Pray in the Spirit at all times
in every prayer and supplication.
To that end keep alert
and always persevere
in supplication for all the saints.
These two encouraging verses are from the letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians(6:18). To “pray at all times” is a tall order, however! At all times?!? What about sleep? What about all of the people and daily responsibilities that demand my attention? I’ll never get anything done!
Well, Saint Paul speaks of prayer in the Spirit. And, the same Saint Paul tells us elsewhere that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words”. (Romans 8:26)
“At all times” is thus perhaps less a reference to a continuous act of prayer in time—which is impossible—and more a reference to a constant intention to be open to the Holy Spirit, Who indwells us and helps us to pray. Indeed, although the Holy Spirit is active in us and wishes to teach us to pray (wishes to pray in us), we must do our part. We must intend, want, choose: “Come Holy Spirit, enkindle in us the fire of Your love”.
Our prayer is a mysterious act of faith, hope and love, and is both the work of the Holy Spirit in us and our act. And, per this and other exhortations from Saint Paul, our prayer must dare include all aspects of our life (“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Our prayer must be humble and not presumptuous. Our prayer must be full of hope and persevere. Who makes this possible? The Holy Spirit—if we want…
pupil with you of the Holy Spirit
I mean, really. It can be such a hassle. Getting out of bed the only day we have for deserved extra sleep before resuming the rat race of the week. And, for some, the drive. Oh, the drive! Even if less crazy than during the week, it is still a drive. And, for some, kids. Oh, the kids! Not always cooperative. The deck seems stacked against going to church. And, can’t I just pray at home and essentially be fine?
Well, in this Sunday’s gospel (John 6:51-58), Jesus’ words are powerful and give us a powerful reason to go to church:
“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you.”
In our church, we believe in the Eucharist, Communion. We believe that Jesus, the Bread of Life, gives Himself in a very particular, perhaps even in an “unsettling” way. Jesus gives a simple bread that communicates to us His flesh and thus His Self. (This, of course, requires a huge leap of faith!) This gift we cannot give to ourselves at home.
“No life in you” seems a little strong, however!! Where does this leave me if I don’t go to church? Where does this leave Christians who don’t believe in this gift? Well, “the Lord is gracious and merciful” (Psalm 145:8). This gift is not the only way in which God loves us. But, it is a special way, and perhaps we can say that we are missing something in our relationship with Jesus without this intimate gift. Jesus speaks strongly when He is sharing His heart. Jesus is adamant because He is the Bread of Life, and He wants us to have life, to come to life, to taste everlasting life.
So, why go to Church? For incredible, incredibly uplifting music, a (hopefully!) decent sermon, the faces of sisters and brothers in Christ, but, above all, this gift, which gives meaning to all the rest. We go to church to be loved and, in that love, to go forth to love, “to do all such good works as God has prepared for us to walk in” (Eucharistic Prayer, Rite I)
In Christ’s love,
Member of the Body of Christ
This is what the “one seated on the throne says” (Revelation 21:5). The newness promised by the King is, of course, primarily that of our hearts. But, there can be other forms of newness, which complement and serve as metaphors for what God is doing in us and in our midst. Our church aisles are adorned with beautiful, hand laid, marble mosaic. Over the years, the layers of wax covering the tiles have formed a dark brown haze, concealing the intricate detail and craftsmanship of the mosaic. Well, the one seated on the throne in our parish office, our administrator, Mark Cosenza, is making all things (aisle) new. In addition to his administrative tasks, he has been painstakingly removing the layers of wax and uncovering the beauty that lay hidden.
This is not unlike the work of the Holy Spirit in us, by Whom we “put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:24). And, how fitting this is, as we are more deliberately praying for the renewal of our parish: may the beauty hidden be revealed, and may we grow spiritually and in number. Below you will find a prayer that has been composed with this intention in mind. Details about how, as a parish, we will pray this over the coming year, are forthcoming from the Vestry sub-committee on Evangelization. In the meantime, let us pray:
We, your disciples and friends,
ask for the grace to grow in faith, hope and love
and to grow in membership in our part of the Body of Christ,
Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes.
Help us always to heed the words of the Letter to the Hebrews(13:2):
to “let mutual love continue”
and “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers”,
believing that, “by doing so,
some have entertained angels without knowing it”.
Lead us into our neighborhoods to be agents of holy transformation,
and with apostolic zeal, to bring back new parishioners
with whom we may worship you as an awesome God.
Give us hearts wide open to welcome them
and all those who come through our doors.
And, by the power of your Spirit,
may we, together,
“go and make disciples of all nations”(Matthew 28:19)
From the desk of the Rector