Wait – Br. Mark Brown

On this evening of the first Tuesday of Advent we begin a four-part sermon series entitled “Practicing Patience”.  We invite you to join us following the service for soup and conversation with the preacher. The topic I’ve been asked to comment on this evening is “waiting”.  I need to begin with disclosure and a disclaimer: I am not a patient person by nature and I most certainly do not like to wait. So you must all wonder if I actually know what I’m talking about. But since I’ve been asked to address the topics of patience and waiting, I shall now fulfill my obligation by talking; and you, a captive audience, must sit and wait patiently for me to finish—which I will do eventually—although you know “neither the day nor the hour”!

The early Christians seem to have believed that the end times and the second coming of Christ were just about to happen—maybe even later today or tomorrow or not much later. So the New Testament has very few references to future generations—no admonitions to “tell this to your children and your children’s children”. There would very soon be a new heaven and a new earth, so don’t get too attached to this one. The great and terrible and wonderful day of the Lord was just about to happen—Jesus would come again very soon. Continue reading

God Loves to be Thanked – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Deuteronomy 8:-1; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 17:11-19

Among the many things which I like about living in America is this day – Thanksgiving.  My family and friends in England don’t know quite what it is.  They sort of combine it with the 4th of July and think it’s a kind of thanksgiving for having got rid of the British!  But I’ve explained it to them now, and they even phone and wish me Happy Thanksgiving.  So, what is Thanksgiving about?  If it’s not thanks for getting rid of the British, what is it about?  It’s got to be more than just the prelude to the biggest shopping spree of the year!

Thanksgiving’s got something to do with this story of a woman out shopping on Black Friday.  She was in the middle of the packed mall, and felt the need of a coffee break,  So she bought herself a little bag of cookies, put them in her shopping bag, and got in line for a coffee.  She found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, took the lid off her coffee, and taking out a magazine she relaxed and began to sip her coffee and read.  Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper. Continue reading

How to Live in End Times – Br. David Vryhof

Daniel 2:31-45; Luke 21:5-9

At first glance it may be difficult to see any connection between tonight’s two readings.  (Even at second glance it may be difficult to find, but here’s what I see.

The first reading, from the 2nd chapter of the book of Daniel, tells the story of Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  Nebuchadnezzar was the King of Babylon who captured and destroyed Jerusalem in the year 597 B.C.E. and drove the people out of their homeland and into exile. Daniel, a Jew living in Babylon during the exile, is able to interpret a dream for the king that none of the wise men of Babylon had been able to decipher.  He even describes the dream itself without ever having been told it and makes it clear that GOD has revealed both the dream and its meaning to him.  In the dream, a large statue made of gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay is completely destroyed.  The statue is symbolic, says Daniel, and represents the future of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and his descendants, indicating that his kingdom will become increasingly weak and divided until it is at last completely destroyed. Continue reading

To and For You – Br. Robert L’Esperance

Matthew:  25:31-46

Some of you might know that we Brothers follow an ancient monastic practice of taking our meals in silence, often accompanied by a brother reading aloud.  As of late, we have been reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer was an early twentieth century theologian and Lutheran pastor.  In popular memory, he is known chiefly for his staunch opposition to the Nazi’s murderous regime and the Christian Church’s shameful acquiescence in the horror.

After a long period of fearless soul-searching examination, and tremendous spiritual anguish, Bonhoeffer become complicit in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.  The conspiracy was uncovered and Bonhoeffer, along with his co-conspirators, was butchered in an execution specifically designed to prolong the throes of painful death.  The SS carried out the execution on Hitler’s orders in April, 1945 just days before his suicide and Germany’s surrender ending World War II in Europe.  Continue reading

St. Hugh, Monk and Bishop – Br. David Allen

Titus 2:7-8, 11-14

Hugh was born in 1140 in Avalon, Burgundy, France. Upon reaching maturity he became an Augustinian Canon.  A few years later, in 1165 at the age of 25, he joined the Carthusians at Grand Chartreuse.  In 1175 he was sent to England to be prior of the recently founded Charterhouse at Witham, Somerset.  Although it had only recently been founded, the priory was in need of reform.  Hugh was soon able to restore discipline and order there. Continue reading

Not Waving But Drowning – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Twenty years ago Carl McCunn, a wildlife photographer, travelled into the remote heart of Alaska, intent on spending several months close to nature, hunting and fending for himself.  But he miscalculated.  He ran out of food, and the weather turned exceptionally bad.  He became weaker and weaker, and recorded every day in his diary his growing despair and crippling frostbite.

But friends, who were wondering how he was managing, asked State Troopers to fly over his camp to see if he was OK.  Carl ran out, full of excitement, when he heard the plane, and he wrote in his diary that he was so elated to see the plane that “I recall raising my hand, shoulder high, and shaking my fist – it was like a little cheer.”  That was a big mistake – for that was the signal for “All OK – do not wait” – and the plane circled around, the pilot waved and flew off, thinking all was well. Carl had given the wrong signal.  Three months later he was dead.

There is something haunting in this story.  For me, it is a metaphor of life lived in isolation, where your signal of distress is either not noticed or misunderstood.  A friend of mine who is a doctor said that isolation is probably the most common disease in America today.  So many family units are fractured and more people live alone today than ever before in American history.  The lack of interpersonal relationships causes severe loneliness to millions.  Please look at me.  Talk to me. Continue reading

Nothing to Lose – Br. Mark Brown

Matthew 25: 14-30

We hear today another parable of the kingdom—it follows directly on the parable of the ten bridesmaids from last Sunday. A parable is, of course, open to interpretation. It’s often hard to know exactly what Jesus had in mind, but the effect of a parable is to draw the listener in, to engage the imagination and intellect and moral sensibilities. But the parables of Jesus often leave us scratching our heads a bit.

Those who have get more and those who have nothing lose even what they have?  We may find ourselves in a kind of wrestling match to sort it all out. Jesus being the consummate teacher, I suspect the wrestling match, even some indignation, is what he desires.  The personal engagement with the Living Word, even if it’s arguing, is better than spineless passivity.  So, as Jacob wrestled mightily with the angel of God, we often wrestle with the Living Word as he comes to us by means of texts, sometimes confusing or obscure texts. Continue reading

Poetic Splendor in Color and Light

The Connick Foundation’s
Orin E. Skinner Annual Lecture

The Monastery Chapel of Saint Mary and Saint John

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Dr. Charles Connick believed that stained glass is “the handmaiden of architecture.”  Quite.  We experience in this monastery chapel the extraordinary synergy of two devoted friends, who both were artisans and spiritual seekers: Ralph Adams Cram, the architect, and Charles J. Connick, the glassman.  You have to be prepared to take it all in.  As a visitor, you don’t simply walk into this monastery chapel from Memorial Drive.

First you must ascend, you must climb the steps.  Most of the cadence of monastic prayer is based on the Psalms, which are chanted in this monastery chapel from early morning, before the dawn, until the completion of the night before we sleep.  Many of the Psalms are Psalms of Ascent: about lifting one’s step, lifting one’s heart, lifting one’s hands, lifting one’s eyes to the holy place where God dwells.  You must reenact that posture of ascent to enter this chapel as you necessarily ascend the steps, but then you must do one more thing.  You cannot enter the chapel full stride.  As you will know, at the top of the steps, you are forced to turn before you enter the rear door of the chapel, the antechapel.  That turning is an experience of conversion.  The word “conversion,” as the word appears in the New Testament Greek, means just that: “to turn,”  to turn in a new direction in response to God.  To enter this chapel you willingly ascend, and then you must change course – an act of conversion – before you cross over a threshold.

What you then experience is liminality.  The English word “liminal” comes from the Latin, limen, which is a “threshold,” an in-between space, what the ancient Celtics called “a thin space.” It’s where you can get in touch with two realities simultaneously: liminality.  On the one hand, you come into this chapel, this holy space, and you are very much grounded.  Nothing could be heavier than a floor of undressed slate and polished marble, and the serene walls of granite.  No matter how much you may feel your life is adrift, when you come into this space, you are grounded.  You are held steady.  And then the limestone Gothic arches, columns, pillars, and capitals lift your gaze to the light of the heavens with the beautiful rose window that crowns the antechapel, and the clerestory windows that line the choir.  It is this experience, both of being grounded and surrounded by terra firma and, simultaneously, being elevated up on high, where we can experience the light of God’s countenance shining upon us, that makes this chapel such a liminal space. (1)

This is one of the things that so many people are looking for in life: to be fully alive as a human being, fully vested in life in the here-and-now, and, at the same time, to be able to see through this life the traces of the glory of God the Creator, who is the beginning and end of our lives.  In a space such as this, we are reminded how the skill of artisans can engage the primordial elements of this earth – wood, stone, iron, sand – in a way that is iconic.  This chapel is an icon.  An icon is a window through which to see God, and a window through which God can see us.  That actually explains the origin of the English word “window.”  Our word “window” comes from thirteenth-century Old Norse, quite literally “wind eye,” an opening through which to see and be seen. (2) Long before there was glass; and before then, long before windows were covered with paper, or oiled animal hides, or translucent animal horn, or thinly-sliced pieces of marble, a window was simply a windy hole in the thatched roof or the mud wall that opened the sight to the light.

And that is the other thing that so many people are looking for: light.  Light to enlighten the darkness of life.  We live with so many questions, so many unknowns, and some days, so many fears.  Light chases away the darkness. (3) But not too much light.  Too much light can be blinding or searing; too much light can be exposing in a way that can leave you feeling unsafe and unsettled, like being caught in a spotlight.  A place that is a sanctuary – this monastery chapel is a sanctuary – has an intermingling of light and darkness and shadows in between.  Sometimes we need to be enshrouded by light; sometimes we need to be enwombed by darkness.  Enlightenment comes with its own cost, what the Welsh poet, R. S. Thomas, called “the wound of knowledge.” (4) You cannot not know what you’ve come to know in life.  Sometimes God keeps us in the dark from what we’re not yet ready to know.  This is what the psalmist is asking God: “Hide us under the shadow of your wings.” (5) Being hidden in the shadows.  Saint Paul writes about this in his First Letter to the Corinthians, a scriptural passage that Dr. Connick found intriguing: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (6) A sanctuary – a place of safety and holiness – will have an intermingling of light and darkness, enough of both.  This monastery chapel is a sanctuary.

There is another quality that informed the design and crafting of this chapel, an invisible quality, and yet clearly perceptible.  And that is humility.  Both Ralph Adams Cram and Charles J. Connick were not building a monastery chapel as a towering edifice to rival the soaring beauties of neighboring Harvard University.  Both of these men said their prayers.  Both of these men clearly believed their artistic prowess came from a higher power – from God the Creator – and though they were master artisans in their own right, they also saw themselves as servants of the God who gave them inspiration.

In the case of Dr. Connick, as a young man he set off on a passionate exploration to learn not just the technical art of making the finest stained glass, but also to understand something of the souls of the greatest glassmakers of Europe in the early Middle Ages.  How did they create such great beauty without getting lost in their craft, lost in their own glory, wonder, and fame?  Dr. Connick especially became a student of the great French medieval Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, whose construction was begun in the late 12th century.  Chartres clearly held an answer to his life’s quest: how he was to hone and practice his craft in the presence of God.  He concluded that the medieval glassmen had learned two things: one, the particular genius, what Connick called “the glassiness of glass” as honestly and as thoroughly as their brother artisans had learned the workable qualities of wood and stone.  And secondly, he concluded that in the 12th century, the glassmakers’ working knowledge of light and color in glass were used as a medium for praise and prayer, not primarily as a means of making money. (7) Their craft was the prayer of their life.  Dr. Connick became convinced that stained glass could transmit light to the soul.  It was certainly true for him, personally.  He would make it true for others.

For Dr. Connick, this quality of humility, infused into the chapel’s stained glass, would be tested by the refiner’s fire again and again as his own fame increased.  So many people across the United States were looking to the Connick Studio in Boston – among them Ralph Adams Cram – for what was recognized as the finest stained glass produced in this country. (8) There was every temptation to be spectacular in his craft.  Rather, Connick saw in this an invitation not to rival but to cooperate with other artisans in the enrichment of a consecrated interior.  Connick said, for the glassman, “when [the] interior is already influenced by the work of other craftsmen, the problem tests the quality of his spirit as well as the richness of his talent.”  He concluded, “Such a task appeals only to the craftsman whose spiritual equipment includes humility.” (9) Some of Jesus’ own words fit the spirit of the Connick Studio: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (10)

Another of Charles Connick’s personal qualities, mediated through the windows of this chapel, is the gift of joy.  He said, “I want to make beautiful interiors for both churches and souls.  I want people to hear my windows singing…”  And sing they do.  Inspired by the twelfth- and thirteenth-century European glassmakers whose creations Connick had absorbed at Chartres and other great churches in Europe, Connick concluded the twelfth-century glassmakers were “children of light.”  He said, “Evidently they seized upon bits of colored glass with enthusiasm, and used them to sing forth the joy and praise that were in their hearts awaiting just such an opportunity.” (11) And so in this chapel.

The monastery chapel is dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist.  The windows behind the high altar represent our patrons, Saint John (on your right), gazing at the cross, and Saint Mary (on your left).  Notice the color blue is so predominant in these two windows and in the windows of the entire chapel.  Blue is the color traditionally associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, because blue is the color of the heavens.  The angels came to young Mary, out of the blue, to announce that she would bear the Christ Child.  And later, tradition has it the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed into the heavens, where she was ascribed the title, “The Queen of Heaven.”  Interestingly enough, it so happens that, on the color spectrum, blue is the hue that radiates more than any other color. (12) The chapel is bathed in blue light.

The three round windows in Saint John’s Chapel (on your right) depict scenes from the life of Saint John:

  • Saint John writing his vision, what we would call the Revelation to John, the last Book of the New Testament.
  • Saint John’s vision of Christ, clothed with a long robe, with a golden sash, his hair white as wool, his eyes like a flame of fire.  This scene also comes from the Book of Revelation.
  • And then a scene much earlier in his life when John was a fisherman here mending his nets. Jesus called over to him, “Come follow me,” and John did just that.

The window at the squint” in the back of Saint John’s Chapel depicts Jean-Baptiste Vianney, the 19th century Curé dʹArs and patron of parish priests.  He is listening to a troubled soul.

The most amazing Rose Window, is a wonderful example of what Dr. Connick called “a playground for the afternoon sun,” and it represents heaven. (13) The central medallion shows the Blessed Virgin Mary being crowned as the Queen of Heaven.  The four vertical and horizontal petals are the stations for the archangels protecting the Blessed Virgin:

  • On the top, Saint Michael with the white sword;
  • Below, Saint Gabriel with the white lilies;
  • On the left, Saint Raphael with the pilgrim’s staff;
  • On the right, Saint Uriel who is the Regent of the Sun.

 

The outer rim depicts angels singing, swinging incense thuribles, blowing trumpets, and dancing for joy.  Such panoply!  This is what “Hallelujah” looks like.  The word “Hallelujah,” which appears so often in the Psalms, does not have any kind of saccharine quality of triumphalism or denial or escape. (14) “Hallelujah” is not a flippant or fluffy word.  “Hallelujah” is simply a willful, joyful expression of praise for God.  It is a bold, informed, obeisant acknowledgment of who God is and what God does, in God’s way on God’s time.  The word does not appear in the Gospel according to Matthew or Mark or Luke or John.  The word “Hallelujah” does not appear anywhere in the New Testament except in one chapter of the Revelation to John. (15) It’s like the last word.  In the Revelation to John, which is a dream-like vision of what is and what is to come, the word “Hallelujah” is a chant of the choirs of heaven.  The word is sung in the heavens in a striking contrast with the situation on earth, where evil and suffering have become so tangible.  “Hallelujah” is sung in the heavens, where the travail of earth and the glory of God are finally joined together in God’s coming kingdom, the very thing we ask for in the Lord’s prayer: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it shall be in heaven.” (16) This Rose Window is what “Hallelujah” looks like.

Below the Rose Window are three panels:

  • In the center, the Virgin Mary holding Jesus.
  • On the left, the Shepherds visiting the Holy Family in Bethlehem.
  • On the right, the three Magi, who come from the east bearing gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – for the Christ Child.

The Lady Chapel, in the rear, has five lancet windows representing the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary:

  • The Joyful Mysteries (bottom windows, left to right):
    the annunciation, the visitation, the nativity, the presentation in the temple, and finding Christ in the temple
  • The Sorrowful Mysteries (middle windows, left to right):
    the agony in the garden, the scourging, crowning with thorns, carrying the cross, and crucifixion
  • The Glorious Mysteries (top windows, left to right):
    the resurrection, the ascension, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the assumption of the Virgin Mary, and the coronation of the Virgin Mary

The sixteen Clerestory Windows above the choir represent men who were founders of religious orders.  The windows begin with Saint Anthony of Egypt, the 3rd century Patriarch of Christian monasticism, then trace their way clockwise for the next 16 centuries: Saint Pachomius, Saint Basil the Great, Saint Augustine, Saint Benedict, Saint Columba, Saint Gregory, and Saint Bruno.  Moving to the other side of the choir, we see Saint Bernard, Saint Dominic, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Ignatius Loyola, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Vincent de Paul, John Mason Neal, and lastly, Richard Meux Benson, who founded our own order, the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, in Oxford, year 1866.  Each of these clerstory windows has a medallion that depicts history or lore about the life of the particular founder.  My favorites are the crocodile (Saint Pachomius), a coracle (Saint Columba), and the Taj Mahal (Father Benson).

Finally, the two chapel windows I find most endearing are here to your left, the “Workmen’s Windows,” so-called because the trades people who built this chapel gave the gift of these two lancet windows to show, as they said, how privileged they were to do this work for the glory of  Almighty God.  They were working on the chapel during the Depression.

  • Saint Joseph (on the left) bears the miraculously flowering staff, and the medallion, below, shows the Holy Family in Joseph’s carpentry shop in Nazareth.
  • Saint Luke the Physician (on the right) bears the caduceus, the ancient symbol of medicine and healing.  Tradition has it he was also a painter.  He is shown painting a portrait of the Virgin Mary.  Very endearing.
  • The panel borders show symbols of many different trades and arts that were engaged to build this chapel: the metal worker with tongs and sheet of metal; the carpenter with hammer and nail; the mason with trowel and level; the plasterer with mortar board and trowel; the excavator with shovel; the plumber with a leaky faucet and wrench; the steam fitter with wrench and pipe; the electrician with his cable; the sculptor with chisel and mallet; the engineer with slide rule and book of calculation; the stained glass craftsman with glass and triangle on drawing board, and the architect with a compass.

Charles J. Connick looked for metaphors that were large enough to capture his experience of finely-crafted stained glass windows, with their peals of color.  One of his favorite metaphors was music, these magnificent windows as a “mysterious music to the eye.” (17) He calls the windows  “trumpets of rallying colors on sunny days,” (18) and “like an orchestra of bells and harps in the wind.” (19) He had learned from the ancient windows that “light changes constantly, and that a window balanced in light is more like music than it is like any sort of picture.  It sings in the light.”  He said, “I learned to listen to the shifting colors in glowing windows, much as I learned to listen to vibrant sounds in music.” (20) Speaking of Chartres as well he could of this chapel, Dr. Connick said, “Those great lancets peal forth warm waves of color that recall vast passages for bass viols, brasses, and woodwinds in a gorgeous symphony. (21)

The music metaphor “rings true” to me in our experience of these resplendent windows.  If you were to listen to the music of an orchestra,  you could sit with a conductor’s score in your lap and focus your attention on the many parts playing before you: the technique, the interpretation, the balance, and the voice of the various instruments – the mesmerizing oboe solos, the sonorous sound of the trumpets, the tympani crescendos… or, rather, you could simply sit back and take it all in, listening to the production as a whole, from beginning to end.  And so with these windows.  You can listen to the music of these windows the same way.  You can individually take in the facets and features of any one window: the representations, the symbols, the shadows, the shades.  The detailing of this glass-art is absolutely stunning; it is magnificent.  Or you can stand back from the detail and take in the big picture, allowing the manifold colors, shapes, patterns, pieces play to your soul.  Do both.  For right now, in this moment, let the radiating glint of this afternoon’s sunset break through any clouds of despair that hang over you.  What you see here is the hope of heaven.

Blessed Ralph Adams Cram, Charles J. Connick, and Orin E. Skinner and their fellow artisans who have recreated here such beauty.

 

1 The psalmist prays (Psalm 80:7): “ Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.”  See also Psalm 4:6; 44:3; 67:1; 80:3; 80:18; 90:8; 119:135.
2 “Window” – early 13c., lit. “wind eye,” from O.N. vindauga, from vindr “wind” + auga “eye.”  The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. Robert K. Barnhart, ed. (New York: Harper Collins, 1995).
3 A prayer at Compline, the  monks’ night prayer: “Lighten our darkness, O Lord; and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.”
4 R. S. Thomas (1913-2000) was a Welsh poet and Anglican clergyman.
5 Psalm 17:8.
6 Connick, p. 73, quoting 1 Corinthians 13:12.
7 Adventures in Light and Color by Charles J. Connick (New York: Random House, 1937); p. 6.
8 On December 29, 1945, The New York Times headlined a story: “C.J. CONNICK DIES; GLASS CRAFTSMAN; Considered World’s Greatest Artisan on Stained Windows –Works in Many Churches”; p. 13.
9 Connick, p. 11.
10 Matthew 5:16.
11 Connick, pp. 21-22.
12 Dr. Connick reported that “some colors radiate – or spread – more than others.  Blue is the color that radiates most; green, red and yellow follow with receding power.” Connick, p15.
13 “Playground for the sun,” one of Dr. Connick’s metaphors for the experience of a window, p. 40.
14 “Hallelujah” occurs in a number of Psalms, especially Psalms 111-117, where its position indicated that it was chanted as a kind of antiphon by the choir of the Levites.
15 The word “Hallelujah” appears four times in Revelation 19:1-10 and also in Tobit 13:8.
16 We read in the Gospel according to Mark: “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” (Mark 13:2427)
17 Charles Connick in Adventures in Light and Color (New York: Random House, 1937.
18 Connick, p. 141.
19 Ralph Adams Cram; An Architect’s Four Quests – Medieval, Modernist, American, Ecumenical.  Douglass Shand-Tucci (Boston and Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005), p. 298.
20 Connick, p. 160.
21 Connick, pp. 35-36.

Poetic Splendor in Color and Light: The Connick Foundation’s Orin E. Skinner Annual Lecture – Br. Curtis Almquist

Dr. Charles Connick believed that stained glass is “the handmaiden of architecture.”  Quite.  We experience in this monastery chapel the extraordinary synergy of two devoted friends, who both were artisans and spiritual seekers: Ralph Adams Cram, the architect, and Charles J. Connick, the glassman.  You have to be prepared to take it all in.  As a visitor, you don’t simply walk into this monastery chapel from Memorial Drive.

First you must ascend, you must climb the steps.  Most of the cadence of monastic prayer is based on the Psalms, which are chanted in this monastery chapel from early morning, before the dawn, until the completion of the night before we sleep.  Many of the Psalms are Psalms of Ascent: about lifting one’s step, lifting one’s heart, lifting one’s hands, lifting one’s eyes to the holy place where God dwells.  You must reenact that posture of ascent to enter this chapel as you necessarily ascend the steps, but then you must do one more thing.  You cannot enter the chapel full stride.  As you will know, at the top of the steps, you are forced to turn before you enter the rear door of the chapel, the antechapel.  That turning is an experience of conversion.  The word “conversion,” as the word appears in the New Testament Greek, means just that: “to turn,” to turn in a new direction in response to God.  To enter this chapel you willingly ascend, and then you must change course – an act of conversion – before you cross over a threshold. Continue reading

Blessed Be the God of Our Salvation – Br. David Allen

Luke 18:1; Ps. 103:3

Our Gospel for today is one of those in which Jesus was speaking to a crowd of people.  If we look for a context, it says a little earlier that he was speaking to some of his disciples, (that is disciples with a small “d”, meaning that it was a group of those who could be considered followers of Jesus who had gathered to learn from him.) (Lk. 17:22ff) It appears to be the same crowd in today’s Gospel. We heard Jesus tell these disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. Continue reading

The Lamp of our Lives – Br. James Koester

Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78: 1-7; 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13

It was a hot summer afternoon and the little church where I served as the assistant curate was packed with people wearing their summer best. The groom and I were patiently waiting in the sacristy while the best man and the groomsmen were out exploring the cemetery. Time that afternoon seemed to have come to a standstill while we waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. The appointed time of the wedding came and went and the groom started to pace back and forth in the little sacristy. We waited 5, 10, 15 minutes and there was no sign of the bride. Even after 20 and 25 minutes there was still no sign of her. Finally, finally, finally half an hour after the wedding was to begin a car pulled up in front of the church and out jumped one of the bridesmaids. Her hair was immaculate, but she was wearing jeans and a tee shirt. She dashed into the sacristy and explained to the poor groom, now beside himself with anxiety, that the bridal party had only just returned from the hair dressers and the bride was only now beginning to get dressed. She’d be at least another half hour if not longer we were told. With that the bridesmaid dashed back to her car and sped off to continue her preparations. The groom collapsed into a chair and I went out into the church to release the congregation from captivity and send them out to explore the cemetery. Finally, more than an hour after we were to begin, the bridal party, with the bride in tow, arrived; the congregation took their places once more; and the groom, who by then had recovered some of his composure, and I headed out of the sacristy and into the church to begin. Continue reading

Mammon – Br. Jonathan Maury

Romans 16:3-9, 16, 22-27; Psalm 145:1-7; Luke 16:9-15

Luke’s Jesus speaks about money a great deal; or perhaps more precisely about possessions and the money or wealth which make them ours.  Of course, these things—wealth, money, possessions—have but one original source: the generosity of the God who brought all things into being.

As Br Geoffrey so rightly made clear in his homily yesterday on Luke’s parable of the dishonest steward or manager, all things which we call ours—possessions, relationships, power—are given to us in trust.  We are made stewards of all that we possess.  We may receive them with an avaricious or selfish attitude and come to be possessed by them.  Or we may come to realize that all we hold in trust is much better, more shrewdly or astutely, used for the building of community, for the nurture of a community in which God’s gifts to us—and the responsible sharing of them—create lasting well-being for all. Continue reading

Mutual Responsibility & Interdependence – Br. David Allen

Rom. 14:7-1; Mt. 15:1-10

The themes set for us in today’s first reading and in today’s Gospel are both very familiar to many of us. If we analyze them I think we can find an inner connectedness in the two Scripture passages.

Those of us who were active in the Episcopal Church or in any part of the Anglican Communion in the 1960s, as I was in Japan, might recognize the theme that came out of the first verse of the reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Continue reading

“OH WOW” – Br. Mark Brown

Rev. 7:9-17; Ps. 34:1-10, 22; 1 John 3:1-3; Mat. 5:1-12

There are two things a little out of the ordinary this evening. On this “First Tuesday”, which happens to be All Saints Day, we invite you to come downstairs after the service for a soup supper.  And this feast of All Saints is one of the occasions when we renew our Baptismal vows. Following these reflections, we’ll stand together, renew our promises and be sprinkled with water as a reminder of our baptism into Christ, into his death and resurrection, baptized into his likeness.

We stand together in this life on a kind of threshold, a threshold between two rooms.  The room before us and the room behind us are both infinities, infinities that we only vaguely comprehend. The room behind us is an infinity of nothingness, of un-being, of non-existence.  We have come out of that “un-beingness” and now actually do exist. The other room, the room before us, is an infinity of being, of what we call “eternal life”. The threshold upon which we stand partakes of both rooms. Like in the narthex of this chapel, we can hear the sound of traffic from one direction and we can smell the incense from the other, and yet not be in one place or the other. Continue reading