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cities from around the world tell the story

with thanks to the New York Times for their collection of photos….

GHANA-US-DEMOMEXICO-US-POLITICS-TRUMP-INAUGURATION-PROTESTWomen's March In Amsterdamantarctica.jpgTrump Womens MarchWomen's March in AthensTrump ProtestsWomen's March CoverageNew Zealanders Take Part In Women's March To Protest Trump InaugurationTrump Womens MarchWomen's solidarity march in Sydney, New South WalesWomen's solidarity march in Bangkok, ThailandWomen's March In BarcelonaWomen's March in BerlinWomen March in Colombia0121 wmarchTrump ProtestsWomen March in BrazilArgentina Trump Women's MarchTrump Womens MarchTrump Women's MarchTrump Women's MarchTrump Womens MarchWomen's March on ClevelandTrump Womens MarchMarch In Defense Of Women's Rights Held In Columbia, South CarolinaTrump Womens MarchTrump Womens MarchUS-POLITICS-INAUGURATION-TRUMP-PROTESTProtesters take part in the Women's March on DublinIraq Womens MarchTrump Womens MarchTrump Women's Marchflagstaff-1254Women's anti Trump march in FlorenceWomen's Anti Trump rally in Switzerlandguam-1254Trump Womens MarchTrump Womens MarchFINLAND-US-POLITICS-TRUMP-INAUGURATION-DEMOTrump Womens MarchAPTOPIX Trump ProtestsWomen's March JacksonvilleTrump Women's MarchTrump Womens MarchTrump Womens MarchTrump Womens MarchLas Cruces Womens MarchTrump ProtestsTrump Womens MarchPORTUGAL-US-WOMEN-RIGHTS-MARCHBritain Women's MarchTrump ProtestsWomen's MarchPeople hold signs to show solidarity with the Women's March in Washington and many other marches in several countries, in MadridFRANCE-US-POLITICS-INAUGURATION-PROTESTTrump Womens MarchTrump ProtestsMexico Trump InaugurationTrump Womens MarchTrump ProtestsWomens MarchDemonstrators protest against U.S. President Donald Trump during the Women's March inside Karura forest in Kenya's capital NairobiTrump Womens MarchTrump Women's MarchNew Yorkers' reactionWOMEN'S MARCH NYTMARCHTrump Womens MarchTrump ProtestsCentral Florida Women's Rally at Lake Eola ParkProtesters gather for the Women's March in OsloFRANCE-US-POLITICS-WOMEN-DEMOWomen's March On Main - Park City 2017Trump ProtestsWomen's March CoverageTrump Womens MarchWomen's March on Portlandportlandme-1254Sister rally to the Women's March in Washington in PragueTrump Inauguration ProtestsWomen's MarchWomen's March in RomeTrump Womens MarchWOMEN'S MARCH NYTMARCHCOSTA RICA-US-POLITICS-TRUMP-INAUGURATION-PROTESTTrump Womens MarchTrump Womens MarchTrump ProtestsUS-POLITICS-TRUMP-INAUGURATION-PROTESTDebbie HollisTrump Womens MarchTrump Women's MarchWomens rights and anti Trump marchTrump Womens MarchTrump Women's MarchTrump ProtestsTrump ProtestsSweden Women's MarchTrump Womens MarchGEORGIA-WOMEN-RIGHTS-MARCHPeople gather in front of the U.S. Embassy in solidarity with the Women's March in Washington and many other marches in several countries, in Tel AvivCanada Womens MarchTrump ProtestsPeopleLee,Chang W. - from camera serial numbermarching_protestersPat McMahonTrump Protestsdc-large-view-with-detailgettyimages-632342302-1280x720Women's March In ParisWomen's March On Main - Park City 2017albuquerqueWomen's March In Amsterdam

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intimations

Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
(Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up”)

William Wordsworth

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream
It is not now as it hath been of yore-
Turn whereso’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the Echoes through the mountains throng,
The Winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every Beast keep holiday;—
Thou Child of Joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy Shepherd-boy.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home…

Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call

Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.
Oh evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning,
And the Children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the Babe leaps up on his Mother’s arm:—
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
—But there’s a Tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have looked upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone;
The Pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a Mother’s mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.
Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ Darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learn{e}d art
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral;
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little Actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his “humorous stage”
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That Life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.
Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy Soul’s immensity;
Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,—
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths do rest,
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the Day, a Master o’er a Slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight,
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That Nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest;
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realised,
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the Children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquished one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the Brooks which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripped lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet;
The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 – 2:32am
Photo by Kent Miller

Notes from a Week in the Winter Woods

I’ve been on retreat at a cabin in the woods since last Monday — a silent, solitary retreat. As my time here got underway, I took a few notes each day — a sort of mini-journal — and got the idea of stringing them together.

Monday, Jan. 11, 2016
Arrived in mid-afternoon at my rented cabin in the snow-covered Wisconsin countryside. Went inside, lit a fire, and unpacked the car, quickly, motivated by the sub-zero wind chill. Outside, acres of bright fields and dark woods. Inside, just me. Plus enough clothing, food, and books for a week of silence and solitude.

Last night, someone asked if I liked being alone. “It depends,” I said. “Sometimes I’m my best friend. Sometimes I’m my worst enemy. We’ll see who shows up.”

It’s 9:00 p.m., an hour before Quaker midnight, but I’m going to turn in anyway. I’m drowsy and at peace. The fire I’ve been staring into seems to have burned away the worries that tagged along with me.

Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016

Woke up about 5:00 a.m. and lay awake for another hour in the dark, watching my worries rise phoenix-like from the ashes and flap around to get my attention.

“Welcome and entertain them all!” says Rumi in The Guest House.

“Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”

Guess I need to have a chat with the “beyond.” Looks like he/she/it didn’t get the memo that I came here for some peace.

Now, a few hours later, I’m feeling that peace again. It came from a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast, all ready simultaneously despite the fact that I’m a certified kitchen klutz. It came as well from looking out on the snowfields, brilliant under the rising sun — but beautifully etched with the shadows of trees and stubble poking up through the snow.

The “beyond” was right: peace comes from embracing the interplay of shadow and light (and a good breakfast doesn’t hurt). After breakfast, I read the January 12 entry in A Year With Thomas Merton, a collection of daily meditations:

“It seems to me that I have greater peace… when I am not ‘trying to be contemplative,’ or trying to be anything special, but simply orienting my life fully and completely towards what seems to be required of a man like me at a time like this.”

Simple and true, but so easily lost in Type-A spiritual striving! What was required of me this morning was simply to make breakfast despite my well-documented ineptitude. The deal is to do whatever is needful and within reach, no matter how ordinary it is or whether I’m likely to do it well.

This afternoon, what I needed was a hike, though the wind chill was six below. I’m no Ernest Shackleton, but I learned long ago that winter will drive you crazy until you get out into it — and I mean “winter” both literally and metaphorically. “In the middle of winter,” said Camus, “I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.”

I didn’t discover summer on my hike. But the sun blazed bright on the frozen prairie, warming my face. And high in the cobalt blue sky, a hawk made lazy circles as I’ve seem them do in July. For January, that’s close enough to summer for me!

Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016

I slept poorly last night, and I know why. An hour before bedtime, I binge-ate a box of Jujyfruits while reading a book about spiritual discipline. The book made a few good points but was not well written, and I scarfed down the Jujyfruits as a stimulus to stick with it. My bad. But clear evidence that I could use some discipline!

I feel better now because the oatmeal I made for breakfast — on my second try — was healing. Pure comfort food. On the first try, I got the ratio of oatmeal to water wrong and left it on the burner too long. The pan looks like a grotesque avant garde sculpture of metal and grain: “Agrarian Culture Defeated by Machine.” Again, my bad. But my kitchen klutz credentials have been reinstated.

I guess my theme today is “Screw-ups in Solitude.” In solitude, my bads make me grin. If I committed them in front of others, I’d be embarrassed or angry with myself. Self-acceptance is easier when no one is around.

The Taoist master Chuang Tzu tells about a man crossing a river when an empty skiff slams into his. The man does not become angry, as he would if there was a boatman in the other skiff. So, says Chuang Tzu:

“Empty your own boat as you cross the river of the world.”

In solitude, I can empty my boat. Can I do it when I’m not alone? Maybe.

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people — it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.”

That quote comes from a book I wrote, so I should probably give it a try!

Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016

Woke up at 2:00 a.m. and found myself regretting some things I got wrong over the past 77 years. Wished I had been kinder, or braver, or less self-centered than I was, and had a hard time remembering the things I got right.

Knowing that the 2:00 a.m. mind is almost always deranged, I got up at 4:00 a.m., dressed, made some coffee, stood out in the dark and cold for a bit, and saw Venus gleaming low in the southeast. The goddess of love: that helped!

Then I read the January 14th entry in A Year With Thomas Merton. Once again,my old friend had a word I need to hear, as he reflected on the complex mix of rights and wrongs in his own life:

I am thrown into contradiction: to realize it is mercy, to accept it is love, and to help others do the same is compassion.

Merton goes on to say that the contradictions in our lives are engines of creativity. It’s true. If we got everything right or everything wrong, there’d be none of the divine discontent or the sense of possibility that drives us to grow. What we get wrong makes us reach for something better. What we get right gives us hope that the “better” might be within reach.

Now I feel ready to step into the day animated by the counsel of Florida Scott-Maxwell:

“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done… you are fierce with reality.”

I fully intend to get fierce and real today. But before I do that, I’m going to take a nap!

Friday, Jan. 15, 2016

This morning, for no apparent reason, I woke up with a grin, another one of those “guests” Rumi spoke about, “sent as a guide from beyond.” But this time the guest is a welcome lightness, a sense of impending laughter.

Most of my heroes are folks who are no strangers to laughter. Grandpa Palmer comes to mind. The man was proof-positive of William James’s claim that “common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds.” Grandpa taught me to drive when I was 14. First time out, I made a dumb, dangerous move on a back-country Iowa road. When we came to a safe stop, Grandpa was ominously silent for a moment. Then he said, laconically, “If I’d of knowed you was gonna do that, I don’t believe I’d of asked you to drive.” He never said another word about my near-disaster, and for the past 60 years I’ve driven accident-free!

Merton was well known for his sense of humor, a quality not uncommon among monks. In The Sign of Jonas, a deeply moving journal of his early years in the monastery, there’s a line on page 37 that always makes me smile:

“I had a pious thought, but I am not going to write it down.”

And I love this claim, found in a Hindu epic called The Ramayana, as told by Aubrey Menen:

There are three things which are real: God, human folly, and laughter. The first two are beyond our comprehension, so we must do what we can with the third.

I’m sure I’ll experience all three today. The first is ever-available, if my heart is open. The second is guaranteed, since wherever I go, there I am. As for the third, I’ll do what I can with it. As Chesterton quipped:

“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016

A cardinal in winter(Parker Palmer)

Today’s opening line in A Year With Thomas Merton, “You can make your life what you want” if you don’t “drive [yourself] on with illusory demands.” I don’t think it’s entirely true that I can make my life what I want. But it would help if I stopped making demands on myself that distort who I really am and what I’m really called to do.

After five days of silence and solitude, many of the demands that hung over me when I came out here have lightened or lifted. Since I’ve done little this week to meet those demands, the lesson seems clear: they were mostly the inventions of an agitated mind. Now that my mind has quieted, its “illusory demands” have vaporized, and I feel a deeper peace.

I remember a story my businessman dad told me about how he dealt with pressure. In his office, he had a desk with five drawers. He’d put today’s mail in the bottom drawer, after moving yesterday’s mail up to the next drawer, and so on. He’d open letters only after they had made it to the top drawer. By that time, he said, half the problems people wrote him about had taken care of themselves, and the other half were less demanding than if he’d read the letters the moment they arrived! As Black Elk said to the children in his tribe when he told a teaching story:

“Whether it happened that way, I do not know. But if you think about it, you will see that it is true.”

Of course, the curse called email did not exist in Dad’s day. Still, his story points the way: make five folders for my email, and use them as Dad said he used his desk drawers. In certain respects, you can make the life you want!

Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016

Sunset in winter(Parker Palmer)

On this last full day of my retreat, I’m still meditating on the opening line of the January 13 entry in A Year With Thomas Merton:

“There is one thing I must do here at my woodshed hermitage… and that is to prepare for my death. But that means a preparation in gentleness…”

What a great leap — from death to gentleness! So different from Dylan Thomas’s famous advice:

“Do not go gentle into that good night…
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

When I was 35, raging seemed right. But at 77, it’s Thomas Merton, not Dylan Thomas, who speaks to me.

The prospect of death — heightened by winter’s dark and cold, by solitude, silence, and age — makes it clear that my calling is to be gentle with the many expressions of life, old and new, that must be handled with care if they are to survive and thrive.

Sometimes, of course, that means becoming fierce in confronting the enemies of gentleness. If that’s a contradiction, so be it! As Merton said in The Sign of Jonas:

“I find myself traveling toward my destiny in the belly of a paradox.”

Lessons and Carols

lessonscarols

 

 Anthem – O Come, O Come Emmanuel – Lesson One

 

 

 

O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Redeem thy captive Israel
That into exile drear is gone,
Far from the face of God’s dear Son.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

O come, thou Branch of Jesse! draw1
The quarry from the lion’s claw;
From the dread caverns of the grave,
From nether hell, thy people save.

3. O come, O come, thou Dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the long night’s lingering gloom,
And pierce the shadows of the tomb.

4. O Come, thou Lord of David’s Key!2
The royal door fling wide and free;3
Safeguard for us the heavenward road,
And bar the way to death’s abode.

5. O come, O come, Adonai,
Who in thy glorious majesty
From that high mountain clothed in awe,4
Gavest thy folk the elder Law.

Isaiah 9:2-6a

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you

For the yoke of their burden,and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor,

you have broken as on the day of Midian. For a child has been born for us, a child given to us;

 

Those Who Saw the Star by Julia Esquivel

The Word became Light,

The Word became History.

The Word became Conflict,

The Word became Indomitable Spirit,

and sowed its seeds …

and those-of-good-will, heard the angels sing.

Tired knees were strengthened, trembling hands were stilled, and the people who wandered in darkness saw the light!

Then,

The Word became flesh in a nation-pregnant-with-freedom,

The Spirit strengthened the arms which forged Hope,

The Verb became flesh in the people who perceived a new day…

 

The Word became the seed-of-justice and we conceived peace.

The Word made justice to rain and peace came forth from the furrows in the land.

Grace and Truth celebrated together in the laughter of the children rescued by life.

And the Word shall continue sowing futures in the furrows of Hope.

And on the horizon the Word made light invited us to relive a thousand dawns

toward the Kin-dom that comes…

Gabriel’s Message –  Lesson Two

 

Most Highly Favored Lady 

Gloria. Gloria.

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,

His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;

“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,

Most highly favored lady.” Gloria.

“For know a blessed mother thou shalt be.”

“All generations laud and honor thee.”

“Thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,

Most highly favored lady.” Gloria.  Gloria.

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,

“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said.

“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy name.”

Most highly favored lady. Gloria.

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born

In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,

And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say,

“Most highly favored lady. Gloria!”

Gloria. Gloria.

 

Luke 1:26-31

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a young woman engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The woman’s name was Mary. And Gabriel came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! Our God is with you.’* But she was much perplexed by these words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a child, whom you will name Jesus.

 

People of Ceaseless Hope by Walter Burghardt

[We] must be [people] of ceaseless hope…Every human act, every Christian act, is an act of hope. But that means [we] must be [people] of the present, [we] must live this moment – really live it, not just endure it – because this very moment, for all its imperfection and frustration, because of its imperfection and frustration, is pregnant with all sorts of possibilities, is pregnant with the future, is pregnant with love.

A Child is Born – Lesson Three

 

What Child Is This – arr. Parker/Shaw

What Child is this who, laid to rest

On Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,

While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;

Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

 

Why lies He in such mean estate,

Where ox and ass are feeding?

Good Christians, fear, for sinners here

The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,

The cross be borne for me, for you.

Hail, hail the Word made flesh,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

 

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,

Come peasant, king to own Him;

The King of kings salvation brings,

Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,

The virgin sings her lullaby.

Joy, joy for Christ is born,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

 

Matthew 1:18-21

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When Jesus’ mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of God appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a child, whom you are to name Jesus, for your child will save God’s people.

 

First Coming  by Madeleine L’Engle

God did not wait till the world was ready, till…the nations were at peace.

God came when the heavens were unsteady, and prisoners cried out for release.

God did not wait for the perfect time. God came when the need was deep and great.

God dined with sinners in all their grime, turned water into wine. God did not wait

Till hearts were pure. In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.

To a world like ours of anguished shame God came, and god’s light would not go out.

God came to a world which did not mesh, to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.

In the mystery of Word made Flesh the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait til the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice,

for to share our grief, to touch our pain, God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Born in a Manger – Lesson Four

 

The Wexford Carol – arr. Rutter

Good people all, this Christmas-time,

Consider well and bear in mind

What our good God for us has done

In sending his beloved Son.

With Mary holy we should pray

To God with love this Christmas day;

In Bethlehem upon that morn

There was a blessed Messiah born.

 

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep

Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;

To whom God’s angels did appear,

Which put the shepherds in great fear.

‘Prepare and go,’ the angels said.

‘To Bethlehem, be not afraid:

For there you’ll find, this happy morn,

A princely babe, sweet Jesus born.

 

With thankful heart and joyful mind,

The shepherds went the babe to find.

And as God’s angel had foretold,

They did our saviour Christ behold.

Within a manger he was laid,

And by his side the virgin maid,

Attending on the Lord of life,

Who came on earth to end all strife.

 

Luke 2:1-7

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn child, wrapped the child in bands of cloth, and laid the child in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

 

In the Middle of the Night by Dom Helder Camara

Then you chose to come.

God’s resplendent first-born sent to make us one.

The voices of doom protest:

“All these words about justice, love and peace—

All these naïve words will buckle beneath the weight

of a reality which is brutal and bitter, ever more bitter.”

It is true, Lord, it is midnight upon the earth,

moonless night and starved of stars.

But can we forget that You, the son of God, chose to be born

precisely at midnight?

The Messiah as Foretold – Lesson Five

 

Lo, How a Rose 

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!

Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as seers of old have sung.

It came, a blossom bright, amid the cold of winter,

When half spent was the night.

 

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;

With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.

To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior,

When half spent was the night.

 

O Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,

Dispel with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;

True Man, yet very God, from sin and death now save us,

And lighten every load.

 

Luke 2:8-14

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of God stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors!”

 

Aztec Story of the Nativity

The angels came down from the sky like birds. Their voices were bells. They sounded like flutes.

“Praise God in heaven Alleluia!” They came flying out of the sky, singing, “Peace on earth, alleluia!”

Sweet smelling song flowers were scattering everywhere, falling to earth in a golden rain.

“Let’s scatter these golden flowers, alleluia!” The flowers are heavy like dew, and the dew is filled with light, shining like jewels in Bethlehem. “Alleluia!”

Heart flowers , plumlike bell flowers, red cup flowers.

They’re beaming with dawn light, they’re shining like gold. “Alleluia!”

Emeralds, pearls, and red crystals are glowing. They’re glistening. It’s dawn.

“Alleluia!” Jewels are spilling in Bethlehem, falling to earth, “Alleluia!”

The Star Reveals the Mystery – Lesson Six

 

                             

Anthem – O Magnum Mysterium – Lauridsen

O magnum mysterium

O great mystery

et admirabile sacramentum

and wondrous sacrament

ut animalia viderent Dominum

that animals should see the Lord

natum, jacentem in praesepio.

born, lying in a manger.

Beata Virgo, cujus viscera

Blessed is the Virgin whose womb

meruerunt portare

was worthy to bear the

Dominum Christum. Alleluia!

Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

 

Matthew 2: 1-2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw this One’s star in the east and have come to worship this child.”

 

In Choosing to Be Born  by Peter Chrysologus, 5th Century

In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us. God therefore reveals God’s own self in this way, in order that this great sacrament of love may not be an occasion for us of great misunderstanding. Today the Magi find, crying in a manger, the one they have followed, shining in the sky. Today the Magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the one they have long awaited, laying hidden among the stars. Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, humanity in God, God in humanity, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body.

…. They did not recognize him…
Layer by layer, strip me bare to the core of my existence for there You dwell.
Beneath my hopes, my fears, my joys, my sadness You are there.
Just let go, let go for You are there.
Within the blessed light of emptiness You are there.
And let me in this blissful state of communion dwell, until I can emerge more You than me.
For it will be then that I can recognize Your loving presence in this world.

Becky Lisy

The Shepherds and Wise Men Came- Lesson Seven

 

 

The First Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds
in fields as they lay;
In fields as they lay, keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the east beyond them far,
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.

And by the light of that same star
Three wise men came from country far;
To seek for a king was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.

This star drew nigh to the northwest,
O’er Bethlehem it took it rest,
And there it did both stop and stay
Right over the place where Jesus lay.

Then entered in those wise men three
Full reverently upon their knee,
and offered there in his presence
Their gold, and myrrh, and frankincense.

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made heaven and earth of naught,
And with his blood mankind hath bought

Luke 2:8-14

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of God stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors!”

Wide, Wide, in the Rose’s Side – Martinson

Wide, wide in the rose’s side

Sleeps a child without sin.

And any man who loves in this world

Stands here on guard over him.

He Brings Hope for the Poor and Suffering – Lesson Eight

 

In the Bleak Midwinter

In The Bleak Midwinter – Gustav Holst.
words by Christina Rossetti, 1872

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
A breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart

Isaiah 9:6   For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Prayer in dark September – Kathleen McCoy

for the little ones with furrowed brows
for those slowed by stiffness and disbelief
for those who ran out of time or just in time
for those ground down to powder
for those whose feet have gone groundless
for those who loathe all who are unlike themselves
for those whose losses howl in the heart
for those who time how long it takes to heal
for those who time the kill
for those who want revenge on strangers
for those who charge into flames for strangers
for those who’ve scraped the dark’s knife-edge
for those who lead and light the way
for those who pray in black and white
for those whose prayer is dim or blocked

let the muscles of their brows unknit
let disbelief be illumined by possibility
let the ashes mix with water
let them cleanse the crying ground
let groundlessness become a memory
let loathing’s crouching corners fill with light
let the jagged wounds of loss be healed
let flames of hatred sputter and utterly die
let love quench the endless thirst for blood

that the terrible rendings may cease
that no one ever again would be to us a stranger
that our voices would swell to gorgeous song
that our bodies would fill with light
that our lives might be a prayer

 

He brings Love and Peace – Lesson Nine

 

 

Once in royal David’s city, Stood a lowly cattle shed
Where a Mother laid her baby In a manger for his bed;
Mary was that Mother mild, Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven Who is God and Lord of all,
And his shelter was a stable, And his cradle was a stall;
With the poor and mean and lowly Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

And through all his wondrous childhood He would honour and obey,

Love and watch the lowly maiden In whose gentle arms he lay;                        Christian children all must be Mild, obedient, good as he

For he is our childhood’s pattern: Day by day like us he grew;
He was little, weak and helpless, Tears and smiles like us he knew;
And he feeleth for our sadness, And he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him Through his own redeeming love,
For that Child, so dear and gentle, Is our Lord in heaven above;
And he leads his children on To the place where he is gone.

Not in that poor, lowly stable With the oxen standing by
We shall see him, but in heaven, Set at God’s right hand on high, When, like stars, his children, crowned, All in white shall wait around.

John 3:16   For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts  be troubled and do not be afraid.

 

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes

And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

Benediction – Ave Maria

 

 

 

Postlude Selection

 

 

 

 

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory