Tag Archives: blessing

20 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, III.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 3 Difference

Luke 5:27-29 
Amos 5

Commentary

The identity of the Minnesota Working Group is immersed in the rich and haunting harmonies that tell the history of many peoples. “Our bodies can be in tune with the ancestral, while acknowledging all of the pain, joy, brilliance, fatigue, connection and more wrapped up in one. We centre ourselves in the stories of the place we call home. We are men, women, mothers, fathers, storytellers and healers.”

We can recognise the diversity within our communities if we take time to look. Even within our gatherings there is a beautiful tapestry of worship experience and spiritual expression, woven together from the indigenous population, from those who have immigrated, or those who are displaced and who now call this place home.

We are blessed and we are to bless others. We are loved and we are to love others. We are to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, together. We. Not Me. Our kinship and God’s teachings guide us into community together as we learn and act as We. Not Me. So our gatherings, prayers, hymns, art and culture should reflect this, and be infused with the beauty of difference, all the while reaching toward the unity of God’s divine justice.

A tapestry is a beautiful work of art, but if you look at the back, you see the messy edges, and frayed ends, the knots and snags – how do we celebrate the beauty of the tapestry while acknowledging the work that is necessary to maintain the beauty, not as a façade, but as a result of recognising and celebrating difference?

Reflection

What is this noise? 
These meaningless festivals of falsehood, 
litanies of lip service and diatribes of doxologies, 
that seek to drown out the reality of poisonous polity, 
that hope to mask the clanging cymbals of fear and frailty. 
We do not seem to understand that disharmony is our downfall.

But in the midst of our din, 
God calls forth from each corner of this earth, 
songs of justice that roll down like waters 
– interwoven melody and haunting harmony 
deep enough to hold our dissonance 
and the unresolved tension of our journeys to this place.

Prayer

Gracious and loving God, 
expand our vision that it may be wide enough to recognise the beautiful complexity
 of the tapestry you chose to weave with each and every one of us. 
Gather our frayed edges, our loose ends 
and bind us together for your glory.

Questions

How often do we think and act as ‘We. Not me’?

How much of the necessary work are we doing to make a beautiful tapestry in our communities?

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6 January, Epiphany: Recognising God’s presence.

The Cross as shining star; do we recognise Jesus in our suffering? Saint Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Here is an extract from an Epiphany sermon by Rev Bruce Bryant-Scott. He makes no direct mention of the Wise Men here, but they travelled West to Jerusalem and on to Bethlehem because they recognised the new-born King of the Jews. May we, too, recognise him at work in our hearts.

Epiphany means showing forth… Think of the unveiling of a plaque or a statue – that is an apocalypse, a revelation. Blessing is like that. We bless food, houses, people, and sneezes, but we also bless God – the psalmist sings, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless God’s holy name”. So blessing is not about adding something to a situation. It is about recognising God’s action in a situation.

The Eucharist, this great Thanksgiving in which we take bread and wine and bless it, is an epiphany and a revelation of God working here among us. It is not magic, it is not hocus pocus, but recognising the spiritual reality of God’s presence. When I bless a marriage, I am not adding something to the relationship, but simply recognising on behalf of the church that God is acting in the couple.

There is this thing called prevenient grace, a major point in both ancient Catholic theology and the more recent Methodism of John and Charles Wesley. It is the belief that God is acting in us and for us before we are aware of it. Prevenient or preceding grace prepares in our hearts a place for God – it’s what makes that God shaped hole in our souls that only God can fill, that desire that only the divine can satisfy.

My hope and my prayer is that we become aware of how the God in Christ is working in us by the Holy Spirit, that we do not pack it all away now that Christmas is over, but see it. May we join with the psalmist and say,

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name for ever;
may his glory fill the whole earth.

Amen and Amen.

Bruce Bryant-Scott is an Anglican priest working on the Island of Crete. His blog is theislandparson.com and this post comes from there.

Here is the inscription on the High Altar Cross of St Edmundsbury Cathedral; not the one shown here:

”And life is eternal and love is immortal and death is only the horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”

The High Altar Cross is both beautiful and poignant. It was given by the parents of Pauline Greene who died in 1921 aged 3 years old. We can offer to God our deepest pain and loss. The cross of Jesus shows how God transforms suffering into new life.

http://www.stedscathedral.org.

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14 November, Little Flowers XCIX: Turn me towards the city

We are now reading of Francis’s last days, after his epic journey to Assisi by donkey. The donkey and its master had gone back home and Francis could not have made his way down the hill from the bishop’s palace with its armed guards, to Santa Maria degli Angeli so the brothers carried him. It would have been a long way to carry him in their arms as the book tells us they did.

Then the friars took him up in their arms and so carried him; and many of the citizens accompanied them. And, coming to a hospice, which was by the way, Saint Francis said unto those who carried him: “Set me down on the ground, and turn me toward the city”. And, when he was set with his face toward Assisi, he blessed the city with many blessings, saying: “Blessed be thou of God, O holy city, for through thee many souls shall be saved, and in thee shall dwell many servants of God, and from thee many shall be chosen unto the Kingdom of Life Eternal”. And, when he had said these words, he caused them to carry him on to Santa Maria degli Angeli. 

And, when they arrived at Santa Maria degli Angeli, they bore him to the infirmary and there laid him down to rest.

The photograph is not Assisi, of course, but the city of London, seen from Greenwich Park. If you know where to look on the left hand horizon you can make out Saint Paul’s Cathedral. It’s hard to imagine pronouncing a blessing like Francis’s over the capital of Mammon, but nevertheless, we can learn from Francis, for the Spirit blows where she will. So perhaps we should bless our home town whenever we enter it, walking down the hill, stepping off the train, sitting in a traffic jam.

Blessed be thou of God, O holy city!

And remembering Francis’s early escapades, let us build the Church and build the city of God.

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31 October: O Holy Christ.

Memorial to fishermen lost at sea, Mallaig.

This prayer from Alistair Maclean’s ‘Hebridean Altars’ seems the right introduction to November, when we remember all who have died and been guided over the ford to Heaven. Consider, if you will, the phrase, ‘When I shall make an end of living’. Maybe we should do that each night before sleep: ‘The Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen’

O Holy Christ,
bless me with Thy presence
when my days are weary 
and my friends few.
Bless me with Thy presence
when my joy is full,
lest I forget the Giver in the gift.
Bless me with Thy presence
when I shall make an end of living.
Help me in the darkness to find the ford.
And in my going
comfort me with Thy promise
that where Thou art,
There shall Thy servant be.

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5 October, Little Flowers of Saint Francis XCIII: At Citta di Castello

All the ‘Little Flowers’ that follow concern events in the last two years of Francis’s life. As this one opens, he is travelling from Mount Alvernia, where he had received the stigmata, back to Assisi, a weakened man. We first read of his encounters on the road, he had to travel in easy stages and might have been forgiven for keeping himself to himself; it did not happen.

Saint Francis went to Città di Castello; and behold, many of the citizens brought to him a woman, who had been possessed of a devil for a long time, and humbly besought him for her deliverance; because, with her dolorous howlings and cruel shrieks and dog-like barkings, she disturbed all the neighbourhood. Then Saint Francis, having first prayed and made over her the sign of the most holy Cross, commanded the demon to depart from her; and he straightway departed, leaving her sane in body and in mind. 

And, when this miracle was noised abroad among the people, another woman with great faith brought to him her sick child, who was afflicted with a cruel sore, and besought him devoutly that he would be pleased to make the sign of the Cross upon him with his hands. 

Then Saint Francis gave ear unto her prayer, and took the child and loosed the bandage from off his sore and blessed him, making the sign of the most holy Cross over the sore three times, and thereafter with his own hands he replaced the bandage, and gave him back to his mother; and, because it was evening, she forthwith laid him on the bed to sleep. 

Thereafter, in the morning, she went to take her child from the bed, and found the bandage unloosed, and looked and saw that he was as perfectly whole as if he had never had any sickness at all; save only that, in the place where the sore had been, the flesh had grown over after the manner of a red rose; and that rather in testimony of the miracle than as a scar left by the sore; because the said rose, remaining during the whole of his lifetime, often moved him to devotion toward Saint Francis who had healed him. 

In that city, then, Saint Francis sojourned for a month, at the prayer of the devout citizens, in the which time he wrought many other miracles.

Health was precarious in those days. We should be as grateful as these good people for safe drugs, sterile equipment and the unprecedented blessings of modern surgery and nursing care, never taking these gifts for granted.

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7 June: The Month of the Sacred Heart.

1 O dearest Lord, thy sacred head
with thorns was pierced for me;
O pour thy blessing on my head
that I may think for thee.
2 O dearest Lord, thy sacred hands
with nails were pierced for me;
O shed thy blessing on my hands
that they may work for thee.
3 O dearest Lord, thy sacred feet
with nails were pierced for me;
O pour thy blessing on my feet
that they may follow thee.

4 O dearest Lord, thy sacred heart
with spear was pierced for me;
O pour thy Spirit in my heart
that I may live for thee.

I first heard this hymn at Canterbury Cathedral during Holy Week, and enjoyed its unsentimental simplicity and the fleshy images; this is a Jesus you could touch, as Thomas did. I’m glad to share ‘O dearest Lord’ with you in this Month of the Sacred Heart. May his blessing pour down over your head, hands, feet and heart as the sun pours down on the sea, the sand – and the people on the beach – in this picture from Wales.

Father Andrew, who wrote this hymn was a pioneering Anglican Franciscan, working in East London during World War II. Search through Agnellus Mirror for more of his reflections.

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28 April: THE SHOWER

Waters above! eternal springs! 
The dew that silvers the Dove's wings! 
O welcome, welcome to the sad! 
Give dry dust drink; drink that makes glad! 
Many fair ev'nings, many flow'rs 
Sweeten'd with rich and gentle showers, 
Have I enjoy'd, and down have run 
Many a fine and shining sun; 
But never, till this happy hour, 
Was blest with such an evening-shower! 

                                                  From "Poems of Henry Vaughan, Silurist, Volume II.

This was not an April shower, but a March one; a morning but not an evening shower yet I'm sure Henry Vaughan would have appreciated it, as I did, seeing the raindrops on the willows shining on the osiers. Laudato Si'!

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19 March: A Blessing

Today we remember Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, father, it was supposed, of Jesus. He was also a craftsman, a faithful believer, a refugee from oppressive political power. As with Joseph, the path we are to follow may not be smooth; after all we are called to ‘make his paths straight’, which may mean some heavy lifting, or possibly walking single file, looking out for nettles, brambles, puddles, mud and stumbling stones.

Here is a blessing for today, from the Church of England:

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you,
scatter the darkness from before your path,
and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
And the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen.

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26 December: Happy Families

Here is Saint Francis, witnessing the life of the Holy Family by CD

Did it make you squirm when well-meaning priests or other adults urged us as children to be ‘like the Holy Family’. If we were, it was never for long – rarely if ever were we free from petty jealousies or quarrels, despite my father’s holding to the motto, ‘the family that prays together, stays together’, which is not totally untrue in our case, decades past childhood. Perhaps we have been blessed, guided and defended more than we generally acknowledge.

A silent ‘thank you’ for that grace on this, the feast of the Holy Family, which is usurping Saint Stephen’s day.

Following the death of his close friend Mr Thrale, Doctor Johnson realised that he would be seeing much less of the Thrale family. He composed this prayer on the last occasion that he stopped over at the house they were putting on the market, where he had spent many happy days.

To thy fatherly protection, O Lord, 
I commend this family. 
Bless, guide, and defend them, 
that they may so pass through this world, 
as finally to enjoy in thy presence 
everlasting happiness, 
for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen

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27 October: You see our best side

The view from Dylan’s boathouse study in Laugharne, Wales, the model for the little town of the poem.

It is Dylan Thomas’s birthday, a time to listen to him and ‘love the words’ that came to him. Do not be deceived by the simplicity of the Reverend Eli Jenkins’ evening poem from Under Milk Wood. Every word is meant both by Eli and by his earthly creator, Dylan Thomas who wrote “for the love of man and in Praise of God, and I’d be a damn fool if they weren’t.”

Every morning when I wake,
Dear Lord, a little prayer I make,
O please to keep thy lovely eye
On all poor creatures born to die.

And every evening at sun-down
I ask a blessing on the town,
For whether we last the night or no
I'm sure is always touch-and-go.

We are not wholly bad or good
Who live our lives under Milk Wood,
And Thou, I know, will be the first
To see our best side, not our worst.

Oh let us see another day!
Bless us all this night, I pray,
And to the sun we all will bow
And say, good-bye -- but just for now!

And if you go to our search box and ask for Dylan Thomas, you’ll find a few more reflections on the human condition, written for love of humankind and for the glory of God.

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