Bishop Owen Williams Lenten Message
Dearly Beloved Friends,
This year, as we enter the Church’s Season of Lent, custom calls for us to give up something or take something on. We do this because it is a form of discipline which is to strengthen our faith. The Church often talks about Spiritual Exercise, in order to conform our will to God’s will. Easier said than done.
Why would you give up coffee or chocolate? Or, why would you give up a favorite soap opera or sporting game? If you think you are doing it to punish yourself, because you are so wicked, then you are on the wrong track. Instead, you might ask yourself, “How does punishing myself bring me closer to God?”
Or to use another cliché, it is like “starting off on the wrong foot.” Originally, this saying came from military training. If you start off on the wrong foot when marching in ranks, you would be out of sync with the rest of the company. Most athletes would tell you that if you don’t start off on the correct foot, things can go terribly wrong.
The Sunday readings for the first four weeks of Lent are about starting off “on the right foot.” The verses from St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Thessalonians, and the Corinthians, all have that in mind. They give guidance on how to form our own spiritual lives. Likewise, the Gospel readings contain similar themes. These can give a framework to our Lenten Spiritual Work.
The world as we know it, right now, is in a terrible mess. This is nothing new. It has been that way since the Fall of Man. There are “wars and rumors of wars;” “upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity.” The last line in the Book of Judges appears to be the reality in this present time. “In those days, there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
Currently, one third of all humans call themselves Christians. Many who would label themselves followers of Christ act as if the King of Kings never existed or the Ten Commandments are merely suggestions. All Existence calls out for a Savior. In stubbornness, the people reject the Promises of Christ. They look to themselves, a fallen humanity and the source of their problems. They create false saviors.
Our true hope is in the reality of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Let us then, pick up our cross, begin our spiritual exercise, storm Heaven with prayers and “continue Christ’s faithful soldiers and servants unto life’s end.”
Your faithful servant in Christ,
Bishop Owen R. Williams
Ordinary of the Diocese of the West
Anglican Church in America
Reflection for Advent III
“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three,” writes St. Paul, “and the greatest of these is love.” I sometimes wonder if Paul had a hard time choosing the “greatest” among these three gifts from God. Certainly, I am a big fan of Love! But, after all, without faith we have no foundation. And to that end, without hope we would have no future.
Over forty-five years ago, as A young Deacon, I read something that upended my notion of hope, which until then I had taken for optimism – as in, “Do not worry! It will all work out!” The comment that I read was from Pedro Arrupe, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965 -1983. He Said: “I am quite happy to be called an optimist, but my optimism is not of the utopian variety. It is based on hope. What is an optimist? I can answer for myself in a very simple fashion: He or she is a person who has the conviction that God knows, can do, and will do what is best.”
In other words, hope is grounded in God. It is not simply having a good attitude, as important as it is. It is based on a relationship with the Source of All Being, who comes to us the Savior whose birth we await during this season of Advent.
Hope is also a gift, something we must pray for. Even in our darkest moments, when it seems like God has forgotten us (which God never does) we are invited to pray for hope. And in that very prayer, we deepen our relationship with God, and again find hope. - Fr. Michael Costanzo
From the New Advent web site
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(Greek euchesthai, Latin precari, French prier, to plead, to beg, to ask earnestly).
An act of the virtue of religion which consists in asking proper gifts or graces from God. In a more general sense it is the application of the mind to Divine things, not merely to acquire a knowledge of them but to make use of such knowledge as a means of union with God. This may be done by acts of praise and thanksgiving, but petition is the principal act of prayer.
The words used to express it in Scripture are: to call up (Genesis 4:26); to intercede (Job 22:10); to mediate (Isaiah 53:10); to consult (1 Samuel 28:6); to beseech (Exodus 32:11); and, very commonly, to cry out to. The Fathers speak of it as the elevation of the mind to God with a view to asking proper things from Him (St. John Damascene, On the Orthodox Faith III.24); communing and conversing with God (St. Gregory of Nyssa, "De oratione dom.", in P.G., XLIV, 1125); talking with God (St. John Chrysostom, "Hom. xxx in Gen.", n. 5, in P.G., LIII, 280). It is therefore the expression of our desires to God whether for ourselves or others. This expression is not intended to instruct or direct God what to do, but to appeal to His goodness for the things we need; and the appeal is necessary, not because He is ignorant of our needs or sentiments, but to give definite form to our desires, to concentrate our whole attention on what we have to recommend to Him, to help us appreciate our close personal relation with Him. The expression need not be external or vocal; internal or mental is sufficient.
By prayer we acknowledge God's power and goodness, our own neediness and dependence. It is therefore an act of the virtue of religion implying the deepest reverence for God and habituating us to look to Him for everything, not merely because the thing asked be good in itself, or advantageous to us, but chiefly because we wish it as a gift of God, and not otherwise, no matter how good or desirable it may seem to us. Prayer presupposes faith in God and hope in His goodness. By both, God, to whom we pray, moves us to prayer. Our knowledge of God by the light of natural reason also inspires us to look to Him for help, but such prayer lacks supernatural inspiration, and though it may avail to keep us from losing our natural knowledge of God and trust in Him, or, to some extent, from offending Him, it cannot positively dispose us to receive His graces.
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