Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Letter from the Superior, Summer 2009

One sunny summer day as a young boy I experienced a miracle.  I was holding a small magnifying lens, examining a flower petal.  Suddenly the flower leapt on fire.  I was shocked!  In a profoundly simple way, I witnessed the power of captured light: enormous.  All light emanates from God.  In the Genesis creation account, God creates light on the first day – “Let there be light”; however it is not until the fourth day that God creates the sun, moon, and stars (Gen.1:1-19).  God’s light precedes our light.  This is such an important reminder when you are living through a cloudy day or stormy season of life: how to capture, store, focus, reflect God’s light, the light of life.  Several practices are helpful.


For one, be mindful of what you find life-giving.  What lightens your gait, enlightens your heart, brightens your soul?  These practices need to figure into your day.  Don’t just wait for the weekend, or for vacation or retreat time to savor life.  Choose life daily.  Infuse your day with some practices that you find delightful.  These alone will not take away the huge challenges of life, though this lightening will change your perspective considerably for the better.  The psalmist prays, “the LORD lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay” (Ps. 40:2).  How can you co-operate with how God operates to give you life and light, especially when you are stuck in the mud?  What do you already know that will help you detangle from the clawing tyranny of urgent demands?  What helps you get above the cloudline?  The psalmist prays, “Set me upon the rock that is higher than I” (Ps. 61:2).  God will also answer that prayer for you, with your co-operation.  Savor life daily.

Secondly, store up light in your soul like with a battery.  Life includes both day and night, and this is as true of the sky as it is of the soul.  In a dark night of the soul when you have little or no light, you need to draw on your memory bank with its battery of stored light, and this will yield hope.  How have you navigated the dark night in times past?  Hope gives you the assurance you need that the dawn will come again, even when you can’t see your way.  The psalmist prays, “You, O LORD, are my lamp; my God, you make my darkness bright” (Ps.18:28).  In times of darkness, this is your hope.

Thirdly, claim your identity as Christ’s lightbearer.  Nearly a century ago the founder of SSJE, Richard Meux Benson, said, “We are Christ’s rays, and a ray cannot be taken away from the sun.  It lives by a perpetual energy of that light which is the source of all other rays; and all are one in their source, their life, their spreading power.”  So many people live in darkness, not knowing that they are loved by God.  We, all of us, are missionaries, “ambassadors of Christ,” as Saint Paul says.  Mirror the light of Christ with your whole being.  Picture this using the image of a photograph.  The difference between a photographic negative and a positive (that is, a print) is simply light.  Let the light of Christ teem from your being wherever you go, to whomever you meet.  Don’t be timid!  People will be transformed.  We say more about this in the following pages, our own “hope in action.”

Our brother Paul Wessinger died on May 22, and we have heard from so many of you sharing your remembrances and thanksgiving for his remarkable life and witness.  The autumn issue of the Cowley quarterly will especially remember Br. Paul.  At the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in July, I joined our brothers Tom Shaw (Bishop of Massachusetts) and Geoffrey Tristram (Chaplain to the House of Bishops).  We were glad to see so many of our friends.  We welcome you to visit us, both at the monastery and online: www.SSJE.org  We pray that our life and witness be a wellspring of hope as we offer Christ’s sustenance and sanctuary to many.  We also count on you, for your abiding friendship, care, and financial support along the way.  Bless you.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. (Rom. 15:13)

Faithfully yours,

Curtis G. Almquist, SSJE
Superior

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