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Posts Tagged "Prayer":

Pandora Song: William Vaughn Moody


I stood within the heart of God;
It seemed a place that I had known:
(I was blood-sister to the clod,
Blood-brother to the stone).

I found my love and labor there,
My house, my raiment, meat and wine,
My ancient rage, my old despair,-
Yea, all things that were mine.

I saw the spring and summer pass,
The trees grow bare, and winter come;
All was the same as once it was
Upon my hills at home.

Then suddenly in my own heart
I felt God walk and gaze about;
He spoke: his words seemed held apart
With gladness and with doubt.

‘Here is my meat and wine’, He said,
‘My love, my toil, my ancient care;
Here is my cloak, my book, my bed,
And here my old despair.

‘Here are my seasons: winter, spring,
Summer the same, and autumn spills
The fruits I look for: everything
As on my heavenly hills.’

William Vaughn Moody poetWilliam Vaughn Moody was born July 8, 1869, in Spenser, Indiana. His parents died when he was young, and he worked his way through prep school and Harvard University, where he recieved both his B.A. (1893) and M.A. (1894), and became co-editor of Harvard Monthly. From 1894-95 he held the position of assistant in the English Department to Louis E. Gates. In 1895, Moody relocated to The University of Chicago as an instructor, a position that he held until 1903, when he was promoted to an assistant professorship. He left the University in 1907 to concentrate on his poetry.

During this time at the University, Moody published an untitled volume of poetry, as well as two poetic dramas, The Masque of Judgment in 1900, and The Fire Bringer in 1904. However, he is mostly noted for his 1906 play The Great Divide, hailed at the time as the “Great American Drama.”

In 1908, Moody was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He married Harriet C. Brainerd on May 7, 1909. Also in that year, he saw his play The Faith Healer produced, an event that while it attracted some attention, was not considered a dramatic success. William Vaughn Moody was working on another poetic drama, The Death of Eve, when he died in Colorado Springs, CO, on October 17, 1910. (source: Poetry Foundation)

I found this poem, which is not widely anthologised (ie I had to type it out, rather than relying on Google to allow me to cut and paste) in ‘Worldwide Worship’, edited by John Marks Templeton.

Hurricane Sandy: For We Are Members One Of Another (Ephesians 4.25)

My life has been enormously enriched since joining Facebook and twitter – I share jokes; photographs; cake recipes; holiday plans;  thoughts on politics, religion and sex – the three former unmentionables; metaphorical hugs; oh yes, and more jokes. Each exchange is like a thread in a spider’s web, made of gossamer, the most inconsequential thing in the universe. But, thread by thread, however inconsequential the link may seem, bonds of friendship and affection are formed. And these bonds are surprisingly strong.
My experience is virtually universal. And when the people that we are linked to are under physical threat, the rest of us feel that we too are genuinely affected. This is a very different thing from the routine intercessionary prayer of fifty years ago for people in ‘a far-off country of which we know nothing’, with its comforting corollary of ‘I’m all right, Jack’. Through the power of the global village and social media, no one is any longer an island. We have lost that comforting, smug wall behind which to retreat.
The world is no longer peopled by two-dimensional figures, who can be filed away on paper, whether from a newspaper, magazine or book.  They have come to life.    It is a joy to share in their joys. But, now that these people we interact with are flesh and blood, and we know that they are flesh and blood, we cannot escape sharing their sorrows and their fears as well.
So, to all of you in the path of Hurricane Sandy, please know that when we say we are praying for you, we really are. In a heartfelt, worried, way. It turns out we really are members one of another after all.
 I think that the Episcopal Church will not mind my borrowing their prayer, with a hat tip to Ann Fontaine and her link to Hurricane Sandy Update:

For those whose lives are in harm’s way,
dear Lord protect them under the shadow of your wings.
For those who have been injured or whose loved ones have been killed,
dear Lord comfort them under the shadow of your wings.
For those who rescue and bring aid,
dear Lord guard them under the shadow of your wings.
For those who seek courage to face an uncertain future,
dear Lord renew their strength under the shadow of your wings.
May God’s face shine on us and be gracious to us,
that the shadow of God’s wings may give us strength and courage!
May God look on us with favor and give us peace,
that the shadow of God’s wings may enfold us in love.
by The Episcopal Church


The illustration is   Eye of the storm (Digital manipulation of eagle and tree stump) by  Ian Mason – view my work  via Twelve Baskets.

This does not seem an appropriate occasion to change ‘favor’ to ‘favour’ for the eagle-eyed among you.

“Occasions for Alleluia”: David Adam


After the hurly-burly of General Synod (or, for our Episcopalian friends, General Convention), I offer you the perfect antidote: a dose of Celtic spirituality, under the familiar and wise guiding hand of the celebrated David Adam.

The Reverend David Adam, now in his late seventies, has been a lifelong priest in the Church of England. The volume of his published work vies with that of Agatha Christie, and much is still in print. (Anyone asked to lead intercessions would do well to begin with his three ‘Glory‘ books).  His appeal is much wider than simply to Anglicans – people from all Christian denominations as well as spiritual searchers as a whole are drawn to the deceptive simplicity of Celtic prayer and meditation.

Deceptively simple‘ because, though the poems look as simple as nursery rhymes, they in fact have more in common with haiku. As Daniel Barenboim said of music, ‘it is the silence between the notes‘. Adam quotes a friend  saying to him about his use of the psalms and Celtic prayers: ‘You remind me of hitting a nail with a hammer. You cannot drive it home at once, but by regular repeated actions and love you arrive where you want to be’.

‘Occasions for Alleluia’ is structured round the prayer of St Augustine of Hippo:

We shall be Amen and Alleluia.
We shall rest and we shall see.
We shall see and we shall know.
We shall know and we shall love.
We shall love and we shall praise.
Behold our end, which is no end.

David Adam, like many writers, thinks in metaphors and images. He begins with the striking image of an archer’s bow (p.3). We are all so busy with the business of living that the bow becomes ever more tightly strung ‘and a bow that is always bent will snap, as people who are always tense tend to do’. This sounds positively Zen-like, but Eastern philosophy and religion have no monopoly on this kind of metaphor, in fact lessons about bows come from the 4th century Desert Fathers. Subsequent chapters cover resting in God, seeing with the eyes of the heart, knowing God, loving God and finding joy in life and God.

I read this book in a matter of hours. Yes, I will want to re-read it, and I am sure I will find more treasures with each reading. I love the eclectic choice of quotations – Saint-Exupéry’s ‘Le Petit Prince’ (one of my favourites), Wordsworth, C  S Lewis, Alexander Carmichael, Teilhard de Chardin, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Dostoevesky, Emily Dickinson….(I could go on).

If Jonathan Clatworthy is a hippogriff, then David Adam is the archetypal seer and hermit living in a cave on top of a mountain. He continues to act as a spiritual director, and it is easy to see why. People are very drawn to him from his writing and there is a hint that he has discovered the secrets of the universe. Hindus believe in the spiritual value of darshan, or being in the physical presence of someone holy. But, while not a recluse, he is not known for appearing at festivals or book-signing tours. He values his privacy and we value it on his behalf for what it allows him to be and do.

The secret that he has discovered, of course, is hidden in plain sight. He concludes:

We shall praise: Come each day into his presence with thanksgiving. Rejoice in God’s love and salvation. Rejoice that you are one with him: that he dwells in you and you in him. Rejoice in his Creation and in all the relationships you have with it. Each day give praise and thanks to God for something in your life or in the world, something new. Behold our end, which is no end, to celebrate life: to celebrate God and his love. Let all be ‘Amen and Alleluia’, until all of life is an occasion for alleluias.



“What the publisher says about the book:
In this captivating book, David Adam aims to help us recognize that there are moments in each day of our lives that are cause for thanksgiving, when we may pause and praise God. The author explores in turn our natural ability to rest, to see, to know, to love and to enjoy – first in relation to our surroundings, and then in relation to our Creator. By the end of the volume, his hope is that a deepening awareness of the glories of the world around us will lead us, time and again, to delight in uttering ‘Alleluia!’

Illustrated with ten original watercolours by Monica Capoferri.”

‘With My Whole Heart’

Reflections on the heart of the psalms

The Rt Revd James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, has written a heartfelt and heartening book about the psalms. The word play is catching, as both title and text play on the literal and metaphorical meaning of the word ‘heart’. Bishop James may perhaps be forgiven for this as he was inspired to write the book during his preparation for, and recuperation from, a heart operation in June 2011. Turning for spiritual sustenance to the psalms in the Book of Common Prayer, he found references to the heart in 71 of the 150 psalms. This book contains his ‘musings’ on these psalms.

He writes well, mostly in simple prose but at times his language soars. He had me hooked in his fifth paragraph, with

‘the Book of Common Prayer, whose poetry adds fathoms to their theological depth’.

That ‘adds fathoms’ is masterly: I knew I was in for a treat.


 Not a book about the psalms

This is not, however a book about the psalms. Its scope is much more wide-ranging than that. It is a book for anyone who asks: ‘Tell me, how should I live?’ The author offers his own ten reasons for belief in God (pp xi-xiii), all beginning with the letter ‘c’. He then goes on to suggest ideas for living a Christian life, our relationship with God, and our worship.  In some ways, it is simply a book about prayer. I am tempted to say that the book is ‘deceptively simple’. It must be difficult to write such a book, if you are a bishop, without sounding preachy or patronising. That he succeeds in this is, I think, partly due to his honesty and humility in describing his fears around the heart operation. It reads like a letter from a friend. You will not need to look any words up in a dictionary, but nor do you feel he is talking down to you. It is full of  (to me) new insights. One example (p.6):

The character of God feels to me at times as if it were kept under a soundproof blanket. Just as well! He shudders in indignation at the unjust desecration of his creation and at the wanton destruction of any of his creatures. Yet we do not hear it. For if God did not contain his pain and remain silent, which of us could bear to hear the roar of outrage that would deafen our universe? We often bemoan the silence of God, but perhaps it is the necessary and merciful condition of our survival in a world traumatized by evil and flawed by sin.

I think Bishop James’s undoubted gifts as a communicator, both oral and written, probably explain his early career as a teacher. Schoolboys are notoriously less polite than congregations as an audience, and this experience must have honed these skills. Here is a short extract from something he said which will give you a flavour of what I mean:

Enigmas and Riddles

Like all good teachers, Bishop James raises more questions than he gives answers. The book cover itself, designed by Sarah Smith, is an enigma. Does it depict this book, which we are recommended for holiday reading on a beach? Or does it hint at that bourne from which no traveller returns, starting point and inspiration for the author’s meditation on the psalms? Perhaps both, perhaps neither. You decide.

Cor ad Cor Loquitur

In 2010 the Pope took as the theme for his visit to Britain Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur (Heart shall speak unto heart). The phrase was said in the Catholic Herald to be a description of the personal relationship between God and man achieved through prayer. This is what Bishop James Jones offers us in his new book, which I highly recommend.



To be published by SPCK on 17 May. The publisher says:

The heart is mentioned over seventy times in the psalms. It is the focus for the whole range of human emotion, from praise to lament, wisdom to wickedness. As they speak to the heart and of the heart, the psalms reveal to us the heights and depths possible in our relationship with God. 

When he had major heart surgery, the Bishop of Liverpool turned to the psalms in the Book of  Common Prayer as he wrestled with his fears and struggled through his convalescence. In this beautiful book, each mention of the heart in the psalms is quoted and followed by a reflection arising out of the Bishop’s daily meditations and a suggestion for prayer. These reflections are for all who at any time have found themselves reaching out for faith.


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