Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Meditation for Holy Thursday

Anselm of Canterbury (1033 - 1109) may be best known as a philosopher, but his writing was for the purpose of stirring up the mind to admire and love God. In the tradition of the Benedictine monks, he encouraged the meditative reading that started with words and ended in prayer. On the day when we remember Jesus' supper with his friends, here is a prayer of Anslem's to stir up our minds...

My God,
I pray that I may so know you and love you that I may rejoice in you.
And if I may not do so fully in this life,
let me go steadily on to the day when I come to that fullness.
Let the knowledge of you increase in me here,
and let it there come to its fullness.
Let your love grow in me here,
and there let it be fulfilled,
So that here my joy may be in a great hope,
and there in full reality.

You have commanded, or rather advised us,
to ask by your Son,
and you have promised that we shall receive,
‘that our joy may be full.’
That which you counsel through our ‘wonderful counselor’
is what I am asking for, Lord.
Let me receive that which you promised thorough your truth,
‘ that my joy may be full.’

God of truth,
I ask that I may receive,
so that my joy may be full.
Meanwhile, let my mind meditate on it,
let my tongue speak of it,
let my heart love it,
let my mouth preach it,
let my soul hunger for it,
my flesh thirst for it,
and my whole being desire it,
until I enter into the joy of my Lord, who is God, one and triune, blessed forever.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Heaven in Ordinary

We read, said C.S. Lewis, to know we are not alone. I have been reading George Herbert lately, 17th century British clergyman and poet. Here is his Prayer (1). It takes some figuring out - it is worth mulling over, ruminating on it.

Prayer the Church’s banquet, Angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet
[i] sounding heaven and earth;
[ii] against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tower,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing
[iii] in an hour,
A kind of tune which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy and love and bliss,
Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices, something understood.

[i] Plummet – a plumb line, taking the measure of both heaven and earth
[ii] Engine: a siege engine, laying siege to God
[iii] As in transposing a tune from one key to another

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

And now, something for the Dessert Saints...

Needing a brownie to go with that tea? Here is my recipe, from my dear friend Gwen's sweet mama. Ah, yes, the glory of God displayed through the gifts of God and the creativity of humanity... (with a shout out to my friends at BSU...)

Anna Laura’s Brownies

4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 1/3 stick butter
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 1/3 c. flour
2 t. vanilla
½ t. salt
(2 c. nuts)

Melt chocolate and butter. Beat eggs, add flour, sugar, salt. Add chocolate and butter, vanilla and nuts, stir. Bake in buttered 15 x 10 (jelly roll size) pan 25 minutes at 350.


4 squares unsweetened chocolate
2/3 stick butter
2 c. powdered sugar
½ c. cream or evaporated milk
1 t. vanilla
¼ t. salt

Melt butter and chocolate. Add sugar, cream, vanilla Mix well, add more cream if mixture seems stiff. Keep warm until brownies are done (I use a double boiler). Frost while brownies are warm.
You can half this recipe ... on second thought, that's a stupid idea.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Stinters and Desert Saints

In the 4th and 5th centuries there was a movement of men and women from all walks of life who went into the deserts of Egypt to live alone, pray and seek to become like Jesus. They were looking for a renewed way of discipleship to Christ, leaving behind a culture in which, following Constantine’s becoming Emperor, Christianity was becoming popular. Now that Christians were no longer persecuted for their faith, everyone wanted to be one. Following Jesus became easy. It no longer cost you your life.

In that context, there were men and women who were drawn to a more radical way of life. They found that the distractions and temptations of a comfortable life made it more difficult to follow Jesus. They wanted to take Jesus at his word, to “go and sell everything they had and give it to the poor – and come, follow Me.”

In the desert, they lived alone or near small communities of other hermits. They practiced “the discipline” - simplicity, fasting, working to provide for their needs and the needs of the poor, and prayer. There were few copies of Scripture, so they memorized what they had, and meditated on it long and hard.

In the desert, too, they fought. They fought against the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil – against greed, and lust, and pride, through the help of Jesus and discipline. They learned about themselves and their real motivations – and they learned about the humility and self-sacrificing love of Jesus. In the process, they were changed. People were drawn to them. Their charity towards others and their love of God began to shine through them – and more and more people wanted what they had, and were drawn to the desert to be near them.

I think that Stinters are modern desert saints. No, they are not perfect – neither were the desert saints! But they want something – they want to follow hard after Jesus. A comfortable, easy, distant acquaintance with Him is not enough for them. They want to do what he does, to go where he goes, to learn what He has to teach them, even though it costs them.

And so they give up the things that make them comfortable – distractions, friends, safety. And they go into the “desert” of Merida, or Costa Rica or East Asia or Lithuania or Moscow or Croatia, and they struggle – to learn about themselves, to love others. And they have nothing to depend on but God.

If you are a Stinter, take heart. You have, I am sure, struggles from the outside – and from the inside. God is doing more in you and through you than you can imagine. The desert saints (there were an estimated 30,000 men and women who went to the desert) became the impetus for a new generation of believers – including Athenasius, who fought for the truth of the deity of Christ, Jerome, who first translated the scripture into Latin, and Augustine, who became the foremost theologian of the church. And here we are today, partly because of their struggle.

Here is a quote from “The Sayings of the Desert Fathers”
“Poemen said about John the Short that he asked the Lord to take away his passions (i.e. strong emotional reactions and desires). So his heart was at rest, and he went to a hermit and said, “I find that I am at peace, with no war between flesh and spirit.’ The hermit said to him ‘Go and ask the Lord to stir up a new war in you. Fighting is good for the soul.’ When the conflict revived in him, he no longer prayed for it to be taken away, but said, ‘Lord, grant me strength to endure this fight.’

Men and women of God – Fight!