As human beings and Christians, our life of faith and relationship has its source in divine Love who eternally delights in each one of us as an image and likeness of God unlike any other. God’s yearning for companionship and union with all creatures has been, is now and always will be drawing us into the fullness of our created being, into the glory of the divine Life itself. Even now, divine yearning is active drawing us into community, to experience relationship with God and one another through shared worship and service. The present reality of our connectedness to one another in God, therefore, also rests on the foundation of all those who have gone before us as believers. There are some whom we have known personally, who have been instrumental in forming us in the love of Christ and our neighbor. Continue reading
Today marks the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. We have made it a solemn feast, the highest category of feast days in the Church’s year, suggesting that this day and its focus is of utmost importance to us. The Gospel of Luke, from which we read this evening, spends more time describing the annunciation and birth of John the Baptist than it does describing the annunciation and birth of Jesus himself: John gets 24 verses; Jesus gets 21. So what’s so important about John? Why does he warrant this kind of attention? And what do we have to learn from him and his story?
Today is the Feast of St George, the patron saint of England and an heroic figure in the Eastern Church. As with many of the early saints, the life of St George is shrouded with legend. Little is known of his life or of his martyrdom. What we do know is that he was born of noble parents in the region of Cappadocia sometime in the latter half of the 3rd century. After the death of his father, he and his mother relocated in Palestine, where the family held some land. George was enlisted in the army of the Roman emperor Diocletian and became one of the emperor’s best soldiers. But his conversion to Christianity put George in direct conflict with Diocletian, who was a bitter enemy of Christians and persecuted them viciously. George spoke personally to the emperor in defense of the Christians. His opposition cost him his life; he was tortured and then beheaded at Lydda in Palestine in the early 4th century.
We close out the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” today with the feast of “The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle”. Last Friday we began by celebrating “The Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle”.
People often ask me: “What has surprised you living in the Monastery?” One surprise is how much we acknowledge, encourage and remember death. We acknowledge our own corporate and personal brokenness and fragility more than I experienced in other communities. We say in our Rule of Life that the Christian life is a path of death and detachment, daily letting go and dying to our old selves, letting go of abilities, personal preferences, and expectations for how God will call or use us.[i]
One of the most memorable family Christmas presents when I was growing up was that marvel of home entertainment called ‘the VCR.’ After heeding some advice from the clerk at the store about this new technology and strange words like “Beta” and “VHS” my parents purchased a video membership and our first VCR. This machine included cutting edge technology like a remote control that had a long wire that stretched a few feet and plugged into the front so you wouldn’t have to get up from your seat to fast forward or rewind. And on that Christmas Eve in the mid-1980’s by the light of the Christmas tree and a bowl full of popcorn we all sat down and watched the first of about 6 movies we had rented.
When I was a small boy, about 4 or 5 years old, My paternal grandmother, who had been a Presbyterian missionary to the American Indians for about 40 years, told me that when God wanted his Son, Jesus, to be born into this world as a human baby, God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus, and made her to be born pure; without sin.
In our first reading we find these words, “Rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of … hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:4-7)
Today we commemorate Leo, one of the great Bishops of Rome in the middle of the 5th Century, an important period for the Church.
As a teenager, my favorite musical and social activity was being in a church handbell choir. It was so important to me that I chose a college with a handbell choir. That greatly limited my options, and it brought me to Massachusetts, for which I’m thankful! In high school I also began solo ringing. Rather than a choir in which a dozen ringers each has a few notes, I rang from a six-foot table full of bells with a piano accompaniment. It is delightful but unusual art form. From solos at my home parish and my college chapel, most everyone knew me as “the bell guy.” When visiting my home parish, inevitably someone still recalls the bell solos and asks if I keep ringing. I haven’t rung for years. I have new pursuits and even new nicknames. Yet to many, I’m still “the bell guy.” That memory sticks. Visiting California, I usually run into that memory.
When I think of the early martyrs I often think of Tertullian’s words, “The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Apologeticus Ch. 50) That simple sentence contains the answer to many questions about the martyrs’ willingness to face death.
Ignatius of Antioch was one of those martyrs, a century earlier than Tertullian.
Before I came to this country, I was the rector of the parish of St. Mary’s Welwyn in Hertfordshire, just north of London. It is a very ancient parish, part of the building had been paid for by King Edward the Confessor – and on one of the walls there is a panel listing all the rectors of the parish with their names and dates. They go back for a thousand years. It was always a strange feeling to read the names – Saxon names, Norman French names – and then right at the end, my name! Continue reading
I first became aware of Saint John Chrysostom in my teens through the Prayer of Saint Chrysostom at the end of the Services of Morning and Evening Prayer in our Prayer Book. I think others have done so also.
That prayer has given many of us a strong reminder of Jesus’ words to his disciples, “When two or three are gathered together in [Jesus’] Name [he] will be in the midst of them.” (BCP p. 102 & Mt. 18:20) (N.B. These words are also found in the homily preached by John Chrysostom just before he went into exile.)
This week, there is a great festival taking place, drawings tens of thousands of people. It’s not a pop concert, or a political rally. It’s taking place in Marondella, Zimbabwe. For this week marks the anniversary of the death of Bernard Mizeki, who gave his life as a martyr, serving the Shona people of Africa.
We brothers of the SSJE have a special devotion to Bernard because he became a Christian through the ministry of our brotherhood in Cape Town, South Africa. We used to run a school there and as a young man Bernard attended night classes. It was through meeting and talking with our brother, Frederick Puller, that he became a Christian – and was baptized on March 9, 1886.
There are times when the path to which God calls us leads us into trouble or difficulty. Being faithful to that path, being obedient to that call, can prove to be very costly. We have only to recall Christ’s agony in Gethsemane to know that this was true for Jesus, and he assures us that it will also be true for many of those who choose to embrace and follow him on the Way. Continue reading
Today we honor Justin, martyred in Rome in the year 167 (A.D.)
What is there about a martyr that makes him, or her, significant? How can any of the martyrs help us to grow in the Christian faith? One way is for us to be mindful of the witness of the martyrs. (cf. SSJE Rule. of Life, Ch. 38) Continue reading
In these few words Jesus reveals the secret of the abundant life he is bringing into the world and which he offers to each of his disciples. This is the secret not only to our own happiness and fulfillment, but also to our fruitfulness, our ability to positively influence others by bringing them to share in the Divine Life. This is the abundant life he is offering us, a life lived in union with the Triune God, a life of untold blessings and riches, far beyond any abundance that the world can offer us.
When we pause to think of how desperately people in our world seek for happiness and of the ends to which they are willing to go to find personal fulfillment, we can wonder that such a simple path has been outlined for us. “Abide in me as I abide in you,” says Jesus. “Join your life to mine, and my life will be yours.” All that I am and have I give to Jesus, and all that he is and has he gives to me. And in this union there is joy and safety and happiness and riches beyond measure. “I came that [you] might have life,” he reminds us, “and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10) Continue reading
In the calendar of the church we remember today Saint Philip and Saint James, both of them chosen by Jesus for his original circle of twelve Apostles. But here I must make a disclaimer: we know almost nothing about them. This Apostle James is not James, son of Zebedee, who, with his brother, John, had lobbied Jesus to sit at his right hand and left hand when Jesus came into power in Jerusalem.1 Nor is this James, brother of Jesus, traditionally known as the author of the Epistle of James and sometime Bishop of Jerusalem.2 This is James #3, son of Alphaeus, whom we know nothing about.3 This James is often called “James the Less,” which is not exactly flattering, but helps avoid some confusion with James #1 and James #2, about whom we know more. Continue reading
Some of you may remember that a few years ago I spent Holy Week and Easter at Canterbury Cathedral. During one of the liturgies on Maundy Thursday I was seated up in the sanctuary near the High Altar. At one point I looked down at my feet and found that on the floor beneath me the name Alphege had been incised into the floor. When I asked later I found that this was not simply an inscription but was the actual place where St. Alphege, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1006 to 1012 was buried. Today marks the 1000th anniversary of Alphege’s death at the hands of Danish soldiers. Continue reading
On December 27, 1866, our founders, Richard Meux Benson, Charles Chapman Grafton, and Simeon Wilberforce O’Neill took monastic vows not as members of the Society of St. John the Evangelist but as Mission Priests of St. John the Evangelist. Shortly after profession, Father O’Neill was sent out to India. He began the community’s work of evangelization which flourished and grew. Father O’Neill died shortly after reaching India, but his work was seminal and the Society remained in India into the 1960’s. Continue reading
In this homily for the feast day of Thomas Aquinas, Br. Geoffrey Tristram follows the theologian in exploring the connections between human reason and revelation, to celebrate how the intellect can discover—and help others to discover—God, in all places, even the least likely ones.
This sermon currently is available only in audio format.