Walking home today, it struck me that Advent is the most audacious season of the church year. Even Easter invites us to witness to a past event–one we strive to witness as present as well: the resurrection of Christ, and all it signifies both backwards and forwards in time. But in Advent, we remember the first coming of Christ in a manger in order to anticipate the second coming–one we envision as coming from the skies, or as breaking apart all injustice in our world. While there is a penitential, minor key, reflective spirit during Advent, the most striking feature of Advent may be our boldness in petitioning Christ to come again. Continue Reading
Perhaps this happens to you, too. You are going about whatever you are going about doing, when suddenly the image of a very particular person, place, or moment pops into your mind. The person, place, or moment may or may not be of deep emotional significance to you–and the image of the person or place might vanish rapidly, unless you pause and attend to it. Continue Reading
Over the past few months and weeks I have been alternately thankful and dismayed to read, on the one hand, articles and letters calling for unity of spirit, even when we cannot agree on specific issues, and, on the other hand, writing which underscores, and at times even seems to increase, the deep divisions in our society and in the Church. Continue Reading
It was a sunny day today and not too cold. There were new faces among the volunteers and there were many, many new faces in the line of those asking for a bag of food at the Clare House Food Pantry. I especially see in my mind and heart two women in their early twenties who were at the front of the line. Usually the first two in line have been old regulars who start lining up at 9 in the morning, maybe because they don’t have much else to do. I took the time to talk a bit with these two women and so they’ve become part of my prayer today. I’ve been handing out food at the Pantry for 18 years now and it still softens my heart each time. Continue Reading
Ever since my days of reading the chilren’s nature magazine, Ranger Rick, I have responded to the sweeping love of creation found in Psalm 104: the rain fleeing the thunder of God’s rebuke by pouring down to earth, the rock badgers hiding in crags, thirsty wild donkeys, the stork nesting in the highest branches of the cedars of Lebanon, the lions savagely “claiming their food from God” by night, then “going back to lie down in their lairs” as “people go out to work” by day. The psalmist is clearly awestruck by both the grandeur of wind and mountains and sea, and in love with the particularities of innumerable creatures. Today that psalmist would undoubtedly be an environmentalist. Continue Reading
A few summers ago I met two hermits when I went to a Monastic Institute in Collegeville, MN. Both are women, one in her mid-fifties, the other, Sr. Jeremy Hall OSB, is now in her late 80s and probably could be called a “retired hermit”. By that I mean that she is back living communally with the Benedictines of St. Benedict monastery. Continue Reading
I’m a church choir director, so Christmas inevitably begins in August for me. This year one piece is giving us fits, a new setting of Anglican priest (and later bishop), Phillips Brooks,’ “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” It’s not dissonant and doesn’t appear difficult at all, but no musical material ever recurs. The similar harmonic treatment from verse to verse gives the illusion of a constant melody, though no actual repeating “tune” ever emerges. The effect is glorious, but it doesn’t make the singers’ lives easy. So in trying to help them to get a handle on this brand new music, I’ve tried to dig deeper into the familiar words. Here’s what I find, a very Benedictine essay on radical interior transformation.
Overall, the constant theme is the invasion of the interior life by the historical event of Jesus’ birth in the world–our transformation into a new Bethlehem. Continue Reading