Friday, 26 July 2013

Holy Domesticity

Isn't this delightful?

An array of dishes and jugs on the shelf behind Mary's head, and her halo so radiant. I wonder what is in the little cupboards in the wall. Perhaps it is something to do with the weaving, as theu have been left open.

A hearth beside Joseph (where's HIS halo, by the way?) with a long iron ratchetty hook for hanging cooking pots on.

I wonder what Jesus is saying? He looks very happy.

Whose is the little crooked stool at Mary's feet? Is it broken, or has it been made that way on purpose? There's quite a sense of perspective in the walls of the room, but the floor has been drawn as a mathematical pattern, which makes it appear to slope steeply uphill.

Christ in a Baby walker. The Holy family at home from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves #MedievalBabies


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me - The Jesus Prayer

This is one of my favourite prayers - probably because it is so easy to remember

But it is also absolutely SOLID with meaning and nourishment, like some kind of emergency ration bar. Here is the version I learned, from Geoffrey Appleton's "Jerusalem Prayers for the world today"

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

Just twelve words, which hold a whole universe of beauty and understanding.

How do I pray it? Many different ways.

If I want the prayer to "go slowly", I meditate on the full, complete, resonance contained in every word. LORD. JESUS. CHRIST. SON. OF. GOD. HAVE (I like the continuous present tense of "have"). MERCY. UPON. ME (that's uniquely me, an individual, not one of a crowd of anonymous people) A ( not a special person, not a special case.). SINNER (for we have all fallen short.)

I use it in my "finger rosary", holding myself, or a situation, or another person in stead of "me"in my mind as I steadily recite my way around my hands.

Or I just pray it when I have no idea how to respond to something. Or when I'm apprehensive about something.

George Appleton adds that the Greek "eleison" - mercy, shares its root with "elaion" - olive - which means that the Greek "mercy" has ideas of soothing, healing, nurturing, feeding, whereas the English "mercy" has ideas of calling for relief when faced with peril, fear, torture, death, pain, judgement.

Not at all the same thing.

 And here's the post from John the Lutheran which reminded me why I love this prayer...

The Jesus Prayer: simple, rich, unceasing

A move away from politics now, with a couple of posts on one of my favourite prayers: the Jesus Prayer, described by the Swedish Lutheran pastor Per-Olof Sjögren (in his book The Jesus Prayer) as:
…one of the simplest in form but richest in content of all the prayers in the long history of Christian worship.
It comes in a number of variants. In Sjögren’s book, he uses the form, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me”, but my own preferred version (mainly because of a personal attachment to the description of God as the “living and true God”) is the following:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
Traditionally this prayer is used as a “breath prayer”: breathing in on “Lord Jesus Christ”, out on “Son of the living God”, in on “have mercy upon me”, out again on “a sinner”. Indeed, some in the Orthodox Church have spoken of the prayer becoming a “self-acting” prayer of the heart, continuing even when one is unconscious of it, in fulfilment (as they would see it) of St Paul’s injunction to “pray ceaselessly”.
I can’t claim to have even come close to this “prayer of the heart”, and in some ways the idea makes me a little uneasy (perhaps due to a western, Protestant over-privileging of the conscious mind). On the other hand, I’ve become very fond of the Jesus Prayer over the past decade, and there’ve probably been few days in that period when it hasn’t flitted across my mind at some point during the day.
I hope to post a little more about this prayer over the next couple of days. In the meantime, do check out Sjögren’s book if you come across a copy of it. Sjögren writes from a very clearly Lutheran perspective, placing the prayer firmly in the context of the church’s ministry of word and sacrament, and in particular the new birth we experience in baptism and our weekly partaking of the Lord’s body and blood in holy communion. But he also writes with great sensitivity and insight concerning the Orthodox origins of the prayer: this is no “smash and grab raid” on another tradition.

and furthermore from the same blog:

The Jesus Prayer as a summary of the gospel

It is striking how the Jesus Prayer (see previous post) is able to pack so much content into so short a form:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
Per-Olof Sjögren describes the prayer as “a summary of the whole gospel”, of “the whole content of the Bible”:
Besides being a direct prayer to Jesus it contains also teaching about him, about his work of redemption, his dignity as king, his deity, and his loving mercy. (The Jesus Prayer, p.17)
Bp Kallistos Ware reaches a similar conclusion in his book The Orthodox Way, where he devotes a couple of pages (pp.68f.) to looking at what the prayer “has to tell us about the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and about our healing by and in him”. Ware describes the two “poles” or “extreme points” of the prayer as follows:
“Lord … Son of God”: the Prayer speaks first about God’s glory, acclaiming Jesus as the Lord of all creation and the eternal Son.
Then at its conclusion the Prayer turns to our condition as sinners – sinful by virtue of the fall, sinful through our own personal acts of wrongdoing: “… on me a sinner”
Thus “the Prayer beings with adoration and ends with penitence”. These “two extremes of divine glory and human sinfulness” are reconciled by three words describing Jesus and the good news he brings for sinners:
  • Jesus: as Ware puts it, “this has the sense of Saviour; as the angel said to Christ’s foster-father St Joseph: ‘You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins’.”
  • Christ: this means the Anointed One, anointed by the Holy Spirit, the one whom the Jewish people awaited as “the coming deliverer, the future king, who in the power of the Spirit would set them free from their enemies”.
  • Mercy: this word “signifies love in action”, writes Ware, who continues by observing that:
    …to have mercy is to acquit the other of the guilt which by his own efforts he cannot wipe away, to release him from the debts he himself cannot pay, to make him whole from the sickness for which he cannot unaided find any cure. The term “mercy” means furthermore that all this is conferred as a free gift: the one who asks for mercy has no claims upon the other, no rights to which he can appeal.
Thus, within the space of 68 characters or fewer – short enough to be Twittered, with room to spare – the Jesus Prayer is able to summarise “both man’s problem and God’s solution”, namely the Jesus who is “the Saviour, the anointed king, the one who has mercy”.

Prayers for every hour of the day, attributed to St John Chrysostom

Another heist from JohntheLutheran

Example of arrow prayers in the Eastern Orthodox tradition is this series of 24 prayers traditionally attributed to St John Chrysostom, one for each hour of the day and night. (These prayers, in the translation below, are set to music in Arvo Pärt’s stunning choral work, Litany.)

  • O Lord, of Thy heavenly bounties, deprive me not.
  • O Lord, deliver me from the eternal torments.
  • O Lord, forgive me if I have sinned in my mind or my thought, whether in word or in deed.
  • O Lord, free me from all ignorance and forgetfulness, from despondency and stony insensibility.
  • O Lord, deliver me from every temptation.
  • O Lord, enlighten my heart which evil desires have darkened.
  • O Lord, as a man have I sinned, have Thou mercy on me, as the God full of compassion, seeing the feebleness of my soul.
  • O Lord, send down Thy grace to help me, that I may glorify Thy name.
  • O Lord Jesus Christ, write me down in the book of life and grant unto me a good end.
  • O Lord my God, even if I had not done anything good before Thee, do Thou help me, in Thy grace, to make a good beginning.
  • O Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Thy grace.
  • O Lord of heaven and earth, remember me, Thy sinful servant, full of shame and impurity, in Thy kingdom. Amen.
  • O Lord, receive me in penitence.
  • O Lord, forsake me not.
  • O Lord, lead me not into misfortune.
  • O Lord, quicken in me a good thought.
  • O Lord, give me tears and remembrance of death, and contrition.
  • O Lord, make me solicitous of confessing my sins.
  • O Lord, give me humility, chastity, and obedience.
  • O Lord, give me patience, magnanimity, and meekness.
  • O Lord, implant in me the root of all good – Thy fear in my heart.
  • O Lord, vouchsafe that I may love thee from all my soul and mind and in everything do Thy will.
  • O Lord, shelter me from certain men, from demons and passions, and from any other unbecoming thing.
  • O Lord, Thou knowest that Thou dost as Thou wilt, let then Thy will be done in me, a sinner, for blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

"Worship" Songs

This is what I currently listen to when I can't sleep:

"Goodnight, my Angel"

the first track on the album by cantabile called "Lullabyes and Goodbyes"

The words seem to be sung to me by my lover, or my Lover, and are immensely comforting. I love all the arrangements of all the songs on the album - how often can you say that of a whole album! It was an inspired and generous gift from a piano pupil's mother.

Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)

This is what I sing as a "worship" song in the car (or about my husband too, come to think of it!)

"To know him is to love him"

from Steeleye Span's album "Now We Are Six"

To Know Him Is To Love Him

Not from the usual repertoire of worship songs!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Saturday 6th July - Prayerlife

I've been idly going through some of the old files on my laptop; the compromise for extreme lightness and portability and rapid switch-on has been no CD/DVD drive and reduced disk space, so every so often it is time to hit that delete button.

I found a file called "Prayer Chart" - that looked useful.

And so it was - NOT!

It was blank.

I wonder what it had been created for?

I don't do schedules, timetables, routines, daily notes etc. very well. It took me eighteen months to follow a "read the Bible in one year" programme, and I think that's when I learnt the useless skill of reading in my sleep.

Maybe this "prayer chart" was an attempt to bring some kind of  discipline, and "proper spirituality", into my "prayer-life". If so it clearly failed!

Whoa! Do you mean to say that one has all kinds of different lives?


I thought we had just the one life on this earth - now it looks as though we live in a multi-dimensional set of parallel worlds!

Let's start again.

File:Lutjanus kasmira school.jpg

I reckon we have just the ONE life, to be lived, like Tertullian's little fish, swimming in the sea of the Spirit, the Water of Life. 

("But we little fish, like our Fish Jesus Christ,2 are born in water, and it is only by remaining in water that we are safe."  end of para 1 here ) spurgeon sermon.
Long, but grinds exceeding small!

Saturday 6th July - This April Day - Poem for Easter Week

found this while I was clearing out my computer "drawers" today. Couldn't resist a few more edits before I copied it here - does one ever stop tinkering with something that one has made?

Sometimes a poem just arrives - not complete, but almost, like a design, or a drawing. Then with moulding and shaping, it kind of resolves itself. Other times, nope. just won't work. I've been working on one that starts "She sleeps, curled, like a dormouse" for over twenty years, off and on; the phrase came on seeing my daughter curled up in her cot (she is now 25...)

Anyway, here it is: It's still not quite right. But getting there.

This April day, warm with unseasonable sun,

Will fill your heart with joy; this Sunday is just starting.

Bright sky, pales leaves, fresh flowers. But don’t be taken in.

The clue is in the bitter wind  cutting  through your clothes.


This journey’s going nowhere. He might be riding now,

Over sacrifices of palms and cloaks thrown down along his road.

They’re all singing songs of welcome , waving, running by his side.

But very soon they’ll change their tune and call for him to die. 


Then he’ll have to walk, Trailing his feet through the dirt and grime,

weighed down with pain and fear, sweat pouring off his face.

Those arms, once opened wide  for  healing  and for blessing

Will now be wrenched, and nailed in place, for hurting and for killing.


How will it end? We know the answer. They do not.

Our sun will rise again. Their sky is black.



Good Friday 2012