As you ease into Holy week, here is a meditation to help you find some focus and balance…MC
To Know the Cross
A Meditation for Holy Week from “Bread and Wine.”
The Christian must not only accept suffering: he must make it holy. Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering.
Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except, perhaps, to harden them. Endurance alone is no consecration. True asceticism is not a mere cult of fortitude. We can deny ourselves rigorously for the wrong reason and end up by pleasing ourselves mightily with our self-denial.
Suffering is consecrated to God by faith – not by faith in suffering, but by faith in God. Some of us believe in the power and the value of suffering. But such a belief is an illusion. Suffering has no power and no value of its own.
It is valuable only as a test of faith. What if our faith fails the test? Is it good to suffer, then? What if we enter into suffering with a strong faith in suffering, and then discover that suffering destroys us?
To believe in suffering is pride: but to suffer, believing in God, is humility. For pride may tell us that we are strong enough to suffer, that suffering is good for us because we are good. Humility tells us that suffering is an evil which we must always expect to find in our lives because of the evil that is in ourselves. But faith also knows that the mercy of God is given to those who seek him in suffering, and that by his grace we can overcome evil with good. Suffering, then, becomes good by accident, by the good that it enables us to receive more abundantly from the mercy of God. It does not make us good by itself, but it enables us to make ourselves better than we are. Thus, what we consecrate to God in suffering is not our suffering but our selves.
Only the sufferings of Christ are valuable in the sight of God, who hates evil, and to him they are valuable chiefly as a sign. The death of Jesus on the cross has an infinite meaning and value not because it is a death, but because it is the death of the Son of God. The cross of Christ says nothing of the power of suffering or of death. It speaks only of the power of him who overcame both suffering and death by rising from the grave.
The wounds that evil stamped upon the flesh of Christ are to be worshiped as holy not because they are wounds, but because they are his wounds. Nor would we worship them if he had merely died of them, without rising again. For Jesus is not merely someone who once loved us enough to die for us. His love for us is the infinite love of God, which is stronger than all evil and cannot be touched by death.
Suffering, therefore, can only be consecrated to God by one who believes that Jesus is not dead. And it is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.
I was meditating on this traditional prayer today and thought I would pass it on…Monty
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me;
Within thy wounds hide me;
Suffer me not to be separated from thee;
From the malignant enemy defend me;
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come to thee,
That with thy saints I may praise thee
Forever and ever.
ASH WEDNESDAY by Roberta Egli
“O fragile human, ashes of ashes and filth of filth! Say and write what you see and hear.”*
We begin our Lenten landscape journey in the rather bland monochromatic place of dust and ashes. Whenever I clean out the fireplace, attempting to clean and create space for a new fire, I am reminded that ashes, just as dust are difficult to gather into one place. Ashes and dust are messy business and the more we attempt to clean our homes and perhaps our very lives of the messiness of dust and ash, the more it simply falls softly into a different space.
On Ash Wednesday, many of us will gather as communities of faith to be marked with the sign of a palm-ash cross on our foreheads. The palms that last year heralded the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem in worship have now turned to ashes that mark the beginning of our Lenten journey, of turning to face the shadows of the cross. On our way towards the cross we will walk with Jesus as he encounters a variety of terrain but we begin here, in the essence of our mortal bodies—ashes and dust.
For some of us, being reminded of our mortality may seem quite morbid but there is hope to be found among the ashes of our existence. Hildegard of Bingen was a German mystic of the twelfth century who was a writer, poet, composer, innovator, and person who longed for a deep relationship with God. Her words remind us that there is nothing that needs to hold us back in living full lives as we remember that we began as dust and we will return to dust. Rather than being afraid, let us embrace each day fully with our whole selves as we walk through the various landscapes of life. Where will Jesus meet us this Lent? Perhaps we will meet him at the rocky springs beside the well with the Samaritan woman (John 4:7-30) or in the mudflats where Jesus is waiting to heal us as he spits into the dust of earth (John 9:1-41).
Prayer: God of mercy, we hear your call to return to you with all of our heart. As we reflect upon our response to this call, free us of our fear so that we may follow Christ through all the landscapes we will are invited to enter this season of Lent. In the name of Christ we pray, AMEN.
*[The Ways of the Lord: Hildegard of Bingen, foreword by Homer Hickam, edited by Emilie Griffin; translation by Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop, selections from the 1990 Paulist Press translation of Scivias (Harper One: New York 2005)]
Great meditation from Eugene Peterson…mc
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Isaiah 1:1
Jesse’s roots, composted with carcasses
Of dove and lamb, parchments of ox and goat,
Centuries of dried up prayers and bloody
Sacrifice, now bear me gospel fruit.
David’s branch, fed on kosher soil
Blossoms a messianic flower, and then
Ripens into a kingdom crop, conserving
The fragrance and warmth of spring for winter use.
Holy Spirit, shake our family tree,
Release your ripened fruit to our outstretched arms.
I’d like to see my children sink their teeth
Into promised land pomegranates
And Canaan grapes, bushel gifts of God,
While I skip a grace rope to a Christ tune.
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
“But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.”
Through the centuries the church has been making the same mistake over and over again as it has defined Christianity by what you know instead of Who you know, or better yet, Who knows you. We’ve confused information (learning about God) with transformation (being known and recreated by Him in His image, not our own).
When we define Christianity by what we know…it becomes a doing based religion, a treadmill of shoulds and a list of tasks derived from the information we have acquired. That is not the freedom found in being a new creation, or the new way of the Spirit, it is life under the old Law of performance.
There is a big difference between these two dynamics however. As I was thinking about these two realities, the following considerations and contrasts came to mind:
information is finite – transformation is infinite
information improves – transformation creates
information is temporary – transformation is permanent
information is the known – transformation is the unknown
information is safe – transformation is risky
information is predictable – transformation is unpredictable
information requires study – transformation requires trust
information promotes self-sufficiency transformation demands dependence
information breeds familiarity – transformation embraces the unfamiliar
information is inanimate – transformation is alive
information is a noun – transformation is a verb
information takes hold – transformation lets go
information is knowledge – transformation is truth
There is so much more for us to encounter and experience in God, but we must be willing to allow the information to translate into a liiving reality in the graceful grip of God. The journey in and down to the soul-ular level is a journey that will change your life.
It’s time to experience being a new creation, and life lived in the new way of the Spirit…if it is a new way, then why do we keep doing the same old things? Perhaps it’s time to move from information to transformation.
1 Samuel 15:22-23
But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
Thoughts: Saul, the first king of Israel, did not know much about silence or listening to God. Like David, he was gifted, anointed, and a successful military/political leader. Yet we never see him seeking to be with God like David. In this passage, Samuel the prophet reprimands Saul for doing many religious acts (i.e. offering burnt offerings and sacrifices) but not quieting himself enough to listen, or “to heed” God (vs. 22).
“We all must take the time to be silent and to contemplate, especially those who live in big cities like London and New York, where everything moves so fast…I always begin my prayer in silence, for it is in the silence of the heart that God speaks. God is the friend of silence – we need to listen to God because it’s not what we say but what He says to us and through us that matters. Prayer feeds the soul – as blood is to the body, prayer is to the soul – and it brings you closer to God. It also gives you a clean and pure heart. A clean heart can see God, can speak to God, and can see the love of God in others.” ~ Mother Teresa
Question: How could you make more room in your life for silence in order to listen to God?
Prayer: De-clutter my heart, O God, until I am quiet enough to hear you speak out of the silence. Help me in these few moments to stop, to listen, to wait, to be still. to allow your presence to envelop me. In Jesus’ name, Amen
*From the Daily Office, Scazzaro