Monday, December 31, 2018

Scots blessing for a new year

God, bless to me the new day,
Never vouchsafed to me before;
It is to bless your own presence
You have given me this time, O God.

Bless to my eye,
May my eye bless all it sees;
I will bless my neighbor,
May my neighbor bless me.

God, give me a clean heart,
Let me not from sight of your eye;
Bless to me my family,
And bless to me my means.

--prayer from the Scottish Highlands, collected by Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912) and published in Carmina Gadelica

The Year As A House: A Blessing

Think of the year
as a house:
door flung wide
in welcome,
threshold swept
and waiting,
a graced spaciousness
opening and offering itself
to you.

Let it be blessed
in every room.
Let it be hallowed
in every corner.
Let every nook
be a refuge
and every object set
to holy use.

Let it be here
that safety will rest.
Let it be here
that health will make its home.
Let it be here
that peace will show its face.
Let it be here
that love will find its way.

let the weary come
let the aching come
let the lost come
let the sorrowing come.

let them find their rest
and let them find their soothing
and let them find their place
and let them find their delight.

And may it be
in this house of a year
that the seasons will spin in beauty,
and may it be
in these turning days
that time will spiral with joy.
And may it be
that its rooms will fill
with ordinary grace
and light spill from every window
to welcome the stranger home.

—Jan Richardson (1947- ), American Methodist poet, writer, artist, and liturgist, from the Painted Prayerbook

Image: Fr. John Giuliani, the Magi (Chiefs from the East)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Where the Map Begins

This is not
any map you know.
Forget longitude.
Forget latitude.
Do not think of distances
or of plotting
the most direct route.
Astrolabe, sextant, compass:
these will not help you here.

This is the map
that begins with a star.
This is the chart
that starts with fire,
with blazing,
with an ancient light
that has outlasted
generations, empires,
cultures, wars.

Look starward once,
then look away.
Close your eyes 
nd see how the map
begins to blossom
behind your lids,
how it constellates,
its lines stretching out
from where you stand.

You cannot see it all,
cannot divine the way
it will turn and spiral,
cannot perceive how
the road you walk
will lead you finally inside,
through the labyrinth
of your own heart
and belly and lungs.

But step out
and you will know
what the wise who traveled
this path before you
the treasure in this map
is buried not at journey’s end
but at its beginning.

-- Jan Richardson (1947- ) American Methodist poet, artist, writer, and liturgist, from the Painted Prayerbook

Image: Babylonian map of the world, one of the oldest maps in existence

The Meaning of Incarnation

... Jesus is the one in whom God's relationship with us attains perfection. In Jesus, unity with God takes a perfect form; here humanity has become God's own. That is the fundamental meaning of the incarnation, of God's becoming human.... The point of incarnation is therefore, as it was for the early Greek Fathers, the perfection of humanity; this is human-centered Christology  just because it is an incarnation centered one. By way of this perfected humanity in union with God, God's gifts are distributed to us-- we are saved-- just to the extent that we are one with Christ in faith and love; unity with Christ the gift-giver  is the means of our perfection as human beings, just as the union of humanity and divinity in Christ was the means of his perfect humanity. United with Christ, we are thereby emboldened as ministers of God's beneficence to the world, aligning ourselves with, entering unto communion with, those in need as in Christ was for us in our need and as Christ was a man for others, especially those in need.

--Kathryn Tanner (1957- ), American Episcopal theologian and professor, in Jesus, Humanity and Trinity: A Brief Systematic Theology, p. 9

A Calendar of Kings

They endured a season
Of ice and silver swans.

Delicately the horses
Grazed among the snowdrops.

They traded for fish, wind
Fell upon crested waters. 

Along their track
Daffodils lit a thousand tapers.

They slept among dews.
A dawn lark broke their dream.

For them, at solstice
The chalice of the sun spilled over.

The star was lost.
They rode between burnished hills.

A fiddle at a fair
Compelled the feet of harvesters.

A glim on their darkling road.
The star! It was their star. 

In a sea village
Children brought apples to the horses.

They lit fires
By the carved stones of the dead.

A midwinter inn.
Here they unload their treasures.

--George Mackay Brown (1921-1996 ) Orkney-born poet, from Following a Lark, found at The Painted Prayerbook by Jan Richardson

Image: a Church in the Orkney Islands

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Epiphany Opening Prayer

(Based on Isaiah 60:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12)

God of all time,
we praise and adore you for breaking into the darkness of this world
with the glorious light of your presence.
A light which made your love for the world visible
in the babe born in Bethlehem—
Jesus Christ, your Son, our Saviour.
A light which guided those gift-bearing travellers from afar
to find and worship the Christ-child.
A light which leads us to you, now revealed in Jesus Christ.
We pray that you will accept our worship
for it arises from hearts and minds
in awe over the enormity of your gift to us of pure love.
In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

-- Moira Laidlaw, from Litugies Online

Opening Prayer for Epiphany

Gracious and all loving God,
you call to us across deep waters and dark places. 
Yours is the light which guides us
and the voice which we follow.
We pray that you would reveal yourself to us as we worship you.
May those without hope be encouraged;
those who are sad, cheered;
those who are seeking, find you;
and may all things be according to your will.

In the name of your beloved Son we pray. Amen. 

--written by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild, and posted on Kir-shalom.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Rising of the Sun

Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

--William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English actor, playwright, and poet, from from Hamlet, Act I, Scene i 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve

Christmas hath a darkness
     Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a chillness
     Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
     Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
     Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,
     Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven hath answering music
     For all Angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
     Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
     Brought for us so low.

--Christina Rosetti (1830-1894), English author, poet, and supporter of the Oxford Movement

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

--Christina Rosetti (1830-1894), English poet and supporter of the Oxford Movement

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Prayer:Make My Heart Your Dwelling-Place

O God, make my heart your dwelling-place,
for You are my companion
and my guide along the way.
We rise with your praise upon our lips,
for the Lord has been good to us indeed.

Your Spirit has called to us
in trouble and in plenty;
let us always sing out your untold blessings.
You are our All-in-All,
O Merciful One,
and we give You thanks
for all YOU have given us.
God hovers over us
and covers us with the hand of favor:
all that I am I offer to God.
God's comfort rests like a cooling breeze
upon those who call upon their Redeemer,
and we offer hymns
of praise and thanksgiving.

Watch over those for whom we pray,
Lord Christ,
and grant them rest.

Thursday, December 20, 2018


THIS is Christ's birthday: long ago
He lay upon His Mother's knee,
Who kissed and blessed Him soft and low--
God's gift to her, as you to me.

My baby dear, my little one,
The love that rocks this cradling breast
Is such as Mary gave her Son:
She was more honoured, not more blest.

He smiled as you smile: not more sweet
Than your eyes were those eyes of His,
And just such little hands and feet
As yours Our Lady used to kiss.

The world's desire that Mother bore:
She held a King upon her knee:
O King of all my world, and more
Than all the world's desire to me!

I thank God on the Christmas morn,
For He has given me all things good:
This body which a child has borne,
This breast, made holy for his food.

High in high heaven Our Lady's throne
Beside her Son's stands up apart:
I sit on heaven's steps alone
And hold my king against my heart.

Across dark depths she hears your cry;
She sees your smile, through worlds of blue
Who was a mother, even as I,
And loved her Child, as I love you.

And to her heart my babe is dear,
Because she bore the Babe Divine,
And all my soul to hers draws near,
And loves Him for the sake of mine!

--Edith Nesbit (1858-1924), English poet

Image: Choctaw Madonna and Child, icon, by Fr. John Giuliani

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Blessing: The Gift of Stillness

May you grow still enough to hear
    the small noises earth makes in preparing for the long sleep of winter,
        so that you yourself may grow calm and grounded deep within.

May you grow still enough to hear
    the trickling of water seeping into the ground,
        so that your soul may be softened and healed,
            guided in its flow.

May you grow still enough to hear
    the splintering of starlight in the winter sky
        and the roar at earth's fiery core.

May you grow still enough to hear
    the stir of a single snowflake in the air
        so that your inner silence may turn into hushed expectation.

Peace..... the angel announced.
But peace is as much task as gift.

Only if we become calm as earth,
    fluid as water,
        and blazing as fire
will we be able to rise to the task of peacemaking,
and the air will stir with the rush of wings of angels arriving to help us.

This is why I wish you that great inner stillness
which alone allows us to speak, even today,
    without irony of "peace on earth"
    and, without despair, to work for it.

--Br. David Steindelrast, OSB, from the Process and Faith website

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas Affirmation

Let the love that shaped earth and heaven
dwell within us this Christmas.

Let the love that created humanity
dwell within us this Christmas.

Let the love that overcomes suffering and hatred
dwell within us this Christmas.

Let the love that causes us to rejoice with loved ones
dwell within us this Christmas.

Let the love that forgives and renews
dwell within us this Christmas.

Let the love that brings reconciliation after separation
dwell within us this Christmas.

Let the love that brings the blessing of peace
dwell within us this Christmas.

And may we share that peace
with all people near and far.


from Prayers for Christmas, posted on the Christian Aid website

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar'd with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night's festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight is.

--John Donne (1572-1631), English poet, priest, preacher, and essayist

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Praying with Mary

Rejoicing with you,
grieving with you,

Mary, graced by God --
Love's Mystery did come to you --
of our race we deem you
most the blessed,

save but the Blessed One,
the Child
who came to birth in you.

Woman holy,

trembling at the Presence
of the Angel,

willing the rare
and marvellous exchange,

in the darkness
holding the Unseen,

bearing forth
the Word made flesh
for earth's redeeming,

hold to your heart our world,
and pray for humankind,

that we with you
be bearers of the Christ,

through this
and all our days,
and at the last.

--The Rev. Jim Cotter (1942-2014), English priest, poet, and contributor to the New Zealand Prayer Book, from Prayer at Night's Approaching, 1983

Monday, December 3, 2018

We journey with you (Advent Prayer)

Advent God,
we journey with you,
to Bethlehem’s stable
and a new-born King,
ears attuned to the song of angels,
eyes alert for Bethlehem’s star.

Forgive us
if on our journey
if we are distracted
by the tempting offers
of this world.

Keep our hearts aflame
with the hope
of Christmas,
and the promise
of a Saviour.


--written by John Birch, and posted on Faith and Worship.

Only a Curl

FRIENDS of faces unknown and a land
Unvisited over the sea,
Who tell me how lonely you stand
With a single gold curl in the hand
Held up to be looked at by me, —

While you ask me to ponder and say
What a father and mother can do,
With the bright fellow-locks put away
Out of reach, beyond kiss, in the clay
Where the violets press nearer than you. 

Shall I speak like a poet, or run
Into weak woman's tears for relief ?
Oh, children ! — I never lost one, —
Yet my arm 's round my own little son,
And Love knows the secret of Grief.

And I feel what it must be and is,
When God draws a new angel so
Through the house of a man up to His,
With a murmur of music, you miss,
And a rapture of light, you forgo.

How you think, staring on at the door,
Where the face of your angel flashed in,
That its brightness, familiar before,
Burns off from you ever the more
For the dark of your sorrow and sin.

God lent him and takes him,' you sigh ; —
Nay, there let me break with your pain :
God 's generous in giving, say I, —
And the thing which He gives,
I deny That He ever can take back again.

He gives what He gives. I appeal
To all who bear babes — in the hour
When the veil of the body we feel
Rent round us, — while torments reveal
The motherhood's advent in power,

And the babe cries ! — has each of us known
By apocalypse (God being there
Full in nature) the child is our own,
Life of life, love of love, moan of moan,
Through all changes, all times, everywhere.

He 's ours and for ever. Believe,
O father ! — O mother, look back
To the first love's assurance. To give
Means with God not to tempt or deceive
With a cup thrust in Benjamin's sack.

He gives what He gives. Be content !
He resumes nothing given, — be sure !
God lend ? Where the usurers lent
In His temple, indignant He went
And scourged away all those impure.

He lends not ; but gives to the end,
As He loves to the end. If it seem
That He draws back a gift, comprehend
'Tis to add to it rather, — amend,
And finish it up to your dream, —

Or keep, — as a mother will toys
Too costly, though given by herself,
Till the room shall be stiller from noise,
And the children more fit for such joys,
Kept over their heads on the shelf.

So look up, friends ! you, who indeed
Have possessed in your house a sweet piece
Of the Heaven which men strive for, must need
Be more earnest than others are,—speed
Where they loiter, persist where they cease.

You know how one angel smiles there.
Then weep not. 'Tis easy for you
To be drawn by a single gold hair
Of that curl, from earth's storm and despair,
To the safe place above us. Adieu.

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), English poet and writer