OREMUS: 14 December 2007

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Thu Dec 13 17:00:01 GMT 2007

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OREMUS for Friday, December 14, 2007 
John of the Cross, Mystic, Poet, Teacher of the Faith, 1591

O Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, God of mercy and might,
with tender comfort and transforming power
you come into our midst.
You remember your ancient promise
and make straight the paths that lead to you
and smooth out the rough ways,
that in our day
we might bring forth your compassion
for all humanity.
For these and all your mercies, we praise you:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Blessed be God for ever!

An opening canticle may be sung. 


Psalm 31

In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
   let me never be put to shame;*
 deliver me in your righteousness.
Incline your ear to me;*
 make haste to deliver me.
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
   for you are my crag and my stronghold;*
 for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me.
Take me out of the net
   that they have secretly set for me,*
 for you are my tower of strength.
Into your hands I commend my spirit,*
 for you have redeemed me,
   O Lord, O God of truth.
I hate those who cling to worthless idols,*
 and I put my trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy;*
 for you have seen my affliction;
   you know my distress.
You have not shut me up in the power of the enemy;*
 you have set my feet in an open place.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;*
 my eye is consumed with sorrow,
   and also my throat and my belly.
For my life is wasted with grief,
   and my years with sighing;*
 my strength fails me because of affliction,
   and my bones are consumed.
I have become a reproach to all my enemies
   and even to my neighbours,
   a dismay to those of my acquaintance;*
 when they see me in the street they avoid me.
I am forgotten like the dead, out of mind;*
 I am as useless as a broken pot.
For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;
   fear is all around;*
 they put their heads together against me;
   they plot to take my life.
But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord.*
 I have said, 'You are my God.
'My times are in your hand;*
 rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
   and from those who persecute me.
'Make your face to shine upon your servant,*
 and in your loving-kindness save me.'
Lord, let me not be ashamed
   for having called upon you;*
 rather, let the wicked be put to shame;
   let them be silent in the grave.
Let the lying lips be silenced
   which speak against the righteous,*
 haughtily, disdainfully and with contempt.
How great is your goodness, O Lord,
   which you have laid up for those who fear you;*
 which you have done in the sight of all
   for those who put their trust in you.
You hide them in the covert of your presence
   from those who slander them;*
 you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the Lord!*
 for he has shown me the wonders of his love
   in a besieged city.
Yet I said in my alarm,
   'I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes.'*
 Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty
   when I cried out to you.
Love the Lord, all you who worship him;*
 the Lord protects the faithful,
   but repays to the full those who act haughtily.
Be strong and let your heart take courage,*
 all you who wait for the Lord.

The Song of Christ's Glory (Philippians 2.5-11)
Christ Jesus was in the form of God,  
but he did not cling to equality with God. 
He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,  
and was born in our human likeness. 
Being found in human form he humbled himself,  
and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 
Therefore God has highly exalted him,  
and bestowed on him the name above every name, 
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,  
in heaven and on earth and under the earth; 
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,  
to the glory of God the Father.

Psalm 147:1-12

   How good it is to sing praises to our God!*
 how pleasant it is to honour him with praise!
The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem;*
 he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted*
 and binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars*
 and calls them all by their names.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;*
 there is no limit to his wisdom.
The Lord lifts up the lowly,*
 but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;*
 make music to our God upon the harp.
He covers the heavens with clouds*
 and prepares rain for the earth;
He makes grass to grow upon the mountains*
 and green plants to serve us all.
He provides food for flocks and herds*
 and for the young ravens when they cry.
He is not impressed by the might of a horse,*
 he has no pleasure in human strength;
But the Lord has pleasure in those who fear him,*
 in those who await his gracious favour.

FIRST READING [Isaiah 48.17 19]:

Thus says the Lord,
   your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
I am the Lord your God,
   who teaches you for your own good,
   who leads you in the way you should go.
O that you had paid attention to my commandments!
   Then your prosperity would have been like a river,
   and your success like the waves of the sea;
your offspring would have been like the sand,
   and your descendants like its grains;
their name would never be cut off
   or destroyed from before me. 

Words: Timothy Dudley-Smith (c)
Tune: Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, Repton

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He comes to us as one unknown,
a breath unseen, unheard;
as though within a heart of stone,
or shriveled seed in darkness sown,
a pulse of being stirred.

He comes when souls in silence lie
and thoughts of day depart,
half-seen upon the inward eye,
a falling star across the sky
of night within the heart.

He comes to us in sound of seas,
the ocean's fume and foam;
yet small and still upon the breeze,
a wind that stirs the tops of trees,
a voice to call us home.

He comes in love as once he came
by flesh and blood and birth;
to bear within our mortal frame
a life, a death, a saving name
for every child of earth.

He comes in truth when faith is grown;
believed, obeyed, adored:
the Christ in all the scriptures shown,
as yet unseen, but not unknown,
our Savior, and our Lord.

SECOND READING [Matthew 11.16 19]:

Jesus said, 'But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the
market-places and calling to one another,
"We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
   we wailed, and you did not mourn."
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "He has a demon"; the Son of
Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend
of tax-collectors and sinners!" Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.'

The Benedictus (Morning), 
the Magnificat (Evening), or 
Nunc dimittis (Night) may follow.

To the poor and exploited;
to lives overshadowed by conflict,
come with your message of justice and peace
Come, reveal yourself within our world, Lord.

To the lonely and unloved;
to lives overshadowed by suffering,
come with your friendship and concern
Come, reveal yourself in our community, Lord.

To both young and old on the journey of faith;
to lives overshadowed by doubt,
come with the gift of your Holy Spirit
Come, reveal yourself to the church, Lord.

To the sinner and the seeker;
to lives overshadowed by emptiness,
come with the offering of salvation
Come, reveal yourself in human lives, Lord.

To the sick and anxious;
to lives overshadowed by sorrow,
come with all-sufficient love
Come, that we may know you with us in our need, Lord.

O blessed Jesus, 
give me stillness of soul in you. 
Let your mighty calmness reign in me. 
Rule me, O King of Gentleness, 
King of Peace. Amen.

Almighty God, 
who taught us by the lips of your Son 
that through the narrow gate 
we shall find entrance to the kingdom: 
Grant that by the example of your servant John of the Cross, 
we may be ready to enter darkness 
before beholding the light of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Awaiting his coming in glory,
let us pray as our Savior has taught us:

- The Lord's Prayer

Give us grace so to imitate your Son
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that, when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him
with joyful love and firm faith. Amen.

The psalms and the invitation to the Lord's Prayer are from _Celebrating Common
Prayer_ (Mowbray), (c) The Society of Saint Francis 1992, which is used with

The canticle is from _Common Worship: Daily Prayer, Preliminary
Edition_, copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2002.

The biblical passage is from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized
Edition), copyright (c) 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education
of  the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.

The opening prayer of thanksgiving uses a sentence from a prayer reprinted
from _Revised Common Lectionary Prayers_, copyright (c)
2002 Consultation on Common Texts; and another sentence from
_Opening Prayers: Collects in Contemporary Language_,
Canterbury Press, Norwich, 1999.

Hymn (c) 1984 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL  60188.  
All rights reserved.  Used by permission.
For permission to reproduce this hymn in all territories except the UK, Europe & Africa,
contact:  Hope Publishing Company, 
For UK, Europe & Africa: contact: Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith, 9 Ashlands, Ford,
Salisbury, Wiltshire  SP4 6DY  England
The first line is Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1910.

The first prayer is by Saint John of the Cross.
The closing prayer is adapted from a prayer from _Common Worship:
Services and Prayers for the Church of England_, material from which is
included in this service is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2000.

Juan de Ypres y Alvarez was born in 1542. His father died soon after, and Juan
was brought up in an orphanage. (His father was probably Jewish. It is
remarkable how many of the most memorable Spanish Christians have been of
Jewish background.) At seventeen, he enrolled as a student in a Jesuit college,
and at twenty-one, he joined the Carmelite Friars. He was ordained in 1567,
and almost immediately met Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite Nun who was
undertaking to return the Order to its original strict rule, which had been
gradually relaxed to the detriment, as she believed, of the spiritual lives of the
members of the Order. Those who followed the strict rule as promulgated by
Teresa went barefoot or wore sandals instead of shoes, and so became known
as Discalced (unshod) Carmelites, or Carmelites of the Strict Observance. John
undertook to adopt the stricter rule and encourage others to do so.
Not all members of the order welcomed the change. In 1577 a group of Calced
Carmelites, or Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, kidnapped John and
demanded that he renounce the reform. When he refused, he was imprisoned in
complete darkness and solitude in a Calced monastery in Toledo for about nine
months. He then escaped and fled to a Calced monastery. While imprisoned at
Toledo, he had begun to compose some poems, and now he wrote them down,
with commentaries on their spiritual significance.
He was given various positions of leadership among the reformed friars, but
then dissension broke out among the reformers between "moderates" and
"extremists." John supported the moderate party, and when the extremists
gained control, they denounced him as a traitor to the reform. He was sent to a
remote friary, and fell ill, and finally died at Ubeda during the night preceding
14 December 1591.
His poems include:
The Dark Night of The Soul (about the experience of spiritual desolation, of
feeling abandoned and rejected by God, and why this is for some Christians a
means by which God increases our faith in Him; about the Christian walk, the
life of prayer and contemplation, and growing in love and grace)
The Ascent of Mount Carmel (same poem as the preceding, but with a
different commentary attached)
The Spiritual Canticle (about the love between the Christian and Christ as
symbolized by the love between bride and groom; draws heavily upon the
imagery of the Song of Solomon)
The Living Flame of Love (about the soul transformed by grace)
His works have been translated into English by David Lewis (1906), and by E.
Allison Peers (1953). His poems have been translated by Roy Campbell and are
available in Penguin paperback. The following extracts are quoted from the
poetic translation by Peers.

>From The Spiritual Canticle:

   Whither hast vanished
     Beloved, and hast left me full of woe,
   And like the hart hast sped,
      Wounding, ere thou didst go,
      Thy love, who follow'd, crying high and low? ...

   Oh that my griefs would end!
      Come, grant me thy fruition full and free!
   And henceforth do thou send
      No messenger to me,
      For none but thou my comforter can be. ...

   My love is as the hills,
      The lonely valleys clad with forest-trees,
   The rushing, sounding rills,
      Strange isles in distant seas,
      Lover-like whisperings, murmurs of the breeze.

   My love is hush-of-night,
      Is dawn's first breathings in the heav'n above,
   Still music veiled from sight,
      Calm that can echoes move,
      The feast that brings new strength--the feast of love ...

   Rare gifts he scattered
      As through these woods and groves he pass'd apace
   Turning, as on he sped,
      And clothing every place
      With loveliest reflection of his face. ...

   The creatures, all around,
      Speak of thy graces as I pass them by.
   Each deals a deeper wound
      And something in their cry
      Leaves me so raptur'd that I fain would die.

from The Living Flame of Love:

   O Living flame of love
      That, burning, dost assail
         My inmost soul with tenderness untold,
   Since thou dost freely move,
      Deign to consume the veil
         Which sunders this sweet converse that we hold ...

   And O, ye lamps of fire,
      In whose resplendent light
         The deepest caverns where the senses meet,
   Erst steeped in darkness dire,
      Blaze with new glories bright
         And to the loved one give both light and heat!

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