WEEKLY PRAYER: St. John of the Cross

The feast day of St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) is December 14. St. John was a Carmelite friar, mystic, and Doctor of the Church. Today’s prayer is from the Sayings of Light and Love, available in St. John’s Collected Works.

 

John of the Cross

*****

My God, you will not take away what you have given me in your only Son, Jesus Christ.
In him, you have given me all that I desire.
You will, therefore, no longer delay —
and this is my joy  —
provide that I wait for you.
So, my heart, why do you delay?
Why do you procrastinate?
From this moment on you can love your God!
Mine are the heavens,
mine is the earth and mine the peoples;
mine are the just and mine are the sinners;
mine are the angels;
mine is the mother of God —
God himself is mine, for me —
for mine is Christ
and everything is for me.
What do you ask, what do you seek, my soul?
Everything is for you and everything is yours!
Do not think of yourself as little
not pay attention to the scraps that fall from the table of your Father.
Rise on the great day and take your glory in his!
Hide yourself in it and be joyful;
everything which your heart desires shall be yours.

 

(Source for this version of St. John’s prayer)

WEEKLY PRAYER: St. Ambrose

St. Ambrose (4th c.) was bishop of Milan and one of the original Doctors of the Church. His Feast Day is this week, on December 7. Today we’re praying Ambrose’s very moving prayer of healing, which follows his sermon on the healing of the paralyzed man in Luke 5 (17-26).

*****

Thee alone I follow, Lord Jesus, Who heals my wounds. For what shall separate me from the love of God, which is in Thee? Shall tribulation, or distress, or famine? I am held fast as though by nails, and fettered by the bonds of charity.

Remove from me, O Lord Jesus, with Thy potent sword, the corruption of my sins. Secure me in the bonds of Thy love; cut away what is corrupt in me. Come quickly and make an end of my many, my hidden and secret afflictions. Open the wound lest the evil humor spread. With Thy new washing, cleanse in me all that is stained. Hear me, you earthly men, who in your sins bring forth drunken thoughts: I have found a Physician. He dwells in Heaven and distributes His healing on earth.

He alone can heal my pains Who Himself has none. He alone Who knows what is hidden, can take away the grief of my heart, the fear of my soul: Jesus Christ. Christ is grace, Christ is life, Christ is Resurrection. Amen.

(Source)

WEEKLY PRAYER: Mechthild of Magdeburg

Today’s beautiful prayer comes from Mechthild of Magdeburg (ca. 1207 – ca. 1282), a German mystic and a Beguine. She was one of the first mystics to write in German rather than Latin. Her feast day is today, November 19.

Mechthild

*****

Ah, Lord, love me passionately, love me often, and love me long.

For the more passionately you love me, the purer I shall become.

The more often you love me, the more beautiful I shall become.

The longer you love me, the holier I shall become here on earth.

(Source)

 

 

WEEKLY PRAYER: St. Clement of Rome

Today’s prayer comes from St. Clement of Rome (1st c.). He was a Pope of Rome and an early Apostolic Father. Clement’s Feast Day is coming up on November 23.

*****

We beseech thee, Master, to be our helper and protector. Save the afflicted among us; have mercy on the lowly; raise up the fallen; appear to the needy; heal the ungodly; restore the wanderers of thy people; feed the hungry; ransom our prisoners; raise up the sick; comfort the faint-hearted.

 

(Source)

 

WEEKLY PRAYER: St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880 – 1906) was a French Carmelite nun and mystic. Her Feast Day is celebrated on November 8. This week we are praying an excerpt from her Prayer to the Trinity, composed in 1906.

*****

Oh my God, Trinity Whom I adore; help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my Unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery. Give peace to my soul, make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place. May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring and wholly surrendered to Your creative action.

Eternal Word, Word of my God, I want to spend my life in listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You. Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You and always remain in Your great light. O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance.

(Source)

WEEKLY PRAYER: ST. AUGUSTINE

Today’s prayer comes from St. Augustine of Hippo:

Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of your brightness.

Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of your wisdom.
All our desire is known unto you,
therefore perfect what you have begun,
and what your spirit has awakened us
to ask in prayer.

We seek your face,
turn your face unto us and show us your glory.
Then shall our longing be satisified,
and our peace shall be perfect.

How to Wash the Dishes

In last week’s post, we explored what I call a kitchen sink spirituality. Can we find a worthwhile practice in the mundane task of washing the dishes? What can it teach us? We looked at three references to a spirituality of dishwashing.

There is a fourth reference I’d like to explore today.

dishesOn his website, author Jim Forest tells a story about his friend, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. One evening at a dinner party, Forest was annoyed at the pile of dishes he was stuck washing while everyone else was having a great conversation in the other room. Sensing his annoyance, Nhat Hanh told him, “You should wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” Forest was puzzled. Then his friend advised him to “wash each dish as if it were the baby Jesus.”

I’m really drawn to Nhat Hanh’s response. When I first read it, I was immediately transported to the Middle Ages, my favorite time period. Nhat Hanh may have meant to impart advice on mindfulness, but he sounds just like a medieval devotional master.

In the late Middle Ages, many devotional texts invited their readers to experience the humanity of Jesus in a new and startling way. Their goal was to foster an experience of intimacy with the savior. The Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony (14th c.), for example, asks lay Christians to imagine holding and caring for the baby Jesus:

Kiss the beautiful little feet of the infant Jesus who lies in the manger and beg his mother to let you hold him a while.

And later:

[T]he holy Virgin, following the law that had been established, left the city of Bethlehem with Joseph and the infant Jesus to go to Jerusalem, five miles distant, to present Our Lord in the temple. You go, too, in their company, and help them carry the child.

I never fail to be moved by the tenderness of this invitation. Ludolph asks his readers not just to meditate on Jesus, not just to think about him or rehearse the events in his life. He invites every person to enter into Jesus’ life. This reverses the way we usually approach Jesus. Instead of asking our Lord to help us, we help care for him. We kiss and hold and carry his infant self. For a moment, we are his mother.

I’m fascinated by the way a contemporary Buddhist monk channels this text. I doubt that Nhat Hanh meant to get medieval on us, but he did–-and together with Ludolph of Saxony, his advice helps to transform a small part of our daily life. Hold the infant Jesus a while. Wash each dish as if it were the baby Jesus.

Doing the dishes can make me so angry. I’m tired at the end of the day. I see the piles of dirty plates, not all of which will fit into the dishwasher, and I simply don’t want to wash them. But how could I be angry washing the baby Jesus? How could I refuse an invitation to take him into my arms?

I need this kind of spirituality, one in which tenderness and imagination melt away my frustration. One in which Jesus becomes startlingly present in my life. What, after all, could be more startling than suddenly seeing Jesus in your kitchen sink? It’s the jolt needed to restart and soothe my troubled heart.

If henceforth my family sees me weeping at the sink after dinner, it will be because I hold not only dishes, but also the infant savior.

Dishwashing as a spiritual discipline? Surely so. One that I practice each day. One that brings me to Jesus. One that washes me of anger even as I wash the dishes clean.

 

WEEKLY PRAYER: St. Teresa of Avila

This week’s prayer is more of a meditation or a loving admonition. It comes from St. Teresa of Ávila (1515 – 1582), Carmelite nun and mystic, whose Feast Day is today (October 15).

 

Teresa of Avila

*****

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing upset you.
Everything changes.
God alone is unchanging.
With patience all things are possible.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.

(Source)

 

WEEKLY PRAYER

A prayer before writing or studying from St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274):

*****

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
have established three hierarchies of angels,
have arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens
and have marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,

You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high above all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

(Source)

 

WEEKLY PRAYER

Today’s prayer is adapted from a passage in Walter Hilton’s spiritual treatise, The Scale of Perfection. Hilton (ca. 1340 – 1396) was an English Augustinian canon and mystic. Hilton is not a saint, but the Episcopal Church (USA) honors him this week, on September 28.

*****

Lord, thou art in me and shalt never be lost out of me,
but I am not near thee till I have found thee.
Nowhere need I run to seek thee,
but within me where already thou art.
Thou art the treasure hidden within me:
draw me therefore to thee that I may find thee
and serve and possess thee forever.

(Source)