Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Gift

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 -- Week of 3 Advent , Year Two
Juan de la Cruz (John of the Cross), Mystic, 1591

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p 939)
Psalms 119:49-72 (morning)        49, [53] (evening)
Zechariah 3:1-10
Revelation 4:1-8
Matthew 24:45-51

There is something wonderfully passive about the vision of heaven John is given at the opening of chapter 4 of his Revelation.  A door opens; a voice invites:  "at once I was in the spirit," he says.  Moving inward, downward -- he ascends into heaven.  But he is doing nothing.  He's only watching.  All is given.

That which is given is a universal harmony.  There is the throne, the rainbow, the elders and angels -- thunder, lightning, torches and creatures -- a sea of glass like crystal.  It all centers on the divine presence, and at the center is the eternal hymn, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come."

It's all about God.  John just watches, in awe.  There's nothing for him to do.  Nothing to add.  The vision is a gift.  He didn't have to increase his spiritual discipline to earn it.  It was just given to him.  A glimpse of the deepest reality -- universal harmony centered upon God.

I recently visited with a friend who was about to go into a surgery that was so life-threatening that two clinics and every doctor but one refused to perform it.  Her odds for surviving weren't good.

But she was fine.  She was bullet-proof.  She'd been there before.  Some time back she had coded.  She died on the table.  She was brought back.  And she returned with a memory.  She was in heaven, and there she met the dearest friends she had ever had.  They loved her more than anyone else had ever loved her, and they knew her better than even her beloved family did.  And she knew she loved them, more than anyone, even family.  But, she wondered, she didn't know their names.  It was as if she couldn't remember the names of the most important, most beloved friends of her life. 

They were "her angels," she said.  Before going into the risky surgery she said, with peace and confidence -- "They will be with me in there.  They will be with the doctor." 

Nothing to do.  All is given.  All is ultimate harmony, peace and praise at the center of everything. 

Oh, she survived.  She's got a long, tough road ahead, with no guarantees.  Except.  She's got her angels.  She's seen something that makes everything else subordinate.  She didn't have to do anything for the gift of that vision.  Except die.  That seems to be the way it is.


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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 -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

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

See 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 9:20 AM, Anonymous janet said...

Hi Lowell,

How beautiful. A glimpse of spiritual reality is all we need, and then we seem to know, with a knowing that is beyond our own capacity to know, that it is all grace upon grace upon grace. Gift, as you term it.

It helps to take this vision back into the really unfair, difficult, unjust happenings, and seek the grace there. The Revelation to John, and your story, and Christ tells us it is always there. Sometimes I think of it as resting on the infinite and I draw a little infinity sign and put a stick figure there, resting, like in a hammock. Other than showing me I don't have artistic talent for drawing, it seems a powerful symbol for some of the really hard times.

Peace and Advent light,

At 7:04 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Yes. I like the hammock imagery. And as I think about my friend -- her illness seems so wrong, so unjust, so unfair. She's young, incredibly talented, and full of capacity for life and for ministry. Remarkable, actually. Yet, she lives with such a debilitating and life-threatening illness. She knows her angels are working for her. She can rest.



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