Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

The Rule of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

We Brothers welcome you to a share one of our daily practices: listening to and reflecting on a chapter of our Rule of Life.

In addition the Brothers have a series of other resources that we hope might be helpful to you in exploring living with a Rule.

Living Intentionally: Creating a Rule of Life

We invite you to download our Living Intentionally Workbook for Creating a Personal Rule of Life. Walk with Br. David Vryhof step-by-step through the process of writing your own Rule.

A Framework for Freedom:

We invite you to discover the freedom that comes from living by a rule of life, by journeying through “A Framework for Freedom,” a 7-week self-guided video course to help you say “Yes” to your life.  Watch the series now.  Subscribe to a daily email.

In Lent 2012, we preached a series on the challenges and rewards of living by a rule of life. Drawing on chapters from SSJE’s Rule. Read and listen to the sermons.

A Living Tradition:

Each day of Lent 2011, we posted a short “living commentary” on our Rule, with a Brother or two offering his unique perspective on the document which shapes and forms our prayer and practice more than any other apart from Scripture and The Book of Common PrayerTo read that conversation, click here.

 

The Rule of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

We Brothers welcome you to a share one of our daily practices: listening to and reflecting on a chapter of our Rule of Life.

  • To listen to the SSJE Rule of Life, read aloud by a brother, click on the chapters to the left.
  • To read a Guide to Personal Reflection, click here
  • To Subscribe to the SSJE Rule of Life, click the subscribe buttons on the left.
  • We welcome comments on each chapter.
  • To purchase a copy of the book The Rule of Life, click here

Introduction

Play

The audio book, The Twelve Days of Christmas, is read by Br. Curtis Almquist and accompanied by carols sung by the Brothers.

The Twelve Days of Christmas follow from December 25 until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, the traditional date when the Magi arrived to present gifts to infant Jesus. For many, the meaning of these days is lost. By Christmas night we are saturated with the holiday hype, overfed by music and food, and may already be disappointed that the presents received are not enough. This audio book is not a bah humbug about Christmas customs and presents.

This is simply an invitation to go deeper than the tinsel and wrappings, beyond the presents given and received, to the source of all the good gifts in life. Readers are invited to unwrap gifts that will last, praying the twelve days of Christmas.

Sing

Remember to “sing to the Lord a new song,” literally and figuratively speaking. Our very lives can be songs, songs of praise to the God who created us.

-Br. Mark Brown, SSJE

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Faithful

For St. Alban, “faithful unto death” meant being tortured and beheaded. For us, it will mean something quite different. Alban’s Christian life was brief, but our calling to be “faithful unto death” may well stretch over decades of time.

-Br. David Vryhof, SSJE

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Monastic Wisdom: Transfiguration

Transfiguration

To Bear the Beams of Love

Monastic Wisdom

for everyday living

Br. Geoffrey Tristram on how we can perceive and experience God's glory in the world around us.

TRANSFIGURATION

TO BEAR THE BEAMS OF LOVE

Whitchurch canonicorum, a tiny village in West Dorset, England, is a sacred place for me. The ancient parish church is the only one in England which still contains the bones of its patron saint, Saint Candida, and it has attracted pilgrims seeking healing for well over a thousand years. It lies hidden deep in the folds of the beautiful Dorset hills, and whenever I visit my family I go on pilgrimage to the church.I know that God’s presence is everywhere, in the hills and woods and meadows of that lovely place, but I long to go inside the church and kneel down and pray. There, the presence of God is palpable, and I always feel in some way changed, blessed, transformed after my visit.

I was recently sitting quietly in our chapel at Emery House, looking out across the meadow towards the river. I was praying for the work of renovation and restoration in which we are engaged at the Monastery in Cambridge. As I sat in the chapel I remembered that it is dedicated to the Transfiguration, and I gave thanks to God for the power of sacred places to open us to the grace and power of God, to transform and transfigure us, to change us, as St Paul says, “from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians3:18) Charles Wesley paraphrases this Pauline promise into those wonderful words in his hymn: “Changed from glory into glory / Till in heaven we take out place.” Over the years that I have been a monk, I have had the immense privilege of seeing the miracle of transformation in many people’s lives. In some extraordinary way, both Emery House and the monastery have become for many, sacred places, places of divine encounter and transformation “from glory into glory.” By the grace of God, these places allow us to catch a glimpse of God’s glory.

It is good for us to seek out sacred places, places where God seems quite close, since our world often seems increasingly frenetic and complex. It can feel unsafe and even hostile. We seek out places where we may go to be ‘held’: held by the physical stone and bricks, held by prayer, held by the beauty of worship and the power of silence. We seek out places where it is safe to bring our pain and suffering, safe to open ourselves up to God and allow God’s healing and renewing love to fill us and transform us. Times of retreat are important for the same reason that sacred places are: we need times away from the hectic and harried pace of life, so that we can attend more fully and completely to the transformative love of God. I often say to someone at the start of a few days of retreat, to begin by spending some time praying before the cross, and to consciously lay at the foot of the cross all the cares and burdens which they have brought with them, and to leave them there. When it is time for them to go back into the world and take up their burdens again, so often, miraculously and wonderfully, they recognize that the burdens are much lighter. Some they are just able to leave behind!

This movement toward God and then back out into the world is the fundamental rhythm that allows for and marks the work of transformation. Look to the story of Jesus’ transfiguration, one of the key scenes in his ministry and the revelation of his identity as the chosen one of God. In the Gospels we read that, “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.” (Mark 9:2). They go away from the world, to a mountaintop, where they can be alone with each other and with God, almost as for a time of retreat. In that sacred place, they see Jesus transfigured before them, and his clothes become dazzling white. This divine encounter changed not just Jesus, but the disciples too. The disciples were granted the grace to see Jesus transfigured in glory and majesty, reflecting the glory of God. “It is good that we are here,” they say, and perhaps we can sympathize that they would want to stay up on the mountaintop, where God seems quite near. But the gift of vision and insight that the Transfiguration imparts to them and to Jesus comes not as a good in itself, but rather in order to strengthen them all for the trials that still lie ahead. Indeed, in the Gospel account, the moment the group comes down from the mountain they are met by excited crowds and a boy thrown into convulsions, rolling on the ground and foaming at the mouth. The world returns, with all its hectic care, but the disciples are strengthened and ready to deal with it, because of their time on the mountaintop with Jesus. The Trans- figuration readied them all for the work of transformation demanded by the crowds and the epileptic boy waiting below. Their theophany, or encounter with God, had readied them for the mission God had prepared them to undertake.

The interplay between theophany and mission revealed in this scene of the Transfiguration is true throughout the Scriptures. Whenever God calls someone, he calls them with a distinct purpose. Isaiah encounters the glory of God, Moses sees the burning bush, Jacob has a vision of angels ascending and descending; like the Transfiguration, these are experiences of theophany, of encounter with God. But God never lets it stop there. Once God has transfigured the individual through this exposure to his glory, he directly sends them out to do something: “Go and set my people free.” He always calls us for a purpose, a purpose that usually involves sending us out into the world. God comes to us to transform us, so that we can take part in God’s transforming work of redemption, to help bring about God’s kingdom.

God comes to us to transform us, so that we can take part in God’s transforming work of redemption, to help bring about God’s kingdom.

We see in the Gospels that Jesus always calls us by name: Peter, John, Mary. We'd love to know your name.
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About Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Brother Geoffrey Tristram was born in Wales and studied theology at Cambridge University before training to be a priest at Westcott House theological college.  He came to the United States eleven years ago to join SSJE and has pursued a ministry of teaching, spiritual direction and retreat leading, and for three year years he served as chaplain to the House of Bishops.  Before coming to SSJE he served as parish priest in the diocese of St. Albans, as well as the head of department of theology at Oundle School, a large Anglican high school in the English Midlands.

Monastic Wisdom: Conversion

Conversion

Pruning, Time, and Help

Monastic Wisdom

for everyday living

Br. Curtis Almquist on the concrete ways we can allow conversion to take place in our lives and selves.

CONVERSION

PRUNING, TIME, AND HELP

On the road to damascus to continue his persecution of Christians, Saul the Pharisee has a dramatic encounter with Jesus. Saul has a conversion experience: “As he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus.’” “Conversion,” as the word appears in the New Testament Greek, means “to turn” – to turn in a new direction in response to Jesus. We see this literally in Saul’s story: He was headed in one direction, but because of his encounter with Jesus, he turned into a new path. On the other side of this dramatic conversion experience, Saul, now Paul, spends more than seventeen years in the desert of Arabia and Syria where the Scriptures are silent. What he was doing all those years before his active ministry begins, we can only conjecture. I imagine it was about his ongoing conversion to Christ. He was practicing what he would later preach: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” While it may have begun with a singular, dramatic experience, Saint Paul’s conversion to Christ would be a life-long process, and so for us.

You, too, may have had a life-changing encounter with Jesus sometime in your past – a conversion experience. That was not an experience of a lifetime; that was an experience of how to live life all the time. Every day, from dawn to dusk, we must make a good many decisions how we will respond to life: what we will say or do, what we will reveal or conceal, what we will keep or share. Conversion is about our life-long turning and returning to Christ Jesus for his cues and for his power as we navigate life. Saint Paul would say, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”4 And so for us. Yet there are concrete things we can do to allow this conversion to take place in our lives and selves. Our life-long conversion to Christ requires pruning, time, and help. In the monastic tradition, we call this conversio morum – conversion of life.

There are concrete things we can do to allow conversion to take place in our lives.

We see in the Gospels that Jesus always calls us by name: Peter, John, Mary. We'd love to know your name.
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About Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE resides at Emery House, sharing in the daily round of prayer and worship, meeting with retreatants, stewarding the beautiful grounds, and doing some baking and cooking.  He is an avid photographer and swimmer.  He came to SSJE almost 25 years ago and served as Superior from 2001 to 2010.

Monastic Wisdom: Baptism

Baptism

Sharing the Divine Life

Monastic Wisdom

for everyday living

Br. James Koester on how baptism enables us to share in the divine life.

BAPTISM

SHARING THE DIVINE LIFE

Before coming to the monastery, I served for a number of years as a parish priest in a little parish on the west coast of Canada. I’d been in the parish for about six months when a woman named Alice came out of church one Sunday and told me she had only ever heard me preach one sermon. I knew that that wasn’t true. Alice and her husband had been in church nearly every Sunday since I had come to the parish and on the rare occasion they missed a Sunday they called the rectory ahead of time to explain why they were going to be absent! I obviously looked confused because she went on to say: “What I mean is that it doesn’t matter where you start, you always end up back in the same place: at baptism.” I began to apologize, but she cut in, “Oh no, no. No need to apologize. I wasn’t complaining. I was agreeing with you, because baptism is so important for the life of a Christian.” Alice of course was right. Baptism is important because baptism is about nothing less than sharing in the divine life of God.

“O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature,” we pray in the Collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas, “Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity..." In the Incarnation, we believe that as Christ shared in our human life, so we share in his divine life through baptism. As the Prayer Book Catechism reminds us, “Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God.” Thus we share in the divine life of God by being made children of God, by being made members of Christ’s body, and by becoming heirs of the kingdom of God. If we truly believe what we say, all of this happens at the font where we die to sin and rise to newness of life through the waters of baptism, just as the First Letter of Peter reminds us: “And baptism . . . now saves you – not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” In this way, even now and not at some future date, because of our baptism, we begin to share the reality of that divine life we speak of in the Collect, and which Christ promises to all who believe in him: “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

When we begin to understand that baptism does something to us now, and that that something is nothing short of incorporation into the divine life of God, then we can begin to experience the Trinity, not as some kind of mathematical puzzle – or a scientific experiment using water, ice, and steam showing that each of them is the same chemical but simply in a different form. Rather, we will know the doctrine of the Trinity as a lived reality. By our baptism we are invited not merely to understand, but to experience the Trinity.

Behold what you are; may we become what we receive.

We see in the Gospels that Jesus always calls us by name: Peter, John, Mary. We'd love to know your name.
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About Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester, SSJE was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He holds a B.A. in History and English literature from Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, and an M. Div. from Trinity College, Toronto, Ontario. He was ordained to the diaconate and subsequently to the priesthood in British Columbia, where he served parishes in Parksville and Salt Spring Island.

In 1989 he came to the United States to test his vocation with the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, where he was life-professed in 1995. Br. James has served in a wide range of leadership posts in the Society, currently serving as the community’s Superior. During his time in the Society he has traveled widely in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, the Holy Land, and in Africa, leading retreats and workshops, preaching, teaching, and offering spiritual direction. His personal interests include genealogy, the study and writing of icons, and beekeeping.

Monastic Wisdom: Eucharist

Eucharist

A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Monastic Wisdom

for everyday living

Br. Eldridge Pendelton explores the richness of the fundamental act of Christian worship, the Eucharist.

EUCHARIST

A SACRIFICE OF THANKSGIVING

For me it all started with a red light when I was nine years old. That summer I was spending two months with my aunt Grace at her home on the Texas Gulf coast. One day I was playing outside with Sharon, my cousin who was my age, and Judy from next door, when the two of them started arguing about whose church was best, resuming the religious wars of 500 years ago. Sharon was a Presbyterian and Judy a Roman Catholic. Both sides slung abuse, but in the midst of it, Judy, realizing I had never seen a Catholic church and ever the missionary, offered to take me to Saint Mary’s some afternoon.

The first thing I noticed through the gloom of the unlighted interior was a red lamp hanging above the altar. When I asked, she said that Jesus was there in that box behind the altar, and that at every mass he hosted a meal for everyone. He fed them on bread and wine which he mysteriously changed into his body and blood. In that way, he forgave them, strengthened them, nourished them, protected them, and answered their prayers. No one could see him, but he was always there. You could feel his presence. Furthermore, Sr. Mary Agnes, her teacher, said he lived in every Catholic church.

That was my first exposure to the Christian teaching that Christ is present in the Eucharist, and it made an indelible impression. I went away that afternoon thinking that grape juice in shot glasses and crumbled crackers did not compare to what she had, and resolving that one day I would be a regular at those suppers where Jesus fed everyone.

I went away that afternoon resolving that I would be a regular at those suppers where Jesus fed everyone.

We see in the Gospels that Jesus always calls us by name: Peter, John, Mary. We'd love to know your name.
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About Br. Eldridge Pendleton

Br. Eldridge Pendleton, SSJE (1940-2015)  met members of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) when he was twenty-one. Later, after teaching at several universities and directing a museum in Maine, he joined SSJE in 1984. Eldridge served in many capacities, including archivist, Senior Brother of Saint John’s House in Durham, North Carolina and Director of the Fellowship of Saint John. He was a life member of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament. Despite many health challenges in recent years Eldridge remained full of vigor and in 2014 he published, Press On, The Kingdom, a biography of Charles Chapman Grafton, one of the founders of the Society. Eldridge loved recounting stories of the founding brothers of the Society and their enthusiasm for the religious life and God in the hope of inspiring future monastics.

Monastic Wisdom: Intercession

Intercession

Close to the Heart of God

Monastic Wisdom

for everyday living

Br. Geoffrey Tristram explores how Intercession brings us, and those for whom we pray, close to the heart of God.

INTERCESSION

CLOSE TO THE HEART OF GOD

“I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.” So Paul writes in his second letter to his beloved Timothy (2 Timothy 1:3). At the very heart of Paul’s ministry to the young Christian churches was prayer. Paul prayed constantly for them. “I thank God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for you all,” he writes to the church of Philippi (Philippians 1:3-4). And to the church in Colossae: “We have not ceased praying for you” (Colossians 1:9). It is this kind of prayer – intercessory prayer – which underpins and empowers Paul’s entire ministry. And it is this prayer of intercession which has the power to transform and empower our own lives as well as the lives of those for whom we pray.

The first disciples learned about prayer from Jesus. They prayed with him and near him. Simon Peter finds Jesus before daybreak praying in a deserted place (Mark 1:35). Luke tells how Jesus would withdraw to deserted places to pray (Luke 5:16) and spent a whole night on a mountain in prayer to God before choosing the twelve disciples (Luke 6:12-13). He later prays on the mountain where he is transfigured; he rejoices in prayer because his message is being received; he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane; and prays during the hours on the cross. In John chapter 17, he prays that great prayer, which is a kind of summary of the inner meaning of all his prayer – giving glory to God the Father.

After Jesus died, was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven, the disciples believed that although he was now exalted to the right hand of God in glory, he was still near to them and sharing very intimately in their earthly lives. Above all, they had no doubt that he continued to pray continually for them. And so we get the imagery in Paul’s letters, as well as in the Letter to the Hebrews, of Jesus as “high priest” whose intercession continues. As the Letter to the Hebrews puts it, “He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus prayed for us while he was on earth, and he carries on praying for us still. But how does he pray for us? Interestingly, the verb we translate as “to make intercession for us,” in the original Greek is the verb entunchanein. This likely does not mean “to make petitions” nor to say any words at all. It means rather “to meet with” or “be with someone on behalf of another.” So when we talk of Jesus “making intercession” for us to the Father, as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it, we should not imagine Jesus talking to God about us. Rather, it is Jesus being intimately close to his Father and carrying us whom he loves on his heart and into the heart of God.

Jesus prayed for us while we was on earth, and he carries on praying for us still.

We see in the Gospels that Jesus always calls us by name: Peter, John, Mary. We'd love to know your name.
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About Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE was born in Wales and studied theology at Cambridge University before training to be a priest at Westcott House Theological College. He came to the United States eighteen years ago to join SSJE and has pursued a ministry of teaching, spiritual direction and retreat leading. He recently served as the community’s Superior and for three years he served as chaplain to the House of Bishops. Before coming to SSJE he served as a parish priest in the Diocese of Saint Albans, as well as the head of the Department of Theology at Oundle School, a large Anglican high school in the English Midlands.

Monastic Wisdom: Forgiveness

Forgiveness

Transformation in Love

Monastic Wisdom

for everyday living

Br. David Vryhof invites us to the challenging, essential practice of forgiveness.

FORGIVENESS

TRANSFORMATION IN LOVE

Forgiveness is essential to healthy human relationships. The French Jesuit and theologian, François Varillon, once said, “People cannot live together unless they forgive each other just for being who they are.” We all need to forgive and be forgiven, over and over again, if our life together is to be life-giving, and if we are to be the agents of healing and reconciliation in the world that Christ calls us to be.

Sometimes it is easy to forgive. We find no difficulty in setting aside the incident and moving on. But at other times we may find it extremely difficult to forgive the one who has hurt us. We may believe that we should forgive; we may even want to forgive. But we recognize that our heart is so full of anger and pain that we cannot yet say, “I forgive you,” and mean it. A declaration of forgiveness at this point would be dishonest and premature. In circumstances like these, we can at least set ourselves on a path towards forgiveness, recognizing that arriving at forgiveness is a desirable and necessary goal, not only because we are commanded to forgive one another “seventy times seven,” but also because forgiveness will rid our hearts of the toxic presence of resentment, anger, and bitterness.

In this article, I hope to raise some questions that one who is on the path towards forgiveness may want to consider. Hopefully, honest engagement with these questions will enhance and facilitate the process of healing so that we may arrive at our destination (actual forgiveness) as soon as possible, recognizing that the time required will vary, depending on the depth of the wound.

People cannot live together unless they forgive each other just for being who they are. —François Varillon

We see in the Gospels that Jesus always calls us by name: Peter, John, Mary. We'd love to know your name.
Please sign-in to continue reading or to download.

 

About Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof, SSJE was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He holds a B.A. degree in Elementary Education from Calvin College and a M.A. in Education of the Deaf from Gallaudet University.  He taught deaf children at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf in Providence for six years, and trained teachers for the deaf at the MICO Teachers’ College in Kingston, Jamaica, for three years before coming to the Society in 1985.  He studied at Duke Divinity School and at General Theological Seminary, earning an M.Div. degree in 1993.  After serving a small church on the east side of Detroit, he returned to SSJE in 1995 and was life-professed in 1997.  He is an experienced retreat leader and spiritual director and has taught throughout the United States, as well as in Africa and in Israel/Palestine.

Teach us to unravel the familiar – Br. Sean Glenn

Play

“Br.Ecclesiasticus 48:1—14
Psalm 97
Matthew 6:7—15

Clouds and darkness are round about him, * righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne [on earth as in heaven].

Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous * and give thanks to his holy [, hallowed] Name. –Psalm 97: 2, 12[1]

If your prayer life is anything like my own, you will have found that our praying lives are often littered with ever shifting seasons, fresh insights, old wounds that continue to sting, and ever expanding and contracting horizons of the heart. Perhaps, too, you will have found that even the most familiar phenomena can take on new valences and, to our surprise, unveil themselves in a beautiful complexity to which we had previously been blind. The ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ from which our gospel pericope comes this morning, has often been for me a site of this very ‘unraveling of the familiar’—a place where the real limitations of our spiritual vision meet the scandalous, expansive, sometimes terrifying truth at the heart of all things.

For many of us, the words of the Lord’s prayer contain an inestimable, unqualifiable freight. These words—so dear, so familiar, so second-nature—stir the gaze of our hearts toward the One whom Jesus invites us to name “Our Father,” and articulate in six remarkably short petitions some of the deepest content of the “hope that is in us.”[2] And yet, as with anything we live in close proximity to, the very familiarity of these words can sometimes obscure this prayer’s true power to transform us and its radical challenge that seeks to summon us beyond our illusory sense of self-dependence. Read More

Persevere

Jesus tells us that perseverance in prayer is important. Keep asking, and that which you seek will become clearer. Keep searching, and the way to find what you seek will be understood. Keep knocking, and the door through which you can find the goal of your search will be opened for you.

-Br. David Allen, SSJE

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