WEEKLY PRAYER

A prayer from St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380):

Eternal Trinity, You are a deep sea. The more I enter You, the more I discover of You; and the more of You I discover, the more I know to look for You.

God, You are voracious, and in Your depths the soul is satisfied, yet I always remain hungry for You and thirsty for You, Eternal Trinity, longing to see You with the light in Your Light.

As the deer longs for a stream’s living water, my soul longs to escape from the prison of my problematic body. I want to see You in truth, absolutely. How long will You hide Your face from my eyes?

Source

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: ST. BENEDICT ON THE OBSERVANCE OF LENT

The season of Lent has begun. How do we observe Lent in our lives? Do we give something up? If so, what? When I was growing up, my friend and I gave up Carmex (the medicated lip balm) some years. Strange, but true — and perhaps not the very best way to prepare for the resurrection of Jesus.

Perhaps the ancients of the Church can help us. In his Rule for Monasteries, written in the sixth century, St. Benedict (c. 480-547) includes a chapter entitled, “On the Observance of Lent.” He writes:

***

Although the life of a monk
ought to have about it at all times
the character of a Lenten observance,
yet since few have the virtue for that,
we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent
the brethren keep their lives most pure
and at the same time wash away during these holy days
all the negligences of other times.
And this will be worthily done
if we restrain ourselves from all vices
and give ourselves up to prayer with tears,
to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.

 

During these days, therefore,
let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service,
as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink.
Thus everyone of his own will may offer God
“with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6)
something above the measure required of him.
From his body, that is,
he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting;
and with the joy of spiritual desire
he may look forward to holy Easter.

***

For his monks, St. Benedict advises the moderate withholding of food, drink, sleep or talking. But more than that, he has suggestions on what to add: prayer with tears, reading, and holy desire.

I especially like how Benedict ends this passage. During Lent, Christians are to look forward to Easter with the “joy of spiritual desire.” We know that Easter brings joy, but so should the darker season of Lent bring a somber and holy kind of joy — that of yearning for Christ, whose resurrection we await. May this unique joy be yours as you prepare for resurrection and renewal in your life.

Source

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: HADEWIJCH OF ANTWERP ON THE WILD LOVE OF GOD

This is our last week exploring the spiritual poetry of the Flemish mystic Hadewijch of Antwerp (13th c.). I’m so taken with how this mystic explores the mysterious and powerful force of love in her poems. Remember that in these poems, love is personified and should be understood as God’s love.

In the first poem, Hadewijch touches on the slow course of love. It reminds us that spiritual maturity is a lifelong process.

Love’s maturity

 

In the beginning Love satisfies us.
When Love first spoke to me of love—
How I laughed at her in return!
But then she made me like the hazel trees,
Which blossom early in the season of darkness,
And bear fruit slowly.

*****

In the second poem for today, Hadewijch marvels at the fact that God’s love is complete in and of itself. I find the last three lines of this poem incredibly moving.

Knowing Love in herself

 

I do not complain of suffering for Love,
It is right that I should always obey her,
For I can know her only as she is in herself,
Whether she commands in storm or in stillness.
This is a marvel beyond my understanding,
Which fills my whole heart
And makes me stray in a wild desert.

God’s love is a wild thing! May we all go on an endless search, even into the desert, to meet it there.

Source.

WEEKLY PRAYER

A prayer from Mechthild of Magdeburg (ca. 1210 – ca. 1285):

Heavenly Father, thank you for creating me.
Jesus Christ, thank You for saving me.
Holy Spirit, thank You for making me clean.

Holy Trinity—whole and undivided—remember my days
of trusting in You,
and send me a merciful death
that frees me from all worry.

Into Your capable hands I commend my spirit.

Source

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: HADEWIJCH OF ANTWERP ON LOVE’S TRUTH

Today I bring you another poem form the medieval mystic Hadewijch of Antwerp. In her spiritual love poetry, Hadewijch expresses both the agony and the beauty of serving love, that is, God’s love.

In this excerpt from Poem 28, Hadewijch wrestles with the power of love, which can both destroy and raise up. She also asks the question, what do you do when you just can’t go on, when you’ve reached the end of the road and you can’t love anymore? Read Hadewijch’s poem for her honest take on God’s love.

****

For this is love’s truth: she joins two in one being, makes sweet sour, strangers neighbors, and the lowly noble.

 

She makes the healthy sick and the sick healthy; she cripples those who are sound of limb and heals the wounded.

 

To the ignorant she reveals the wide roads they must wander in weariness and teaches them all that shall be learned in the school of highest love.

 

Burning desire is taught in the school of highest love.

 

She confounds the experienced, she brings happiness to the wretched, she makes them lords of all over which love herself holds sway.

 

Of this I am certain beyond all doubt.

 

To those who can serve love no more I give this good advice.

 

Let them still beg for her comfort if they falter and serve her with devotion according to her highest counsel.

 

Let them think how great love’s power is, for only those near to death cannot be healed.

 

They have risen high that have received love’s power, and in that power they shall read her judgment over them.

*****

Source

For reflection:

Hadewijch - love's truth

 

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: THE POETRY OF HADEWIJCH OF ANTWERP

A few months ago, we dipped into one of the letters of Hadewijch of Antwerp, a thirteenth-century mystic who was probably a beguine. Hadewijch wrote many letters and is also well known for her spiritual love poetry. In her poems, love is personified and is to be understood as God’s love, which consumes all things and which fills the lover with a terrible and wonderful longing.

Sometimes poetry can help us approach our faith with new eyes. So today, let’s read one of Hadewijch’s poems. In Poem 8 below, Hadewijch speaks of the the “awesome calling” of being in love and also of its responsibilities and rewards.

*****

Poem 8

Born is the new season as the old one that lasted so long is drawing to a close.
Those prepared to do love’s service will receive her rewards: new comfort and new   strength.
If they love her with the vigor of love, they will soon be one with love in love.

To be one with love is an awesome calling and those who long for it should spare no effort.
Beyond all reason they will give their all and go through all.
For love dwells so deep in the womb of the Father that her power will unfold only to those who serve her with utter devotion.

First the lover must learn charity and keep God’s law.
Then he shall be blessed a hundredfold, and he shall do great things without great effort, and bear all pain without suffering.
And so his life will surpass human reason indeed.

Those who long to be one with love achieve great things, and shirk no effort.
They shall be strong and capable of any task that will win them the love of love, to help the sick or the healthy, the blind, the crippled or the wounded.
For this is what the lover owes to love.

He shall help the strangers and give to the poor and soothe the suffering whenever he can.
He shall pay loyal service to God’s friends, to saints and men, with a strength that is not human, by night and by day.
And when his strength seems to falter he will still place his trust in love.

Those who trust in love with all their being shall be given all they need.
For she brings comfort to the sad and guidance to those who cannot read.
Love will be pleased with the lover if he accepts no other comfort and trusts in her alone.

Those who desire to live in love alone with all their might and heart shall so dispose all things that they shall soon possess her all.

Source

For reflection

hadewijch - one with love2

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: PRAYING FOR THE WORLD WITH AELRED OF RIEVAULX

 
Aelred of Rievaulx
Aelred of Rievaulx (c. 1110 – 1167) was an English Cisterician monk and the abbot of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire. In honor of his feast day tomorrow (January 12), I wanted to share with you a beautiful passage in one of Aelred’s works, The Rule for a Recluse. In this passage, Aelred explains to his readers how to pray for a world in need. I think you’ll agree that his thoughts seem especially appropriate in our day and age.

 

 

Praying for the World

What is more useful than prayer? Give it. What is more gracious than pity? Spend it. Hold the whole world in one embrace of love; consider the good to congratulate them, the wicked to grieve over them; behold the afflicted and compassionate the oppressed; call to mind the miseries of the poor, the groans of orphans, the desolation of widows, the sorrows of those who weep, the needs of pilgrims, the vows of virgins, the perils of men on the sea, the temptation of monks, the cares of the clergy, the hardships that soldiers endure. Open your heart to all, spend your tears on them, pour forth your prayers for them.

Source: De Institutione Inclusarum of Ailred of Rievaulx. Ed. C. H. Talbot. Editiones Cistercienses, 1951.

WEEKLY PRAYER

A prayer from St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510):

Lord, I give myself to You as a present.
I don’t otherwise know what to do with
who I am.
So please let me exchange this weak and fragile self
for Your goodness.
I place it in Your hands.

You’re the only one who can hide it in Your love and so rule
over me.
Busy me so much with Your kind Self
I’ll have no time or place or inclination for anything or
anyone else.

Source

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: ST. AUGUSTINE ON THE INCARNATION

Today we have a beautiful meditation on the Incarnation from St. Augustine. In this passage from one of his Christmas sermons, Augustine reflects on the many names for Christ and reveals the tension inherent in the Word made flesh. I invite you to read and revel in the paradox of the Ruler of the Stars who nursed at his mother’s breast.

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breasts;
that the Bread might be hungry,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired from the journey;
that the Truth might be accused by false witness,
the Judge of the living and the dead be judged by a mortal judge,
Justice be sentenced by the unjust,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Vine be crowned with thorns,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might be made weak,
that He who makes well might be wounded;
that Life might die.

 

He was made man to suffer these and similar undeserved things for us, that He might free us who were undeserving . . .

Sermon 191.1 (source)

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: CATHERINE OF SIENA ON THE JOURNEY OF ADVENT

Around 1377/78, the Italian mystic Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) wrote her spiritual treatise, The Dialogue. Throughout this treatise, she emphasizes Christ’s poverty and his humility in choosing to come to earth as a man. Catherine gives examples of Christ’s humility from major events in his life. Her reflection on Christ’s birth provides a wonderful way for us to journey through the Advent season.

In this section of text, God is speaking to the soul (and to us, the reader):

You see this gentle loving Word born in a stable while Mary was on a journey, to show you pilgrims how you should be constantly born anew in the stable of self-knowledge, where by grace you will find me born within your soul. You see him lying among the animals, in such poverty that Mary had nothing to cover him up with. It was winter, and she kept him warm with the animals’ breath and a blanket of hay. He is the fire of charity but he chose to endure the cold in his humanity.

I love the way this text refers to us as pilgrims–as God’s people, we are on a journey through this season of expectation. How is your pilgrimage through Advent going? Are you ready to be born anew?

Read The Dialogue here.

For Reflection:

Catherine of Siena - Advent