Before the ending of the day 4

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What tradition will help me find my way to my true self, my vocation and my community? Henri Nouwen

I was brought  up in the baptist tradition whose defining theological foundation explores what it means to build community in the light of baptism into Christ. This has meant that most of my life I have been part of Baptist churches. However, I have come to realise that it is not enough to say: this is the church for me or I go to such and such a church.

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Before the ending of the day from the beginning 3

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Earlier this Sunday I was drawn into the Psalmist’s delight in the cosmos:

‘The heavens are telling the glory of God;

And the very ground beneath our feet proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours forth speech,

And night to night declares knowledge.

 

We live in a creation of revelation.

God has no desire to be silent; but he cannot do without his mediators.

Each day provides material enough for a night-time of meditation.

It is all Epiphany.

Before the ending of the day:

Have I the generosity of spirit

to see what I have seen,

to hear what I have heard

and delight in the glory offered in the gifts of the living world?

Before the ending of the day 2

Before the ending of the day

Creator of the world, we pray

That you, with steadfast love, would keep

Your watch around us while we sleep.

 

From evil dreams defend our sight,

From fears and terrors of the night;

Tread underfoot our deadly foe

That we no sinful thought may know.

 

O Father, that we ask be done

Through Jesus Christ your only Son;

And Holy Spirit, by whose breath

Our souls are raised to life from death.

Bishop Ambrose of Milan

 

On first reading this might appear to be a very dated prayer. God is compared to a careful parent putting an anxious child to bed. The ‘deadly foe’ is the serpent Satan from Genesis who disturbed the equilibrium of Eden.

Yet who has not known the ‘terrors’ of the night? Is it so naive or primitive to reach out for the protection of God?

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Before the ending of the day 1

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Before the ending of the day

Creator of the world, we pray

That you, with steadfast love, would keep

Your watch around us while we sleep.

From evil dreams defend our sight,

From fears and terrors of the night;

Tread underfoot our deadly foe

That we no sinful thougt may know.

O Father, that we ask be done

Through Jesus Christ your only Son;

And Holy Spirit, by whose breath

Our souls are raised to life from death.

This is a prayer composed by Ambrose Bishop of Milan in 4th century. He was one of the leading Christians of his time. It reveals a deep trust in the protection of God the Creator not only during the darkness of night but also facing times of doubt and depression as well as our own mortality. It was translated by John Mason Neale who was an historian of the Eastern Church and renowned hymn –writer in the 1800s.

Untitled1I first heard it in plainsong sung by the monks at Crawley Down Monastery. I was in the early years of my ministry and there on sabbatical.

Each evening we would gather for Night Prayer (Compline). The day had been spent in cooking, farming, printing, building and prayer. It was the final time of prayer.

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What happened next? Mary, the mother of Jesus


This meditation appeared in the Baptist Times recently. I follow it with some of my thoughts as I tried to compose it and some suggestions for reflection and prayer. We pick up the story of Mary, mother of Jesus sometime after his ascension as the disciples gather in the Upper Room. (Acts 1)

 

Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Mary quietly left the room and made her way to the wall of the city where she could see Olivet. She sat down carefully and lent against one of the great stones left by the builders. The pinnacle of the temple soared above her and she watched the birds launching themselves into the wind as it swirled up from the valley below. She could smell the desert – heavy with heat.

So she would see him no more. He spoke of a return but she did not think it would be tomorrow. Where had the years gone?

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