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The Everyday Prayer


 
printable version

Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Nehemiah 9,1-23

On the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites, in sackcloth and with dust on their heads, assembled for a fast.

Then those of Israelite stock who had severed relations with all foreigners stood up and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors.

Standing, each man in his place, they read from the Book of the Law of Yahweh their God for one quarter of the day; for another quarter they confessed their sins and worshipped Yahweh their God.

On the Levites' platform stood Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Chenani, calling to Yahweh their God in ringing tones.

The Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah said, 'Stand up and bless Yahweh your God! 'Blessed are you, Yahweh our God from everlasting to everlasting, and blessed be your glorious name, surpassing all blessing and praise!

'You, Yahweh, are the one, only Yahweh, you have created the heavens, the heaven of heavens and all their array, the earth and all it bears, the seas and all they hold. To all of them you give life, and the array of heaven worships you.

'You are Yahweh God, who chose Abram, brought him out of Ur in Chaldaea and changed his name to Abraham.

Finding his heart was faithful to you, you made a covenant with him, to give the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites and the Girgashites to him and his descendants. And you have made good your promises, for you are upright.

'You saw the distress of our ancestors in Egypt, you heard their cry by the Sea of Reeds.

You displayed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his servants and all the people of his land; for you knew how arrogantly they treated them. You won a reputation which you keep to this day.

You opened up the sea in front of them: they walked on dry ground right through the sea. Into the depths you hurled their pursuers like a stone into the raging waters.

With a pillar of cloud you led them by day, with a pillar of fire by night: to light the way ahead of them by which they were to go.

You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven; you gave them right rules, reliable laws, good statutes and commandments;

you revealed your holy Sabbath to them; you laid down commandments, statutes and law for them through your servant Moses.

For their hunger you gave them bread from heaven, for their thirst you brought them water out of a rock, and you told them to go in and take possession of the country which you had sworn to give them.

'But they and our ancestors acted arrogantly, grew obstinate and flouted your commands.

They refused to obey, forgetful of the wonders which you had worked for them; they grew obstinate and made up their minds to return to their slavery in Egypt. But because you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, patient and rich in faithful love, you did not abandon them!

'Even when they cast themselves a calf out of molten metal and said, "This is your God who brought you up from Egypt!" and committed monstrous impieties,

you, in your great compassion, did not abandon them in the desert: the pillar of cloud did not leave them, leading them on their path by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, lighting the way ahead of them by which they were to go.

You gave them your good spirit to instruct them, you did not withhold your manna from their mouths, you gave them water for their thirst.

For forty years you cared for them in the desert, so that they went short of nothing, their clothes did not wear out, nor were their feet swollen.

'You gave them kingdoms and peoples, allotting them these as frontier lands; they occupied the country of Sihon king of Heshbon, and the country of Og king of Bashan.

You gave them as many children as there are stars in the sky, and brought them into the country which you had promised their ancestors that they would enter and possess.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

We are in the presence of a prayer asking for forgiveness and help in a difficult moment. The chapter is divided into three parts: at the beginning, we are told the meaning of this convocation of the community, who means to turn to God in a penitential act (verses 1-5). Then follows a long introduction in which are celebrated God’s works, not only in creation, but also, and more importantly, throughout history (verses 6-31), concluding with a petition for pardon (verses 32-37). The Bible teaches us never to forget God’s works, not just on behalf of each one of us (thus we should already give thanks and ask forgiveness), but also on behalf of the community in which we find ourselves living. Indeed, history becomes a reason for praise and thanksgiving for all that the Lord has done. The text goes over all the stages of God’s history with his people, starting with creation (verse 6) and the call of Abraham (verses 7-8), through slavery in Egypt, then recalling the portents in Egypt and the crossing of the wilderness, and concluding with the entry into the promised land. From this review emerges the love and mercy of God who has never abandoned his people, despite their disobedience and sin. The stages of this itinerary are as it were marked by the contrast between God’s loving solicitousness - which leads his people in liberation from enemies and nourishes them in the desert, not allowing them to lack anything - and Israel’s rebelliousness: "But they and our ancestors acted presumptuously and stiffened their necks and did not obey your commandments" (v. 16). Yet the Lord is "a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them" (v. 17). This is the most beautiful truth in our life as believers: to find ourselves before a God who never denies his pardon, who never ceases to love and accompany his creatures so that they may not be lost behind their stiff necks that cause them to be closed in on themselves thus getting far away from the Lord. In prayer, both the believer and the community regain awareness that God in His love has always guarded and accompanied them. And from prayer they will receive God’s pardon and the strength to again bind themselves to Him.


01/12/2010
Memory of the Mother of the Lord


Calendar of the week
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11
Sunday, 11 December
Liturgy of the Sunday
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12
Monday, 12 December
Memory of the Poor
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Tuesday, 13 December
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
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14
Wednesday, 14 December
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
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15
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Memory of the Church
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16
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Memory of Jesus crucified
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Sunday, 18 December
Liturgy of the Sunday

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