Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Intercessions ~ Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Septuagesima):

Sts Primus & Felician ~ Slovenia

We pray for Pope Francis and religious leaders around the world,/ asking for them to be upheld and strengthened in their efforts of religious understanding and reconciliation./ We pray to the Lord.

There are traumatized cultures in the world where people have not known security and peace for generations./ We pray for them and for the turning of violent,/ hateful hearts./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the world's children where they are starving,/ diseased,/ un-educated,/ displaced./ We pray to the Lord.

We call to mind those who live in prisons and for their renewal,/ those struggling with or lost to addictions,/ for family and friends overwhelmed by troubles,/ depression or anger./ We pray to the Lord.

For those we need to forgive/ and for the healing of old memories and wounds./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for gifts of patience,/ a generous spirit,/ and a new awareness of God's presence in our lives./ We pray for those who are unhappy with themselves/ and those who have made themselves sick with worry./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have died this week: asking for them/ the gifts of God's light and life./ And for those who mourn and bury the dead throughout the world./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Oh, that we would care...

Oh, that we would care about the world's children as much as we care about deflated footballs:

The naked children
The starving children
The war-traumatized children

The sexualized children
The violated children
The uneducated children

The war-orphaned children
The kidnapped children
The sick children

The unwanted children
The handicapped children
The death-threatened children

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The New Creation

THIS YOUNG FELLOW is a Russian monk. The bear is wild: not a circus bear, not a photo-shopped bear, not an orphaned bear domesticated from birth, not a drugged bear, not a stuffed bear. We might think of the story of Saint Seraphim of Sarov who be-friended wild animals in the forest and Saint Francis of Assisi who calmed the wild wolf at Gubbio. 

I can't explain how this happens, but we can wonder. Perhaps the monk is inwardly so reconciled with God, himself, other people, animate and inanimate things that he lives in something of the original creation of Genesis. 

Psalm 51:10 says, Create for me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. I suppose if one prays that prayer often, and desires that renewed heart, the results shouldn't surprise us. 

I imagine this monk has a de-militarized heart, that he doesn't wear masks and has no hidden agenda. I imagine he is a reconciler, free of greed and selfish preoccupations. I imagine he isn't a hater, is humble enough to say I'm sorry and has the desires of God as his priority. He clearly is a happy man.

I'm looking at this monk sharing a hug with a wild bear and imagining a world without guns, rockets, bombs and grenades.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Jesus Pantocrator and the Antichrist

HERE IS THE ICON of Christ-Pantocrator dating to the 6th century and kept at Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt. Pantocrator means - Who rules over all. But this Christ rules with a gentle face, his blessing hand and life-promising Gospel Word. 

Kathleen Norris in her book, Amazing Grace, writes about the word Antichrist. Religious people often use Antichrist as a dramatic shock word. I met some lean-right Catholics once who within two minutes of our introduction pronounced Barack Obama to be the Antichrist in league with Hitler and Stalin. 

Stupidity and ignorance (along with power and fear) are the prime spiritual enemies of the Christian, turning us into demonizing finger-pointers. This kind of religious person keeps the spotlight on others. They don't see themselves. Remember Michael Jackson's song, Man in the Mirror.

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.

Kathleen Norris tells of asking a preacher man the meaning of Antichrist. He told her that the Antichrist is ME and YOU - when we hear the gospel word of Jesus and then don't do it. Talk about keeping things simple. It's much easier to blame someone else - to take an interest in every other kind of religious person, place or thing, but keep the Gospel at bay.

So here in the icon we see that Jesus' gospel book is closed. Forcing nothing, he waits to see if we will open it. If we were to open Jesus' golden, jeweled and illumined book our eyes might fall on this passage:
Jesus also said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a tub or under the bed? Surely to be put on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden, but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light. Anyone who has ears for listening should listen?" (Mark 4: 21-23)

Each of us is the lamp, having received the Lord's teaching and inspiration. Jesus wants us living in light - bright inner light: faithful, repentant, attentive to and aware of spiritual things, true, just, teachable, unfettered and glad.

We're illumined, so to shine where we go. That little interior lamp, easily extinguished, needs to be protected. When I was a boy, after each Sunday Mass, the county police kindly directed traffic onto the main road at the exit of the large parish parking lot. At some point the police stop showing up, having been worn down by the abusive curses of parishioners who felt they were not being exit-ed fast enough. 

This little light of mine...let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Intercessions ~ Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Pope Francis calls to and invites the many millions of Catholics who have abandoned the practice of their faith./ We pray for listening hearts and for the Church to realize how it can alienate people/ failing to reveal its message of salvation for all/ We pray to the Lord.

Our Country has been at war for the past fourteen years./ We ask for God to teach us to find our way to peace/ and for the willingness to follow that path./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask healing and forgiveness wherever evil things are justified by the invocation of God's name./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for human persons to be granted their dignity/ recognizing their rights to health care,/ a just wage,/ housing and education./ We pray to the Lord.

The world is imbalanced by the sin of greed/ where increasingly few people own most of the world's wealth./ For the purification of the world's heart./ We pray to the Lord.

For the world to realize who it is who lives in the womb/ and for every child to be protected,/ valued and loved./ We pray to the Lord.

And we ask for those who have died/ to receive all that God has promised in the Risen Jesus./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Kindness of Jesus ~ His Cup of Cold Water

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, 
truly I tell you that person will not lose his (her) reward."

Matthew 10:12

This is a most tender gospel verse reflecting the kind awareness of Jesus - and his invitation to do the same. Notice that Jesus says cold water. This means the little gift is considered, that the gift comes from the heart, that the giver has taken extra care so as not to give water that is hot from sitting in the sun in an already uncomfortably dry climate. Jesus intends that the water-gift be refreshing and renewing. Love is in the details.

We might also take note that the command of Jesus is positive: he does not say, avoid or don't or thou shalt not - but he defines kindness and love by the word give.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Shh ~ Quiet Winter Retreat ~ Christ of the Hills

TODAY THE POST INVITES you to come away on a brief, quiet retreat. The world is busy and you might like to escape for awhile. Some people come to Christ of the Hills Retreat House in the better weather, but the winter, while it has its own beauty makes traveling difficult.

All the photographs were taken with a phone camera. Our young friend, Nicholas, took some of the pictures while I took the others. DIVNA and the Melodi Choir sing the Cherubic Hymn from the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom:

We, who mystically represent the Cherubim,
and chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity,
let us set aside the cares of life
that we may receive the King of all,
Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.

"Divine Hosts" refers to the escort of angels.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Intercessions ~ Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is the season of ice./ we pray for those whose politics,/ willingness and hearts are frozen and cold./ We pray to the Lord.

Christians are suffering terrible persecution in North Korea,/ Somalia,/ Iraq,/ Afghanistan,/ Sudan,/ Iran,/ Nigeria,/ Eritrea and Pakistan,/ We pray for these brothers and sisters in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

The cold brings suffering with it./ We pray for the homeless,/ those who live in poorly heated places,/ and for those who work out-of-doors./ We pray to the Lord.

We return to the liturgical green time - the color of growth and life./ We ask for the greening of faith - that it would be evolved,/ reflective and mature,/ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the sick and those who assist them./ For the safety of travelers./ For the peace and well-being of family members and friends./ We ask for those who do us any kindness to be blessed./ We pray to the Lord.

Haiti was devastated by an earthquake five years ago,/ now it is overwhelmed by many hundreds of thousands of people infected with cholera./ We pray for a generous and helpful global response./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have died this week,/ mindful of the thousands killed by terrorists in the troubled country of  Nigeria/ with many children among them./ We pray for those who help and for those who mourn./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Returning to the Green Time

IT WILL BE A GOOD WHILE YET before we see green like this, nevertheless, the Church returns to the Green Time now that the Feasts of Christmas, Holy Family, Epiphany and the Lord's Baptism are passed. Green is the symbol of freshness. We can all understand that - we see the sixteen wheeler with "Delivering Farm Fresh Produce" proclaimed on the side. Each school semester invites a fresh start. A couple setting out together after a time of hurt understands fresh start as well.

A problem for religion is when its rituals, vocabulary and theology becomes stale or even dead - when the culture hasn't got a clue what the religion is talking about because the religion has lost its freshness. Say the word Nativity to too many Americans under the age of sixty and it's clear they have no idea what's being referenced. Believe it!

Kathleen Norris addresses this in her book, Amazing Grace, where she re-articulates the meanings of many dozens of spiritual-religious words that have become alienating of spirit-deadening jargon. One of those words is salvation. What's that? Just that I'll go to heaven (what's that?) if I'm good, obedient and have claimed "Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior" (more jargon!)

For the Christian, green is the color of hope for salvation. Hope is a noun but it is also a verb - it's an action word meaning to trust that God will act - will act for my salvation. Kathleen Norris reminds us that the Hebrew origin of salvation means to make wide: that I can find myself in scary, tight places where I'm in inner danger, where I can't be productive, where I'm devolving or inhibited, silenced by fears, compromised..... Salvation is coming to the wider place where I am able to be more fully human and alive, as God made me to be.

A boy who had done very bad things and who lived in a very dark place tapped his forehead in front of me once and said, "Father, this is my neighborhood and it's a bad neighborhood to go in to." If he said that with a sense of having to get out of that narrow, dangerous inner neighborhood, then salvation has started in him.

I need to get out of this angry mindset.
I need to get away from this dangerous company.
I need to avoid that troublesome person.
I need to get free of this life and joy-stealing addiction.

I need to unburden myself of  this energy-wasting resentment.
I need help with this depression.
I need advice with this nagging problem.
I need to find a happier path.

I need to observe the speed limit.
I need to listen more carefully ~ make time for my children.
I need to lose some weight.
I need to get honest.

So this Sunday, if you go to a church that features liturgical colors and you see the green - consider the meaning of salvation - finding the wider way.

P.S. Jesus' injunction to enter through the narrow gate is another conversation.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mother of God ~ Lightness

THIS MOTHER OF GOD ICON is of the Hodgetria type ~ Shower of the Way, though the iconographer has done two notable things that might allow us to give her our own title. Her maphorion (mantle) is particularly voluminous and is the color of clay. With us, she is of the earth. We notice too that the edge of the mantle and veil are trimmed in a double band of pearls. Even her cuff is decorated. But as Eastern Icons are not interested in simply representing earthly events, as if a photographer told Mary to dress up for her portrait, the icon wants to communicate the spiritual reality that is before our eyes. In other words, I'd venture the pearls mean something.

Indeed, in the study of symbology pearls can mean simply lightness. Mary is wrapped in lightness. Better yet, Mary IS lightness. This doesn't mean gravity defying but filled with light - enlightened - of light. Isn't this what's symbolized when at Baptism the priest handed off a lighted candle to us?

Father Alexander Schmemann, reflecting on secularism and worship, holds that a secular culture is not necessarily a God-denying culture but a culture that no longer worships. Worship is not synonymous with Church going, as we might wonder how much real worship goes on in some churches - priests who are un-prepared and in a terrible hurry, parishioners who won't pick up a hymnal and are out the door in a stampede. But worship has more to do with being responsive to God who is always the initiator. Admittedly this will be an unpopular theology today - lots of people reject any idea of being surrendered or in a servant role This initiation-response is modeled in the Annunciation account of Saint Luke's Gospel. There's Mary's lightness. She isn't divine, but she is filled with a pearl-like lightness born of response.

Indeed, an oyster creates the pearl but first the oyster has to be invaded by a little sand grain around which the pearl is produced. Some irritant must be introduced. God is a comforter but also a disturber. God can be an irritant, prod-er or initiator, the one who upsets my status quo,  my comfortable and planned out inner Nazareth. "Come on now, produce something lovely and lustrous," God might say. 

  • Lightness is compassion.
  • Lightness is creativity.
  • Lightness is a changed mind where I'd been previously unyielding.
  • Lightness is generosity.
  • Lightness is a change in my politics born of the Gospels.
  • Lightness is giving up a long-nurtured grudge.
  • Lightness is trusting that in the end all shall be well.
  • Lightness is clarity of purpose or direction.
  • Lightness is coming clean.
  • Lightness is accepting myself before God's loving gaze.
  • Lightness is the peace of inner healing.
  • Lightness is joy and energy restored.
  • Lightness is surrendered anxieties.
  • Lightness is a kind of de-materializing in a world of too much stuff.

The departing angel
dressed you in pearls,
O Bride of God,
encapsulated in 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Intercessions ~ The Lord's Baptism in the Jordan

Cathedral Bell ~ Notre Dame de Paris

Remembering the Lord's Baptism/ we are mindful that the Jordan River is a place of division today./ We ask blessings for people of good will/ working for the healing of ancient grievances in the Middle East./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the people of Paris and all of France where deadly violence occurred this week./ We ask God/ who opened the Red Sea/ to open hearts to conversion./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Francis travels to the Philippines this week./ We pray for his journey to be fruitful and for the pope and many pilgrims to be kept in safety./ We pray to the Lord.

In the New Year we pray for family and friends who are struggling in any way./ We pray for people who suffer in the winter time from cold,/ homelessness or financial problems./ We pray to the Lord.

Where adults fight, children suffer./ We pray for a more sensitive world/ where the needs of children are a first priority./ We pray to the Lord.

Eastern Christians celebrated Christmas this week./ We pray for a unity of love among Christians everywhere/ modeling friendship and reconciliation for the world./ We pray to the Lord.

That we would live without enmity/ and for those who have died recently by violence and war/ to know God's gifts of peace and fullness of life./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Christmas~Epiphany: God With A Human Face

Rembrandt ~ Face of Jesus

IN THE CHRISTMAS~EPIPHANY TIME: God knows I exist. God cares that I exist. God has me in mind. God sits down at table with me. God sees me as a Mother sees her child. God offers me friendship. God with a human face.

In 1868 Charles Converse composed the marvelous hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Hold close the restless, tired world as you read the prayer-lyrics and consider Rembrandt's Face of Jesus.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged -
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge-
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He'll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer-
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"They were overjoyed..."

THERE ARE SOME Gospel verses that are especially beautiful, memorable and deeply meaningful in their simplicity. One of these is heard in Matthew's account of the visiting magi at Mass today.

The magi arrive at Jerusalem from the East. They present themselves to King Herod who is perturbed when he hears the child referred to as "King of the Jews." Seized with negative emotion he investigates the scriptures and sends the magi on their way with the instruction to stop off on their way home to fill him in on the child's whereabouts, so that he may worship the baby as well.  Then we hear the beautiful line ~ Matthew 2:10
  • The sight of the star filled them with delight. (Jerusalem Bible)
  • When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Revised Standard Version)
  • They, when they saw the star, were glad beyond measure. (Ronald Knox Translation)

The magi weren't just happy as when the GPS brings us to a new destination, but they were filled with delight and glad beyond measure. Doesn't the world need that kind of joy?

These are searchers. And the search has taken them on a long journey far from home. Can you name the search for yourself? Can you name the journey which began in the deepest inner place? Can you name your best longing - your most heart-felt, yet-to-be-realized hope or desire? We might have to sit quietly for a time to have a think on these things.

Carl Jung said that the answers to all of our real problems (searches) is a spiritual answer or solution. Notice that when the magi's search ends, it ends in worship.  At Bethlehem God is asking us to re-imagine. At Bethlehem we're asked, what does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be human? At Bethlehem we are asked: Who is God? ~ Who am I? We're asked to re-imagine family. Re-imagine happiness.

And if we are to go on our own interior journey, it may well take us far from our symbolic home (where we started or what we've settled for) - being led by and to God's surprise!

Of course, in the bright joy of the Magi's discovery we anticipate that other great joy, that of the Myrrh-Bearing Women at the far end of Matthew's Gospel (chapter 28) - running from the tomb of Easter morning.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Praises at the Start of the New Year

Retreat House Winter Stream ~ Photo: Nicholas D.

Bless the Lord, cold and warmth,
praise and glorify him forever!
Bless the Lord, dew and snow-storm,
praise and glorify him forever!
Bless the Lord, frost and chill,
praise and glorify him forever!
Bless the Lord, ice and snow,
praise and glorify him forever!

Bless the Lord, faithful, humble-hearted people, 
praise and glorify him forever!

Daniel 3: 67-70, 87

Sunday Intercessions ~ Feast of the Lord's Epiphany

Star of Bethlehem

In the new month of January/ we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance./ For gifts of good health,/ safety and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

The magi from the East discovered the Christ Child of Bethlehem./ We pray to make discoveries for ourselves this new year/ which will lead to the fulfillment of our deepest inner desires./ We pray to the Lord.

The Bethlehem Star shone brightly./ We ask for God's light to lead us out of dark thinking to a brighter place/ where truth is evident and the choices for goodness more clear./ We pray to the Lord. 

The Christians of the Middle East/ the birth-place of Christianity,/ suffer terribly./ We pray for their consolation and protection./ We pray for the Christians of the comfortable world/ whose faith is often mediocre and un-evolved./ We pray to the Lord.

We entrust loved-ones to God's nurturing care,/ mindful of those who are addicted,/ sick,/ sad,/ financially troubled or emotionally burdened./ We pray to the Lord.

When the magi looked up and saw the star/ they were over-joyed./ We pray for people from whom joy has been taken by depression,/ war,/ chronic sickness,/ family dissolution or violence./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all those who have died this past year:/ to know their living Redeemer./ We pray to the Lord.