Litany for Peace
Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios
Lord and Creator of humanity, have mercy on this race of ours! In your image it was created, to live in peace and joy, reflecting your glory. Look at us now!
Swords and spears we have learned to make, to maim and kill, to oppress and to exploit. Now guns and rockets, bombs and tanks!! We lust and covet, we fight and destroy, for itís desires have overpowered us. Our greed has become insatiable.
ó Have mercy on us, Lord!
We have the borders of our own lands and seek fellowship with others only as our desires and our greed drive us. We go out only to plunder and rob, to steal and exploit, through our trade policies and our commercial strategies. We are still as greedy as ever, still as violent, still as oppressive.
ó Have mercy on us, Lord!
By our greed and lust, by our pride and selfishness, we have made this world, a place of strife and struggle of war and terrorism. We spend a major portion of the fruit of our labors to fight our brothers and sisters in other lands or in our own. Have compassion for our miserable plight!
ó Have mercy on us, Lord!
Teach us to seek justice and to pursue peace, not seeking our own, but serving the interests of the poor and needy, the oppressed and the exploited. Teach us to labor in love without greed, in order to serve in dignity and serve the needs of our fellow human beings. Teach us not to covet, not to exploit, not to oppress.
ó Teach us the ways of peace, Lord!
Help us who are gathered here to see our own role in a greed-based, oppressive and exploitative economy. Rescue us from this oppressive set-up, in which we are more often on the side of the oppressor than the oppressed. Rescue us from our narrow loyalties, from our addiction to privilege and comfort, pleasure seeking, from our local, racial or national parochialism. Teach us to look upon all humanity as one family to whose common interests we are all committed.
ó Teach us the ways of peace, Lord!
Kindle in us the quest for peace with justice, Lord! We know not where to seek it, though we know that it is only as we commit ourselves and apply ourselves to the pursuit of peace with justice, that we can know the way forward. Deliver us from the shackles of indifference and self-interests, from laziness and love of comfort and pleasure, from vain speaking and from the desire for empty praise and unearned glory from the distracting pursuit of thousand follies, from a false perception of what is the true good, from every lie and terror, from word without verity, from all that alienates from you, our Creator!
ó Teach us the ways of peace, Lord!
We are constantly destroying our ecology and we are affected with all kind of new diseases! Teach us to join pace with the rhythm of the eco-system of the earth and the universe which are your creation!
ó Teach us the ways of peace, Lord!
Teach us the process of human becoming, through interaction with nature and through interrelation with other human beings in social labor, with a critical assessment of human social activity in science and technology and in political economy!
ó Teach us the ways of peace, Lord!
Help us with courage, Lord! We need courage to stop stockpiling and start disarming. We need courage not to waste and not to consume more than what is good for all of us together. We need courage to trust our fellow human beings. We need courage to start shaping a new world economy based on peace with justice.
ó Grant us courage, Lord!
We need wisdom to know how to order our lives as a world community. We need wisdom to know what are the values worth living for, so that we do not lose our souls in the mad pursuit of a foolish affluence. We need wisdom to know how to achieve the training of the masses of men and women for seeking their own liberation and for building the right kinds of societies.
ó Grant us wisdom, Lord!
We need power, power to withstand the unjust oppressors, terrorists, power to resist the blandishments and seductions of power itself. We need power to imagine and to create. We need power to see visions and to pursue the truth. We need power to build a world of peace with justice. We need power to hope, to struggle and to strive. We need power to create what is good and joyous, peaceful and just.
ó Grant us the right kind of power, Lord!
And most difficult of all, we need power to love! We need to know your love, so that in that love alone we seek our security. We need to know your love, in order that we may not to be afraid to love. ¬ We need to love, for love is the sign of your presence, and without love neither peace nor justice is worth very much.
ó Teach us both to know your love, and to be unafraid to love, Lord!Prayer for Peace
Dear Lord and Creator of Mankind,
forgive our foolish ways.
Drop your still dews of quietness
till all our striving ceases.
Take from our souls the stress and strain
and let us confess the beauty of your peace!
Breathe through the heats of our desire
your coolness and your balm!
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm!
Restore the peace of world
In the mercy let justice triumph!
Swords into ploughshares
Missiles into fertilizer
May wars terrorism cease
And the days of peace begin!
Blessed be the Lord our God
He has promised, he will fulfill
Strife shall cease, Peace will come
Justice shall reign, joy will overflow.
This terrorism, wars and battles between
ourselves first start precisely in the desires
fighting inside our own selves. We want
something we havenít got it, so we are
prepared to kill. We have an ambition that
we cannot satisfy, so we fight to get our way
by force. Why do we not have what we want?
Because we donít pray for it; when we pray
and donít get it is because we have not prayed
properly, we have prayed for something in
order to indulge our own desires!
Into your hands, O! Lord of all, we commend
ourselves, take us, break us if need be, then
make us anew that in you we may be
healed restored and united! Reach us your
spirit that may guide our thoughts and direct
our wills! Grant us wisdom to know
what is right and power to do what is good!
Come, Holy Spirit, come
Come as the fire and burn
Come as the wind, and cleanse
Come as the rain, and soothe
Come as the light and reveal
Convict, convert, comfort
Consecrate us to do your will.
O! Thou that are manifest, be Thou manifest to us:
From the unreal lead us to Real,
From darkness lead us to Light,
From death lead us to Immortality!
And now committing ourselves along with the
whole of humanity into your loving hands, we would
sum up our aspirations in the prayer saying:
Thy Will Be Done!
Life was in danger. Not just human life, but all life. For life is a fragile thing in our world. It needs all the right conditions - air and water within certain specific range of temperature, for example. If the atmosphere gets too warmed up or too cold, most forms of life will perish, and planet earth can become like Jupiter or Venus, or even like our own Moon.
If we keep burning as much of our fossil fuels as we have done in the last 30 years, we can increase the temperature of the planet, which could lead to melting of ice in the poles and flood many parts of our coasts and radically change our climate. If we keep piling up nuclear arms, a holocaust may bring about the end of most life on this planet, and the earth could become hell. If we keep up the present national and international economic structures in our countries and in the world, we may be inviting catastrophe soon, because the wrath of God can strike a deadly blow to the powerful oppressor. If the quality of human life in our broken families and in our spiritual self-isolation does not improve, we might perish inside, right in the middle of affluence.
At the same time, on science and technology are opening new doors. We can now manipulate life, change biological structures, and create new organisms. We have to learn to walk carefully through these new doors, for there are many false steps beyond those doors which could lead to catastrophe.
The worst and of course the basic problem is that human life has become largely alienated from its source-the life of God. This is the problem to which some answer has to come from the Christian faith. That is why it is important to study the Bible and reflect on our faith, to see how Jesus Christ can truly become the life of the world. As the Prophet Amos said: "Seek the Lord and Live" (Amos 5:6).
Go through the Bible, the old and the new testaments, and write down life-related verses, and study their context. Some examples are given below:
"Seek me and live." Amos 5:4
"Why will you die, O house of Israel!
For 1 have no pleasure in the death of any one,
says the Lord God; so turn and live." Ezek. 18:31-32
"Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy ?.....
Incline your ear, and come to me;
Hear, that your soul may live"
"The world will see me no more, but you will see me;
because I live, you will live also" St. John 14:19.
"If you live in accordance with the (demands of the)
flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to
death the acts of the body, you will live."
"None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies
to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord,
and if we die, we die to the Lord;
So then, whether we live or whether we die,
we are the Lordís."
"As dying, and behold, we live!"
2 Cor. 6:9
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer
I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life
I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son
of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
"It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the
beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give
water without price from the fountain of the water of life."
The Text and the Context
The Word of God speaks to us in our situation, in our context,
That context has, however, several aspects, which need to be kept in mind;
(a) the socio-economic context of our existence in our locality, in our nation, in the world. It is dangerous to seek to hear the Word of God without seeking that Word of God for all human beings, but addressed to us personally. We live in a world where the human race suffers incredibly brutal injustice, where poverty and oppression are rampant, where corruption, deceit, cruelty and insensitivity to the needs of others prevail. We have to seek the Word of God to us in this context.
(b) the context of our own personal life with its uncertainties, anxieties, needs, fears, failures, aspirations and enslavements. It is not the question of how our souls can be saved, but how we by our sinful acts and predilections create obstacles to the Spirit of God working through us.
(c) the context and situation in which the scripture passage itself arose and to which it was then the Word of God.
(d) the perennial eschatological situation and contexi in which Christ has already come and saved the world, and the world is yet not liberated from sin - the context of hope and suffering, or hope in the midst of suffering.
It will be harmful to confine ourselves to the contemporary socio-economic context alone - as some modern theologies are often tempted to do. The personal element is equally important.
A Word about Biblical Meditation
There is no one given way of doing Biblical meditation. But certain facts are worth noting.
1. These meditations are written for personal (individual) work as well as group work. The exercises at the end can be used by persons and groups.
2. One hour, interspersed with periods of silence, is the tims necessary for most people to shift gears from the world of every day concerns to the transcendent realm where Godís Word can speak to us, also about our every day concerns.
3. Silence, even in group work, is extremely important. Creative use of silence is the best way to help in the shifting of gears, where we are no longer acting purely as subject, ourselves doing the thinking, the studying, the discussing etc. The Psalmist often speaks of meditation;
"Oh, How I love Thy Torah !
All day it is my meditation!
More than all my teachers
I discern and know
For Thy solemn affirmations
Form the centre of my meditation"
Ps. 119:97 and 99.
4. Personal meditation is like the silent reflection of someone who is in love. In romantic love, a human being becomes the centre of our meditation. We rejoice in the memory. The Psalmist says that he takes the same delight in meditating on Godís Torah - not the law in the sense we understand law but Godís loving guidance of us, his promises to us, his affirmations in which we put our hops. Cultivating the act of secret rejoicing, mostly in silence, about Godís love towards us, His guiding of our lives, (as persons, groups, nations, churches, humanity as a whole), his wondrous and precious promises to us - this is the way to developing spiritual discernment - not just rational, discursive study of the Bible. That is why good bible study always requires deep preparation - both for the leader and for the participants - through long and sustained meditation, before, during and after the Bible study.
4. The Psalmist uses two different Hebrew words for "meditation":ó
(a) hagig, higguth, & higgayon forming one set in Ps. 5:12 49:3 and 19:14 respectively;
b) Siach or sichah, another set in Psalms 104:31 and 119:97 and 99.
These two words refer to tha two aspects of Biblical Meditation. The first set comes from the hagah which means to muse, to whisper to speak inarticulately, to growl or mumble, to sigh. This kind of higguth requires a deep breath, getting plenty of oxygen into your lungs and blood, the heaving of a deep sigh, a sorrowful recognition of the futility of our misguided pursuits in life, an inner shifting of gears in order to muse on the things that really matter deep inside of us. Such meditation is closely related to repentance and a turning towards God, in recognition of the futility of our own foolish pursuits. Here the very centre of oneís personality has to be involved, not just the intellect, nor our usual superficial self that loves to talk and show off. Such meditation requires some inner groaning, some sighing, some weeping in the depths, but most of all - shifting gears in order to listen, to be taught by God,to be filled by God.
The second set of wordy for meditation come from the Hebrew root suach which means to "sink to the bottom" as in Ps. 44:25 "Our soul sinks down, to the dust" or as in Ps 42:11: "Why are you sunken down, O my soul?" It has also the sense of being depressed in oneís mind (Lam. 3:20). But when it is vised in the context of meditation, it means:
(a) a sinking away of cneís aggressive ego
(b) a surrender or submission into the hands of God, in complete love and trust.
"Be still and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). Here the word used for "being still" is raphah which also means sink, relax, let go.
In other words, true Biblical meditation is not discursive reflection as much as repentance and trust, turning away from oneís aggressive and false self, to come before the Lord and surrender oneself, in faith, without reservation, to his love.
All personal meditations and group mediations should lead to this experience of letting go, and falling into the loving hands of God. Only then can Jesus Christ who is the life of the world, rule freely in our hearts.
(5) We are choosing a series of Life Images for our topics of meditation. We hope that these images will first speak to us non-discursively, appealing directly to our whole person as a picture, as a moving dynamic image to which we respond from our depth. Then we can go on to discursive study; in the third stage we must come to repentance and trust, letting go of our egoes, in order that God may take over our selves and fill them with Himself in His love.
All three stages are important:-
(a) Letting the pictures speak to our depth, to our unconscious mind,
(b) going through a time of discursive reflection so that our conscious mind also gets a grasp of the main ideas; and
(c) the centre of our personality going through the change of letting go and letting God take over.
Images for Meditation
The first three images are action pictures:
(1) the Risen Christís dramatic appearance to Mary Magdalene, and her mistaking him for the gardener;
(2) the seven disciples, after the Lord is risen, going back to their old profession of fishing and not being able to catch any fish during the night - until Christ appears and the day dawns;
and (3) the young John and the old Peter running at full speed to the tomb of Jesus, hearing that his body had been taken away, and their encounter with the empty tomb.
This is followed by four studies in each of which more than one image of life is studied; though one is at the centre.
(4) The Wind or Breath of God is a primary symbol of life. The main stories are the prophet Ezekielís famous vision of the Valley of Dry Bones and the story of Christís Baptism.
(5) Here the Birth of New Life is discussed in the light of the Nicodemus discourse and the nature of the new-born body is explored.
(6) The other images of the new body, the living Temple, the Vine and the Branches and the Tree of Life are here studied in order to see the corporate nature of the new life in Christ.
(7) The final image has to do with how the body is fed, how it grows and how it becomes the body of our Lord. The dominant images here are Bread, Body and Blood, Milk of the Word.
The central emphasis in these seven studies falls on the corporate and corporeal character of life - to counteract a false individualism and a false spiritualism in our understanding of life. Life is derived from others, shared with others, and for the sake of others. Life is a bodily reality. There is no life except in a body. Life is always corporate and corporeal.
Created life is always a gift. There is no reason why it is given. It comes out of love, and is to be lived in love and in joyous creativity.
Sample Meditation I
The Risen Christ and First witness
Passages, Main: St. Johnís Gospel 20:1, 11-18 Supplementary: Mt. 27:57-28:10 Mk. 15:40-16:11 Lk. 8:1.3, 23:49-24:12
Translation of Main Text
On the first day of the week, Mary the Magdalene comes early in the morning, while it is still dark, to the tomb (of Jesus), and sees the covering stone removed from the face of the tomb... (So she ran, told Peter & John and came running back, with them. Peter and John saw the empty tomb, and went back home).
But Mary stood near the tomb, outside, weeping. Going on weeping, she bent and looked inside the tomb. And there she saw something remarkable: two divine messengers (angels), clad in spotless brilliant white, seated at both ends of the spot where Jesusí body had been before it rose. One was at the head and the other at the foot. They said to her: "Lady, why are you weeping?" She replied "They have taken away my Lord, and I have no idea where they placed his body."
After this conversation, Mary turned round to her back, and there, outside the tomb, she saw Jesus standing; but she did not realise that it was Jesus.
So Jesus says to her "Lady, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" She thought it was the gardener. So she said to him: "Sir, did you take him away? If so, please tell me where you have put him. I will take the body away."
Jesus then says: "Mary!" Now she turned towards him and said to him in Hebrew: "Rabboni" (which means: my beloved Master and Teacher).
Then Jesus says to her: "Please do not cling to me now; for I have not yet gone up to my Father. But you go to my disciples and tell them: l am soon ascending to my Father, who is also your Father, my God as well as yours."
So Mary the Magdalene comes to the disciples announcing to them that she had seen the Lord and that he had given her this message.
Commentary and Exercises
1. The account of the Evangelist is based on the testimony of St. John the Beloved Apostle, who was a participant in these events, and who heard the story from Mary the Magdalene herself.
2. Meditate on the fact that the first witness to the Resurrection of Christ was Mary the Magdalene, a woman, a poor woman, a former prostitute. She was there before the Apostles. The Apostles went home after seeing the empty tomb. But Mary stood there weeping; determined to find out what had happened, and to recover the body of her Lord if she could find it. The Eastern Church honours Mary the Magdalene as the First Witness (Protomartus). (Exercise-Findout what the Biblical accounts say of Mary (Matt. 27: 56, 61,28:1; Mk 15:40,47,16: 19: Lk 8:2; 24:10, Jn. 19:25. Was she the same as the sister of Lazarus and Martha? Magdala is in Galilee; Lazarus and his sisters lived in Bethania, outside Jerusalem in Judea).
3. The new life of Christ, which is now the life of the world, springs out of a tomb, not with great fanfare, but announced by the divine messengers (angels) to a simple, poor woman first, who in turn announces it to the Apostles, themselves rather unlettered working class people of very low income. It is still being announced by very ordinary people; the theologians and scholars continue to hedge the issue and are unable to repeat the message of the angels- "He is not in the tomb; He is risen." They have difficulty giving credence to the witness of the Apostles and the 500 odd first hand witnesses, who affirmed "We have seen the risen Lord. We have seen him with our eyes, heard him with our ears." Some even speak about the word of Life "which we have seen with our eyes, have looked upon, and have touched with our hands" (1 John 1:1). It was this convinced affirmation that sustained the early Church. It is the inability to affirm with conviction and relevance this new life of the Risen Christ that marks the central failure of the Christian Church today.
Mary the poor woman, should convince us of role of the ordinary Christian in the passionate, convinced, non-triumphalistic, relevantly formulated affirmation of the Risen Christ.
(Exercise - spend 5 minutes in silent meditation on the Risen Christ, asking him in prayer to remove all doubt, to dispel all darkness, within oneself as well as within the world, that the light of Christ may dawn in our minds and spirits).
4. Meditate further on the tableau - the Empty Tomb, with angels inside; outside, in the thick pre-dawn darkness, Mary standing weeping, suddenly encountering someone she thought was the gardener, sympathetic to her, asking why she was weeping. Her frantic plea to him to show her where the dead body was - while the living body is standing right in front; the excitement of the final recognition at that sweet, loving call of the Master - "Mary!" The clinging to the feet of the Master, and the Lord saying to her "Do not try to hold on to me physically. When I am ascended to my Father, there will be a new way for you to adhere to me and share in my life, myself living in you and you in me."
(Keep silence for 5 minutes).
5. Why does Christ say: "My Father and your Father" rather than "Our Father"? Did Christ ever use the expression "Our Father" to refer to God the Father? Was the Lordís Prayer meant to be said by the Lord also (Forgive us as we forgive our debtors)? If not, in what sense is Christís relationship to God the Father different from ours? Same as ours? Reflect on this theological question, but do not insist on settling it to the satisfaction of all.
6. Reflect on how the Empty Tomb and the message of the angels can be made meaningful and relevant to a world groaning under the weight of abject and persistent poverty, enormous injustice, frightening loneliness and widespread despair, cynicism and unbelief. Does the Empty Tomb still have a message for nations and peoples?
Make this a free for all discussion. At the end conclude with a prayer, or a hymn followed by a prayer:
Possible Hymns: An Orthodox Resurrection Hymn.
One of the Protestant Resurrection Hymns.
A Gregorian chant from the Roman Catholic liturgy of Easter.
Christ is risen from the dead! He has crushed death and bestowed life upon those who lay in the tomb!
Christ our Lord, Risen from the Dead, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, who became a human being like any of us, have mercy upon us now. By thy light dispel the darkness of our sin. By thy life cancel our death and give us life anew.
Shine upon us, O Master, upon us poor sinners languishing in the pre-dawn darkness of our sin, which can be dispelled only by the dawn of Thy risen presence! (Silence).
Have mercy upon this whole human race of ours, to which you also now belong, O Christ our Lord; dispel all despair and cynicism, banish the banes of war and injustice, may your light become the light of the nations, that they may learn to live in wisdom, justice and peace.
Lord, in our loneliness and despair we cling to forms that we can touch and feel, see and hear, taste and enjoy. Grant us to know Thee as Risen and Ascended, dwelling in our bodies and leading us in Thy ways.
Into your hands, O Risen and Ascended Christ, we commend our bodies and minds, our institutions and the structures of our common life. Infuse them with the glorious and life-giving radiance of your light, and make them bearers and dispensers of the life and the light that come from you. Here we are, bowing before you. Take us, break us if need be, but dwell in us, reign in our bodies and minds and do your mighty work in us, that the whole world may be redeemed and live in Thy light, for ever and ever.
Sample Meditation II
Life as Growing Body
(1 Cor : 12: 1- 14: 1)
We know, in our ordinary experience, of no life apart from a body. In fact body really means matter organized with a life-principle at its centre.
Life begins with the body and grows with the body. It may go on without the body; but we do not see life beginning without a body, or growing without a body.
The body is not evil. Matter is not evil. Jesus Christ our Lord took a body, a body of flesh, a material body. His incarnate life began with a body, and grew with the body. The body is not necessarily sinful. There can be sinless bodies; the body of the Christ who took on flesh is an instance of a sinless body.
Let us not hate the body, our own bodies or the bodies of others. The Spirit of God dwells in bodies and works through bodies. God the Son has a body, and the Holy Spirit is in process of building up that body, which Christ called "my fatherís house", John 2: 16-19, "my fatherís house" is the Jerusalem temple and the risen body of Christ, but in John 14:2 it means the future Church, in which people can "abide" and "bear fruit." (Jn 15:5.)
The Christian Gospel is about the Body - the Body that the Son of God took; the Body in which eternal life operates and is shared by its members; the Body which grows and is built up or edified; the body of a servant who girded his loins and washed the feet of his disciples; the body which Mary anointed with precious oil; the body which was nailed to the cross, the body that rose from the tomb and later ascended into heaven.
The teaching that the soul alone matters is not Christian; it is Gnostic, Hindu, or pagan. Life is a bodily phenomenon. Created life is bodily life - whether of angels or of humans, animals or plants. Jesus Christ took flesh in order that the flesh may be redeemed, not just the soul, It is the flesh that is to rise again, not just the soul.
II The Texts (1 Cor. 12: 1ó14:1)
Brothers and Sisters, I do not want you to be ignorant of what concerns people with special spiritual or charismatic gifts. You know that previously you were not Jews, but Gentiles who were led without discernment to the worship of dumb idols. So I would want you to know that anyone who has the true spirit of God will never say ĎJesus be accursedí (as some people do under pressure from the Jew or the persecuting pagan). Nor can you boldly say (when under similar pressure) "The Lord is Jesus" unless you have the Holy Spirit empowering and emboldening you.
Now the charismatic gifts of the Spirit are diverse; but the Spirit who gives these gifts is One and the same. And the Spiritís ministries are diverse; but it is the same Lord who ministers through all the ministers. The operators of the dynamic powers are also diverse; but it is the same God who energizes and operates in all things, all people, as well as in all the operators.
But to each one is given a different expression of the Spirit, as fits each case and is good for the whole. To some the words of wisdom are given through the Spirit; to others it may be the words of scholarship; but it is the same Spirit who gives; the same Spirit gives to others deep faith; to some the healing gifts; to yet others the gift of operating unusual powers; to some the gift of prophecy; to others the gift of distinguishing between good spirits and evil spirits; to some others gifts of the type that enables speaking in unknown tongues, to yet others the gift of interpreting what they speak - yet it is always one and the same Spirit who is the single opreator behind all these various operations; choosing by his own will to give a different gift to each.
It is like the operation of the body. The body is one, but it has many different organs; despite the variety of organs the body is still one. The same is true of Christ. You are all baptized into that one Christ by the one Spirit; it makes no difference whether you were formerly Jews or gentiles, freemen or slaves i.e, before you were baptized. It is one and the same Spirit from which we were all given to drink.
And the body is not a single organ, but composed of many different organs. Suppose the foot were to say "since I am not a hand I do not belong to the body"; its saying so will not make it outside the body. And if the ear, for example, says "I am not the eye, so I donít belong to the body." That would not make the ear not to belong to the body. Supposing the whole body were the eye, where would hearing be? And if the whole body were the sense of hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
But now, God has set the various organs and limbs to their own place in the body, as He willed. If the whole thing was a single organ where would the body be? As it is, the organs are many but the body is still one... Each organ has its form and function. What is comely in form may be lowly in function. What is functionally good needs pehaps no comeliness of form. God has put together the whole body, giving special honour to the humbler parts. The point is that there should be no division in the body through pride of form or function. Each has need of the other for common functioning, and all parts should be concerned for each other. If one organ is in pain, the other organs suffer with it; if one organ gets a special glory, all organs can rejoice together.
Now, you people together are the one Body of Christ, each one a functioning organ within it. And you people, God has set indifferent functions in the Church - first Apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then those with miraculous powers, then healing powers, pastoral helpers, rulers, and the kind of people who speak in tongues. But is everyone an apostle? or is everyone a prophet? are all teachers? do all have miracle working powers? do all have the gift of healing? Do all speak in tongues? or do all have the ability to interpret the tongues?
I would say, seek after the nobler gifts. And I will show you the noblest of ways. If I can speak the languages of humans as well as of angels, and yet have no love, I am but a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, know all deep mysteries and possess all knowledge, even if I have the faith that moves mountains, and yet have not love, I am nothing.
1. Imagine your own boJy. Picture the various systems beautifully co-ordinated: the breathing system; the blood system; the food and drink system; the nerve system; the bone and muscle system; picture also me various organs - the brain, the eye, the ear, the skin, the tongue, the heart, the liver, the pancreas, the lungs etc. Sea how intricately they are put together to form a body within which life functions.
2. Picture in your mind how this body functions in relation to the outside: the intake of oxygen from the air and the emission of carbon-di-oxide; the intake of food and drink and the elimination of the waste; the intake of images through the eye; sound waves through the ear; of particles of fragrant objects through the nose, of heat and cold and other sensations through the skin. We cannot live as human persons without interacting with the material world and the world of other living beings.
3. Imagine again how all the movements of the planet earth are essential to the life-cycle - the movement around its own axle, the orbiting around the sun, the moon orbiting around the earth, the whole solar system in relation to the galaxy, the galaxies in the universe etc. All the movements are directly related to my life - my existence. To take the simplest example, the sun gives the energy which plants convert into food; the sun causes night and day, rain and snow, sunshine and storm - all of which affect us. No human being is an isolated island.
4. Now imagine all the cells in oneís body - billions of them, constantly growing, decaying and replaced, so that almost none of the cells in my body which existed 20 years ago are there today. What is the energy that creates cells, uses them, discards them and replaces them in such an orderly and systematic way that continuity is not lost ?
5. Imagine again the energy system that makes the universe go on with all its complex systems, that makes our solar and planetary system work, the life-system work, the life in our bodies work.
6. Now picture to yourself the new life-system that was born in this world in the womb of a Virgin, by the Anounciation of the Word of God through an angel, and through the activity of the Holy Spirit of God. This new germ of life in the womb of the Virgin is an integral part of our universe and our life-system; it is an ovum in the womb of the Virgin that is fertilised and grows by the process of cell-Multiplication common to all human embryos. And yet its origin is not in the fleshly desire of a human father as the New English Bible puts it (John 1: 13), but from God Himsilf - the eternal Word, eternally with the Father, the express image of God.
7. It is this new life-system, paradoxically identical with our human system, and at the same time totally Sui generis, without parallel, in that it is a new life, the life that is fully human and fully divine, which because it is human can go through death and come alive through the resurrection. Imagine in your mind the irruption of this new life-system into our old death-bound life-system. Imagine the conception in the Virginís womb as the Great Beginning of the life that overcomes death.
8. Reconstruct the tableau of the angel bringing the Gospel-the Word of God - to this humble poor Palestinian Jewish girl. (If you can get an Eastern Orthodox icon of the Annunciation, place it before you and meditate on it).
9. Imagine then that divine human life growing in the womb, its infancy, boyhood and adulthood; its healing and teaching ministry, its struggle against the Prince of Death in the wilderness (the Temptation); the struggle against representatives of the old life; its Crucifixion and Resurrection. Recreate the picture of what happened in the Tomb - the sudden coming back to life of a body several days dead; its coming out of the Tomb, its appearances to Mary Magdalene and to the Apostles, its ascension into heaven.
10. Now imagine the company of Apostles in the Upper Room as they waited on Pentecost in gloom and near-despair, but with faith and a faint hope - like many of us - life afraid of death, light afraid of darkness. (Acts 2:1-4).
11. Now imagine again the new irruption of Life at Pentecost. The noise like a strong driving storm, coming from above, and shattering the gloom and the despair; filling the house with its power, energising the weak and dying; the flame-tongues that settled and sat on each disciple; the speaking in tongues; the bold witnessing to the crowds about the new life that has irrupted into our dead world.
12. Imagine now that small group of people welded together into a well knit community by the Holy Spirit; the new boldness of power; the new warmth of burning love; the bold preaching of the new life. It is this that is now the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the power that binds together those humble fishermen and makes them the power that would ultimately over throw all tyranny and oppression. It is to this body that all gifts are given by the Spirit - apostleship, prophecy, healing, teaching, serving, witnessing. It is this Body where the new life can be experienced and witnessed to.
13. What makes the Body united is the presence of the Spirit of God, the same Spirit who carne and abode upon Christ at his baptism. The most fundamental gift of this Spirit, the new gift and the new commandment, is love. (Romans 5:5; John 15:17; I Cor 14:1) It is this love that unites the Church, and makes it a true servant of God, the visible manifest presence of God in the world, the Christ-presence in the world. Without love there is neither unity nor witness.
14. Meditate on the relation between love and life. Love creates life; Godís love created ours, both the old life and the new life. Love sustains life; Godís love sustains us in life. Love is the true basis of hope. He who loves can hope and trust in the Loved One.
Be still and know - know Godís love; may that love be poured into your heart by the Spirit. As you surrender, Godís Spirit takes over. Keep nothing back. Give all to love.
Prayers for Quiet Meditation
O God our Father, my Lord and Master, unto Thee I surrender my body and soul. Rule Thou in my heart, be my sovereign Lord. Keep my mind and will, my body and soul, my feeling and my desire, all under Thy divine command. For, except Thou guide them they go wherever they want, and I become their slave. But when Thou art in command all is under control. I am too weak now to control my feelings and desires, my wants and fears.
Make me strong, Lord Jesus Christ and make me pure. Drive out all evil desire. Infuse the purity of Thy Spirit into my body and soul. Let no evil spirit have sway over my body or soul. Let the Holy Spirit take over, and let His love build me up, His holiness purify me, His wisdom lead me. Unite my body with Thy body, O Christ, and my soul with Your Soul.
Come, Holy Spirit, come as the fire and burn away all the chaff in me. Come to convict, to convert, and to consecrate. Come as the wind and cleanse me of all the dust and dirt in me. Come as the light and show me Thy way. Come to heal, to comfort, to give strength and wisdom. Come Holy Spirit, come, I am Thine.
But above all, at this very moment of prayer, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, fill me with the love of people. May my heart be filled with compassion for others, and may my will be quickened to serve those in need. Teach me to weep with the weeping and to rejoice with the joyful. Unite my heart and soul with the needs of others, with their suffering and joy, with their hopes and fears, so that I no longer live for myself. Teach me to pray, not so much for my own needs, as for the needs of others.
Pour out Thy love into my heart, as well as into the hearts of others, so that all our hearts may be welded together by Thy love. For Thou art love, and where truth and love, compassion and holiness, peace and righteousness meet, there Thou art.
Into Thy loving hands, O Lord, we commend our own selves, as well as the selves of all mankind. Have mercy upon us and unite us all by Thy love.
Thy Kingdom come, Amen.