A HIGHWAY IN THE DESERT

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An Opening Prayer:

Please, Lord, let fall in my soul a drop of your surpassing sweetness, to sweeten her bitter palate.  Experiencing this swallow, may she have a foretaste of that which is desired, that which is sought after, that which is sighed for—the purpose of this her pilgrimage.  A foretaste in her hunger, a drink in her thirst.  Those who eat of you will still hunger, those who drink of you will still thirst; they shall be satisfied, however, with the appearance of your glory!  They shall be satisfied when you make manifest your abundant sweetness reserved for those who fear you—the sweetness unrevealed except to those adoring you.

—Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167)

Mirror of Charity 1.1.2

A Prayer of Illumination:

Grant us a taste, Lord!  The Kingdom of God is near?  Let us glimpse it.  Let us merely glimpse a small portion of that Kingdom—and all must change for us.  Open the eyes of our hearts.  As your Scriptures are opened and your Word is proclaimed, may we hear with understanding what you would say to us this day.

THE TEXT

Isaiah 35:1-10

The wilderness and the desert will be glad,

And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;

Like the crocus it will blossom profusely

And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.

The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,

The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They will see the glory of the LORD,

The majesty of our God.

Encourage the exhausted,

and strengthen the feeble.

Say to those with anxious heart,

“Take courage, fear not.

Behold, your God will come with vengeance;

The recompense of God will come,

But He will save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened

And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.

Then the lame will leap like a deer,

And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.

For waters will break forth in the wilderness

And streams in the Arabah.

The scorched land will become a pool

And the thirsty ground springs of water;

In the haunt of jackals, its resting place,

Grass becomes reeds and rushes.

A highway will be there, a roadway,

And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.

The unclean will not travel on it,

But it will be for him who walks that way,

And fools will not wander on it.

No lion will be there,

Nor will any vicious beast go up on it;

These will not be found there.

But the redeemed will walk there,

And the ransomed of the LORD will return

And come with joyful shouting to Zion,

With everlasting joy upon their heads.

They will find gladness and joy,

And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

NASB

A Prayer of Intercession:

We can only marvel at such a Highway, such a Kingdom, where sorrow and sighing flee away, where blind eyes see and the fearful-hearted take courage.  But Isaiah’s words were no mere imagery, no poetic fancy; they took on flesh, as the Son of God trod the dusty highways of Galilee and Samaria and Judea, lifting lame upon strong feet, making deaf hear, and restoring, incarnating, hope.  O Lord our God, walk again upon our highways, trod these dusty paths, that blind eyes might see and fearful hearts become bold.  This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, Amen.

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