin is covered, obliterated, and never used against us. Do we live in gratefulness to this love? I think the answer for most of us most of the time is, “Sadly, no.” But what a privilege this gift of sin-covering is. It’s a gift that promises us a hope and a future. It’s a covering that allows us to not live in fear. Ever since our first ancestors hid from God in the garden out of fear and guilt, we have followed suit. Perhaps I can be courageous enough today to step out of hiding toward God, and gratefully accept my blessing.

bird7

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Siena Experience

By Sr. Fidelis

Last week I had the privilege of touring the magnificent Siena Cathedral in Italy, where there was an entire library off to the left of the main sanctuary containing chant books from the 15th century. The whole room was outlined with book after book of the most beautiful Graduals and Antiphonaries filled with stunning illuminations. The amount of beauty and detail in these jewel-toned miniatures took our breath away. But perhaps the greatest blessing for the two brothers and me as we went from book to book was being able to recognize and softly sing the chants that have become so beloved and familiar to us over the years. This wonderful experience made the sense of joining a living tradition of worship even stronger.

Piccolomini_Library 15Illuminated

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Hurry to this Work

By Rachel Srubas

When the time comes for one of the divine offices to begin, as soon as the signal is heard, everyone must set aside whatever they may have in hand and hurry as fast as possible to the oratory. . . The essential point is that nothing should be accounted more important that the work of God. — Chapter 43, Saint Benedict’s Rule

A singular, demanding note,
the bell of disciplined devotion,
intervenes in the day. Didn’t I already pray?
What more is there to say, so soon?

You. Your name,
the ancient phrases of the faithful
fill my mouth. My mind,
the most defiant part of me,
lingers over what I set aside
to hurry to this work.
To aspire to ceaseless prayer requires me
to live as though you were my highest priority.
I say you are, yet I resist, internally preoccupied
while singing psalms so seemingly sincerely.

Help me. I’m a master of little but self-division:
my body is present, apparently, prayerful;
my attention, anywhere but here.
Find me and remind me whose I am,
what my deepest joy is,
why I need much practice
as well as your forgiveness.

Excerpted from Oblation: Meditations of St. Benedict’s Rule, published by Paraclete Press.

empty_church

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Love Overcomes All

By Hummingbird

My little four-legged friend has upbraided me for not heeding him, and tells me that I have been far too serious for too long. He wants to say that love overcomes all.

Indeed it is true, and he is right. Love is the only unconquerable power and the all-conquering power. I try to imagine, as I look at him, how small a world his eyes see in comparison to mine, and yet it is his whole world. I see his short four legs and how little of the world he could experience on his own. Heights of any greatness are denied him under his own power; closed doors are a barrier to any progress. Water or snow more than six inches deep could mean death. Yet he has traveled far, gone high, passed through many doors, seen much, and endured great depths of water and snow. How? I carry him. He goes with me. Why? Because I love him.

So it is with our Savior. It is his love that carries us in much the same way. Our small world, our littleness—the closed doors, the great heights—are available to us because we go with him. His love overcomes our lack. He show us that loving others with his love is a conquering power over all troubles, all darkness. No barrier exists to his love. In the end, we must succumb to his love. He waits for us to be a vessel for his love to others.

small-dog-breeds

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Love Overcomes All

By Hummingbird

My little four-legged friend has upbraided me for not heeding him, and tells me that I have been far too serious for too long. He wants to say that love overcomes all.

Indeed it is true, and he is right. Love is the only unconquerable power and the all-conquering power. I try to imagine, as I look at him, how small a world his eyes see in comparison to mine, and yet it is his whole world. I see his short four legs and how little of the world he could experience on his own. Heights of any greatness are denied him under his own power; closed doors are a barrier to any progress. Water or snow more than six inches deep could mean death. Yet he has traveled far, gone high, passed through many doors, seen much, and endured great depths of water and snow. How? I carry him. He goes with me. Why? Because I love him.

So it is with our Savior. It is his love that carries us in much the same way. Our small world, our littleness—the closed doors, the great heights—are available to us because we go with him. His love overcomes our lack. He show us that loving others with his love is a conquering power over all troubles, all darkness. No barrier exists to his love. In the end, we must succumb to his love. He waits for us to be a vessel for his love to others.

small-dog-breeds

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