Shanon Sterringer, ARCWP, and Jim Marsh, ARCWP, led the Upper Room Community with the theme: The Greening of the Soul.
Opening Song: Canticle of the Sun by Marty Haugen
Reading 1 Amos 6:1, 4-7 [The Inclusive Bible]
Woe to you who live in luxury in Zion, and to you self-important people on the mountain of Samaria, you distinguished leaders of the nation, in whom the House of Israel places their hope! Lying on ivory beds and reclining on their couches,
they dine on lambs from the flock, and young calves from the stalls.
They hum to the tune of the harp, and fancy themselves musicians like David.
They drink wine straight from the bottle, and anoint themselves with the finest oils.
But they show no care for the ruin of Joseph! That is why they will be the first to be exiled—they will recline no more at festive banquets.
Reading 2 from the Book of Divine Works: (vision 4, excerpts from chapters 77-78)
The earth is always muddy because of the summer's warmth and the winter's chill, and it is this mud that causes the Earth to become fruitful. In this way, the body should become subject to the soul, even though at times the soul may be overpowered by the body. The soul causes all goodness within us, just as summer causes the fruits to ripen. Just as the muddy Earth preserves within itself all fruits in winter so as to produce them in summer for our enjoyment, we shall adorn our earlier virtues with previous jewels and return them even lovelier than they were in the past. When the soul overcomes the body in such a way that the body is in agreement with the soul in goodwill and simplicity of heart, and refreshed by good treatment as if by nourishing food, we cry out in our longing for heaven: "How sweet are the words of justice to my throat - even sweeter than honey to my mouth." The soul floods us with its longing until, as we climb from virtue to virtue, we begin to feel a greening power. We start to bloom in the good works and examples left us by the Son of God. And just as the greening power and the flowering as well as the ripening of all fruits come to an end in winter, we also fade away at our death. Our good works will mount up with our soul to God, radiant in our good deeds and as if adorned with jewels. And the body by which the soul has done all these things, will scarcely be able to wait until both body and soul are together again in the abode of joy.
Reading 3 The Gospel of Luke 16:19-31 [The Inclusive Bible]
Jesus said to the disciples:
"Once there was a rich person who dressed in purple and linen and feasted splendidly every day. At the gate to this person’s estate lay a beggar named Lazarus, who was covered with sores. Lazarus longed to eat the scraps that fell from the rich person’s table, and even the dogs came and licked Lazarus’ sores. One day poor Lazarus died and was varied by the angels to the arms of Sarah and Abraham. The rich person likewise dies and was buried. In Hades, in torment, the rich person looked up and saw Sarah and Abraham in the distance, and Lazarus resting in their company.
“Sarah and Abraham,’ the rich person cried, ‘have pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am tortured by these flames!’ But they said, ‘My child, remember that you were well off in your lifetime, while Lazarus was in misery. Now Lazarus has found consolation here, and you have found torment. But that’s not all. Between you and us there is a fixed chasm, so that those who might wish to come to you from here can’t do so, nor can anyone cross from your side to us.’
“The rich person said, ‘I beg you, then, to send Lazarus to my own house where I have five siblings. Let Lazarus be a warning to them, so that they may not end in this place of torment.’ But Sarah and Abraham replies, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let your siblings hear them.’ ‘Please, I beg you,’ the rich person said, ‘if someone would only go to them from the dead, then they would repent.’ ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets,’ Sarah and Abraham replied, ‘they won’t be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead!”
Homily starter by Shanon:
Today’s readings are challenging. Luke’s Gospel of the Rich Man and Lazarus is one that I have struggled with because it created for me an unyielding and unforgiving image of God. Reflecting on our theme for today, “the greening of the soul” and St. Hildegard’s use of garden metaphors, a new, much more positive understanding of this text become possible.
For most of his life, the Rich Man in this story was unable to recognize the presence of Lazarus. He was not ready or even able to see him. Judgment aside, he had become blinded by his own situation. It was through personal suffering that he became more aware, his eyes were opened, to a reality much larger than what he could previously perceive. He asks for his family to be warned so that their eyes would be opened before they found themselves suffering as he was. He shows concern for those he loves. However, he is told that request was impossible. Why? Because personal growth cannot be forced. It is an ongoing, unfolding, dynamic process. If ready, one will hear and integrate the Word with minimal effort. If not ready, even a miracle such as resurrection, will not be enough to convince her/him. The spiritual journey is personal.
Once a seed is planted, the growth process depends on the soil, the environmental conditions, the nourishment received, etc. Each plant grows, blooms, and produces fruit in its own time. The same is true for are spiritual lives. Growth is largely experiential.
Like the Rich Man, we too are often blinded by the circumstances of our own situations. We pray for the spirit of viriditas to saturate our souls and open our eyes so that we might grow in our awareness and appreciation for a reality much greater than we can currently see.
“The soul floods us with its longing until, as we climb from virtue to virtue, we
begin to feel a greening power. We start to bloom in the good works and examples
left us by the Son of God. And just as the greening power and the flowering as well
as the ripening of all fruits come to an end in winter, we also fade away at our
death. Our good works will mount up with our soul to God, radiant in our good
deeds and as if adorned with jewels.” – St. Hildegard of Bingen
Communion Song: SDI Pilgrims Sing Viriditas in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard, Eibengen, Germany.
Closing Song: Beauty of the Dancer by Sara Thomsen
Dancing Prayer -Liturgy at Upper Room in Albany, New York, September 29, 2019, - “And so am I a feather on the breath of God”-St. Hildegard Of Bingen