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Issue 132 - Danube Reflections  - December 2015

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May All the Joys of Christmas be Yours!

As we continue the celebration of Christmas, we extend good wishes of great joy to all our readers. 

The video below is from one of the churches we visited along the Danube, St. Peter's Cathedral in Regensburg, Germany. Singing "Adeste Fidelis" are the Regensburg "Domspatzen" - the cathedral boy choir.

The choir, by the way, was established in 967 AD; the diocese itself was founded in 739.
Enjoy these holidays (i.e., holy days) - and may you have blessed New Year!
Bill and Jan

Past Issues


2-Creating Sacred Space

3-Leaving Footprints


5-Ordered Life

76-Vanier Visit

87-Wondrous Fear, Holy Awe

91-Crater Lake


101-On Reflections 

102-Morning Moments

108-NBA Championship

110-On Freedom 

112 Robin Williams 


116-Kentucky Epiphany 

119-Christmas Mystery  


121-Radical Amazement 

122-St.John's Bible 

124-Botanical Garden 

126-Call of the King 

127-Living Our Stories 

128-Pope Francis 

129-Saint Francis 


131-The Way of Peace    

Link to all past issues     


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This issue offers further reflections on our recent Danube River cruise through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic. 
A Sign of Trust
I climbed a hill last month in Austria. The skies were bright blue, the sun warm, with only a chilly breeze and the bare trees to remind me that it was November.  Vineyards and orchards led down to the Danube River, with gentle hills and fields and well-tended villages on the other side. It was picture of calm and peace.
But the hill I climbed did not have a peaceful history. I climbed to Dürnstein Castle the ruins of Dürnstein Castle in Austria, high on the rocks above the Danube River. There, in 1193-94, King Richard I of England ("Richard the Lionhearted") had been held for ransom as he returned home from the Third Crusade.  Along the path leading to the castle were placards telling the story - a story of warfare and betrayal, of envy and greed.
Coming back down the hill, I took a different path into the village of Dürnstein.  In front of a house at the edge of town, I discovered a shelf, with a hand-lettered sign.  The sign read (in German) "Fresh, homemade jam." Four jars of jam sat on the shelf, along with five Jam for Sale small bottles of the local fruit brandy. There was no one tending the stand, no security cameras observing the scene, just a tin can for dropping in the 3 Euros asked for each bottle or jar.
I had come down the hill troubled by all the greed and violence wrapped up in King Richard's story. Here, outside a simple house, I found the antidote. There on that shelf sat four jars of jam, fruit of the earth and work of human hands.  There on that shelf sat trust, not conflict; pride in one's own craftsmanship, rather than coveting what belongs to another.
No matter what the jam (still unopened) tastes like, it was well worth the 3 Euros to bring back this souvenir, a sign of trust and decency.
-- Bill
In the New Year
       The door is ajar and soon it will open fully to a new year, 2016. Some wish to shut the 2015 door of heartache and misery - shut tight. Others would like a swinging door, enabling a revisit or at least a peek into lingering joys and delights. For people who live in constant active warfare and oppression, the red "Exit" sign from 2015 would be a welcome alternative.
       I think those of us Americans who have lived most of our years in relative peace have no idea what it's like to wake up every morning to the alarm of bomb blasts. During our recent trip through Central Europe, most histories and legends of the landmarks were situated in war or oppression. Yet the irony is that during these dark days, some of the finest music, art, and architecture (and other treasures of society, like beer) were created. Within just a few days, we saw the home where Franz Liszt performed his first concert at the age of 9 and also the home of Oskar Schlindler who played a prominent role in rescuing victims of the Nazi genocide during WW2. We marveled at the beauty and grace of the Lipizzaner Stallions and grieved at the scars from the Turkish Wars, World Wars and others. 
       Certainly the light that shone through the darkness of war was the yearning for beauty, truth, and goodness. Such light can be found up and down the Danube. As Claudio Magris, author of Danube writes, "The ornamental pomp of the great Austrian monasteries -- Sankt Florian, Göttweig, Maria Taferl and above all, Melk,
Benedictine Abbey at Melk 
with its spendour and majesty -- does not obliterate their truer nature, that mysterious symplicity that makes their domes and belltowers an integral part of the centuries-old religious feeling of the landscape, of the curve of the hills, the silence of the woods, the peacefulness of tradition."*
       We Americans cannot take our peacefulness of tradition for granted. How can we develop a religious feeling in the landscape of our souls? How can we be more attentive in this New Year to our truer nature - our internal desire for universal peace? It is a place we have not yet reached. "Farther, farther flows the Danube, and a scrap of paper thrown absently-mindedly into the water has already vanished, lost in the future, where we have not yet reached." **

*Claudio Magris, Danube. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008 p.146
**Magris, p.140
                                                  --by Jan
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Sincerely,  Bill Howden & Jan Davis
Soul Windows Ministries