Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I lift up my eyes...

Graham Owen photographer ~ California Hills in Spring

There are 150 psalms (poem-prayers of ancient Israel) in the Old Testament. They are a wonderful way to jump-start prayer. Jesus would have known the psalms by heart. A psalm is always prayed at Mass between the first reading and the Gospel. Father Ronald Knox has given us a very wonderful translation of the entire Bible in which the Psalms are beautiful, fresh and alive. Here is Psalm 120. We might pray this psalm these days of danger, insecurity and discouragement. 

I lift up my eyes to the hills to find deliverance;
from the Lord deliverance comes to me,
the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Never will he who guards thee allow thy foot to stumble;
never fall asleep at his post!
Such a guardian has Israel,
one who is never weary, never sleeps;
it is the Lord that guards thee,
the Lord that stands at thy right hand to give thee shelter.
The sun's rays by day, the moon's by night
shall have no power to hurt thee.
The Lord will guard thee from all evil;
the Lord will protect thee in danger;
the Lord will protect thy journeying and thy homecoming,
henceforth and forever.

Msgr. Ronald Knox ~ 1888 - 1957

Intercessions ~ First Sunday of Advent

Advent's violet is the color of transition./ We ask for awareness/ to realize personally the need to transition from inner darkness to light./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Francis is visiting Africa through Monday./ We pray for his safety,/ and blessings for Africa,/ facing many challenges/ and often forgotten or ignored./ We pray to the Lord.

Monday is the Feast of the Holy Apostle, Andrew./ We pray for the countries which claim him as their patron:/ Scotland,/ Greece,/ Romania,/ Russia,/ Poland,/ Ukraine and Barbados./ We ask for these countries to love each other/ and to model solidarity and commonality for all the world./ We pray to the Lord.

As in our hemisphere we move into the cold and dark time of year,/ we pray for those whose lives are filled with discomfort and insecurity./For those for whom everyday is a dark day./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the world's children who are unwanted,/ turned away,/ disposed of,/ emotionally pained,/ hungry or abused./ And for hearts that welcome and support these littlest ones./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who are already trying to stay warm./ For the sick,/ the war-damaged,/ the dying/ and all who care for people who live in pain or need./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for those who have died,/ those known to us and those unknown./ We pray for all whose deaths were violent or particularly sad/ to share in the charity and joy of heaven./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Another Gatha ~ As I Take This Breath

Do we remember that our religious story begins with God's breath?
God, at the beginning of time, created heaven and earth. Earth was still an empty waste and darkness hung over the deep; but already, over its waters, stirred the breath of God. Genesis 1:2)

And the end of our Gospel has the Risen Jesus echoing that creation scene.
Late that Sunday evening, when the disciples were together behind locked doors, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, "Peace be with you!" he said, and then showed them his hands and his side. So when the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy, Jesus repeated, "Peace be with you!", and then said, "As the Father sent me, so I send you." He then breathed on them, saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit!" (John 10:19-21)
For a religion that brackets itself with divine breath, we might pay more attention to our own breathing.  Many of us don't know what breathing deeply is: perhaps we're out of shape and we get winded quickly. Or we've compromised our breathing with cigarettes. Or over the years we've developed the habit of only shallow breathing, and we never fill our lungs. 

Here's a little exercise to begin breathing deeply. Inhale counting to 8. Then hold the breath for the count of  8. Then exhale counting to 8. Do this for four to eight cycles. Each day.

But there is more to our breathing than just that. Here is my gatha that highlights the more of even one breath and how that breath might be an antioxidant to hate. 

Did I just inhale the breath of saints?
Then I'm glad!
But if the breath of haters,
then I exhale it transformed
into peace and love. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gathas Are Like Seeds

Here is picture of the young Frasier Fir tree (Abies fraseri) I bought yesterday. The nursery folks even decorated it with a little red Christmas bow. Frasier Firs are one of a few kinds of traditional Christmas trees, the branches leaving  lots of room for hanging ornaments. But this tree is for planting outside, not for chopping. While it waits for me to find the right spot, with the maximum of sunshine, I am reminded of the need for prayer.

Gatha is a prayer-form found in Buddhism but not prayers as we often understand them in the west - some sentences (maybe out of a book) telling God what we need God to do for us. A gatha instead is a little verse that sums up or highlights a spiritual concept. Without using theological terms (a kind of foreign language to many) it is immediately accessible to the soul. 

A gatha usually features some ordinary aspect of life, helping us to be mindful of what we're doing in the movements and encounters of everyday. What we're REALLY doing. A gatha invites us to be aware of the hidden aspects of living, the underneath as we: wake up, enter a room, set a table, wash our hands, brush our teeth, rake leaves, send an e-mail or make a phone call - plant a young tree.  

One author says that gathas are like planting seeds of goodness, spirit and joy. As a response to our feelings of helplessness, gathas are seeds of desire and good intention sewn in a world burdened with killing, negativity, greed, suffering and injustice. Additionally, I'd say gathas are short exhaled expressions of surprise - interior exclamation points! 

Gathas are a way for us to take control of our own minds which are often jerked around by so many silly and wasted distractions, too much media and too much talking. We can en-circle the world by writing our own - indeed - we should feel encouraged to do so. 

As I awaken
Upon waking this morning,
I stay in bed until I smile,
grateful for these hours
and greeting all who suffer.

The days first encounter with water
Streams weave through the woods here,
rain and snow abound,
now grateful for the splash of water ~
our human commonalty.

As I put on my shoes
With a grateful heart I ask
Who made these shoes?
and that I'd walk the earth
in safety and peace.

While walking my dogs
In the dark morning hours ~
tiny headlights on my cap,
grateful for this bit of creation
entrusted to my care.

As my eyes fall on the Gospel page
At seven the pretty teacher taught me to read.
What a wonderful gift!
I hold this wish for the children of the world ~
especially the girls.

For the healing of my ancestors
In my ancestral line: poverty, imbalance and fear,
addiction and despair.
Now in this moment of recalling,
I wish them healing and joy.

Setting the table
As I set the table ~
dinner for four,
Can't we spread the table
for the world that has nothing?

In the planting of the fir tree
As an antidote to destruction
I plant the young fir tree
with hopes for an
ever-greening human unity