We worship God in spirit and truth for God is spirit and so our prayers are spiritual offerings and replace ancient sacrifices. (John 4:24) Our new sacrifice, which is prayer, is offered from the heart, fed on faith, prepared by truth, unblemished in innocence, pure in chastity, garlanded with love, which we bring to God’s altar, in procession of good works, to the accompaniment of psalms and hymns. This will obtain for us from God all that we ask. (Tertullian On Prayer) This time of Lent is not just a time for fasting and giving alms, but is also a time of devotion and prayer. Fasting, alms, and prayer, are like three sisters, which go hand in hand. If, then, prayer is necessary at all times and is the very life of a Christian, it is certainly an indispensable duty at this holy time.
But what is prayer? All private prayer of every kind, is a conversation with God and a rising up of the mind and heart to God. By our words we address ourselves to God We present him with our homage, adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. In his presence by our faith, hope, and love, we lay before him all our necessities and Continue reading On Prayer: Meditations for Lent Week 3→
Pierre Dauriac was a captain in the French police and his mother was very proud of him until he took up Zen. She said nothing, because she understood that men often drifted away from the church of their fathers. She knew that on his deathbed he would be blessed with holy oil and sent onwards to heaven. Now nobody could remember anything ever happening to change Pierre’s routines. His stability was reassuring in a changing world. He worked away six days a week and then was back in Banios for the weekend. He dug his vegetables on Sunday morning, played football in the afternoon and went to the café for a drink until six when he went home. People only ever saw him in uniform when he left and returned from duty except for the time the Minister of Agriculture visited. Then Pierre stood by him, looking like thunder when everyone shouted and yelled about the level of their corn subsidies. As far as we knew Pierre was a confirmed bachelor, although someone once said they had seen him in town with an African woman and an Albino child. As no one had ever seen an Albino child, no one believed the story.
One Saturday morning, Pierre started digging up the front garden. First he made a little stream run through it, which everyone thought stupid since we lived by one of the greatest rivers in the mountains. Then he made a bridge in the Continue reading Chapter 4: The Buddha Monkey→
Religion is where I must begin, decided the Devil. There is no better place to start a war or just cause trouble than in religion. Everyone knows that. They are sure to wind up arguing the merits of this or that and, finally, start to hate each. He knew it didn’t take much to get people stirred up. He remembered that in Russia, people long ago had divided up between those who believed in crossing themselves one way, while the others decided a different way was right. To this day they still did not approve of each other. He smiled, knowing his choice of religion was the right way to make Banios fall from grace and bring the angel back. He would capture her. He would embrace her. He would eat of the Cloud of Goodness. Then, he would know love and God would take him back.
The Devil flew up to the church steeple and shook the bells. As it was in the middle of the night, this woke up everyone. Then they heard him singing. ‘What was he doing?’, everyone asked. ‘What was going to happen now?’ They trembled in fear. Pepito Fourcade pulled the covers over his head and his wife told him that God would take care of it, no matter what happened. ‘God’, Pepito mumbled, ‘is what started it all.’ Continue reading Chapter 3: Plan One of the Devil→
Jesus clearly tells us that in order to find mercy we must show mercy. Blessed are the merciful, he explains, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:7) The Apostle James tells us of the consequences of those who show no mercy: they will be judged without mercy. (James 2:13) So important is mercy that God himself expressly rejects the fast of those that refuse to show mercy to their neighbour. He declares he will neither hear their prayers nor accept their sacrifices. (Prov. 21:13, Isaiah 1:11/ 15-18) If then, you desire at this Lent time to seek divine mercy for yourself in the forgiveness of your sins, see that your fasting and prayer is accompanied with your own acts of mercy to others.
If you have much, give abundantly and, if you have little, take care even then to be willing to bestow some benefit on others. This is the guidance you need when it comes to acts of mercy. (Tob. 4:9) Such mercy and charity will recommend your fasting and prayer to God who is all charity and whose tender mercies are above all his works.
In the beginning, since all histories must have some sort of beginning, the Devil landed near this small village before it existed, before the mountains grew, and before even the stars and planets gathered in milky constellations. He hit the water in the nearby river with a mighty roar. Once out of Heaven, the Devil filled himself up with destruction and blew it around the universe. He caressed everything with his darkness and as soon as he met Adam and Eve he cursed them and all future human hearts with the knowledge of death. This went on for millions of years until one afternoon when the Devil got bored with destruction and wrecking lives and decided to visit the place where he had first landed. He returned to find a village by the river in which he had first landed. This was Banios sur l’Ange. When the Devil found the place where God had dumped him, he lived again the despair of rejection and the sadness of his loneliness. The earth shook, the wind from Provence danced with the wind from Africa, and the river flowed backwards for five days.
Fasting is recommended to us in both the Old and New Testaments and by the example of Christ and of his Saints. (Joel 2; Jonas 3) We learn that all who follow Christ are to fast and, moreover, that the devil will not leave us except by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 9:15; Mark 9:28) It is made clear that, while we fell from God originally by succumbing to temptations, we return to him by fasting. The gratifying of our sensual appetites most often betrays us both in our flesh and our happiness. It is well known that the unbridled In the discipline of fasting, we overcome them both. In other words, fasting for a Christian is never out of fashion.
Follow the Route de Palomieres until you pass the little café on the top of the ridge. Then, look carefully to your right as the forest begins. By a collection of old tree stumps, you will see a narrow dirt road. This is the way you want to go. Brambles cover the ground so be careful. After about a half-mile the path gets steep. Don’t worry you are going the right way. It’s all up hill from now on. Slowly the trees open into meadows. Floating high above an eagle watches. If you hear distant bells, it is only from Marcel Fontan’s sheep. The air turns cold, but do not give up or be frightened. You are not lost but going to Banios-sur-l’Ange. This is where the Devil landed when God threw him out of Heaven.
In the distance, nested between high cliffs and a river, is a village. A pale mist hangs above it like a discarded Christmas ribbon. The warren of stone cottages that make up Banios-sur-l’Ange or Banios-by-the-Angel are blue under its shadow. But what you see over the village is not mist or Continue reading Chapter 1: The Return→
On this day, consider how God calls you. Come back to me, he says, Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning, and turn to the Lord your God. (Joel 2:12-13) You need to hear this call in the depths of your faith and answer it without delay. Do not leave God waiting. Instead, use this day of repentance to put yourself right with him, because nothing is so dear to God as when men and women turn to him with true sorrow for having forgotten his commandments.
We know that God holds such repentance dear to his heart, because Jesus told us plainly that he had come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32) Since God knows even our most secret thoughts, there is no way we could ever claim not to be sinners. (Psalm 93) He has called us to be holy and Continue reading On Repentance: Ash Wednesday Meditation→
Consider the dreadful choices we often make, because we do not know the true state of our own self. Even worse, just think back on how many times you did things, which on reflection you should have known were not true of yourself—how you really are and feel and what you deem truly valuable in your life. Your choices, if not true of yourself, cast away both your own past experience as well as the doctrines, values, ethics and morality of your faith, your church and the teaching of Jesus. In short, we often make choices which throw out the baby with the bath water, simply because we ignore the deeper understanding we have of our true self—a self which rest in Christ and is under the will of God.
How many in the world pass their whole lives in ignorance or denial of the truth of that wisdom which proclaims Know thyself! The result for people is often a collapse into sin just for want of looking into themselves with an honest eye and an open heart. So many imagine themselves to be alive when in reality they are dead. (Apoc. 3:1) How many imagine themselves and their souls to be rich and wealthy and in need of Continue reading Preparatory Meditations for Lent→