Friday, April 30, 2010

Letters of Growth

Friday, April 30, 2010 -- Week of 4 Easter
Sarah Josephine Buell Hale, Editor and Prophetic Witness, 1879

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 961)
Psalms 40, 54 (morning)       51 (evening)
Exodus 34:18-35
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
Matthew 5:27-37

Our new observance from the trial calendar:  Sarah Josephine Buell Hale [Oct. 24, 1788-Apr. 30, 1879] A social reformer and advocate for women, she was an early supporter of the deaconess movement and helped establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. (Apr 30)

Paul writes today of his anxiety for the well being of the congregation in Thessoliniki.  He has been separated from them for a time, and he knows that they have been faced with many trials.  Paul writes to them after his companion Timothy has returned with good news -- the congregation continues to be healthy and vital.  Paul closes this section with a prayer for them.  "And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.  And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints."

I ran across another letter the other day, this one written by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, published in the magazine Spirituality and Health.  He was writing in response to a question about the spiritual journey.  The person he was writing to was someone who had made a shift in their life from the pursuit of financial success to a focus on "all things spiritual."  Like Paul's congregation in Thessoliniki, this person asked the Rabbi for some guidance about that journey.

Rabbi Shapiro suggests that there are "three major phases of life."  After we have spent some time, usually some considerable time, achieving some degree of financial success, most people find that pursuit unsatisfying, and shift into a second phase of accumulating -- this time "accumulating spiritual things the way you used to accumulate material ones.  You 'collect' gurus, seminars, retreats, and mystical experiences in pursuit of the next spiritual high."

He says that this second phase of spiritual accumulation eventually "proves unsatisfying, and you enter the third phase -- divestment.  You simplify your life externally and internally.  You stop chasing gurus and focus on those few people who really matter to you.  You stop shopping for enlightenment and make peace with not-knowing.  You realize that life isn't a question to be answered or a problem to be solved but a gift to be enjoyed, both in solitude and with loving friends.  The first two phases are hard work.  The third is pure play."

I often meet people who are in this third period of life.  They tend to have space and availability for others.  They are often involved in giving themselves away, especially in response to the needs of others.  Their giving is natural, joyful, playful.  In their lives the Lord has indeed abounded "in love for one another and for all."  May God strengthen all of our hearts in holiness, that we may play with such peaceful loving kindness, that we may be blameless before our God and Father.



Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Janet said...


Those in what you term the third time of life - It is Sophia, divine wisdom, that has awakened in their hearts. Thomas Merton tells it better than I ever could. Excerpts from Hagia Sophia follow.

...Sophia, the feminine child, is playing in the world,
obvious and unseen, playing at all times before the Creator.
Her delights are to be with the children of men. She is their sister.
The core of life that exists in all things is tenderness, mercy, virginity
the Light, the Life considered as passive, as received, as given, as
taken, as inexhaustibly renewed by the Gift of God. Sophia is
Gift, is Spirit, Donum Dei. She is God-given and God
Himself as Gift. God as all, and God reduced to Nothing:
inexhaustible nothingness. Exinanivit semetipsum. Humility as
the source of unfailing light.

Hagia Sophia in all things is the Divine Light reflected in them,
considered as a spontaneous participation, as their invitation
to the Wedding Feast.

Sophia is God's sharing of Himself with creatures. His outporing,
and the Love by which He is given, and known, held and loved.

She is in all things like the air receiving the sunlight. In her
they prosper. In her they glorify God. In her they rejoice to reflect
Him. In her they are united with him. She is the union between them.
She is the Love that unites them. She is life as communion, life as
thanksgiving, life as praise, life as festival, life as glory...

The feminine principle in the world is the inexhaustible source
of creative realizations of the Father's glory. She is His
manifestation in radiant splendor! But she remains unseen,
glimpsed only by a few. Sometimes there are none who
know her at all.

Peace and Alleluia,

At 3:07 PM, Blogger Rabbi Rami said...

Thanks for mentioning me, Lowell. I'm honored that you found the piece of value.

At 8:05 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

I'm just now getting back to the internet after a week's retreat.

Thank you for the wonderful Merton quote. In a real sense, we are all feminine in relationship to God -- receptive, welcoming, receiving God's outpouring of being in the Spirit.

And Rabbi Rami,
I am honored by your response. Your column in "Spirituality and Health" is a regular treat for me. Thank you for your good work.



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