The Joy of Fidelity – Br. James Koester

1 John 4: 7 – 16
Psalm 67
John 15: 9 – 12

On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the marriage of Katharine and Michael Blachly

Today we rejoice with Katherine and Michael for twenty years of marriage. It might seem an odd thing to do, to come all the way from Dallas, to a monastery in Cambridge, with a group of friends, to celebrate a significant marriage anniversary, but in many ways, married couples and monks have a great deal in common. 

We say in our Rule of Life, and in the chapter on The Witness of Celibacyno less, that [our] fidelity to this vow [of celibacy] can be an encouragement to those who are united in the sacrament of Marriage; like them we depend on divine grace to help us remain steadfastly together until death through all the changes and trials of life.[1]Like a married couple, as monks, we too live lives of fidelity. 

For Michael and Katherine, that life of fidelity is to one another. For us, our life is a life of fidelity to God, as we discover the Lover of our souls here, in this monastic community. In both cases, that life of fidelity is particular. In the case of Katherine and Michael, they have pledged themselves, not in a general or universal way, but in a particular and specific way, indeed to one particular and specific person. Like them, we too have made a vow of fidelity, not in a general or universal way, but in a particular and specific way, in the context of this monastic community.

And we all know, that it is the particularity of a life of fidelity that is the difficult part. We have not pledged ourselves to an idea, but a person, a community, who one moment can be charming, and enticing, and encouraging, and the next as infuriating as hell. It is those moments which try our patience, that refine our love, like silver refined from ore and purified seven times in the fire.[2]  It is those moments when everything is infuriating, and impossible, that all of us, monk and married alike, when we discover our need to depend on divine grace to help us remain steadfastly together until death through all the changes and trials of life.

But it is also the particularity of a life of fidelity that makes it a life of freedom and liberation. To be so known, and yet still loved by another, is nothing less than an experience of God. In this is love, not that we loved God but that [God] loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for or sins.[3]

Today we rejoice in the gift of fidelity that we see in the life of Katherine and Michael, not simply because they are kind, and good, and generous friends, but because in them we see glimmers of God’s faithful, abiding, and forgiving love for each of us. As such, their faithful, abiding, and forgiving love for one another, is a sacramental sign of God’s love for us, and that is good news indeed.

In a world where so many live without love, and without the grace of forgiveness, Katherine and Michael show us the way, not only how to live, but how to love, and in showing us how to love, they show us the way to God.

[1]SSJE, Rule of LifeThe Witness of Celibacy, chapter 11, page 22

[2]Book of Common Prayer, 1979, Psalm 12: 6, page 597

[3]1 John 4: 10

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  1. Richard Woollacott on September 13, 2019 at 10:47

    Only through the grace of God can we have this kind of commitment and sadly many of us do not.

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