Claim the High Calling

By Sr. Nun Other

Come, labor on. Claim the high calling angels cannot share.

These beautiful words, written by English lyricist Jane Bothwick, perfectly describe the pilgrimage of a soul. I can say, in the best sense of the idiom, I lead a double life. That is, I walk a practical journey from one endeavor to another,  attending morning office, washing dishes, weeding the garden, or perhaps checking out a sunset on a near-autumn evening.

Running simultaneously with the practical is my individual, inward spiritual journey. There I search through the everyday and ordinary for what Jesus called the pearl of great price. I wonder if it’s really “the absence of” that I search for: the absence of fear, doubt, ego – whatever it is that obscures my vision and hinders the work of God. The longer I journey, the more perspective changes. What seemed so important just a few steps ago, has lost significance. The pearl is less elusive and just there, within my reach.

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Resting (Un)Comfortably

By Hummingbird

As I sit at my desk to write to you, a small dog is peacefully resting in my lap hemmed in by the arms of the desk chair and the top of the desk. I am heart warmed by the small weight of his warm little body and relaxed by the soft sound of his breathing.

I gently realize that God is speaking again through my four footed friend. Resting is the foundation for action; and who we rest on, the secret source of our actions.

I am touched that he has chosen my uncomfortable lap and the confines of arm chair and desk top when he has a warm bed available or a soft piece of rug warmed by the sun. But he has chosen my lap as safe and secure, telling me he prefers being in touch with me to comfortable spaces where he is his own boss. He sleeps, telling me he trusts me. Rather than be out of touch he has chosen the confines of my lap so he will know instantly if I move. My decisions in life will be the source of his action. He will be touching so he will be ready. Because he rests on me, I will see to him.

Oh, Lord Jesus, help me to rest on your lap. Help me to want you over more comfortable circumstances that I may be alert to your every move. I want you to be the well-spring of all my actions.

 

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Vine Support

By Melodious Monk

I’m still very much a novice gardener and one plant I’m still scared of is the vaunted, precious, glorious gem of the summer crops – the vine ripened tomato! Perhaps I’m still haunted by the tomato plants that unexpectedly caught disease last summer and died before producing fruits, but I still find myself delicately reverencing the great tomatoes, afraid that too much action (pruning, fertilizer, or water) or not enough of the same will result in a failure to produce fruit at the end of the summer.

Tomato signOne particular tomato plant is teaching me a lesson this August. It’s a tall tomato plant at the front of staked row, one that has a stout 8 foot stake to climb, and, even with faithful succoring, it has grown well above this height. The stalk is a sturdy with a straight trunk, about an inch or more thick in places. After a recent heavy wind storm, a tall main branch was folded in half at about 4 feet above ground. I found it the next morning, nearly broken in half, collapsed to the ground. Instantly the anxiety began to rise, my fears were coming true: here we are in August and the entire growing season is going to be for naught! I was about to cut off the large sprawling branch, to throw in the brush pile and quickly hide the shame I was starting to feel of ruining this beautiful plant. I should have tied it up better, maybe added another stake, I’m thought to myself.

I assumed the branch had no chance of survival, since only a paper thin outer strand was keeping it connected to the rest of the plant. As I took hold of the branch and tugged, it remained surprisingly, but solidly, fixed on the main vine of the plant. I’d heard that as long as part of the branch is still connected to the main trunk, it’s possible for the branch to still get nutrients, to heal and keep living. With not much to lose, I figure why not try an experiment. I grabbed a flat 6 in piece of wood that was lying on the ground nearby and tied a splint along the stem. Surprisingly the branch held even with the twisting and bending to move it back upright, and with a few extra supports tied to the tomato-heavy top, the branch felt relatively secure. The next day it was still standing, still green, and a week later you’d never know it had been within a tinsel thread of its life.

“I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.” In dark, doubt filled moments, we must remember that no matter what storm may cause us to fall off the vine, we always have the choice to reconnect even the smallest thread to the main vine, and continue on our path towards producing good fruit–and our healing.

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Dependence

By Hummingbird

I have noticed a curious hold my four legged friend has on me. I have long puzzled over it. He comes and fixes me with his eyes and is communicating something. If I am slow to respond, he may punctuate his look with a sharp bark. He is obviously telling me his need is urgent in his opinion! The hold is this; as I turn my attention to him I am ever aware –he has no hands to open doors, or get his food. His needs are ever before me. He has utter unfailing confidence that I will see to his needs. He is not passive but takes his job as actively informing me of his status and presenting himself in my presence as if reminding me, “Remember I have no arms and you are my chosen sole provider.” He is never embarrassed at his need but accepts and seems to joy in this dependence—even at times seems to show me off with pride. His need and that he depends totally on me lead me to never fail to respond.

Then I am struck to the heart. O, God, am I proud of my dependence on you? Do I joy in being actively involved in presenting myself before you? Do I have utter confidence that you never fail me and always meet my needs? Do I accept that I can’t change my heart anymore than my little friend can grow “arms”? Do I rest in the knowledge that my need excites the love of my Savior who gave his life for me, of my Father who never sleeps, and my Comforter who flies to my side?

Dear God, help me to be so proud of your relationship to me. May I ever be constantly active to present myself before you,  and to joy in my love and need of you.
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Walking on Water

By Melodious Monk

This past Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Transfiguration here at the Community of Jesus. Because our church is named after this feast, we always celebrate the feast on the Sunday closest to the traditional feast date of August 6th.

As the Gospel story was read aloud, I was drawn to St. Peter’s words first words to Jesus, “It is good to be here.”  But the Transfiguration gospel also made me recall another story about Peter and Jesus.  I’ve just been re-reading one my favorite books titled Walking on Water: reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle. In the final chapter titled “Feeding the Lake”, she writes:

“When Jesus called Peter to come to him across the water, Peter, for one brief, glorious moment, remembered how and strode with ease across the lake. This is how we are meant to be, and then we forget, and we sink. But if we cry out for help (as Peter did) we will be pulled out of the water; we won’t drown. And if we listen, we will hear, and if we look, we will see.

That sounds so simple –all we need to do is step towards Jesus and we can partake in the glorious impossibility of walking on water.  But the tiny word IF can become a stumbling block — IF we can listen, and IF we can hear.  We all are capable of hearing the divine voice, but how quickly we forget to do this!  We forget to cry out for help.  Scripture tells us Peter was apparently scared both stepping onto the water and when he witnessed the dazzling white light on Mt Tabor as Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared with them. But even in being scared, Peter proclaimed,”It is good for us to be here!”

When I’m scared, that’s the last thing I think of. Usually I want to protect, run the other way, or fight.  Many fears come up every day, in relationships, over unexpected events, through anxiety, or perhaps real physical dangers. I mostly want to avoid the things I’m afraid of, rather then proclaim that it may be good that I’m here. I don’t usually remember that perhaps this point of fear is good for me today.  For if God brought this fearful point into my life today, instead of running, perhaps I can conquer this fear.  Perhaps I, like Peter, can take just a step or two walking across new water.  If I don’t listen, and if I don’t look, the alternative might be to miss out on some of the “brief glorious moments” that God most certainly designs uniquely for us.

L’Engle moves on to write: “The impossible still happens to us, often during the work, sometimes when we are so tired that inadvertently we let down all the barriers we have built up. We lose our adult skepticism and become once again children who can walk down their grandmother’s winding stairs without touching.”  If we listen and if we hear…..we can be transfigured in ways we can’t even imagine or understand.

The Community of Jesus

 

Our Source of Life

By Sr. Nun Other

While weeding our vegetable garden at the Community of Jesus, I was amazed — well, maybe dismayed — at the tenacious strength of those wily weeds. Clearing a path was hard work, but it got me thinking about “roots” and multiple ways we use the word.

As a noun, roots attach a plant to the ground and convey water and nourishment. They’re a source of life, established deeply and firmly. A second definition for root is “a semantic unit,” the part of a word after all prefixes and suffixes are removed. It’s also a verb: to root for a team or an individual is to lend support and encourage enthusiastically.

Perhaps it’s a Pennsylvania phenomenon — or a well-taught civics class — but when I meet someone from my home state, I connect. “You’re from Pennsylvania? Which part? Pittsburgh? No kidding.” And then we’re apt to converse in a language resembling English, but native to Western Pennsylvanians, words such as chipped chopped ham, city chicken and “redd up” a room. These are my roots by birth and they bring life through remembrance, forming part of who I am. We also put down spiritual roots, and there are several Biblical verses that employ the metaphor. In Ephesians 3:17, the Apostle Paul speaks of being rooted and grounded in Christ, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” Just imagine! Jesus is that love, our source of life, and stands with us when all pretenses are removed.

The Community of Jesus

 

Come What May

By Sr. Nun Other

If I were to have a conversation with the Apostle Paul, I’d like to pose this question, “How did you learn to be content in all circumstances?” My admiration comes, of course, from reading Philippians 4:12, in which Paul proclaims, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  I suspect it wasn’t a “firefly” of faith landing on Paul’s shoulder that produced such serene confidence.  A quick overview of his life proves that not to be the case. His personal journey was punctuated by suffering, both of his own making, and forced on him by others. He was a persecutor of the church and present at the stoning of Stephen, struck blind and converted on the road to Damascus, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and eventually martyred. Since I can’t ask my question directly, let’s speculate. Perhaps this passage is about joy, abiding joy, deeply rooted in reality and knowledge of the love of God.

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr. Fidelis

The Weekday Vespers Hymns

Last week we looked at Lauds hymns and discussed the fact that throughout the week, light, dawn, and the dispelling of darkness are the themes throughout.

The Vespers hymns, however, mirror the days of creation from Genesis, Chapter 1.  The texts of these hymns are attributed to Gregory the Great (d. 604).  Each one is a poetic masterpiece of 5 verses.  The first several verses always make reference to that particular day of creation, while the ensuing two verses are a supplication of needs for the soul.

The final verse is always a final prayer to the members of the Trinity.

Monday, traditionally thought of as the 2nd day of the week, mirrors this theme in the Vespers hymn, which speaks of Day 2 of Creation; the separating of waters above and below the skies.

O immense author of the heaven, you who divide the mingled streams of water so that they would not be confused, you gave the sky as a limit,

Establishing a place for the heavens, and likewise for the rivers of the earth, so that water might temper the flames, and that it might not scatter the soil of the earth.

Pour into us now, O most loving One, the gift of eternal grace:  so that, by the misfortunes of some new deception, the old error may not destroy us.

Let faith find light, so may it show forth the radiance of the light;  let it deter all these vain things, and let nothing false suppress it.

Grant this, O most loving Father, and you, the only One equal to the Father, with the Spirit, the Paraclete, who reigns through every age.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr. Fidelis

Splendor Paternae Gloriae

The Office of Lauds, traditionally sung at dawn, is filled throughout with references to both the light and the “Light.”  We take for granted that we can have light today at the flip of a switch, while in earlier centuries, they were dependent upon the light of day, and were attuned to the sun’s rising and setting, and the spiritual significance of these natural events.  The Monday hymn for Lauds is filled with symbolic imagery.  It is a power-packed prayer text to begin a day.

O splendor of the Father’s glory, bringing forth light from light,
light of Light, and fountain of light, O Day, illuminating the day:

O true Sun, descend, sparkling with uninterrupted brightness;
O radiance of the Holy Spirit, pour in upon our senses.

Let us also call upon the Father with vows, the Father of perennial glory,
the Father of powerful grace, that he may remove the impure fault.

May he inspire steadfast acts; may he blunt the teeth of the envious;
may he direct favorably harsh situations; may he give grace to those who are bearing them.

May he govern and rule the mind in a chaste, faithful body;
let faith burn with zeal, may it not know the poisons of deceit.

Let Christ be food to us, let faith be our drink;
joyful, let us drink the sober intoxication of the Spirit.

May this day pass joyfully:  let modesty be as the dawn,
faith as the noonday;  let the spirit not know dusk.

Dawn carries on its course;  let the dawn go forward to every thing;
all the Son is in the Father, and all the Father is in the Word.  Amen   

                                                                                         Ambrose of Milan

The Community of Jesus

 

 

Daily News

By Melodious Monk

At the scene of the Resurrection, the radiant angel cried out “Why in the world do you women mingle with your tears?”

On many levels, we can all find much to mingle our tears about.  Whether it’s a personal situation, a family situation, certainly larger issues of violence, corruption, and disaster on national and global scales. But our faith must remind us that daily, the angel messenger brings us good news. “Behold, the tomb and understand: the savior is risen from the dead!”
I need to ask myself, where are today’s empty tombs in which I still mingle with my tears?  Why do I keep looking in these empty places for help?  If I am willing to just stop, stand still and open my heart, maybe I’ll find a radiant angel urging me to open another door – towards our eternally risen help, Jesus.

 

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