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Friends Bulletin Number 7 January 2011


Bishop Michael writes......

It's a long time since I heard anyone referring to the New Year as 'another year of Grace.' The phrase, 'a year of grace' reflected a profound understanding that all the years and days of our lives are a gift, for that is the meaning of grace. In the Kingdom of God there is no talk of rights or privileges, since citizens of that Kingdom know in their heart of hearts that we hold nothing of right or indeed nothing that we have earned, since all life is gift or grace, from a gracious giving God, who pours out his life and love freely to everything and everyone in his creation from the least to the greatest, without distinction. As it is with life, so it is with prayer. We speak of the grace of contemplation because all prayer is gift, originating in the heart of God. Even our desire for God and our longing for him originates in his longing for us. So St. Symeon, in his prayer to the Holy Spirit, says: 'Come, you who have become yourself desire in me, who have made me desire you, the absolutely inaccessible One.' Likewise, St. Gregory, in his commentary on the last words of Jesus from the Cross, insists that 'Jesus thirsts for us to thirst for him.' Perhaps the reason why many of us find Centering Prayer or Contemplative Prayer so difficult is that - especially Western Christians - come to prayer with the same controlling, success orientated attitudes which pervade the rest of our lives in an over-active and self-centred culture. The school of prayer for Christians is essentially counter-cultural, as I repeatedly ask myself, 'Am I just wasting time?' 'Shouldn't I be doing something practical?' 'Does my commitment to daily, personal prayer make any difference in 'real' terms?'
So as we begin a New Year, let us resolve to pray as we live and live as we pray, namely by grace and grace alone, welcoming each new day - and not only each new year - as a gift, received with thanks and praise, by faith and trust in a gracious giving-God, for all that we are is essentially 'the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.'
Epiphany literally means a showing forth or manifestation of something or someone. The season of Epiphany follows hard on the heels of Christmas when we celebrate the Light of Christ coming into our darkened world, showing us something more of the face of God. Moses was forbidden to see the face of God when he went up the mountain, and the most he was given was what we call a 'theophany' in the Burning Bush which at best only exemplified, metaphorically something of the nature of the invisible God. As Christians we believe that we have been shown much more than a mere 'theophany' in so far as Jesus came to give us a glimpse of the glory God in the face of Christ, revealing to those with eyes to see, the inner character and nature of God as unconditional, self-giving love. So when Philip asked Jesus to show God to the disciples, Jesus replied, 'Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father'....for 'I and the Father are one.' In our times of Centering Prayer, in corporate Eucharistic worship and whenever the word of God is read or preached, we should expect to experience a further little 'epiphany' as we persistently pray with the psalmist: 'My heart has said, "Seek ye my face": thy face Lord will I seek.'

The Transforming Power of Prayer

In this latest book, Bishop Michael develops the spiritual journey from meditation and prayer to what has come to be called Centering Prayer, leading to the gift of Contemplative Prayer. For too long, such a pilgrimage or development in personal prayer has been perceived as largely restricted to the monastic tradition or to the clergy. However, today many lay people as well as clergy are returning to this ancient tradition of silent, wordless prayer, arising from an earlier tradition of reading scripture - lectio divina - which is less formal and analytical. Such personal prayer feeds and in turn is fed by corporate, liturgical prayer. 'The spiritual journey is a journey into a new awareness and self-knowledge, received through an ever deepening knowledge and love of God who reveals himself to us through the work and prayer of the Holy Spirit within us. Slowly as we travel along that road, we are changed, as the Spirit of God brings about rebirth and transformation, and in which knowledge about God grows into knowledge of God in an ever deepening and intimate relationship with God.' (Introduction, page 7, 'The Transforming Power of Prayer')

The publishers - Continuum - are holding a Book Launch on Monday 17th January 2011 at The Parish Church of the Annunciation, Marble Arch, Bryanston Street, LONDON W1H 7AH

Bishop Michael will sign purchased copies of the book between 1.00pm and 7.00pm Price of Book 9.99 (Publisher's 30% discount on Launch Day)

Bishop Michael Marshall

If you want to read previous bulletins click the appropriate link.
Bulletin No. 1, December 2008
Bulletin No. 2, January 2009
Bulletin No. 3, March 2009
Bulletin No. 4, December 2009
Bulletin No. 5, Easter 2010
Bulletin No. 6, Summer 2010
Holy Trinity
Sloane Street London SW1X 9BZ

020 7730 7270

May I
Know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly,
Day by day.

Saint Richard of Chichester
Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, NYC

Ordination of Soon Han Choi

St Stephen Walbrook in The City

The London Internet Church at St Stephen Walbrook

SPA - Scripture Prayer Action