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From The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas

magazine

Fall/Winter 2017

Advent: Hope for Hard Times “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the [people]; in him the [people] shall hope.�

Romans 15:12


Fall/Winter 2017 Using this issue as a resource for further study: Because every issue of Reflections explores a single topic, the magazine lends itself to further study by individuals as well as small groups or Sunday morning classes. The purpose of Reflections is not to give answers but rather to incite inquisitiveness. The writers and editor of Reflections hope the magazine's contents will inspire further exploration and reflection on each topic, especially as the topics relate to daily life. Look for "For further reflection" suggestions at the end of many articles. We invite your feedback. If you have comments on this issue or suggestions for future issues, send a note to Marjorie George, editor, email below.

To request printed back issues, contact Marjorie George at P O Box 6885 San Antonio TX 78209 Or by email: marjorie.george@dwtx.org

To be added to the mailing list, contact Leigh Saunders at P O Box 6885 San Antonio TX 78209 Or by email: leigh.saunders@dwtx.org

Reflections magazine is published by Department of Communications Episcopal Diocese of West Texas P. O. Box 6885 San Antonio, TX 78209 www.dwtx.org

Editor Marjorie George, marjorie.george@dwtx.org Communications Officer Laura Shaver, laura.shaver@dwtx.org

Offices are at The Bishop Jones Center 111 Torcido Dr. San Antonio, TX 78209 210/888-824-5387

Bishop of West Texas The Rt. Rev. David M. Reed Bishop Suffragan The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson

We invite readers from every denomination or no denomination. To subscribe (there is no charge) send name, address, and e-mail address to marjorie.george@dwtx.org or Diocese of West Texas, Attn: Marjorie George, P. O. Box 6885, San Antonio TX 78209.

Read the magazine online.This entire issue and indvidual articles in this issue, as well as previous issues, are at

www.reflections-dwtx.org 2

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In this issue Fall/Winter 2017 Advent: Hope for Hard Times 5

Beginnings and Endings - The Rev. Carol Morehead Begin again, now and always.

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Receiving Emmanuel - The Rev. Lera Tyler The procession of the poinsettias as heralds of hope.

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Delays - Marthe Curry Delays are not dead ends.

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Praying for Light in The Dark - The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson Praying for mercy, peace, love.

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Standing with Mexico - The Rev. Mary Earle and The Rev. SaĂşl Palafox After the earthquakes.

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Faith in the Days of Tragedy - The Rev. Michael K. Marsh Tears are the response that sustains.

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From Bitterness to Praise - Elizabeth Head Black The psalms change our perspective.

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Rivers of Babylon - Diane Thrush The Israelites in exile sang our song.

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Longing with Assurance - Sylvia Maddox O Come O Come Emmanuel

Liturgy as Anchor - Rilda Baker The Great Litany in present tense.

In Every Issue: 4

From the Editor

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Spiritual Formation: Advent Online

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The Back Page: A Letter from the Bishop - The Rt. Rev. David M. Reed On the killing in Sutherland Springs.

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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From the editor The Old Man and the Dog

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very morning I would see them through my window — the old man and the old dog trudging up the hill past my house. The man was tall, and maybe that contributed to his habit of walking stoop-shouldered. Every day in the same khaki shorts, even into the cool days of autumn. In dog years, the animal was probably the elder, for he too moved slowly with ears back and tail down. He never ventured off into the grass that lined the sidewalk, never offered to stop for a sniff of an unfamiliar pile of leaves. They moved in tandem, happy to be walking together in the morning breeze, the dog close by the old man’s side. Every morning it made my heart happy in an "all’s right with the world" kind of way. Then they disappeared. For a long time I saw neither of them. From time to time I would think of them in the morning and wonder if all was right with their world. I learned it was not on the day I saw the old man again, walking stoop-shouldered in the familiar khaki shorts. But the dog was not by his side, and in his hand he carried an empty dog collar. He continues to walk most mornings, carrying the empty collar in his right hand, and it makes my heart hurt in a mournful kind of way. We live in a world in which people and pets we love sometimes die too soon. We are subject to hurricane winds and out-of-control wildfires and madmen with assault rifles. Houses can be leveled, towns destroyed, and even in the sanctuary of God’s house unspeakable horror can come upon us.

by Marjorie George And what is our hope? “The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God’s purpose for the world” continues the Catechism (BCP pg 861). It is our assurance that “nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (BCP pg 862). It is not by accident that the Church places “Christ the King” Sunday at the last week of the church year, just before the First Sunday of Advent. For the end of the story is that Christ will ultimately reign, and we need to be reminded of that just now. On that day we pray in the collect that “the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.” On that day in the psalm we are reminded that "God's mercy is everlasting" and God's "faithfulness endures from age to age" (100:4). Our hope is in the name of Lord. Come O Come, Emmanuel.

Reach Marjorie at marjorie.george@dwtx.org.

From whence is our help to come? "Our help is in God" says our Catechism (The Book of Common Prayer, pg 845).

The season of Advent is the four weeks prior to Chistmas during which the faithul await, with expectancy, the coming of Christ. Advent begins December 3 this year. 4

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Beginnings

and Endings

by the Rev. Carol Morehead

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hen everything is irretrievably lost, life does not end but is at the point of new beginning says Belden C. Lane in The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. Life is always ending and beginning. Nowhere can we see that more than the incredible destruction we have seen in the past months. What appeared to be a tropical storm on the far horizon in the late August waters of the Gulf of Mexico quickly became Hurricane Harvey, barreling toward the Texas coast. Both the storm’s initial power and its lingering stall reminded us all that life is indeed unpredictable. Life as we know it can change in a moment. Following on the storm’s heels have come wildfires that have ravaged California, more hurricane winds, and two senseless mass shootings, first in Las Vegas and now here in our midst in Sutherland Springs. Truly, for many people, we are in a time when everything may seem irretrievably lost. And so it is that we come to the end of our liturgical year with a heavy weariness. We are those who are wearied by the changes and chances of continued on page 6

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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● Beginnings and Endings from page 5

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"There is no certainty that my life will be any easier in the years ahead, or that my heart will be any calmer. But there is the certainty that you are waiting for me and will welcome me home when I have persevered in my long journey to your house. O Lord, give me courage, hope, and confidence. Amen.

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- from Henri Nouwen, A Cry for Mercy

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life. We yearn to rest in God’s eternal changelessness, for God’s protection in the night, as the collect from Compline says. When everything seems like chaos and the world feels like it is ending, we cry out, “I just want my life back. Give me my life back.” And yet…we don’t get our life back. We get a new life instead. What do we do with this? In The Four Quartets, TS Eliot famously wrote, “What we call the beginning is often the end/And to make an end is to make a beginning./The end is where we start from.” I know this to be true on my own journey. Many years ago, I was in a serious car accident with painful injuries. Just days after the accident, my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly. She died a week after Easter, and while it was the season of resurrection, I was plunged into darkness, and life felt at an end. God was silent; I felt alone; I was at the end of where my lifelong faith could take me. “God can only be met in emptiness, by those who come in love, abandoning all effort to control, every need to astound,” writes Lane. “The presence of God may, as often as not, be perceived as an absence.” I was certainly empty and perceived only God’s absence. I couldn’t see beyond the pain and loss. I wanted my life back; but it was not to be. And so I waited. Listened. Yearned. With Eliot, "I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you/Which shall be the darkness of God" (from East Coker). It was Eastertide, but I couldn’t see the new life of resurrection. I was left only with the end of my life as I knew it. This darkness of God was my dwelling place, and it was dark indeed.

As much as I wished for life to begin to fall into place in those months after my accident and my mother’s death, it didn’t. Long nights and longer days followed, filled with questions that were seldom answered. It was hard work, finding this new rhythm of life, hard on me and on my family. Days and weeks became months, and soon two years had passed. I faithfully showed up to worship, in daily prayer, which was mostly just silence or sometimes tears. And then something amazing happened. I began to change. Slowly, as my body became strong through the rigors of physical therapy, my empty spirit began to notice the miracles around me. And it was with the beginning of Advent, two years after my life had exploded, that this shift happened. Advent is a season of ending and beginning. This truth took me time to discover. I had never been especially in tune with Advent. Not being raised in a liturgical church, I lacked the framework for understanding. I understood the whole waiting for the Christ Child thing: Christmas was on the horizon, and we were expectantly awaiting this wondrous coming. But what to do while waiting? This time around, though, I found a parallel between these years of waiting, of listening, of soul searching about why my life continued and my mother’s life did not, about what God wanted from me, about what I was supposed to be doing with this precious and precarious thing called life. It was within the everyday, quotidian life that I led where I found God again, or became aware enough to see that God was present. “God’s grace comes sometimes like a kick in the teeth, leaving us broken, wholly unable any longer to deny our need,” Lane reminds us. And that is what happened: I stopped denying my need for God. No longer could I hold the pretense of control in my life; I couldn’t be good enough to convince

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God to love me. I couldn’t demand that God give me the answers to life’s uncertainties, to what was most certainly random and unpredictable. In fact, the emptiness and quiet in my soul allowed me to see that God’s love is what made me good enough, rather than my being good enough to make God love me. This shattering truth is part of the ending that was taking place, the death of my own self-reliance, and new life didn’t have the space to begin without the endings I experienced. So as Advent came that year, I finally, simply, accepted the deep need I had for God Incarnate, for the promises of the Light to the Nations, for the Prince of Peace, for Emmanuel, God with us. I came to rely on the Benedictine wisdom rursus incipiemus nunc et semper — Begin again now and always. Every end is an invitation for a new beginning. This realization didn’t make the endings easy – far from it. The realization helped me see that the endings are necessary, a condition for new growth. Just like the field that lies fallow, my soul and spirit needed time to become a place for the new work God had to do in me and in my life. Now Advent is perhaps the most important part of the year for me. Advent is the time when God takes the losses, the endings, the unexpected and terrible and bewildering parts of our lives and begins to quiet us so that new life can begin again. Always, we begin again. I see the gift of the desert times; as the Arabic saying goes, The further you go into the desert, the closer you come to God. Advent has become the time in my journey when the desert days make sense, and I see on the horizon something new and verdant and growing as God in me begins again. When Advent comes this year, may we all hear the invitation to enter the journey of new life that comes, as sure as the sun rising and setting each

day, the fulfilment of God’s promise of love and care for the world. Dear Lord, I will remain restless, tense, and dissatisfied until I can be totally at peace in your house. But I am still on the road, still journeying, still tired and weary, and still wondering if I will ever make it to the city on the hill. With Vincent Van Gogh,* I keep asking your angel, whom I met on the road: “Does the road go uphill then all the way?” And the answer is: “Yes, to the very end.” And I ask again: “And will the journey take all day long?” And the answer is: “From morning till night, my friend.” * Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, Amsterdam, 30 October 1877

The Rev. Carol Morehead is Associate Rector for Liturgy, Adult Formation, and Pastoral Care at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, San Antonio. She graduated from Seminary of the Southwest in May 2013. Read more from Carol's blog at www.enteringthemysteries.com Reach her at cmorehead@stmarks-sa.org.

For further r e f l e c t i o n Is there something that is ending or has recently ended in your lilfe just now? What will you do to cooperate with God in bringing about a new beginning?

What hope and help can you give to those around you who are suffering endings? What will be your prayer this Advent as the story of Christ coming among us begins again?

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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Receiving

Emmanuel

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our candles burned over the carved wooden wreath. I sat behind the altar with our English hand bell choir. We faced a solemn congregation. Even before this memorial service, the church was somber. It was Advent, the season of long nights and stillness and expectancy, a time for reflection. Our friend sat in the front pew, her son’s arm tenderly resting around her shoulders. The congregation was solemn,

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mourning the too-soon death of a still-young husband and father. I bore thoughts of what was ahead for her: the loss of conversation and intimacy forged by years of marriage, and the sense of emptiness she would feel as family and friends returned to their own homes. After opening prayers, the bell choir played an arrangement of the Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, its haunting melody floating over deep baritone tolls:

by the Rev. Lera Tyler

“O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight." The bells called, “Emmanuel, Emmanuel, come be with us. Come be with those who mourn in loneliness here.” As our vicar prayed, “Deal graciously with his family and

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friends . . . surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness,” we responded, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy.” Some minutes later, as I held the silver chalice with its simple engravings and precious contents, I felt a small stirring. It was rûah — spirit and breath — a whiff of wind spinning a web of compassion and comfort around us. Later, after the tears and departures, a handful of us returned to the church to prepare for the following evening: Christmas Eve. In that long twilight, the threads of our common sadness and labor wove us tightly together. The sun, beaming low on this short December day, shone almost vertically through the sacristy’s narrow, west-facing window. We seemed to be treading softly on a threshold between the time gone and the time not-yet-here. We were a household engaging in ancient, holy tasks. I pulled out the box of hymn board tags and placed THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST on the counter. Then, suddenly, the large double doors of the narthex opened. A parade of poinsettias burst down the aisle. I heard a trill of vigorous laughter. The church awakened, shedding her sobriety as we began dressing her for the coming feast. The Spirit of God quickened as beauty — a lavish abundance of beauty — filled the church. We felt a renewed spirit in our work. The great Feast of the Incarnation, the coming of the Christ Child, was not far away. Our actions

— counting wafers for Christmas Eve communion, making secure wobbly torches, discarding teardampened Kleenex — was clearly sacramental. In the intimate encounters with this holiness, we sensed Emmanuel: God’s gracious action bringing love, comfort, unity and strength. Like Mary, we were one life-bearing Body.

Then, with the work completed, we walked slowly down the aisle and paused at the doorway, looked back and gave a final glance into the church, the cool December wind blowing behind our backs. We stood, shoulder-to-shoulder, knowing the Christ Child was and would be with us, and yes, we were ready to receive him.

The Rev. Lera Tyler is a former priest of the diocese. She now lives in North Carolina and Toronto, dividing time with her children. Reach her at lera.tyler@gmail.com.

For further r e f l e c t i o n What symbols of Advent fill your heart and your home this year?

How will you prepare your heart to receive Christ even in the midst of this year's struggles and tragedies?

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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Always and Everywhere

Liturgy as Anchor by Rilda Baker

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oon after I came to the Episcopal Church, I heard the phrase, “We are a prayer book people.” Indeed it wasn’t long before the prayer book patterns of Eucharist became more familiar and I felt my prayer and practice habits shifting in response to the patterns of Sunday worship. But when I prayed The Great Litany for the first time I truly experienced the power of liturgy and common prayer. The date was September 11, 2001 — a Tuesday. Beginning at 7:30 a.m., I spent nearly nine hours with students and colleagues at a large public high school in San Antonio. The minutes crawled by as we rode the emotional roller coaster unleashed by watching the morning’s horrors broadcast from the East Coast. Then we sat with the afternoon’s rumors and uncertainty until the 4:00 p.m. closing bell. I had called the parish office at noon and found out that worship would begin at 6:30 that evening. With a scant four

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months’ experience in an Episcopal congregation I had no idea what shape the evening service might take. I just knew in my bones that I needed to be in the sacred space of St. Paul’s, across the street from Ft. Sam Houston, where people had prayed for over 125 years. It was not the solace of being near military protection I sought; it was the strength of spiritual community. People were already in the pews when I arrived at 6:15. The Paschal Candle (unlighted since the Feast of the Pentecost) was lit. When our priest entered following the crucifer holding high the processional cross, I felt energy move around in the nave. You could hear prayer book pages fluttering, opening to The Great Litany. No one seemed in a hurry. Once it was silent again, we began the call and response conversation. As petitions and intercessions were read, more than once I struggled to respond when particular lines of the Litany gathered up what we had witnessed that day, one painful experience at a time, and brought them all before the Lord in our collective cries for help:

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"From all evil and wickedness . . . From the assaults of the devil . . . From all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; From violence, battle, and murder; and From dying suddenly and unprepared, Good Lord, deliver us. That it may please thee to make wars to cease in all the world . . . That it may please thee to have mercy upon all mankind . . . We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord." (Book of Common Prayer, pgs 148-152)

Now fast forward to August, 2017. Since August 13, Coastal Bend churches had been preparing buildings and grounds for uncertain weather conditions, which as of Thursday, August 24, were declared to be Hurricane Harvey. That day Fr. Jonathan Wickham (All Saints, Corpus Christi) posted on his Facebook page: “San Antonio and other inland Texas friends: our new friend Hurricane Harvey is coming for a visit this weekend, and he's looking to be quite a handful . . . Please PM me if you can offer a safe place for Coastal Bend evacuees.”

Weeks or months later, I looked into the origins of The Great Litany and learned that it was first published in 1544. But on September 11, I heard it in the present tense, a here-and-now lament and cry. More than ever, I understood that prayer book liturgies are never tied to a single moment in time or confined to a particular space. Rather, they bind us to the faithful of all ages and thereby shape our lives as Episcopalians.

Facebook photos and comments began to come in from people reporting their plans to seek safety. Fr. James Derkits of Trinity-by-the-Sea (Port Aransas) posted that his church building was boarded up and added a picture showing the blackletter painted message across the plywoodclad red doors: “The Lord bless you!” The faithful sheltered in place in Corpus continued on page 12

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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● Liturgy as Anchor from page 11

Christi or left Rockport and Port Aransas behind following mandatory evacuation orders. Coastal Bend messages and photos soon began to affirm that we Episcopalians are a liturgy people. Prayer books had been tucked into the suitcases and backpacks of evacuees who departed the Coastal Bend for an uncertain period of exile. Announcements circulated on social media inviting people to “gather for prayer” at a particular time, sometimes at a particular place, but more often for a live feed on a particular Facebook page. Even as he fled Mustang Island, Fr. James Derkits reached out to tell people there would be Night Prayer on Friday evening at 9:00 p.m. and Morning Prayer on Saturday at 10:00 a.m., the day after Harvey made landfall. So it came to pass that liturgy was on the move along the highways and byways in the diocese. Often it seems that lectionary and liturgy are in collusion as my 9/11 experience showed me. So they were on Saturday, August 27, when Fr. James and a small College Station group began the live feed for Morning Prayer. The appointed psalm was Psalm 137, recited with heightened awareness given current circumstances: "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, When we remembered you, O Zion…. How shall we sing the Lord’s song upon an alien soil?" (verses 1,4) The reading from Mark even hinted at potential results of Harvey’s assault on the Coastal Bend and areas northeast:

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"As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down’" (Mark 13:1-2). Those days immediately after Harvey’s destructive strike social media posts revealed how anxious people were to worship in their own communities. Fr. Jonathan posted a Facebook invitation to the August 27 Eucharist (included suggested attire): “Services at All Saints', Corpus Christi at 10:30 this morning. Spoken liturgy, Holy Eucharist Rite II, out of the prayer book. Come if you can — hurricane recovery casual." A couple of days later, Trinity-bythe-Sea was able to live feed August 29 Morning Prayer liturgy from their Port Aransas church. The Rev. Mary Earle commented on their Facebook page: “Thank you for giving us the living example of starting from praying.” For the people of St. Peter’s, Rockport and their priest, Fr. Jim Friedel, the first post-Harvey Eucharist was held in a parking lot on September 3 under the relentless Texas sun. Written above their Facebook photo of that service is a line from an old gospel hymn: "Jesus calls us, o'er the tumult . . .” Below the picture one Rockport resident added this comment: “I worshipped in a beautiful sanctuary this morning in Las Vegas, but not as beautiful as this. Peace and love to you all.” Most recently, on October 29, the Eastern Convocation’s Partners in Ministry celebrated their Fifth Sunday Eucharist at St. Matthew’s, Kenedy — the first joint worship for these six congregations since Harvey pummeled the area. Thanks to the Rev. Bonnie Reeves (Trinity, Edna) we can hear the

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story first-hand through Facebook posts from two people who were present: "A powerful sermon by Bishop Jennifer Brooke-Davidson at St. Matthew's in Kenedy, along with congregants from Edna, Goliad, Refugio, Hallettsville and Port Lavaca. Our Partners in Ministry congregations." "It was a GREAT day! 60+ people at Mass. For me, it was like an all you can eat buffet of Faith and Fellowship . . . I can’t begin to tell y’all how great and filling was the day." If these liturgical experiences have anything to teach us, if they can inspire in us any response, perhaps it should be to act on this encouragement from the letter to the Hebrews (10:23): "Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful."

Rilda Baker is a teacher, writer, and Spanish translator. She directs the Diocesan Retreat Society and is a member of St. Paul’s in San Antonio. Reach her at drrildabaker@gmail.com.

Marthe Curry is the director of the Department of World Mission for the Diocese of West Texas.

Delays by Marthe Curry "For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end — it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay" Habakkuk 2:3 (ESV). I’m the kind of gardener who plants bulbs and then checks daily for the first tiny shoots of green. I want to see progress, and I want it soon. Waiting is difficult for me. When I plant my crop or do my work or pray my prayers, I want results. And yet God is working all the time. Underground that bulb is receiving the moisture and nutrients it needs and stores the surplus so that the shoots can reach up to the sun in the spring time. That waiting time is not lost time. Children lose teeth and anxiously wait for that new growth to appear just above the gum line. (Of course, if they believe in the Tooth Fairy, they’re not at all distressed about the loss of teeth.) There are all sorts of waiting times that come to us as we grow: for word of the new job, for the doctor’s diagnosis, for the teacher’s grade, for corporate decisions, for answers to prayer. But all the while, God is working. Everything has an appointed time just as in nature: springtime and harvest, life and death, sunrise and sunset. God is working. While we wait, delays offer opportunities to trust God and to rely on him rather than our own plans and ingenuity. We can watch for his creative resolutions to our tangled problems. We can allow God to build our character as we discover his ways far above our own. We can be still and know that he is God. Delays are not dead ends. They are God’s ways of reassuring us that he is in control — we are not — and that what he is accomplishing will be beyond what we can think or imagine. Let us be at peace with our delays. God is working.

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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Pr aying for Light in t he D ark

Lord, you have borne the pain of the whole world. You know our pain. It is almost more than we can bear: A season of homes and cities destroyed by wind, rain, fire, and flood. A season of earthquake and mud, displacement and overwhelming debris. A season of deranged and senseless murder of innocents.

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by The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson written Sunday, November 5, 2017, the evening of the Sutherland Springs shooting.

People enjoying music, recreation, daily life and now this A massacre of children, women, men, elders gathered in peaceful worship. It is almost more than we can bear.

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Be with them, Lord. Gather the souls that have departed this earth. Be with the wounded, the bereaved, the homeless, the jobless. Be with the motherless, fatherless. Be with the mothers and fathers who wail because their children are no more. Help us to be with them, too. Shore up our faith, and restore theirs. Let your light shine, Lord, Let it shine through us into the deepest darkness of the human soul Let it shine into communities shattered by cosmic evil, corporate evil, individual evil. We renounce it, Lord - we renounce the evil. We turn to you, Jesus. We accept you as our savior and Lord; we put our whole trust in your grace and love. Do not abandon us in this struggle. Give us strength, that we do not abandon our neighbors. Pour down your mercy. Pour down your peace. Pour down your love. In a world staggering in pain and confusion, Make us channels of your poured-down grace. We claim your promises, Lord, for ourselves and for all your children, And we beg for your healing blessing. All this we ask in the holy name of the living God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of the world. Amen.

Photo: St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Rockport. While the interior of the church, newly-built, received some hurricane damage, the exterior was mostly spared. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Jim Friedel.

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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Standing with Mexico

by the Rev. Mary Earle Doug and I have tender ties to Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca. I lived in Mexico City, doing graduate work, in the year before we married. He was finishing a degree at the Universidad de las Americas in Cholula. Some of our courtship took place in those beautiful spaces in the capital — the Paseo de la Reforma (a wide boulevard so perfect for late night strolling for students on a budget), Colonias Condesa and Juarez (neighborhoods hard hit by the earthquake, and full of lovely older houses) and downtown around the zocalo. When I remember Mexico City, I always remember us in our twenties, and the people (los chilangos, as the people of the capital call themselves) who were so kind and hospitable. Though we have visited Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca again and again over the years, that first encounter gifted us with a love of the places and the culture. And so, when I read this short piece by my friend Saúl Palafox, an Episcopal priest, after a second earthquake hit Mexico on September 19, it struck me to the core. I know that happy anticipation of awaiting the celebration of El Grito on September 16, in honor of Mexico’s independence from Spain. I have such lovely memories of the preparations for Las Posadas, a Christmas tradition that is also observed all over south Texas. His words, coming in the aftermath of two earthquakes in Mexico, the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the wildfires in northern California, reminded me to cherish each day. Saúl’s observations also echo those sobering admonitions found in the readings for the first weeks of Advent—calls to watch, to be ready, to know that we do not know. Strong words, clear counsel, reminding us to live each day expecting to behold the glory of God. We do not know when or how our earthly lives will end. We do know that we are held tenderly and strongly in the never-ending love of God. “And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake” (Mark 13:37).

September 19, 2017 Central Mexico Many men and women, girls, boys, and young people got out of bed on a normal ordinary day and never returned home. They said goodbye to their families in the morning without knowing it would be their last kiss; they celebrated the Fifteenth of September, the eve of Mexico’s Independence Day, unaware that it would be their last holiday fiesta. They had plans to celebrate Christmas. Now there will be empty places at the table, chairs unoccupied by those family members no longer present to enjoy the traditional Christmas Dinner. This is how fragile our life is and yet it surprises us! You are blessed still to be here. Give thanks to God our Heavenly Father that you are alive and can hold your family close for one more day. It is at times like this when you realize how great your love is for your family, for your friends. Start now to appreciate them, to show your concern for them. You never know when you will no longer see them, when you will kiss them and hug them for the last time. My beautiful and beloved Mexico … We are still standing! Faithfully, The Rev. Saúl Palafox Diocese of Northern Mexico

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Faith in the Days of Tragedy

From a sermon preached at St. Philip's Episcopal Church, Uvalde, Texas, October 8, 2017, and published on Interrupting the Silence. Used with permission.

by the Rev. Michael K. Marsh

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here’s a part of me that just wants to scream, “Enough is enough! Make it stop. How much more can we take?”

I am talking about Las Vegas, Maria, Irma, Harvey, Charlottesville, the ongoing wars and violence in the Middle East, terrorism, and the multiple genocides currently taking place in our world. What is going on in our world today? I’m not the only one asking this. Several of you have asked me if this is the end time. Is this the apocalypse? Is that which we call evil going to win? How do we live in the midst of this without becoming phobic of the future, the world, one another? What does faithfulness look like in the face of tragedy and loss? What will happen next? Where is God in all of this? Even if you haven’t asked me these kind of questions, I suspect you’ve asked them to yourselves or discussed them with friends and family.

The Psalmist accuses God of being asleep, tells God to wake up, and wants to know why God is hiding God’s face and ignoring the affliction and distress of God’s people (Ps. 44:24-25). When the angel of the Lord says to Gideon, “The Lord is with you,” Gideon answers, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:12-13).

We are certainly not the first or only ones to struggle with this. The question of human suffering is universal and has always been a part of our faith journey.

And let’s not forget the cry of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46; Ps. 22:1-2).

In scripture we hear the Israelites asking, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Ex. 17:7).

We could accuse and blame God, chalk it up to human free will, remind ourselves that God suffers and weeps with us, or acknowledge that God’s ways are not our ways. Each is well within our scriptural and theological tradition, but do those

What do we do with all this?

continued on page 18

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●Faith in the Days of Tragedy from page 17

really answer our questions or offer comfort? We know illness sometimes leads to death and we know that June 1 through November 30 is hurricane season and storms are to be expected. Those are not, however, acceptable responses to someone whose loved one has died or to one who has lost his or her home. We could enact stricter gun laws, deal honestly with climate change, provide better care for the mentally ill, work to eliminate racism, seek the good for all countries, religions, and people; and I hope we will. Maybe those things will have an affect on our future. But what about right here and right now? What about the suffering of today; yours, mine, our country’s, the world’s? I have no satisfactory explanations or answers to any of the questions I’ve asked or a thousand others like them. And I will not pretend to give you any. And even if I gave you answers I don’t for a minute think any of you would say, “Ok, that makes sense. I now understand and accept what has happened.” The suffering is too real, the pain too deep, and the tears too many. We don’t need answers and explanations as much as we need a way forward. So I turned to Rachel and the Feast of the Holy Innocents as a guide and teacher. Rachel offers us a way forward in this season of tragedy, loss, suffering, and grief. It is the way of tears. It is the way of lamentation, bitter weeping, and the refusal to be comforted. “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.

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Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more” (Jer. 31:15; see also Mt. 2:18).

"

Sometimes our tears are the only and most authentic part of ourselves we have to offer God. They are all we have. They are who we are. In those times they are our prayer, the tether between us and God. The presence of our tears in the tragic is as important as the presence of God. They are where God’s life and our life intersect.

"

Rachel knows what it means to have her heart pierced. Her lamentation and bitter weeping have never ended. Her voice is heard throughout our lives and our land today. Her tears protest the circumstances of her life, her grief, and the suffering of others. Just like our tears hers come from a deep place of love, compassion, sorrow, loss, and justice. They hold before God her broken heart. Her tearful protest does not answer the question of evil or human suffering; rather, it helps maintain her sanity in a world that has seemingly gone mad (Rabbi David Wolpe, The Healer of Shattered Hearts, p. 144). Sometimes our tears are the only and most authentic part of ourselves we have to offer God. They are all we have. They are who we are. In those times they are our prayer, the tether between us and God. The presence of our tears in the tragic is as important as the presence of God. They are where God’s life and our life intersect. Maybe that’s why God hears the voice of Rachel. Maybe that’s why God says to her, “There is hope for your future” (Jer. 31:17). The way of hope, however, is often a tearful path. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus (see Jn. 11:35). He wept over Jerusalem (see Lk. 23:28). Tears water and soften the soil of our heart. They are our preparation for God “making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

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I want to stand with Rachel today. And I want you to stand with Rachel today. I want us, with Rachel, to refuse to be comforted. Rachel will not accept the false comfort of answers or easy explanations. There are no satisfactory answers or acceptable explanations. And yet, in every tragedy that’s one of the first things we seek. We want motive, someone or something to blame, a solution to our extraordinary grief and suffering. What if tears are our true nourishment in the days of loss and sorrow? What if we have been given the “bread of tears” to feed upon and “tears to drink in full measure” (Ps. 80:5)? That sure seems to be the way of Rachel and it may just be the way of faith amidst faithlessness, the way of hope amidst despair, and the way of prayer when we have no words. Lamentation, bitter weeping, and the refusal to be comforted. Our tearful prayer of protest pierces the heart of God. It did for Rachel and it will for us. Tearful prayers of protest are not an answer to what is happening in the world today, simply a way forward. I recently read the story of Rabbi Levi Yitzhak’s protest and prayer (Wolpe, p. 158). It was the opening service of the Day of Atonement. The sun was setting and the time to begin was near but the Rabbi remained silent. He waited until the last possible moment to speak. “Dear God,” he said, “we come before You this year, as we do every year, to ask Your forgiveness. But in the past year, I have caused no death. I have brought no plagues upon the world, no earthquakes, no floods. I have made no women widows, no children orphans. God, you have done these things, not me! Perhaps You should be asking forgiveness from me.”

to our hearts. We recognize ourselves in them. After his protest Rabbi Levi paused and in a softer voice said, “But since you are God and I am only Levi Yitzhak,” and then he began saying the words of prayer for the service. “There is no escaping the pain of suffering and the tormenting questions of God’s silence…. Therefore we continue to pray” (Wolpe, p. 159). We continue to lament and weep bitter tears. We continue to refuse to be comforted. We continue to protest. That’s what faith looks like on days like this.

The Rev. Michael K. Marsh is rector of St. Philip's Episcopal Church n Uvalde, Texas. His blog is www.interruptingthesilence.com.

For further r e f l e c t i o n What tears do you weep today? For yourself? Another? The world? What is your lamentation and bitter weeping about? Name them and offer them up in prayer. As you make a new beginning in Advent, what sorrows need to be addressed to make a good ending?

There is brutal honesty, deep compassion, and profound grief in his protest. It mirrors Rachel’s lamentation and bitter weeping. Rabbi Levi and Rachel speak

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From Bitterness to Praise

by Elizabeth Head Black

The following is an excerpt from Hand in Hand, Walking with the Psalms through Loneliness, by Elizabeth Head Black. Though written in response to a personal circumstance years ago, it speaks to the way praise changes our perspective in difficult circumstances.

"Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night" (Psalm 134:1).

A

ll hell was breaking loose. Every sure foundation in my life seemed to be crumbling at the core. What could be shaken was shaking. What could be broken was breaking. Our own version of the American dream lay crumbled on the floor. It was all so public! The disintegrating shell of our lives was on display for all to watch. Some were just curious oglers. Others were judgmental head-waggers. Even those close to us just had to turn their heads to stop from watching the carnage. Was it any surprise that we retreated to a sanctuary - a quiet, private place to pray and to be safe with God?

I remember the day at the altar I prayed Job’s prayer, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). Though He slay me. The words reverberated in my heart: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." My prayer was not one of petition, nor angry tirade, not one of doubt, nor desperation. But strangely, it was filled with trust and praise. Simple, humble, trusting praise. Not for my circumstances, but for God’s power and sovereignty—for who He was. The more we praised, the more our darkness was being transformed into a sanctuary of light. It seemed the only way through our pain. I did not know at the time that our praises were ushering in a new way of life. “Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night,” says the psalmist (134:1). In our personal darkness, when the night is too long, when the shadows have overtaken us, praise the Lord. We servants of the Lord, we servants who tiptoe through

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the night, waiting in the wakeful watches when all the world is asleep. Quietly we sit, with our arms wrapped around our knees, and our chin tucked in low. We minister to the Lord with our praises, whispered softly without inhibition. These are our offerings to the Lord, the praises that drip from our lips along with the tears. “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:68). It is easy for bitterness to creep into our soul in the dark hours of the night. It is an infestation that, once taken hold, will sap the strength, the joy and eventually the life from its host. It latches onto our ego and our pride, and fills us with dizzying thoughts of our rightful due. And when we are finally sick of the ugly, wild-eyed child that is feverish within, we look for the door. Where is God’s sanctuary? How are we to find peace and rest in the midst of our turmoil, when we so desperately need it? King David knew. He wrote: “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live" (Psalm 63:2-4). David knew to combat bitterness with praise. We can slip through the narrow, unadorned door to God’s refuge anywhere. We find it on the roadside. In traffic. While folding clothes or jogging. While washing dishes or pruning roses, in the city and in the country. In praise, we appropriate God’s word of love and sovereignty in our lives and it shifts our perspective from the world around to the foot of God’s throne. We are ushered into the throne room of God’s presence, into his glorious light. This is power about which the world knows nothing. It is freedom from the tyranny of circumstance and a witness to the

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transformative power of Jesus Christ. The psalmist exclaims, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). It is praise that breathes life back into us.

Elizabeth Head Black is the author of Hand in Hand, Walking with the Psalms through Loneliness and blogs at The Daily Bread, both available through her website elizabethheadblack. com. Elizabeth is a member of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Corpus Christi and is married to the Rev. Milton E. Black, Jr.

So we servants of the Lord who wait in the watches of the night — we who wait in the darkness of our circumstance, let us praise the Lord. The morning hours are not far off, and the Morning Star has already risen. As the psalmist says, Let us awake the dawn with praises to You, O Lord (see psalm 57:8-9).

Rivers of Babylon "By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy" Psalm 137:1-6.

I

n one of the most poignant, mournful passages of scripture in the Old Testament, the Israelites weep for their beloved Zion. Most of them have been carried away to Babylon from Jerusalem during the Exile. They literally don’t know how to live and carry out their faith in a pagan land

by Diane Thrush

The weeping willow was given the scientific name salix babylonica by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in reference to Psalm 137. However, later scientists determined the tree is native to China, not Babylon. surrounded by pagan peoples who have no idea of who they are and who their God is. I have always been grateful for the psalms and the models of prayer they give us. No matter what we are feeling and going

through, the good and the bad, we can see our feelings mirrored there. The psalmists knew where to turn in all of life — to God. They could tell God what they were going through without

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● Rivers of Babylon from page 21

holding back. They were not burdened as we are with restraints on what is ‘proper’ prayer language. Certainly the Israelites living in the Babylonian Exile knew how to turn to God in their sorrow and grief. As I read about the destruction of the Coastal Bend, including my beloved Port Aransas, my personal thin place, as I watched with horror at the Armageddonlike pictures in the news, all I could do was lament over the horrible storm Harvey had brought to the coast. As I watched interviews with locals and heard their heartbreaking stories, my heart was breaking for them. This indeed was a time of wailing and mourning for them and empathy from those of us who watched in sorrow for them. These were not strangers in a foreign land on the TV. These were OUR people. They were people we knew whether personally or collectively. These were our churches, our brothers and sisters in Christ and the Diocese of West Texas.

there and often lurking just underneath the surface only to re-emerge time and time again. That is when the rest of us, the community of Christ, stand by ready to help again and again. As a wise grief counselor used to say, “Just because the last casserole is gone doesn’t mean we are through with the suffering.” Our task is not accomplished. It is not time to quit praying, giving, loving, and reaching out. Our job continues. Our journey with our brothers and sisters goes on for as long as we are needed. We are called in tragedy to eventually begin to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land — one that is often largely destroyed. We can help to get the harps out of the trees and tune them to play again. It will be a new, often painful song, but it will still be the Lord’s song. This is what we are called to do in faith- take all that we are, our joys, sorrows, pain, and losses and weave them into our faith and let God use them to strengthen us.

There is always a time in a great tragedy that first must be answered with sorrow and tears. We can’t move forward until we have processed our incredible pain and suffering. That’s when we need the comfort of helpers the most. People who will wipe our tears, hold us tight, and grieve with us. I watched and read posts on Facebook as fellow Christians ministered to the heartbroken. I was so proud to know what a wonderful presence we had in the midst of the storm — literally. One of my favorites stories was how the AA community in Port A showed up that next morning at Trinity with coffee and the solid wisdom and support that a 12-step program offers.

Diane Thrush is a retired chaplain and a member of St. Luke’s, San Antonio. Reach Diane at dianewt@aol.com

Eventually, the time comes to blow our nose, pull up our socks and begin to move. But the lament and pain is always

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by Sylvia Maddox

Longing with

Assurance

O

n the first Sunday of Advent, Christians from all traditions will be singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” an ancient hymn that originated from the great “‘O’ Antiphons.” In these early-century antiphons, one verse would express longing, and the next verse would express assurance and joy. The assurance came from the experience of knowing that Christ has come, and Christ will come again. To sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is to bring us back to the truth of our deep and unending yearning for God and for a world that reflects the coming of the Messiah. We all have hopes, wishes, and prayers, but to return to our holy longings is to go more deeply into what we desire most, and what we struggle to express. The Rev. James Martin, in America magazine (www.americamagazine.org) describes this desire as “a key way that God’s voice is heard in our lives. And the deepest Christian desire, planted within us, is our desire for Christ, the Desire of the Nations.” The hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” gives us the biblical and symbolic language of these desires, by rooting them in biblical time and place and then bringing them to our own time and place. When we enter into the deeper longings each verse expresses, we enter into a greater communion with all people in the world. We are singing with those who are in exile, those who are in darkness, and those who are longing for a home. In this mysterious communion of longing, we are drawn into the longings of Christ.

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Into this united spirit of longing and sorrow comes the surprise of joy. Emmanuel. Christ is with us. We can see children going forth to the altar, we can hear the choir of angels, and we see places in our world where there has been healing and reconciliation. We experience a blessed assurance. We live in the mystery and wonder that Christ has come. And with hope, we will continue to sing this hymn with the joy that Christ will come again.23 atfamiliar www.reflections-dwtx.org

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Hymn #56 The Hymnal 1982 1 O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel. 2 O come, O Wisdom from on high, who ordered all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show and teach us in its ways to go. Refrain 3 O come, O come, great Lord of might, who to your tribes on Sinai's height in ancient times did give the law in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain 4 O come, O Branch of Jesse's stem, unto your own and rescue them! From depths of hell your people save, and give them victory o'er the grave. Refrain 5 O come, O Key of David, come and open wide our heavenly home. Make safe for us the heavenward road and bar the way to death's abode. Refrain 6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star, and bring us comfort from afar! Dispel the shadows of the night and turn our darkness into light. Refrain 7 O come, O King of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind. Bid all our sad divisions cease and be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain 8 O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Refrain 24

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Pr ay ing t he

O

A nt iphons of Ad ve nt

The O Antiphons recall each of the titles by which Christ is known in the appeals of “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” During the seventh and eighth century these titles were composed into antiphons to be said or sung before and after the reciting of the Magnificat during Vespers or Evening Prayer on the seven days preceding Christmas. In Latin, the antiphons echo the Messianic titles given to Christ in the prophecies of Isaiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanual. Interestingly, the first letters of each of titles, s a r c o r e, when written in reverse order spell ERO CRAS which in Latin means “Tomorrow I will be there.” This is often seen as Christ’s answer to the pleas for his coming. The antiphon for each day, below, should be prayed before and after recitation of the Magnificat during Evening Prayer (see Book of Common Prayer beginning on pg 115). This can be done as a congregation, as a family, or individually.

December 17 O Sapientia (Isaiah 11:2-3; 28:29): "O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth." December 18 O Adonai (Isaiah 11:4-5; 33:22): "O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power." December 19 O Radix Jesse (Isaiah 11:1, 10): "O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay." December 20 O Clavis David (Isaiah 9:6; 22:22): "O key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death."

December 21 O Oriens (Isaiah 9:1): "O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death." December 22 O Rex Gentium (Isaiah 2:4; 9:5): "O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay." December 23 O Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14) : "O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God." Sylvia Maddox is a writer and educator. She is a member of Church of Reconciliation, San Antonio TX. Reach her at sylmaddox@aol.com.

The O Antiphons are used across denominations in similar but slightly different wordings. The ones above are from https://enterthenarrowgate.org/documents/The Great O Antiphons.pdf For a brief evening prayer service for each day, go to the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/125498.pdf

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From December 17-23, we will send daily reflections on the O Antiphons. To receive them, subscribe to the Diocese of West Texas adult Christian formation online site at www.christianformation-dwtx.org.

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Spiritual formation online This Advent, join Bishops Reed and Brooke-Davidson for Advent thoughts • weekly videos with the bishops reflecting on scripture readings for each week of Advent. • starting December 3.

watch for them on Facebook: Facebook.com/DioceseWestTX or watch at www.christianformation-dwtx.org subscribe to get a link to each video in your email inbox.

Also for Advent online • Daily scripture readings • Articles from this issue of Reflections • Links to other Advent resources online • And, during the last seven days before Christmas Eve, daily reflections on the O Antiphons (see page 25). Subscribe at www.christianformation-dwtx.org for weekly updates in your email inbox.

At www.christianformation-dwtx.org Find more Bible studies, reflections, and seasonal studies

Questions? marjorie.george@dwtx.org 26

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The back page This is an excerpt from a letter Bishop David Reed sent to the churches and clergy of the diocese the day following the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

November 6, 2017

Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us.

O

ur world seems to be awash in bloodshed, with spasm following spasm of violence against the innocent. Certainly, the media magnify our sense of the pervasiveness of violence (while at the same time possibly numbing our ability to respond). But the awful fact is that the Sutherland Springs massacre is the worst mass killing in the history of Texas, and it follows by mere weeks the Las Vegas shootings — the worst mass killing in U. S. history. This one hits close to home, in part because Sutherland Springs is just 30 miles southeast of San Antonio, but maybe more so, because it happened in church during worship, in a place we rightly regard as holy ground and a sanctuary. As I drove home from church the morning of the shooting, listening to the chaotic early reports of the shooting on the radio, I thought of Jesus weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. And I thought of Jesus, shortly before what we remember as Palm Sunday, looking out over the city of Jerusalem and weeping. Jesus wept — grief, mourning and lament overtook him, for love of the individual and for love of the community. We need to, perhaps, turn to prayers and psalms of lamentation — expressions of grief, sorrow and remorse — to pray as faithful persons who cry out to God in the face of ungodly and unjust horror. Such lamentation expresses an anguished sense of the absence of God, and also calls upon him to be true to himself and to his promises. It speaks out of the fear and darkness of present circumstances, and also trusts that God is greater. The kingdom of the Prince of Peace is intended for the whole world. The holy desire for the peace of the Lord, and our habit of exchanging it in worship, is meant to form us for how we live in the world, with

our neighbors and co-workers, in our schools and towns. We are called to take “church life” out away from church and bless others with the same mercy, forgiveness, grace and love which we have received. Though theories will abound, we will likely never know why the murderer did what he did. (And what could we possibly learn that would make it “sensible” or “understandable”?) But we do know what we have been given in Christ, and we do know “the only Name given under heaven for health and salvation is the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Book of Common Prayer, p. 457, based on Acts 4:12) .We can’t solve violence in a fallen world, but we can act in so many ways, large and small, to stand against the myriad factors that contribute to the anger, despair and violence of our times. Spend time in prayer and in conversation about how your own congregation can be a means of healing and peace. By our words and in our actions, individually and in our churches, may we hold fast to our baptismal identity, renouncing evil and turning again to Jesus and following him. The Psalms of Lament speak with blunt honesty about pain and suffering, both individual and communal. But out of that hurt, they lead back to a renewed and deepened trust in, and reliance upon, the living God: “But I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help.” After the tragedy, the people of Sutherland Springs gathered in groups large and small, and deep in their grief, lamented together and sought to turn again and trust in the Lord who desires for us not death, but life. They are, for us in this sad time, a grace-filled reminder. Please be assured of Bishop Jennifer’s and my continued prayers and our gratitude for the many ways your church brings light and hope in dark times. Faithfully yours in Christ, + David M. Reed

The Rt. Rev. David Reed is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.

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