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
Hebrews 12: 1 – 4
Psalm 22: 22 – 30
Mark 5: 21 – 43
It’s been quite a week. It’s been quite a week and, no doubt there is more to come. We have seen protests, demonstrations, and acts of witness, support and solidarity. We have seen millions in this country and around the world on the streets, in airports, in front of hotels all voicing their concern, their objections, and their resistance. It’s been quite a week, and there promises to be more to come. It seems that there is a new normal taking root, not just in this country, but around the world. My hunch, and it’s only a hunch, is that what we have seen in the past week, is what the next four years will be like, so we had all better get used to it.
For us a Christians as we watch the news, read the newspapers, talk with our friends and neighbours the questions at times like these is always: “should the Church be involved? Should the Church ever be involved?” There are those among us who would argue that the Church should stay out of politics; that the Church should never take a stand on this issue or that; that the Church must limit itself to the spiritual realm and leave the temporal realm alone. There are those who would argue that Jesus was not political; that he came to establish a heavenly kingdom and not an earthly one; that he opposed the mixing of the things of God with the things of Caesar, and so should we. Continue reading
When I read over this lesson I could feel that it was a farewell address. Paul was giving advice and encouragement for the time when he could no longer be with the people of Ephesus. It was a prayer for spiritual strength; for courage and perseverance. (Vv. 16-17)
At the beginning of this 3rd chapter of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus he referred to himself as a prisoner for Christ Jesus.
After a series of trials before several tribunals Paul had appealed to the Emperor. He was on his way to Rome by way of churches he had founded. (Cf. Acts 25:10-12) He did not want the concern that these people of Ephesus had for him to hinder the growth of their faith in God. Having said this, look at the main thrust of today’s Epistle reading. Continue reading
Before I came to the monastery I worked for a number of years as a Parish Administrator at a large Episcopal Church in downtown Boston, situated on a bustling street filled with high-end fashion boutiques and office buildings. The church kept its doors open throughout the work day and served as a hub for all sorts of programming, from Twelve Step meetings to homeless ministries, lunches for the elderly and concert series. On any given day I could be found coordinating a harpsichord delivery, scheduling a repair for our broken elevator, or trying to assist a young woman who periodically slept on our front steps – often simultaneously.
Dennis was our custodian. He greeted me daily when I arrived at 7 am with a huge smile and would yell one of his nicknames for me: “Special K!” or “K Dog!” or often just “Brother!” Short, thin, and feisty, Dennis had lived a very hard life but had an indefatigable spirit of joy and a deep, inspiring love for Jesus. He sang hymns at the top of his lungs over the sound of his vacuum cleaner, and accurately understood his work as a ministry. Dennis lived his emotional life extremely close to the surface and was frequently overwhelmed by it. He often needed to visit my office on the third floor to vent his feelings. Continue reading
Experience Holy Week as a journey into the heart of God through prayer.
In Lent 2013, the Brothers offered a video series on “Praying Our Lives,” exploring the gifts and modes of prayer. Click on each video below for inspiration on how to pray this day of Holy Week.
For a resource page on prayer, including select videos from “Praying Our Lives,” click here.
To view the full “Praying Our Lives” series, click here.
Matthew 10: 24-33
For several years after college I worked for an international development and relief organization. We provided medical supplies and expatriate staff for hospitals in 80 or so of the economically-poorest countries of the world. My work was in personnel, which included preparing and orienting our medical workers for what they would encounter in their host culture. We always told them in great detail the worst they would likely experience: the extremes of the weather, the meager diet, the primitive sanitary conditions, the political tensions with the host government, the competition among various religious and political groups in their area, the lack of privacy, the prospect of their becoming sick, the homesickness and loneliness they would feel, the possible strains on their family, the desperate need for their work… and the haunting guilt they would probably feel being such privileged people in the face of such great poverty. Continue reading
Celebration of the Ministry of M. Thomas Shaw, 15th Bishop of Massachusetts
Isaiah 64:3-5,8; 1 Cor. 12:12-13, 20-26; John 15:1-12
I am grateful for the invitation to break the bread of God’s word on this occasion as we gather here to give thanks for the amazingly fruitful episcopal ministry of the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw.
I am particularly pleased to be with you this morning to celebrate someone who has been a close friend for many years – since the 1980’s and his years as Superior of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, and, additionally, for the past 20 years, as a colleague in the House of Bishops where he has been deeply valued as a person of wisdom and insight with the ability to draw to draw people together beyond differing points of view into a broader understanding and wider vision. Continue reading
The crowds only grow, desperate to hear Jesus and to experience his help and healing. The crowds only grow. And what does Jesus do? It’s quite revealing. He withdraws. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last that he withdraws. Jesus would minister mightily, and then he would withdraw to deserted places – note the plural: deserted places – and he would pray. The cry is not the call. The cry for help is not one-in-the-same with our call to respond. It certainly was not for Jesus. There was always more to do. Jesus here is showing his truly-human side, without infinite resources, and he practices a kind of “life rhythm” clearly knowing when he must withdraw to pray.
At Emery House, our retreat center in West Newbury, one of my favorite things to do is walking down the lane in the dark and looking up to see the stars, watching the amazing light breaking through so beautifully and naturally. I usually don’t get to see it. We have so much light in the city. So much artificial light may let us live, yet it limits what we see. Where it is most dark, light is most powerful.
For my first two years here in SSJE, I was the only new man, the sole postulant and then novice with professed brothers. Those were very good and relatively easy first years for me. I enjoyed using my gifts and learning our ways. After two years, our prayers for new men were answered as Jim and John arrived and several more since.
I had not wanted to be the only new man. There was a clear call to come when I did. Before Jim and John arrived, I was fairly comfortable with my experience and perspective of SSJE. New men challenged that. I felt confused, lost—yet with time, more alive—as their presence and relationship further revealed my limitations. Their perspectives broadened my understanding of the community and more importantly challenged me to see and honestly share more of myself. Continue reading
I don’t usually refer to my sermon preparation when I preach, but I will today. For some reason I found this time around particularly challenging: I can’t remember getting so tangled up in words and using the select and delete functions on the computer quite so many times–I’ve nearly worn off the letters on the “delete” key. The subject of the gospel today is prayer—which is the air we breathe around here. But it’s something I rarely preach about.
François de Sales, the 17th century Bishop of Geneva, was revered for his insights about prayer. His recommendation for prayer: every day, “half an hour’s listening is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed.” (1) François de Sales presumes three things about prayer:
1. Our prayer begins and ends with listening.
2. When life is very busy – like when you’re beginning a new school term, or a new internship, or a new job, or when life is very full – our discipline around prayer can easily be lost and yet it’s all-the-more important.
3. It’s essential to demarcate some time each day for prayer.
But don’t stop there. I will add a fourth point about prayer which I draw from our own Rule of Life:
4. The real quest, the ultimate invitation for prayer, is to “pray our lives.” (2) Continue reading
In July 2011, our brother Tom and I spent a few days in Rome. In many ways, the highlight of our visit was the pilgrimage we made, deep underground, into the Christian catacombs. I remember it was a very hot day, but as we walked down and down, through the intricate labyrinth of tunnels, the temperature plummeted. I remember shivering with cold, but also with awe. We were on holy ground, for on each side of the tunnels were recesses for burial chambers. Here, in the very first centuries after Christ, Christians buried their dead. As my eyes slowly got used to the dim light I began to see that the walls were covered with a plethora of beautiful colored frescoes. Continue reading
When I entered the monastery back in 1985, I knew nothing about icons. I had never visited an Orthodox church and had no idea that icons had been used by Christians for centuries in both public worship and private devotion. Towards the end of my novitiate, I read my first book about praying with icons: Behold, the Beauty of the Lord by Henri Nouwen, published in 1987. In it Nouwen describes several icons with which he had prayed for some time, noting their distinguishing characteristics and describing the insights he had gained from praying with them. Continue reading
Today’s Eucharist is the Monthly Requiem in which we especially remember those members of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist who died in the month of September. Continue reading
“How do you recruit new monks?”someone asked me the other day. The answer is: we don’t recruit new members of the community. We make ourselves known – on the internet – but I would never encourage a man to come as a postulant. In fact, I often try to put people off! It’s really important, that if someone wants to join the community they have to ask – and maybe ask several times, before we say yes. Continue reading
One of the questions that I get asked as a monk quite often when I travel around is, “Are you a silent order?” Kind of a difficult one to answer. No – we don’t take a vow of silence, and we do talk quite a lot. But silence is a hugely important part of our monastic life. Guests sometimes say – “Oh, being silent – is that sort of part of the Brothers’ penance?”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a phrase from our Rule of Life that refers to the “mystical and apostolic aspects of our vocation”. The “mystical and apostolic”: it’s a way of encapsulating one of the polarities or we might say complementarities of the Christian life. The mystical and apostolic—or we could say the contemplative and the active—or prayer and service. The SSJE has both in its DNA—as do many other religious orders.
This week most of the Gospel readings have been from Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. In those readings we see the later reactions of some who witnessed the miraculous feeding of 5,000 people. They were disputing even among themselves. The question they were disputing was “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52) For them that idea was not only distasteful but it was against the Jewish Law. (E.g., Lev. 17:14, 15& Deut. 12:23)