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Mystery to My Mystery

Who are you?

You are the One I long for
yet push away
to choose the phone, the worry, the task,
the ruffled surface.

You slip in when I am unaware,
meeting me in the in-between places,
in stairways and paths, in pauses,
and in bread lifted up.

You are the One my mind refuses
until unwary, I glimpse the beauty
of the word, the owl, the leaf,
the smile, the wrinkle, the awkward step.

You who remain Mystery to my own mystery,
have mercy on me.

Amen.

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God Is Near

… for me, it is good to be near God.
(Psalm 73:28)

Thanksgiving is past and Christmas music is playing on the radio.  Commercial interests of all sorts are trying to convince us that what we really, really want, what we really, really need, is their product—that for us, it is good to be near the credit card.

But we are replying, “for me, it is good to be near God.”

What does it mean to be near God?  What does it mean for God to be near us? How is God near?  Why, if God in Christ is near, do we say, “Come, Lord Jesus?” Do we say, Come, because God is present or because God is absent?  Usually when we ask someone to come, it’s because that person is not here.  Are we waiting for Jesus, or is he already here?  Or both?  

What do we mean when we say, Come, Lord Jesus?

When we pray, or when we even talk about God, we are approaching Mystery.  

So that when we say God is near, we don’t mean near in the same way that we may mean that another human being is near, or that this particular chair is near and that one is farther away. When we talk about God being near or far, we are talking about our human experience, but we need to recognize that we are in the realm of mystery.  We are using human words to express something that can’t really be expressed.

"But how can I reproach you with your distance, when I find your nearness equally mysterious…?" asks Karl Rahner (“Before God,” Prayers for a Lifetime (New York: Crossroad, 1989), 4).

God is always with us, but the divine nearness to us is indeed very mysterious.  Sometimes God’s presence feels to us like distance, or even like absence.

So we are right to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

We are right to long for eyes to see and a heart to receive the One who is, in truth, already present to us and in us.

So we pray, "Come, Lord Jesus." And we let Jesus pray his prayer in us (“Our Father... hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done...”), as we express the desire for our hearts to be conformed to the heart of Christ, and for ourselves and the world to be transformed.

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May 10, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the canonization of our Cenacle foundress, Saint Therese Couderc.

Since we can't get together physically during this pandemic, we invite you to join with us in spirit as we express our gratitude to God for the gifts Mother Therese has bequeathed to us.

In thanksgiving we remember her words to us about the blessing of surrendering all to the good God. Here is a brief video of her meditation, "To Surrender Oneself":

 

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An Evening Prayer
O God,
in whom we live and move
and have our being,

O Love,
who embraced our sorrows
and took away our sins on the cross,

we have come to you today,
sometimes trusting,
sometimes fearful,

sometimes falling,
sometimes rejoicing.

O God, O Love,
as we spend these evening hours,
draw us to your loving heart,

where our fears may be quieted
and our tears wiped away,

and where we, with your Son Jesus Christ
may embrace the sorrows of the world
and answer your call to forgive,
in your most merciful heart.

Amen.
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Only Thou

At a time when the events of life—a fearful pandemic, for example, or even just the ordinary stresses of everyday life—may lead our thoughts and feelings away from God, it can be helpful to have a simple, repeated prayer. The Jesus Prayer is one such prayer—an ancient one. It is found in several similar forms, including this one: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

A variation on the Jesus Prayer might be simply to repeat slowly and reverently the holy name of Jesus as we go through the day.

Another prayer which I find helpful is this one, from an early Hasidic song.  (This version is found in the Oxford Book of Prayer):

Wherever I go, only Thou!
Wherever I stand, only Thou!
Just Thou, again Thou! always Thou!
Thou, Thou, Thou!
When things are good, Thou!
When things are bad, Thou!
Thou, Thou, Thou!

But I don’t try to repeat the whole prayer during the day. One word suffices: the word “Thou.”

Thou…
Thou…
Thou…

Or perhaps sometimes two words:

Only Thou…
Only Thou…
Only Thou…

This can be a help in allowing my awareness to be turned toward the presence of God, and away from empty routine or from whatever might convince me that God’s love is not offered in these difficult days.

God is present. God is present to all of us and to each of us. This is God with us as total love, in joy or in sorrow, beyond what we can imagine or conceive… God who accepts us, welcomes us, goes with us as we take each step.

Thou…
Thou…
Thou…

_____

Click on the image (or on the title below) if you would like to view my YouTube video, “Only Thou,” based on this Hasidic prayer.
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For Thanksgiving and Beyond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thank my God every time I remember you,
constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you,
because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.
(Philippians 1:3-5)

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At the Foot of the Cross

Holy, mighty One,
have mercy on us.

Unnameable Other,
One with us,
Have mercy on us.

Unshakable Compassion,
Infinite Goodness,
have mercy on us.

Loving Silence,
Beauty, source of all loveliness,
All-Desirable One,
have mercy on us.

O Crucified One,
have mercy on us.

 

__________


"The Cross of Christ is the penetration of God into that unholy area where we would least expect him and, if the truth be known, where we least want him.  God has entered into the loneliness of our suffering and the self-hatred of our sin.  And he has not come as judgment but as acceptance.  The Cross is the communication of God’s care but it is not a message from the outside.  God loves us by receiving our lives into himself as we experience them — torn and broken.  The Cross is God loving us from the inside."

- John Shea, Stories of God  (Chicago: Thomas More Press, 1978), 222.

__________

Image: Christ on the Cross, by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1516

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Blessings in the New Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

– Minnie Louise Haskins, 1908

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Storm Season

Sometimes, when we are battered by literal storms such as Harvey or Irma or the figurative storms of life, we feel like praying with Job:

    I cry to you and you do not answer me;
    I stand, and you merely look at me.

    You have turned cruel to me;
    with the might of your hand you persecute me.

    You lift me up on the wind, you make me ride on it,
    and you toss me about in the roar of the storm.

    (Job 30:20-22)

Other times, while still suffering, we may find it easier to trust in the fidelity of God:

    Be merciful to me, O God,
    be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;

    in the shadow of your wings
    I will take refuge,
    until the destroying storms pass by.

    (Psalm 57:1)

We can be confident that both prayers are treasured in the heart of God.

 

[Photo is my own.]

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The Mass of Our Lady of the Cenacle has been prayed in various forms and translations over the years. In today’s world, where the tumult around us may draw us away from interior stillness and deafen us to the peaceful voice of God, and where the powers competing for our adoration may try to turn us away from the love of God, the following form of the collect seems especially timely. And of course we don’t have to wait for the Mass to pray it. It’s a good prayer in any season, whether we are together or in solitude.

O God,
who enriched the Blessed Virgin Mary
with the gifts of the Holy Spirit
as she prayed with the disciples
in the Cenacle,
grant, we beseech you,
that earnestly cultivating
interior silence of heart,
we may be able to prefer your love
to all else,
through Christ our Lord,
Amen.

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