Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 25, 2016

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.

The Wexford Carol
12th century

Window excerpts from the chancel of the Chapel at St. John's Rehab Hospital 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016
1 Corinthians 13: 1 – 8

In 2011 my parish celebrated its 90th anniversary and over the course of the year we highlighted various aspects of our history. In the spring, it was the Sunday School; in the summer, it was all the weddings that had taken place and in the fall we acknowledged all the women’s organizations that have been part of our story. To commemorate the unique ministries of women, we invited 24 different women to each embroider a square that others sewed into a large wall hanging. The blocks depict both words and flowers, done in red embroidery. The words spell out St. Paul’s iconic missive which begins Love is patient, love is kind, and concludes with the bold pronouncement: love never fails. The resulting hanging is stunning and for the last five years it has hung on a large wall in the nave. In our rush to complete it, the layers were tied rather than quilted and we’ve been very pleased with the results, until a quilter joined our congregation. With gentle prodding, she convinced us to actually quilt it for our recent 95th anniversary, and as you can imagine, it is now even more stunning to behold. St. Paul’s poetic lines tell us of the great mystery – and transformational power – that is love. Though often hard work, true love never fails, always believing the effort, however challenging, is worth it. It forever hopes for a better tomorrow, it is never rude or self-serving.

How do we know how to love? Our Advent readings indicate we love because God loved us first. We love because God gave us the best gift possible, born this night in the city of David. “Love came down at Christmas” proclaims Christina Rossetti in her 1885 poem, now a beloved carol.  These Advent days having been preparing the way for us to receive anew the Christ child:  may “love be yours and love be mine.”                

 – Frances Drolet-Smith

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016 
Psalm 25: 1 – 14 

Our theme for this week is love so well expressed in the hymn Love Came Down at Christmas (Common Praise 131). The concept of God’s love and forgiveness were already known to the prophets of the Old Testament, but the depth of God’s love and forgiveness didn’t seem to be known by the majority of the people.

For ordinary people, there was still a sense of having to follow the hundreds of rules found in the Torah in order to be “right” with God. There was a sense of having to repent “in sackcloth and ashes” in order to receive God’s forgiveness. The God of unconditional love seemed to be unknown. The God of the Prodigal Son was unheard of: the Father who ran out to embrace the son who had wasted his whole inheritance yet was welcomed home with a celebration—the father who was too impatient even to listen to his son’s words of repentance. What wondrous love is this? (Common Praise 400)

In Psalm 25 the Psalmist pleads with God, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.”

In the birth of Jesus, we beheld the face of God, the unconditional love and forgiveness of God, the God who would stoop down to our level in order that we might become like God. For the first time we could “see” the face of God — “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. . .” (Colossians 1:15) Now we are called to mirror God’s love to the world. What an awesome task!

– Sr. Elizabeth Rolfe-Thomas, SSJD

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Book of Hours, Visitation, Walters Manuscript W.267, fol. 38r 

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb….” Luke 1:39-48a

Elizabeth reveals an intuitive deep listening in her inspired exaltation!  Without uttering words about
cultural and familial complications, her holy burst of joyful recognition cries out ‘Yes’!   She marvels at being present to what God is doing.   She recognizes and receives the ‘Good News’; she simply gets it!

In these Advent days of preparation, might Elizabeth say to us, ‘Do you hear what I hear?’  Might we hear the voices of holy Presence in the midst of all the noise?  How will I receive what I hear?  Will I choose to translate it into obstacles or perhaps join in leaping across thresholds?
Opening the ears of our hearts to mystery doesn’t mean ‘turning a deaf ear’ toward clay-hard circumstances that surround us. But we have a calling to listen with eager expectancy for a sign of God’s working in our daily grit.  Truly hearing involves listening ‘with skin on it’.  It involves our whole selves: feelings, memories, hopes, wisdom, and gut reactions.

In all the sights and sounds may the Holy Spirit grace us with the assurance that all is in God.  And may we answer ‘Yes’!

- Dorothy Dahli

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Luke 1: 46 – 55

O King of the nations, you alone can fulfil their desire; cornerstone, you make opposing nations one.  Come and save the creature you fashioned from clay.

Each night from December 16th the Sisters sing a beautifully haunting plainsong chant using one of
the O Antiphons before and after the Song of Mary, the Magnificat. An antiphon is a short phrase or sentence sung before and after a psalm or canticle.  The antiphon is often taken from within the text it bookends or it may reflect the church season.  If you are familiar with the hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, then you are familiar with these O Antiphons, in which we recite many of the titles of Jesus, the long expected One.  On successive nights we sing; O Wisdom; O Lord; O Branch of Jesse; O King of David; O Morning Star; O King of the nations; and finally, O Emmanuel.  On this night, December 21, we use the antiphon which starts, O King of the nations.  It tugs at our hearts as we sing because Jesus is the one alone who can fulfil our desires.

What desire do we have except to be united with him in love as one, and to have Jesus as our very cornerstone?  In these last few days as we come to the close of Advent our hearts cry out with our eager longing for the one who came to us in love at Christmas, our Emmanuel, our Saviour.

Come, O King of the nations, come and save the creature you fashioned from clay.

- Sr. Elizabeth Ann Eckhert, SSJD

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Luke 1: 39 - 45

MS 3: Book of Hours (France, post-1450; Latin)
Perhaps you too have had the experience of being in the midst of a discussion with an expectant mother about her hopes, dreams, fears, wishes for the coming weeks or months of her pregnancy.  We recall the Visitation – the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth during which Elizabeth says of
Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  In love, wonderment, and more than likely, in some fear, Mary not only believed, but she embodied the fulfilment of this promise.  We can all do the same, even though we may never experience the realities of expectancy that Mary and Elizabeth lived out.

In Ted Loder’s advent poem, I Am Silent ... and Expectant (1981), he says, “How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.  I would be silent now, Lord, and expectant ... that I may receive the gift I need, so I may become the gifts others need.”

During these Advent days, we can all ask ourselves:  Have we truly received in our own ways, the promise that Mary and Elizabeth believed in?  What wondrous gifts are we carrying?  How do we nurture their fulfilment in prayerful silence and in gracious actions?  And most importantly, are we ourselves becoming the loving, compassionate gifts others need, not just at Christmas, but all year round?

– Cate McBurney

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016
Luke 1: 46b – 55

Mary's song of praise, commonly known as the Magnificat, is one of three beautiful canticles taken from Luke that have become an integral part of our Anglican liturgies.  It reflects a mood of absolute joy that seems to encompass Mary's entire being - body, mind, soul and spirit.  We also see her humility in response to this act of grace –  that she will bear the Messiah in fulfillment of God's covenant promise to Abraham in Genesis.  And what faith, from a woman who is well aware that she is a simple peasant girl with no social standing, to accept without question the pronouncement from
the Angel Gabriel.

Not only is it incredible that Mary, as a woman, is given the voice in this piece of scripture, but her message in the Magnificat is also counter-cultural.  She speaks of a God who, contrary to expectations, cares for and acts on behalf of the poor and down trodden, not the powerful or the rich. She speaks of a God who shows mercy, righting wrongs, and reversing injustices.  It is a message of social consciousness and concern and it is for us.

This beautiful canticle provides the overtone to the Gospel of Luke, foreshadowing the radical and controversial ministry of Jesus which is to come.  As we prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Christ child, how will you be moved to fully magnify God?  Can any of us even approach the depth of Mary's apparent understanding and faith?  Perhaps not.  But we can at least try.

- Sandi Austin

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent 4 – LOVE
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Psalm 80

Restore us, O God of hosts; show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
Psalm 80: 18

It’s so dark here, in the place I always find myself. I find myself in the dark, wondering, where did you go, God?

Where is the light?

Why here? Why after I’ve been trying so hard to do it all, to show and know it all. Why here, after all my struggles, am I stuck in the same place?

I have, somehow, in the beholding of your Grace, turned myself around, trying to nestle in. I wanted to curl into the warmth, and to just coast. Just not to have to. Anything.

And now it is dark. I have traded the old comfort for the light. Where is the light?

Show me the light of your countenance…

In an effort to be comfortable, I turned and lost the light. In the dark of my shadow I wallow and rage.

It is my turning that has separated me.

It is both my doing and my not doing, where I get lost.

You, O Son, have not moved. If I am listening, still like a ready cat, I can feel the warmth on my back.

And I can turn to the light again. And recover myself.
It has never moved.

Help me to remember that it is me who turns and You who are the sphere I am within.

Restore us, O God of hosts; show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

– Maggie Grace Moore

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016
Proverbs 17: 22

A joyful heart is good medicine.  Proverbs 17:22

God breathed joy into us as a healthy heart song at our creation, sent Christ in love to be our conduit for understanding joy and the Holy Spirit to help us experience joy. Together they provide the medicine we need to live joyfully in the ups and downs of life.

Joy is a vaccine protecting us from unkind words, judgements and being overwhelmed by chaos. Joy
is the vitamin that provides the energy and strength to walk and endure in the good and the bad times of life. Joy opens up our clogged arteries to both our mind and emotions so we can let joy be joy and flow from us to all around us. Joy is the anti-anxiety medicine that calms our fears and our concerns so we can absorb God’s beauty and see Christ in all people and all situations as we see beyond our own situation and feelings to praise God.

But for medicine to be good, it must be taken. Do you need to stop and be thankful, sing part of your heart song, talk with a joyful person or perhaps do an “attitude check”?

– Sr. Brenda Jenner, SSJD

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016 Luke 10: 17 – 22

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit. Luke 10:21

During the life of the Lord on earth, there were many reasons for sorrow, tears and suffering. He, out of his compassion, healed the paralytic, the blind, and Peter’s mother in law. He cast out demons from many. He raised the widow’s son and Lazarus.

People usually rejoice for having power and authority, just like the seventy who ‘returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." Luke 10:17. It continues to this day that people rejoice when they can trample on fear. They celebrate the ability to treat and heal many diseases of body and soul. But the Lord taught his disciples saying “rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:20

But, the Lord’s reason for rejoicing was different, as St. Cyril of Alexandria explains: “For being good and loving unto men, …He found His cause of rejoicing in the conversion of those that were in error, in the enlightenment of those that were in darkness, and in the answer of the understanding to the acknowledgment of His glory, of those who had been without knowledge and without instructions”.1 He gave thanks to the Father for revealing the mystery of the kingdom to the little ones, the poor in spirit. But, what is that mystery that causes all that joy but the incarnation of the Son of God, the unsearchable riches of Christ and that “we were foreknown and foreordained to the adoption of sons.”2

- Mervat Iskander

More images of Coptic icons can be found here 

1 St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 65
2 ibid

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016
1 Peter 1: 6 – 9 

Joy Amidst Hardship

Europe of 1943 was in the iron grip of the Nazi war machine; yet there was immense resistance by German individuals seeking an end to persecution of the Jews and peaceful return to a way of life once lived.  Such a person was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, professor and loyal son devoted to his family.  Imprisoned for involvement in two attempts on Adolph Hitler’s life, letter writing, studying and praying for fellow inmates became Dietrich’s immediate ministry, providing a sense of purpose amid rigors of solitary confinement.

The beginnings of joy broke through the gloom of one November Sunday morning, the first of Advent, when he hung a small wreath and a nativity painting in his cell by the Italian painter Fra Filippo Lippi.

Freedom amidst solitude – how was this possible?

Setting heart and spirit on quiet, hopeful waiting enriched Dietrich’s everyday existence for the next two years.

He was put to death by hanging a mere one month before the end of the World War II leaving a legacy of bravery and dedication.

Michael Van Dyke, Radical Integrity:  The Story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Publishing, Inc, 2001

- Janice Barnes

National Gallery of Art
Fra Filippo Lippi and Workshop
The Nativity
probably c. 1445

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Luke 1: 46 – 48

I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Saviour God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened - I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
                                                      Luke 1:46-48 The Message

Mary was full of joy because she was carrying God's son. I have never known the joy of having a child but the biggest joy is the love I share with my partner.

Another joy in my life was when I became a pilot in the Canadian Forces. It all started when I applied to be a pilot but was turned down because I was the wrong sex. Six years later I got a message requesting my application as they were opening pilot training to women.

Initially, eleven women and a number of men went through extensive testing in Toronto and four of the women successfully went on to fly the Musketeer for more testing and three of us passed that. We moved on to winter bush survival, sea survival, parachute training, high altitude testing, rappelling and finally training on the CT-114 Tutor jet aircraft. Through it all we had to deal with a number of press conferences. In the next eleven months on the Tutor we learned visual flying, instrument flying,
aerobatics, navigation, formation flying, cross country flying, emergency responses, and ground school training. All three women were successful.

The wings were presented alphabetically so I was the first woman up. Because my father had served in the military he was given the honour of pinning my wings on my chest and he gave me an unprecedented kiss. My heart was full of joy in my life that I had successfully become a pilot in the Canadian Forces and my father presented me with my wings.

Joy can come in many forms and if we think of our joyful times we may have a bit of understanding of the joy Mary had experienced.

- Nora Bottomley

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Luke 2: 8 – 12

Horae ad usum Parisiensem [Grandes Heures de Jean de Berry]. 
As I am preparing to write my Advent reflection for this booklet I am filled with such conflicting emotions; fear, frustration, hope. How do we write about celebrating Christ’s birth when we know of the hardships and horrors assaulting children in our world? Through the media we are constantly aware of many horrific events. Starvation brought on by drought in Africa, lack of accessible aid, the constant bombing of Aleppo, and treacherous journeys from war-torn homelands to unwelcoming countries and refugee camps are realities for far too many children.

For so many of us the news of the impending birth of a child brings such joy and celebration.

The words of the angel appearing to the shepherds are words of great comfort, “Do not be afraid; for
see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”.

The lyrics from a well-loved song written by Jester Hairston and made popular by Boney M further illustrate the themes of Advent we hold up; Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

“Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ,
was born on Christmas Day.
And man will live for evermore,
because of Christmas Day.”

For a moment the world was aglow, all the bells rang out there were tears of joy and laughter, people shouted, “let everyone know: there is hope for all to find peace”.

- Lynne Samways-Hiltz

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016
Luke 1: 46 – 55

The first good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of one;
To see the blessed Jesus Christ
When He was first her son:

When He was first her son, good man:
And blessed may He be,
Both Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
To all eternity.                                                                          traditional medieval carol

We thought we had a month before the baby would arrive when we drove the 9 hours to visit our son and his wife this past summer. There was a long 'to do' list, finishing touches on the nursery, putting books on the shelves, assembling baby furniture, hanging pictures, etc. The baby was considered full term when L's water broke a few days later. The 40 minute drive on country roads through Wisconsin farm country may have been one of the longest trips of my life! Our children may have practiced the drive to the hospital but the road closures and detours were all new to us and despite all our prayers, we were just a bit nervous. Looking up at the full moon in the night sky as we drove, I could not help but to think about Mary's journey. The feelings of Joy the next morning as we drove back to the hospital to meet our new granddaughter were overwhelming.

I am reminded of last summer's journey of joy as I look up at the almost full moon this evening; the waiting, the anticipation, sharing the story of Mary's joy with our new granddaughter - singing her the joys of Mary.

- Chris Hooker

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent 3   JOY

Sunday, December 11, 2016
John 11: 17 – 44

'Biblical joy', as experienced by Martha in the narrative of John 11: 17-44, tells of the raising of Lazarus by Jesus.  This miracle convinced me that often during our trials in life Jesus comes to us, not only at the moment of realising that this must be an answer to prayer, but upon reflection, Jesus has been preparing us for a moment of God's joy, a joy that will never leave our hearts.  Martha reflected on conversations she had with Jesus and did not forget His words: “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”  In my view, Martha's reflections on Jesus conversations with her brought a joy that no one could ever take away from her.  Jesus raised her beloved brother from the dead!

We celebrate 'joy' in Advent as we wait in hope to once again rejoice with each other and to sing those beautiful Christmas carols. Above all, we gather to worship and partake of His Body and Blood in the in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.   I leave you with the third verse of a beautiful hymn of praise:

       'He speaks and, listening to his voice,
        New life the dead receive,

       The mournful broken hearts rejoice,
       The humble poor believe'.   Charles Wesley

- Beulah Walcott

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday, December 10, 2016
Mark 1: 1 – 8

Advent is the beginning of the Church Year.  We begin all over again to read and rejoice in God’s story.  The first Gospel that was ever written was probably the Gospel according to Mark.  He was a realist.  He doesn’t take time to philosophize or conjecture.  His Gospel is the shortest of all the Gospels – and the bluntest – a sort of these-are-the-facts approach to the story of God and God’s presentation of Christ as God’s fullest revelation of God’s self and His purposes for His created world.

Mark does not even begin with the birth of Christ.  “Here begins the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” he starts off.

What he is saying, in effect, is that “this is it!” This is what God has been preparing God’s creatures for throughout the centuries; this is what the prophets were dimly predicting as their minds slowly opened to God’s eternal truth.  This is it.  This One, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is the answer to the aching longings of men, women and children throughout the ages, the healing and the cure for the twisted and distorted lives of God’s human creatures, the cancelling out of the debt of sin that has impregnated the lives of people since the beginning of time, the way back to God’s order and orbit, wherein alone there is peace and joy even in the midst of this life’s fractures and failures.

“This is it”, the purpose of our lives, the reason for our existence – and it is this that will restore us to that purpose and objective.  This is the One who has come, who is here, and who confronts us today with the promise, as we embrace him and hold him in our hearts as the Prince of Peace, the One who brings peace and is Peace.

- Sue House

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016
John 14: 25 – 27

Peace is a word that is used very often in the Bible, but it occurred to me that where it is most often used is in worship. When using the Eucharistic liturgy from the BAS we are asked by the priest to stand and Share the Peace.  The celebrant says, “The peace of the Lord be always with you.”  We respond, “And also with you.”  Then, turning to those around us, we offer our hand saying, “The peace of Christ be with you” or the simple “Peace be with you” or the even simpler, “Peace”.

To any outsider this may look like a large meet and greet session in the midst of the service.  “Oh, hi
how are you? Are you new here?  How’s the family?” and so on.  Often this break in the otherwise conducted service is used for those quick verbal meetings whispered voco soto: “Did you turn on the coffee?” “Did you know that so and so is not here today?” “I must speak to you later, its important!” followed by a knowing nod of the head.  It is here we make our connections that seem to be so urgent that they just cannot wait. But sharing the peace is so much more than this, or at least it is meant to be.

Jesus says: “My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you.” This is what I believe sharing the peace is about.  It is a prayer, if only a short one, asking God in Jesus Christ to share that peace that resides within each of us, a prayer that asks God to give God’s peace to another.

Each day we are called to pray for the peace of our world, our families and friends and for ourselves.  Our world is sorely in need of this peace.  Not a peace achieve through war and mistrust, but a peace borne out of love.  As we share the peace that Christ has given each of us, let’s try to remember our world and our neighbours as well.  Let’s try to remember as we share the peace to look deeply into ourselves and share that peace that resides in each of us. “May the peace of the Lord be with you always.”

- Sr. Louise Manson, SSJD

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Thursday, December 8, 2016
Exodus 3: 1 – 6

God said,” Take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
                                                                                                                                        Exodus 3:5

Thus spoke God to Moses as Moses was tending Jethro's sheep.  Moses was amazed to see a bush on fire but not being consumed.

You will have had your own experience of standing on holy ground.  The Celts tell of “thin places”... where the boundary of heaven and earth seems to collapse. Perhaps your experience of a thin place has been a holy spot such as Iona or Lindisfarne, or at our own Convent, or during an especially deep time of meditation in your home, or while walking a labyrinth; a time when you knew you were standing on holy ground and the Presence of God was profound.

Come now to the manger, where the shepherds are worshipping the infant Jesus. As Moses listened in awe to the voice of God, so the shepherds were amazed by an angel appearing before them, and of the glory of the Lord shining 'round them. The angel told them that this day a saviour had been born to them. They hurried to the place where the baby lay, knelt and worshipped there, in the presence of The Holy One, truly on holy ground. Let us kneel with them.

“We are standing on Holy Ground,
And I know that there are angels all around.
Let us praise Jesus now.
We are standing in His Presence on Holy Ground.”
                                                         Lyrics by Geron Davis, 1964

- Carolyn Madeley

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016
John 14: 25 - 27

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.   John 14:27, NKJV
In April 2012, the physician at the walk-in clinic immediately directed me to the emergency department at the hospital after she thrice checked my increasing blood pressure. First I went home to leave my car and jewelry, picked up my book of God’s promises, and called a cab.

My systolic blood pressure measure climbed to 240 in the hospital so the attending physician ordered a CT scan as he thought I likely had a TIA (mini-stroke), once I described the symptoms I had the previous night. The immediate concern was that I could now have a major stroke. 

I asked God to lead me to a Scripture verse in my book to help me stay calm. After rejecting the first few I read, John 14:27 resonated with my spirit, specifically the words, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

I repeated the comforting Gospel words of Jesus silently throughout the wait, and prayed fervently that I hadn’t already had a TIA, and I wouldn’t suffer a major stroke.
Four long hours passed before the physician returned and said—to his surprise the CT scan was clear—I did not have a TIA! He then ordered medication to lower my blood pressure intravenously.

It took several months to discover the right combination of medications to control my blood pressure, and that crisis and recovery time left me with some residual effects. But I remain grateful, for the kind of peace only my Saviour could give, and that my prayers were answered.

To God be the glory.

- Phyllis Beauchamp

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Psalm 122

‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ says Psalm 122:6.  Pray for the peace of the world screams my heart!  We in Canada see only the horror and devastation of the war in the Middle East through the lenses of the media.  Most of us cannot comprehend people walking for days or sailing across seas in bits of tin boats, fleeing with the hope of gaining sanctuary where there is no war.

Our church sponsored Zak and Hind, a young, vibrant, professional Iraqi couple.  They arrived with hearts afire to get on with life.  Zak, Hind, and Zak’s parents fled Iraq when ISIS took note of Zak, a neo-natal nurse and wanted him to look after their wounded fighters. “If you don’t obey, they kill you.”  Even hearing this from Zak, it is hard to comprehend the gripping fear of ISIS.

Hind and Zak have become my new ‘young’ friends.  We talk and laugh together.  It is one thing to laugh on the outside yet still be crying on the inside.  They are worried for family and friends separated by thousands of miles, yet are appreciative of a new start.  They will become incredible, contributing Canadians.

Zak and Hind’s faith in a God of peace has brought them here.  Will Zak and Hind ever feel at peace?
Eventually, I hope.  St. Nicholas (whose feast day this is) was known for his secret gift-giving.  When we can offer the gift of unconditional love to all people, peace will follow.

‘Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world.’ St. Teresa of Avila
- Doreen Davidson

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016
John 14: 25 – 30

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.
John14: 27

Like so many other aspects of our lives, peace comes in a variety of ways, shapes and even colours. It has a number of interpretations depending on the situation in which it is sought or given. From the Hebrew, we get “shalom”, a familiar greeting; from the Greek, a sense of “concord”. One commentary suggests that when one experiences peace there is a feeling of completeness, soundness, even neighbourliness, well-being and security; the reward of a sound mind stayed on God. Peace is also linked with honest dealing and true justice.

In today’s world many of us struggle to find even elements of peace in any of it may interpretations; war, strife, violence, disease, racism, injustice, poverty, corporate greed, negative politics often overwhelm me. It is hard to hold on to the words of the psalmist “I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.” Psalm 4:8 We exist on so many levels; and the presence or absence of peace often has a different impact on each of those levels. We may have some peace within ourselves, but it is often ravaged by the lack of peace we sense in those whose situations are so different from ours.

And then we come to Advent . . . . to be reminded yet again of the unending source from which we can draw:
“. . . a child has been born for us,
a son given to us,
authority rests upon his shoulders
and he is named . . .
Prince of Peace.”
 Isaiah 9: 6

– Mary L. (Bunny) Stewart

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent 2 – PEACE
Sunday, December 4, 2016
John 20: 19 - 22

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” John 20: 19

Did Jesus greet the disciples with the word "Shalom"?  The Hebrew translation is "peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used as both hello and goodbye" As a radical young activist in the 1970s, I "lived" the word "peace".   My necklace bore a peace symbol; my bedroom was decorated with peace themed posters; I sang peace songs with Pete Seeger and attended every peace rally in town.  My father quietly referred to me as his "peacenik". Peace to me meant an end to the civil rights strife in the United States; what I wanted for Vietnam and the world.  It meant living in harmony with other people and the environment.  I was ready, willing and able to devote my life to achieve this.  I still hold these ideals close to my heart, although, in my golden age, "peace" has taken on a rather different meaning for me.  Religion-based terrorism and global warfare for territorial domination have escalated the critical focus for "peace".  We, like the disciples, live in fear of what is outside our "doors". We worry about what environmental disasters our children will inherit from us and the effect of technology and social media on their world.  The "peace" we now seek is an inner peace -- the "peace of mind".  In this scriptural passage, Jesus says "Peace be with you" --not only the wish for an end to the strife between the Jews, Romans and Christians, but the assurance that his death and resurrection will bring about inner peace for those who follow Him.  May God grant you the inner peace to enable you to spread Shalom throughout the world.
– Sue Ann Elite

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016
Psalm 42

I find that when I am despairing or fearful, it is because I have let my gaze slip from God's promises. I have put my hope in people or circumstances or worse yet, myself, and of course, have been disappointed – again. People don't often realize that they are letting us down in some way and certainly circumstances don't orient themselves just to help or hinder one person – namely me; yet somehow I still get disillusioned, losing hope, feeling like David. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?” (Psalm 42:11a)  Then I am reminded to “Hope in God...” (Psalm 42:11b) and to focus on God's promises that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28) and that God “has plans to prosper give you a future filled with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) There is so much reassurance in scripture that hoping in God is the right thing to do. It is not only good for our souls - it is, I believe, God's will.

“Happy are those ...whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them;” (Psalm 146:5-6) And if  reading hope-filled scripture about God's promises and about God's amazing creative power is not enough to restore my hope, going out into God's glorious creation and gazing at the stars or listening to the wind in the trees or feeling the rain on my face, makes the hope rise once more and restores my strength to wait in hopeful expectation, as Mary did, for God's promises to be fulfilled. I pray that this Advent season is a hope-filled one for you and leave you with this final scripture blessing:

“May the God of hope fill you with all the joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
– Nancy Scott

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016
1 Peter 1: 1 - 3

Winter has always been the quiet season of the year for me.  I compare it to a caterpillar wrapped in
its cocoon waiting for spring.  I love the snow falling outside putting a white blanket on the pine trees or sitting by the fireplace watching the flames dance and doing whatever the quiet project happens to be at that particular time. Sometimes this project has been studying or reading.  Maybe it has taken on the form of quilting, painting or writing.

When I was a little girl, I would sit on our couch in Pennsylvania looking at the Sears Christmas Wish Book which was delivered to our home around November 24th.  I hoped that Santa Claus would hear my wish and put the doll I loved under our Christmas tree. As I got older, I would sit bent over my desk hoping that I would pass my Algebra or Chemistry exams.  A little older yet, I hoped that my grades would be good enough to get me into the university that I wanted to attend.  Later, with all these wishes behind me, I hoped that God would give me the strength, knowledge and courage to raise our children to be caring, compassionate and strong willed adults.  And then came being a priest’s wife in Canada.  This was probably the most difficult part of my life’s journey thus far (not the Canada part, but the priest’s wife part).  I hoped I would do my part of the ministry right, whatever right might be.  Now that this part of my journey is coming to an end, I realize that there is no right way, just God’s way, which is to love one another.

When I think of all the periods of hopefulness in my life, I realize that each hopeful passage was God’s way of making me a better person.  I hope that finally now I am moving toward the Light; that that cozy cocoon of long ago will open, and as the poet Rumi said, “I will soar with angels” knowing that God has given me hope through the birth of his son, Jesus Christ.

– Lynne van der Hiel

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016 
Romans 15: 7 - 13

Oh!  May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing
lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!”  Romans 15:13 (The Message)

This life-giving energy brimming over with hope must have sustained Mary as she pondered her wondrous angelic message.  

Hope, the second of the Theological Virtues, provides a bridge between Faith and Love.  Faith speaks of belief.  Hope brings wings to our faith, as we discover more of God’s love and revelation.  Love speaks of God, God’s very essence    

A wise friend once said while speaking of the infinity of God and the hope within us, “THERE IS ALWAYS MORE”  

St Gregory of Nyssa wrote:  “The person looking at the divine, invisible beauty will always discover it anew since he(she) will see it as something newer and more wondrous in comparison to what he had already comprehended.  He continues to wonder at God’s continuous revelation; he never exhausts (the) desire to see more because what awaits is always more magnificent and more divine than anything he has seen.”     

Hope drives us in our desire to enter fully the Kingdom of God, where our world gets turned upside down and God’s place is given back to God.  Let us join with Mary, with all our loved ones and all the precious things of this earth in honour and worship.

– Sr. Wilma Glazier, SSJD

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
John 14: 27

Perhaps fear is the opposite of hope.  Fear shows us what we are afraid of losing.  But fear also invites us to touch our vulnerability, our fear itself, and put these in God’s hands.

My daughter Ellen was a tiny person with disabilities.  She lived her last twelve years joyously in a L’Arche community, and L’Arche held us both throughout her dying.  It was about four weeks into her final stay at Toronto Western Hospital that we met again with her caring medical team, this time to discuss palliative care. It felt unreal.

After the meeting I took a walk through Kensington market.  It was an early fall morning, and shop
keepers were just beginning to open up.  

I came across a young man sitting on the concrete in front of a little food shop, leaning against the wall, holding a baby bird cupped in his hands.  I walked over to see and sat down.  He said he’d found the bird on the ground where he’d slept last night.  It must have fallen from a tree.  It was quiet and still, and the boy tenderly stroked its feathers with a finger.  We talked.  He asked if I’d like to hold the little bird.

I held her as with a kiss. She was beautiful and she was dying. I was surprised by a welling of tenderness and hope.

Hope is about trust.  We risk reaching out to others, letting ourselves touch and be touched.  Hope is about turning from our small troubled selves toward Love and Mystery, knowing our need of God and each other.  But most of all, hope is God’s gift.

– Barbara Sheppard

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Psalm 130

I have a favourite a book of quotes from the philosopher Cornell West. He wields dancing, jazz-built words, a fierce sense of history, and a huge range of ideas to exhort Americans, especially black Americans, to live lives – and to demand lives -- of justice, love and hope. Like a shot of energy each time I crack it open, this book I keep close is called Hope on a Tightrope.

There is no chapter titled Hope in this book.  There are chapters on Courage, Faith, Wisdom, Family, Love and Service, Philosophy, Identity and Race.  Yet the book is about finding Hope in troubled times. And those chapter headings gather Professor West’s thoughts on Courage, Faith, Wisdom, and all the rest as sources of Hope. These, he says, are places of renewal, stillness and centering before moving on up the frayed rope of western democracy, into the swaying future. These are antidotes to the rush and selfishness and chaos of contemporary life.

Psalm 130 begins in that place of chaos.  The psalmist’s tightrope sways wildly as she considers her disobedience. It stills for a moment when she considers God’s forgiveness, and shivers again as she considers the connection between forgiveness and humility, giftedness and self-giving, reverence and action. What to do? How to walk the tightrope? How to keep confident and open and surefooted?
The answer is to wait. Wait. Stand still and wait for the dawn of redemption. Wait and fully receive the unfailing love of the Lord. Wait for that. Be filled with that. Put your hope there. Then walk on, walk on.

- Julie Poskitt

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016
Luke 18: 35 - 43

As we begin our Advent journey towards Christmas I think it is appropriate that we begin with the theme of Hope. Without Hope the other themes of Peace, Joy and Love would be much more difficult to maintain. Perhaps you might wonder why I chose this passage of Scripture for a meditation on Hope at Christmas.  Hearing it at a service recently it struck me that it had a lot to tell us about the quality of Hope. Without hope the blind man would never have approached Jesus for help. Unlike just wishing for something, perhaps unrealistic, or magical it is based on something more tangible. The blind beggar must have heard stories of Jesus' healing people. He must have believed this was no ordinary man passing by. He must have heard that Jesus cared for people like him and despite the resistance of the people around him he had hope that his persistence would be heard.

As we travel on this Advent journey let us be open to see and hear those signs of Hope that are all around us. Let us be persistent in looking for the good news events that happen every day.  Where is God working in the world?  There is so much that seems disheartening in today's news and yet if we are open to them there are "slivers of gold" among the "patches of gray". (John Bell)

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15: 13)

- Jean Gandon

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent 1 – HOPE
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Matthew 24: 36 - 44

The Collect: Almighty God, give (me) grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light.

The lazy days of Summer are over, and Autumn is now here.  We read the signs, feel the change, and
see that the days are getting shorter.  There seems to be an urgency.  Advent is here, and the beginning of a new Christian New Year. This is a season of Hope, of Love, of Joy, and of Peace.

In Matthew 24:43 we are asked to “Keep awake for you do not know on what day your Lord in coming” or in the Letter to the Romans “Now is the moment for you to wake from sleep for salvation is near, the day is near.” (Romans 13:11-14) or in Isaiah, “teach us his ways that we may walk in his paths...come let us walk in the light of the Lord.”(Isaiah 2: 1-5)

Year after year we are given this invitation.  Isn’t it wonderful that we are gifted with more than one chance to see, feel, hear, smell, and yes, taste Christ in our lives anew.  This gives me Hope.  Ask yourself “How is Christ being born anew in my life in each and every moment?”  For me this is not a one time event that happened over 2000 years ago or at my Baptism or Confirmation. It is happening at every moment if only I am awake, slow down, become aware and live each moment with intention.  I am asked to savour the moment! But I am also asked to respond in Love, with Joy and in Peace, that I may learn from Christ’s ways, that I may walk in Christ’s paths and to walk in the light of the Lord.

From the dust we were created and from dust we will return, but we also have the promise of eternal life through the birth of Christ anew in my Life...Alleluia - what HOPE.  Dear Lord, help me keep ever watchful, ready.

- Sr. Dorothy Handrigan, SSJD

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dedication and Forward

Reflections will  be posted daily starting on 
Sunday, November 27th. 

With grateful hearts 
these Advent Reflections 
are offered to
the Glory of God,
and to the extended 
SSJD family of 
Associates, Oblates & 
and many friends,
in thanksgiving for
for our companionship
in Christ.

“Grace to you and peace –
 I always thank God because I hear of your love 
for all the saints and your faith in the Lord Jesus.”
Philemon 1: 3-4

This year’s cover art is the work of one of our Oblates, and reminds us of the intricate patterns found in the artwork of The Book of Kells or the Lindisfarne Gospels. The knot is a vivid, visual example of the Celtic peoples love for creation, and of their profound understanding of the inter-connectedness of the created order. These illuminations, as they are known, are made up of individual yet interwoven strands, forming a compelling image that speaks of both wholeness and interdependence.  In the same way that a strong cord is made up of many strands so too is the fabric of our lives. Woven out of the many strands including faith, family, vocation, community, and gifts, they intersect in multiple ways, giving shape to who we are, beloved creations of God.  These ancient designs are metaphors for our Christian journey. As the individual strands meander back and forth, they may follow paths we might not have expected. Some parts of the path may seem predictable, dull even, but we may also encounter some surprises. The blessing for us is that there are no dead-ends, for if we follow the path, it will always lead us back to the Source. During Advent, we’re invited to make an interior journey.

This year, the Advent season lasts a full four weeks, ample time to set about preparing the way for the coming of the Christ Child - into the world and into our hearts.  These daily reflections are an invitation to experience more fully the true Advent gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love as we seek to embrace the One who knows and loves us best. 

It is our prayer that these little embers, the lectio of our lives, will provide food for the journey. Written by 22 Oblates and 6 Sisters, these daily offerings include a suggested reading. We welcome your company as the stories of our lives intersect with the larger story - born for - and in us, once more.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Advent 2016

Advent Quiet Day: Praying with George Herbert 

Saturday, December 3, 2016
The devotional poetry of George Herbert, seventeenth century priest and poet, expresses heart-deep faithfulness; it also functions as spiritual direction for the pilgrim. 
Herbert’s spiritual journey was long, convoluted and complicated as we learn from his poetry. Therein lies its beauty and value for all his readers. 
Through a gentle reading of some of his poetry we’ll explore what he has to say about the season of Advent: a time of expectation and examination in preparation for the birth of our Saviour.
Led by the Rev. Canon Susan Bell, the Canon Missioner for the Diocese of Toronto. In this role, she works as a catalyst for and encourager of mission throughout the Diocese. Susan is Associate Priest at St. Martin in the Fields, Toronto, and Chaplain of Havergal College.
  • Begins 9:30 am with a gathering for coffee; ends 4 pm.
  • Fee $30 ($25 for Associates and Oblates) if you bring a bag lunch. 
  • A hot meal is an additional $15. 
  • Registration deadline: November 26, 2016
  • Registration here »