Speak Lord: Draw us to praise…

date-31-dec

O God, be gracious and bless us.

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him.

Psalm 66:2-3,5,6,8

Sunday, tomorrow, is the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and the Octave Day of Christmas.

The Psalm we sing at Mass has us ask God’s blessing for us and for all. And the sign of the blessing will be rejoicing.

There will for sure be rejoicing and partying tonight as we pass from 2016  to 2017. But for what will we rejoice? And what will be the inspiration that dfraws us forward into the New Year?

Graphic (c) 2016, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: God our King

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy FaceThe responsorial psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 5th Sunday of Easter has the Church bless God’s name for his goodness, compassion and mercy. It has us look forward to when all creation will acknowledge God’s goodness and return to his loving rule.

 

I will bless your name for ever, O God my King.
or
Alleluia!

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to all his creatures.

All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord,
and your friends shall repeat their blessing.
They shall speak of the glory of your reign
and declare your might, O God,
to make known to men your mighty deeds
and the glorious splendour of your reign.

Yours is an everlasting kingdom;
your rule lasts from age to age.

Psalm 144:8-13

In a week where we have, many of us prayed, that our earthly monarch will long reign after us, we now also pray for that reign and rule of God: a reign of infinite extent and infinite goodness.

Sometimes accepting the rule of another seems to be about the limiting of our freedom. In the case of God’s rule it is there that we find our freedom.

  • Freedom for what?
  • And from what?

Statue of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Cathedral of St Pierre, Lisieux. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Still giving thanks

Our Lady and St Joseph, Hanwell

The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, was an invitation to the people of God to again join in common song, praising God for his merciful love.

We are his people, the sheep of his flock.
or
Alleluia!

Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing for joy.

Know that he, the Lord, is God.
He made us, we belong to him,
we are his people, the sheep of his flock.

Indeed, how good is the Lord,
eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age.

Psalm 99:1-3,5

In the song we surrender something of our individuality in order to share what we have in common – and yet it is in our particular lives and circumstances that we find the justification, indeed the very drive to join in the song of all the faithful.

We sing not only because ‘they’ sing, but because we, each one, has need to sing.

  • For what do you sing?
  • How has he made you you, and his?

Church of Our Lady and St Joseph, Hanwell, where I was ordained priest, 25 years ago today. And for that, and the 25 years since, I give thanks and sing. (c) 2010, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: why we praise

Piper LichfieldThe Responsorial Psalm on Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, put sounds of praise on our lips, and united our voices in common song of thanksgiving.

At least that was its intention.

So, think back. How was the psalm for you on Sunday? Indeed how was Sunday?

Read on, consider it again… Why might this be a song of praise for you and yours?

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.
or
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’
Let the sons of Aaron say:
‘His love has no end.’
Let those who fear the Lord say:
‘His love has no end.’

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad.

O Lord, grant us salvation;
O Lord, grant success.
Blessed in the name of the Lord
is he who comes.
We bless you from the house of the Lord;
the Lord God is our light.

Psalm 117:2-4,22-27

Israel, Aaron’s sons, Jesus and the disciples had their reasons for singing and praising God.

  • What are yours, and those of your parish community? And others that you associate with, are united with?
  • If the reasons for singing and praising seem few and far between, what does that suggest to you?
  • How do you relate your situation to the Paschal Mystery? What gives you hope? What drains hope?
  • Bring your hopes, fears, joys to the Lord in prayer….

Image of Crucified and Risen Lord. John Piper. Hospital of St John Baptist without the Barrs, Lichfield. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Draw us close…

Resurrection LerinsThe second reading at Sunday’s Mass  Comes from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This particular passage is believed to be Paul quoting the text of an early Christian hymn.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

The readings of his Sunday anticipate the celebration of the Paschal Mystery which finds its richest expression in the liturgy of the Triduum.

However we hear these readings and celebrate the Paschal Mystery knowing what Jesus’ first companions had still to learn – what rising from the dead means.

This hymn from the Letter to the Philippians presents us with a fine summary of it all. It preserves the narrative of the incarnation of the Son of God, the Passion, and the Resurrection, but in a spam brief enough that to read of one is to anticipate or still recall the other ‘moments’ or ‘dimensions’ of God with us in Jesus.

And it calls us to praise and thanksgiving. As is often said the liturgy even of Good Friday is not a funeral service. The Church in the West may not sing alleluia, and the Church East and West may not celebrate Mass, but we remember the Passion knowing he is risen, and that he is Lord and in him we are safe and secure. We sing praise Palm Sunday and Good Friday albeit in somewhat quieter tones, sorrowing at the pain endured by the Son of God for us. A pain imposed, we know, by the likes of us.

Image of the resurrected Christ, Abbey of Lerins, France. (c) 2005, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Quieten my mind so I may hear

 

Risen Lord, Cookham parish church

The responsorial psalm sung at yesterday’s Mass  asked us to listen to God. And did so with some urgency, and rather with the presumption that yesterday, (and maybe on many yesterdays) we had not been listening! Imagine!!

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
with songs let us hail the Lord.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come in; let us bow and bend low;
let us kneel before the God who made us:
for he is our God and we
the people who belong to his pasture,
the flock that is led by his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

O that today you would listen to his voice!
‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test;
when they tried me, though they saw my work.’

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Psalm 94:1-2,6-9

How insistent and how debilitating can be the inner voices we hear. Those conversations we have with ourselves – what we would say, what we should have said…

The psalmist calls us to a certain stillness that we might listen to the Lord. And listening, be ready to speak to him.

A common way of preparing ourselves for a time of prayer – and a fine way of stilling those inner, maddening, conversations with ourselves – is a simple stillness exercise.

Sitting upright, and quietly focussing on our breathing in, our breathing out. Noticing it, feeling it, hearing it, but not deepening it, just letting the rhythm draw us to a quiet place. If other words or thoughts come just breathe them away, or still them by breathing in and out the holy name of Jesus. Quietly, centring yourself, being centred by your breath, drawn into a place from where you can more easily speak with the Lord.

Listen for his voice. Harden not your heart.

Image: Risen Christ – the living Word of God. Cookham parish church.
Photograph, Allen Morris (c) 2004)

Speak Lord: help me hear…

Picasso, reclining nude, Paris 2004

Sunday’s Psalm urges us to attend to the voice of God, speaking to us in our world.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
with songs let us hail the Lord.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come in; let us bow and bend low;
let us kneel before the God who made us:
for he is our God and we
the people who belong to his pasture,
the flock that is led by his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

O that today you would listen to his voice!
‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test;
when they tried me, though they saw my work.’

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Psalm 94:1-2,6-9

So…

  • What do you hear God say today?
  • How will you respond?

Take time to consider, and bring your thoughts (and feelings) to God in prayer…

Image: reclining nude by Picasso (Picasso Museum, Paris. Photograph, Allen Morris (c) 2004)

Speak Lord: Praise the good God

Mary

The psalm at Sunday’s Mass has the congregation echo in song (ideally) the praise of God’s goodness and care which was the subject of the first reading

 O Lord, you are good and forgiving.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
full of love to all who call.
Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my voice.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving.

All the nations shall come to adore you
and glorify your name, O Lord:
for you are great and do marvellous deeds,
you who alone are God.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving.

But you, God of mercy and compassion,
slow to anger, O Lord,
abounding in love and truth,
turn and take pity on me.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving.

Psalm 85:5-6,9-10,15-16

The psalmist moves from expressions of praise and gratitude for God’s goodness to others, to a request that this goodness should be shown also to him.

How often is it easier to trust that God is good to others, but hesitate before entrusting ourselves and our weaknesses to him

  • What do you hide from the Lord?
  • Why?
  • Why will he be merciful to you?

 In praying with the psalms, it is often helpful to use play to bring us to prayer.

One, sometimes provocative, way of doing this is to change the pronouns of the text

As in the following

O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
full of love to all who me when I call.
You give heed, O Lord, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my voice.

But when do I call and for what?

All the nations  I shall come to adore you
and glorify your name, O Lord:
for you are great and do marvellous deeds,
you who alone are God.

What holds me back from the fullness of adoration of the Lord?

But you, God of mercy and compassion,
slow to anger, O Lord,
abounding in love and truth,
turn and take pity on me.

That last verse was not changed, but how true would this reworked version of it be?

Like my God, I am merciful and compassionate
slow to anger,
abounding in love and truth,
my brothers and sisters can turn to me, sure to find pity and help.

What could make it true?

Image of Mary and Jesus from Church of the Visitation, Ein Kerem, in the Holy Land. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014.

Speak Lord: Speak of your glory, help us to praise your glory.

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You are blest, Lord God of our fathers.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
Blest your glorious holy name.
To you glory and praise for evermore.

You are blest in the temple of your glory.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest on the throne of your kingdom.
To you glory and praise for evermore.

You are blest who gaze into the depths.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest in the firmament of heaven.
To you glory and praise for evermore.

Daniel 3:52-55

  • For what do you give glory to God?
  • Why?

This song, this prayer, is  that of the three young men  condemned to death by Nebuchadnezzar but preserved by God from the heat of the furnace into which they were cast. The passage is a part of the Bible in the Catholic tradition, but not in the Protestant tradition. The text is in the ancient Greek Septuagint but not the Masoretic text which is the basis of the Jewish Bible today.

A fuller version of the song is regularly used in the Church’s morning prayer on significant feast days, such as this Sunday, Trinity Sunday.

O all you works of the Lord, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.
And you, angels of the Lord, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

And you, the heavens of the Lord, O bless the Lord.
And you, clouds of the sky, O bless the Lord.
And you, all armies of the Lord, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

And you, sun and moon, O bless the Lord.
And you, the stars of the heavens, O bless the Lord.
And you, showers and rain, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

And you, all you breezes and winds, O bless the Lord.
And you, fire and heat, O bless the Lord.
And you, cold and heat, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

And you, showers and dew, O bless the Lord.
And you, frosts and cold, O bless the Lord.
And you, frost and snow, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

And you, night-time and day, O bless the Lord.
And you, darkness and light, O bless the Lord.
And you, lightning and clouds, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

O let the earth bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

And you, mountains and hills, O bless the Lord.
And you, all plants of the earth, O bless the Lord.
And you, fountains and springs, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

And you, rivers and seas, O bless the Lord.
And you, creatures of the sea, O bless the Lord.
And you, every bird in the sky, O bless the Lord.
And you, wild beasts and tame, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

And you, children of men, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

O Israel, bless the Lord, O bless the Lord.
And you, priests of the Lord, O bless the Lord.
And you, servants of the Lord, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

And you, spirits and souls of the just, O bless the Lord.
And you, holy and humble of heart, O bless the Lord.
Ananias, Azarias, Mizael, O bless the Lord.
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.

Let us praise the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit:
To him be highest glory and praise for ever.
May you be blessed, O Lord, in the heavens:
To you be highest glory and praise for ever.

Daniel 3:57-88,56

Speak Lord: ‘Sing to his name’

Image

Cry out with joy to God all the earth,

O sing to the glory of his name.
O render him glorious praise.
Say to God: ‘How tremendous your deeds!

‘Before you all the earth shall bow;
shall sing to you, sing to your name!’
Come and see the works of God,
tremendous his deeds among men.

He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the river dry-shod.
Let our joy then be in him;
he rules for ever by his might.

Come and hear, all who fear God.
I will tell what he did for my soul:
Blessed be God who did not reject my prayer
nor withhold his love from me.

Psalm 65:1-7,16,20

The psalmist refers us back to the story of Israel freed from slavery in Egypt and protected from the armies of Pharoah which pursued them. As God was then, so God is now – and in this is his/our reason to rejoice.

  • What stories from the Old Testament resonate in your journey of faith? Which from the New Testament?
  • Where do you see the works of God? With whom can you share them?
  • What has the Lord done for your soul?

Can you cry out in joy together with the psalmist? Together with all the earth?

Image found at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/150096600053912676/