George Herbert's Pre-sermon Prayer

An excerpt from George Herbert’s book A Priest to The Temple: Or The Country Parson, His Character, And Rule of Holy Life, included in the chapter titled, “The Authour’s Prayer before Sermon.”

Thou hast exalted thy mercy above all things; and hast made our salvation, not our punishment, thy glory: so that then where sin abounded, not death, but grace superabounded; accordingly, when we had sinned beyond any help in heaven or earth, then thou saidest, Lo, I come! then did the Lord of life, unable of himselfe to die, contrive to do it. He took flesh, he wept, he died; for his enemies he died; even for those that derided him then, and still despise him. Blessed Saviour!

Prayer is a portal

I'm headed to the beach this weekend!

Whenever we touch nature we get clean. People who have got dirty through too much civilization take a walk in the woods, or a bath in the sea. Entering the unconscious, entering yourself through dreams, is touching nature from the inside and this is the same thing, things are put right again.

— Carl Jung via: Swissmiss

This Jung quote grabbed my attention for its Emersonian charm and near narration of what I hope this weekend to be. On second reading, I found myself remolding some of the pastoral platitudes. At the risk of over-spiritualizing, here are my thoughts:

When one enters a dream, more than one's self is present. We enter the unconscious in the compony of the invisible. There, not all are benevolent. Yet, when we humble ourself to the good, true, and beautiful one, we bath in the sea, walk in the calming compony of the woods and are consequently washed, calmed, and put right, in the compony of The Man of Sorrows. In him, we get clean. In him, we touch nature from the inside.

Prayer is the portal.

Wait For It

My anxiety shortens my breath. The fundamental instinct of respiration thwarted by fear, worry, too much time just in my head. I've learned, through the trauma of a couple panic attacks and a steady breathing practice—in thru the nose, out thru the mouth—that breathing consists in waiting (thanks for humoring the personal example).

It might sound weird that I'm relearning how to breath as an adult. Mindfulness, meditation, contemplation, prayer-all forms of attentive breath train one to wait. I use the personal and fundamental example of patient breathing to claim that to wait is to be human. Our journey through time waits for an end.

Here's Nick Cave on the theme:

The idea of lyrics ‘not coming’ is basically a category error. What we are talking about is not a period of ‘not coming’ but a period of ‘not arriving’. The lyrics are always coming. They are always pending. They are always on their way toward us. But often they must journey a great distance and over vast stretches of time to get there. They advance through the rugged terrains of lived experience, battling to arrive at the end of our pen. In time, they emerge, leaping free of the unknown — from memory or, more thrillingly, from the predictive part of our minds that exists on the far side of the lived moment. It has been a long and arduous journey, and our waiting much anguished.

Meditation via Mediation: Balthasar, prayer, and The Our Father

This morning a listened to a podcast discussion on the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar that sadly seems to be inactive. Despite truncated production, the one episode that was published gave an invigorating introduction to Balthasar’s book Christian Meditation. From which, the hosts highlight VB’s theology of meditation, IN Christ. I have two takeaway thoughts and one takeaway prayer:

  1. Thomas Torrance’s The Mediation of Chirst might make a great reading companion to VB’s Chirstian Meditation for their mutual, high christology. Torrance holds a reformed catholic view of the atonement that leaves much to mystery, while staying firmly trinitarian in upholding the hypostatic union. Jesus the Christ is cosmically inclusive by way of his exclusice mediation on the cross. In a similar way, VB maintains the particular mediation by the person of Christ, in prayer. By Christ’s mediation, one does not empty the mind in order to incite God to come near. Rather, Jesus prays for us as the incited action of God, particularly when he came near in space and time to pray for us in death (Lord, Jesus, pray for me now and in the hour of my death). “Why am I forsaken,” can only be prayed by Christ on his cross.

    VB and Torrance might hug or, at least shake hands, in saying: even now, the risen, slain-Lamb is behind the veil, praying to his father, in the love of the Spirit, for his people.

  2. Prayer is inviting one’s soul into the presence of Chirst and finding one’s home in the triune God. AND Prayer is kneeling, at the trough of our sin, sadness, misery, and self-love, in/with Christ, long enough to find satisfaction in a father already running to meet us—coming to our senses…in the words of George Herbert, “Something understood.”

Our Father, in whom we surrender our perceived control, your self-revelation is heavy with value. Please bring your crowned king to rule, here and now, like it is there and always, in heaven. Give us grace enough for our next breath and decision, in remembrance of you. Please wash us with the clensing blood of your son, Jesus, as we wash others with the water of your word. Don’t steer us into the songs of the Sirens but sail us away from the rocks into the open sea of your love. Because we journey, fight, and serve your purpose, by your strength, and for your praise. Amen