Sunday, December 21, 2014

Today's Advent Antiphon: O ORIENS


SOME OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND:
Isaiah 9:2
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

Isaiah 60:1-3
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.


THE ANTIPHON:
This is the old chant for "O Oriens". You can listen to it HERE.


O DAY-SPRING FROM ON HIGH,
Brightness of Eternal Light, 
and Sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those
who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.


MASS READINGS: 
Song of Songs 2:8-14, Luke 1:39-45


ANOTHER FOCUS
Most of us have realized at one time or another, no matter how fleetingly, that the solution to many of our personal problems may be found in just forgetting ourselves, more positively, in concentrating our attention and energy on someone else or on some good cause. Today we think of Mary - after her words of acceptance to the Angel - "making haste", climbing up into the hill country to share with her cousin Elizabeth (and John the Baptist discerning the sacredness of this Visitation from the vantage point of his mother's womb!). Possibly Mary went in order to share with Elizabeth what had happened to her; but undoubtedly she made that arduous journey so as to assist Elizabeth - a much older woman - in her pregnancy. We read that Mary stayed there for three months.

But what a visit! No wonder it has a feast day of its own in the middle of the year. Notice that the older woman says she is "honoured" with a visit from "the mother of my Lord."

It is also significant that Elizabeth says to Mary, "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (v.45). May we be known as children of Mary who always believe that the Lord will fulfil his word!

There is, of course, a sense in which the Church is foreshadowed in Mary's visit to Elizabeth. As Mary carried Jesus within her and brought great joy to her cousin, so our vocation is to bless others by bringing Jesus to them.

This beautiful prayer is very appropriate for today:

Almighty Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
you have revealed the beauty of your power
by exalting the lowly virgin of Nazareth
and making her the mother of our Saviour.
May the prayers of this woman
bring Jesus to a waiting world
and fill the void of incompletion
with the presence of her child,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit
on God, for ever and ever. Amen.



Saturday, December 20, 2014

Today's Advent Antiphon: O CLAVIS DAVID


SOME OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND:
Isaiah 22:22
I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

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


THE ANTIPHON:
This is the old chant for "O Key of David". You can listen to it HERE.

O KEY OF DAVID, 
Sceptre of the house of Israel, 
who openest and no man shutteth, 
and shuttest and no man openeth; 
Come and bring forth out of the prisonhouse
him that is bound.


MASS READINGS:
Isaiah 7:10-14; Luke 1:26-38 


ON THE WINGS OF PRAYER:
We all know friends or relatives in difficult circumstances: struggling with cancer, separated from loved ones, depressed or discouraged, saddened by death or other losses. What can we say or do? 

"I'll pray for you", "I'll remember you at Mass", or "I'll light a candle for you" are the kind of things we might say. To those without faith those expressions might mean very little. But when Christians promise to pray for others, our promise is based on what the Angel said to Mary: "Nothing is impossible with God" (better translated as "No word of God is lacking in power".

Speaking to Ahaz, God makes the same statement: "Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." (Isaiah 7:11)

Mary models the kind of faith that makes "I'll pray for you" really mean something. In his sonnet, "The Lantern out of Doors", Gerard Manley Hopkins, speaks of his and our concern for friends who for various reasons are no longer within the reach of any good we can do. Where we can't go, he says, Christ follows and cares; in his words, Christ is "their ransom, their rescue, and first, fast, last friend." One of the lessons of Advent is persistence in prayer. Because we believe nothing is impossible for God, we trust that he can care for others and do for them good beyond our little conceptions.



Friday, December 19, 2014

Paul Barnett on Jesus the Rabbi



Paul Barnett, retired Bishop of North Sydney, and well-known Biblical scholar and ancient historian, has just posted on his blog an article he recently wrote about Jesus as a Rabbi in second-temple Judaism. Follow the link to his blog to keep reading.


Wise Judgements

For many years biblical scholars have baulked at the idea that Jesus was a transcendent figure and have busied themselves redefining him in humanistic terms.

Is this due to the ‘secular’ spirit of the age that airbrushes the Almighty from the public square?

For a period in early the twentieth century some thought there was little we could know about Jesus, for example, in 1934 Rudolph Bultmann declared, ‘We can now know almost nothing about the life and personality of Jesus’. The pendulum has swung back so that in 1985 Ed. Sanders could say, ‘We can know pretty well what Jesus was out to accomplish…we can know a lot about what he said…’.

Despite Sanders’s confidence there is no agreement about how to think about Jesus.

The great philosopher, musician and medical missionary Albert Schweitzer thought Jesus was a confused apocalyptic prophet.  Robert Eisler and Samuel Brandon thought he was a warrior-zealot ready to inspire a revolt against Rome. According to Geza Vermes Jesus was a devout, charismatic rabbi who healed.  For Ed. Sanders, Jesus was yet another species of prophet.  Others, like Burton Mack, reacting against a Jewish Jesus found it more plausible to locate him as a social reformer in the Greek cynic tradition. The list is long and seemingly unending.

There are, of course, some elements of the above to be found in Jesus.  He was called a rabbi, many thought of him as a prophet, and he did forcibly eject the traders from the temple.  The problem is that these are secondary activities that some have over-inflated and made definitive. Those who redefine Jesus along these lines tend not to address all the evidence, in particular the witness of the apostles in the New Testament.

Jesus’ miracles, if accepted, would clinch the issue and identify Jesus as singular and otherworldly. That is a subject for another day. What then about his judgements, which form a significant part of the Synoptic Tradition?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

And this is how Bishop Barnett concludes:

No society can be perfect, and no society has been perfect. But some societies have been democratically governed, freer of corruption, more prosperous across the population, generous to poorer nations, better educated, with more schools, universities, and hospitals, scientifically innovative, expressive in the arts, and with widespread engagement in sport and exercise.

It would not be hard to demonstrate that countries historically influenced by Jesus’ wise judgements have been blessed in many if not all of these ways.

Reflection

Jesus’ judgements as a rabbi are deceptively disarming. They appear to be mundane and not extraordinary but when carefully compared with the values of the cultures of his day, and their successors, they identify him as uniquely wise.

Furthermore, his judgements effortlessly translate into any culture, timelessly. They are as applicable in modern western society as they were in first century Jewish and Graeco-Roman society and in every culture since.


Today's Advent Antiphon: O RADIX JESSE


SOME OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND
Isaiah 11:1
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

Isaiah 11:10
In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious. 

Michah 5:1
Now you are walled about with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike upon the cheek the ruler of Israel.

AND THE FULFILMENT:
Romans 15:8-13 
I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, "Therefore I will praise thee among the Gentiles, and sing to thy name"; and again it is said, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people"; and again, "Praise the Lord, all Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him"; and further Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse shall come, he who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope." May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Revelation 5:1-5 
I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I wept much that no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, "Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.")


THE ANTIPHON:
This is the old chant for "O Root of Jesse". You can listen to it HERE.
MASS READINGS:
Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24


HIS DYNASTY WILL LAST FOREVER
The prophet Isaiah spoke words of hope in a hopeless situation for Israel. The Davidic dynasty had become corrupt and unfit for a Messianic King. Apostates like King Ahaz (2 Kings 16) and weaklings like Zedekiah (Jeremiah 38) occupied the throne of David. When God offered King Ahaz a sign, the king refused. God, nonetheless, gave Israel a sign to assure his people that he would indeed raise up a righteous King who would rule forever over the house of David.

We understand the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy and the unfolding of God's plan of redemption to begin with the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. This child to be born is the fulfillment of all God's promises.

As today's Gospel indicates, those who were to be used by God to bring his plan to pass required faith and trust in his promises, as well as considerable risk-taking. Mary and Joseph, therefore, are examples of faith for us. 


We need to grow to the point of really believing the promises of God, especially when we are faced with perplexing circumstances and seemingly insurmountable problems. God has not left us alone; he has brought us his only begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Let us draw near with faith and take him at his word.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Today's Advent Antiphon: O ADONAI


SOME OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND
Isaiah 11:4-5
With righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.

Isaiah 33:22
The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us. 


THE ANTIPHON:
This is the old chant for "O Adonai". You can listen to it HERE


O ADONAI, 
Captain of the house of Israel,
who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush,
and gavest him the law on Sinai: 
Come and deliver us with thine outsretched arm.


MASS READINGS:
Jeremiah 23:5-8; Matthew 1:18-25


HOME FROM EXILE:
Even people who like travelling say, "How good it is to be home." This is much more the case for those who have been forcibly driven out of their homes or even deported. In our own time we are familiar with the sight of wandering, homeless refugees.

In today's first reading, the prophet Jeremiah promises that God will give the Israelites a new king, a good king, unlike the previous ones who had been responsible for the people's hardships, including their exile. It is said of the new king that he will bring the house of Israel back from all the lands to which thy were banished. "They shall again live on their own land." 

In celebrating the season of Advent, the Church helps us to come back home from our exile, our state of being away from God, of being lost in a world of greed, violence and selfishness.

No matter how well life goes for us, or how well adjusted to it we become, in this world we will always have a sense of exile from our true and lasting home. In fact our REAL exile is self-imposed whenever we try to organize our life around something other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

By using the Advent season to point us day after day to the coming of Jesus, the Church tries to make sure that we are focussed on our true home. That true home is, of course, life in eternity with God; yet that same life bursts in upon us here and now wherever Jesus is allowed to be king over our lives.

A special Christmas message



"Behold, the Lamb of God "
Concelebrated Mass at Patmos House, Brisbane, Australia
4th Sunday of Advent, 2009

2009 was my last Christmas in Brisbane. For a number of reasons I knew in my heart that the time had come to move on, and so (without at that time announcing my resignation), I wrote to parishioners and friends what has turned out to be my last Christmas message as a priest with a parish of my own. The other day, one of my Brisbane friends emailed Christmas greetings and suggested it was it was time for a re-run of "that" letter. So, here it is: 


THE HIGH COST OF CHRISTMAS

". . . no observation shall be had of the five and twentieth day of December, commonly called Christmas Day; nor any solemnity used or exercised in churches upon that day in respect thereof." 


Where do you think that comes from? The Soviet Union after the revolution? Some right wing fascist dictatorship? A secular humanist's dream of what should be decreed in Australia?

Those words are an order of the English Parliament, dated 24th December, 1652. (It was three years after the murder of King Charles I; Oliver Cromwell was in control of Parliament and England.)

This is not the place for an essay on the kind of puritanism that sought to eradicate every trace of Catholic faith and culture from England. But in our day, when the Gospel and the Catholic faith are under attack - it seems from all sides at once! - it is good medicine to look again at the courage of those in the so-called "Commonwealth" period of English history (when even services from the Prayer Book were illegal) without whom the Church of England would never have risen from the ashes.

We don't even have to imagine the way things were. We have the eyewitness report of Christmas Day 1657 in the Diary of John Evelyn who had gathered with a tiny congregation in the chapel at Exeter House, in the Strand:

"I went to London with my wife to celebrate Christmas Day, Mr. Gunning preaching in Exeter Chapel, on Micah vii. 2. Sermon ended; as he was giving us the Holy Sacrament the chapel was surrounded with soldiers, and all the communicants and assembly surprised and kept prisoners by them, some in the house, others carried away.

"It fell to my share to be confined to a room in the house, where yet I was permitted to dine with the master of it, the Countess of Dorset, Lady Hatton, and some others.

"In the afternoon came Colonel Whalley, Goffe, and others from Whitehall to examine us one by one; some they committed to the Marshal, some to prison.

"When I came before them they took my name and abode, examined me why, contrary to the ordinance made that none should any longer observe the superstitious time of the Nativity (as esteemed by them), I durst offend, and particularly be at Common Prayers, which they told me was but the mass in English, and particularly pray for Charles Stuart, for which we had no Scripture.

"I told them we did not pray for Charles Stuart, but for all Christian kings, princes, and governors. They replied, in so doing we prayed for the King of Spain too, who was their enemy and a Papist; with other frivolous and ensnaring questions and much threatening, and, finding no colour to detain me, they dismissed me with much pity of my ignorance.

"These were men of high flight and above ordinances, and spake spiteful things of our Lord's Nativity. As we went up to receive the sacrament the miscreants held their muskets against us, as if they would have shot us at the altar, but yet suffering us to finish the office of communion, as perhaps not having instructions what to do in case they found us in that action; so I got home late the next day, blessed be God!"

History records the bravery of both Anglicans and Roman Catholics in England during that time who secretly practised the faith when it was driven underground. We owe them an enormous debt.


AN UNDERGROUND CHURCH

We should remember this whenever we slip into thinking that the natural state of affairs for the Church is to be part of the power elite in this or that society, or that as individual Christians we have a "right" to be thought well of in the culture of which we are part. Christmas should remind us that OUR FAITH BEGAN AS AN UNDERGROUND MOVEMENT. Indeed, it began literally underground, as Chesterton delighted in reminding us, in the CAVE where the animals were kept.

Furthermore, at different times in history, Christians (of all traditions) have been pushed back underground, and have suffered greatly for the honour of just being the people of Jesus. And from time to time there has been the wholesale destruction of Christian cultures of influence. We only have to think of the ancient centres of flourishing Church life in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and North Africa, which were trashed so violently by the Muslims.

We don't have to look so far back in history. Did you know that the 20th century saw more Christian martyrs than any other time? Literally millions of our brothers and sisters have died over the last hundred years rather than renounce the faith of Jesus, or the principles of justice for the oppressed that are part and parcel of the Gospel.

I fear that we twenty-first century Christians in western countries like Australia have become soft and sentimental . . . dare I say even "gutless", worried about what people think of us - especially now that the Richard Dawkins crowd has captured the limelight with its peculiar brand of fundamentalist atheism - and we tend to clam up every time there is an opportunity to say or do something that just might prod someone we know into beginning a journey of faith. We are paralysed by fear, when - if we think about it - the worst thing that could ever happen to us is that we might become the butt of snide remarks at a dinner party or the pub.

And the "liberal" Church? Well, it seems more worried about whether it meets the approval of our corrupted culture, than whether it meets GOD'S approval. 

The real truth is that there are many people out there who desperately want to meet a well rounded, intelligent, caring, fun person like YOU, who is not a "religious nut" but who can engage in a conversation about "spirituality" and the "meaning" of life, and - yes - about JESUS! Right now there is widespread evidence of an intensifying hunger and thirst for spiritual reality in modern secular Australia.


DEPENDING ONLY ON GOD

As Anglicans, let's stop grieving the loss of the supposed "standing" we had a generation or two ago (or whenever YOU think was our "golden age"). Let's lay hold of the grace and power of the Holy Spirit who can turn spiritual whimps into the sort of people who share meaningfully with others, serving them, and loving them into a real relationship with Jesus.

History reveals that many times when the Church has been reduced to an "underground movement" it came to depend only on God's promises and grace, and consequently underwent cleansing and renewal.

I hope and pray that in our time the whole Church - from its increasingly "underground" position - will rediscover the Good News of Jesus, as well as its own essence as a dynamic, loving, sacramental community, connecting with others, especially the truly needy, supporting them in their troubles, their pain, their sorrow, the tangles and ambiguities of their troubled lives, and bringing them to know and love the Saviour..

It is unfortunate that a lot of people who do "evangelism" today (both Catholics and Evangelicals) behave as if all that is necessary in order to make "converts" is to have the best logical arguments. Now - as you know - I quite enjoy the challenge of logical debate myself; but I need to remind you that conversion to Christ is not just changing what people THINK or BELIEVE. It's also - some would say primarily - changing what - or "who" - they LOVE. That is much more difficult. Jesus has to win their hearts as well as their minds.


REACHING OUT IN LOVE

So, if I am permitted to use militaristic imagery, the chief "weapon" we use in our struggle as underground Christians trying to reach others for Jesus is LOVE. It's not good enough just to beat people in a debate! We must - as I have just said - love them to the Lord. After all, his love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), so as to flow out from us into the lives of others.

I often think of this at Christmas, especially when gazing upon the Christmas Crib with the hands of baby Jesus outstretched towards us. He left the glory of heaven to join us in our poverty, so that through him we might become rich! Our redemption cost him everything. I once preached a mission sermon on the "hands of Jesus", beginning with those little hands outstretched in the manger, moving on to the hands at work in the carpenter's shop, then to the hands reaching out, touching and healing all who came to him with their broken lives in the time of his earthly ministry; then the hands dripping with blood, nailed to the cross - hands outstretched in a cosmic embrace; and finally the hands of the Risen Body held out to doubting Thomas who cried out to Jesus in that moment of realisation, "My Lord and my God."

It was St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) who said. "Christ has no . . . hands . . . on earth but yours" now with which to minister compassion to the world. As an underground Church slowly bringing about the Lord's revolution of love, we accept the cost of serving others as Jesus did . . . giving ourselves away, if that's what he calls us to do.


HOW WILL THEY KNOW?
Even orthodox parishes need to hear this, because Jesus did not say: "By this shall everyone know you are my disciples, that you have the best and most breathtaking liturgies in town", or "that you believe everything in the Creed, the Bible and even the Catechism of the Catholic Church", or "that you have stunning contemporary emergent outreach services", or "your healing services and spontaneous times of praise and worship lift you to heaven", or "that you operate the most effective social welfare programs in the district." No. However important these things are, Jesus actually said, "By this shall everyone know that you are my disciples, that you have LOVE one for another." (John 13:35)

And the greatest sign of that love is THE WILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE THOSE WHO HURT US DEEPLY. Look at Ephesians 4:32 where it says: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you."

Authentic Christian life like that develops when the Church goes underground, because nothing but a culture of love works for people who are completely marginalized, poverty-stricken and persecuted. Our parishioners - for all we have been through in these days when Anglo-Catholics like us are persecuted and bullied by those who have risen to power in most parts of Australian Anglicanism - know this better than most. Many of you have said how that in spite of all our faults as a community (and we have some!), our experience of God's love and the love of the Church family over the last five years years is so much greater than anything you have known elsewhere. A wide range of visitors to our worship have said the same kind of thing.

What happens to us in our personal lives or as a Church community if we do not allow our hands to be the hands of Jesus, reaching out and loving one another and the world around us? After all, we know that kind of love carries with it enormous risks, and we want to be "safe." What happens to us if we close ourselves off to love? Think of Jesus on the cross, and the love that flows from the cross into your life and mine as you read this devastating answer to that question from C.S. Lewis' book, The Four Loves:

"To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung
and possibly be broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact,
you must give your heart to no one,
not even to an animal.

"Wrap your heart carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries;
avoid all entanglements;
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change.
It will not be broken;
it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable . . .
The only place outside Heaven
where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love
is Hell."


WHAT ABOUT YOU?

As I gaze into the manger and see those little hands that are destined to be pierced for me and nailed to the cross, all I can think is how amazing and real that love is, and how unworthy I am to be loved like that. I can't help it . . . I am smitten every time. And I understand more and more deeply just how costly it was that first Christmas for God to come among us to rescue us, to redeem us, to forgive us, to bring us back to himself, to give our lives meaning, to pour his love into our hearts, and to be with us in the joy and the pain of human life.

What about you? Will you come to Mass at Christmas, and open your heart to him? Christmas is a great opportunity to renew your relationship with Jesus. It's the perfect time, if you have strayed, to begin receiving Holy Communion again, and know the wonder of his love in that special way.

Finally, if someone has given you this letter to read, and you're not one our Church members (in fact, maybe you've never been to church before!) there's no better time to dip your toe in the water than Christmas. You'll be so glad you did. We’d love to have you with us.

This comes to you with my prayers and best wishes for a happy and holy Christmas.




Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Today's Advent Antiphon: O SAPIENTIA


THE LAST PART OF ADVENT
In the Church's traditional cycle of prayer, Evening Prayer, also called Vespers, always includes the great song of Mary known as the Magnificat. This song is preceded and followed by a short verse or "antiphon" that links it to the feast of the day or the season of the year. In the last seven days of Advent (December 17-24), the Magnificat antiphons are very special. Each begins with the exclamation "O" and ends with a plea for the Messiah to come. As Christmas approaches the cry becomes increasingly urgent.

These "O Antiphons" were composed in the seventh or eighth century when monks put together some of the key Old Testament texts and phrases looking forward to our salvation. They form a rich, interlocking mosaic of Scriptural images; in the Middle Ages the custom grew of ringing the great bells of the church each evening as they were being sung.

A particularly fascinating feature of the O Antiphons is that the first letter of each invocation, when read backwards, forms an acrostic in Latin: the first letters of Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel in reverse form the Latin words: ERO CRAS. These are understood as the words of Jesus, responding to his people's plea, saying "Tomorrow I will be there."

I have provided short reflections on the Scripture readings set for Mass on each of these days adapted from Homilies for Weekdays, by Don Talafous (Liturgical Press, 2005).

Of special note this year is the recently released recording of a haunting and beautiful setting of these Antiphons by the Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miskinis (b. 1954) who began his work on them in 1995 but did not complete the set until 2003. They are for a double choir, and contain numerous overlaid harmonies. The music was recorded by the Royal Holloway Choir, conducted by Rupert Gough, at St Alban's Church, Holborn, London, in January 2010.

You can listen to Miskinis' O Antiphons HERE. (You will also find details of the other works on the CD and how to purchase it.)


O SAPIENTIA : O Wisdom


SOME OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND:
Isaiah 11:2-3
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear 

Isaiah 28:29
This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom. 


THE ANTIPHON:
This is the old chant for "O Sapientia". You can listen to it HERE


O WISDOM,
that camest out of the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to another,
firmly and gently ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of understanding.


MASS READINGS: 
Genesis 49:2, 8-10, Matthew 1:1-17


THAT FAMILY TREE:
In our personal reading of Scripture we are likely to skip over genealogies and assume there is nothing interesting in them. Matthew's genealogy, however, is very interesting. In this list of names, we see God's grace at work in ways we do not expect. The patriarchs are the first group of people mentioned. Not all of them were noble or saintly. Jacob, for example, stole his father's blessing, cheating his older brother. Israel's kings make up the next group. They reflect the best and the worst of human nature. Some are idolaters, murderers, and adulterers, like King David. Unknown people make up the third group. Yet God is at work among them. (It has often been pointed out, too, that the women in this genealogy have marital histories that include scandal and scorn.)

Jesus has an interesting family tree! It emphasises the work of God's grace in the flow of real history with real people, saints and sinners alike. It encourages us to look for signs of his grace in our lives and in those around us.


Christmas and C.S. Lewis on Athanasius



As Christmas approaches, people talk about "the real Christmas message", and many worthy things are said. But few of them are actually "the real Christmas message." At least, that's what St Athanasius would have said about our Christmasses. He would want to say that the central truth about Christmas is that "GOD BECAME MAN THAT MAN MIGHT BECOME GOD." Now, sometimes it is hard to read the writings of the Fathers, including St Athanasius. There can be problems for us, especially the difficult English into which the original languages have often been translated. Also, even when we have good translations in accessible and lively English, we lack the cultural/ historical background that would help us grasp some of the allusions and throw-away lines. 

There is, however, a wonderful translation of Athanasius: On the Incarnation (De Incarnatione Verbi Dei) made by Sister Penelope Lawson, of the Anglican Community of St. Mary the Virgin in Wantage, England, originally published in 1944 just with the byline "Translated and edited by A Religious of C.S.M.V." 

The great news is that the entire text is available online:


Also, Sister Penelope Lawson's edition contains this Introduction by C.S. Lewis, a characteristically witty piece of apologetic writing:

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about "isms" and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself. 

Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o'clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity ("mere Christianity" as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. 

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them. 

I myself was first led into reading the Christian classics, almost accidentally, as a result of my English studies. Some, such as Hooker, Herbert, Traherne, Taylor and Bunyan, I read because they are themselves great English writers; others, such as Boethius, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Dante, because they were "influences." George Macdonald I had found for myself at the age of sixteen and never wavered in my allegiance, though I tried for a long time to ignore his Christianity. They are, you will note, a mixed bag, representative of many Churches, climates and ages. And that brings me to yet another reason for reading them. The divisions of Christendom are undeniable and are by some of these writers most fiercely expressed. But if any man is tempted to think—as one might be tempted who read only con- temporaries—that "Christianity" is a word of so many meanings that it means nothing at all, he can learn beyond all doubt, by stepping out of his own century, that this is not so. Measured against the ages "mere Christianity" turns out to be no insipid interdenominational transparency, but something positive, self-consistent, and inexhaustible. I know it, indeed, to my cost. In the days when I still hated Christianity, I learned to recognise, like some all too familiar smell, that almost unvarying something which met me, now in Puritan Bunyan, now in Anglican Hooker, now in Thomist Dante. It was there (honeyed and floral) in Francois de Sales; it was there (grave and homely) in Spenser and Walton; it was there (grim but manful) in Pascal and Johnson; there again, with a mild, frightening, Paradisial flavour, in Vaughan and Boehme and Traherne. In the urban sobriety of the eighteenth century one was not safe—Law and Butler were two lions in the path. The supposed "Paganism" of the Elizabethans could not keep it out; it lay in wait where a man might have supposed himself safest, in the very centre of The Faerie Queene and the Arcadia. It was, of course, varied; and yet—after all—so unmistakably the same; recognisable, not to be evaded, the odour which is death to us until we allow it to become life: 

an air that kills 
From yon far country blows. 

We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions, still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity. I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it. That unity any of us can find by going out of his own age. It is not enough, but it is more than you had thought till then. Once you are well soaked in it, if you then venture to speak, you will have an amusing experience. You will be thought a Papist when you are actually reproducing Bunyan, a Pantheist when you are quoting Aquinas, and so forth. For you have now got on to the great level viaduct which crosses the ages and which looks so high from the valleys, so low from the mountains, so narrow compared with the swamps, and so broad compared with the sheep-tracks. 

The present book is something of an experiment. The translation is intended for the world at large, not only for theological students. If it succeeds, other translations of other great Christian books will presumably follow. In one sense, of course, it is not the first in the field. Translations of the Theologia Germanica, the Imitation, the Scale of Perfection, and the Revelations of Lady Julian of Norwich, are already on the market, and are very valuable, though some of them are not very scholarly. But it will be noticed that these are all books of devotion rather than of doctrine. Now the layman or amateur needs to be instructed as well as to be exhorted. In this age his need for knowledge is particularly pressing. Nor would I admit any sharp division between the two kinds of book. For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that "nothing happens" when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand. 

This is a good translation of a very great book. St. Athanasius has suffered in popular estimation from a certain sentence in the "Athanasian Creed." I will not labour the point that that work is not exactly a creed and was not by St. Athanasius, for I think it is a very fine piece of writing. The words "Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly" are the offence. They are commonly misunderstood. The operative word is keep; not acquire, or even believe, but keep. The author, in fact, is not talking about unbelievers, but about deserters, not about those who have never heard of Christ, nor even those who have misunderstood and refused to accept Him, but of those who having really understood and really believed, then allow themselves, under the sway of sloth or of fashion or any other invited confusion to be drawn away into sub-Christian modes of thought. They are a warning against the curious modern assumption that all changes of belief, however brought about, are necessarily exempt from blame. But this is not my immediate concern. I mention "the creed (commonly called) of St. Athanasius" only to get out of the reader's way what may have been a bogey and to put the true Athanasius in its place. His epitaph is Athanasius contra mundum, "Athanasius against the world." We are proud that our own country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same. He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, "whole and undefiled," when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those "sensible" synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away. 

When I first opened his De Incarnatione I soon discovered by a very simple test that I was reading a masterpiece. I knew very little Christian Greek except that of the New Testament and I had expected difficulties. To my astonishment I found it almost as easy as Xenophon; and only a master mind could, in the fourth century, have written so deeply on such a subject with such classical simplicity. Every page I read confirmed this impression. His approach to the Miracles is badly needed today, for it is the final answer to those who object to them as "arbitrary and meaningless violations of the laws of Nature." They are here shown to be rather the re-telling in capital letters of the same message which Nature writes in her crabbed cursive hand; the very operations one would expect of Him who was so full of life that when He wished to die He had to "borrow death from others." The whole book, indeed, is a picture of the Tree of Life—a sappy and golden book, full of buoyancy and confidence. We cannot, I admit, appropriate all its confidence today. We cannot point to the high virtue of Christian living and the gay, almost mocking courage of Christian martyrdom, as a proof of our doctrines with quite that assurance which Athanasius takes as a matter of course. But whoever may be to blame for that it is not Athanasius. 

The translator knows so much more Christian Greek than I that it would be out of place for me to praise her version. But it seems to me to be in the right tradition of English translation. I do not think the reader will find here any of that sawdusty quality which is so common in modern renderings from the ancient languages. That is as much as the English reader will notice; those who compare the version with the original will be able to estimate how much wit and talent is presupposed in such a choice, for example, as "these wiseacres" on the very first page.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Change of attitude this Advent - Catherine Doherty



Among those whose "causes" for proclamation of "sainthood" are currently being worked on in Rome is Catherine de Hueck Doherty (1896 - 1985), the foundress of Madonna House in Combermere, Canada. You can read about her, and the present ministry of Madonna House HERE.

The following is from Grace in Every Season : Through the Year with Catherine Doherty, Madonna House Publications, Ontaria, Canada, 2001.


I want to discuss with you this wondrous season of Advent, the days of expectation, of awaiting the desired one. I ask myself, do we really desire the Lord? To desire something is to be constantly absorbed in that desire. 

This Advent we should go deeply into our hearts, minds, and souls. Let us clean house, and make a loving manger for the Christ Child into which he can be born in all his splendour. One thing that can prevent this is looking at the world from the narrow cell of self. 

I suggest that for this Advent we remove from our vocabularies, from our conversations, our thoughts (and, if possible, from our dreams) the sentences: "I feel," "I want," and "I would like." Let us replace then with: "What does God want of me?" Let us bury the word "I." Take a big shovel, make a big hole, stick the word "I" in there, and put a cross on top. Because the word "I" is the greatest enemy of he, she, and we. Remember that; it's very important. So try not to use the word "I," especially, "Oh I need this . . . Oh, I need that." No!

If this change of attitude takes place, our life would really take a giant leap toward peace and love, and hence toward happiness and joy. So do this for Advent, and do little things with great love for Christ. Then our minds, hearts, and souls will become a lovely manger in which the Lord can be born and grow to his full stature within us. When he does, we shall know happiness supreme.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

George Rundle Prynne preaching on "The Springs of Zion"



George Rundle Prynne (1818-1903), educated at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, was ordained to the priesthood in 1841.  He served in Cornwall, and then at Clifton. In 1848, he went to St Peter’s, Plymouth, where he remained for fifty-five years.  Prynne, one of the pioneers of the catholic revival, was a friend of Edward Bouverie Pusey, and he made St Peters a beacon of gospel preaching and catholic worship. Although there were periods of controversy (and at one stage even violence) as the fullness of the catholic worship was restored, Prynne’s faithfulness at St Peter's over so many years earned him widespread respect. Of special note was his care for the poor and the ill during outbreaks of disease. Prynne's love of God found expression in his books and hymns. He wrote A Eucharistic Manual (1858), books of sermons, and The Soldier’s Dying Vision, and Other Poems (1881).  He edited A Hymnal Suited for the Services of the Church, Together with a Selection of Introits (1858 and 1866) and served on the Revision Committee of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1875). He composed at least three hymns, including “Jesus, Meek and Gentle” (1858):

Jesus, meek and gentle,
Son of God, Most High,
Pitying, loving Saviour,
Hear Thy Children’s cry.

Pardon our offences,
Loose our captive chains,
Break down ev’ry idol
Which our soul detains.

Give us holy freedom,
Fill our hearts with love,
Draw us, Holy Jesus,
To the realms above.

Lead us on our journey,
Be Thyself the Way
Through terrestrial darkness
To celestial day.

Of these words Prynne wrote: “This hymn is commonly thought to have been written for children, but it is not, however, specifically written for them . . .” 


SERMON XXV (from Prynne's "Parochial Sermons", published in 1876

THE SPRINGS OF ZION

PSALM lxxxvii. 7.
“all my springs are in thee.”

MOST persons, I imagine, in reading this Psalm use the words of my text in reference to God. They think it expresses the pious aspiration, that the fresh springs of all we think, do, or say, are, or should be, in God. This, doubtless, may be a very beautiful devotional application of the words, but it is not the meaning which the Psalmist had in his mind when he penned them. What David meant to express was this: “ All my springs are in Thee, O Zion;” and prophetically, he speaks these words of God’s spiritual Zion—His Holy Catholic Church. A Christian, therefore, who uses them in the sense of the writer, expresses himself thus: “All my springs are in Thee, O Zion, thou City of God! thou abiding resting-place of the Holy Ghost! thou Bride of Christ! thou Church of the living God!” 

That such is the first and proper meaning of the passage is at once evident, if we carefully consider what is written in the previous verses of the Psalm. The Psalm is all about Zion and the Church. This is stated in the heading which is put to it in our Bibles, and which is designed to show what the contents of the Psalm are. It there says, “The seat and glory of the Church: the increase and honourable distinction of the members thereof.”

In the first verse, the foundation of this Church is said to be in the holy mountains; and it is added, “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.”1 By “the holy mountains” are meant those hills of Judea which God had chosen to Himself, whereon to build His holy city and temple. And as the dwellings of Jacob had been loved by Him more than the dwellings of other nations, so He is here said to love the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. 

The Church of Christ alone fulfils all the prophecies spoken of old concerning mount Zion and Jerusalem. What Jerusalem was, the Christian Church is. She is “built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.”2 This holy temple of the Lord, of which the temple at Jerusalem was a type, and for which the whole Jewish polity was a preparation, is not designed to be superseded by any other Church. She has the promise of her Lord for her continuance; and however active her enemies may be, they can never really prevail against her. “No weapon formed against her can prosper,”3 for her Lord has said it. “The gates of hell shall never prevail against her.”4 

In the Christian Church alone are fully fulfilled all those glowing descriptions given by inspired prophets of old; and though David could say of the temple at Jerusalem, “Very excellent things are spoken of thee, thou city of God,”5 yet his words have far greater meaning when applied to the Christian Church.

The Psalmist himself, probably, scarcely realized the full meaning of his words, when, guided by the Holy Ghost, he spoke of events connected with the glories of Zion, which were never realized in the Jewish Church, but which receive their fulfilment in the Church of Christ. “I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there.”6 This is a prophecy (as all interpreters agree) of the admission of the Gentile nations into the true Zion. God says, by His prophet, that He will cause to be admitted or born into His Holy Church this man and that man; i:e. any number of men in succession from many and various Gentile nations. Thus the Psalm is a prophecy that the true spiritual Zion should no longer be confined to the Jewish people, but become the mother of all the human race—a truly Catholic, instead of a national Church. 

“The Highest Himself shall establish her,”7 it is added—a prophecy which was fulfilled when our blessed Lord said, “ Upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”8 “The Lord shall count, when He writeth up the people, that this man was born there.”9 

There is not one member admitted into the number of God’s spiritual Zion whose name is not carefully preserved by Him. Our Baptismal Registers are carefully kept in the Book of God’s remembrance; to some, alas! it will be a register of condemnation, inasmuch as they sin away the blessings and privileges of their new birth; but to others, it will be the height of joy and felicity to find, at the last great day, that their names remain written in the book of life, and that they are allowed to enter on the enjoyment of that inheritance of which, in their Baptism, they were made heirs.

In Baptism we receive the germ, the first springs of our spiritual life, and the gift of bestowing Baptism was left by Christ to His Church. The Church is, then, “the Mother of us all,” even of all who are re-born to God by water and the Spirit. From the Church we derive the first springs of our life. “We are born there.” The Lord counts, when He writeth up the people, that this man was born there; i.e. in His Church. The singers also, and players on instruments, shall rehearse the same truth ; they shall sing or chant it forth in procession, as it is expressed in the Hebrew. “All my springs are in Thee.” Thus are the songs of praise prophesied of, which, as Christ’s members, we are privileged to sing, and in which we are bound to acknowledge that all the fresh springs of our spiritual life come to us in that spiritual Body to which we belong—His Holy Church.

But some may say, Is this true ? Do all spiritual blessings come to us through the Church ? Is not this to draw off our thoughts from the Author and Giver of all spiritual good ? God forbid that we should say a word which could draw off our thoughts from ascribing all praise and glory to God for every gift, natural or spiritual; but, in truth, there is no contradiction in the matter. God is the giver of every good and perfect gift; but He gives through and by means and channels. We call parents the authors of our life and being, not as though they could give life and being, apart from God, but only as being the instruments through which God brings us into existence. 

And so we say the Church is the mother through whom we receive our spiritual birth, not as though the Church could give spiritual life, apart from God, but because the Church is God’s channel and means of conveying it. The Church is, in truth, already united to God by means of her union with the man Christ Jesus. He is the one Mediator between God and man, and the Church is the means of our union with Him, as it is written, “ He [i.e. Christ Jesus] is the Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body.”10 Thus, by union with the Church, we are made members of Christ’s Body—-“of His flesh, and of His bones;” and as no man can. come unto the Father but through Jesus Christ, so no man can come unto Christ, and be united to Him, but through the Church, “which is His Body, the fullness of Him which filleth all in all.” 

It is our bounden duty thus to think upon and realize the greatness of our blessings and privileges, as members of Christ’s Holy Church— the spiritual Zion of God. It is unthankful and ungrateful not to realize them. We have nothing to do with those that are without; for those which are without, we are told, God judgeth. They will be judged according to a just and true measure, proportioned to their knowledge and their opportunities ; but it is a mistaken and false liberalism, to soften down or explain away the great marks, which distinguish the children of the Church from the members of all other religious bodies, and gives them grounds of gratitude and thankfulness, which no other professing Christians can possibly possess. God has, through His own free grace and electing love, placed us in the privileged position of being born in God’s spiritual Zion, His Holy Catholic Church. Christ is the Head of the Church, and we, through union with the Church, have union with Him. 

Ought not our hearts to be filled with gratitude to God for showering such spiritual blessings upon us? Ought we not, with thankful hearts, freely to acknowledge that all our springs of new life and better hopes, are through and by this union? From Baptism to the grave, all our fresh springs are, through God’s gracious appointment, in Zion, His Holy Church. God has always, under every dispensation, given grace to man sacramentally; that is, He has given spiritual grace by means of outward acts. What was the Incarnation itself but a great Sacrament,, by means of which God united man’s nature to Himself, and devised means whereby all men might be united to Him, through union with the one Man Christ Jesus? 

What is the Church but a great Sacrament, by union with which we become united to Him who is God and man? Baptism, the means of our incorporation into the Church, is, as we call it, a sacrament wherein the first springs of spiritual life are given us; and then what a wonder of love and mercy is made ours in that other great Sacrament, which the Church tells us is necessary to salvation, even the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ! Ah! have we not felt, over and over again, as we have gone forth from that Heavenly Feast, that fresh life, fresh nerve, fresh fervour, fresh resolution has been made ours for carrying on the great work which God has given us all to do in this world; i.e. sanctifying our souls for His presence, and fulfilling faithfully the duties of our respective vocations? Have we not felt that, but for this heavenly and supernatural strength granted us, the journey to the heavenly country would be too great for us, and that we should faint by the way, but that in the strength of that food, we could go on our appointed time of trial to Horeb, the mount of God ? Yet in His Church, and nowhere else, does God grant this heavenly food. The Church, and the Church alone, is the store-house and dispenser of this, God’s unspeakable gift. 

Well and truly, therefore, and with hearts overflowing with gratitude, may her children sing, in solemn procession or choral harmony, high anthem or thrilling antiphon—“ Very excellent things are spoken of thee, O Zion. All my fresh springs are in thee.”

Yet further, in all the daily troubles or trials which beset us—in all the varied circumstances of life, and in all the changes and chances which befall us—in all the daily struggles of our souls—our daily mournings over sin and failure—our daily renewed purposes and resolutions, do we not continually draw strength and comfort from the thought that we are not mere isolated individuals, but members of a grand and glorious corporation, whose sacrifices and prayers are constantly ascending to the Great God, and drawing down of His fullness and grace for grace. When our own prayers are cold, warmer prayers are around us; when our own efforts are languid, more earnest and sustained ones are around us; and though we may not in this way make excuses for negligence, yet we may take comfort from reflecting that we can draw strength where others find it, to do what others are doing.

Up, then, dear brethren! let us all be at work. The Church of Christ is no place for despondency.  Treasures of grace are flowing around us on every side. We need not sink down into deadness or coldness; we need not deem it impossible to serve our God as we long to serve Him. We are where graces are ever abounding; we are where Christ is, and where the Lord and Giver of life is ever dispensing His gifts. Let us believe this ; let us believe in the mercy and love which has placed us where we are; let us trust in God, and be confident that we may find grace to help us in every time of need, if we will faithfully use the means of grace which He gives us. Blessed be God, let us say to our souls, we are in that city whose walls are salvation, and whose gates are praise. Blessed are they who dwell in Thy house; they will always be praising Thee.

O Zion, thou shalt never be forgotten by me! In thee have I learnt to know and love my God and Saviour—in thee have I received celestial food and heavenly consolation from my youth up until now—in thee have I been nourished and sustained ever since I was born—in thee will I live—in thee will I die—in thee will I go from strength to strength, until I appear before my God in the heavenly Zion.

“ All my fresh springs are in thee.”

1 Ps. lxxxvii. 2.
2 Eph. ii. 20,21.
3 Isa. liv. 17.
4 S. Matt. xvi. 18.
5 Ps. lxxxvii. 3.
6 Ps. lxxxvii. 4.
7 Ps. lxxxvii. 5.
8 S. Matt. xvi.18.
9 Ps. lxxxvii. 6. 

10 Eph. i. 22.