Okay, So Pray

Something happens in prayer…. I’m willing to let it be a mystery, like crop circles and teenagers.

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New-Morning-Shine Medititation

Sister Alma Rose Has the Last Word

Sister Alma Rose Becomes a Ray of Sunlight

Source of Light and Life, may I be a sunbeam to shine for you today. Amen

Photo: Luc Viatour

This prayer-meditation is best done lying down. Sister Alma Rose always prefers to meditate lying down, though for some types of meditation it’s better to sit up. Unfortunately.

Do this meditation first thing in the morning, if y’all are not in a rush; or when you need a breather during the day; or at bedtime. What matters is that you have undisturbed solitude and time—ten minutes or more. Y’all can practice this meditation for as long as you like.

Play some lovely, light, floaty, instrumental music. (There’s hours and hours of meditation music at LifeIsPoetry.net. Click on “Meditation” in the navigation bar.) You don’t want nobody singing in y’all’s ear. You don’t want “Maple Leaf Rag” or “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Y’all…

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The Breath Prayer

fountain

Prayer Is to the Spirit as Water Is to the Body

In the church lost-and-found I came across a lovely little book: The Breath of Life: A Simple Way to Pray, by Ron DelBene. The author describes an ancient practice called “the breath prayer” and explains how to use it.

You know how you sometimes hear a song or a jingle (often an annoying one) and you just can’t get it out of your head? That’s kind of how the breath prayer works, except that it’s not “annoying,” because it’s one you devise yourself, based on your deepest need.

The breath prayer is a short, simple petition to God that works its way through your mind and heart to the core of your being. The author emphasizes that everyone must develop his or her own breath prayer. He gives examples, such as, “O God, let me feel your love.” He suggests ways to remember to say it, because reminders are necessary at first. He says that it is not a mantra, at least not in the way people often tend to think of mantras—but it really is a mantra, in the purest sense: sacred words that “protect the mind” (the literal translation of mantra).

From what does the mind need protection? Fear, a sense of isolation, irritability, anxiety, depression, cynicism, aimlessness, guilt, impatience—all manner of mischief, really.

Father DelBene, an Episcopal priest, recommends adopting a short, rhythmic prayer, six or eight syllables, that you can repeat while walking or doing other sorts of exercise, while waiting in traffic or standing in line at the market. I like to say it silently, synchronized with my breathing, when I’m falling asleep. It’s a lot better than the flotsam and jetsam that often bump around in your mind when you get into bed and turn off the light—the stuff you didn’t get done today, the stuff you need to do tomorrow….

Someone has said, “Prayer is to the spirit as water is to the body.” Drink up!

Guide Our Feet

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Giotti di Bondone, Ascension of Saint John

Guide our feet, O God, into your heaven
where we find relief from fear and pain.
O, guide us through the wide, sere, blinding desert
into green, new grass, clear pools, warm rain.

Guide our feet, O God, away from death,
for we would dance with you, and so may we
not walk with tentative or fearful tread,
but confident that where we go, you lead.

Guide our feet, O God, for we would spring
from stone to stone, from tree to tree, and lean
upon our faith in you. Then may we fling
our spirits skyward—O God, give us wings.

Guide our feet, O God, into the way
of peace; from dark to light, from night to day.
May others, witnessing our joy, be led
unto your table, there with manna fed.

Amen.

Little Things

Antonio-da-Correggio-The-Nativity-c-1529-1530

Antonio da Correggio, The Nativity, c. 1529-1530

A tiny flame is all you need
to build a fire; a tiny seed
becomes a great and mighty tree;
a tiny babe, Divinity.

One little thought grows wings to fly
across the wide, unbroken sky.
One little child who wonders why
can change the world; and you and I

can take one step, and then one more,
until we climb, and then we soar.
A little breach becomes a door
to worlds no one has seen before.

The grandest things begin so small.
A tiny babe, the one we call
the Christ, will lift us when we fall,
for he was born to save us all.

Three Kings

Byzantine depiction of the Three Magi in a 6th-century mosaic at Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo

Byzantine depiction of the Three Magi in a 6th-century mosaic at Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

The planet sighed, then held its breath,
while in the town of Bethlehem
a virgin bore a baby boy.
A star appeared, much brighter than
its sisters in the galaxy.
Three Zoroastrians began
a journey, guided by the light.
They traveled night and day from distant
eastern lands, it’s said—and to
Jerusalem at first they came
and told King Herod when they had
espied the star. Who were these men?
Magicians? Kings? Of royal birth?
Some say that they were Balthasar
from Ethiopia, and with him,
noble Melchior from Persia,
Gaspar, king of India.
Tradition tells us that they knelt
in meek obeisance to the babe.
They gave him gold and aromatic
frankincense and myrrh, as if
to say, As spreads the fragrance of
these oils, so shall thy love, O holy
child.
And they adored him, did
these men who journeyed ‘neath the star;
they worshiped him while shepherds knelt
and angels sang; and all their riches
were as naught beside the glory
of the newborn Prince of Peace.
We call the day that they arrived
Epiphany—God manifest.

What did they know, these mighty kings,
to undertake the perils of
a journey from a far-off land?
What did they see upon his brow
and in his mien—Mary’s son—
and what was whispered on his breath?
Did they know then that he had come
to free the prisoners of fear
and save the world from sin and death?

Dear God, we shall adore him too,
the baby boy in Bethlehem.
Three kings set out to see the Christ;
shall we do less than these good men?

Amen.

And Showed the Face of God

Pietro_Perugino_Polyptych_Albani_Torlonia_c1491

Pietro Perugino, Polyptych Albani Torlonia, c. 1491

Why was the holy child born?
Why did Divinity adopt
a human form and walk the hills
of Galilee? Why did he lift
the weak and heal the blind, why did
he cleanse the lepers, cast out demons?
Why did Jesus Christ speak truth
to power, hastening his own
demise? The world would never be
the same, because this wise and gentle
prophet told the multitudes
to set aside the ancient laws,
obeying just this one: Be love.
And in the groves and orchards, on
the mountainsides; along the shore
and in the desert; in the temple
and among the poor, despised,
despairing—those whom he called brother,
sister, child—this carpenter
who owned no property except
the garment that he wore, the sandals
on his feet, gave all: love, hope, mercy…
life and breath… the promise of
Emmanuel—God with us; God
within us. Those whom he restores
to innocence are rich indeed,
beyond the grasp of death and free
from grief and dark despair.
Why did he come? To heal our hearts.
He heals us still. Because he came
one holy night in Bethlehem
and grew in grace and walked the hills
of Galilee—the Word made flesh—
because he came and showed the face
of God—the world would never be
the same, and never shall again.

 

Ring the Christmas Bells

isabella-breviary-adoration-of-magi

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in Emmanuel
today. A child is born in Bethlehem amid the
creatures in the stable. Humble his
surroundings, yet he comes to rule the hearts of
people ‘round the world. Are you afraid?
Give to the holy one your fears. And do you
weep? Give him your tears; he makes of them
your baptism. Return to purity, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in the victory
of joy and peace. A child is born in Bethlehem,
and creatures give him homage. Kings adore
him; precious are the gifts they bring. Now sing
for him a lullaby; sing him to sleep. Sing this:
Sweet Jesus, God among us, Lord Emmanuel.
So innocent is he, yet he accepts our sin and
our distress. Return to bliss, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in the hope of
better days to be. A child is born in Bethlehem,
a world transformed his gift to you and me.
He is the Morning Star; the very sun bows
down to him, and through his tender mercy
what was old and weary now is new again.
Give him your tears, and they become your
baptism. Return to innocence, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.