My dear friends:
Sitting at Emery House, gazing across the meadow, past the hermitages, and on down to the Artichoke and Merrimack rivers, I am struck by nature’s resiliency. Just a few short weeks ago, this was a very different landscape: the sky was grey, the meadows and fields were brown and dead, the trees were seemingly lifeless, and just looking at the water made me feel cold. Then, everything looked barren. Today, things are different: the meadow is lush and green with new growth, the lilacs are in bloom, the trees resplendent in full leaf, the sky is a pale blue, and the rivers are shimmering. Already I have seen a variety of birdlife that I have not seen here in months.
Over the last two months we have seen other examples of nature’s resilience. As all but essential workers have been sheltering in place, and our ability to travel any distance has been limited to long walks and running necessary errands, air quality in some of the major cities of the world has improved dramatically, because fewer cars are on the road. This has meant that we have seen varieties of birdlife that we don’t normally see around the monastery in Cambridge.
It is my belief that human beings are equally resilient. While Covid-19 has struck deeply and widely across this country, and around the world, upending the lives of every single person, we have an opportunity like never before in our lifetimes. The pain, grief, distress, and trauma of this pandemic are real. But so too is the promise of nature and the hope of Easter.
For the last months, all of us have been going through a painful time of unmaking, as lives, and jobs, and livelihoods have been lost. The disorientation of this season has been profound. The reality is that life as we knew it will never return, and there is much in that for which we will need to grieve. But the promise of nature and the hope of Easter is that in the midst of all this loss, God is making all things new.
As painful as the unmaking has been, the remaking will be equally challenging. But as I gaze across the meadow as it is today, it is the remaking that gives me hope.
As we slowly come to the other side of this pandemic, all of us have an opportunity to begin to remake our lives, and the life of the world in new ways. It is true we have lost much, but so too have we learned a great deal: the importance of friends, the value of community, the wisdom of stillness, silence, and time. As we co-operate with God in the remaking of our lives and our world, these are the things we will not want to lose again. There will be others as well that are especially crucial for you.
As you ponder how you want to remake your life and the world, as we emerge from this time of unmaking and remaking, you may want to reflect on some of the resources available on our website. The chapters in our Rule of Life on community, poverty, silence, rhythm, hospitality and friendship may be especially helpful. Some of the pieces found in the Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Living section, such as the ones on kindness, gratitude, enclosureor simplicity might also be worth considering. You may also want to spend some time with us each day as we pray Evening Prayer. A live-stream video of Evening Prayer is now available Tuesday through Sunday on our Facebook page: facebook.com/FriendsOfSSJE/
In closing, I want to express our gratitude for the gift of your friendship and prayers for us during this time. Your appreciation of our ministry during this time of unmaking has been enormously encouraging. We count on your prayers, as we Brothers co-operate with God during this time of remaking.
Just as we know that you pray for us, please know that we pray for each of you.
Yours faithfully in the One who is, even now, making all things new.
James Koester SSJE