Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Greater Sacrifice?

A Greater Sacrifice?

In Holy Week, our Lord
gave up His life
for us and died
alone, betrayed,
abandoned. We know
no greater sacrifice
than this – to die
for others.

And yet, some thirty
years and more
before, the Holy
Word of God
gave up His Godhood
in exchange for
human birth and
mortal life.

The Word that breathed
across the chaos
at the start of
all creation,
that breathed into
being galaxies,
planets, elements and

the Word that shaped
the life we know –
bacteria, fish
and people –
that Word forsook
His Godly ways
to be born a babe
in Bethlehem.

The All-Knowing
knowledge for an
infant’s word-
less cry; the All-
Powerful traded
power for an infant’s
the Ever-Present
confined Himself
to human time and space;
the Infinite
found limits
in an infant’s
tiny world.

In Holy Week, our Lord
gave up his Life,
and this we hymn
with gratitude for
all his sacrifice.
In Christmastide, our Lord
was born, a baby held
in Mary’s arms. .

The Love that led our
Lord to death has
led our God to birth.
Rejoice! Rejoice, you
faithful, at this
wondrous sacrifice!
As we raise our alleluias,
Let us sing “Thanks be to God!”

Sr. Sue Elwyn, SSJD

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Christmas 2012

What are we celebrating
here and now
with Christmas–
Christ’s Mass?
A mostly hidden
of God
into the world?
Family unity
pasted together
out of old
new resolutions
to do better
spend more,
gorge together?
What are we celebrating
here and now?

What are we celebrating
here and now?
Fond memories of
Christmas past?
Major profits for
retail stores?
One-day ingathering
of a
scattered clan?
Birth of a child
who will change
the world?
What are we celebrating
here and now?
The world says
Go wild!
Spend too much
Eat too much
Drink too much
or coffee
or eggnog.
You’re priming the
economic pump –
Go wild!
Exceed your income,
Break your diet,
Breach your boundaries,
Smiling! Smiling! Smiling!

God says –
Be joyful with
My Child is born.
I love the world.
So – please – love
my world.
Love my Child.
Love me.
Love your neighbour.
Love yourself.

So –
What are we celebrating
here and now?

Let’s love.

Sr. Sue Elwyn, SSJD
Toronto, ON
December, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2018

Monday December 24, 2018

Psalm 45, 46 
Isaiah 35:1–10 
Revelation 22:12–17, 21 
Luke 1:67–80

Today is Christmas Eve. We are coming to the end of our time of reflection. Tomorrow we reach the climax for which we have been preparing. The presents are wrapped, the food is prepared, the house is decorated. We have reached this point annually for many years. We have heard sermons and reflected on it. 

I was surprised on first reading the lessons appointed for Morning Prayer today that there was no specific mention of the birth of Christ in them. Why were we hearing these particular passages? As I re-read them it began to dawn on me that they were all about a vision of heaven on earth. Each one, in its way portrays a picture of the world in the way God made it to be. 

Psalm 46 talks about who this God is; Isaiah portrays the perfect world God wants for us; Revelation looks at what the future holds for us; and Luke tells about how this perfect world will come about. 

I was reminded of one of my favourite carols – “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”. Isn’t this what the angels were singing about on the first Christmas Eve? Isn’t that the “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all People”, of their song? Jesus was born into the world to show us God’s perfect world. Even after “two thousand years of wrong” the angels are still singing to us. “O listen now, and still your strife, to hear the angels sing.” So amidst all the hustle and bustle, the tinsel, and preparations, may we this Christmas Eve listen to the angels’ song. 

- Jean Gandon

Photo by Joanne Ingram

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Psalm 93, 96 
Isaiah 33:1722 
Galatians 3: 15-22 
Luke 1: 67-80 

Your eyes shall see a king in his splendour and will look upon a land of far distances. Isaiah 33: 17

Coming to Canada from Pennsylvania ten years ago with the hopes of traveling with my husband and the dreams of remodelling a summer cottage soon were turned around. The saying If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans” certainly applied to me.

Of course, I was a religious person. I went to Church every Sunday, sang in the choir, was on altar guild, always helped at church suppers and even visited the sick. I wanted to take a break. And then the Bishop of Algoma called saying he would like to meet with my husband. “Only for eighteen months,” he said. “Just ‘til the six churches in Muskoka get settled and a new priest comes.” I might say I said some not too nice words at this point. It was all about me, you see, and what I wanted. That was nine years ago.

I have learned in these nine years that altar guild, choir and church suppers are not what following God is all about. Rather than being in the center of everything, it is more simply being in a quiet relationship with God. I do not do the work of the church to be noticed or to say how hard I work. I do it because it’s part of my love for and worship of God.

I believe my granddaughter, Grace, was right when she told her mother, “I think I’ll stay in Canada with Grammy and Pop ‘cause God lives in Canada.” Seeing a King in his splendour in a distant land absolutely! How wonderful!
Lynne Van der Hiel

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Saturday December 22, 2018

Psalm 80 
Isaiah 29:13–24 
Revelation 21.22—22.5 
Luke 1:39–48a (48b–56) 
Advent 4

Through all of the Advent Quiet Days I have attended over the years, it has been a time of “my” waiting or “my” expectations as I await the coming of Christ anew and the celebration of the Christ Mass. What do you think of when you reflect on Advent? 

The common thread I see in these readings is God’s expectation and waiting for us. Isaiah reveals that the people of Israel were doing lip service to God, were trying to say the right thing with their lips, but in fact their faith was a superficial faith – all words and no heart. Their mouth, and mind were saying one thing but their heart just was not in it. I think God is asking us to love God with our whole heart, mind, strength and soul; that deep down our prayers and praise be truly for the pure love for God. 

Psalm 80 reminds me that God will bless and enrich my life, not only in times of trouble, but at all times. God’s light and glory is within me – I just have to turn around and see with the eyes of my heart. 

I am aware of a parallel between the verses in Revelation with the Garden of Eden. Revelation describes a new creation – a new Garden of Eden, without all the things that spoiled the Garden. I can imagine the Tree of Life and the healing of all nations, which includes me too, being washed clean with the crystal water of life, and yes, I long to see God walking in the Garden again and being one with Love. Can you see it? 

Love has come to us through the “yes” of Mary and the beautiful Magnificat reflects that this love is there for us and for all to come. Jesus’ message throughout the Gospels tells us to share this love with all. Love. Love. Love.
                                                                                                            – Sr. Dorothy Handigan, SSJD

Friday, December 21, 2018

Friday, December 21, 2018

Psalm 72 
2 Samuel 7: 1-17 
Titus 2: 11 3:8a 
Luke 1: 39-48a (48b-56) 

“Christ of the Breadline” by Fritz Eichenberg:

For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. Psalm 72:12

There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

In the year of our Lord, hospitality was a sacred duty. Mary and Joseph probably arrived at the home of friends or family after all the other travelers, and the room set aside for guests was taken. They were welcomed and the stable was offered.

Who are these people sleeping huddled in doorways on this the longest night of the year? They are someone’s child, perhaps someone's mother or father, brother or sister. They have worn out their welcome. Most often the victims of substance abuse or mental illness, even the homeless shelters have rejected them.

On this long dark cold night, let us make room in our hearts for those less fortunate, who we see but do not know; and let us keep in our prayers those who have nobody else to pray for them.

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglectedpersons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the oldand the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Chris Hooker

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Psalm 61, 62 
Zephaniah 3: 14-20 
Titus 1: 1-16 
Luke 1: 1-25 

For God alone my soul in silence waits;* from God comes my salvation. Psalm 62.1, SSJD Psalter

This single phrase from Psalm 62 has been resonating in my soul for many years. When I was in my early 20's and came as a visitor to the Convent, it was the silence that I found attractive summed up in this phrase. The silence is what awakened my heart and set me upon my life’s journey in the Sisterhood. When the Sisters recite the psalms, there is a brief silent pause at the asterisk which marks the half- verse. In that silence I feel that I can touch infinity where God resides. It may seem to be a small thing, the brief silent pause, but it is enough to begin hearing the voice of God stirring within our heart and feel its magnetic resonance which draws us to God.

It is waiting in silence which attunes the ear of our heart to know that God is longing for us even more that we long for God. To wait upon God, one must wait patiently yet with intent focus on the one for whom we wait. Nothing should distract us from God who is our salvation; not sound, sight, object, food, or drink, or even scent: nothing should come between ourselves and God. But it is not simply what might distract us through the senses; silence teaches us to quiet our thoughts and emotions, however good and holy they might be, to simply wait for God. The second half of the psalm verse recognizes “from God comes my salvation.” What salvation means to me is my very life. To paraphrase the half verse then, “from God comes my life,” is how I feel about this verse. This is what it means to wait on God alone: I wait on God in the silence, for this is life.

– Sr. Elizabeth Ann Eckert, SSJD

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Psalm 24, 29 
Isaiah 42: 112 
Revelation 12: 1-10 
John 3: 1621 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John3:16

Here we have the kernel, the very crux of the Gospel. In this one beautiful sentence, we are offered the very good news that God loves us so much that he gave his beloved Son to us so that we may be forever in his presence. God showed how much he loves us by gifting us with the very best he had to offer. In this one verse we get some idea of the great breadth and depth of the love God has for us. As St. Augustine says; “God loves each one of us as though there were only one of us”.

We now await the birth of this Saviour, God's beloved Son. We wait for him to make his entry on earth as a tiny baby, vulnerable, dependent on earthly parents, just as we all have been. What joy must have been in Mary's heart as she awaited the birth of this special baby. What joy, indeed, is in our hearts as we await the one who is our Saviour, our Lord.

Whenever I hear John 3:16, I am taken back to my high school days in the ISCF (Inter School Christian Fellowship), where it seemed to be the motto, almost, so often was it quoted. It was the verse that led to our pledging our lives to Christ. Therein lay the joy of the beginnings of dedicated Christian lives, the joy of knowing we are loved by our wonderful God, the joy of a Saviour who gave his all for us.

Let us sing to the Lord a new song, Let the people sing for joy let them shout from the mountain tops. Let them give glory to the Lord. Isaiah 42:10-12

Lord God, may I always grow in the joy and hope that your promises give me. In your love alone, can I find the fullness of true joy.
–– Carolyn Madeley

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Psalm 45 
Zechariah 2:1-13 
2 Peter 1:1221 
Matthew 24: 32-44 

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit into unfeigned love of the brethren, see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently. Being born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
1 Peter 1: 22-23
Late 15th Century Ethiopian 

Like Peter, we all experience times when what we know and believe is brought under scrutiny. Confronted and fearful, denial of our true belief happens, and is bound up with pride and self- doubt. These moments can also be opportunities for significant personal transformation. Imagine the profound meaning felt in the mutual glance shared when the Lord turned and looked at Peter after he denied Him three times. What a deeply intimate moment to experience and how it took Peter to his deepest level of remorse. Weeping bitterly at his weakness and feeling self- loathing and contempt; all experiences that reach to the core of our false self. It is during these dark times when we are faced with our mistakes that we can finally relinquish our attachment to self and our false pretences. Here we resolve to purify ourselves of our faults and pledge to develop our good qualities to their fullest; reorient ourselves to Christ with a fervour to change. Jesus knew Peter’s potential as the foundation upon which the future of Christianity would be secure. He saw beyond the weakness and knew that until Peter was taken to this point of self-examination he would only be mediocre in his commitment and not persevere in the face of the challenges and discouragements that the Apostles would experience. He knows that of us too, that we must actively yearn for a life of truth and deepen our Christian identity through mindful action. In these moments of disgrace we can know the true mercy of God’s grace. They teach us that living fully human means working through failure and responding with joyful perseverance to show honour, love and protection of the gift of life given to us by God. Advent is a time to experience the birth of a deeper Christ consciousness which calls us to new heights of truth, wisdom, healing a compassion towards all life in grateful service.

Sr. Kathryn Tulip

Monday, December 17, 2018

Monday, December 17, 2018

Psalm 41, 52 
Zechariah 1 : 7-17 
Revelation 3: 7-13 
Matthew 24: 15-31 

It is widely believed that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for using chemical weapons on an agricultural area near Damascus on August 21, 2013, thereby furthering the destruction and deaths of his homeland’s people. The United Nations was consistently frustrated in its attempts to intervene and the United States considered acting against Syria alone. There was concern that attempts to assist the Syrian people might endanger more people and further harm difficult international relationships with those who support al-Assad. The obstacles to a resolution seemed insurmountable. The consequences of intervention were greatly feared.

At the time, I feared we had left them alone.

The Bible contains many stories of perseverance, endurance and waiting, of trusting in God and of surviving evil. The psalmist, referring to those in time of trouble, tells us that God does “not give them up to the will of their enemies.” (Psalm 41:2) We must continue to pray for the people of Syria. We must not become worn out from praying for those who need our prayers. We must be as the psalmist says: keeping our faith green, that is fresh, not weary. Do not give up on prayer. (Psalm 52:8)

God of the oppressed, we pray for all those who suffer injustice at the hands of cruel and indifferent rulers, especially for the innocent victims of war. Give them strength and patience, and hasten the day when the kingdoms of this world will own the perfect law of love, made known to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. (BAS, p. 772)

––Lynne Samways-Hiltz

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Psalm 63:18(911), 98 
Amos 9: 11-15 
2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3, 13-17 
John 3:2230 

John the Baptist speaks of his joy coming from the realization of Jesus' calling. He was sent before Jesus and his joy is in Jesus finally coming forth. He now feels fulfilled, not because he himself is recognized for doing great things but because he has done the will of God and fulfilled his destiny.

Watching my daughters grow up, I have to say that I think I feel the same joy as John. My joy has come in watching them become young adults fulfilling God's will for themselves in their lives. I have found that my own dreams and plans for them have had to fade in some way as I realize that their dreams are not my own. God has a plan for them that I really have no say in. My own hopes and dreams for my own life have had to take a distant second to the needs of my daughters as well. Again, I find that even my own dream of being a mother is not playing out to my will but to God's. I am living a life that I never envisioned in my wildest dreams and I am not complaining. I find it tremendous, really. I was sent before to bring forth my children and my greatest joy is in watching them grow as I myself diminish.

Mary, too, was sent before, to bring Jesus forth in an even more
profound way then even John the Baptist. She too, realized her greatest joy in being a mother, in decreasing to “allow” God to use her as a vessel of conception, in decreasing to enable Jesus to become all he was meant to be no matter the cost to her or even, ultimately to him. In all that she found joy. In so many ways it seems paradoxical, Mary finding joy despite knowing the suffering to come. Yet she was confident in God's will. I am reminded of the old carol, The Seven Joys of Mary, recently made popular by the Canadian folk-rock band, Great Big Sea. May you find your joy this Advent season in whatever God wills for you. 

– Nancy Scott

The Seven Joys of Mary
traditional English Carol, 15th century

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 Lord; and happy may we be; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had, it was the joy of two;
To see her own Son Jesus Christ, making the lame to go. Making the lame to go, Good Lord; and happy may we be; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had, it was the joy of three; To see her own Son Jesus Christ, making the blind to see. Making the blind to see, Good Lord; and happy may we be; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had, it was the joy of four; To see her own Son Jesus Christ reading the Bible o'er. Reading the Bible o'er, Good Lord; and happy may we be; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had, it was the joy of five;
To see her own Son Jesus Christ, raising the dead to life. Raising the dead to life, Good Lord; and happy may we be; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had, it was the joy of six; To see her own Son Jesus Christ upon the Crucifix. Upon the Crucifix, Good Lord; and happy may we be; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had, it was the joy of seven; To see her own Son Jesus Christ ascending into Heaven. Ascending into Heaven, Good Lord; and happy may we be; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to all eternity.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Psalm 30, 32 
Haggai 2:1-9 
2 Thessalonians 3:618 
Matthew 24:1-14 

Do not be weary in doing what is right. 2 Thessalonians 3:13

We live in challenging times and at such times it is tempting to focus only on our own personal relationship with God. I have recently been reading The Emergent Christ by Ilia Delio, a very challenging book on several levels. She writes that “If God is absent from the world, maybe it is because we refuse to give birth to God in our daily lives; we refuse to incarnate the Word, to make God come alive.”

During Advent we are challenged to stay awake, to be alert not just to the presence of God in our lives, but also to those times and places where God has called us to be Christ in the world, to be Christ’s hands and feet, to make a difference in the lives of others through our prayers, our loving presence, and our actions. We need to be willing to be open and vulnerable not just to the leading of the Spirit but also to the needs of others, rather than cocoon ourselves in our own little worlds. The purpose of prayer and of the Christian life is not to be comfortable; it is to be transformed to open ourselves to God’s transforming love. As we know, being transformed (whether inwardly or outwardly) is neither easy nor comfortable. Ilia Delio suggests that we need to be in the business of “whole-making” as Jesus was, seeking to bring peace and understanding and reconciliation to our broken world, to practise forgiveness, and to let go of our own anger and resentment. Several years ago three phrases came to me during my walking meditation: loving intent deep listening compassionate action. As I meditated on these phrases, I came to see them as the essence of prayer and of the Christian life. Loving intent and deep listening are not enough; we must respond with compassionate action.

–– Sr. Elizabeth Rolfe-Thomas, SSJD

Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday, December 14, 2018

Psalm 31 
Revelation 2: 18-29 
Matthew 23: 27-39 

Isaiah 7:10-25

Turmoil and warfare beset King Ahaz in this powerful account of unrest in Judah. God charges Ahaz to demand a sign of his everlasting might, yet it is the prophet Isaiah who is pressed into service, proclaiming to the king the assurance of Immanuel to come, and the promise of a day of peace and plenty amid strife to the House of David. “On that day one will keep alive a young cow and two sheep and will eat curds because of the abundance of milk that they give; for everyone that is left in the land shall eat curds and honey.”

Where my family lives in Muskoka, Ontario, the fertile fields of produce and grain we help cultivate with our farmer neighbour also yield their share of dairy and beef cattle, lamb, poultry and honey. There is much to satisfy us all in this way of life even as our church communities pray for and offer aid to today’s warring nations who have little or no such abundance.

The sense of accomplishment that radiates from our own country acres at this time of year causes us to look anew to Advent with a comforting assurance of Immanuel, God- with-us, even in the midst of strife. We, like Ahaz, must accept God’s promise of plenty.

Janice Barnes

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Psalm 66, 67 
1 Samuel 2: 1b-10 
Titus 2: 1-10 
Luke 1.5–25

Joy of a trusting heart

Joy and gladness as spoken of in Luke 1:5-25 describe, in my view, how celebratory joy could be short lived at times, and yet joy that is spiritual is lasting and its effects make for sturdier steps on anyone’s earthly journey to God. What is that joy we are carrying within our hearts? It is the Word of God actively dwelling within us and blessing us with courage, wisdom, trust, and above all, faithfulness to His Word. God framed his spiritual gifts of waiting and preparedness to strengthen Elizabeth’s heart.

The gift of spiritual joy grew quietly within her as the child grew. She accepted her burden of heartfelt sorrow for her barrenness, carrying shame and bearing disgrace amongst her people with whom she had lived. And then, with joy and gladness in her heart she prayed.... ”This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I endured among my people” She who waited for many years to conceive showed her grace by going into seclusion for five months and then returned back into her society with grace, dignity and strength enjoying her precious gift of a son. Wonderful news for all of God's people! God blessed Elizabeth, barren for many years, with a son who will bring all of God’s people joy and gladness.

This week in Advent invites us to join with the rest of the world to rejoice in God’s masterful works. We do not see Him, yet we know He is there watching. We do not see the sun yet we know the sun is there. God is there loving and comforting us. The third Sunday of this season is called ‘Gaudete Sunday’ (Latin) meaning to rejoice. It is good to rejoice as we move faithfully through Advent and press on to Bethlehem.
Beulah Walcott