Tag Archives: Liturgy

Psalms say it all

I like the way psalms say it all. “Rejoice in the Lord, you just!” a psalm response said recently. No need to double your efforts or think hard about something. “Rejoice in the Lord, you just!”

The earth rejoices in God, our king. Why not join it? The “many isles are glad.” Be glad with them.

The psalms have a way of stilling our souls and calling them into the quiet grace of God’s presence. Does everything depend on us? No, it doesn’t. God “melts the mountains like wax” and “guards the lives of his faithful ones.” We think we have to know everything, but only God can do that.

We take part in the liturgy, not to know more and more, but to be drawn closer to God. The scriptures, prayers and actions feed our minds and hearts, but only little by little. One of the special graces of the psalms is invite us to rest in God as a child in a mother’s arms.

Most of the psalms in our liturgy are songs of praise. “Rejoice in the Lord!” Some cry for help. They call us to simple, deep prayer. Keep your eye on them in the liturgy. They’re wonderful basic prayers.

“Although the whole of Scripture breathes God’s grace upon us, this is especially true of that delightful book, the book of the psalms.” (St. Ambrose)

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Friday Thoughts: Simple Awe

Picasso, The Blind Man's Meal, 1903

Picasso, “The Blind Man’s Meal”, (1903)

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The ear that hears, the eye that seesthe Lord has made them both.

—Proverbs 20:12

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It is the simple times. It is when we are doing life one dirty dish, one utility bill, one ordinary errand at a time that deepened faith creates an awe-filled stir.

For much is said of the bells and whistles of supernatural faith—but what is most supernatural is the presence of “all”, of “everything”, of “heaven and earth” in each dirty dish, each electric bill, each trip to the dollar store. What is most supernatural is the acknowledged presence of God in day-to-day life.

The deeper our trust, the more complete our surrender, the less “exciting” the external signs need to be. Or to express it differently: The least “exciting” times become so overwhelmingly profound that bells and whistles are hardly noticed.

We are told that we need an ear that hears and an eye that sees.

But what is it to have them?

Is it being still within God’s presence while the sponge soaks, the envelope seals, the cash register line slowly shortens?

The skeptic may see such a man as confined by complacency, dangerously satisfied, or simply numb. The skeptic may even call such a man “blind”.

That is certainly one way to look at it.

There is another:

Or is it that the mighty awe of a salvaged life has finally taken hold?

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Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

—Luke 10:23-24

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—Howard Hain

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Birth of John the Baptist

birth john
Jesus himself praised John the Baptist for his holiness; one reason the church celebrates John’s birth and death in its liturgy. Luke’s gospel recalls John’s birth in detail, ending with the words:“The hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.”

Like Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah are recognized in Luke’s gospel for their role in the birth and raising of the child. However lonely and independent John appears in the gospels, he was influenced by them and the extended family he belonged to. They all left their mark on him. “The hand of the Lord was with him,” but human hands were on him  as well.

He had faith like his mother Elizabeth who recognized the Spirit’s presence in her pregnant cousin Mary visiting her from Nazareth. John would point out the Lamb of God among all those who came to the Jordan River for baptism.

He had faith like his father Zechariah who devoutly celebrated the mysteries of God in the temple of Jerusalem as a priest. At the Jordan River,John called pilgrims on their way to the Holy City to prepare the way of the Lord in their own hearts.

Undoubtedly, John was a unique figure, a messenger from God, a voice in the desert preparing the Lord’s way. But there were  faithful people behind him, as they are behind us.

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Welcome to Ordinary Time

Creation
The Easter season ends with the Feast of Pentecost and we’re into ordinary time in the church year. Unlike other feasts, Pentecost has no octave; ordinary time is its octave. Most of the church year is ordinary time; most of life is ordinary too, but the Spirit is there just the same.

“Their message goes out to all the earth.” We read the Acts of the Apostles during the Easter season as Jesus’ apostles, led by Peter and Paul, ventured on their way from Jerusalem to Asia Minor and to Rome, empowered by strong winds and tongues of fire, Yes, the Spirit can bring us to the ends of the earth, but the Spirit is also there in the few steps we take every day, though we’re hardly aware.

We tend to minimize ordinary life. Just ordinary, nothing’s happening, we say. Yet, day by day in ordinary time the Risen Lord offers his peace and shows us his wounds. Every day he breathes the Spirit on us. No day goes by without the Spirit’s quiet blessing.

 

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Silent Clay

The daily Mass readings for Eastertime, from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John, are so different in tone. As its title suggests, the Acts of the Apostles is a fast-moving account of a developing church spreading rapidly through the world through people like Paul of Tarsus and his companions. Blazing new trails and visiting new places,  they’d be prime targets today for frequent flyer programs and travel sites on the internet.  Always on the go.

The supper-room discourse of Jesus from the Gospel of John, on the other hand,  seem to move slowly, repeating, lingering over the words of Jesus to his disciples. They tell us to listen and be quiet, sit still. Don’t go anywhere at all.

St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, was inspired by St. Paul, the Apostle, to preach and to teach. Many of his letters end telling his reader that he has to go, he’s off to preach the gospel somewhere. He was a “frequent flyer.”

But the Gospel of John also inspired him; it was the basis for his teaching on prayer. Keep in God’s presence, in pure faith, he often said. Enter that inner room and remain there. Don’t go anywhere.

“It’s not important for you to feel the Divine Presence, but very important to continue in pure faith, without comfort, loving God who satisfies our longings. Remain like a child resting on the bosom of God in faithful silence and holy love. Remain there in the higher part of your soul paying no attention to the noise of the enemy outside. Stay in that room with your Divine Spouse…Be what Saint John Chrysostom says to be: silent clay offered to the potter. Give yourself to your Maker. What a beautiful saying! What the clay gives to the potter, give to your Creator. The clay is silent; the potter does with it what he wills. If he breaks it or throws away, it is silent and content, because it knows it’s in the king’s royal gallery.”  (Letter 1515)

 


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Friday Thoughts: Short and Simple

tintoretto-christ-washing-the-disciples-feet-1548-49

Tintoretto, “Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet”, 1548-49

 


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Pray, brothers and sisters,

that my sacrifice and yours

may be acceptable to God,

the almighty Father.”


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Tall and handsome.

Big and powerful.

Profound and exciting.

A great adventure starring a great hero.

Doing the dishes.

Just the right combination of hot and cold.

Mostly hot of course.

And the cold, that splash of sobriety is so we don’t get burned.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, I commence the dishes…

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The sponge is important.

It need be clean and effective.

For how can one wash with something dirty?

And yet, even the best is hardly perfect.

After a single use it’s bound to show signs of deterioration.

So you add more soap and hope for the best.

Our Father, who art in heaven…

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The circular motion of water, upon and around each dish.

Turn, turn, turn…

Rinse, rinse, rinse…

Like the axis of the earth.

The equator slightly tilting back and forth.

Side to side, to ensure proper runoff.

Such a delicate balance.

Then put aside to dry.

Sunlight works best.

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…”

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The drain cannot be ignored.

The little netting, catching all sorts of iniquities.

Now very clean hands.

Cleansed thru humility.

The dignity of work.

Reach down.

To grab what has been left below.

The rejected, the unwanted, the forgotten food.

A Eucharistic portion.

Not washed into the drain.

Yet separated from what is considered clean.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

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I find two towels work the best.

One, somewhat clean, to wipe down the faucets and the edge of the sink.

The other to dry shriveled-up hands.

And to be hung, upon the little bar.

The one that crosses the oven door.

Awaiting the warmth.

The warmth that bakes our daily bread.

May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.”

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It is all really very simple.

Short and simple.

He died. We live.

We die. He lives.

One dirty dish at a time.

One Eucharistic encounter at a time.

Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”


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Thanks be to God.”

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—Howard Hain

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Presentation in the Temple

The Presentation of Jesus in the temple, forty days after his birth, is a Christmas feast, though all our Christmas decorations are put away. It’s part of Luke’s Infancy Narrative.

The temple of Jerusalem (above)  plays a big part in Luke’s Infancy Narrative,  more prominent than the stable to which the shepherds came.  The angel announced John’s birth to Zachary in the temple, and there Jesus is presented after his birth. Later, as a young boy he comes to the temple and impresses its teachers, listening to them and asking the questions.

Luke doesn’t dwell on the rituals or appearance of the temple; he may not know much about them. For him the temple is where God is present and so it’s a place where Jesus would be revealed and recognized. Forty days after his birth, two elderly Jews, Simeon and Anna, recognize him,  faithful believers representing generations waiting for the Messiah.

Old Simeon takes the child in his arms:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”  (Luke  2,22-40)

Luke goes on afterwards in his gospel to describe the rejection of Jesus by his neighbors in the synagogue at Nazareth– neighbors who saw him so frequently that they don’t see him at all. But here in the temple two faithful Jews, Simeon and Anna, waiting for years, receive him. The long waiting in the temple has not dulled their eyes. In fact, it has made them sharper. They see salvation in this little child, ” a light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of  your people Israel.”

Presentation

So true, isn’t it, waiting can dull our eyes? Year by year can diminish what we expect and hope for. Day after day, faith can get tired. Prayers can become rote, sacraments can become routine. A holy place can become just another place.

It wasn’t so for these two elderly Jews. Their steady presence in the temple made them sharper, quicker to recognize the light that came to that place. We bless candles today, to burn in our church this year, and we pray that our church may never be dark but a place where we see the light of Christ and recognize his will for us and for our world.

 

 

 

 

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