A Prayer at Daybreak

A word:
I am amazed at the exquisite tradition of prayer that is ours in the Body of Christ. It is good to continue to be surprised by the Spirit of God. The deeper into the Holy Tradition I journey, the more I realize that I need not “have a prayer of my own” to “have a prayer that expresses the fullness of my real life.” Does that make sense to you? It means I DO have a prayer that is very much “mine” because it has been, is, and will ever more be “ours.”
 

Here is one of THOSE prayers. It is the Prayer at Daybreak by Archimandrite Sophrony.

Perhaps you will join me in knowing it to be “my” perfect prayer and “your” perfect prayer because it is “our” perfect prayer.

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A Prayer at Daybreak

O Lord Eternal and Creator of all things,
Who of Thine inscrutable goodness didst call me to this life;
Who didst bestow on me the grace of Baptism
and the Seal of the Holy Spirit;
Who hast imbued me with the desire to seek Thee,
the one true God: hear my prayer.

I have no life, no light, no joy or wisdom;
no strength except in Thee, O God.
Because of my unrighteousness I dare not raise my eyes to Thee.
But Thou didst say to Thy disciples,
‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive’
and ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do’.
Wherefore I dare to invoke Thee.
Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit.
Teach me to pray aright.

Bless this day which Thou dost give unto me,
Thine unworthy servant. By the power of Thy blessing
enable me at all times to speak and act to Thy glory
with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love,
gentleness, peace, courage and wisdom:
aware always of Thy presence.

Of Thine immense goodness, O Lord God, shew me the path of Thy will,
and grant me to walk in Thy sight without sin.

O Lord, unto Whom all hearts be open,
Thou knowest what things I have need of.
Thou art acquainted with my blindness and my ignorance,
Thou knowest my infirmity and my soul’s corruption;
but neither are my pain and anguish hid from Thee.

Wherefore I beseech Thee, hear my prayer
and by Thy Holy Spirit teach me the way wherein I should walk;
and when my perverted will would lead me down other paths
spare me not, O Lord, but force me back to Thee.
By the power of Thy love, grant me to hold fast to that which is good.
Preserve me from every word or deed that corrupts the soul;
from every impulse unpleasing in Thy sight
and hurtful to my brother-man.
Teach me what I should say and how I should speak.
If it be Thy will that I make no answer,
inspire me to keep silent in a spirit of peace
that causeth neither sorrow nor hurt to my fellow.
Establish me in the path of Thy commandments
and to my last breath let me not stray from the light of Thine ordinances,
that Thy commandments may become the sole law of my being,
on this earth and in all eternity.

Yea, Lord, I pray Thee, have pity on me.
Spare me in mine affliction and my misery
and hide not the way of salvation from me.

In my foolishness, O God, I plead with Thee for many and great things.
Yet am I ever mindful of my wickedness, my baseness, my vileness.
Have mercy upon me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence because of my presumption.
Do Thou rather increase in me this presumption,
and grant unto me, the worst of men,
to love Thee as Thou hast commanded,
with all my heart, and with all my soul,
and with all my mind, and with all my strength:
with my whole being.

Yea, O Lord, by Thy Holy Spirit,
teach me good judgment and knowledge.
Grant me to know Thy truth before I go down into the grave.
Maintain my life in this world until I may offer unto Thee worthy repentance.
Take me not away in the midst of my days,
nor while my mind is still blind.
When Thou shalt be pleased to bring my life to an end,
forewarn me that I may prepare my soul to come before Thee.
Be with me, O Lord, at that dread hour
and grant me the joy of salvation.
Cleanse Thou me from secret faults,
from all iniquity that is hid in me;
and give me a right answer before Thy judgment-seat.

Yea, Lord, of Thy great mercy
and immeasurable love for mankind,

Hear my prayer.

Source: His Life is Mine, pg. 52-54, by Archimandrite Sophrony, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, New York, 2001.

Theophany: The Edgy Centered Life – The Scarred Witness

Today is the Feast of Epiphany – Theophany.

The meaning of the feast and the season is clear and simple – “manifestation.” Manifestation of the Incarnate Christ Jesus in and through my life.

Manifestation is about maturation. The unfolding or showing forth of the fullness of being in the fullness of time. Showing forth what already is by degrees.

I love growing things. I am not, however, a gardener. But, I still love growing things.

What has always attracted me about things that grow is the paradox. They are simultaneously, completely centered and completely on the edge.

Apple trees are centered in their apple-tree-ness. They are not insecure about their identity. Because that is the case, they are able to live on the edge of their identity where the “stretching forth,” the “extension of their being” takes place.

This is the place of simultaneous security and risk. The place of complete centeredness and edginess.

It is free to grow. It is “courageous.” It welcomes the weather and the weathering that are its allies not its enemy.

The mature tree is the one that has stood the weather that touches it on the edge of its being and makes a deep impact on it not killing it but strengthening it, albeit with scars and gnarling.

The way to fullness of identity is via this journey of maturation. A mature tree is not untwisted, without gnarls, or scar-less.

In the Christian lexicon, “scars” are what happens to “wounds” when they “heal.” They are not signs – manifestations of defeat but of victory.

That captivates me and it frightens me. I desire that place/condition of peace and contentment. Help thou my non-desire. The resurrected life bears the scars of redemption. I know it all too seldom and fleetingly. Perhaps the desire for ease lives too much within me still. Perhaps it is the remnants of a desire for “happiness” instead of “joy.” Ah, yes. The easy way. The way of formula that bypasses the “weather and wounding of life in relationship.” (Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner, that I might embrace the edge more often and truly grow instead of pretend to grow.)

“…the best way out is always through…” (“A Servant to Servants,” by Robert Frost)

The best way for God to answer my prayer, to exit the pretense of Christian life, is “through.” It will never be otherwise no matter how I word the prayer.

The “way through” requires trust, abandonment into the hands of the living God. The way is not known in advance. It is known “in the midst.” We accumulate victorious wounding in that context. Wounds that become “manifesting” scars.

Without the scars that Jesus/I bear, who will know He is risen?! Manifestation – Epiphany – Theophany is the showing forth of the beauty and victory of a salvation that is perfect as testified to by its scars.

Life-giving scars.

Am I alone in this?! Am I the only one who trembles at the threshold of centered-edginess?! The threshold of more abundant life?! Am I the only one who is working out his salvation with real fear and trembling and not some token (lip service) form of it?! Perhaps, my friend, this is, to some degree, true for you too?! We pilgrimage together, then. Companions on and in the Way. Members one of another in all of these things.

I am not “better” or “wiser” or “stronger” than Peter. I too, in my own ways, deny Christ by desiring the Way that is other than “the way through.” I must acknowledge that I am Peter if I am going to proclaim that I live the Christ Life by grace.

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.” Meet me as I am meagerly able to meet and abide in you and have you not only abide but manifest Yourself through me. Have mercy on me too, just like you had mercy on Peter.

I must identify with Peter by nature if I am to identify with Christ Jesus by grace. I must be all that Peter is by nature to be all that Christ Jesus is by grace. And, the reverse is true. I must be all that Christ Jesus is by grace to have the courage to acknowledge and embrace that I am all that Peter is by nature. Both are two together, as one. Paradox that saves.

This is the transformative power of the Jesus Prayer?!

  • Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God – my identification with Christ Jesus by grace
  • Have mercy on me a sinner – my identification with Peter by nature

The way of repentance is the way of salvation. The way of salvation is the way of repentance.

If I say I have no sin we deceive myself. If I say I have no righteousness, I deceive myself. I will identify myself with Peter and the thief on the cross in prayer as a preparation AND I will eat the body of Christ and drink the blood of Christ, identifying myself with Him.

Oh, blessed message!! Oh blessed Mystery!!

Our life is to be a living witness of the crucified and risen Christ Jesus. We are to bear the wounds of Christ Jesus as a flesh and blood testimony that the gospel is true.

The only Way that is True and offers Life – Jesus Himself. The life of absolute identification by grace. The life of living witness that is life-giving.

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“When thou passest through the waters… they shall not overflow thee.” (Isaiah 43:2).

God does not open paths for us in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need, God’s hand is stretched out.

Many people forget this, and are forever worrying about difficulties which they foresee in the future. They expect that God is going to make the way plain and open before them, miles and miles ahead; whereas He has promised to do it only step by step as they may need. You must get to the waters and into their floods before you can claim the promise. Many people dread death, and lament that they have not “dying grace.” Of course, they will not have dying grace when they are in good health, in the midst of life’s duties, with death far in advance. Why should they have it then? Grace for duty is what they need then, living grace; then dying grace when they come to die.
–J. R. M.

“When thou passest through the waters”
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
“When thou comest to the waters
Thou shalt not go down, BUT THROUGH.”
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain
They shall never overflow us
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt’s insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We shall not go down, or under,
For He saith, “Thou passest THROUGH.”

–Annie Johnson Flint
Streams in the Desert, January 6th, by L.B. Cowman

Morning Consecration

We share with the Lord Jesus in a sacramental paradigm of reality. Time, space, and things matter.  The doing of things with a particular intentionality or attitude of heart is crucial. There is a dynamic movement, an interrelatedness of all things, inherent in the God’s creation and the order of the universe: “Spirit matters and matter spirits.” As Christians, we are sensitive and responsive to the Logos of reality. All things are coming from God, all things manifest the glory of God – find their meaning in God, and all things are moving (tending) toward God (Isaiah 55.6-11)

This is the underlying presupposition – given – of the Scriptures. It is taken for granted even though it is actually articulated on a number of occasions in Scripture. (See the account of Jesus sharing the Passover meal with His apostles and St. Paul’s take on that event in his epistles.)

It is the Holy Tradition.

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35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he [Jesus] rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1.35 – RSV)

3 O Lord, in the morning thou dost hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for thee, and watch. (Psalm 5.3 – RSV)

7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!

8  Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn! (Psalm 57.7-8 – RSV)

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to thy name, O Most High;
2 to declare thy steadfast love in the morning,
and thy faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For thou, O Lord, hast made me glad by thy work;
at the works of thy hands I sing for joy. (Psalm 92.1-4 – RSV)

16 But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For You have been my stronghold
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my strength, I will sing praises to You;
For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me    lovingkindness (Psalm 59.16-17 – RSV)

Martin Luther says in the Small Catechism:

“In the morning, when you rise, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. “

This exhortation by the initiator of the Protestant Reformation is consistent with the practice of morning consecration in the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox expressions of the faith.

In short, it is universally incumbent upon the disciple who desires to live a Scriptural – traditional life – to engage in such the practice of “intentional consecration” at the beginning of the day. While there are a variety of ways of doing this, the intention of the discipline remains the same. It is our way of saying “yes” to the realization: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Martin Luther says in the Small Catechism:

“In the morning, when you rise, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. “

This exhortation by the initiator of the Protestant Reformation is consistent with the practice of morning consecration in the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox expressions of the faith.

In short, it is universally incumbent upon the disciple to engage in such the practice of “intentional consecration” at the beginning of the day. While there are a variety of ways of doing this, the intention of the discipline remains the same. It is our way of saying “yes” to the realization: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Here is a consecration from the Protestant expression of the faith:


Take My Life, and Let It Be

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing,
Always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.
Frances Ridley Havergal, 1874

Here is another from the non-Protestant expression:

Act of Consecration

God of my heart, my whole desire is in loving you. I give myself to you without reserve.

I consecrate to you my heart. Receive it as an offering of love and unite it to your heart. I desire to dwell with you all my days.

I consecrate to you my will. May it be joined to yours in all things. May my deepest desire be to do what is pleasing to you. May your Spirit guide me in the way of obedience and may selfish desires not find a home in me.

I consecrate to you my understanding. May I see with your eyes and choose what is life-giving. May I forego all that is false and passing that I may embrace what is true and enduring. Let me desire the good and all that brings the good to birth. May your grace bring my desire to realization.

I consecrate to you my memory. Let me always remember your goodness and beauty. I shall take delight in remembering your favors – the love and mercy you have shown to me. May my heart be forever grateful.

I consecrate to you my body. Make me a worthy dwelling for your Spirit, Jesus. I give you all that I am and I accept whatever limitations, sickness, sorrows and death will be mine. Let me desire what you desire. No matter how painful the cross that is mine to carry, I receive it with confidence in your strength and grace. May I accept it with lively gratitude and carry it with joy and constancy. May the words of St. Paul strengthen me; “With Christ I am nailed to the cross.”

I consecrate to you all that I may ever possess in goods, influence or status. All is yours. Do with me what you will. I consecrate to you all that I can – joys, sorrows, life and death – to offer you my love and to witness to others the joy of loving you. May I serve you with devotion, relying on the help of your grace. May I be yours without reserve until the last moment of my life. Amen.
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

We not only “awaken” or “greet” the dawn. We consecrate ourselves at that time and place call “the dawn.” But, we do more. We not only “offer our selves our souls and bodies as a living sacrifice;” we also join God in the concertation of the day itself. We consecrate the dawn. We make the sign of the cross over ourselves AND it. Thus, by grace, we take our place as humans and share in His work.

Whether you are Protestant or not, morning consecration of ourselves and of the day itself is essential.

On the Necessity of the Incarnation — Irenaeus

31.So then He united man with God, and established a community of union 88 between God and man; since we could not in any other way participate in incorruption, save by His coming among us. For so long as incorruption was invisible and unrevealed, it helped us not at all: therefore it became visible,89 that in all respects we might participate in the reception of incorruption. And, because in the original formation of Adam all of us were tied and bound up with death through his disobedience, it was right that through the obedience of Him who was made man for us we should be released from death: and because death reigned over the flesh, it was right that through the flesh it should lose its force and let man go free from its oppression. So the Word was made flesh,90 that, through that very flesh which sin had ruled and dominated, it should lose its force and be no longer in us. And therefore our Lord took that same original formation as (His) entry into flesh, so that He might draw near and contend on behalf of the fathers, and conquer by Adam that which by Adam had stricken us down.

32.Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom |99of God, and from the virgin earth.91 For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth.92 From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh,and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God.93

33.And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life.94 For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost;95 and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation.96 For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin.97

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  1. For this double rendering see above c. 6.
  2. Cf. 2 Tim. i. 10: …
  3. John i. 14.
  4. Almost the same words are here used as in III, xxx. I.: … Cf. III, xix. 6: also Ephraim’s Commentary on the Diatessaron (Moesinger, p. 21): “In Virginis conceptione disce quod qui sine conjugio Adamum ex virginea terra protulit, is etiam Adamum secundum in utero virginis formaverit.” Cf. also Tertullian, De carne Christi, 17; Firmicus Maternus, De errore prof. relig., 25.
  5. Gen. ii. 5.
  6. Gen. i. 26.
  7. The same parallel is worked out in III, xxxii. 1, and V, xix. 1. It is found earlier in Justin Martyr (Dial. 100), and later in Tertullian (De carne Chr. 17).
  8. Irenaeus is fond of referring to the sheep that was lost: see III, xx. 3, xxxii. 2, xxxvii. I; V, xii. 3, xv. 2.
  9. See above, c. 32.
  10. Cf. I Cor. xv. 53.

“Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching,” 31-33, by Irenaeus

Partakers of the Divine Nature

At Christmas we celebrate the saving mystery of the Incarnation.

The Nativity of Christ is about the God who created the world becoming incarnate, while the foundations of the Earth are shaken. The Nativity of Christ is about Theosis, whereby we are deified, and by His grace, share in His Divinity, just as He has joined Himself with our humanity. (Abbot Tryphon, All-Merciful Savior Monastery)

God partook of our nature that we might partake of His nature by grace.

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1 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world… (2 Peter 1.1-4 NKJV)

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God our Father,
our human nature is the wonderful work of your hands,
made still more wonderful by your work of redemption.
Your Son took to himself our manhood:
grant us a share in the godhead of Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen. Source

The Immensity of the Lord Requires an Immense Grace

This pastoral form of blessing is familiar to use all: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

And yet, do we HEAR what is being said?!

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ … be with you all.”

St. John reiterates this in his gospel account:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.  (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.’”)  And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. (John 1.14-18)

We are being told that the fullness of grace is ours to receive. We are, by our “yes,” filled with grace by virtue of being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit – “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Some folks “have a problem with Mary.” Well, the pre-nativity gospel narrative, if read closely, and informed by the Holy Tradition, makes it obvious that we are in the middle of an immense mystery (pun intended as you will learn).

I invite you to read the following texts alongside a VERY CLOSE reading of the pre-nativity narrative. Mark the variety of ways in which every character in the narrative – Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, prenatal John the Forerunner, and the villagers of Judea are being influenced and/or filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

The narrative is all about the fact that the Lord is with them and they are full of grace.

Advent is the season in which we prepare a place for the fullness of grace to be born and dwell within us – a Nativity. There is a reason the icon of the Nativity shows Mary in a black cave. We are the black cave. This world is the black cave.

Yes, of course, Christ is born in our hearts. The light in the midst of darkness – the black cave. But, also in our minds and our bodies – all of the cave. The fullness of grace (light) once it takes up residence – tabernacles and shines – in our hearts. He will enlarge our hearts and purify our minds, emotions, and bodies. But, the expansion will continue. We will realize that the Christian life is a “we” not “me” life. The expansion to include as an aspect of what it means to be “me” must, essentially, include “you.” To quote my monastic brothers, “My brother is my life.” The phrase “fullness of grace” is as immense as the Savior Himself. He whole holds the whole universe in His heart is held in our heart. The indwelling Christ Jesus is born in us and grows up into full manhood. We are Mary who kept not just the memory and profundity of all that had and was happening in her heart, but Christ Jesus Himself because the Holy Spirit who overshadowed her never quit overshadowing her.

We will be Mary in another way, too. We will give birth to Christ. We will bear Christ – offer Christ – to the world through our way of life in relationship – thoughts, words, and deeds. This will be our Theophany, the season of the Church year that follows Nativity.

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Hail Mary, full of grace. It has been shown above, how Mary, because of the pure innocence of her life, is rightly saluted by the Ave. We have now to show how, by the abundance of her grace, she deserves the salutation “full of grace.” Consider, dearly beloved, this grace, the grace of Mary, this admirable grace. Consider the truth, the immensity, the multiplicity, the utility of the grace of Mary. For the grace of Mary is a most true grace, a most immense grace, a most manifold grace, and a most useful grace.

… Consider the immensity of the grace because of which Mary is called “full of grace.” The grace of which she was full was certainly immense. An immense vessel cannot be full, unless that is also immense wherewith it is filled. Mary was an immense vessel, since she could contain Him who is greater than the Heavens. Who is greater than the Heavens? Without doubt He of whom Solomon says: “If heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee, how much less this house which I have built?” (3 Kings VIII, 27.) It was not indeed the house which Solomon built, but she of whom that house was the type, which could contain God. Thou, therefore, O most immense Mary, art more capacious than the Heavens, because He whom the Heavens cannot contain was borne in thy womb. Thou art more capacious than the world, because He whom the whole world cannot contain, being made man, was enclosed within thee. If Mary’s womb then had such immensity, how much more had her mind? And if so immense a capacity was full of grace, it was fitting that that grace which could fill so great a capacity, should also be immense. Who can measure the immensity of Mary? Behold what is said in Ecclesiasticus: “Who hath measured the height of heaven, and the breadth of  the earth, and the depth of the abyss?” (I, 2.) Mary is a heaven, as much because she abounded in heavenly purity, heavenly light, and other heavenly virtues, as because she was the most high throne of God, as the Prophet saith: “The Lord hath prepared His throne in heaven” (Ps. CII, 19.) Mary was also the earth which brought forth for us that fruit of which the same Prophet saith: “The earth hath given its fruits” (Ps. LXVI, 7.) Mary is also an abyss in goodness and deepest mercy. Therefore she obtaineth for us the mercy of her Son, as it were an abyss calling upon an abyss. Therefore Mary is a heaven, Mary is the earth, Mary is the abyss. Who hath ever measured the height of that heaven, the breadth of that earth, the depth of that abyss, except He who hath made her, not only in grace and glory, but in mercy so high, so wide, so deep? Therefore it is especially of her mercy that Bernard saith: “Who can search into the length and breadth and depth and sublimity of thy mercy, O blessed one? For the length of it will help all who call upon her till the last day; the breadth of it fills the whole world, so that the earth is full of her mercy; and the sublimity of it will bring about the restoration of the heavenly city, and its depth hath obtained redemption for them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.(“Serm. de Assumpt.,” 4.) Mirror Of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Chapter V, by Saint Bonaventure

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Again, we offer this spiritual worship for those who repose in the faith, forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every righteous spirit made perfect in faith.

Especially for our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary. It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without defilement you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos we magnify you! The Divine Liturgy

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Nativity
By John Donne

Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-beloved imprisonment.
There he hath made himself to his intent
Weak enough, now into our world to come.
But O! for thee, for Him, hath th’ inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, 1 and from th’ orient,
Stars, and wise men will travel to prevent
The effects of Herod’s jealous general doom.
See’st thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eye, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.
Source

The Wonder-filled Incarnation

And that was that the Word of God Himself, Who is before all worlds, the Invisible, the Incomprehensible, the Bodiless, the Beginning of beginning, the Light of Light, the Source of Life and Immortality, the Image of the Archetype, the Immovable Seal, the Unchangeable Image, the Father’s Definition and Word, came to His own Image, and took on Him Flesh for the sake of our flesh, and mingled Himself with an intelligent soul for my soul’s sake, purifying like by like; and in all points except sin was made Man; conceived by the Virgin, who first in body and soul was purified by the Holy Ghost, for it was needful both That Child-bearing should be honoured and that Virginity should receive a higher honour. He came forth then, as God, with That which He had assumed; one Person in two natures, flesh and Spirit, of which the latter deified the former. O new commingling; O strange conjunction! The Self-existent comes into Being, the Uncreated is created, That which cannot be contained is contained by the intervention of an intellectual soul mediating between the Deity and the corporeity of the flesh. And He who gives riches becomes poor; for He assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the riches of His Godhead. He that is full empties Himself; for He empties Himself of His Glory for a short while, that I may have a share in His Fulness. What is the riches of His Goodness? What is this mystery that is around me? I had a share in the Image and I did not keep it; He partakes of my flesh that He may both save the Image and make the flesh immortal. He communicates a Second Communion, far more marvellous than the first, inasmuch as then He imparted the better nature, but now He Himself assumes the worse. This is more godlike than the former action; this is loftier in the eyes of all men of understanding…Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and becauseHumanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeysin all things? So much we have said of Christ; the greater part of what we might say shall be reverenced with silence. St. Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 45

Give Glory to God

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall not only see in truth but speak in truth. No longer will they seek practices to build themselves up – to glorify themselves. They will join the whole creation in glorifying God in all things – with their entire being.

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“Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness. 2 And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
3 Then he took up his oracle and said:
“The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor,
The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened,
4 The utterance of him who hears the words of God,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Who falls down, with eyes wide open..” (Numbers 24.1-4)

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The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in thy sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19.1-4, 14)

Being Present in the Present to Him Who is Present

“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” St. Seraphim of Sarov

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“‘Disillusioned by all our other efforts, we now see that the only hope left for the human race is to become like Christ.’ That is the statement of a famous scientist, and is being repeated among ever more educators, statesmen, and philosophers. Yet Christ has not saved the world from its present terrifying dilemma. The reason is obvious: few people are getting enough of Christ to save either themselves or the world. Take the United States, for example. Only a third of the population belongs to a Christian church. Less than half of this third attend service regularly. Preachers speak about Christ in perhaps one service in four—thirty minutes a month! Good sermons, many of them excellent, but too infrequent in presenting Christ.

Less than ten minutes a week given to thinking about Christ by one-sixth of the people is not saving our country or our world; for selfishness, greed, and hate are getting a thousand times that much thought. What a nation thinks about, that it is. We shall not become like Christ until we give Him more time. A teachers’ college requires students to attend classes for twenty-five hours a week for three years.

Could it prepare competent teachers or a law school prepare competent lawyers if they studied only ten minutes a week? Neither can Christ, and he never pretended that he could. To his disciples he said: ‘Come with me, walk with me, talk and listen to me, work and rest with me, eat and sleep with me, twenty-four hours a day for three years.’ That was their college course—‘He chose them,’ the Bible says, ‘that they might be with him,’ 168 hours a week!

All who have tried that kind of abiding for a month know the power of it—it is like being born again from center to circumference. It absolutely changes every person who does it. And it will change the world that does it…

Practicing the presence of God is not on trial. It has already been proven by countless thousands of people. Indeed, the spiritual giants of all ages have known it. Christians who do it today become more fervent and beautiful and are tireless witnesses.

Men and women who had been slaves of vices have been set free. Catholics and Protestants find this practicing the presence of God at the heart of their faith. Conservatives and liberals agree that here is a reality they need. People who are grateful for what this booklet has done for them are ordering wholesale quantities to give to friends…

Somebody may be saying, ‘All this is very orthodox and very ancient.’ It is indeed, the secret of the great saints of all ages. ‘Pray without ceasing,’ said Paul, ‘in everything make your wants known unto God.’ ‘As many as are led by the Spirit of God these are the sons of God.’”
Frank Laubach, “The Game of Minutes”