And so this: culture, to cultivate, cultus,
The smell and feel of soil and of holy dust, the sacred grit
That will break the fine tuned gears of the machine,
Rust out its parts and reveal the garden.
To grow, to guide, to shape the self that
Passes beyond the self, finds the Other and the Elsewhere,
Here and now, and finally then. Watered and broken down.
Unless the seed die…
Such is the labor, and the prayer, the labor in prayer. Bowing,
My lips touch the bit of bone, proximity in fragments. From these
Pieces scattered and gathered grows the universe.

You Draw Up Everyone From Endless Evils

‘I prostrate myself, Lord, at the throne of Your majesty, I who am dust and ashes and the dregs of humanity. A thousand upon thousands of angels and countless legions of seraphim offer You, the holy Nature hidden from the senses and knowledge of all created beings, spiritual worship in the hiddenness of their natures with their fiery praises and their holy impulses; for You are close at hand, Lord, with Your assistance to everyone at all times of need, and Your door is open in season and out of season for the entreaties of all. You do not abhor sinners nor does Your Majesty feel loathing for the souls which are stained with all kinds of sins; rather, You draw up everyone from endless evils, including me, Lord, who am utterly defiled, seeing that You have held me worthy to fall down before You on my face and make bold to pronounce Your holy name with my mouth, even though I am a vessel full of uncleanness and not worthy to be numbered among the children of Adam.

‘Grant me, Lord, that I may be made holy by praising You, and be made pure by the remembrance of You; renew my life with a transformation of mind and with beneficial thoughts which You, in Your grace, stir within me. Be a guide to my mind in my meditation on You, and make me forget my stumbling conduct through a renewal of mind which You instill in me. Stir up within me requests that are beneficial, with my will in accordance with Your will, for it is You who give prayer to those who pray. Imprint in me a single will, one which gazes towards You at all times, and a deliberation which is never weakened in its hope of You by continual deaths for Your sake. Grant, Lord, that I do not pray before You with unfeeling words (just uttered) with the lips, but may I spread prostrate on the ground in hidden humility of heart and repentance of mind.’

St. Isaac the Syrian, in The Second Part, ed. and trans. by Sebastian Brock (CSCO Vol. 555)

Nothing But You Have I

ردوا علينا ليالينا التي سلفت و امحوا الذي قد جرا منا

Return to us the nights that have been lost to us,
And erase, by Your favour, that which has been issued from us.

فكم زللنا و انتم تصفحوا كرمآ و كم اسانا و نزجو حسب عفوكم

How much we have sinned, yet out of generosity You forgive!
How much we have erred, yet we still hope for Your good pardon!

ما لي سواكم و انتم حزني و قد جهلت و ما لي غير ستركم

Nothing but You have I- You are the recourse of my sorrow,
I have been ignorant, and possess nothing but Your indulgence.

لو كان الف لسان لي يبش بها شكرآ لم يقم يومآ بشكركم

Were to have a thousand tongues with which to express
Thanks to You, I would not stop thanking You for a single day.

Abu Madyan, Qasida in Mim

The Work of God

A particularly wonderful and challenging (and much needed on my part) post by Rachel Fulton (ie Fencing Bear at Prayer):

‘The first thing to realize about praying the Hours is that it is not about me or you or our precious interior feelings, but about God. It is, as Taunton so aptly put it, about praying Christ’s prayer to the Father, about “putting on” Christ and becoming his mouthpiece. We pray “through Christ” because we are praying the words Christ used to pray, particularly the psalms. From this perspective, it doesn’t really matter whether we feel anything at all, mystical, meditative, contemplative or otherwise, so long as we are praying with our mouths and our full attention. The point is for the Church–that is, all of us, not just the institution–to be “[praising] the justice of [God’s] decrees,” as the psalmist puts it, “seven times each day” (Psalm 119:164).’

Read the rest: The Work of God.

Good Counsel

Hattiesburg, MS, August, 2008.

Please pray for the Gulf Coast region, especially New Orleans, as yet another hurricane bears down, maybe worse than the last one. I only moved from South Mississippi a few weeks ago, and in the intervening space it seems like my home region can’t stay out of the news, and it’s not been good news.

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.

St. Ephrem on Prayer

11. Our prayer has become like a hidden taste within our body, but let it richly give forth the fragrance of our faith: fragrance acts as a herald for the taste in the case of that person who has acquired the furnace which tests all scents.

12. Truth and Love are wings that cannot be separated, for Truth cannot fly without Love, nor can Love soar aloft without Truth; their yoke is one of amity.

17. Let prayer wipe clean the murky thoughts, let faith wipe clean the senses outwardly; and let one such man who is divided collect himself and become one before You.

St. Ephrem, Hymns on Faith, No. 20