FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Each week, Prasanta Verma and I round up some of our favorite posts on prayer, writing, and the contemplative life. We hope they’ll be a source of hope and encouragement for you.

This week, our round-up includes posts on Lent, songs of lament, and the 500-year-old sounds of Hagia Sophia. Enjoy, and be blessed.

***

Psalms for Lent via Andrea Bridges (a simple devotional practice — reading the Psalms each day during Lent)

Lenten Chaos via Duane Arnold (Lent is a time of spiritual practices, but only God can create in us a new heart)

Sing the Wounds [reflections on lament, song, and hope] via Sarah J. Hauser (lamenting and singing in times of grief)

Disruptive Love via Catherine McNeil (may we disrupt the powers of the world through our compassion, generosity, and love)

Pathmaking, Forgetfulness, and the Recovery of Memory via Drew Miller (remember, anticipate, and live through treasured stories and songs)

Listen: The Sound Of The Hagia Sophia, More Than 500 Years Ago via NPR (listen to what a Christian choir might have sounded like inside Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia in the 13th century)

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week’s faves have been specially chosen by Prasanta Verma and me to help us get ready for Lent. During Lent, we journey into a kind of darkness: we go into the desert, we go into the darkness that Jesus experienced, we go into a place of sorrowing and repentance. This place is necessary to help us prepare for new life.

Today’s posts help us explore darkness in our lives — and to find God there. He will not leave us alone in the inky places.

Read, and be blessed.

***

When You’re Not Feeling Very #Blessed via Kate Bowler and Jan Richardson (when you’re not feeling #blessed, you need a blessing)

The Breath of God via Keren Dibbens-Wyatt (on being enfolded by God even in  weakness)

Black Space, Dark Matter via Sarah Rennicke (to be in the shadows is still to be seen, met, and formed by God)

4 Reasons Why You Need a Sabbath Journey for Lent via Shelly Miller (Lent is an opportunity for God to reveal how he’s been at work in your life)

Ash Wednesday via T. S. Eliot (listen to Eliot read his poem aloud)

Last Curtain via Rabindranath-Tagore (a poem about life and death)

 

The Smallest Thing Will Not Be Forgotten

Last week, we explored Julian of Norwich’s famous phrase, “All will be well.” We found that it refers to the “necessity” of sin and God’s grand plan of salvation. It points us to the end of time, when God’s purposes for the world will be accomplished. But I want to emphasize that Julian’s saying is also full of comfort for the here and now.

In the Showings, Julian continues to marvel and reflect on the idea that “all will be well.” She says:

He [God] wants us to know that he takes heed not only of things which are noble and great, but also of those which are little and small, of humble men and simple, of this man and that man. And this is what he means when he says: Every kind of thing will be well. For he wants us to know that the smallest thing will not be forgotten. (231-232)

How I love this thought. The smallest thing will not be forgotten. We have a God who sees the small and the simple. And that means that he sees us; sees you and me. God delights not (just) in grand gestures and great deeds; he notices the humblest acts of faith. He loves not just the heroes and saints; he loves this particular man and that particular woman. He loves us in all our marvelous idiosyncracies. In our unique presence. Our ordinariness. And in our insignificance.

hazelnutThis passage on smallness reminds me of one of Julian’s earlier visions. God showed Julian something no bigger than a hazelnut lying in the palm of her hand.

Julian says, “I looked at it and thought: What can this be? And I was given this general answer: It is everything which is made.” (130) God preserves such a small thing, Julian writes, because he created it and loves it.

In something as small as a hazelnut, the whole world can be contained. In something as small as you and me, God finds something of incredible value. Something worth rectifying the world for.

We have to wait until the end – until God’s time – to see exactly how he will rectify every thing, both large and small. But we have this consolation now: we are not lost. We are not forgotten. God takes heed of us. We are swept up in his plans to make all things well.

Julian says that in God’s promise to make well even the smallest of things, we find rest and peace. We are powerfully comforted.

Do you believe, as small and insignificant as you are, that “all will be well” both for the world and for you? I leave you with Lady Julian’s encouragement:

“Accept it now in faith and trust, and in the very end you will see truly, in fulness of joy.”

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week, Prasanta Verma and I are bringing you a lovely round-up of links related to finding God, beauty, connection, and “fresh bread” in our lives. These short, poetic reads are just right for shining a light in the long days of winter.

Read, enjoy, and be blessed.

***

Finding God in Sunshine via Shemaiah Gonzalez (when the light breaks through)

Enjoyment is Worship via Rachel Joy Welcher (enjoyment is a neglected form of worship)

A New Year Revolution via Simon Parke (the present is “fresh bread”)

Love in Ordinary Form via Jennie Cesario (finding God’s love in the everyday)

On Being Kind via David Heddendorf (an interesting take on the kindness movement and what it lacks)

 

 

What I Wish St. Augustine Had Said

When I read Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead several years ago, I was struck by something the character of John Ames proclaimss towards the end of the story: Augustine says the Lord loves each of us as an only child, and that has to be true.” (2004, pp. 245-46)

It certainly rang true to me. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that God loves the whole world. Doesn’t he play favorites like the rest of us do? When I read that line in Gilead, I immediately took to the idea of being God’s only child. One of a kind. Special. Uniquely loved.

Historian that I am, I went to look up this quote in Augustine’s works. I was pretty sure it came from the Confessions. But try as I might, I couldn’t find it. As I searched, I came across the same loosely quoted phrase, with no citation, in a nonfiction book. And I’ve seen it other places on the web.

Finally, after consulting a friend who specializes in the early Christian tradition, I discovered what Augustine really said:

You are good and all-powerful, caring for each one of us as though the only one in your care.*

Here’s the context. Before his conversion to Christianity, Augustine’s mother, Monica, wept for his soul. God comforted Monica in a vision. Augustine writes:

How could this vision come to her unless ‘your ears were close to her heart?’ You are good and all-powerful, caring for each one of us as though the only one in your care, and yet for all as for each individual.

In this statement, Augustine paints a vivid picture of God’s overwhelming love. God rests his ear on Monica’s chest and listens to her heartbeat, her tears, her pain. In Monica’s moment of need, everything and everyone else fades from God’s view, and Monica becomes his only care and concern.

But Augustine did NOT say, “God loves each of us as an only child.” He does not explicitly cast God as a parent. Augustine might have been thinking about God as a father, but maybe not. Perhaps he was thinking of God as a pastor, a doctor, a mentor, or a teacher — someone who has another in his or her care.

I have to admit that I was disappointed. How I long to be told that I’m God’s only child! I yearn for the undivided attention of a beloved parent; to climb up on God’s knee and know that I am his only one. He’s not going to get distracted by the other children out there. He’s not going to run out of time or energy for me.

I’m not above acting like a child desperate for attention, either. “Look at me!” I cry out to God. “I bet those other kids can’t do a one-handed cartwheel!” Do you do that, too? (I mean the showing off, not the cartwheel.)

We look to the greats of the Church to tell us about our deepest longings. Augustine didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, but he did teach me something about myself. My search for Augustine’s quotation, and my subsequent disappointment, reveals the state of my heart: a heart that longs to be someone’s one and only.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, since this passage from the Confessions has been misquoted (perhaps a better word is paraphrased) more than once, even by the likes of Marilynne Robinson! I think it points to one of the tensions of the Christian faith — we have a God who stretches his arms around the whole world yet loves each of us as the one perfect and beloved child he’s always longed for. It’s a tension I’ll wrestle with for a long time, since I’ll always be a child at heart.

*****

*Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 3.11.19, p. 50.

This post was originally published on my website, lisadeam.com.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: NO MAN IS AN ISLAND

Week Four: Give Love Away
No Man Is an Island

This is our last week exploring some of the rich themes in Thomas Merton’s classic book, No Man Is an Island.

In this book, Merton is seeking the spiritual life, which, he reminds us in the prologue, is the only real life, the most real life we can imagine or have. The spiritual life is primarily about being or existing as opposed to doing. It’s about our identity as children of God.

We don’t exist for ourselves. We exist (we “are”) for God. We also exist for others, since we love God largely through loving others. This thought leads Merton to quote the seventeenth-century poet John Donne, whence the title of the book comes: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Merton continues this train of thought in Chapter One, which is titled, “Love Can Be Kept Only By Being Given Away.” In this chapter, Merton explores what it means to love. A true love, he notes, wishes the good of the beloved over all other things.

Sometimes it seems easy to love because it gives us pleasure or satisfaction. However, to seek one’s good wholly in the good of another is a different matter. It requires loving the truth, and it demands total unselfishness.

Here are some quotes from this rich and moving chapter on love:

***

Infinite sharing is the law of God’s inner life. He has made the sharing of ourselves the law of our own being, so that it is in loving others that we best love ourselves.

***

The gift of love is the gift of the power and capacity to love, and, therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received.

***

If I am to love my brother [or sister], I must somehow enter deeply into the mystery of God’s love for him. I must be moved not only by human sympathy but by that divine sympathy which is revealed to us in Jesus and which enriches our own lives by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

***

The truth I must love in my brother is God himself, living in him.

***

It occurred to me that today’s post probably should have been the first in our Book of the Month for May since the theme of love is the first to be discussed in Merton’s book . .  but maybe it’s also a good way to end.

Let’s see God living in our brothers and sisters this week. Let’s give some love away, shall we?

***

You can read No Man Is an Island here.

Reflection:

Merton week 4

 

 

 

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.

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

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Happy New Year! And welcome back to The Contemplative Writer. I want to thank you for being part of this community. May God bless each of you in 2018. May he lead you into deeper waters of prayer and writing. May he bring you joy in your life and vocation. I’m glad we’re on the journey together.

Friday Favorites are back, and we begin our first installment of 2018 with a prayer for the new year, a prayer for the world, and some fun articles on the book and (coming) movie versions of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Plus some other other wonderful posts! Enjoy, and, as always, let me know if you have something to recommend for next week’s Favorites. I’d love to hear from you.

*****

May Our Illusions Wilt Under God’s Love for Us via Ed Cyzewski (a prayer for God’s grace in the coming year)

Encountering Silence in Relationships via Encountering Silence Podcast (some paradoxical approaches to silence, for example, in the midst of our noisiest relationships)

The Epiphany: The Journey of the Magi via Exile Liturgy (in this Lessons From Dead Guys podcast, learn about the significance of Epiphany in the life of the Church and in our lives)

Praying for the World with Aelred of Rievaulx via The Contemplative Writer (given the events of yesterday, we may want to revisit this medieval abbot’s thoughts on holding the whole world–not just some countries–in one embrace of love)

Hollywood’s Once and Future Classic: Why it took 54 years to turn A Wrinkle in Time into a movie via Eliza Berman (in case you’re getting ready, like me, for the film release of Wrinkle in March)

My First Love, Revisited: A Wrinkle in Time (a reader and writer reflects on her favorite book and gives a piece of advice: read the book [if you haven’t already] before you see the movie)

The Secret of Great Memoir: The Mature Self via C. S. Lakin (memoir is a popular genre for writers; here’s what you need to know before you tackle it)

*****

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative Writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. Even a gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support can keep this website running: Support Us Today