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ESV: Book of Common Prayer Daily Office Lectionary

« Mrs. Beamish | Main | John Chrysostom 27 January 407 »


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To be plain about it, here is my concern:

That in our highly changeable society of diversity, political partisanship, opposed social views, increasing digital stimulus, commodification of youth, money and moral apathy, that in the face of the popular response to dumb down and Tivo out, we are abetting weakness by making prayer precious and thoughtfulness inconvenient.

This is a problem on two fronts. One the spiritual life is a goddam hard discipline. And it is not a cure all. In a massively chaotic world, escape can often be confused for ecstasy. Mystery is an easy harbor if one does not climb the mountain to Athos.

Second, the world cries out for boisterous, loud, laughing, lively religion that defies withered and apathetic hearts. Not for nothing does Kathleen Norris attempt a popular resurrection of acedia.
In the context of blue state, red state, Christian vs. Christian vs. Muslim vs. Alaskan vs. the Jewish betrayal of Madoff, CNN vs. Fox vs. White House, the show of co-participants in the divine nature of profligate love that breaks barriers and ignores the rules of reserve and the rule makers is what is needed.

Where are the Fulton J. Sheens, the Reinhold Niebhurs, the Abraham Joshua Heschels, the Martin Luther Kings/

Of course, as Anglicans, such conspicuousness we leave to Bishops, but so many of us should understand that in quietness and silence the loving nearness of God fills us up with hope and a boisterous faith that need have no remainder of shame. (Even bombastic faith for the purposes of popping the American ballon of religious constipation can be prescribed.) Such a faith is somewhat performative, to curvily use a word, but hard work is performative.

To seek to feel totally integrated and natural at the Christian life is either to ask to be relieved of the responsibility of showing love in and to the public, or, more nefariously, it is to introject Hollywood hype about how each individual has some unbidden greatness to them to find and market, as if each American were a god.


Friar brother,

For most, though, stillness is nourishment for the work of life that is not still. Though prayer is in all things, not all things are to be meditation, yes? I live in one of the most hectic, frenetic cities of the world by choice and love. One midday, rushing through Union Square, some group of well-meaning and delightful young evangelists (oddly wearing bright red shirts like the Shining Path) were approaching all near-comers inviting them to stop for a moment and pray. My response was that everything I do is prayer and that they were interrupting me doing it.

My point, of course, is not to dissuade those like yourself called to pray for the world. My point is that the rest of us should understand that prayer is not an idol, or an ideology. Even for you, prayer, mediation, silence is necessarily broken up by tasks.

For my own life, the Society of St. John the Evangelist has been a godsend. It is a vital part of my life as commissioned laity. It serves the spiritual role of nourishing me by fasting from the world, curing me, setting me down, straightening me out, divesting the "me" from my purpose, establishing God as source, as the only reality.

Then I am prepared not for a quiet life among my fellow New Yorkers, but for a boisterous one. A boisterous life of faith in workplaces where the sharpest of minds, the most skilled of managers, the hippest of staff, the most educated, experienced, diverse, miscegenated and jaded of citizens alive live cheek by jowl. Even in this maelstrom, and shown in the brightest of relief precisely because of the maelstrom, love is clearly seen. Not since Byzantine Constantinople has there been a marketplace of pedestrian theologians of all kinds as Manhattan.

To suggest a rule for Christians called to the marketplaces of the world, to the cubicles, the classrooms, the studios, the hospitals, the buses and trains of the world, I would look to Peter for the rule, while strongly recommending prayer as basic survival and tremendous enrichment. But the rule for living goes:

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love."

Fr. John

I went back to Brother Thomas for my answer, although it is not complete in itself. It works primarily with the first part "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business..."

Imitation of Christ Book I, Chapter 8...

DO NOT open your heart to every man, but discuss your affairs with one who is wise and who fears God. Do not keep company with young people and strangers. Do not fawn upon the rich, and do not be fond of mingling with the great. Associate with the humble and the simple, with the devout and virtuous, and with them speak of edifying things. Be not intimate with any woman, but generally commend all good women to God. Seek only the intimacy of God and of His angels, and avoid the notice of men.

We ought to have charity for all men but familiarity with all is not expedient. Sometimes it happens that a person enjoys a good reputation among those who do not know him, but at the same time is held in slight regard by those who do. Frequently we think we are pleasing others by our presence and we begin rather to displease them by the faults they find in us.

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