Prayer for the Second Saturday in Lent

O God of our desert, where we have now long languished: in this valley of the shadow of death, may we yet commune with you in the Spirit, that, as our fast goes on and on and on, we might still be together with you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Wilco’s “On and On and On.”

Prayer for the Second Friday in Lent

Our hearts sing out to you, O God, in praise of the sunlight that warms our wandering; grant us the music of your Spirit so that we, dancing in the footsteps of your Son, might come into harmony with your glorious beams, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: the eponymous concluding piece from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:
 

Prayer for the Second Thursday in Lent

O God of the silent darkness, in which we sometimes feel ourselves lost, hearing instead of your voice only the echoes of our own prayers: remember the garden in which your Son prayed, and let the wings of the Spirit bear the sweet scent of his orisons to your nostrils, that we, the substance of the savor he sent up, might find access to you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: “Love’s Echo,” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:

 

Prayer for the Second Wednesday in Lent

O God of my prayers, to whom I call hour by hour, longing for the touch of your Spirit: grant that my heart might never cease to be faint with love for your Son, my beloved, who teaches me the dance of the One God. Amen.

For music, “Faint with Love,” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:

 

Prayer for the Second Tuesday in Lent

O God of our wilderness, in whose vastness we wander these forty days: as our fast fills us again and again with the baptism of your Spirit, let not those abundant waters quench our love for your Son, through whom our errant feet ever find you, our joy and our being. Amen.

For music, “Many Waters” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite.

 

Prayer for the Second Monday in Lent

Our God of delicious anticipation: as the first buds stoke our hunger for the spring, so may your Spirit teach us to thirst for your Son, in whose name we rejoice. Amen.

For music, “Rhapsody” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite.
 

Prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent

O God of abundant life, of feasts of fat things and wine upon the lees: unstop the richness of your Spirit as we approach the Lord’s Table this day, there to feast on the love you offer us through the great gift of your Son, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music this week, I’ll be using Patrick Hawes’s cycle “Song of Songs.” Here’s the first piece, “Love’s Promise”:

Prayer for the First Saturday in Lent

O God of pilgrims and all who wander: send us your spirit, which blows where it lists, that it may guide our feet into the unexpected paths where we never thought to seek the joy of your presence, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: “God is Love,” by The Innocence Mission.

Prayer for the First Friday of Lent

Our vulnerable God, you who weep because we do not love our own flesh: send the Holy Spirit blowing into our souls until we learn to see ourselves in Jesus’ flesh and blood; and from his gift let love of God and our neighbor spring eternal in our hearts until we become One People, as you are One God. Amen.

For music, here is the “Lacrimosa” from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, with Makvala Kasrashvili, soprano, and Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor:

Prayer for the First Thursday in Lent

Most merciful God, who sent your Son to meet our humanity through the abjection of the cross: grant your Holy Spirit to lift us up in our failures, as we try again (and again) to do as you would, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is Big Star’s “Try Again”:

Prayer for the First Wednesday in Lent

God of Gladness, whose very being is the circle dance of Father, Son, and Spirit: take us by the hand and lead our wayward feet as we learn the rhythms of your love, that we may move joyfully in the world as One people, through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

For the music, here’s Charles Mingus’s classic “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting”:

Prayer for the First Tuesday in Lent

Most longsuffering Father: as the wilderness of our fast carries us to the limits of our bodies and spirits, let the Holy Spirit lift us with the vision of our beloved Jesus’ body, wounded and stretched out for our sakes, that our memory of him may draw us into closer union with you, the One God, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is “Jesu Dulcis Amor Meus,” a chant text attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux:

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Prayer for the First Sunday of Lent

O God, first Gardener of the world: in the winter of our fast, nourish us with the Holy Spirit, that come spring the bulbs buried in our hearts might bloom, Easter lilies to herald the glories of the resurrection, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is John Crum’s text “Now the Green Blade Riseth” set to the 15th-century French carol “Noël Nouvelet,” sung by the Arnold Singers from the Rugby School:

Prayer for the Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Our Father, whose glory shines forth in the myriad beauties of creation: grant that we might rejoice in our fast, not sitting in sackcloth and ashes, but breaking the yokes of injustice, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry; that we may learn, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to see the face of Jesus in every human being and join our hearts with theirs until we become One People, as you are One God. Amen.

For music, here is David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter of the New York Dolls) singing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”:

Prayer for the Friday after Ash Wednesday

O God, the Giver of all good things: as Jesus emptied himself and took the form of a slave so that we might eat the bread of life, so may we, filled with the Holy Spirit in the emptiness of our fast, provide a feast for the hungry and freedom for the oppressed, until the One God might be incarnated in us as One People, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is the Tabernacle Choir singing one of the greatest hymn texts ever: Charles Wesley’s “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”:

Prayers for the Beginning of Lent

I meant to start this yesterday, but I couldn’t get to it. I can’t manage full Lectionary posts this year, so instead I’ll write a series of prayers. I’ll aim for every day in Lent (including the Sundays). Music will be occasional. [Read more…]

Receiving Grace: Mozart’s Great Mass

51nbxoelzl-_ss500Becoming familiar with Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor (K.427) is a good way to both deepen one’s appreciation for WAM, especially his church music, but also to find a way into understanding the rich and ancient eucharistic liturgy of the western church. The Great Mass, composed in 1782/3, is unfinished* but the missing parts are often added for modern performances and recordings.

In the Great Mass we proceed in stages through music until we receive the grace of God in the Eucharist.

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Third Advent: Rejoicing and the Cross

2016 has been a hard year for many of us, bringing crises both personal and public, meaning that the tradition of rejoicing on the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) may not come easy. The awaited redemption that we celebrate today, when God “gives justice to the oppressed, / And food to those who hunger,” and finally “sets the prisoners free” and “lifts up those who are bowed down,” can seem very far away. Indeed, we seem to languish ever more irredeemably.

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Second Advent Sunday: Prophecy of New Hearts

second-sunday-advent-wreath

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, a day that recognizes the importance of God’s voice on earth, through prophecy and scripture. It is a Sunday that follows the first advent Sunday’s focus of hope in Christ.

As I seek to prepare my heart for this Christmas season, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a truly cruddy year 2016 has been, for a plethora of reasons (although Slate reminds me that 2016 actually hasn’t been nearly as bad as 1348, 1836, or 1919, so I should count my blessings), and I find 2017 approaching me simultaneously with the promise of a fresh slate and the dread of looming 2016 aftermath. [Read more…]

Mormon Lectionary Project: All Saints’ Day

Today we celebrate the heavenly rest of the saints—all of the saints. We celebrate rest because we all pass through life pursued by beasts, although they’re usually more like Sara Teasdale’s ordinary “wolves along the road” than Daniel’s apocalyptic allegories. Rest here comes only in fleeting moments, the occasional “evening of content” that opens our eyes as it were to the innumerable company in the world to come, leading us to sing God’s praise in the congregation of the faithful. [1] But most of life does not give us that rest, and we must accept such moments as down-payments for our future rest. [Read more…]

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

e6b50358faa97c5f2c9a889a5d3ea8f5On the second of June, 1953, around 20.4 million people in the United Kingdom crowded around only 2.7 million television sets to watch the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey. This was a watershed moment in the modern era, a day on which the ancient rituals of an ancient kingdom were open to the public in an unprecedented way. [Read more…]

God has not vanished

For Ascension Day 2016.

Luke Skywalker has vanished.

These are the opening words of the opening crawl of the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens.

Luke Skywalker—Jedi Knight, conqueror of the evil empire, redeemer of his father Darth Vader—has vanished. If you have seen the film you will know that this vanishing has been wholly bad for the galaxy: in his absence, a new empire, a new Death Star, and a new dark lord have arisen.

Luke Skywalker has vanished and the galaxy is suffering.

The gospels also tell the tale of a vanishing and vanished hero. The original ending of the gospel of Mark has the women come to Jesus’ tomb only to find it empty. Jesus has vanished and this leads to shock: the women “went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (16:8). [Read more…]

Clara Barton

Clara Barton hated nothing more than feeling useless, and it was this impulse that led her to become a very effective schoolteacher, an intrepid Civil War nurse, an important early feminist, and ultimately the founder of the American Red Cross. She was genuinely heroic: amidst a civil war that, like the one in Mormon’s time, spread blood and carnage throughout all the face of the land, she fought to get close enough to the action to do some good, dodging bullets at Antietam as she rescued wounded soldiers from the field. Efforts to do the same during the Franco-Prussian War brought her into contact with the Red Cross, recently founded in Switzerland. Barton’s engagement was so strenuous that from time to time she’d collapse in exhaustion, her heart stricken and withered like grass. [Read more…]

Good Friday

The scandal and offense of Jesus’ crucifixion lies mostly buried under 2000 years of familiarity. Isaiah writes of the shock that the nations experience when Israel, that no-account postage stamp of land they were used to running over en route to fighting more important peoples, turns out not only to be exalted and lifted up on high, but also the means of their salvation, in accordance with the Abrahamic covenant. Similarly, that a minor Jewish political threat hanging like a ragged corpse on a cross outside Jerusalem—just like so many others, before and especially after—should turn out to be the Savior of the World ought to surprise us, or at least inspire a little incredulity. We often say that the Jews were expecting the wrong kind of messiah, but really, who can blame them? According to the Gospel accounts, even Jesus’ closest associates did not expect him to die, and certainly not like this. Their shock still resonates through the stories recorded many decades later. [Read more…]

Friendship (Maundy Thursday)

Joseph Smith called friendship “the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism,” so it’s fitting that friendship should resonate so deeply with one of the most sacred days of Jesus’ mortal life: the day when, according to the synoptic gospels, he instituted the sacrament, bathed his disciples’ feet, and went on to pray in Gethsemane while his closest friends slept nearby, and when, according to the Gospel of John, he gave those whom he addressed as friends the vital commandment to love one another. [Read more…]

Monday in Holy Week

As we approach Easter, the Lenten anticipation of a new creation rises to a new pitch. We hope for the healing of all the injustices we see around us—including those smaller things we’ve tried to leave behind for Lent. Sometimes those hopes hinge on what we expect to be a grand and mighty act, but Easter offers something different: the shame of the cross and the quiet, publicly unheralded resurrection. Easter, in other words, teaches us to look for redemption in the small things–the servant who, instead of crushing the nations, will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoking flax. Jesus, rather than shedding the blood of others, spilled his own—once for all. On the side of this redemption are not the mighty, but the meek. [Read more…]

Mothering Sunday (4th Sunday of Lent)

We are over halfway through the season of Lent, and today, Mothering Sunday, is named after a 16th-century tradition of attending the church you grew up in, the place where you were baptized, or the church your mother attends. “Going a-mothering” meant traveling to your home church, the place where you came from.

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Our Faithful God

Even though Lent can be a time for drawing closer to God, sometimes our wanderings in the wilderness leave us feeling abandoned—even when God has promised to stay with us! We can share Abraham’s incredulity: when God promised him a great reward, he replied, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” And yet, as with Abraham, God can take the occasion of our realism or even skepticism to create bonds of covenant faithfulness, making the promise of progeny that prompted this response: “[Abraham] believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abraham’s example isn’t about willing belief against the absence of evidence (“I think I believe, I think I believe, I think I believe”), but rather about affirming loyalty to God when God affirms loyalty to us. [Read more…]

Ash Wednesday: Repentance toward a New Creation

Today begins Lent, the season of preparation for Easter. Lent is a time of fasting, known even to many who don’t observe it for the things that people give up. I believe that giving something up is important, but that giving something positive is even more important. What’s the good of giving up whatever it is if we can’t give God the broken heart and contrite spirit that constitutes a true sacrifice? Joel reminds us to rend our hearts, not our clothes during this time, and I think he’s right: Lent should send us inward, calling us to prepare our hearts to receive the risen Jesus, who forgives our sins and redeems us from the grave. [Read more…]

MSSJ Swiss Pilgrimage, 2016

12th century frieze of pilgrims on the Via Francigena heading toward Rome (Fidenza Cathedral, source: http://tinyurl.com/j7c7x8w)

12th century frieze of pilgrims on the Via Francigena heading toward Rome (Fidenza Cathedral, source: http://tinyurl.com/j7c7x8w)

The Mormon Society of St. James is pleased to announce its fourth annual[1] pilgrimage in 2016, the Swiss Road of the Via Francigena (St. Francis’s Way), the ancient trading and pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome. [Read more…]