Archives from the Center for Prayer and Spirituality
The traditional Quiet Garden Morning format is suspended during the pandemic. Instead, the Center will post periodic offerings here, for use at home. It is hoped that they will invite a pause in the day and time for reflection and prayer.
Signed and Sealed on Ash Wednesday
As we reflected on the Invitation to a Holy Lent with its mandate about fasting, almsgiving, repentance, disciplined reading of scripture and attention to prayer, I was aware that Allen, among many, had decided that the marking with ashes was a reminder of mortality and the sinfulness of life. Lent was something that people needed, a season of deep introspection and remorse. And the words spoken when imposing ashes do remind us of the sentences in the burial office, “Remember that you are dust and to dust shall you return.” “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes.” I saw how brave it is to claim a marking in front of others, to show our souls in community.
We are meant to recognize that the One who formed us from the dust is the beginning and ending for our souls. We begin Lent with Jesus in the wilderness; we face our temptations. We enter the forty-day journey marked as those who do not know how much time we have to amend our lives, so we use the time we are given to be better followers of the One we serve. How can this time be more about God and less about our fallen humanity? I wondered. How do we hold them side by side?
I began to offer the oil for healing alongside the ashes. “Remember that you are from God and to God, you will return, ” I said as I traced the cross next to the ashes. I think that I began this practice in a parish where a friend was living with AIDS as a result of a tainted blood supply in Canada. This marking reminded him and other parishioners of baptism where they were sealed and marked as Christ’s own forever. It reminded them of times when they were in the hospital or suffering at home, and the sealing was a final prayer, a blessing, a claiming of them and of God’s care and compassion. It was pretty much a “both/and” for a sacred time. The marking with ashes is a claiming of us and my parish needed to take hold of the promise of healing also. Or, maybe I did. As a priest, I had been in the practice of taking the oil stock with me in my purse. Almost every visit I made ended in prayer and anointing, reminding us of the God who meets us where we are. Could this additional blessing with oil mark all of us for the healing work of the season?
In a small rural community, “up the valley” as they say here in Ottawa, I was a Sunday-only priest for a parish that was struggling to keep its bills paid. Glenn was a member of the United Church in town; his wife, Jean, was an Anglican who lived with him after her husband died in a Harvester accident on the farm. Glenn had recently had a stroke, leaving his right side without its usual strength. They came every week for worship but did not walk to the altar to receive communion. There were many reasons for their decision, some lingering wounds of church doctrines, some embarrassment at being on display, some sense of not measuring up. That Ash Wednesday I chose to bring the ashes and the oil to people where they were in the pews.
Allen, partly blind due to macular degeneration, offered to help me carry the bowl of ashes and the small bowl of oil as I made my way down the aisle. As I reached the pew where Glenn and Jean were sitting, I asked if they wanted the ashes and the oil. To my surprise, they agreed. “And who will mark me?”, I asked as we finished. “I will,” said Allen, and he traced the cross in ashes and in oil on my forehead. I saw that Jean was weeping. And she was not the only one.
I learned also that the mark of the ashes is not easily erased with water; with oil, the stain is removed.
This practice of mine was adopted by others, but that is not why I am telling you about it. I just want us to know we are deeply loved, and it is good to take hold of sacred practice that helps us remember that. There is more than one cross on our foreheads.
May we be blessed by the marking, the signing and sealing this year.
©The Rev. Dr. Linda Privitera
"A Reflection on Repentance and Repair", by the Rev. Solveig Nilsen-Goodin, interim pastor/spiritual director of Salt and Light Lutheran Church (ECLA), Portland, Oregon.
Well friends, it’s January 24. Far and away the most common response I’ve received to the question, How are you feeling since January 20? is…RELIEVED. Not a naive, “Oh everything is going to be fine now” kind of relieved, but a clear and palpable sense of relief nonetheless.
Two images of the nation’s Capitol, two weeks apart, have now been seared into our psyches and could not be more striking…one from January 6, and one from the very same place just two weeks later on January 20. Nearly everyone who spoke on Inauguration Day spoke to this stark contrast, though Amanda Gorman said it best:
“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.” Read more.
The Theophany Project
Combining art images, poetry and prayer, this offering by The Rev. Dr. Linda Privitera traces our travel through the Epiphany season (January 6 - February 16) this year. The seven weeks are depicted in pairings of visual art with poetry or prayer. Each relates to the week's lectionary readings and offers an opportunity for your personal prayer and reflection. What do you notice? How does this speak to you? What do you think the artist is trying to say? We invite you to view the presentations over the course of Epiphany, savoring its mystery and blessings.
Preparing for the Christ Child: Telling the Story
An exploration of how “story” is so much more expansive, rich and meaningful than a mere statement, and how we might use that understanding to bring the “baby Jesus” story more fully to life for everyone we tell. Special thanks to Godly Play and Rachel Held Evans, author of Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water and Loving the Bible Again. Read More Here: Preparing for Christmas
Music for the Season
Thank heavens for St. John's Canon for Music Tim Tuller and the Cathedral Choir!
Listen again to some of your favorites.Michael Miller, who you might remember as a rather imposing Wise Man in recent Choir processionals, also serves as our Music Archivist and has assembled audio recordings by season.
The Advent collection includes organ (Bach, Brahms, Manx, Buxtehude, Near) and chorale (“There is no rose”, “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” and over 30 more).
Light a candle, close your eyes, and be transported.
The Christmas star has not faded,
It has been planted in us.
The light of the world is not dimmed,
It shines in you and me and all creation,
And the darkness cannot extinguish it.
Let us be God's revelations
God's path of transformation
Shining like stars in the heavens,
To give light to every weary pilgrim
Every wanderer, every lost and rejected one.
Let us go forth,
Carrying God's light
Into our needy world. Amen
Prayer for Our Country
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our
heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove
ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.
Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning and
pure manners. Save us from violence, discord and confusion;
from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend
our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes
brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue
with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy name we entrust
the authority of government, that there may be justice and
peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we
may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen