Radical Practices: Resistance – Transforming, Not Conforming – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Romans 12:1-2, 9-21

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Continue reading

The Radical Practice of Rest – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Matthew 11:28–30

There is within us all a very sacred place, a gift of stillness, light, and love central to our being. We could call it our heart or soul or the indwelling of Christ. It’s at once a point of utter nothingness, while also giving birth to all things in heaven and on earth. It’s a place capable of holding with infinite gentleness both incredible beauty and terrible pain. Against all reason, it’s the place God chooses to call home, and so it’s our home, too. It’s the place where Christ is born, and from where we share Christ’s love and compassion in the world. It’s God’s eternal Kingdom within us, our common inheritance as children of Light.

Very often, though, it seems so difficult to even visit this place, let alone claim our inheritance. We live our lives as if in a dream, where we’re separate from God and from all there is, and often we don’t even realize we’re dreaming. But then something happens, we start feeling restless, a part us senses our perpetual slumber, and we desire something more: to awaken to God’s Loving Presence, and dwell in that sacred place. And our Beloved God is encouraging us all the time, tirelessly offering this generous gift. Unfortunately, we tend to slumber deeply, but there is a way of being more receptive to this gift, and it’s truly very, very simple. Continue reading

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

The Gift of Peace

This offer and promise of Christ’s peace is here for the having. Receive it. Take it in as regularly and necessarily as you breathe. Breathe out fear; breathe in peace. Breathe out anger; breathe in peace. Breathe out sadness; breathe in peace.

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Passing Peace: A Daily Reconciliation – Br. James Koester

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It is not unusual, when Brothers are speaking with guests, that they have lots of questions for us. It is safe to say that people are interested in what and why we do what we do, especially if the idea of monasticism is new to them, or if they are on a first visit to either the Monastery or Emery House. They are interested in who we are; where we came from; what we did before we came to the community; what we do in the community. Inevitably most of them are curious about two other things: what is the best part of community life and what is the worst part of community life?

I am no longer surprised when people ask me those two questions, and frequently now I will beat them to it and answer them even before they have a chance to ask. On hearing my answer, many people are surprised at first, because the answer is the same. The best and worst part of community life is … community life.

There are many reasons why I came to the community to test my vocation. One reason is that after living on my own for a number of years as a parish priest, I knew that I needed and wanted to live with other people who took seriously the same things that I took seriously. I knew that I needed the support of a community. I also knew that I needed the companionship of others as I learned to face more honestly all that was within me: good and bad; light and dark; joy and sadness. I knew that I needed a container for my life that would channel my gifts, but would also bind up my wounds.

Probably the greatest joy of community life is in fact the community. But that does not make less true the fact that the most challenging aspect of community life is also the community. It is no accident that our Rule of Life requires us to make our confessions once a quarter. We do this not because we are especially pious (or conversely incredibly wicked), but in part because we live so closely with one another. It is not possible to live in community, whether that community be a family household, a university residence, or a monastery, without sooner or later manifesting to one another our frailties, our brokenness, and our need of forgiveness.

The possibilities of forgiveness and reconciliation lie at the heart of the Christian faith. Because of that they are part of the daily bread of community life. Living and working as closely with one another as we do, there inevitably (and frequently) comes the time when we need both to forgive and be forgiven. Our Rule teaches that “we cannot keep pace with the Risen Christ who goes before us if we are encumbered by guilt. If we stay estranged in our hearts we jeopardize the communion we have with our brothers and our fellow members of the Body of Christ” (Ch. 30).

As sacramental and liturgical Christians we believe that the sacraments and liturgy have the power to transform us. One of my favorite passages from Father Benson on the subject of Holy Communion reminds us of this. In The Religious Vocation he says:

And we must look for the development of the life of Christ within us. Each communion should be, as it were, adding some fresh point to the image of Christ within our souls. As each touch of the artist adds some fresh feature to the painting, so each communion is a touch of Christ, which should develop some fresh feature of his own perfect likeness within us. And it is not that it does this merely in some one direction, but as each moment of the morning adds imperceptibly a fresh glow to the whole illuminated hemisphere, so each communion imperceptibly should add a fresh glow, a fresh brightness, a fresh coloring to the sphere of the soul which it penetrates; the whole nature should assume a fresh glory with each communion. As the form and color of the landscape come out with the sun’s advance, so with each communion the form and color of our spiritual life, not merely in this or that particular, but in all its complex bearings of form and color, is to stand out with greater clearness and beauty, each communion bringing its own fresh illumination, and perfecting us in the Sun of righteousness.

If it is true that Communion has the power to change and transform us more and more into the likeness of Christ, so I would suggest that each exchange of the Peace also has the power to change and transform us.

For me, the thing that is more challenging is not the frequent receiving of Holy Communion, but the frequent exchange of the Peace! There are some days I simply do not want to encounter a particular Brother, never mind exchange the peace with him. When I find myself in that place, an exchange of the Peace is exactly what needs to happen. Slowly but surely, day after day, liturgy after liturgy, exchange of the Peace after exchange of the Peace, my heart begins to melt, and I find myself in a place where I can at last speak to the one from whom I have been estranged or else the wound has been healed and the Peace again becomes a genuine expression of my desire for all that is good to be bestowed upon the other.

Wisely, our Rule of Life recognizes that we will “fall and fall again.” The question is not if but when. When that does happen, there is a mechanism to help us all get back on our feet again, and for me it begins with the exchange of the Peace.

There is a story that comes to us from the desert tradition. There was an old woman who lived near a monastery, but she never saw any of the monks. One day, by chance, she saw a monk returning from a journey, so she approached him and asked: “What do you do in there all day?” He looked at her and replied: “We fall and get back up. We fall and get back up.”

For me, part of the getting back up involves a simple gesture and an equally simple word: the clasp of a hand, and a word of Peace.

 

Ask, Search, Knock – Br. David Allen

DavidA_2008_031In the part of the Sermon on the Mount read as today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that perseverance in prayer is important.  Keep on asking, keep on searching, and keep on knocking.  Keep asking and that for which you seek will become clearer.   Keep searching and the way to find what you seek will be understood.  Keep knocking and the door through which you can find the goal of your search will be opened for you.

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Psalm 85 – Br. David Allen

Intimacy with God: A Meditation on Psalm 85

You have been gracious to your land, O LORD,
you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.
You have forgiven the iniquity of your people
and blotted out all their sins.
You have withdrawn all your fury
and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.
Restore us then, O God our Savior;
let your anger depart from us.
Will you be displeased with us for ever?
will you prolong your anger from age to age?
Will you not give us life again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your mercy, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before him,
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

The first six verses of Psalm 85 are a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his continued care and love. The ill fortunes of Israel had been blamed on the failure of the people to keep God’s commandments. A feeling of hope that a turning back to God was taking place has been perceived. Verse seven, “Show us your mercy, O Lord,” is a prayer that this hope may be realized. The last six verses are an expression of the fulfilling of this hope for realizing greater intimacy with God.There are two verses in the last part of Psalm 85 which always touch me deeply: “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.” Continue reading

God’s Key Terms – Br. David Allen

Isa. 26:1-6; Mt. 7:21-27

In our first reading for today from Isaiah we can find some of the major themes of the Advent season.  The first of these is a reward for patient waiting of the righteous nation that keeps faith in the victory of a strong city that will be set up like walls and bulwarks.  Next is the hope for peace for those of steadfast mind, who trust in God who is our steadfast rock.  Finally there is the promise that the haughty and proud, that is those who are the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city, will be laid low to the ground and cast into the dust, trampled under the feet of the poor, by the steps of the needy.  (Cf. Isa. 26:1-26) Continue reading

Longing for the Peace of Christ – Br. David Vryhof

Advent I

Today marks the beginning of the season of Advent, and thus the beginning of the Church’s year. Advent is a time of waiting, of longing, of anticipation. We are awaiting the coming of Christ. Over the next four Sundays, we will try to put into words what that means for us; we’ll describe what we are longing for and what we can expect to receive from the Christ who comes to us. The series is called, “Longing for Christ,” and the four parts are these:

I will be speaking today on the topic, “Longing for the Peace of Christ.”
Next week, Br. Geoffrey will speak about “Longing for the Judgment of Christ.”
Br. James will follow in week three with “Longing for the Salvation of Christ,”
and Br. Mark will complete the series by speaking on “Longing for the Light of Christ.”

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Human beings share a universal hope and longing for peace. It is a desire which seems to be deeply rooted in who we are. There are exceptions, of course: people so deeply damaged by life that their capacity to love and be loved is all but extinguished; wounded people whose lives are marked by hatred and fear, who wish others ill and who strike out at them with violent words and actions. But this is a distortion of what we are meant to be, a sign of our brokenness and of our separation from God. We were made to live in peace with one another and with the whole creation, and this desire is still present in most of us. We hope and long for peace.

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Kids4Peace: Tools and Torches – Br. Mark Brown

Isaiah 65:17-25; Psalm 87; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19

One thing the early Christians didn’t get quite right was the future. They expected that any day, any hour, Jesus would return and usher in the new order. The New Testament ends on a note of expectancy: “Surely I am coming soon”, he says [Rev. 22:20]. And references to future generations virtually disappear. The early church didn’t have much to say about future generations because they didn’t think there would be any—or, at least, very few.

For a long range, forward looking plan we have to look back, ironically, to the Hebrew Scriptures, the “old” testament. All through the Hebrew Scriptures are countless references to the children and the children’s children—down through the generations. Ancient Israel was intensely interested in future generations. Abraham is promised the blessing of countless descendants–they would be as numerous as the particles of dust on the earth, he would be the father of a multitude of nations [Gen. 17:5]. To have many descendants, stretching far into the future, was a blessing from the Lord. Ancient Israel looked forward, far into the future.

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Christ the King – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David VryhofDaniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

Today is the Feast of Christ the King.  The theme is “kingship.”

From the prophecy of Daniel, we read of one “like a human being” who comes with the clouds of heaven and to whom is given “dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.”

In the book of Revelation, John speaks of Jesus as “the Alpha and the Omega,” and “the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

In John, Pilate asks if Jesus is the King of the Jews, to which Jesus replies that “[his] kingdom is not from this world.”  His followers do not need to defend him against his enemies and betrayers since his kingdom is “not from here.”

So, Jesus is a king, but in no sense that the world understands.  What sort of a king is he, and what implications does his kingship have for 21st century Christians who no longer think in terms of kings and kingdoms? Continue reading

Faith, even in affliction – Br. David Vryhof

A couple of weeks ago, as part of our Eastertide preaching series, I spoke in this chapel about what it means to believe.  I wanted to challenge the popular understanding that believing means holding a certain set of statements or claims to be true – statements, for example, about God or Jesus or the Bible or salvation.  When we speak of believing in this way, Christianity becomes a matter of the head, rather than of the heart.  The true meaning of faith has to do with living in a life-giving, life-transforming relationship with the One we have come to know as God – a relationship characterized by love and fidelity and trust.  It is not a matter of assenting to certain statements or claims about God, but of living in union with God and allowing God’s life to flow in us, and through us to others.

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O-phoria – Br. Mark Brown

Br. Mark BrownLuke 21:5-9

“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” Jesus’ ominous words about the destruction of the Temple.  The Romans did indeed destroy it in 70 A.D.  I’ve just seen where it once stood.  In its place now is the great Dome of the Rock, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture.  The plot has thickened–considerably. Continue reading