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Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Praying Holy Week

Praying Sunday of the Resurrection

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“Easter is a feast of hope. Not because the resurrection is a nice idea for wishful thinkers, but because God’s promise of life and liberty to all who believe is real. We know that God will keep the Divine Promise and grant us life, liberty and healing, even as we live in the shadow of death.” – Br. James Koester

The Great Vigil of Easter is the most solemn and ancient liturgy of the entire year.  It is the culmination of Lent and Holy Week, and the Triduum.

Ring the bells!  Worshippers at the Great Vigil of Easter ring handbells as we sing God’s Paschal Lamb at the beginning of the first Eucharist of Easter and during the singing of Jesus Christ is Risen Today. The tradition of silencing church bells on Maundy Thursday and ringing them again on Easter Day likely reflects an even more ancient custom of keeping silence before a spring equinox or a winter solstice, then celebrating it with a joyous celebration of light and sound announcing that the darkness has fled and that new life is coming back into the world. We know that this is true on Easter Day.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Audio:

Sermons:

“Resurrection Knowing” – Br. Keith Nelson
On Easter morning, Br. Keith Nelson evokes the power of resurrection knowing, which implausibly, illogically, mysteriously, tangibly, palpably, materially, personally, lovingly, victoriously prepares us to sing into the mouth of the grave, “Alleluia.”

“Prisoners of Hope” – Br. James Koester
Br. James Koester celebrates how the life and love of God, through the resurrection of Jesus, can shatter our chains, and set us free.

“Calling by Name” – Br. Luke Ditewig
God comes to us when we are face-first with death. On Easter Sunday, Br. Luke Ditewig encourages us to look back to remember, look up to give thanks, and look forward in hope, to claim Jesus’ resurrection power over all that is killing us in this life.

Ring Your Bells!” – Br. James Koester
We experience Holy Week, not just with our minds but in our bodies. Br. James Koester invites us to recognize not just the aches and pains and grip of fear that Holy Week can evoke, but also the resurrection of Jesus, surging like an electric flash in our bodies.

“Experience the Resurrection”
– Br. Curtis Almquist
Claim the hope in Jesus’ resurrection for you in the here-and-now.

“Love Reborn” – Br. James Koester
We should all be standing on a street corner today throwing our hats, or gloves, or coats or even our surplices into the air, because hope and forgiveness and love are reborn, and we want the world to know. Alleluia.

“Those Five Words” – Br. James Koester
Those five words turned the world upside down. They renewed love. They restored hope. They rekindled courage. “I have seen the Lord.”

“From Still Days to Dawn” – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
We stand with the women at the empty tomb, at the dawn of universe, at the threshold of Life.

“A Cause For Great Joy” – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
On Easter, we celebrate that Jesus has called us brothers, as he rolls the stone away from our hearts.

“Joy Comes in the Morning” – Br. David Vryhof
The evidence for the Resurrection lies not in the empty tomb, but in the encounters of the first disciples with the Risen Lord.

“The Power of God” – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
The power of God, which raised Jesus to life, which is more powerful than anything else in all creation, is the power of love.

“Shekinah” – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
We need all the help we can get to keep us awakened to the wonder and significance of Easter: that “because he lives, we live also.”

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Praying Holy Saturday

“This is the profound mystery at the heart of the Christian faith: that we can come to the foot of the cross and bring our hurts and failures, even our greatest pain, and know what it is to be held in God’s love. And then most mysteriously of all, we can experience that pain transfigured by the love of God, and taken up into the resurrection of Christ.”  – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Holy Saturday is a day of waiting, anticipation, and preparation for Easter.  We know that Jesus is in the Tomb.

An ancient homily for Holy Saturday, which you can listen to below, meditates on the mystery of this day: “Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness.  The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep.”

You might pray today with stillness, silence.

What parts of you are dying? What parts of you are waiting for new life?

Consider what in your life is giving you life right now – and give thanks.  Consider what is draining or destroying life in you right now.  As we await the glory of Easter, ponder what God’s invitation to ‘new life’ might look like in your present circumstances.

Audio:

Liturgy of the Word, an ancient lyrical homily

Video:


Emptiness (3:15)
Br. James Koester
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Holy Saturday (2:01)
Br. Curtis Almquist
Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 6.15.09 PM “Resurrection and the Life” (55:37)
Br. David Vryhof

Praying Good Friday

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“Behind the most heinous of actions is a person who cannot know fully what they are doing or why. If they could, I think it would be otherwise. And from Jesus’ perspective on the cross, this person needs to be forgiven. What Jesus is up to on the cross is forgiveness, his arms opened wide for all, whether or not they ask for it, whether they be friend or neighbor or enemy.” – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Good Friday marks the second day of the Triduum (from the Latin for ‘three days’), the day on which we commemorate the Lord’s crucifixion and death.

The worship offered at the Monastery is in fact a continuation of the liturgy begun last night and it will not ‘end’ until the Great Vigil of Easter. The vesture of the sacred ministers is deep red, accented with black, recalling the solemnity and sobriety of the day, and the Gospel according to John is chanted to an ancient tone, which you can hear below.

The liturgy crests as a cross is carried in and venerated by the gathered congregation. All depart in silence to the awkward waiting of Holy Saturday and the restrained anticipation of the Great Vigil of Easter.

How will you stand beside Jesus in his hour of greatest need?

Audio:

Sermons:

“Faith in a Seed” – Br. Nicholas Bartoli
On Good Friday, Br. Nicholas Bartoli invites us to enter into the paschal mystery as it unfolds for us now, letting our fear be buried with Jesus, to rise with him in new life.

“Look at Love” – Br. Luke Ditewig
Would you rather turn away from the Cross? Br. Luke encourages us, “Admit your fear or grief or confusion, your guilt and shame.” And look at love on the Cross.

“Life out of Death” – Br. Curtis Almquist
We are not spared the experience of the cross, we are shared the experience. And the only way to survive the many deaths of this life is to surrender to Christ, taking him at his word: that life comes out of death.

“Love Upon a Cross” – Br. David Vryhof
We have been captured by this love, smitten and overwhelmed by this love, changed and transformed by this love. And how could it not be?

“Life By His Death” – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
Our greatest hope in Jesus is that however dark the day, even as dark as Good Friday, we can look in confidence and trust to the cross. “For he hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.”

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Good Friday (2:55)
Br. John Braught

“Good Shepherd” (52:58)
Br. David Vryhof

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Praying Maundy Thursday

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“Take up these symbols of the new life: towel and basin and water. Let them be for you a sign of your love for him and your gratitude for all that he has done for you. Let them be for you a pledge of your commitment to serve – not out of duty, but out of love; not to obtain a reward, but to imitate the One who freely and willingly laid down his life for you. You have been called to serve.” – Br. David Vryhof

Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the holiest three days in an already holy week.   The liturgy commemorates the humility of the Lord in his willingness to do the most lowly of tasks.

The word maundy is an English corruption of the Latin mandatum, from the ‘new commandment’ that Jesus gives his disciples after washing their feet, an event we reenact and remember in the liturgy. At the conclusion of our Eucharist, we are invited, as were the first disciples, to watch and pray with the Lord on the night before his crucifixion and death. We keep watch through the night, here at the moment of Jesus’ greatest need. On Maundy Thursday, as you are fed by God’s body and blood, pray for your deepest need. As your feet are washed, ask God to bring healing to what is broken in you.

Where is your deepest need right now?

Audio:

Sermons:

“A Radical Act” – Br. David Vryhof
By washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus does not diminish his authority. Rather, he shows them a new way of exercising authority, a new way of being with others that is characterized by humility, compassion and loving service. Br. David Vryhof invites us, and the Church, to follow in these radical footsteps.

“Joining the Dance” – Br. Nicholas Bartoli
The foot washing ritual of Maundy Thursday invites us, as sacraments do, to be emptied of everything except the truth of our identity in Christ.

“Feet First” – Br. Luke Ditewig
The foot washing reminds us that love is always vulnerable: emotionally exposing, risky and essential for living well.

“Maundy Thursday Remembrance” – Br. Curtis Almquist
Take what is cut off, broken, lost, detached from your own life, and allow it on this holy night to be reattached, reconnected, remembered.

“Love Is His Meaning” – Br. James Koester
Everywhere we look, everything we taste, everything we feel, everything we hear, everything we smell tonight is a reminder that God loves us.

“The Scandal of Service” – Br. James Koester
When we are prepared to fall on our knees before another in acts of humility and service, we too have the opportunity to change the world.

“Called to Serve” – Br. David Vryhof
As Jesus reveals his true vocation, we learn that we are all called to serve.

Video:


Revelation (2:51)
Br. Geoffrey Tristram
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Maundy Thursday (2:26)
Br. Jim Woodrum

“Bread of Life” (40:28) Br. David Vryhof

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Praying Wednesday in Holy Week

“We can look around and see plentiful sorrow, and we may be unable to fix it. We may find no words, no actions, are sufficient to dress the wounds of the world. So, take heart; do not shun your tears. Do not be ashamed or afraid or dismissive of weeping, for tears can be living water.” – Br. Lucas Hall

On Wednesday, the Brothers pray the ancient monastic office of Tenebrae, a service that derives from the monastic services of matins and lauds. The liturgy uses darkness and the gradual extinguishing of candles, until only a single candle remains, a symbol of our Lord.  The service provides an opportunity for sustained reflection on the Lord’s suffering and death.

This liturgy, parts of which you can listen to below, is a choral offering, with chanted psalms and canticles set to plainsong and chanted lessons from the Lamentations of Jeremiah (in which each verse is introduced by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet). As you listen, you might light a candle, allowing its light to inspire your meditation.

In what ways has Jesus’ coming penetrated the darkness of your own life? In what ways are you blind, or unable to see? 

Audio:

Chanted Lessons from the Lamentations of Jeremiah

Sermons:

“Suffering with Jesus” – Br. Jonathan Maury
Br. Jonathan Maury suggests how Holy Week offers a sacramental and transformational means by which we experience the grace of divine love, which evil can never defeat.

“The Identity of the Beloved Disciple” – Br. Jim Woodrum
“Who are you in this story?” Br. Jim Woodrum asks, inviting us to step into the gospel and find our own place – and responses – to the story unfolding.

“In the Shadows” – Br. Luke Ditewig
Jesus was troubled, sad, and afraid – as we all are. This night invites us to linger in the darkness with him.

“And It Was Night” – Br. James Koester
We only know the relief of dawn when the terrors of the night have kept us awake, so spend some time today in the darkness.

Video:


Paradox (3:11)
Br. Jonathan Maury
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 On Tenebrae (4:09)
Br. David Vryhof

“Light of the World” (40:37) Br. David V.

Praying Tuesday in Holy Week

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“Most of us have likely found ourselves acting and thinking in ways which are opposite to what we would identify to be “good.” None of us is free of the influence of evil. But our celebration of Jesus’ suffering, death and glorification in this Holy Week provides a sacramental and transformational means to the grace of divine love, which evil can never defeat.” – Br. Jonathan Maury

On Tuesday in Holy Week at the Monastery, we celebrate the Eucharist in the evening. This evening gathering around the Lord’s Table invites us to join the disciples at the Upper Room, sharing a meal with the Lord.

We reflect together on the words of used at the presentation of the Bread and Cup here at the Monastery, which derive from St. Augustine’s Sermon 57, On the Holy Eucharist: Behold what you are.  May we become what we receive.  

These words point to one of the deep truths of Christian faith: Through our participation in the sacraments (particularly baptism and Eucharist), we are transformed into the Body of Christ, given for the world.

How is God transforming you into Christ’s Body and giving you to the world?

Audio:

Psalm 78:14-20, 23-25

Sermons:

“The Journey from Darkness to Light” – Br. Jim Woodrum
Br. Jim Woodrum encourages us to step from the shadows, and follow Jesus into the light of new life and resurrection.

“The Hour Has Come” – Br. Keith Nelson
Br. Keith Nelson invites us to the experience of Holy Week as a time of vulnerability, allowing ourselves to experience the paradoxical binaries at the heart of the Gospel and our own lives.

“God’s Strength in Our Weakness” – Br. David Vryhof
Br. David Vryhof looks to the cross of Christ to discover how God’s strength is made perfect through our weakness.

“The Legacy of Judas” – Br. Curtis Almquist
Judas’ presence at the table of our Lord is an invitation to us all: to mercy.

“Now, Now, Now” – Br. James Koester
Pay attention: Now is the time when Jesus shall draw all people to himself.

Praying Monday in Holy Week

“Even Jesus in his humanity experienced great anxiety and discomfort at the knowledge of what he would have to undertake in order to fulfill the will of his Father. Perhaps we can take some comfort in that. Jesus is aware that the pathway of healing leading to wholeness is often very difficult and painful before we find relief.” – Br. Jim Woodrum

Monday in Holy Week offers a pause, a chance to recollect from the drama of yesterday before plunging into the sacred events to come.

What are the lessons Holy Week has to offer you this year?

Since Holy Scripture is the living word of God, as we encounter again the events of the final week of Jesus’ life, look for those passages, those haunting details of the story that seem to rise up from the page to snare your attention, things you had not noticed before. Ponder what special meaning these passages might hold for you this year? Why is God bringing them to your attention at this time? What might God be saying to you? Take time to meditate on these questions. Be especially alert to listen because God will be speaking to us through the liturgies, through scripture, homilies and also in other unexpected ways this week.

Audio:

Psalm 22

Sermons:

Praying Your Way Through Holy Week: A Meditation – Br. Eldridge Pendleton
God who loves us so much and continually delights in our creation, is continually offering us grace in the form of answered prayers, healing, reconciliation, hope and deeper faith, and in the Paschal mystery has given us the means to triumph over death. Two practices to deepen your awareness of this love during Holy Week.

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Compassion – Br. David Vryhof

Praying Palm Sunday

It is the supreme mystery of our Christian faith we are about to witness this week. Make no mistake about it. The events of Holy Week and Easter are not merely annual reenactments of the tragic events of the life of an important historical personage. This is spiritual mystery on its deepest and most cosmic scale.   – Br. Eldridge Pendleton, SSJE (1940-2015)

On Palm Sunday, we begin the journey to Calvary that we will live out across the next week. We are invited to join the crowd in shouting "Hosanna" and "Crucify." And we are invited to accompany our Lord in the dramatic events of his final days.

How will you journey alongside Jesus this week? 

Audio:

The Passion According to Luke

The Passion According to Matthew

Sermons:

"Lovely Be" – Br. Luke Ditewig
On Palm Sunday, Br. Luke Ditewig sings a song of love unknown, our Savior’s love—to you, to me.

"Exceeding Expectations" – Br. Jim Woodrum
The story of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem invites us to investigate our own expectations as a way of drawing into a deeper understanding of God.

"Why?" – Br. David Vyrhof
Why must God’s Servant enter into the darkest rhythms of the human condition? Perhaps it’s the only way they can be challenged and undone, once and for all.

"Singing Hosanna, Screaming Crucify" – Br. James Koester
Palm Sunday is a chance to discover once more all that is within us, both light and dark, both good and evil.

"Steal Away" – Br. Tom Shaw
Letting the power of Jesus' humility, self-sacrifice, and surrender soak into us during Holy Week gives us the power to stand on the edge of glory every day.

"The Weight of the Cross" – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
On Palm Sunday, we embrace both the weight of the cross and the wealth of its love.

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