This evening marks the beginning of our Eastertide sermon series, A World Turned Upside Down. Each week, a brother will reflect on a theme drawn from the Acts of the Apostles, which can rightly be described as Luke’s “sequel” to the Gospel which bears his name. The title for the series derives from a phrase that he uses in the Acts 17.3, in which the community of believers was rightly accused of turning the known world upside down with their preaching and their new way of living and being.
As we brothers have occasion to walk along Memorial Drive, we have often witnessed people, passers by unknown to us as well as our friends, standing on the top steps of the Monastery Church, craning their necks to peer over the fence to see our cloister garden. Some of that is fueled by curiosity about the Brothers, but most of it, I think, is simply a desire to look at something which is quite beautiful. Continue reading
We here have something in common with Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome who come to the tomb: we believe in the resurrection! Jesus’ prediction that he would die and rise is true, amazingly. And on this day of resurrection, we share something else with these three faithful women, and with the disciples, and with Jesus: and that is woundedness. Jesus is wounded by the scourgings that preceded his crucifixion, and the horrific piercing wounds from hanging on the cross. None of these wounds is yet healed. Continue reading
This sermon is available only in audio format.
This sermon is available only in audio format.
There is so much significant spiritual teaching packed into Holy Week, especially into Thursday, that it is necessary to spread some of it out into the earlier part of the week so that we may be able to absorb it, and meditate upon it, and contemplate the meaning of all of the events for ourselves. Continue reading
I Corinthians 1:18-31
It was said of St Francis of Assisi that “the crucifix was his Bible.” I suppose that what was meant by this was not that Francis did not read or highly regard Holy Scripture (there is plenty of evidence to the contrary), but that, for him, the message of the Bible was expressed most clearly and forcefully in the figure of Christ on the Cross. Continue reading
A kind man tenderly—O, so tenderly—takes the body from the cross and places it in the tomb. A stone is rolled against the door. The women were witness to these things. We join them in their stunned silence, in their disorientation. It is too much to take in. How did we get here? We stand here with these women, but how did we get here? How did they get here? Where will they go now? Where shall we?
In October 1929, the stock market crashed, sending the nation into the worst economic depression in history, the Great Depression. During this time, Spence Burton, the superior of SSJE, was working with the celebrated architect Ralph Adams Cram on plans for the new Monastery on Memorial Drive. The project, when finished, would not only enable the Society’s work in the spiritual formation of students, lay people, seminarians, and clergy, but would also be a living monument to the Society’s hope for the future
The American Congregation of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist gained autonomy from the English branch of the order in 1914. When Spence Burton was elected the second superior of the American branch in 1924, he had high aspirations for its mission; aspirations that required a suitable mother house for the Society’s growing numbers and ministry. The project began to be realized when initial financial gifts from Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Burton family allowed land to be bought and the first building to be built. This building, known as Saint Francis House, was completed in 1926. A second unit, with more rooms and a temporary chapel in the basement, was added to it in 1928. It was used for ten years to house the members of the Society, and is now the Guesthouse of the Monastery. But much was left to be built, including the chapel and new living quarters for the Brothers, as well as a refectory, library, and common rooms.
“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
“Simplify, simplify, simplify.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden.
Rules for a simpler lifestyle cannot be universal rules. We are responsible for their imagination and situation. Nor is a simpler lifestyle a panacea for what ails. But, a simpler lifestyle can be an act of faith as a matter of personal integrity and commitment to a more just distribution of the world’s scarce resources. It can be a resolution against a mindset that calls for overconsumption.
Jesus called his disciples to become simpler like a child. Withdrawal from the often neurotic pressure of our materialistic society can be a response to that call. It can be an act of solidarity with the vast majority of humanity which lacks the range for choices we enjoy.
A simpler lifestyle can be a way to share with those who have less and a way of returning to them what is usurped by unjust social and economic structures. Assuming a stance of under-consumption can be provocative invitation to others into a conversation about affluence, poverty and social justice.