Volume 39 â€˘ Number 3
IN THIS ISSUE: Reconciliation with God Longtime friend of the community, The. Rev. Cristina Rathbone relates the reconciling power of a pilgrimage to Emery House. Br. James Koester uncovers the challenge – and reconciling possibility – of the passing of the peace. Br. Geoffrey Tristram looks into the mystery of the atonement. Br. Curtis Almquist offers a practical guide to forgiveness. In an interview, Br. Mark Brown shares his experience of three calls to vocations in the Christian life. Professor Mark McIntosh of Durham University reflects on the possibilities for reconciliation unleashed by our participation in the Trinity. Letter from the Superior | Letter from the FSJ| Annual Fund Report Spotlight on Community Life
Update your address with us! See the postcard inside. To remove your name from our physical mailing list and sign up for our electronic mailing list, please call 617.876.3037x55, or email email@example.com. To follow the latest news from the Brothers, visit www.SSJE.org where you can listen to weekly sermons, watch videos, and view photo galleries of the Monastery. We would welcome hearing what you think of this issue of Cowley Magazine. Visit www.SSJE.org/cowleymagazine to share comments, ask questions, or see Cowley in color!
Cover photo: A simple cross lifted high in the Chapel on Good Friday: potent symbol of our reconciliation with God.
©2013 by The Society of Saint John the Evangelist, North America
A Letter A Letter from the from Superior the Superior Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE
Dear Members of the Fellowship of Saint John and other Friends,
he yearly cycle of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter has afforded us the opportunity to hear again the wonderful story of our salvation. Through word and sacrament, through the ancient and profound liturgies of Holy Week, and through the joyful celebration of Easter, we once again entered personally and as a community of faith into the Paschal mystery; that “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Reconciliation with God is the theme of this edition of Cowley. Despite a world which often seems so broken, torn, and divided, we Brothers hope, through our life and ministry, to witness in some way to a God who longs to heal and make whole, and who, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, offers us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life. Although we live in a materialistic world, there is nonetheless a deep longing among so many to understand and appropriate the things of the Spirit. As our Rule puts it, “people are hungry for good news that life is full of meaning in union with God” (Ch. 19). It has been our joy and our privilege, both at the Monastery and at Emery House, to accompany many individuals and groups for times of retreat and spiritual refreshment. We are blessed by these two sacred spaces – ‘thin places’ – where God seems to draw especially near to us, and invite us into closer union. It has also been a moving
experience for us Brothers during the days of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter to have seen how popular and helpful our daily video series, “Praying Our Lives,” has been. Thousands of people in several different countries subscribed, and many have written quite movingly about how the daily offering has helped them to deepen their relationship with God and to refresh their life of prayer. We were especially delighted that the National Church has integrated it into their Lenten offering, and that it was broadcast each day inside Canterbury Cathedral. During Lent we also offered a popular Tuesday evening preaching series called “Living Prayer.” We explored five traditional ways of praying: with the imagination, with icons and images, in the present moment, with signs and symbols, and with sacred texts. The sermons were
The congregation and sacred ministers in the Guesthouse garden on Palm Sunday.
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very practical, with meditative exercises, and the worship was followed by supper for everyone in the undercroft, as well as the chance for some lively conversation with the preacher. We have had a large number of men inquiring into our life and considering whether they may have a monastic vocation. We are hoping to receive three or four new men as postulants over the coming year to join our growing novitiate. We recently had the joy of clothing Ruben Alexis as a novice. We have been very blessed by the presence of our three monastic interns this year, and during Lent, Seth Woody mounted an exhibition depicting Rwandans who not only survived the genocide, but worked to bring about reconciliation and hope to the world. Later this year Waylon Whitley will be organizing a candlelight vigil commemorating the lives of LGBTQ youth lost to suicide
through bullying in recent years. And Andrew Sinnes will be hosting a forum on science and religion with some prominent scientists and thinkers. At Emery House we have enjoyed the companionship of four short-term residents who have greatly assisted us in caring for the property and offering hospitality to our guests. We continue to expand our produce garden and now live alongside a small flock of laying hens, some chubby pigs, and two delightfully amusing and voluble geese! You can read more about the geese in a new section we’re including in this Cowley, “Spotlight on Community Life.” Despite the storms and blizzards at the beginning of this year, the fall and early winter of 2012 were quite mild, and allowed us to complete the installation of the new cloister garden’s hardscape. We plan to begin planting as soon as the ground is thawed and danger of frost is past. Work on the restoration of the Guesthouse Fletcher Steele garden is about to begin. We are very excited at the prospect of completing work on these beautiful gardens, which will complete the restoration of both the Monastery buildings and grounds. We are most grateful to all of you who have so generously contributed to these projects. As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the gift of new life, we Brothers give thanks for all that God has given to us and especially thank you for all your support, prayers, and encouragement. We remember you in our prayers, and wish you a joyful and blessed Eastertide. Faithfully,
Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE Superior
A Letter from the FSJ
hat began as a lenten exercise some years back has developed into a personal ministry. In 2006, the AIDS Ministry at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove, Florida David Hitt was having a rummage sale, and the organizers requested that parishioners donate items for the cause. At the time, I had just moved from Key Biscayne to Coconut Grove and had purged my closets, drawers, and cabinets of the usual excesses that find their way into these kinds of sales. I really didn’t have any old video-tapes, kitchen gadgets, or clothing of the “been there, done that, got the t-shirt variety” to contribute to the cause. The weekend of the rummage sale, the weatherman was predicting a cold snap – which is quite the cause for excitement at these latitudes – so I opted to bake gingerbreads and offer them at the sale for a suggested donation that I would give back to the cause. The rich aroma of the spices filled my new home with wonderful comforting smells and reminded me of the incense from our Sunday morning services at St Stephen’s. The occasional clanging together of my grandmother’s sturdy old stainless steel mixing bowls brought to
mind the sound of Sanctus bells during mass. In addition to sugar, spices, eggs, and flour, I added the most important ingredient: prayer. “For those who receive these cakes, may they bring peace to their homes. For those to whose benefit these cakes are baked, may they realize that they are not forgotten.” The morning of the sale was indeed cold and – wonder of wonders – the baked goods table was strategically placed next to Big Bertha, the gigantic coffee urn that was dispensing free coffee to the shivering masses. The gingerbread cakes, still warm from the oven, smelled heavenly and proved very popular. All of the cakes were scooped up in the first hour of the sale. I’m not sure if it’s the recipe or the love or the prayer, but demand always exceeds supply. Over the past seven years during Lent, I’ve baked hundreds of banana breads, gingerbreads, and rum cakes, and donated the money to a number of very special causes. It’s a labor of love. Since returning from a retreat at the Monastery in April, I have been baking for SSJE. I think one of the things that makes this donation particularly special is that the Brothers are such a prayerful community. We talk a lot in the Episcopal Church about “thin space.” Well I can tell you that the entire Monastery resonates with thin space. I found myself in prayer constantly: I found myself waking up in the middle of the night and going down
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A Letter from the FSJ to the Chapel; I found myself wanting to sleep in the actual Chapel, because of the powerful exposure to such a prayerful community. Out of that experience, of course, I knew I wanted to contribute something back to this community. So now, when I bake, there is an SSJE postcard with the names of each of the Brothers written on it, on the kitchen counter-top. And while I mix up the ingredients, I call the names of the Brothers aloud and pray for the novices and interns. After my usual prayer I say, “These cakes are baked with special intention for the Brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, that God give them strength in their mission of hospitality and spiritual direction and prayer, and also support them in their vows of celibacy, obedience, and poverty.” For me this ministry is all part of giving back. It’s all part of stewardship. It’s all part of sharing a gift with others. There is not only a financial commitment on my part – there are costs involved in buying the ingredients, the pans, the zip-lock bags – there’s also a spiritual commitment. I always
approach the baking of the cakes the same way I approach prayer. The power of prayer is infinite and it’s tangible, but immeasurable sometimes. That’s why it’s good to bake the prayer into cakes: I don’t think that anything says love like cooking for somebody. You are sharing food with someone. You are giving them sustenance. They’re able to get nourishment from it. And then I also like people to know where their donation is going. I always put a slip of paper on the cake that says exactly what the donation is going to. It becomes a very personal relationship. I believe strongly in the mission of the Monastery. Since I returned from Boston, having experienced the Brother’s hospitality first hand, I can say these guys are the real deal. They have changed their lives. They have given up so much to live this life, and I can’t say enough about how important it is to support that. So I will continue to support it with my baking ministry, with visits and with prayer, and we’ll just continue in our journey together. There is a mission here and it is not just about the money: it’s about the love.
The Power of Community Alive A Pilgrimage to Emery House
The Rev. Cristina Rathbone, Cathedral Missioner for the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston
e were a motley looking crew: fourteen housed and un-housed men and women with giant great sticks, white Buddhist pilgrim scarves and back packs stuffed full of whatever we thought we’d need for our four day pilgrimage from the steps of the Cathedral to Emery House. Passers by weren’t quite sure what to make of us. Some shouted insults, but others honked horns in support. And a few – mostly drivers who saw us first in one town and then later, ten or twenty miles away, in another – pulled over to find out more. Luckily one of our band, Jimmy the Beaming Evangelist, loved to stop and explain, starting always with the same open-hearted line: “We’re on a spiritual journey,” which was true. Downtown Boston – Swampscott – Topsfield – Haverhill – West Newbury is a journey of a little over 58 miles, and like all pilgrims everywhere we were hoping the journey would become a prayer in and of itself, a passage from one way of being into something else – something new. For this reason we agreed to make our way together in silence some of the time, reserving an hour in the morning when we left the churches that so generously housed and super-abundantly fed us, and an hour in the afternoon directly after lunch, to walk together without speaking. Some of us spent the time listening to music, some re-engaging with memories The Society of Saint John the Evangelist
from long ago, some sang, others repeated sacred words, and still others simply looked at the beauty that was. All of which is to say that we all prayed as we walked and as we rested, each in our own way. In fact, without this deep reachingin, this reconciling work of listening and watching, I don’t think we would have made it this year. Many of us had expectations of God entering our hearts the way it had happened last time we walked together in this way – setting all things aflame in one gorgeous tapestry of light. But this time was different. Harder, or maybe only more grounded, 8
it’s still difficult to know. There were a couple of times when it felt touch-and-go for some of us, and because we were a community united in this crazy endeavor, what affected some, affected all. Several of us had major feet problems – and other physical troubles as well. Sometimes, truth be told, things got pretty dark and this was part of the journey too – our need for each other both revealed and resolved by the muscular rub of community. In a very real sense we learned that each of us has different strengths, at different times, in different situations, and that without each part of each one of us, we would have been pretty much lost. We SSJE
were not perfect certainly, far from it! But the power of community alive – its reliability and strength, its steadfastness – became more and more present to us with every step. This then was the dream of the vision of God; this the pilgrimage destination: Emery House, yes, yes, of course! But more than that, the simple, incarnate reality of each one of us stomping along together. Some, charged with young men’s energy rampaging out in front; storming. Others, deep in the dark mystery, loping along in the rear, and the rest of us, the hobblers and the squabblers and the peaceful ones, the
brave and the calm and the foolhardy, all huddled together in the middle, imperfect, blundering – and ineffably graceful for all that; entirely perfect. This then is how we made our way to the spacious welcome of Emery House. Not powered by visions of expansive release, but rather, and simply, by each other: sweaty and beat-up by the end, but together. A community being molded by the power of a mystery – a shape etched in the dust at the side of the road beginning already to blur but suggesting still the enduring strength of weakness welcomed, and of brokenness embraced together, as one.
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Passing Peace A Daily Reconciliation
James Koester, SSJE
t 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 â€œwe cannot keep pace with the Risen Christ who goes SSJE
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 Christâ€? (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 sunâ€™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
The liturgical practice of foot washing on Maundy Thursday invites the community to embody reconciliation in a moving way.
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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. “The getting back up involves a simple gesture and an equally simple word.”
Reconciliation & Atonement
How God Mended a Broken World
Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE
here is a beautiful story told about the English nineteenth-century landscape painter John Constable. John loved painting the idyllic countryside of East Anglia, and he also loved his many children. His oldest son, also called John, kept a diary, and he writes about one particular day which he would never forget. There was to be a special exhibition of his father’s new works, and critics from far and wide came to their home in the Suffolk countryside to see the new paintings. The highlight of the day was the unveiling of a very large canvas, and it was hidden behind a curtain. The great moment came. Everyone was very excited, and Constable walked up to the curtain and pulled the cord, and the new painting was unveiled. But there was a groan and shocked intake of breath, because right across the canvas, from top to bottom, was a great tear. Slowly everyone departed, and Constable was left with his wife and children, staring at the torn work of art. All his children were there, except John. Later that evening young John returned home, looking very frightened and guilty. His father asked him, “John, did you do this?” He replied, “Yes.” What happened next is something the young John would never forget. His father looked at him and said these gracious words, “How shall we mend it my dear?”
A curtain covers the reredos to create the altar of repose on Maundy Thursday.
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Our world is a beautiful work of art – God’s gift to us. And yet we know that God’s beautiful canvas has been torn from top to bottom. Our greed has plundered the land and damaged the environment. Our wars continue to maim and kill. Our sin has broken and scarred our relationships with one another, broken up families, divided people of different cultures, races, and beliefs. Our world is torn and divided violently at every level. This terrible process is described in the New Testament as the work of diabolos (the devil). That Greek word, diabolos, literally means “the one who throws apart.” The essential work of diabolos is to divide, to break up that which was one. John Constable’s son expected and deserved to be punished – and we deserve to be punished for our sinful share in tearing God’s creation,
for spoiling God’s beautiful canvas. But Constable spoke instead these gracious words! “How shall we mend it my dear?” And God, instead of punishing us, so loved us that he sent Jesus into the world to save us from tearing ourselves apart. If the work of diabolos is to divide and separate, the work of Jesus is to reconcile. When Jesus died on the cross with his arms outstretched, he was forgiving the sins of the world, he was mending a broken world, bringing God and humankind together again. Theologically, that is called “atonement,” “at – one – ment.” Jesus came for this purpose. By forgiving our sins on the cross, Jesus mended that which was broken. Or, as St. Paul puts it more theologically in 2 Corinthians 5:19: “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself.” For many centuries theologians have
The tradition of venerating the cross on Good Friday recognizes the reconciling power of the cross as a “place of hope and new life.”
grappled with the question of exactly how God reconciled us through the death of Jesus on the cross. There are many answers, what are known as “models of the atonement”: ways to try to explain what is ultimately a great mystery. What we can say with great confidence, is that the atonement expresses just how much God loves us. Rather than wanting to punish us, God so loves us that he gave us his Son “not to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). This is very good news! The work of diabolos, the great divider, has been defeated once and for all by the great reconciler, Jesus Christ, through the cross. But the work of reconciliation carries on! “How shall we mend it my dear?” Constable said to his son. And St. Paul in his Second letter to the Corinthians states, “God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” Each one of us has
been called to share with God in the work of reconciliation, of mending a broken world. In our baptism we were each marked with the sign of the cross – the sign of atonement, of reconciliation – and in our baptismal covenant we promise to share in the work of reconciliation, the work of mending. Christianity is really all about mending. That is what redemption means: mending something which is broken. Every Christian is called to share with God in mending that which is broken: mending our relationship with God, with one another, and mending the torn canvas of God’s broken world. So the cross is the place of hope and new life. However broken and torn our lives and our world may be, we never lose heart, but we look to the cross, for there, “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself.”
“In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
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“BEAUTIFUL! HEALING! ENLIGHTENING!” “Brother, Give Us a Word” is a short, daily devotional text sent by email each morning: a thought, a provocation, a prayer. Thank you for your presence in the church and world and especially for Brother Give Us A Word. – Mary M., Raleigh, NC I am just continually amazed at what you can produce for inspiration! – Margaret F., Brandon, VT Dear SSJE, Thank you for all the work you do in building up God’s reign! – Patrick C., Cambridge, MA I am so enjoying the daily meditations from all of you. Thank you and blessings! – Christiana O., Gulf Breeze, FL Thank you for your devotion to our Lord. Thank you for this series, which I will now embark on… – Michael D. Thank you so much for making this available. They are very meaningful for me. – Beverley E., Tuscon, AZ You’ve hit the nail on the head, thank you for being here and providing what I needed to read this morning…Bless you all for your efforts, for the changes you wrought in all of us. – Deborah V., Bradenton, FL What would we do without the majestic words of the SSJE. –Elizabeth G., Long Beach, MS This gets to the heart of Christianity for me. – Judy S., Millersville, MD Beautiful! Healing! Enlightening! Thank you! – Dee Simply clear and brilliant. Thank you, this has been and will be very helpful. – Alison I., Mystic, CT Thank you so much for this encouraging word, which I needed NOW. – Pam N., Richmond, ME Your Brother Give Us A Word and videos on prayer via the web are a joy. – Gary L., Los Angeles, CA
TO START YOUR DAY WITH A WORD FROM THE BROTHERS, SUBSCRIBE AT:
Reconciliation Presumes Forgiveness Forgiveness Does Not Presume Reconciliation
Curtis Almquist, SSJE
orgiving is in your best interest. To not forgive someone is to incarcerate them in your memory: your offender being the prisoner; you being the prison guard. The tragedy is that both of you are in the prison. Forgiving is setting someone free for your sake. By forgiving someone, you unbind yourself from the residual power this person – from whom you have experienced an injury, offense, or disappointment – continues to have on you. To not forgive will leave your wound vulnerable to infection, which eventually can metastasize into resentment. Nelson Mandela, on being freed from twenty-six years of imprisonment in South Africa, felt bitter toward his captors; however he was determined to claim his inner freedom, to forgive and not to resent. “Resentment,” he said, “is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy.” Do you wait until someone who has hurt or offended you asks for your forgiveness? No. To wait gives this other person tacit power over you, certainly a control over the healing of your wound. And they may never own or even realize they have committed a wrong toward you. Do you tell someone that you have forgiven them? Probably not. To do so might sound terribly pompous The Society of Saint John the Evangelist
or presumptuous on your part; you could offend them. They might say something like, “Who do you think you are to speak so condescendingly to me?” Most often your forgiving someone is a matter within your own heart, though you may need some assistance from a trusted soulmate or professional helper. Do you forgive someone for a repeated offense? Yes, but with a qualification. This is the energy in Peter’s questioning Jesus, “How often should I forgive?” Jesus answers in code language: “endlessly.” You will understand this if there is a person or some kind of person from whom you cannot escape and whom you find repeatedly offending. Your relationship may have a Velcro-like quality, “hooking” you. You may find in this relationship both a need and invitation “to pray without ceasing” for yourself and for this other person. They may even be a disguised teacher, exposing you to your own character flaws. SSJE’s founder, Richard Meux Benson, taught that “in praying for others we learn really and truly to love them. As we approach God on their behalf we carry the thought of them into the very being of eternal Love, and as we go into the being of him who is eternal Love, so we learn to love whatever we take with us 17
there.” The qualification is when the offense has an abusive or addictive quality. Then there is a need for you to establish at least a protective boundary, and maybe an escape plan. You will need help with this – pastoral, sacramental, psychotherapeutic, and/ or the assistance of a support group or 12-Step meeting. Help is very helpful. Get help. What about mutual forgiveness: both persons being offended; both persons forgiving each other? Those are amazing moments when they happen. When you do find yourself sharing conversation with someone about your afflicted relationship, if you are prepared to forgive, also be prepared to be forgiven. You may have missed or misinterpreted something in your altercation, how they experienced you. That missing information may make all the difference, not just in the freedom that comes with forgiveness but in the shared delight of reconciliation.
Must you always be reconciled with someone whom you have forgiven? No. Reconciliation, when it can happen, is a beautiful thing. But the timing and setting must be right, especially when there was or is a power differential between the two individuals, i.e., a difference in age, in seniority, in status, in authority. The less-powerful person continues to be quite vulnerable. I recently shared a conversation with a young woman who had been appallingly abused by her father in her childhood. (I write about this with her permission.) The woman was a walking miracle. She had not only survived but found the courage, the desire, the help to thrive. She claimed what she called “an amazing grace” to have forgiven her father. The point of our conversation was about her reconciliation with her father who had never admitted his repeated transgressions. The young woman thought she should and must
The stripped and bare Chapel on Good Friday.
The Monastery crucifix reveals God’s encompassing forgiveness: Christ’s right hand shapes a blessing even from the cross.
be reconciled to him, and she was very, very anxious about this. She invited my response. I said, “No, not now.” I strongly sensed it was not safe for this woman to attempt the reconciliation. It would have every prospect to tear open the sutures in this woman’s soul; it could re-ignite her father’s prowess. It was essential for her wellbeing to retain a clear boundary with her father. We ultimately talked about what more she could do in her relationship with her father. Pray. She was aware of his own upbringing, how he had been abused by his own father, and – from a safe distance – she actually felt a good deal of compassion for him. How to pray? I asked her. She had a flood of images: to pray for her father’s liberation and healing, for hope, for love.
Sometimes this is the best we can do: to pray for Jesus’ light and life and love to shine upon a person from whom we need to keep distance. In the fullness of time – and maybe not until eternity – reconciliation may be able to happen. In the meantime, use Jesus as a go-between. Ask for Jesus’ mediation, whether this person be alive or dead. At death, “life is changed, not ended” (the language of the Book of Common Prayer). You may find enormous comfort and streaming energy to whisper into Jesus’ ear your own hopes for this hurtful, hurting soul. Pray candidly. Even if your feelings toward this person remain conflicted, pray your conflict. Jesus will sort it out. For how long should you pray? You will know.
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The Friends of SSJE Annual Fund 2012 As the liturgical year moves into the light of the Resurrection we are called to remember how we have been blessed and nourished in our deepest being by the words, prayers, and challenges of Jesus Christ. The Brothers live and work to pass on the love, grace, and truth of Christ to all who have ears to hear and souls that hunger. The steadiness of our commitment is vital in supporting the expanded outreach and mission of the Brothers. Our generosity to the Brothers is a real blessing both to them and to ourselves. – William Kendrick & Polly Chatfield, Co-Chairs of the Annual Fund
God has given us so many gifts: new men desiring to test their vocation with the Society, two beautiful sacred spaces in which to live and worship, and you our friends, who strengthen and encourage us with your love and support. We remember you in our prayers with great thanksgiving. – Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE Superior
It is both humbling and inspiring to witness the Society growing with your encouragement and generosity. Together you are suffusing the world with kindness. – Mr. Jamie Coats, Director, Friends of SSJE
THANK YOU NEW FRIENDS OF SSJE Welcoming New Friends The Brothers welcome new donors who joined the Friends of SSJE in 2012.
Even if you have a relatively quiet lifestyle, it’s so easy to get distracted. Even if you were to decide, “Ok, for the next twenty minutes, I’m just going to sit and be still,” there’s always something that comes up and interrupts it. So I think that one of the most intriguing things about SSJE is having a place and time that is set aside and dedicated to stillness. But the Monastery is more than just a physical space to be quiet in. It’s a dynamic, living community, in a quiet way that is different from other communities. My interactions with the church or other religious communities have predominantly been with noisy faith - people have their own strong and often loud opinions and ideas, often tied up with social beliefs, environments, or cultural identities. That layering can make faith very noisy; it means there is a lot of interference. I had thought that was the only way: to have a faith, you had to have all that extra noise. But SSJE proposes another way. I’m intrigued by how the Brothers are secure with sitting with a question, thinking about it, and then saying, “I don’t know.” It is very compelling to see them be comfortable with doubt while still believing. Being open to alternate possibilities and yet being secure in your own path – really, there’s some quantum physics going on in that! The SSJE preference for quantum faith over noisy faith shows a different side of God that other religious settings might be missing. It’s what I need right now. It fills something that I need in order to grow, and I am grateful for it. – Rashmi Dayalu
I found out about SSJE through Forward Movement, who are republishing booklets by the Brothers. I see the Brothers are doing some serious reflection on the big questions, taking time out of the busy world to think about how we can live more fully. I liked listening to the audio readings of the Twelve Days of Christmas and told my children that the meditations enriched my life. – George Hilty
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THANK YOU ABIDING FRIENDS OF SSJE The Brothers are grateful for Friends who abide with them, giving year after year.
I’m just really grateful that I have the opportunity to contribute to this community. I really believe in what the Brothers are doing. They’re like a team that I want to back; I want to support the team. I trust them in terms of how they focus their resources, and there are very few groups or organizations or endeavours that I can think of where ministry seems so broadly encompassing: they’re trying to live the gospel in a way that is really beautiful and that contributes a lot to the rest of us. Even their community life is a contribution to the rest of us in the church, since they’re trying to embody and live out the gospel. The reverberations of that, the added love and light in the world, are invaluable. I know that through the resourcing I’m getting at SSJE – the renewed connection with God, the peace – I’m being equipped to serve and love people in this world; and I know that everyone else is, too. So it just seems like any investment in SSJE is going to be multiplied. When I give, I feel that we’re in a mutual relationship of giving to one another. I receive so much from them – so much spiritual nourishment through their ministry – giving doesn’t feel like a compensation or paying a bill. If I tried to repay all that I’d received…that would be impossible! One metaphor I like is that giving to this community is like the delight of a child feeding a hungry duckling. It feels much more like a circle: a cycle of being able to give to each another. – Yoojin Janice Lee
It’s not unusual to arrive at the Monastery for a retreat feeling as though I’m trailing bits of myself all over the place. Somehow the embrace of the community helps put me back in touch with God and myself. The community’s reliable and wholesome environment of deep prayer allows me to pay attention to God. Leaving, I carry with me the image of a kind of internal Monastery. When I feel scattered, I can return to that place of regular, sustained prayer. It’s like breathing. – The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, Bishop of Chicago Member of the Fellowship of Saint John
THANK YOU CANADIAN FRIENDS OF SSJE Your presence here is still felt and cherished. Thank you a thousand times for your ongoing ministry. I look forward everyday to “Brother Give Us a Word.” I know a lot of thought goes into it and it really is an oasis in a busy world. – The Rev. Stephen Berryman, St. John’s, Cambridge, Ontario
PLANNING AHEAD The Brothers thank those who have remembered SSJE in their wills and estate planning. Your thought for the future assures SSJE’s future ministry. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for Planned Giving information.
I think of the SSJE Brothers as my spiritual bellwethers – longdistance leaders in my spiritual growth and development over the years. I had a wonderful spiritual director in Chicago for many years, I go regularly to a great retreat center in Wisconsin, and I love my church where I feel a connection to God in every service. But my SSJE association is the warp in my spiritual tapestry that keeps all of my sacred spaces connected. Twenty-two years ago, I encountered the Brothers when Br. Tom Shaw spoke to a small group at the National Conference on Evangelism at Kanuga, a southern retreat center. Two or three years later, three Brothers held a spirituality conference at Kanuga. There were more than 40 men and women there, we talked and talked and prayed for several days, and at the end, I knew what the Kingdom of God was like, I just needed to figure out how to get back there. And I decided that following the SSJE Brothers was my way, so I attended as many retreats as I could. As to leaving money in my will, I believe it takes a spiritual community to raise a group of monks. It’s what I can do to give back in a practical way for the spiritual care and nourishment I have received. It makes me supremely happy to know that I can continue to be a part of their community, long after I am gone. All our atoms are connected in this great cosmic stew that God co-creates with us, world without end. – Eileen Harakal
Questions or comments? Want to share your experience of SSJE? Please contact Friends of SSJE, 980 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02138 email@example.com or 617.876.3037 ext 24
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Three Calls A Conversation about Vocation with Br. Mark Brown
When did you first experience a call to the monastic life?
My call to the monastic life was actually my third experience of being called to a vocation in the Christian life. It was preceded, first of all, in my mid-thirties, by a call to be a Christian. I’m an adult convert to Christianity, baptized at thirtyfive. My second call was a vocation to the priesthood. Then a few years later came a sense of vocation to the monastic life here at SSJE. Describing with a very broad brush: I was raised in a church-going family in a small Midwestern town, Coal City, Illinois, where we attended a Presbyterian church on a regular basis and were active in the congregation. By the time I reached my mid-teens, I felt like I needed to distance myself from the church. I wasn’t sure what I believed. Eventually, I stopped attending church or thinking of myself as a Christian. After I left my hometown in 1967, to go to the University of Illinois to be a music student, I became very involved in studying music – in a sense, that was my religion for quite a while. Then, little by little, bit-by-bit, I began to feel a kind of magnetic attraction to something out there, though I wasn’t sure what that something was. So I began a kind of 24
wild and crazy exploratory period during my college years. This period took me to some very strange (and sometimes wonderful) places: I dipped into Eastern religions and theosophy, tried out a whole range of things having to do with the occult and paranormal, attending séances, getting into astrology and numerology and all kinds of very exotic things on this spiritual quest. In my early thirties, I made a trip to France for a vacation and was particularly attracted to the churches, as anyone would be in a country like France, where there are such wonderful old churches to visit. While in the city of Arles, in the South of France, I visited Saint Trophime, an ancient church, dating back in parts to the fourth or fifth century. I happened to be there just when a baptism was taking place. As I watched this baptism, something came over me that felt tremendously powerful – so powerful I had to grab onto something to keep standing up straight! In that moment I knew that I needed to be baptized and join the Church. What did you do with that urgent sense of call?
Back at home I began to raise my antennae to see what I could sense in the environment around me. I still wasn’t sure where I would land, because I didn’t feel at all drawn to the tradition in which I’d been raised. I felt somewhat drawn to Catholicism. Because my adult life had been spent in the study and teaching of SSJE
music, I knew that wherever I landed would need to take the arts and beauty seriously. But I struggled with the top-down approach to authority in the Roman Catholic Church. To make a long story short, I found the Episcopal Church. On Christmas Eve, in Champaign, Illinois, it all came together in a very wonderful and marvellous way, and I instantly felt at home there. I knew that this was a place in which I could be a Christian. A few weeks later, in late February 1986, I was baptized and became a Christian – and a member of the Episcopal Church as well. About the same time – actually a few weeks before I was even baptized! – I had begun the discipline of praying Morning Prayer using the Book of Common Prayer. One day, I remember, I was praying “The General Thanksgiving” that comes at the end of that service, meditating on the words about service: “that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service.” I was pondering what that might look like for me. And in a flash, in a moment, the thought, the words, the idea, came to mind that I should become a priest. The first call, the call to be a Christian, was slow and incremental: a gradual increase of attraction through years of wandering and looking and searching, and then a realization that I needed to be baptized and to become a Christian. My sense of vocation to the priesthood was very different because it was so instantaneous and unexpected. I didn’t have a conscious sense of building up to this. It seemed out-of-the-blue and unreasonable to want to be a priest without even being a baptized Christian. (Though even that is not unprecedented: St. Ambrose was not baptized when he was elected Bishop of Milan.) Yet in this second sense of vocation to the priesthood, there was something so clear, something suddenly so evident and so powerful, I never doubted its validity. The Society of Saint John the Evangelist
I knew, as surely as I knew that the sun was shining, that this was my vocation, and that all I had to do was keep going through doors as they opened and I would become a priest. And that is what happened. When I think back on the experience of that moment, I think of a piano string being tuned. If you’ve ever heard that happening, you’ll know what I mean. There’s a wrench that tightens the bolts that hold down the strings, and as the tuner turns the bolts, the string goes flat, goes sharp. The sound wobbles around the true pitch, and then suddenly the true pitch rings out in a very clear, bell-like way. And that’s it. You know that the note is now in tune. That’s how it felt to me, after so much wandering and searching and seeking and going this way and that way: It felt in that moment like I was perfectly in tune with what I was meant to do with my life. So when did you experience your third call, the call to become a monk?
After seminary, I worked in a parish for a while as a priest. During that time, I was asked by a friend to preach at his wedding in New York. As I arranged to make a trip to New York I thought I might as well make a retreat at the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. I loved going for retreats at a monastery in Michigan. But while I had a deep appreciation for the monastic life from that experience, I didn’t have a sense of vocation to that particular community. After a few days on retreat at SSJE, I thought, “Maybe there’s something here for me. This might be a possibility.” I knew already that I had a strong attraction to the monastic life, and now I could see how I might live out my baptismal vows and my priestly identity in this place, with this community. So I began a correspondence with Br. Curtis, who was the novice guardian at the time. 26
Following my retreat in July of 1996, I came for an inquirer’s visit that October and then came as a postulant in June of 1997. This has been a different experience of vocation from the previous two because it’s been a kind of ongoing wrestling match with God. Looking back now, I have no doubt that I’ve made the right choice. I do have a vocation as a member of this community. But with this call I haven’t always had the clarity I did with my previous senses of vocation to be a Christian and a priest. I’ve had to struggle with this call much more. Once I was beyond the initial stages of wonderment about being here, once the realities of daily existence began to sink in, there certainly were times when I began to wonder, “Have I made the right decision?” Of course, I’m still here and I have the sense of this being right. The point I’m making is that when we talk about having a sense of vocation, we can be talking about very different experiences. I, for one, have experienced a variety of calls: first the gradually increasing gravitational attraction experience, then the sudden insight experience, and finally the Jacob-wrestling-with-the-angel kind of experience. It’s important for people to know that vocation can be played out in many different ways. There’s no wrong way or right way; it happens as it happens, and it can happen in any number of different ways. What’s been the most rewarding thing for you about accepting the call to be a monk?
The single most gratifying thing is probably living a life rooted and grounded in a regular practice of corporate prayer. This is a wonderful place in which to be a priest, partly because of the care and skill that SSJE
goes into our liturgical life. We put a tremendous amount of thought and energy into liturgy because we love it. So it’s a very gratifying place to celebrate the Eucharist. I find this an especially wonderful place to be a preacher. In a parish, a preacher has to be all things to everyone and try to meet a very wide range of needs, to speak to a wide range of people. Since we have many Brothers preaching, each one can develop his own unique voice, without feeling the need to be all things to all people. So I’ve found tremendous freedom in this context to develop my own voice as a preacher without being anxious about whether it’s speaking to everyone all the time. One of my Brothers affectionately has called my preaching eccentric, and I take that as a great compliment. I’m glad to be able to be in a place where I can be an eccentric preacher. Do you think that everyone has a vocation?
It depends on how we understand “vocation.” If we’re talking about a spectacularly dramatic moment when we experience God calling us, a kind of Damascus Road experience, I’d say that’s comparatively rare. I suspect that the most common sense of vocation is one that develops over time, which may also involve a certain amount of struggling. In retrospect, even my sudden sense of vocation to the priesthood, which in the moment seemed unexpected and unprecedented, may have been a more organic movement in the trajectory of my life. A sense of vocation forms around what we might call “the heart’s desire”: what we truly desire for ourselves in God, for those around us, and for the world. I suspect that our own deepest desires are most often the strongest indication of vocation. We need not wait for or expect a call that seems to come from outside of us, but rather be attuned to that which is becoming alive within us.
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Trinitarian Life The Source of Reconciliation Mark McIntosh
This essay comes from the collection I Have Called You Friends: Reflections on Reconciliation, released by Cowley Publications in 2006 in honor of Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold.The book is available for purchase through Rowman & Littlefield (www.rowman.com) and other online book retailers such as amazon.com.
hat does Jesus want to bestow upon creation? In Jesus’ intimacy with his companions before Calvary, the Gospel of John portrays him as drawing others into his own relationship with the One he calls Father: “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). Jesus brings his followers into a new state of being, friendship, a state of being one with another in love and freedom, a state of reconciliation. And this state, in John’s view, is only possible for humanity as it is led by Jesus into an ever-deepening participation in that inexhaustible sharing of life which is the Trinity: “I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” God the blessed Trinity reconciles and overcomes all sinful divisions in the universe by bringing the creatures within the peaceful communion of trinitarian life (“I have called you friends”); what we experience as reconciliation is nothing less than the conversion of our divisions towards the difference-in-unity of the Persons
of the Trinity. Intelligent creatures have the capacity to be drawn into deeper awareness of this creating and reconciling, this laboring of the Trinity; by prayerful attunement with it, they may become more willing and effective ministers of reconciliation themselves. There is no dimension of creaturely existence – whether personal, ecclesial, global, or cosmic – where this laboring of the Trinity is absent or its power to bring about new and reconciled life is without witness, the first and last and ever true witness always being the crucified and risen Christ himself. While this reconciling, communionforging life of the Trinity is, of course, the fundamental mystery of our universe and so always beyond conceptual grasp, the church lives by constantly nourishing itself and being continually converted in the presence of this mystery. Part of that process of continual conversion is what ancient Christians called theōria in Greek or contemplatio in Latin, the giving over of our whole heart and mind to the joyful and transforming gazing at this mystery of the trinitarian life. Apart from this contemplative theological conversion, the church’s mind is easily captivated by urgencies and mesmerized by fears that distort its hearing and proclamation SSJE
of the gospel; but as the church gives itself to this ever-deepening conversion, it is disposed to a much more effective witnessing of God’s work. St. Gregory of Nyssa likens this patient and prayerful nourishing of the church’s mind to the experience of one drawing near to gaze upon an inexhaustible source of life: If anyone happened to be near the fountain which scripture says [Gen. 2:60] rose from the earth at the beginning of creation and was large enough to water the earth’s surface, he would approach it marveling at the endless stream of water gushing forth and bubbling out. Never could he say that he had seen all the water. . . . In the same way, the person looking at the divine, invisible beauty will always discover it anew since he will see it as something newer and more wondrous in comparison to what he had already comprehended. He continues to wonder at God’s continuous revelation; he never exhausts his desire to see more because what he awaits is always more magnificent and more divine than anything he has seen.1
We can never come to the end of God’s wonders. Whatever good we grasp will only be exceeded by a yet greater share in God’s goodness – if we will permit our hearts and minds to be overtaken by this infinite self-sharing of trinitarian life. As the church unstintingly gives itself to this true worship of God, it is the more genuine and quick-eyed in its ministry of reconciliation in the world. Good theology can help us to gaze worshipfully and nourishingly into this mystery. In that spirit we ask: How does the Trinity come to embrace creaturely divisions within the unity-in-difference of the Divine Persons? What is the friendship that Jesus is bringing to birth? Christians believe that, having been created in the image of God the
Trinity, we are created for relation, for being one with another in love and freedom, for friendship. We might describe sin as the distortion of relations, so that what was meant for joy and life is often vexing, risky, and sometimes even mortal. The result is that human relations have grown tenuous. Seldom, this side of Eden, do creaturely relations bear within themselves the secret wellspring of trinitarian relations which are their eternal source. Insofar as human relations, meant to be the flowing source of love within the world, have grown stunted and embittered, so the divine abundance they were meant to mediate is lost on us. For this reason John’s Gospel understands Jesus’ initiation of his disciples into his relation with the Father as the climax of a long and painfully ironic struggle. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus has encountered many who respond to his words and deeds with what John portrays as a characteristic human literalness, incapable of perceiving or receiving the fullness of divine abundance and self-sharing life: Nicodemus understands new birth in narrowly biological terms, the Samaritan woman hopes for living water that is merely persistently
1 Gregory of Nyssa, Commentary on the Song of Songs, Homily II, trans. Casimir McCambley, ocso (Brookline, Mass.:Hellenic College Press, 1987), 201. The Society of Saint John the Evangelist
wet, Martha looks for the resurrection of her brother Lazarus only at the last day, and so on. John views all this as a particularly painful irony since the one whom the world misunderstands in so constricting a manner is the inexhaustibly abundant Word of the Father in whom and through whom all these things have come to be. Ironically, they fail to hear the full depths of the very creative Word through whom they have their own existence. Jesus, we could say, is the incarnate presence of God’s primordial meaning for each creature; he is the truth of God’s deep desire for each creature in all its fullness, as it might have been and might yet, in him, become. And he is this Word of God to us precisely as he opens to us his relation to the Father. It is as though the very master idea of a playwright, by means of which she had conceived an entire play – and which was, therefore, the crucial inner truth and potential and goal of absolutely everything in the play – also came to be embodied by the playwright as a particular character within her play. When Jesus encounters others, his words and actions with them are a continual epiphany of God’s eternal longing and desire for each one of them, opening up within their lives a living spring of 30
that very same holy desire, Holy Spirit, by which they might each be drawn toward the fullness of God’s original Logos or idea for them, their maturity in Christ: “While Jesus was standing [in the Temple], he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive” (John 7:37-39). Jesus’ encounters with others are so radiant, and sometimes bewildering, because they expose those whom he meets to God’s deepest truth about themselves, and in those moments, the deep longing and desiring of their hearts is released so that the infinitely deeper longing, the relational desiring of God the Spirit, wells up within them; this overflows and carries away the small, embittered, meandering desires and fears that had for so long captivated and stunted them. John draws us into a paradigm case of this liberating flowing forth of truth in the Farewell Discourses – where, not coincidentally, Jesus speaks both of the disciples’ abiding in his love (keeping his “word,” that is, God’s intention and meaning) and of the Spirit outpouring the realization and meaning of that word via their relations with each other. Then the Holy Spirit will “teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26) and this will mean being caught up in the same love and delight that animate Jesus in his relation with the Father, knowing himself to be loved into existence by the Father and loving absolutely in return: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to SSJE
you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:9-11). I’ve been suggesting, then, that in the Farewell Discourses we hear Jesus initiating his disciples into a sharing in trinitarian life, that is, into his relationship with the Father – joyfully fulfilled within them by the Holy Spirit. The word that Jesus asks us to keep and that only the Spirit can make resound within our common life; this word is the true depth and meaning of God’s intention, God’s idea, for us and for each creature. And, as we’ve said, this Word turns out, as we see from its Incarnation – to be nothing less than full relationship with God as God’s own beloved; that is, God’s “idea” of us and calling forth of us into existence: “to all who received him [the Word of God], who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:13). Given the world’s form of relations, dominated by power and fear, Jesus’ form of relation is rejected. But Jesus makes of the world’s fear and rejection of love a way to express the fullest love possible, the creative love that is the meaning of all things: on the cross he refuses to cease loving but goes on entrusting himself to those he loved and to the Father’s loving of himself and them in him. As the contemporary Anglican theologian John Milbank puts it, though Christ’s offering of himself is “unto death, the death that the Logos dies is a showing, within a death-dreaming cosmos, of that utter ecstatic self-giving which is eternal life itself.”2 The ecstatic giving of eternal life, the overflowing availability of the Divine Persons one to another, become visible in our “death-dreaming cosmos” 2 John Milbank, Being Reconciled: Ontology and Pardon (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 100.
as the prodigal abandon of Jesus’ free self-giving to others in his life and in his death. And the everlasting acceptance and delight in this eternal giving becomes visible in our world as the new life of Jesus beyond any dominion of death, and as the outpouring of the Spirit upon those who receive him. In the Farewell Discourses we hear Jesus preparing the disciples to enter into the meaning of his passion and death. Not surprisingly, the church is especially attentive to those passages during the Easter season, when the Spirit whom Jesus breathes upon his friends inspires within the church a growing realization of our calling and true identity: for this is the Spirit of the Father’s infinitely giving love, the Spirit of our adoption into Christ’s filial relationship with the Father. Another way to put this is to say that, in the Incarnation and the Passion, God has assumed our death-dealing divisions into the life-bearing differences, the relational communion, of the Divine Persons. And in Easter and Pentecost, God has begun to pour out the power of this relation between Jesus and the Father into our world, converting our dividedness into communion. It is crucial here to see that Jesus does not fulfill his mission by any achievement
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in the world: if he had wanted a purely human gift to be given us he could have done so. But he knows himself to live from and for an infinitely giving life, a life that passes beyond the barriers of anything we can know as life and even beyond what we experience as death. And Jesus accepts to be, in his folly and weakness, a sign of this divine wisdom and strength that exceed all the limits of sinful experience. That is why he does not reconcile us by a sterling human achievement of his own, but by holding our condition, in himself, out to the hands of the Father. Only in this way could he fully assume our divisions and bitterness and bear them up into the peaceful self-giving and differentiation of the Trinity. As the Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe writes: Jesus knows he is not going to live to establish the Kingdom. He did not transform the world; the colonial society went on as before; the same kinds of bitterness and meanness and hatreds went on as before. In death on the cross he handed over all the meaning of his human life to the Father; this is his prayer. The Father has not accomplished his will through any success of Jesus; Jesus is left with nothing but his love and his obedience, and this is the prayer to the Father to work through his failure. And, of course, the answer to that prayer is the resurrection, when the Father 32
through the dead but risen Christ does accomplish his loving will for human creatures. Through the risen Christ the Spirit is poured out upon all men, or, to put it another way, the relationship between Jesus and the Father, between the Son and the Father, is extended to all men. Before his death Jesus had tried, but in the end failed, to bring the Spirit of love to a small group of disciples; now through him the Father pours the Spirit throughout the world; by this the world is to be transformed into a community of love, the Kingdom of God.3
Or, as St. Paul says, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). The church itself is meant to be the germ, the preliminary sign, of this reconciling action; for there, by grace, the divisions and enmities and sinful alienations that characterize the world are overtaken and caught up within the peaceful self-sharing of the Divine Persons which is the foundation of the church’s life. As McCabe puts it just above, through the risen Christ and his Body the Church the Holy Spirit (the relation between Jesus and the Father) is extended throughout the world, and “by this love the world is to be transformed into a community of love.” Perhaps, as a final note, we could consider the spiritual implications of this theology, observing the particular 3 Herbert McCabe, God Matters (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1987), 99-100. SSJE
stance it invites us to take. First, it calls us to a passionate listening for and discernment of God’s living Word as it resounds uniquely in each situation; attending in fidelity to what might be God’s idea or purpose in every circumstance. This would mean a constant prayer to love Christ the more, so as to know him more deeply, and thereby to align ourselves in each moment more clearly with his mission. And second, this theology calls us to an equally passionate freedom for God to move us beyond what we have understood or accomplished. As Jesus surrendered his life work into the hands of the One he trusted, precisely so that the Father could pour out an infinitely greater gift, so are we called to pray for a continually growing availability to God’s unfathomable desire. In this way the Spirit may unfold within our contexts the ever-greater meaning of the Father’s love, sometimes requiring from us a costly trust and hope in God’s purposes beyond our imagining. As the Anglican theologian Austin Farrer once put it: More than all we ask for will be granted, if two conditions are present: first, a passionate concern for what we conceive the will of God to be; and second, an entire submission to the will of God, as God actually means it to be. How hard it is, to be strongly concerned for the will of God as we think we know it; and yet so detached from our conception of it, that we rejoice to have our purpose transformed by the overruling of God’s hand.4
Yet even in those moments of overruling we need never be fearful but may be hopeful and glad, for the one who takes us beyond where we had thought to go has called us friends. 4 Austin Farrer, “The Transforming Will,” a sermon in The End of Man by the same author (London: SPCK, 1973), 106.
Mark McIntosh is the Van Mildert Canon Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University.
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Emery House Geese: Ministers of Joy Last spring, four domestic Pilgrim geese took up residence at Emery House. Pilgrim geese are one of the few breeds of geese that are “auto-sexed,” meaning that you can distinguish males and females by color. The males are mostly white with touches of grey and the females are mostly grey with touches of white. We named them after some of the early members of the Emery family: John and Mary, who first settled the property in the 1640s; and Samuel and Sarah, the parents of the sisters who entrusted the property to us in the early 1950s. We got the geese in the hopes that they would help us keep some of the grass cut. That experiment proved to be a complete failure! We would need hundreds of geese to help us with the lawn and then we would have to deal with the by-product. What we didn’t realize is how much joy they would bring to us, to our guests and to the many people who walk Emery Lane. People can’t help but smile when they encounter the geese grazing on the lawns, investigating parked cars and appearing just before supper as we prepare to say grace, to announce that they want to be put to bed for the night. In many ways the geese have become ministers of joy and have a real role to play in our work of hospitality. Unfortunately we lost the two males one evening last fall to some coyotes, so this spring five more day-old goslings, a mixture of males and females, will arrive to join Mary and Sarah. In the meantime we are preparing for them by building a secure coop up near the garden. It has been a long time since farm animals were part of the daily life of Emery House, but I think the Emerys would be delighted to know that once again the sound of chickens, geese, and pigs can be heard around the property. – James Koester, SSJE
Monastic Interns’ Inspiring Projects
To learn more about the Monastic Internship Program visit SSJE.org/internship.
The Society of Saint John the Evangelist
Each of the three monastic interns living at the Monastery during this academic year developed a special project addressing an issue about which he felt a passionate concern. Seth Woody produced a photo-audio exhibit exploring the Rwandan genocide and continuing reconciliation efforts entitled “Hope Amidst Bones,” which was on display at the Monastery during Lent. The exhibit featured the stories of eight men who have responded to the Rwandan genocide in extraordinary ways. The audio interviews, recorded last year on a visit to Rwanda, were accompanied by portraits of the men and photos of genocide memorials. The exhibit is a testament to hope prevailing over unimaginable despair. To view the exhibit, visit https://pinterest.com/ sethwoody/hope-amidst-bones. Andrew Sinnes has organized an open forum to be held at the Monastery on Sunday, April 21, 2013, entitled “The Passion of the Cosmos: Scientists on Evolution, Cosmology, and Religion.” Several noted scientists of faith – including Ian Hutchinson, MIT Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering; David Urion, Harvard’s Boston Children’s Hospital Neurologist; and John Durant, MIT Museum Director and Adjunct Professor in the Science, Technology & Society Program – will share their experience of religious practice and scientific discipline. A free-flowing dialogue will follow, in which those in attendance can share their experiences, ask questions, pose challenges, or simply watch, listen, and learn. Waylon Whitley has organized a Candlelight Vigil for LGBTQ Youth Suicide which will include a procession from John F. Kennedy Park (next to the Monastery) to the Monastery Chapel. The vigil, to be held on Saturday evening, May 11, remembers the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered, and Queer) youth lost to suicide in recent years because of their sexual or gender orientation and provides an opportunity for healing for those whose lives have been affected. Speakers included Pam Garramone, Executive Director of Greater Boston PFLAG (Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and our Br. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, Bishop of Massachusetts.
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The Spring 2013 issue of Cowley takes up the theme of the Reconciliation with God. Br. James Koester uncovers the challenge – and reconcili...
Published on Apr 21, 2013
The Spring 2013 issue of Cowley takes up the theme of the Reconciliation with God. Br. James Koester uncovers the challenge – and reconcili...