Archive for the 'Prayer' Category

Blessing of bacon

September 1, 2016

Apparently this is a real thing:

Bless, O Lord, this bacon, that it may be an effective remedy for the human race, and grant that through the invocation of Thy holy name all those who eat of it may obtain health of body and protection of their souls. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

They’ve thought of everything, I tell you…

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Seeking and finding

October 29, 2015

The seeking is within everyone’s reach; everyone may have it by God’s grace, and ought to have it by the Church’s wisdom and teaching. It is God’s wish that we should observe three things in our seeking: the first is that our search should be committed and diligent, with no laziness, as it may be through his grace, glad and cheerful without unreasonable depression and unprofitable misery. The second is that for his love we await him steadfastly, without grumbling and struggling against him, until our life’s end, for life lasts only a short while. The third is that we should trust him utterly with sure and certain faith, for that is what he wishes.

We know that he will appear suddenly and joyfully to all those that love him; for he works secretly, and he wishes to be perceived, and his appearance will be very sudden; and he wants us to trust him, for he is most kind and approachable — blessed may he be!

— Julian of Norwich,
Revelations of Divine Love.

Lenten reading: “the sharp dart”

March 6, 2015

He may well be loved, but not thought. By love He can be caught and held, but by thinking never. Therefore, though it may be good sometimes to think particularly about God’s kindness and worth, and though it may be enlightening too, and a part of contemplation, yet in the work now before us it must be put down and covered with a cloud of forgetting. And you are to step over it resolutely and eagerly, with a devout and kindling love, and try to penetrate that darkness above you. Strike that thick cloud of unknowing with the sharp dart of longing love, and on no account whatever think of giving up.

The Cloud of Unknowing.

Laird: Into the Silent Land

February 5, 2013

Into the Silent Land
A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation
Martin Laird
(Oxford, 2006)
154 p.

In this short but substantial book, Martin Laird gives a practical introduction to Christian contemplative prayer. It is a difficult, because profound, subject, and an adequate treatment calls for humility and fidelity and, not least, personal experience. Insofar as I can judge, Laird is a faithful guide. He draws widely on the Christian tradition of prayer, from the Church Fathers, the Carmelite mystics, spiritual masters east and west, and from contemporary writers such as Simone Weil. Despite his academic credentials (Laird is a professor at Villanova University) he wears his learning lightly and the tone of the book is personal and pastoral.

The purpose of contemplative prayer is to dispose one to encounter God. I phrase it this way intentionally: contemplation is not a technique with a guaranteed outcome, but a practice that prepares one for a personal encounter that comes at a time and in a manner not of one’s own choosing. Laird uses the image of the sailor: there is nothing he can do to make the wind blow, but there are skills he can develop to take advantage when it does, and the Christian contemplative tradition is substantially about developing this receptive attitude.  For it is an illusion, says Laird, to think that we are separated from God; in Him we live and move and have our being, but we are not aware of this. Contemplation is about slowly “excavating the present moment” in order to become aware of and receptive to God’s loving presence.

The principal contemplative practice is the cultivation of an intentional silence, a silence of body and mind. In a sense, it is quite simple: “Preserve a loving attentiveness to God with no desire to feel or understand any particular thing concerning God,” says St. John of the Cross. But inevitably there are difficulties, and chief among them are distractions — wandering thoughts, worries, day-dreams, and so on, which prevent the mind being quiet and attentive. Laird is particularly helpful in describing how to deal with such problems. He describes controlled breathing exercises (which remind me of non-Christian meditative practices, but which he plausibly argues is a neglected part of our own tradition too) and, most importantly, the “prayer word” which is repeated quietly, over and over, as a way of maintaining focus. The most common “prayer word” in the Christian tradition is the Jesus Prayer — more common in the East than the West, it is true — but it is a personal choice. (I myself lean on fragments of Psalm 46:10 and Ezekiel 36:26, or something from St. Augustine.) Laird gives quite a lot of attention to psychological aspects of contemplative prayer — to the abandonment of false personae, encounters with old emotional wounds, and other stages of spiritual maturation that are typically encountered in a dedicated contemplative practice.

This book has been for me an encouragement. The contemplative tradition has always attracted me, and I know that it is my path, but I have not been diligent in walking it. At some level I am afraid of delving too deep and dredging up a spiritual crisis of some sort; this has happened before, and it rendered me largely unfit for anything else. These days I have more or less all-consuming family responsibilities and I haven’t the luxury of being unfit. Hence my hesitation. But this book has made me reconsider my situation. Perhaps it cannot hurt to take up the Jesus Prayer again and see what happens. It’s a baby step, but one in the right direction.

[St. Augustine]
The third commandment enjoins quietness of heart, tranquility of mind. This is holiness. Because here is the Spirit of God. This is what a true holiday means, quietness and rest. Unquiet people recoil from the Holy Spirit. They love quarreling. They love argument. In their restlessness they do not allow the silence of the Lord’s Sabbath to enter their lives. Against such restlessness we are offered a kind of Sabbath in the heart. As if God were saying ‘stop being so restless, quieten the uproar in your minds. Let go of the idle fantasies that fly around in your head.’ God is saying, ‘Be still and see that I am God.” (Ps 46) But you refuse to be still. You are like the Egyptians tormented by gnats. These tiniest of flies, always restless, flying about aimlessly, swarm at your eyes, giving no rest. They are back as soon as you drive them off. Just like the futile fantasies that swarm in our minds. Keep the commandment. Beware of this plague.

Ash Wednesday, 2010

February 17, 2010

Prayers of St. John Chrysostom
for each hour of the day and night

O Lord, of Thy heavenly bounties deprive me not.

O Lord, deliver me from the eternal torments.

O Lord, forgive me if I have sinned in my mind or my thought, whether in word or in deed.

O Lord, free me from all ignorance and forgetfulness, from despondency and stony insensibility.

O Lord, deliver me from every temptation.

O Lord, enlighten my heart which evil desires have darkened.

O Lord, as a man have I sinned, have Thou mercy on me, as the God full of compassion, seeing the feebleness of my soul.

O Lord, send down Thy grace to help me, that I may glorify Thy name.

O Lord Jesus Christ, write me down in the book of life and grant unto me a good end.

O Lord my God, even if I had not done anything good before Thee, do Thou help me, in Thy grace, to make a good beginning.

O Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Thy grace.

O Lord of heaven and earth, remember me, Thy sinful servant, full of shame and impurity, in Thy kingdom.  Amen.

O Lord, receive me in my penitence.

O Lord, forsake me not.

O Lord, lead me not into misfortune.

O Lord, quicken in me a good thought.

O Lord, give me tears and remembrance of death, and contrition.

O Lord, make me solicitous of confessing my sins.

O Lord, give me humility, chastity, and obedience.

O Lord, give me patience, magnanimity, and meekness.

O Lord, implant in me the root of all good – Thy fear in my heart.

O Lord, vouchsafe that I may love Thee from all my soul and mind and in everything do Thy will.

O Lord, shelter me from certain men, from demons and passions, and from any other unbecoming thing.

O Lord, Thou knowest that Thou dost as Thou willest.  Let then Thy will be done in me, sinner, for blessed art Thou unto the ages.  Amen.

I saw a sign

January 19, 2009

. . . in front of an Anglican church in our neighbourhood:

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The thought is itself worth contemplating.

Feast of St. Nicholas

December 6, 2007

Sainte Nicholaes, Godes druth,
tymbre us faiere scoone hus.
At thi birth, at thi bare,
Sainte Nicholaes, bring us wel thare.

— St. Godric (c.1170) —

Seint Nicholas was borne in the citee of Patras and was come of noble and riche kinrede. His fader was named Epiphanus and his moder Iohanna. He was begoten in the furst floure of there age, and sithe after they lived in chastite and ladden an heuenly liff. The furst day that he was born, whanne he was bathed he dressed hym vpright in the basin, and he wold neuer take the briste buy onys on the Friday and onys in the Wednisday, and in his tendre age he eschewed the vanitees of yonge children. He haunted gladli to the chirche, and after that he beganne to vnderstond holi scripture he putte it in werke after his powere. . .

And whanne the bisshop of the citee of Myra deied, thanne the bisshoppes assembelid hem togedre to purveie a bisshop to that chirche. And ther was one among other a bisshop of gret auctorite, and that same bisshop herde same nyght a voys that said to hym atte the houre of matenys that he schuld take good hede to the gates of the chirche, and that persone that furst schuld entre into the chirche, and hight Nicholas, that he schuld take hym and sacre hym as for bysshop. So it fel that atte the houre of matenys bi purveiaunce of oure Lord Nicholas come furst, and anone the bisshop toke hym and asked hym what he hight, and he anone mekely ansuered and said: “Nicholas, servaunt of youre holynesse.” Thanne with gret ioye he brought hym to his felawes, and thei sette hym in his chayer. And like as he was meke and vertues afore, so he was after, and encresed in vertues and graces.

– Jacobus de Voragine, The Gilte Legende
(translation c.1440)

The Consecration of St. Nicholas - Paolo Veronese

The Consecration of St. Nicholas – Paolo Veronese

Feast of All Saints

November 1, 2007

TE DEUM

WE praise thee, O God : we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee : the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud :
the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim : continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy : Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty : of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world :
doth acknowledge thee;
The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.

Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man :
thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death :
thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God :
in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants :
whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints :
in glory everlasting.

O Lord, save thy people : and bless thine heritage.
Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
Day by day : we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us : as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted : let me never be confounded.

Ash Wednesday: Prayer after the Canon

February 21, 2007

Pantocrator (Moscow)

O Master Christ God, Who hast healed my passions through Thy Passion, and hast cured my wounds through Thy wounds, grant me, who have sinned greatly against Thee, tears of compunction. Transform my body with the fragrance of Thy life-giving Body, and sweeten my soul with Thy precious Blood from the bitterness with which the foe hath fed me. Lift up my down-cast mind to Thee, and take it out of the abyss of perdition, for I have no repentance, I have no compunction, I have no consoling tears, which uplift children to their heritage. My mind hath been darkened through earthly passions, I cannot look up to Thee in pain. I cannot warm myself with tears of love for Thee.

But, O Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ, Treasury of good things, give me thorough repentance and a diligent heart to seek Thee; grant me Thy grace, and renew in me the likeness of Thine image. I have forsaken Thee – do not Thou forsake me! Come out to seek me; lead me up to Thy pasturage and number me among the sheep of Thy chosen flock. Nourish me with them on the grass of Thy Holy Mysteries, through the intercessions of Thy most pure Mother and all Thy saints.

Amen.

– from the Orthodox Canon of Repentance