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LIGHT: "We are not saints, we are not heroes. Our lives are lived in the quiet corners of the ordinary. We build tiny hearth fires, sometimes barely strong enough to give off warmth. But to the person lost in the darkness, our tiny flame may be the road to safety, the path to salvation. It is not given us to know who is lost in the darkness that surrounds us or even if our light is seen. We can only know that against even the smallest of lights, darkness cannot stand. A sailor lost at sea can be guided home by a single candle. A person lost in a wood can be led to safety by a flickering flame. It is not an issue of quality or intensity or purity. It is simply an issue of the presence of light." (Kent Nerburn in Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace, Harper SanFrancisco. Quoted in Spirituality & Health, Fall 1999.)

QUOTE: "The Christian year begins as the calendar year sputters into its final month. Its first season is quiet but expectant, leaning, as if heavy with child, into the future." (Dorothy C. Bass in Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time, Jossey-Bass, 2000.)

IN THIS SEASON

"He was much older now, his beard white, his face wrinkled. His eyes sparkled when he talked about Jesus, and he always had something for the poor and needy. He loved children, and they loved him too. Though he still often was secretive in helping people, people still knew of his many kind acts and deeds. But Nicholas could be firm too, especially when false teachers would try to influence his churches." As when he, as the bishop of Myra, attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 and slapped Arius--for whom is named the Arian Heresy--for his false teaching that questioned Jesus' full divinity. (Saint Nicholas, as described in the online treasury at http:// www.seanet.com/~eldrbarry/ rabb/folk/stnick.htm)

RECOMMENDED:

"The Roots of Christian Mysticism by Olivier Clement (New City, 1993). I have yet to find a more engaging introduction to the writings of the early church. My copy is battered, as it usually accompanies me whenever I travel." (Jim Forest, author of The Ladder of the Beatitudes.)

share your favorite spiritual practices. Contact Mary Lynn Hen drickso n a t 800-328-6515.

A CHRISTMAS LESSON borrowed from the Tao Te Ching (6th century B.C.):

"A man is born gentle and weak. At his death he is hard and stiff. Green plants are tender and filled with sap. At their death they are withered and dry. Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life. Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle. A tree that is unbending is easily broken. The hard and strong will fall. The soft and weak will overcome."

IN PRACTICE Is it your turn to say grace at Christmas dinner or open the parish meeting with prayer? The tradition-honored pattern of the "collect prayer" can make you sound like an old pro. One type of collect (pronounced "CALL-ikt") follows a four-part pattern that Judy Logue at Chicago's Catholic Theological Union likes to describe as "You ... Who do ... Please do ... Through ...": (1) Address God with a title or attribute that comes from your experience; (2) list what God has done and shown through the experience; (3) add your own petitions and/or gratitude; and finally, (4) "gather your prayers together and offer them, as always, through Christ." As in: (1) "Loving God, (2) unto whom all hearts are open and all desires known, (3) please guide our hearts as we gather together on this dark winter night, (5) through Christ our Lord. Amen." Long or short, the finest collects follow a poetic rhythm and balance.
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Publication:U.S. Catholic
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 1, 2000
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