New Creation

The Creation of Adam Sistine Chapel Michelangelo.jpg

God, my prayers are an unholy mess.
I plan and structure them, write lists
and check things off, and when I’ve
finished, I feel the same sensation of
accomplishment as if I’ve scrubbed out
the commode. But I don’t believe that
prayers are meant to be an inconvenience.
I think you want us to hand you the mess.
I don’t think you get tired of hearing us say,
Here I am again, God, not one bit saintlier
than yesterday.

God, my life is slovenly. I start each day with
pure intentions: to be kind, industrious…
to know my own magnificence, shine with
your radiance… and, yes, to make a
difference. By ten a.m. my noble aims are
ashes in the grate, and I am heavy with the
weight of my undone objectives. I organize,
I strategize, and then I beat myself about
the head and chest because I’ve cashed out
my vitality. Salvage what is left of me, I pray,
and place me on the path that leads to
blessedness despite my awkward gait.

God, I live and move in tarnished splendor.
What you created pure as ice and bright as
gold has faded, lost its shape, grown cynical
and weary of the race. Yet all the elements
remain, and you, God, and only you can
reassemble them. Only you can recreate me,
as you did that first day when the world lay
at my feet. Reawaken me, O God, to your
awesome power and your tender grace.

Amen.

 

 

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May They Dance Again

The-Wedding-Dance-1566-Pieter-Brueghel-the-Elder

The Wedding Dance, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1566

Song for the Twenty-Fifth Day of Lent

Father-Mother, God of life, restore now strength and health
as thy children pray for mercy at thy holy well.
Wash them with this sacred water—
mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters—
wipe the tears from every face;
feed their hunger by thy grace.

May angel voices out of heaven shout a great amen.
May the hands be healing hands that minister to them.
May the eyes that see their pain be soft like April’s first warm rain.
May kindness be the cup they drink, and may they dance again.

Father-Mother, let them hear thine own majestic voice,
soothing or resounding o’er the tumult and the noise.
May the lighting and the thunder
tell of signs and speak of wonders.
Sing to those who bow before thee
songs of victory and glory.

May angel voices out of heaven shout a great amen.
May the hands be healing hands that minister to them.
May the eyes that see their pain be soft like April’s first warm rain.
May kindness be the cup they drink, and may they dance again.

Redeemed

MEADOW-AT-GIVERNY-claude-monet-artist-monet

Meadow at Giverny, Claude Monet, 1888

Meditation for the Twenty-Third Day of Lent

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. —Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

There was no light in the pit, nor was there
another heartbeat, only mine, and that was faint.
We were falling, my cold heart and I. The sides of
the cave were slick, and I could gain no purchase.
Nothing grew there except terror, which swelled
like a storm cloud and would have smothered
me.  And I said, God, I shall never see another
morning unless you lift me with your mercy. I
shall never walk in sunlight unless it be by your
grace. But you are removed from this pit; you are
not in this place. God, can you, even you, forgive
my unbelief? Will you renew a right spirit in me?
Can I ever again know the joy of your salvation?

There was no sound in the pit, nor could I hear
my own heartbeat, and I wondered if the whole
world had grown dark and silent. I feared for
myself and for those I had loved, long ago, when
I was able to love. It seemed that the very
universe had succumbed to darkness. Then my
feet touched a great stone that stopped my
falling, and my hands felt a solid thing, like the
bark of a tree, and when I breathed, a sweet wind
filled my lungs, and I heard a sound, an oboe and
a tympani, and, fearful of hope, I said, God, if I am
redeemed, it is you who has saved me. It is your
strong right hand that even now pulls me from
this deathly cavern. It is your light that warms my
bones. It is your word that restores my life. Are
there psalms sufficient to praise you for your
steadfast love? For the rest of my days I shall tell
of your deeds with songs of joy.

Amen.

 

Saved by Grace

Christ_Taking_Leave_of_the_Apostles-Duccio-di-Buoninsegna-1308-1311

Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, Duccio di Buoninsegna, c. 1308-1311

Meditation for the Sixteenth Day of Lent

I got off to a bad start in Christianity. In Sunday School
I learned that I was supposed to want to be like Jesus,
but I secretly wanted to be like Carolyn Chandler, who
was adorable and blond and athletically talented and
whose grandmother sewed beautiful dresses for her
out of starched gingham with grosgrain ribbon trim.
Jesus didn’t own a single pretty dress, not to mention
sturdy shoes or a change of underwear, and the
speeches he made and the miracles he performed
didn’t seem to be working for him in terms of career
success. He died a miserable death, and he still had to
go to Hell—those three days were no cakewalk. We’re
told that he finally got to Heaven, where, as far as
anybody knew, he had to sit around with God a
hundred percent of forever. I pictured them side by
side in deck chairs in an otherwise empty room,
making polite conversation, receiving the occasional
visitor—maybe Paul and his ilk, whose idea of a good
time was to suffer gladly in the name of the Lord. Can
you teach grateful suffering to an eight-year-old? One
must, I think, experience despair at least once (more, if
one is not an exceptionally quick study) and be
redeemed—not by an infusion of cash or a rise to
stardom but by grace, freely given and entirely
undeserved—to perceive that Jesus Christ is alive and
well and working miracles in one’s body, mind, and
spirit, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

_____________

Adapted from Annagrammatica’s Little Book of Affirmationsby Mary Campbell

A Prayer for the Second Day of Lent

book-of-hours-du-barry-feast

Très Riches Heures du duc de BerryLimbourg brothers, 1411-1416

Lead Me to the Feast

Dear God, make me ready for salvation—
for the time when I can trust the guideposts
and not need to see the destination.
There are enemies around me, shadows
moving in the undergrowth, and I don’t
know their names, I only sense their sneering
hatred, feel a loathsome force that steals from
nature’s generosity and drowns out
her sweet song.

It is offered—freedom from all pain,
anxiety, regret—but I’m not ready
for it yet, and it is too genteel to
press. It waits, out in the clearing, like a
tree in richest fruitage, past midsummer,
brazenly displaying plump, pure
nourishment… but, unlike the orchard
down the road a way, this tree and its
companions will not drop their bounty
when the days grow short, the evenings chill.

Still I hesitate. Do I deserve such
freedom? What have I achieved to merit
love? Forgiveness I am hesitant to
claim while I continue to transgress, and
there is forage for the taking, too,
enough to keep a body from starvation…
food sufficient for the day.

But you have higher aspirations for your
children. You would more than satisfy our
hunger. You would have us eat of life
abundant, drink of grace, and drown our
senses in the sweet, clear nectar of
eternal love.

Dear God, make me ready for salvation.
Fit me for the garments you have fashioned—
joy, compassion, peace. Lead me, trusting,
willing, to the feast. Amen.

___________

Image from the Duc de Barry’s Book of Hours.

The book of hours is a Christian devotional book popular in the Middle Ages. It is the most common type of surviving medieval illuminated manuscript…. Each manuscript book of hours is unique in one way or another, but most contain a similar collection of texts, prayers and psalms, often with appropriate decorations, for Christian devotion. Illumination or decoration is minimal in many examples, often restricted to decorated capital letters at the start of psalms and other prayers, but books made for wealthy patrons may be extremely lavish, with full-page miniatures. —Wikipedia

Guide Our Feet

Giotto_di_Bondone_051_Ascension_of_St_John_adjusted

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.

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.