LENT 2015 Praying with the Mystics

 n-001-458x600

Song : You Are the Centre (Fountain of Life, Music for contemplative Worship – Margaret Rizza)            

All sing:        You are the centre, you are my life, You are the centre, O Lord, of my life. Come, Lord, and heal me, Lord of my life, Come, Lord, and teach me, Lord of my life. You are the centre, Lord, of my life.

Introduction           The Christian Mystics

It is not surprising that a tradition of mystical prayer developed among Christians. Jesus often sought quiet and space for himself so that he could pray – especially at times when there were many demands on him. Those hungry for his message came in their droves and the sick crowded around him longing for his healing touch. Jesus took time apart on his own for prayer so that strengthened and renewed he returned to his ministry.   Starting with Anthony of Egypt and his followers in the 3rd century, through the medieval period of Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich and Meister Eckhart and then on to the visionaries and reformers Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, the Christian mystic tradition has developed.   In 2015 we celebrate the centenary of the great American mystic, Thomas Merton and we are blessed to have still with us the insightful Willigis J?ger born in 1925.   Praying with the mystics is answering the call to go off to a quiet place, to be alone with God within.  Let us follow the call of the mystics to bask in the presence of the one who is the centre of our lives so that strengthened and renewed we can continue our own mission in the world with insight and mindfulness.

Song ctd. All sing:       

You are the centre, you are my life, You are the centre, O Lord, of my life. Come, Lord, and heal me, Lord of my life, Come, Lord, and teach me, Lord of my life. You are the centre, Lord, of my life.

Fundamentally, Christian mysticism is rooted in the baptismal call of all Christians. For Redemptoristine foundress Venerable Maria Celeste Crostarosa, (O.Ss.R., 1696 – 1755), mysticism would consist of vivid and intense experiences of the Divine action on her soul and her soul’s spontaneous response. Mysticism was for her a way of life and is not primarily about peak experiences or extraordinary graces such as visions, ecstasy or levitations. Some of Celeste’s most marvellous encounters with the Lord end with her candid and almost laconic comment: “And that is all there was to it!” The Christian life, according to Celeste, acts as a harbinger of prophetic hope for the salvation of the world. The transformative relationship of humanity with Christ also deepens contemporary understanding of the relationship between church and world, as the latter undergoes rapid transition; and, thereby, speaks all the more effectively to people today. The reason for the validity of Celeste’s work seems to be rooted in the fact that she expresses with her whole being the interior presence of Christ which lived within her.   In her Autobiography (no. 93), she comments that above all the other divine teachings, the principal one was that the very essence of life consists in being in the lover’s Divine Presence, indeed, it involves seeking and desiring nothing but the lover, the real relationship of our soul.

Song ctd.   All sing:        You are the centre, you are my life, You are the centre, O Lord, of my life. Come, Lord, and heal me, Lord of my life, Come, Lord, and teach me, Lord of my life. You are the centre, Lord, of my life.  

  

First Sunday of Lent (1)  

Reading                    Mark 1:12-13

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts and the angels looked after him.

Anthony of Egypt (251-356) Saint Anthony of Egypt was born on the year 251. He came into a rich inheritance on the death of his parents. One day he heard the passage of scripture from the Gospel of Luke (18:22) addressed by Jesus to the rich young man. “Sell all that you own and give your money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”   Anthony felt that Jesus was speaking directly to him so he distributed what he had and sought to live as a hermit eventually finding his way into the desert. Here over time and having been greatly tested he became an inspiration to many others who wanted to find Jesus in prayer and in the solitude of the desert. He is regarded now as the Founder of Monasticism and his words and inspiration live on. (Life of Antony by Athanasius)  

Song                           Eagles Wings (Michael Joncas)

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, Who abide in His shadow for life, Say to the Lord, “My Refuge, My Rock in Whom I trust.”

All sing:        And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

Reflections              Anthony of Egypt

‘Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven. Without temptations no-one can be saved.’   ‘The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He runs away when we make the Sign of the Cross.’    

Song ctd.                  You need not fear the terror of the night, Nor the arrow that flies by day, Though thousands fall about you, Near you it shall not come.

All sing:        And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

Silence Guided Meditation Now let us take a step into the desert …we walk carefully maybe looking over our shoulder rather than focusing on the road ahead…what do we need to let go of?…is it that sense of always being in control?…is it the desire to stay in our own comfort zone? …is it the fear of letting go itself or the loss of what we have stored up for ourselves? One thing is sure that as soon as we take a walk into that desert we will be tempted and challenged. Let us try not to run away from the obstacles put in our path but to confront them head on and face them down. Remember too that we are not on our own. When Jesus lived with beasts in the desert the angels were there to look after him.

Song ctd.                  For to His angels He’s given a command, To guard you in all of your ways, Upon their hands they will bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

All sing:        And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

    First Sunday of Lent (2)  

Reading                    Mark 1:14-15

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. “The time has come” he said “and the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”

Reflection                © Father Pius Sammut OCD

‘It happened one day that one of the brethren in the monastery of Abba Elias was tempted. Cast out of the monastery, he went over the mountain to Abba Anthony. The brother lived near him for a while and then Anthony sent him back to the monastery from which he had been expelled. When the brothers saw him they cast him out yet again, and he went back to Abba Anthony saying, “My Father, they will not receive me.” Then the old man sent them a message saying, “A boat was shipwrecked at sea and lost its cargo; with great difficulty it reached the shore; but you want to throw into the sea that which has found a safe harbour on the shore.” When the brothers understood that it was Abba Anthony who had sent them this monk, they received him at once.

Song                           Take Me Home (David Haas)

All sing:        Take me home to your dwelling place In your sweet embrace ready to hold me in your arms Take me home to your loving eyes With you alone I’ll rise singing forever In your arms take me home.   Oh my God, you’ve led me through it all Through all the hurt and the shame Oh my God, I have travelled far to meet you, To see your face and call upon your name. … Take me home…

Silence  

Prayer All say:          God of compassion, open our hearts to those we have cast out into the desert by our judgment and our hard-heartedness. May we welcome them home this Lent, accept their apologies and treat them as we would like to be treated ourselves. We ask this in the name of Jesus, companion of sinners. Amen.

First Sunday of Lent (3)  

Reading                    Mark 1:14-15

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. “The time has come” he said “and the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”  

Reflection                Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Hildegard of Bingen was born in 1098 in the town of Bermersheim in Germany. She was a recognised spiritual teacher or magistra and was a prolific writer and preacher. In May 2012 Pope Benedict XVI recognised Hildegard as a Saint and in October of that year he proclaimed her a Doctor of the Universal Church. He said that she was a  ‘Benedictine nun in the heart of medieval Germany, an authentic teacher of theology and a profound scholar of natural science and music.’ She died in Rupertsburg in 1179 after a long and active life. This is an excerpt from one of her reflections.   Your Creator has given you great treasures. But with his gifts comes the condition that you apply his gifts to good works, that you grow in virtue. Your task then Is to make your gift valuable to others through works of justice, so that your life and deeds will mirror their giver.

Song                           O Pastor Animarum (Hildegard of Bingen)  

Reflection

What if when we look in that mirror that Hildegard mentioned we saw snapshots of our life instead of our own image? Like a photo album this mirror of our soul would capture the essence of who we are as we live the call of Christ to be instruments of justice today. Our contributions to the work of aiding the homeless, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and setting free those unjustly deprived of their freedom would appear as chapter headings in the unfolding story of our life. In the faces of all who might benefit from our work for justice we are challenged to recognise the face of Christ. In the picture of our own good deeds we see reflected the gracious gifts of our Creator who has showered us with treasures to be opened up and shared. What if we looked into this magical mirror and saw nothing? The time is here, the time is now. It is never too late to begin.

Silence  

Prayer All say:          God of justice, inspire me to work in whatever way I can for those who are not treated fairly, for those disadvantaged because of disability, poverty or discrimination. Make me an instrument of justice today. May this season of Lent be a time of reflection on the treasures I have received and the ongoing challenge to share them with others. We ask this in the name of Jesus, defender of the poor. Amen.      

 

Second Sunday of Lent (1)  

Reading                    Mark 9:2-4

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them.  

Song                           Open My Eyes(Jesse Manibusan)            

All sing:        Open my eyes, Lord, help me to see your face                                     Open my eyes, Lord, help me to see.  

Reflection                Willigis Jäger (1925)

Father Willigis Jäger is a German Benedictine whose mystical writings and talks have inspired many on their spiritual journey. His books Search for the Meaning of Life (1995) and Eternal Timeless Wisdom (2010) are treasures. This is his reflection om the Transfiguration.   Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mount Tabor is a revelation of his true nature. He climbed that mountain where he had an extraordinary, deep mystical encounter. The divine was always transparent in Jesus but the disciples could not see it. On that day, however, they recognised Christ’s true essence for the first time and it showed itself as radiating through his clothing. We should not associate this with Jesus alone, however. We should look at ourselves and recognise our own true self in Jesus. We too are an epiphany, a manifestation of the divine at the core of everything. Unfortunately our eyes are closed in the same way the eyes of the disciples had been closed the entire time they had been with Jesus.

(Timeless Eternal Wisdom – translated by Marie-Andre Helga Horsthemke)  

All sing:        Open my eyes …  

Silence   Prayer                      

Let us pray,            

All say:  God of wisdom, Open our eyes to the goodness around us. Help us to see your presence in all situations. May we appreciate the gifts that you see in us. We ask this in the name of Jesus, of the compassionate gaze. Amen.  

 

Second Sunday of Lent (2)  

Reading                    Mark 9:2, 7-8

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves… And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.”

Song                           All Will Be Well (Steve Warner/Julian of Norwich) All sing:        All will be well and all will be well All manner of things will be well.  Reflection                Julian of Norwich (1342-1413/23)

Very little is known about this English mystic – she may have been called Juliana or is named after the Church of St. Julian in Norwich where she lived as an Anchoress. Her most famous work is Revelations of Divine Love.) This is an extract from one of her revelations:   God wants us to trust that he is always with us, And in the midst of our confusion he is with us in three ways: in heaven, where in his rising he raises us up with him; on earth, where he leads us day by day; and in our innermost being, where he constantly dwells to guide and preserve us.   And in this our comfort, that we know in faith that Christ is constantly with us, so that we never succumb to the pain and woe, but always hope for another glimpse of his presence.

All sing:        All will be well and all will be well All manner of things will be well.      

Reflection                Beloved (Joyce Rupp)                                    

In a mystical moment on a mountain top You are addressed in a most precious way.   Suitable for one entwined with divinity Whose affectionate spirit touches all.   Was it out of this mystical experience That you approached the forsaken ones With a gaze that spoke the same thing?   Would that all of us fully understood That each person is your ‘beloved’, Cherished and reverenced in your heart.

All sing:        All will be well and all will be well All manner of things will be well. Silence  

Prayer                      

Let us pray,            

All say:          God of love, Teach us the gift of openness to others. Strengthen our trust in your care.  May we appreciate that we are ‘beloved’ too. We ask this in the name of Jesus, beacon of hope. Amen.      

 

Third Sunday of Lent

Reading                    John 2:13-17

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’  

Reflections              Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

Catherine of Siena was a tertiary of the Dominican Order. From an early age she had visions and lived an ascetic life. She suffered greatly physically and emotionally yet her enthusiasm for the mission of the Church was inspiring. She travelled great distances in the cause of peace and for the reform of the Church. She was brave and fearless leaving behind a legacy to challenge Christians of any time or place. These two quotations continue to inspire us today:   Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.           

Do not be satisfied with little things, because God wants great things!  

Song                           The Love of God (Ronan McDonagh/Pamela Stotter) (Based on poem Song of the Soul – Saint John of the Cross))

All sing:        The love of God is fiery blaze Like sun at noonday height Is gentle as the flush of dawn And dark as moonless light.

Silence

Prayer                       Let us pray,

All say:          God of power, Fill us with courage to do the right thing Grant us the persistence to follow our ideals Strengthen our resolve to set the world on fire. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the rebel. Amen.    

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Reading                    John 3:16

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.

Reflection                Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

We celebrate this year the 500th anniversary of the birth of this great Spanish mystic and reformer Teresa of Avila. She was a woman of great courage and vision who in 1562 founded the Order of Discalced Carmelites despite great opposition. She continued to spread her vision of reform and renewal in Spain until her death in 1582. This is one of her most famous reflections on the importance of remaining calm:   Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.

Song                           Nada Te Turbe (Taizé)            

All sing:        Nada te turbe, nada te espante Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta Nada te turbe, nada te espante Solo Dios basta.   Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten. Those who seek God can never go wanting. Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten. God alone fills us.  

Silence   Prayer                      

Let us pray,             All say:         

God of mercy, Help us retain the gift of true peace and trust. Protect us when we are invaded by doubts. Hold us always in your eternal love. We ask this through Jesus, whose love lasts forever. Amen.  

 

Fifth Sunday of Lent  

Reading                    John 12:24

Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.  

Reflection                Thomas Merton (1915-1968)  

Thomas Merton was born on 31 January 1915 in Prades, France. He converted to Roman Catholicism while a student at Columbia University and joined the Trappist community at the Abbey of Gethsemani in 1941. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, is one of the most famous books of this prolific author. He was a strong advocate of social activism which some people found un-monk like. He died in Bangkok Thailand in 1968 as a result of an accident. He offers us this insight on Lent.

Lent is a sunlit season

Carnivale-farewell to the flesh. It is a poor joke to be merry about leaving the flesh, as if we were to return to it once again. What would be the good of Lent, if it were only temporary?   Jesus nevertheless died in order to return to His flesh; in order to raise his own body glorious from the dead, and in order to raise our bodies with Him. “Unless the grain of wheat, falling into the ground, dies, itself remains alone.”   So we cast off the flesh, not out of contempt, but in order to heal the flesh in the mercy of penance and restore it to the Spirit to which it belongs. And all creation waits in anguish for our victory and our bodies’ glory.   God wills us to recover all the joys of His created world in the Spirit, by denying ourselves what is really no joy – what only ends in the flesh. “The flesh profits nothing.”  

Song                           No Greater Love (Feargal King) All sing:

No greater love can we have than to lay down our lives and to follow the path of our Lord.

Silence

Prayer                      

Let us pray, God of all seasons, Inspire us to see with the eyes of faith. Encourage us to speak words of hope. Fill us with a spirit of selflessness. We ask this in the name of Jesus, source of new life. Amen.

Passion Sunday  

Reading                    Mark 14:21-22

They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer-by Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.

Reflection                Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)

Meister Eckhart was a Dominican mystic and philosopher. He was very well known as a preacher in cities such as Cologne and Paris. His writings speak to us today by their directness and their applicability across the ages. This reflection links the call to conversion with the Passion of Jesus.   Many people think that to show their sorrow for sin they must do extraordinary things, such as fasting, walking barefoot, and the like. The best penitence, however, Is to turn away completely from all that is not God and not divine, whether it be in yourself or some other person, place or thing.   True repentance is approaching God in love and squarely facing up to what you have done.   Choose your own way of doing this, and discover that the more you do it, the more real your repentance will become. True conversion is like the Lord’s passion. The more you imitate it the more your sins will fall away.  

 

We now reflect on those ‘Three Days’, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and holy Saturday which are the centre of Christian worship and life.   Holy Thursday  

Reading                    John 13:15

I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.

Reflection                St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

Father, I am hungry; for the love of God give this soul her food, her Lord in the Eucharist.  

Song                           I Am Yours (Trevor Thomson) All sing:

Bread of life, wine of peace Body and blood soul and divinity Consume me completely, I am ours.   G

ood Friday  

Reading                    John 19:30

After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, “It is accomplished”; and bowing his head he gave up the spirit.

Reflection                Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

If we are attached to any one thing It is because we set a value on it It may be painful To surrender what we value, But what greater loss, What greater blindness, What greater calamity could there be Than to make much Of what is nothing, To cling to what has no value.

Song                           Christ Among Us (David Haas)              

All sing:        Christ has no body now on earth but ours. Our hands are to be his hands, our feet are to be his feet, Our eyes are now his eyes. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Holy Saturday  

Reading                    John 19:42

At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Since it was the Jewish Day of preparation and the tomb was near at hand, they laid Jesus there.

  Reflection                Willigis Jäger (1925- )  

Dying means opening out your hand and letting what hinders you slip through your fingers: expectations, convictions and perceptions of the world. Our ego is constantly caught up in a battle with mortality even though we know it is a battle we will never win…. Death is the only certainty we have and only the person who accepts this will be capable of changing and saying ‘Yes’ to life. Only a person who has learned to let go of everything can have his/her hands filled anew.