Mystical Order of the White Rose
Monastic Order & Interspiritual Community for Spiritual Independents
January 2010 Newsletter

This newsletter is a publication of the Mystical Order of the White Rose, a multifaith devotional and spiritual support organization.  We support and share information about mystical, monastic, contemplative and creative ways of living.  We encourage prayer, the reading of sacred scripture(s), lectio divina, meditation, journaling, solitude, fasting, silence, kindness, hospitality, worship, simplicity, creativity, active involvement in spiritual and/or religious communities, and  loving service to others.  You can view past issues here and you can subscribe to it here .


Letting Go (of the old year) Video by Woven Journey

New Year Song (folk) by rachelunthank (video)

Happy New Year 2010 -- Mantra for Peace --Sanskrit Hymn


Themes:  Newness of Life; Winter; Snow; Light and Darkness

Table of Contents

-- New Daily Email Delivery of Our Daily Devotionals

-- Newness of Life-Romans 6 by David Baer

-- The Power of New by Roger Dooley (Neuroscience)

-- New Year Poem (author unknown)

-- The Mystical White Snow by Rabbi Boruch Leff

-- Light and Darkness --An Introduction by Julie Redstone

-- Links of Interest

-- Daily Devotionals

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New Daily Email Delivery of MOWR's Daily Devotionals

Starting this year and this month, you can receive our multi-faith, multi-media daily devotionals in your email inbox.  Just click here to sign up.


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Newness of Life - Romans 6

by David Baer

     Novelty is not often praised in the Bible. Yet another newish thing—fresh vigor—is a deeply respected asset, sometimes placed before its readers as a goal and frequently celebrated as a gift recently given.

     The apostle Paul’s discussion of freedom could hardly contrast more sharply with modern and post-modern understandings of autonomy. The modern soul stands independently and makes its choices. Its post-modern sister stands in community and, similarly, chooses with that community (or so it flatters itself) a way of interpreting its world.

     Paul knows no such solitary, clinical independence. In his version of biblical realism, the human person is not offered the solitary autonomies that appear on the menus of our day. Rather, the human individual is subject, bound to a tradition, anchored to a community, contracted to serve a master more powerful than itself.

     The apostle deplores servitude and celebrates liberty within this matrix and no other. Liberty comes when the human individual—within his community or heroically alone and against it—finds herself set free by God’s power from service to a malignant master whose only design for her is destruction. In this liberation, she comes to serve a benign master whose purpose is the full realization of the deep, rich vocation of life.

     Just so does Paul come up with the delightful phrase, ‘newness of life’:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

     Paul’s rhetoric may contain a faint echo of the Hebraic notion of a ‘new song’, that jubilant, melodic cocktail of joy that bursts forth when Yahweh has exercised his salvific habit yet again, against all odds and in the face of memory’s incapacity to recall that this is his recurrent passion.

     For Paul, we walk in newness of life. It becomes the m.o. of liberated hostages, the gait of the redeemed. We limp, we stumble, yet we walk this way. We no longer shuffle into darkness but stride purposefully in dawn’s fresh light.


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 New Year Poem

(author unknown)

Life I am the new year.
I am an unspoiled page in your book of time.
I am your next chance at the art of living.
I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned about life during the last twelve months.
All that you sought and didn't find is hidden in me,
waiting for you to search it out with more determination.
All the good that you tried for and didn't achieve
is mine to grant when you have fewer conflicting desires.
All that you dreamed but didn't dare to do, all that you hoped but did not will,
all the faith that you claimed but did not have --
these slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened
by the touch of a strong purpose.
I am your opportunity
to renew your allegiance to Him who said, "behold, I make all things new."
I am the new year.

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The Power of New

by Roger Dooley

      Marketers know there are potent words in advertising, like “Free” and “New.” Neuroscientists have now determined that the appeal of “new” is hard-wired into our brains. Novelty activates our brain’s reward center, which may have been an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors as they encountered new food sources or other elements of survival.

     Today, we are no longer hunters and gatherers, but the novelty-seeking circuitry is still active and makes us find new products (and even repackaged old products) attractive.

“I might have my own favourite choice of chocolate bar, but if I see a different bar repackaged, advertising its ‘new, improved flavour’, my search for novel experiences may encourage me to move away from my usual choice,” says Dr Bianca Wittmann at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London. [From the Telegraph - ‘Sense of adventure’ makes us marketing targets by Roger Highfield.]

     Wittman and her fellow researchers had subjects choose cards associated with small rewards while scanning their brains using fMRI. Over time, the subjects were shown cards with which they had become familiar as well as new ones. The researchers found that making novel choices lit up the brain’s ventral striatum, an evolutionarily primitive part of the brain and an area associated with rewarding behavior. Wittman speculates that dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is part of the brain’s reward process, is released when a novel choice is made.

     The neuromarketing message, then, seems simple - making a product “new” in some way may give it a boost when compared with competing products. At the same time, marketers should be mindful of long-term brand attachments. (Remember New Coke?) For example, changing a brand’s logo might provide a short-term boost, but might also weaken brand familiarity and attachment. As I described in Brain Branding: The Power of Strong Brands, brain scans also show that familiar brands cause higher levels of brain activation than unfamiliar ones. So, marketers need to steer a careful course - emphasize the novelty of their offering while still using the power of long-term brand affinity.

Original Post: From:

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The Mystical White Snow

by Rabbi Boruch Leff

     Few experiences in life compare with waking up in the morning after a snowfall and looking outside. The sight is stunning, the landscape glorious and beautiful, and the feeling one has is nothing less than sublime. Only after modernity with its high-powered engines, tampers with winter's wonder, does the snow become filthy and unpleasant.

     Where does this feeling of awe come from? What is this unique creation -- snow -- that only appears in the winter?

     First, another question. Why are all the biblical holidays crowded into the spring and summer? Wouldn't it have made more sense to space the holidays more evenly throughout the calendar year?

     The Maharal, the great 16th century philosopher, comments that the Jewish calendar can be divided into two sections. Half of the year, from Passover until Sukkot (spring through summer), has the force of spiritual Ohr (light) as its primary power, while Choshech (darkness) rules the fall and winter months.

We actualize growth during the summer and then maintain and that growth during the winter.

     The implications are clear. The season for Spiritual Light is the spring/summer, and it is only then that one can actualize the greatest amount of spiritual energy. Fall/winter is a time for Spiritual Darkness and is not ideal for tremendous spiritual growth. In fact, the Maharal actually describes the winter as being "outside of the realm of time." This is because winter does not offer growth, neither agriculturally nor spiritually, thus in a certain sense the winter cannot be acknowledged as being part of any "real existence" due to its lack of spiritual developmental value.

     We can now understand the uneven arrangement of the biblical calendar. The holidays mentioned in the Torah all take place during the spring/summer months, because it is then that the potential for a real, profound, spiritual growth exists due to the power of Ohr (light). God wanted us to actualize growth during the summer and then to maintain that growth during the winter.


     Why did God create the world to live under Darkness -- lack of growth -- for half the year?

     Because it is extremely difficult to “get high” and stay there constantly. You can't expect a baseball team to play every single game as if it's the World Series. It's just too hard to remain on that high level of intensity all the time. So too, in the spiritual realm God does not expect us to be growing constantly at a high, fast pace. Every day can't be Yom Kippur. Therefore, God set aside half the year for strong spiritual growth, and the other half for maintenance of that spiritual growth.

      How were we to hold on to that growth? Did God leave us without any assistance? The answer leads us full circle to our most fascinating subject – snow, as described in the Midrash:

From where was the dry land of the earth made? From the snow that is under God's Throne of Glory. God took it and threw it upon the water, the water then froze, and the dust of the earth was formed. As the verse states (Job 37:6) "To snow, God said: Become land!"

     The Midrash implies that snow at its very essence is closely related to God's Throne of Glory and thereby, to God Himself.

     The Zohar, the chief work of Jewish mysticism, tells us a remarkable insight. It states that God actually wears Tefillin. And in the same manner in which our Tefillin must be perfectly black in color, so too God's Tefillin must be perfectly white.

As our Tefillin must be perfectly black in color, so too God's Tefillin must be perfectly white.

     A possible explanation is based on some basic facts we know about the colors black and white. Black absorbs all other colors within light rays, while white reflects all other colors. We must wear Tefillin that are completely black because we must absorb all of God's wisdom and direction. God "wears" Tefillin that are white because He reflects all wisdom and guidance.

     We sense from the Zohar the meaning and symbolism of the color white. Snow, in being the purest form of white, also represents the idea that God, who is sending the snow from the heavens, is the "Reflector of all Wisdom." White snow is the object which descends from God's "wearing white Tefillin" to remind us that God created and maintains the world and we must serve him wholeheartedly.


     The Maharal describes snow as being an illuminating force that is tantamount to Spiritual Light. This is why God made the earth from snow (as mentioned in the Midrash earlier) because people on earth need to be reminded of God's involvement in man's affairs. By creating the earth from snow, God has placed a spiritual force that is present at all times in the earth, enabling us to actualize spirituality. And by causing snow to fall at certain times, God sends us a reminder to actualize this spirituality.

Snow's profound meaning helps us feel connected to God once again.

     This is why God makes snow in the winter. In the winter we do not experience biblical holidays, it is our lowest point of spiritual inspiration. God, therefore, sends us snow; contemplating snow's profound meaning helps us feel connected to Him once again. Snow descends and covers the ground as if to shout, "Remember that it is God that is constantly “covering” the ground and providing everything in our life. Draw closer to Him!"

     So the next time it snows, instead of being upset that you're going to be late for work, be reminded of the deeper truths of this world. It is wintertime, time to bask in the glory of God, as reflected in the pure, white snow.



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 Light and Darkness --An Introduction

by Julie Redstone

      Click here to read this essay.


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Links of Interest

The Song "Alpha and Omega" by the Gaither Vocal Band (Christian) Video

Quotations about Beginnings and Endings

Tranquility of Snow (video)

Newness of  (Christian)

Sanctuary of Enlightened Life

Light and Darkness by Kenneth E. Thomas

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Daily Multi-Faith, Multi-Media Devotionals for January 2010

    Each day we should expose ourselves to the inspiration of others.  Thousands of saints and wise men and women have left us messages of hope and encouragement.  Read what is honest.  Read the scriptures and the commentaries.  Read great literature and poetry.  Read the psalms.  Read that which expresses the anguish and the exhilaration of experience, and teaches us that we are not alone.

      -  John McQuiston II,  p. 88, Always We Begin Again--The Benedictine Way of Living

These devotionals also serve as excellent "journaling prompts" for written reflections.

Additional resources:

Moon Phases for January 2010     Daily Celebrations   Living In Season    Astronomy Picture of the Day                                            

The Gnostic Calendar--A Mandala of Wholeness

The Writer's Almanac:-- Poems, prose, and literary history every morning from Garrison Keillor direct to your inbox. Delivered daily.

Orthodox Calendar from Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America  Celtic Wheel of the Year     Druidic Holy Days

Esoteric Christo-Pagan Calendar of Events and Observances  The Liturgical Calendar of the Celtic Catholic Church  

Pagan Calendar      The Goddess Lunar Calendar   Islamic Holy Days & Calendar

Church of England Calendar of Saints     Calendar of the Church Year According to the Episcopal Church


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