Dignity

We receive a much fuller presence of God in the face and form of those whom we could deem the most poor or pathetic. In respecting the dignity of every human being, especially those who show up poorly on our own lists, we will especially know more about the breadth of the love of God.

-Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE

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Believe

To believe is not ultimately to wrap your brain around some existential concept. To believe is to embrace something with your heart, as if your life depended upon it. The English word believe comes from the same etymological root as the word belove, which is to hold dear, to love deeply. You may need to believe less to belove more, to be more beloved by the living God.

-Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE

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The Great Revelation – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Matthew 2:1-12

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

These wise men who had come from the East, who are they? The New Testament Greek name for them is “magi,” which means magicians, fortune tellers, wizards. [i]  The Greek name magi also includes astrologers, and so it’s no wonder that they reportedly saw a certain star rising, knew its significance, and followed it.[ii]

The wise men came from “the East,” but whether that is near East, or middle East, or far East is only a guess. St. John Chrysostom, fourth-century archbishop of Constantinople, believed the three magi came from Yemen because, in those days, the Kings of Yemen were Jews. A very early Armenian tradition neither saw them as Jews nor as starting out together but rather meeting up along the way, each of them a king from a foreign realm, each of them following this star: one named Balthazar, a king from Arabia; another was Melchior, a king from Persia; and a third, Gaspar, a king from India. I am speaking of three magi, but we are actually not told how many wizards came to Bethlehem. Three is just a guess: three kings because of the three gifts so no one comes empty handed. The gifts were of gold, the most precious mineral on the earth[iii]; frankincense, a symbol of prayer, as the psalmist says, “let my prayer like incense be”[iv]; and myrrh, the fragrance of heaven, used in the anointing for healing and also in the anointing of the dead (ultimately Jesus’ own body).[v] Read More

Emmanuel

You have been given the light and life and love of Jesus to transform your own darkness and the darkness of the world in which you live. In your touch, your words, your presence, you have been given power by Jesus. God Emmanuel is with you. Jesus abides with you. That’s his promise, always, even to the end of the world.

-Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE

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We Need More Than Spirituality: Practicing the Presence of God

If the notion of a “spiritual practice” claims your attention, something meaningful is going on within you in your relationship to God. Something has awakened in you a desire to give some of your much-in-demand energy to the life of your spirit. This is wonderful.

And yet, is it necessary? In your rhythm of life, if you find yourself struggling to focus sufficient time, on a daily or regular basis, on your relationships with family and friends, a good diet, adequate rest, physical exercise, stimulation of your mind, enjoyment of a hobby and pastime, a volunteer activity …  and a “spiritual practice,” then you may have inadvertently put your relationship with God in a box. If you find yourself “making time for God” in the schedule of your day or week, your practice might be impoverished. It’s not that you need to give more time to your spiritual practice; but rather that you might need to broaden your sense of what a “spiritual practice” is. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read, “In [God] we live and move and have our being” – all of the time.  There is no “spirituality” demarcation.  Read More

Share

Jesus says, “give to God the things that are God’s.” Give your acknowledgment to God that it’s all God’s gift, and then have the time of your life sharing, not hoarding, your life. We’ve been entrusted with the gift of life, and so we live our life as a gift, as an oblation. There’s enormous freedom in this. You have nothing to lose, and everything to give.

-Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE

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Simon Gibbons, Our Inspiration – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Simon Gibbons, First Priest from the Inuit, 1896

Psalm 23
Luke 10:1-9

In the calendar of the church, we remember today a Canadian missionary priest of the Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia, Simon Gibbons, who died on this day in 1896. Simon Gibbons was an Inuit, a member of the indigenous people, a majority of whom inhabit the northern regions of Canada. He was the first Inuit to be ordained to the priesthood.

Simon Gibbons was born in Labrador, and both his father and mother died before he was six years old. He was raised in an Anglican orphanage, showed early signs of being very gifted intellectually, and eventually went on to King’s College in Nova Scotia. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1878. He began his ordained ministry on foot as a missionary in the northeastern tip of Nova Scotia on Cape Breton Island. On Cape Breton, the “nor’easters” and the snows begin in November, and by April the typical snow accumulation is 10-12 feet. Winter temperatures typically drop to 5° or colder. Simon Gibbons regularly walked in snowshoes a one hundred-mile circuit on the island to the many small communities to comfort the sick, to teach the hope of Christ, and to administer the Sacraments of the Church.

As a pastor, Simon Gibbons was described as “very joyful.” He was also very industrious. He eventually moved onto the Nova Scotia mainland, where he was appointed the rector of a parish on the northeastern coast. He pastored a multitude of people, and supervised various building projects for the church. He was greatly beloved. He was also greatly spent in his physical stamina. His health had been compromised in the strain from his arduous earlier ministry as a missionary on foot. He died at the age of forty-six.

The Gospel lesson appointed for today mirrors the life and ministry of Simon Gibbons. Jesus was saying, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Simon Gibbons heard this message, and he went out as what Saint Paul called “an ambassador of Christ.”[i] I find it impossible to imagine taking on a missionary ministry in any way similar to Simon Gibbons. The mere thought of it sends shivers into my spine. Simon Gibbons is an amazing example of why the church commemorates the holy ones from times past. The reason we remember such souls is not that we are to replicate their life and ministry. Rather, it is for us to draw inspiration from their lives to encourage us in our own life and ministry.

When we awaken in the morning, we can be reassured both of God’s presence and God’s provision – that we will be companioned by God and equipped by God. We can also be assured, with the dawning of each new day, that God has given us a mission, which is why we are still alive. Ignatius of Loyola – the 16th century founder of the Jesuits – said that the purpose for which we have been given life – and why our life has been sustained into today – is “to know God, and to love God, and to serve God.”[ii] We are all missionaries. By our own cultural heritage, by our own geographic setting, by our training, education, life experience, and unique access to certain people, we are to bear the beams of God’s light, and life, and love, knowing that God is with us and that God will provide.

Some years ago my younger brother, Kyle, was visiting us here in the monastery. I adored him. He was a career Air Force officer for more than 20 years, he was lay minister, he was married, and he was the wonderful father of eight children. Eight children! I remember saying to him on this visit, “I don’t know how you do it. How do you juggle your life and all your responsibilities with such amazing grace?” He looked at me rather incredulously and said, without a pause, “This is what I was made to do. This is the glove that fits.” And then he said to me, “What I don’t understand is how you do what you do as a monk. That to me is impossible.” We both chuckled because we both had found our respective vocations, our very unique callings, and we were thriving.

With each new dawn God’s calls us and equips us to be God’s own missionaries, and in ways which only we, personally, can do. Our missionary field may be as expansive as Cape Breton in northern Canada, or as focused as the neighbor next door, the clerk at the checkout counter, the person we encounter on the street. We are missionaries, all of us. That is why we are still alive.

And today we take as our own inspiration Simon Gibbons, blessed Simon Gibbons.


[i] 2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20.

[ii] These are Ignatius’ opening words from his “Foundation and First Principle” of his Spiritual Exercises.

Anxiety

We anticipate the future, but we’ve gone too far when our anticipation of the future has turned into a menagerie of anxiety. That’s where we need hope. Hope is not about seeing the future; hope is about knowing there will be provision for the future just as there has been in the past.

-Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE

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Here

To cultivate wisdom you need not read another book, nor watch another Ted talk, nor travel to the ends of the earth. Be where you are, which is where God is with you. Say “yes” to life on the terms that God is giving you life just now; pay attention to your life.

-Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE

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The Dawning of the Light of Christ – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Luke 21:25-36

It is curious that we begin a new season today, the First Sunday of the Advent season. Outside the walls of this monastery chapel, a new season began just after Halloween, called “Holiday Shopping Season,” along with the Amazon promise that you can have it all now… at least by tomorrow. The season of Advent interposes quite an opposite theme. Anticipating Christmas is not about immediacy. Rather, it is about watching, and waiting, and preparing to celebrate Christ’s infant birth at Bethlehem, and to prepare for Christ’s promise that he will come again in real time. In Advent, you will see no holiday glitter here in this chapel. What catches our eye’s attention is the Advent wreath, front and center, on which we slowly light candles. In the Hebrew scriptures, the promised Messiah teems with the language of light. The Messiah is called “the Dayspring,” “the Morning Star,” “the Sun of Righteousness,” “the Light of the World.”

And don’t we need light, especially as we approach the winter solstice?  Meanwhile, there’s more and more darkness outside. The reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25th probably has to do with light. The earliest Christians most likely wanted the date of Christmas to coincide with the festival of the Roman Empire on December 25th which marked  “The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.”[i] This festival celebrated the winter solstice, when the days again begin to lengthen and the sun rises higher in the sky: December 25th.[ii]  And so light has historically figured very importantly into this Advent season preparing for the coming and coming again of Christ: light. Light in the sky and light in our souls. Read More