Alleluia! The Angel returns...

Alleluia! The Angel returns…

On Christmas Day, 1995, as I planted two small Yew trees (traditionally seen as sacred trees, and known for their healing properties) near my meditation spiral, I realized that these “Angel and Cradle” driftwood pieces, and a large, heart-shaped rock I had recently found on the beach at Camano Island, were the perfect memorial for my recovery from a double mastectomy for breast cancer.

It was, of course, an even more perfect symbol for the Incarnation, as the Angel hovered over the Holy Child resting in the simple Cradle shaped only by the hand of God.

When moving from Camano to Bellingham, the Angel, cradle and heart-rock came with me, standing guard for years near the entrance to my Anchorhold. The Yew trees, however, stayed behind. This spring something deep within my soul stirred, and I knew it was time to bring the Angel closer. She now resides on my back deck, still hovering over the Cradle and Heart-rock. And on either side are dwarf Yew shrubs. And beside the Cradle is a stone basin in which the birds delight as they baptize themselves in rainwater.

Today is Easter, and now, on this great Feast of the Resurrection, the symbols of the Incarnation are utterly transformed: The Angel has become the Cross of the Crucifixion, the Cradle has become the Tomb; and the Heart-rock Holy Child has become the Resurrected Christ, “the spiritual rock that is Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

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For Ukraine…and Syria…and Egypt…and Africa…and Venezuela…

You pour Your holy oil into the stars, O Holy Spirit,

and out of senseless conflagrations

You make vigil lamps before the Glory of Heaven.

Pour Yourself into my soul also,

and out of a passionate conflagration

make a vigil lamp before the heavens.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prayers by the Lake. 2nd Edition. Prayer XX

(I don’t pretend to understand all the dynamics here, but on a 1993 visit, Kiev entered my heart…she has known such violence–in WWII, the slaughter of Jews, and many others at Babi Yar, and untold other wars and famine and injustice over the ages…..we can only pray–and offer their suffering as vigil lamps before the Glory of Heaven.)

 

 

NativityChristmas Eve, 2013

As the Holy Babe lies hidden amongst the tiny birds and pinecones of my Advent Wreath, preparing for His arrival at the crèche on Christmas Eve, I find myself turning to a review of those ancient days.

Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the Galilee, and nearly all of the Mediterranean, as well as much of Western Europe and Britain lay under the yoke of Roman armies—called Pax Romana by modern historians. Yet even in this period of relative political peace, many were enslaved; disease and famine often drew near; and the various passions of temper and desire continued to rage within the hearts of humankind.

And in the next few centuries, more trouble brewed: the poor became worse off, while a tiny percentage amassed wealth and power; those who were deemed ‘other’ endured scorn, persecution, and sometimes martyrdom; ‘barbarians’ began to challenge the power and influence of the empire, leading to foreign wars and increased taxation; drought, famine, and crop failures, along with soaring unemployment, led to a faltering economy and mass migrations across political boundaries. Even in the fledgling Christian Church, contemporary cultural mores and theological controversies threatened not only the unity of the Church, but even the heart of the Gospel of Christ.

Well, a Christmas letter is not really the place for a history lesson, is it? Yet only a few viewings of the evening news make it all seem so very familiar. And perhaps that is as it should be, for time after time, century after century, it is into this very context of tragedy, sin, and evil that we need to hear anew the great Good News of Jesus the Christ.

Born in humility
becoming our flesh:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

For only in that great mystery of the Incarnation have the shepherds of Bethlehem, the apostles and disciples of Galilee, the monks, nuns, and hermits of deserts, mountains, and forests, and countless souls—men, women, children—found hope, joy, peace and eternal life.

May this season bring the same to each of our hearts, and thence out into the world.

SING, O ANGELS OF HEAVEN!

A Christmas Litany

Born in humility,
Becoming our flesh:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Mothers will come,
To nourish a babe:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
 
Fathers will come,
To shelter the weak:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Children will come,
Trusting, unafraid:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Shepherds will come,
Knowing his Voice:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Royalty will come,
To adore the true King:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Servants will come,
To serve at His Throne:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Sinners will come,
To weep at His Feet:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Mourners will come,
Seeking the Light:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Prisoners will come,
Longing for freedom:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Priests will come,
To lift bread and wine:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Born in humility,
Becoming our flesh:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

 © 2010 Susan Creighton

 

 

 

 

This is a beautiful, powerful prayer for Syria at this time of peril. I have re-blogged it from

http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.com/2013/08/litany-of-syrian-saints.html


Litany of Syrian Saints
For private use only

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison, Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Christe audi nos, Christe audi nos.
Christe exaudi nos. Christe exaudi nos.

God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Ghost,
Holy Trinity, one God,

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of Virgins,
St Michael,
St Gabriel,
St Raphael,
All ye Holy Angels and Archangels,
St John the Baptist,
St Joseph,

All ye Holy Patriarchs and Prophets, pray for us.
Blessed Peter the Apostle, and first Patriarch of Antioch,
Blessed Paul the Apostle, born in Tarsus,
Blessed Paul the Apostle, blinded and converted on the way to Damascus,
Blessed Paul the Apostle, enlightened and baptised at the Street called Straight,
Blessed Peter and Paul, models of humility and justice at Antioch,
St Ananias of Damscus, laying thy hands on Blessed Paul,
Blessed Luke the Evangelist,
St Manahen, disciple of the Lord and foster-brother to Herod Antipas,
All ye holy Syrian disciples of the Lord,
All ye holy Syrian innocents,

St Apollinaris, pray for us.
St Felix of Nola,
St Abraham of Arbela,
St Dorotheus of Tyre,
St Eusebius of Samosota,
St Anthony of Antioch,
All ye holy Syrian Hieromartyrs,

Ss Victor and Corona, pray for us.
Ss Galation and Episteme,
Ss Cosmas and Damian,
St Romanus of Samosata,
And thy Holy Companions Ss Jacob, Philotheus, Hyperechius, Abibus, Julianus and Paregorius,
St Anastasius of Antioch, and thy Companions Ss Julian, Celsus and Marcionilla,
Ss Romanus of Caesarea and Barulas,
St Andrew Stratelates and thy 2953 Companions,
St Julian of Cilicia,
All ye Forty Soldier Martyrs of Sebaste,
St Eusiginius,
Ss Sergius and Bacchus,
Fr Francois Mourad,
All ye holy Syrian martyrs,

St Ephrem the Syrian, pray for us.
St John Chrysostom,
St John Damascene,
All ye holy Syrian teachers of the Faith,

St Evodius, pray for us.
St Ignatius of Antioch,
St Herodian of Antioch,
St Theophilus of Antioch,
St Serapion of Antioch,
St Asclepiades of Antioch,
St Babylas of Antioch,
St Eustathius the Great of Antioch,
St Anastasius II of Antioch,
All ye holy Patriarchs and Bishops of Antioch,

Pope St Anicetus, pray for us.
Pope St Sergius I,
Pope St Gregory III,

St Cyril of Jerusalem, pray for us.
St Sophronius of Jerusalem,
All ye holy Syrian Bishops and Patriarchs of Jerusalem,

St Maron, pray for us.
St John Maron, first patriarch of the Maronite Church,
St Mar Awtel,
St Domnina of Syria, Virgin and disciple of St Maron,
Blessed Abdel Moati, Francis and Raphael Massabki, and thy Holy Companions,

St Birillus, ordained by Blessed Peter, pray for us.
Ss Philo and Agathopodes,
St Jacob of Nisibis,
St Frumentius, Apostle to Ethiopia
St Maruthas, Father of the Syrian Church,
St Romanos the Melodist,
St Cosmas the Melodist, and foster-brother to the Damascene,

St Palladius the Desert Dweller, pray for us.
St Thalassius of Syria,
St Alexius of Rome, the Man of God,
St Simeon Stylites,
St Baradates,
St Auxentius of Bithynia,
St Simeon Stylites the Younger,
All ye holy Syrian Priests and Levites,
All ye holy Syrian Monks and Hermits,

St Philip of Agira, pray for us.
All ye holy Syrian Confessors,

St Serapia, pray for us.
St Margaret of Antioch,
Ss Domnina, Berenice and Prosdoce,
St Basilissa, pray for us.
All ye holy Syrian Virgins and Widows,
All ye holy Syrian Saints of God,

Be merciful, spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Lord.
From all evil, deliver us, O Lord.
From all sin,
From thy wrath,
From sudden and unlooked for death,
From the snares of the devil,
From anger, and hatred, and every evil will,
From the spirit of fornication,
From plague, famine and war,
From revolution,
From all false prophets,
From the errors of Mohammed,
From jihad,
From infidelity, heresy, paganism and heathendom,
From everlasting death,

Through the mystery of thy holy Incarnation, deliver us, O Lord.
Through thy Coming,
Through thy Birth,
Through thy Baptism and holy Fasting,
Through thy Cross and Passion,
Through thy Death and Burial,
Through thy holy Resurrection,
Through thine admirable Ascension,
Through the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete,
Through the blood of thy Holy and Blessed Syrian martyrs,
In the day of judgment,

We sinners: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst spare us: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst pardon us: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst bring us to true penance: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to govern and preserve thy holy Church: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to preserve our Apostolic Prelate, and all orders of the Church in holy religion: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to humble the enemies of holy Church: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to give peace and true concord to Christian kings, princes, and rulers: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant peace and unity to the whole Christian world: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst call back to the unity of the Church all who have strayed from her fold, and to guide all unbelievers into the light of the Gospel: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to give discernment and wisdom to the rulers of nations: we beseech thee, hear us.

That thou wouldst vouchsafe to confirm and preserve us in thy holy service: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst lift up our minds to heavenly desires: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst render eternal blessings to all our benefactors: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deliver our souls, and the souls of our brethren, relations, and benefactors, from eternal damnation: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to comfort the afflicted people of thy Holy Syria, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to give and preserve the fruits of the earth: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe graciously to hear us: we beseech thee, hear us.
Son of God: we beseech thee, hear us.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, parce nobis, Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, exaudi nos Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

Christe audi nos, Christe audi nos.
Christe exaudi nos. Christe exaudi nos.

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison, Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.

Pater noster [silentio]
Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo.

Domine exaudi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te veniat.

Oremus:

For world leaders:
O God, who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that, by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be always truly wise, and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. amen.

Against Persecutors of the Church:
O Lord, we beseech thee, crush the pride of our enemies and humble their insolence by the might of thy hand. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

In any tribulation:
O Almighty God, despise not thy people who cry out in their affliction: but for the glory of thy Name, be appeased and help those in trouble. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

For our enemies:
O God, who are the Lover and Guardian both of peace and charity, give to all our enemies peace and true charity, and grant the remission of all their sins, and by thy might deliver us from their snares. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

For the defence of the Church:
Almighty, everlasting God, in whose hand are the strength of man and the nation’s sceptre, see what help we Christians need: that the heathen peoples who trust in their savagery may be crushed by the power of thy right hand. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

In time of war:
O God, who bringest wars to nought and shieldest by thy power all who hope in thee, overthrowing those that assail them; help thy servants who implore thy mercy; so that the fierce might of their enemies may be brought low, and we may never cease to praise and thank thee. Through our Lord… Amen.

For peace:
O God, from whom are holy desires, right counsels and just works; give to thy servants that which the world cannot give; that both, our hearts may be disposed to obey thy commandments, and also, the fear of enemies being removed, our times, by thy protection, may be peaceful. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

Domine exaudi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te veniat.
Exaudiat nos omnipotens et misericors Dominus. Amen.
Et fidelium animae per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

 

 

Saint Mary the Virgin August 15

May the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos sustain the Christians of Egypt, Syria, and other Islamic areas where they are under violent persecution.

Dormition Theotokos

 

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

 

 Song of the Most Holy Theotokos

Hail blessed Virgin, hail and rejoice.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb,
for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us now, and at the hour of our death.

 Persecution of Christians

http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/49974/#more

St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Suez is under heavy attack from those who support former President Mursi. They are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the church and have destroyed the car of Rev. Ehab Ayoub, the priest-in-charge of St. Saviour’s Church. I am also aware that there are attacks on other Orthodox churches in Menyia and Suhag in Upper Egypt (photo above), as well as a Catholic church in Suez. Some police stations are also under attack in different parts of Egypt. Please pray and ask others to pray for this inflammable situation in Egypt. —(The Most Rev.) Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

http://ad-orientem.blogspot.com/2013/08/anti-christian-pogroms-underway-in-egypt.html

Church of the Virgin Mary and Anba Abram of the Coptic Orthodox. the village of Daljah, the district of Deir Mawas, Minya province. Burning and demolishing the church.

The Church of St. Mina of the Coptic Orthodox. The neighborhood of Abu Hilal Kebly Minya province. Burning the church.

St. George Church. Coptic Orthodox archbishopric land, Sohag province. Burning the church.

Baptist Church. Status of  Bani Mazar, Minya province. Burning the church

Church of the Virgin Lady of the Coptic Orthodox, Nazlah village, Yusuf the righteous district, Fayoum province. Burning the church…

Monastery of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd School. Suez. Burning.

Church of Franciscan fathers. Street 23. Suez. Burning.

Bible society friends, fayoum. Burning.

Church of Saint Maximus. 45th Street. Alexandria. Harassment.

Church of Prince Taodharos Elchatbi. Fayoum. Burning.

Church of the Virgin Lady of the Coptic Orthodox. butchers street. Abu Hilal District. Minia province. Burning.

Church of Saint Mark. Catholic Copts. Abu Hilal District, Minya province. Burning.

Church of the Jesuit Fathers. Abu Hilal District, Minya province. Burning.

Church of the Virgin and Anba Abram. Sohag. Burning.

Church of Saint Mark, and the building of services. electricity Street. Sohag. Burning.

The house of Father Onjelios king. Pastor of the Church of the Virgin and Anba Abram in Daljah. Deir Mawas district. Minya province. Burning the house completely.

Burning the Greek Church in Suez.

See also:

Coptic Defense League:  https://www.facebook.com/Coptic.Defense.League

Persecution of Christians in Syria: http://www.persecution.org/category/countries/middle-east/syria/

And finally, the words of another Christian of Alexandria, Egypt: Origen of Alexandria, +254

Just as those who endure torOrigen3tures and sufferings demonstrate in martyrdom an excellence more illustrious than those not tested in this way, so also those who byusing their great love for God have broken and torn apart such worldly bonds as these in addition to their love of the body and of life, and who have truly borne the Word of God, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12)—these have been able to return like an eagle to the house of their master (cf. Prov. 23:5 LXX) by breaking apart such bonds and by fashioning wings for themselves. An Exhortation to Martyrdom, XV.  

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 1

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 2

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 3

Part 4

HOLY DWELLING – Saturday and Sunday

As we continue to pray the psalms through the week, and through the architecture of the church, I am reminded of two stories from many years ago, one told me by a friend and another which I witnessed directly. In the first of these, some time in the early 1970’s, my friend’s son, perhaps only four or five years old, said to his mother one day after church, “Mama, what’s happening up there in front behind the fence (the altar rail) is what’s really REAL, isn’t it?” His child’s innocence enabled him to perceive the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine in a way that most of us struggle to ever know. In the second instance only a few years later, I was attending a meeting of Episcopal religious orders held at one of the more traditional convents. We gathered for Eucharist in a small chapel, and the celebrant wanted to remove the free-standing altar rail so that we could all gather around. An elderly nun was serving as thurifer, and she simply could not bring herself to step into the sanctuary proper across the line where the rail had stood. At the time, I was appalled that she was so locked into the ‘old’ way of doing things. Now I realize that her actions (perhaps unconscious, but nevertheless genuine) were rooted in an awareness that our souls must be sufficiently prepared to cross that sacred threshold into the Heart. Would that the rest of us (especially we clergy!) had the humility to recognize the sacred ground of the Altar.

For the Altar within the Sanctuary is the preeminent symbol of the Heart, where God dwells, the site within the human soul wherein the most profound and exalted contemplation of the Holy Trinity may occur, and it is the destination to which everyone is called.  St. John Chrysostom says, “Find the door of your heart, and you will find the door of the Kingdom of Heaven” and The Philokalia calls the Heart:

“the spiritual centre of man’s being, man as made in the image of God, his deepest and truest self, or the inner shrine, to be entered only through sacrifice and death, in which the mystery of the union between the divine and the human is consummated.”

And so, in this arrangement of praying the psalms week by week, over a four week cycle, we will find ourselves on Saturdays focused on the kind of Holy Dwelling best exemplified by the Theotokos, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the original sanctuary of our Lord, as well as on the fullness of virtue and purity to which the soul gradually ascends.

On Sunday, our prayer through the psalms brings us to the praise and worship of God for the ultimate expression of Holy Dwelling in the Resurrection of Christ, as well as giving us hints of theosis, in which as St. Maximus the Confessor says:

“When, urged by love, the mind soars to God, it has no sensation either of itself or of anything existing. Illumined by the limitless Divine light, it is insensible to all the created, just as is the physical eye to stars in the light of the sun.”

Yes, this is the “really, Real” that only an innocent child—or a holy saint—could recognize. Even so, the wonder is that every time we make our way up that long aisle, though the choir, to the altar, and receive in our own hands and mouths the Body and Blood of Christ, we, too, know the “really, Real”; we, too, enter in to Holy Dwelling.

HOLY DWELLING

CONTEMPLATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY

Holy Dwelling finds the Soul increasingly dwelling within her heart, and now, even the mind is quiet and ‘naked’.

Holy Dwelling brings the Soul ever nearer to the goal of her journey in God. Now, she experiences an ever deepening illumination and contemplation of all that is, seen and unseen.

Holy Dwelling brings the Soul to contemplation of the Holy Trinity, moving beyond mere words about God, to the wordless silence of the heart in pure adoration.

Holy Dwelling is found as the Soul enters the sacred altar of the heart, the Kingdom of Heaven, the place where God alone dwells.

 

HOLY DWELLING Incarnation / Virtue 
SATURDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Matins2452512
9168215
856510196
13311397
SATURDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Vespers37, Part I1112147
37, Part II1046441
67131128
145130

 

HOLY DWELLING Resurrection / Theosis
SUNDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Matins99196187
1182366116
1174686111
47146
150
SUNDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Vespers110107, Part I12111
30107, Part II12431
348493
1349198

 

 

Transfiguration

Part 3

CONTEMPLATIVE LIVING – Thursday and Friday

It is somehow fitting that today, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, this post brings us to CONTEMPLATIVE LIVING. Peter and James and John had walked the path of FAITHFUL LIVING during their years as disciples of Jesus. Now, as Jesus led them up a high mountain, they were—no doubt unknowingly!—ascending with their Lord into a new realm of being, a higher state of consciousness, if you will, and into a more spiritually sensitive aspect of the soul. Now, they were able to perceive the saints (Moses and Elijah), but even more critically, to see with the eyes of their souls the Light of the Transfigured Christ. (How frustrated poor Peter was to discover that he could not contain this vision, this Reality-with-a-capital R, in his booths!)

But back to Dwelling in the Psalms. If we return to the architectural model of the church, having spent our time in the Nave, we move past the Pulpit and Lectern, and (in most traditional buildings) ascend Three Steps, past the Rood Screen / Iconostasis into the Choir.

First, let us look at the Three Steps. In the ancient mystical tradition, these have been seen as signifying mystically our three stages of purification—from external passions of the body (gluttony, fornication, avarice), internal passions of the soul (wrath, despair, and acedia), and finally from passions of our mind (vainglory and pride).

The Rood Screen / Iconostasis is seldom seen in western churches, even if built with a more traditional floor plan. Nonetheless, many medieval churches had some sort of screen or railing between the Nave and the Choir and Sanctuary.  (See for example photos by Allan Barton, (see here and here.) In St. Paul’s, Bellingham, WA, where I worship our rather elaborate wrought-iron rood screen has occasionally become a point of controversy, with some congregants loving it, and others feeling that it in some way “shuts them out” from the altar. I recall the first time twenty years ago when I preached at St. Paul’s, my initial reaction was one of being in a prison of sorts! However, I am now a fervent support of the Rood Screen, for I better understand its spiritual significance. Such an architectural feature whether subtle or bold serves to nudge our soul to the awareness that we are moving from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the visible created order we discern with our five senses to the invisible and intelligible we can only discern with our heart.

And so we come to the Choir. In the medieval churches, this was the territory of the monastics whose lives were dedicated to prayer and contemplation, but to this day the choir is the place where we “pray twice” through our singing. Now, whether singing in the choir or moving through it on the way to receive communion, we open our souls to Illumination and Wisdom, to moving more deeply into the sacred presence as well as to depths of Sacrifice and Redemption.

As a result, the psalms chosen for Thursday and Friday support our soul’s movement into ever deepening understanding (poor word, but it will have to do for the moment) and wonder at the works of God, whether through the awesome gift of creation itself, or through the ultimate gift in the Person of his Son

 THURSDAY

CONTEMPLATIVE LIVING

CONTEMPLATION OF THE CREATED ORDER

Contemplation of the Created Order was called by the ancient church “second natural contemplation,” or “contemplation of the book which is read.”

Contemplation of the Created Order initially utilizes our five senses to rejoice in the wonders of God’s works in all creation, from the earth, planets, and stars, to the smallest atom and particle of matter.

Contemplation of the Created Order strengthens as the Soul’s life in God matures and deepens, and we become more deeply aware of the transcendent presence of God in all of creation.

Contemplation of the Created Order continues the process of purification of the Passions of Desire (gluttony and fornication), and deepens the purification of the Passions of the Temper (avarice, sorrow, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride). This purification helps the Soul to develop a higher degree of Dispassion, and transformation of the vices into virtues.

Contemplation of the Created Order also brings us to a fuller experience of illumination in the eternal truth of God’s Word as we give praise for all His works of redemption.

CONTEMPLATIVE LIVING (Contemplation of the Created Order) Illumination / Wisdom
THURSDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Matins63297175
277214894
9248149
THURSDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Vespers18, Part I4973132
18, Part II6290115
126127

FRIDAY

CONTEMPLATIVE LIVING

Contemplation of the Heavenly Jerusalem

Contemplation of the Heavenly Jerusalem was known in the ancient tradition as “first natural contemplation,” or “contemplation of the intelligibles.” Here, the Soul moves from a contemplation of the visible creation, perceived by the senses, to the contemplation of the invisible, or unseen—those things which can only be perceived by the mind. (Or more specifically, the Nous—not just the rational, deductive mind.)

Contemplation of the Heavenly Jerusalem develops when the Soul comes to an even more mature level. Now we realize that ‘the Kingdom of God is within,’ and we enter more deeply into the silence of our Souls.

Contemplation of the Heavenly Jerusalem continues the (life-long) process of purification, but now there is likely more emphasis on the passions of pride and vainglory, as well as the Passions of the Mind, when we encounter the temptations of false visions, prophecy, and revelations.

Contemplation of the Heavenly Jerusalem brings forth a flowering of the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’, with ever-deepening love, joy, peace, and wisdom.

CONTEMPLATIVE LIVING (Contemplation of the Heavenly Jerusalem) Sacrifice / Redemption
FRIDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Matins795012277
22205551
138143
FRIDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Vespers89, Part I35140123
89, Part II12512988
28139103

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 1

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 2

Part 2

FAITHFUL LIVING – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

Another way of thinking about Dwelling in the Psalms is to visualize our movement through the physical structure of the church. (And here I am utilizing the very traditional floor plan of a medieval, Western cathedral or monastery chapel, an architecture that is still to be found in many smaller churches built prior to say about the 1960’s.)

We enter the church from the out-of-doors, remembering our ancient movement from the Garden and the glories of creation. We climb the steps to enter the Narthex, responding to the call of God. We then come to the Baptistry, remembering our deliverance from captivity, and our initiation into the Body of Christ. Then we come to the Nave, where most of us spend most of our worshiping lives, hearing again and again the stories of salvation history, and learning what it means to come into covenant with God, and to follow His Law, and become His Holy People. From the Pulpit and Lectern, we learn the meaning of faithful discipleship, as we learn to follow the Commandments, and live the Beatitudes. In so doing, we encounter our passions, and through purification and repentance, transform them from vices into virtues, and grow in faith, patience and charity.

In summary, then:

Faithful Living comprises the foundational phase of the Soul’s life in God. It begins with creation itself, and with the call to God’s people to follow, love, and obey him.

Faithful Living concerns our deliverance out of captivity—the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt through the Red Sea, and the Christians’ initiation into the Body of Christ through Baptism and Chrismation.

Faithful Living calls us into Covenant with God, into the relationship of obedience, and surrender to God, who in turn, protects and guides us to the fulfilling His Law, and to becoming His holy people.

Faithful Living above all teaches us to “Love one another.”—to live with compassion for all, even ourselves; to grow in faith, patience, and charity.

Faithful Living continually calls us to repentance and conversion, and to the grateful reception of God’s loving mercy to us, and to all who “fall short of the Glory of God”—which, of course, is all of us.

Faithful Living transforms our vices into virtues, and, through detachment and discrimination, we become more dispassionate—no longer at the mercy of our own passions.

MONDAY

FAITHFUL LIVING Creation / Salvation History 
MONDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Matins13568818
33244476
136
MONDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Vespers105, Part I106, Part I78, Part I78, Part II
105, Part II106, Part II100114

TUESDAY

FAITHFUL LIVING Discipleship / Passions  
TUESDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Matins119:1-16119:49-64119:97-112119:145-160
119:17-32119:65-80119:113-128119:161-176
52365821
70
TUESDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Vespers119:33-48119:81-96119:129-14417
14105340
7439144
1203

WEDNESDAY

FAITHFUL LIVING Purification and Repentance
WEDNESDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Matins802683108
6038102109
5613
142
WEDNESDAYWEEK 1WEEK 2WEEK 3WEEK 4
Vespers696425
547443137
3259141
57

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 1

 

 

 

Alder Bench

29 July 2013

Feast of Mary and Martha of Bethany

Dwelling in the Psalms

Part 1

 

INTRODUCTION

The Book of Common Prayer introduces the Psalter by saying “it is a body of liturgical poetry, designed for vocal, congregational use, whether by singing or reading.” And in the Anglican tradition, there has long been an expectation that clergy would say the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, and that this discipline would also be followed by devout laity as much as possible. Yet I think if we are candid, it is a discipline that is likely practiced only by a minority, whether lay or clerical. I can only confess that, having once known the riches of the monastic community praying and chanting the prayers and psalms day after day, season after season, I frankly found it nigh on impossible to say the offices on my own. They were designed for corporate, congregational prayer, and that was no longer an option for me on a daily basis.

Yet always, my heart hungered for what I knew was truly food for the soul. And so after years—nay, decades!—of praying in an unstructured, irregular manner, I found myself returning once again to a more traditional practice. Perhaps my own interior silence had deepened sufficiently to sustain a richer feast of psalms, readings, and canticles.

As a result, this arrangement of the Psalms is the fruit of an effort to find a way of praying the Psalms that is in accordance with the practice of the ancient Church, and that is also coherent with the life-style of the solitary anchorite or hermit. (Perhaps it may also be useful for others who pray alone, or even in community.)

Praying the Psalms in solitude is very different than praying them in a congregation or a monastic community. In solitude, one does not have the support of other voices, other souls—except, of course, for the presence of the Communion of Saints, who are even now and unto the ages lifting their voices in praise to the Holy Trinity.

The life of a vowed anchorite or hermit is also a life dedicated to silence and simplicity. As such, the traditional breviaries and lectionaries may be found cumbersome, and unduly complicated, often impinging upon the deep silence of contemplative prayer.

This arrangement, then, is significantly simplified. The cycle of Psalms is spread over a four-week cycle. In addition, rather than the ancient tradition of seven daily offices, and the more contemporary tradition of four offices a day, this Psalter is divided between Matins and Vespers. Some may choose to add a period of intercession at noon day, and the traditional late-evening office of Compline may more easily be recited by memory while preparing for sleep.

A few comments about the distribution:

For generations, lectionaries have distributed the scripture readings to reflect to some extent the season of the liturgy (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter….and less so for “ordinary time”). Yet I have been unable to find any tradition (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican) that does the same to a significant degree with the Psalms. By and large, the Psalms most often seem to have been prayed in a roughly numerical order, whether on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly cycle, with occasional variations to be found. If anyone knows of other types of ‘thematic’ lectionaries for the psalms, I hope you will let me know!

The only thing I have found which is close to a thematic (non-seasonal) distribution was that developed by Bonnell Spencer, OHC, in A Monastic Breviary, used by the Order of the Holy Cross and the Order of St. Helena. Fr. Spencer introduced the Psalter by saying,

In determining the assignment of [the psalms], the effort was made, not only to fit them to the time of day, but also to give certain days of the week a special tone. Thus worship and thanksgiving characterize the psalms selected for Sunday, and also for Thursday because of its association with the Eucharist and the Ascension. Friday, and to a lesser extent Wednesday, have been treated as penitential. The Incarnation and the part taken in it by the Virgin Mother are associated with Saturday.  A Monastic Breviary (Holy Cross Publications, 1976)

However, the more I have immersed myself in the ancient patristic tradition of ascetical practice, and discovered therein a clear path for the journey of the soul, I found the traditional psalm distribution to be jarring and seemingly without any reflection of this spiritual path. So at last, building on these studies, I began to examine the traditional stages of the mystical path as a context for praying the Psalms.

In the Western Church, we have traditionally identified three stages: Purification (or Purgation); Illumination; and Union. These designations found their roots in the teaching of the early church (3rd-7th centuries), especially in such masters of the life of the soul as Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius of Ponticus, Dionysius the Areopagite, and Maximus the Confessor. They identified similar stages, but more often used terms such as the Practical Life, Contemplation, and Theosis (or Divinization). Further, contemplation was often seen as having two stages within it, the earliest being contemplation of the created order, and the more advanced being contemplation of the ‘intelligibles’ or the ‘Heavenly Jerusalem.’ Only after passing through these stages, would the soul come to the fullness of the ‘likeness’ of God, or theosis, or union.

I have adapted these stages under the headings of “Faithful Living”, “Contemplative Living”, and “Holy Dwelling.” While using this understanding of the mystical path, rather than simply reciting the psalms in numbered sequence, I have arranged them—to the degree possible—to reflect the journey of the soul through the stages according to various themes reflecting the experiences and emphases of each stage.

Psalm Stages & Themes

WEEKDAYSTAGESTHEMES
SUNDAYHoly DwellingResurrection / Theosis
MONDAYFaithful LivingCreation / Salvation History
TUESDAYFaithful LivingPassions / Discipleship
WEDNESDAYFaithful LivingPurification / Repentance
THURSDAYContemplative LivingIllumination / Wisdom
FRIDAYContemplative LivingSacrifice / Redemption
SATURDAYHoly DwellingIncarnation / Virtue

 Such a distribution of the Psalms supports the soul by each week emphasizing the different stages of the mystical journey. Of course, not every psalm fits neatly into these categories, and someone else might determine a very different distribution. I was also constrained by an effort to approximate the number of verses for each office, coming up with an overall average of 44 verses for each of the 56 offices in a four-week cycle.

Although traditional practice is to begin each week with Saturday Vespers, I have chosen to use our more modern calendar by beginning with Sunday. However, it would be simple to adjust this system to the more traditional, simply by moving Saturday Vespers to the beginning of each week.

What about the ‘imprecatory’ verses? Our modern sensibility finds them very objectionable, indeed. Some lectionaries omit them entirely. And yet, does that not simply impose our own sensibilities upon what has for millennia been part of the prayer of faithful people, Jew and Christian alike? As hard as some of these verses are to pray, it seems to me they must be retained. We may not wish to think of ‘dashing little ones’ heads against the rocks’ (Ps. 137), but there are people out there who do just that, and perhaps our prayer can bring them—and our own unruly passions—into the transforming presence of God. It is also worth noting that the ancient tradition was to see some of these verses as directed against the assault of demonic and evil forces, a reality which must be encountered by any soul who prays for very long.

One other note: Psalm 95 is not included here because it is used every day at the beginning of Matins. The translation used is that of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

In the coming days, I will continue these posts on the psalms, with a slightly fuller explanation of each stage, and with a chart of the psalms assigned to each office and day within each stage.

Susan Creighton+

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 2

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 3

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 4

 

Mystical Icon of the Holy Church by the hand of Matthew Garrett, 2008 http://holy-icons.com/

In this season of ecclesiastical upheaval and discontent, it seems useful to remember that, sadly, thus it has ever been down through the centuries. It is even more important to remember that though the Church may sail through treacherous seas, Christ is always at the helm.

My prayers for the Church this morning led to those of St. Isaac of Nineveh (also known as St. Isaac the Syrian) from the 7th Century:

O Mystery exalted beyond every word
and beyond silence,
who became human in order to renew us
by means of voluntary union with the flesh,
reveal to me the path
by which I may be raised up to your mysteries
. . .
Gather my mind into the silence of prayer
. . .
Stir up within me
the vision of your mysteries
so that I may become aware of what was placed in my
at holy baptism.
You made me to be light and salt for the world:
may I not prove a stumbling block for my companions.
Prayers of Isaac of Nineveh, 7th C.
Translated by Sebastian Brock

Lord, overshadow your holy Church which has been redeemed by your blood; cause to dwell in it your true peace which you gave to your holy apostles; bind her children in holy bonds of indissoluble love; may the rebel not have power over her, and keep far from her persecution, tumult, and wars, both from those within and from those without; and may kings and priests be bound together in great peace and love, their minds always filled with gazing towards you, and may the holy faith be a wall for your flock.
A prayer of Isaac of Nineveh, 7th C.
Translated by Hilarion Alfeyev

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