Closer than Our Own Selves – Br. Lain Wilson

Jeremiah 20:7-13
Psalm 18:1-7

What do you do when all options in front of you are bad ones?

This is the situation that Jeremiah finds himself in this morning. God has called him to his vocation as a prophet, to proclaim God’s word. In doing so, Jeremiah is mocked and plotted against, even by those close to him. In not proclaiming God’s word, though, he experiences pain, “something like a burning fire” (Jer 20:9).

All this because of who God has called him to be.

Is it any surprise, then, that Jeremiah hurls against God one of the bitterest invectives in Scripture? Different translations have different force—“O Lord, you have enticed me,” “you have seduced me,” “you have deceived me” (Jer 20:7)—but the basic accusation is that God has broken trust, that God has forced the prophet into submission.[1]

This is an accusation you can only hurl against someone you deeply love.

And it is, perhaps, something that we can relate to.

God calls each of us in ways that we may not understand, that we struggle to accept, that we may rail against. Our vocations, our experiences, our very lives may be excruciating mysteries to us. For reasons beyond our understanding, we may, like Jeremiah, end up in places and at times asking ourselves, “how did this come to be,” able only to cry to God, “Is this what you intend for me?” Read More

Hidden Presence – Br. Lain Wilson

Mark 12:28-34
Psalm 81:8-14
Hosea 14:1-9

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Jesus identifies who—and what—God is. He also offers up an indictment of all the alluring temptations in sight that lead us astray from a God who all too often remains hidden from us.

“O Israel, if you would but listen to me! There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not worship a foreign god” (Ps 81:8-9). This command is repeated throughout Scripture, and yet the pages of Scripture are filled with rebuke and lament for the failure to keep to this basic commandment.

This turning away, though, isn’t surprising, because our God is often hidden. In times of anxiety and uncertainty, we crave what is visible, tangible, assured. What people, institutions, processes, products do you turn to for assurance, for certainty? What are your idols today? Read More

Living in Wonder; Living in Love – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Thomas Traherne (1637-1674)

Job 12:7-13
John 3:1-8

Thomas Traherne, whom we commemorate today, was a mystic, a childlike mystic. If his own lifetime had overlapped with J. R. R. Tolkien, or C. S. Lewis, or George MacDonald, I think they would have been very good friends. However Traherne lived more than two centuries earlier than these other three, Traherne born in 1637. He was the son of a shoemaker, and he went on to earn three degrees at Oxford. His university days during the 1650s were the best of times and the worst of times. Best was the intellectual stimulation. However this was a time of civil war and of religious conflict, actually less religious conflict and more agnosticism, which was certainly true for Traherne. For him, life was without meaning; he was listless, full of dread, deeply lonely. In his journal, we read about one sad evening, his being alone in a field, when all things were dead quiet. He writes, “a certain want and horror fell upon me, beyond imagination.” Read More

Life and the Living God – Br. Lucas Hall

Br. Lucas Hall

Isaiah 55:10-13
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

As many of you know, when a man comes to join the monastery, he passes through a number of stages before finally taking vows for life. Before each of these transitions, he’s given some time of retreat, alone in prayer, to really listen for the call of God, to discern, to confirm his response the question and the choice he has before him.

It was a little more than a year ago when I was on one of these retreats, looking ahead to taking my life vows. I was up at Emery House, our farmhouse and woodlands up in northern Massachusetts. There were a number of things I did up there to facilitate my prayer. I prayed the daily office. I journaled. I met regularly with another brother. But what I didn’t plan to do, or expect to do, was what I still remember most about that time.

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Sharing in the Divine Nature – Br. James Koester

Hilary of Poitiers

Several weeks ago, we celebrated the feast of St. Martin of Tours[1]. It was Martin, as we saw then, who introduced, even before Benedict, the monastic movement into the Western Church. From Martin, sprang monasteries all over Europe, which ultimately flowered under St. Benedict[2] over a century later. If Martin can be described as the Father of Western Monasticism, then Hilary, in a sense can be considered its grandfather, as it was Hilary who took the young Martin under his wing, and supported and encouraged him in his endeavours to establish the monastic movement into Europe.

Hilary was born about the year 315 and was baptized when he was about 30 years old. In 350 he was made a bishop. The church in the mid fourth century was not unlike ours. It was a time of controversy, division, and fragmentation. Then it was over the nature of God and the person of Jesus. The Arians believed that Jesus was subordinate, and not co-equal or co-eternal to the Father. The Catholics, of whom Hilary was a prime proponent, believed that the Son was both co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. For the Catholics, and for Hilary, the Arian view was problematic in that it denied the full divinity of Christ. But so what? What’s the big deal? Why is it important that the Son is both fully God and fully human, co-equal and co-eternal?

The big deal is what it says about us. For Hilary, salvation was about much more than liberation from sin. It was about sharing in the life of God. As 1 Peter puts it, through Christ we are participants in the divine nature of God.[3] As Athanasius,[4] who lived about a generation before Hilary said, God became human, so that humans might become God. We Brothers pick this same theme up in our Rule of Life when, in the chapter on The Mystery of Prayer we say a ceaseless interchange of mutual love unites the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our prayer is not merely communication with God, it is coming to know God by participation in this divine life. In prayer we experience what it is to be made “participants in the divine nature” …[5] If in the incarnation the Son is not both fully God, and fully human, then it is not possible for us as humans to share in the life of God. This doctrine, known as theosis or divinization, is central to Catholic theology, and remains so today, because in it lies the Christian understanding of the dignity of all humanity. Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons? Will you respect the dignity of every human being? I will, with God’s help[6] we promise in the Baptismal Covenant. Humans possess dignity, not simply because we are creatures made in the image and likeness of God, but because through the mystery of the Incarnation it is possible for us to be participants in the divine nature of God.

That we can be participants in the divine nature of God is crucial to our self-understanding as humans. It is this understanding that is rooted in the teaching of Hilary, and others like him. He may have lived nearly 2000 years ago, but his teaching on the nature of God and the person of Jesus, is as significant for our understanding of what it means to be human today, as it was then. And for that, we give thanks.


[1] Martin of Tours, feast day 11 November

[2] Benedict of Nursia, feast day 11 July

[3] 2 Peter 1:4

[4] Athanasius of Alexandria, feast day 2 May

[5] SSJE, Rule of Life, The Mystery of Prayer, Chapter 21, page 42

[6] Episcopal Church, Book of Common Prayer 1979, page 305

God’s Grandeur – Br. James Koester

John 17:20–26

It is easy to get lost these days, and in many ways all of us are lost. We are lost in fear, worry, concern, and anxiety. We are lost in sorry, sadness, and anger. We are afraid of the future and worried about the present. We are concerned about those we love, and anxious about ourselves.

All of these are normal and natural feelings, and I do not for a minute want to suggest that there is something wrong with you because you feel one or other, or all, or more of these things. Finding ourselves still in the midst of a pandemic after more than two years, watching the news from Buffalo, and Uvalde, and seeing our leaders incapable of doing anything that looks remotely like gun reform legislation is enough to make anyone’s stomach clench in knots in grief, pain, anger, and sadness. Seeing the images from Ukraine or the effects of the climate emergency overwhelm us with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

All of us no doubt, are actually sadder, angrier, and feel more helpless than we often care to admit. I know I do. That is the reality of life at the moment and the disorientation of this season is profound. Read More

Father and Son – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Matthew 1: 18-25

Today’s Gospel is in many ways Matthew’s ‘annunciation.’ When we speak of the annunciation we think of course of the Gospel of Luke and his account of the angel appearing to Mary. But for Matthew the angel appears to Joseph – in a dream. “Joseph, take Mary as your wife. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus. And he did as the angel commanded him.”  But he did a lot more than this. This remarkable man became a true father to Jesus.

And this is enormously important because as Jesus ‘grew in wisdom and in years’ he slowly came to understand God as Father. In the Old Covenant God was ‘Lord’, ‘Creator’, ‘Governor’. But for Jesus God was above all ‘Father’. And he came to understand his mission as opening the way for us to have the sort of relationship with God which is nearest to that of a father and a son. But for Jesus to have come to understand and use this analogy he must have had a wonderfully good and close relationship with Joseph.

I think though that pastorally, this poses a problem. The word ‘father’ arouses feelings which in everyone’s life are necessarily colored by personal experience. Martin Luther for example had a father who would beat him for the smallest offence. He once told a friend that whenever he said the Lord’s Prayer he would think of his own father, who was hard, unyielding and relentless. ‘I cannot help but think of God that way.’ Read More

Befriended by the King – Br. Keith Nelson

Ephesians 1:15-23 & Matthew 25:31-46

My first encounter with a true mountain range occurred at age sixteen. These mountains were the Austrian Alps, so it was quite the introduction. The summer moon was full, and their peaks were crowned with gleaming snow. Tears of pure wonder streamed down my face. God’s power was written in such large figures and I was so small, but in that smallness I felt significant. I fell to my knees.

My presence in that Austrian valley on that summer night was a wonder in itself. Months before, my high school chamber choir director had announced plans for the choir to go on tour to Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic. The price of the trip was unaffordable for me; paying my school tuition already entailed sacrifice for my parents. I took this news in stride, though as the school year progressed, it became clear that I was the only student in the thirty-member choir who would not be going, and my sense of belonging felt fragile. One morning, a telegram (of all things!) arrived at our front door with a cryptic, unsigned message. Someone wanted to pay my way, on the condition that they remain anonymous. The courier awaited my reply. I accepted humbly and gratefully… but the identity of this benevolent stranger continued to puzzle me for weeks. I suspected anyone and everyone. Everything took on the quality of a gift: a gift I did not earn and no longer took for granted. I had been honored by the generosity of a king in disguise. Read More

God Gives His Beloved Rest – Br. James Koester

Matthew 12: 1 – 8 [9 – 14]

You  may recall that one of my favourite Collects is the one for the Second Sunday after Christmas: O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity….[1]

I return frequently to this prayer, both as a prayer to pray, but also as something to ponder. I find the image of wonderfully creating and more wonderfully restoring our human nature to be a place of rich contemplation, just as my imagination is captured by the image of sharing the divine life. It is this latter phrase that arrests my attention this morning.

We know from Scripture that God is a God of many characteristics. Among the things we can say about God, is that God is a God of revelation. God makes himself known. God is also a God who creates, who teaches, heals, forgives, and restores. Each of these is a revelation of God, and so when we participate in them, with the eyes and hearts of faith we can discover something more about God, especially as God has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus, and in that way share in God’s divine nature, and participate in the very life of God.

But there is another act of Divine self-revelation that we don’t speak of very often. Just as we can discover something about God in acts of creation and creativity, so too can we share in the divine life through acts of rest. God is a God who creates, and God is a God who rests. Read More

Divine Restoration – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43

Today in the calendar of the church we celebrate the solemn feast known as Christ the King.  Normally positioned on the last Sunday after Pentecost before the start of the season of Advent, we pray these words:  Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule.  This prayer seems appropriate seeing that our popular culture reflects a renewed interest in all things ‘royal.’  Not only have we watched with fascination two royal weddings in recent years (the most recent of which our own presiding bishop Michael Curry gained notoriety as a preacher on the world stage), but shows like ‘Downton Abbey,’ ‘The Crown,’ and the newly released Netflix production ‘The King,’ based loosely on William Shakespeare’s Henriad, have captured our imaginations as to what aristocracy and royalty look like.  If you have not seen “The King,” I will not spoil it for you, but I dare say it will not disappoint, containing drama, adventure, action (including a portrayal of the famous Battle of Agincourt), as well as an eyebrow-raising twist at the very end that will leave you wondering what might happen next in the life of this young king who endeavors to save the realm from the chaos he inherited from his recently deceased, war-hungry father Henry the Fourth.  

Images of royalty reflect, I think, the high ideal of order, unity, and goodness that we all desire and hope for in our lives, especially amidst so much that is chaotic, scattered, and untrue in our world.  This monastery church certainly draws on the human imagination of what the heavenly realm might look like.  The Revelation to John from the canon of scripture contains probably the most vivid descriptions of heaven and where we connect to what is referenced in our Collect: They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.’ [i] The Rose Window at the back of the church, what stained glass artisan Dr. Charles Connick called “a playground for the afternoon sun,” represents a vision of God’s heavenly realm.  The central medallion shows the Blessed Virgin Mary being crowned as the Queen of Heaven by her son, Christ the King;[ii] and I will come back to that.

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