For today's reflection I offer first a quotation, then an image, and finally a translation.
The quotation comes from Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations from Frederick Buechner and is the Feb 27th reading:
"A wedding. A handshake. A kiss. A coronation. A parade. A dance. A meal. A graduation. A mass. A ritual is the performance of an intuition, the rehearsal of a dream, the playing of a game.
A sacrament is the breaking through of the sacred into the profane; a ritual is the ceremonial acting out of the profane in order to show forth its sacredness.
A sacrament is God offering his holiness to men; a ritual is men raising up the holiness of their humanity to God."
The image is of the apse of San Miniato al Monte, a church just across the Arno on a hill overlooking Florence. For over a thousand years, monks there have been daily worshipping God. Last night we made the trip up to worship with them – we worshipped silently, guided by their chants. As we sat in the cold crypt (slightly warmed by two small electric heaters), a floor below the apse, I relished our momentary participation in a thousand years long ritual.
Finally, here is my own translation of Luke 1:68-79.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited us,
he has redeemed his people,
he has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of David, his servant,
(as he spoke long ago through his holy prophets)
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate usto show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
an oath which he swore to our father Abraham,to enable us, once delivered from our enemies,
to serve him,
without fearin devotion and righteousness
in his presence
all the days of our lives.
And now, child, you yourself will be called
Prophet of the Most Highfor you will go before the Lord
to prepare his ways,
to grant knowledge of salvation to his people
by the pardoning of their sins
because of God's compassionate heart
by which the dawn of heaven visits us,
giving light to those who reside indarkness and the shadow of death,
to lead our feet into the way of peace.