In a few days time I shall be going to Elmore Abbey in Berkshire for a week.
Elmore is a Benedictine monastic community which I have been connected to for about forty years.
The community like other monastic communities all meet together daily in the Oratory, which is what the Chapel is called, for Mass and a further seven times a day for prayer.
The seven service of prayer which the monastic orders fellow are referred to as the Divine Office, and it is from where we get our services of Matins and Evensong.
As we all live outside of a monastic environment we are unable to go to Church eight times a day to pray but we can all say our prayers and pray for each other in our own environment.
In today’s Epistle we have St Paul doing just that praying for the Christians in Ephesus, not for himself as he had put himself in the hands of God.
He was praying for others, from the very environment that he was living in, from his prison cell in Rome.
Ephesus was the capital of the western part of Asia Minor; it was colonized principally from Athens and in the time of the Romans it bore the title of “the first and greatest metropolis of Asia.”
It was a distinguished city as the great Temple of Diana was there, and also it was know for its theatre which was the largest in the then know world, capable of containing 50,000 spectators.
It was, like all ancient theatres, open to the sky, and where the fights of wild beasts, and of men with beasts would take place.
As a city Ephesus was no oil painting as it was a city in which being a Christian in was not easy, as it is not easy to be Christian in some parts of the world today.
Ephesus was an idolatrous environment, which was given over to the worship of the goddess Diana, so to be a strong Christian of the type Paul was praying for in this the second of his prayers in his letter to the Church at Ephesus was very hard indeed.
“So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.”
These words of St Paul which he wrote from his prison cell in Rome are as applicable to us today, as they were to the first converts in Ephesus to Christianity and are intended to move its hearers as in did then and still do today, to get them to strive daily after greater perfection.
Sometimes you hear Christians say that, they will be quite content just to elbow their way inside the gates of heaven.
They can hardly be serious in saying this, but there certainly are some Christians who seam to act as if this is they aim.
They seam to do the minimum, finding excuses by the hundreds for not doing anything beyond the bare essentials.
These who aim so low will miss the mark, their motive seems to be self-love, and they give themselves the maximum of comfort and ease in this life and expect to be rewarded generously by God in the next.
It will help all of us if we only could, live our faith more passionately and give more generously of our time and talents to the service of God.
If we could reflect more often on the truths of religion which St Paul brings out in today’s Epistle?
God created us and loves us with an infinite love and by the death on the Cross of His Only Son Jesus Christ He has redeemed us all, so that we could share forever in His perfect happiness.
What does God ask from us in return, for all this?
Simply, that we should be grateful for what He has done for us, and love Him in return for that great immeasurable love which He gives to us all.
The Prophet Micah two thousand seven hundred years ago gives us very good example of what is required when he says.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
St Paul is calling on us all to be more generous with God, to be more zealous for God’s glory, to strive to make Him better know and better loved, because to know God is to love God.
This calls for more then just barely keeping the commandments.
It calls for a spirit of self sacrifice, a desire to further God’s cause at every opportunity.
It was this that inspired St Paul and all the other Saints to give themselves for the work of God.
It is this that should also move us, but as we are not all called to live a monastic life, we can only try and strive daily to do a little more to promote the honour and glory of our loving Father which is in Heaven, who has adopted us mere creatures as His children and gives us His promise to make us heirs of His kingdom of eternal happiness.