About This Week's Prompts for Personal Meditation Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. Luke 13:10-13
A woman afflicted with a bent back, who, for 18 years looked only at the ground, is healed by Jesus on the Sabbath Day. On this day of days, the holy of holies, she experiences a foretaste of resurrection. And she didn't even ask, she just happened to be near Jesus at the right time. Jesus faced the sacred moment: so did the woman.
This causes controversy of course. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day."
But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?" Luke 13:14-16 If it were me, I'd accept healing any day - but healing on the Sabbath day brings home even more profoundly the hope of resurrection, transformation, peace, fulfillment.
For this week's meditation process, I went first to one of my favorite and continually inspiring books, Abraham Heschel's The Sabbath (meditation one). I chose a prayer of Augustine's for healing in body and soul (meditation two). Niceta urges the church to seek Christ for healing (meditation three).
It occurs to me for the first time that praying in the sphere of Christ is like praying in the sphere of the Sabbath. But then, Jesus did say, "I am the resurrection..." Let us offer one another prayers for insight, healing, and hope, and let us live Sabbath graces in a troubled, difficult world as a sign of God's reign.
Meditation One Facing the Sacred Moments
The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments. ...
The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon the share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world. -Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1907-1972 The Sabbath
Gherarducci, Gradual, circa 1370
O what their joy and their glory must be those endless Sabbaths the blessed ones see; crown for the valiant, to weary ones rest: God shall be all, and in all ever blest.
Truly, “Jerusalem” name we that shore, city of peace that brings joy ever more; wish and fulfillment are not severed there, nor do things prayed for come short of the prayer.
There, where no troubles distraction can bring, we the sweet anthems of Zion shall sing; while for thy grace, Lord, their voices of praise thy blessed people eternally raise.
Now, in the meantwhile, with hearts raised on high, we for that country must yearn and must sigh, seeking Jerusalem, dear native land, through our long exile on Babylon's strand.
Low before him with our praises we fall, of whom, and in whom, and through whom are all; of whom the Father; and in whom, the Son; through whom, the Spirit, with them ever One.
-Peter Abelard 1079-1142 trans. John Mason Neale 1818-1866
Gherarducci, Gradual, 1395
Meditation Two A plea for healing
O Holy Spirit, Love of God, powerful Advocate and sweetest Comforter, infuse Thy grace and descend plentifully into my heart, for in whomsoever Thou dwellest, the Father and the Son come likewise and inhabit that breast. ...O come, Thou Cleanser of all inward pollutions, and Healer of spiritual wounds and diseases. ... Come, in much mercy, and make me fit to receive Thee. -St. Augustine, 354-430 exerpt from Treatise on the Love of God
The Word became flesh to communicate to us human beings caught in the mud, the pain, the fears and the brokenness of existence, the life, the joy, the communion, the ecstatic gift of love that is the source of all love and life and unity in our universe and that is the very life of God.
-Jean Vanier, b.1928
Meditation Three Living into the Resurrection If you would be wise, ask him who is wisdom. When it is too dark for you to see, seek Christ, for he is the light. Are you sick? Have recourse to him who is both doctor and health. Have no fear whatever of death, for Christ is the life of those who believe. Would you know by whom the world was made and all things are sustained? Believe in him, for his is the arm and right hand. Are you afraid of this or that? Remember that on all occasions he will stand by your side like an angel. If you are afraid that your body is failing and have a dread of death, remember that he is the resurrection, and can raise up what has fallen. -Niceta, 1155-c1217 The Names and Titles of Our Saviour Quoted from Gail Ramshaw's Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary
The Last Word Hope is the struggle of the soul, breaking loose from what is perishable, and attesting her eternity.
-Herman Melville, 1819-1891
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.