Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Prayer: A Different Kind of Work

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have come and gone; now we celebrate Christmas season. Some of us keep our trees lit while others take the tree down and pack the lights and ornaments away until next year. But what of the Christ Child? Did we see when he came into our lives this year? Do we still hear his cry?

Our Urban Abbey is a place where I still hear the baby Jesus’ cry. I sit in wonder. I view, pray, listen, and change. I live in a world of work, of doing. I (perhaps too often) only think I am successful when I am busy, moving, working…

This year I saw different kind of work, the work of prayer. I, along with several other Urban Abbey members viewed the BBC film The Monastery, based on life in Worth Abbey in the United Kingdom. During our Thanksgiving travels, Patty and I spent a night in the guesthouse at Saint Mary’s Monastery in Petersham, Massachusetts. Last night I finally watched Into Great Silence, a movie about the Grande Chartreuse, which, according to the movie web site, “is considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries”. All three of these experiences revolve around groups of people who have chosen prayer as their life’s work. While I strive to fit prayer in as I perform my many chores, these folks strive to fit their chores into a life of prayer. What strikes me most is not how little prayer I fit in, but how wonderful it is to find communities where the work IS prayer. These are deep resources in our world, reminding me to take time to sit and listen, to kneel and pray…

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Prayer

Dear Abbey Members and Friends: I thought you might find some insights in the Advent Prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes. Shalom, George
Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

O Coming One,
give me a steadfast spirit
to wait for you with grace.

Give me patience to listen
for your breathing
in the breath of your people.

Give me courage to trust
your continually blossoming presence
even in the unseeing darkness.

Give me wisdom to see
your manger in rough places,
your star in dark nights.

Give me gentleness
to receive you as a child
amidst the shouting of kings and warriors.

O Blossoming One, you are the love
with which I wait tenderly
for the coming of your love.

O Holy Child, come to me
that I may fall in love with you,
and become wholly yours,
in faith, in love, in steadfast hope.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Alice Dancing Under the Gallows

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

Norma shared the item below about forgiveness. I thought you also would find it useful.

This is a wonderful example of one of the Gifts of Christmas we explored from Brother Curtis’ book, Unwrapping the Gifts: the Twelve Days of Christmas. As we prepare for Christmas, letting go of old hurts and forgiving ourselves and those who we have issues with can free us to really experience the joys of Christmas and prepare to receive the Christ child.

Shalom, George

On Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 3:30 PM, Norma wrote:

George, this reminded me of last Sunday's Gifts of Christmas meditation. If this woman forgives, how can we not, I asked myself.

Norma K...

Alice Dancing Under the Gallows

The trailer:
The book and documentary:
Everything is a Present
“Life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything is a present.“
~ Alice Sommer Herz

Alice “Gigi” Sommer Herz is thought of with affection by hundreds of thousands of people in the world as both a sage and a saint. Her wisdom is evident in almost everything that she says. Her saintliness is seen in her almost unique tolerance and her compassion. She has the true gift of forgiveness. At 106, she is the second oldest person in London, lives entirely alone in a small flat and practices the piano for two and a half hours every day.

She was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for two years with her six-year-old son and remembers her inability to feed her child and to answer his questions, as an indescribable nightmare. She remembers also playing more than 100 concerts in the camp and likens the experience, both for the performers and for the listeners, to being close to the divine. She is in no doubt that music saved her sanity as well as her life and the lives of hundreds of others.

She elaborates on this theme in this new film.

She has suffered experiences which no human being should have to endure, including the deaths of both her mother and her husband at the hands of the Nazis and yet she speaks about her experiences with a simplicity and a quiet grace that win the hearts of all who discover her.

She says that she has never hated and never will, in spite of all that has happened and in spite of growing up in Prague in the midst of three warring cultures, Czech, German and Jewish.

She does not even hate the Nazis who put her in the concentration camp because she sees very deep and she knows that hatred eats the soul of the hater, not the hated.

At 104 she published a book about her life and experiences. That is to say, two writers in Hamburg compiled a book from hundreds of conversations with her over nearly 3 years.

That book,A Garden of Eden in Hell, rapidly became a best-seller and has already, within two years, been published in seven languages.

Gigi Sommer is also the heroine of our multi-prize-winning film, We Want the Light, which has been shown on television and won her a following in many parts of the world.

I am in no doubt that Gigi Sommer was the source of all those prizes. That is not false modesty. I am not denying the skill and hard work that I and my colleagues put into the making of the film but the inner strength, the element that raised it so high came, in my view, from our 98 year old star.

We have made a 48 minute tribute to her which consists almost entirely of material which has never before been seen on television, anywhere.

In our film she speaks in her quiet and appealing way, even when she is describing shocking events and she plays Schubert, Smetana and Beethoven in a style which the world has long forgotten. It is the style of Artur Schnabel, who was one of her teachers: a style redolent of a happier and more confident time in music making and one which many will find heartwarming.

And so the film is an historical document which bears witness both factually and musically.

As she approached her hundred and sixth birthday in November of 2009, she said to me, "Old age is an illness. I am not myself. The body cannot resist as it did in the past. I think I am in my last days but it doesn't matter because I have had such a beautiful life."

That statement, so typical of Gigi Sommer, so penetrating and so touching, prompted us to make this new film in celebration of her 106th birthday and her extraordinary, wonderful life.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Helping One Another

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

I started my new job with the Navy this week and it has been a whirlwind of emotions for me. I am excited at the opportunity to be back in the workforce and serve our country again. I am a bit sad as well. I thoroughly enjoyed being home and having the opportunity to be with Penny on a more extended basis. The ramp up to being productive in my new job is a bit like ‘drinking from a fire hose’…and a cause for worry of will I be up to the task.

Through all this, I realize how blessed I am. I have been surrounded by a loving wife who has encouraged and believes in me; I have been encouraged and supported by many of you, both by your prayers and by your presence. I am also blessed in my new work place by a supervisor and his deputy who have taken a great deal of time to help me get my bearings. This is to me a most wonderful example of a community caring for its members. Certainly in this Advent season of preparation we are called to look out for one another. The Christmas season is a great joy for most of us; but, for some, it can be a time of great sadness. Just as those who surrounded me kept their eyes (both physical and spiritual) on me and how I was doing. I believe we as a Community are called to be more vigilant of those around us. We need to offer our presence and be their spiritual anchor.

How can we be more vigilant an caring of others? I invite your thoughts and suggestions.

Shalom and many Christmas blessings, George

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Pause that Refreshes

Monday, December 6 -
Begin your Advent journey with this evening pilgrimage of spiritual refreshment and community.

Monday, December 6

The Labyrinth Will Be Open for Walking 5:30-7:30 PM

Taize Service ~ 7:30 – 8:15 PM

Light Refreshments will be provided

You may arrive or depart at any point in the evening, as you desire.

"Lord, as we once again feel the pressure to keep pace with an increasingly hurried world, let us pause today to remember your constant presence in our lives. You have called us to be a people who rise above the frantic nature of our surroundings. Let us reflect the peace of your Spirit today. Amen."

[posted for Norma by George]

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Praying While Working

From the portion of the Rule of Benedict appointed for April 1, August 1, December 1:
Chapter 50: On Sisters Who are Working Far From the Oratory or Are on a Journey

Those sisters who are working at a great distance and cannot get to the oratory at the proper time -- the Abbess judging that such is the case -- shall perform the Work of God in the place where they are working, bending their knees in reverence before God.

Likewise those who have been sent on a journey shall not let the appointed Hours pass by, but shall say the Office by themselves as well as they can and not neglect to render the task of their service.

Is my work "far from the oratory"? I think so. And as a member of the Urban Abbey I am called to pray regularly, specifically, we are called to "Pray daily, guided by the Book of Common Prayer or another Christian format, and worship regularly in community". But here is a reminder to keep at it, which is really the best we can do.