Good Evening, Bede – Br. Lucas Hall

The Feast of St. Bede the Venerable

Today is the feast day of St. Bede the Venerable, an Anglo-Saxon monk of the 7th century. He did lots of stuff. He was a monk, a historian, a theologian, and a preacher, to name a few. I won’t recount here everything about him. What I’d like to talk about is why his work, his life, has affected me, even to the point of my standing here today.

About two years ago, now, I was a novice brother in this community, in the midst of two weeks of retreat preceding my initial vows, at a rural monastery in another part of Massachusetts.

It was slightly bizarre to see this other monastic community. At once, it was easy to recognize much of their life. Certain features, from architecture to liturgy to dress, though not exactly the same as ours, were instantly familiar. But something very much stuck out to me about one difference in particular: the setting. The abbey is out in a quite rural area, and there’s not much in the immediate vicinity.

This bothered me. One man’s peaceful seclusion is another man’s lonely isolation, and for me, it was difficult not to see all our other similarities and immediately imagine myself in that community. And I wasn’t happy in those imaginings. The relative isolation felt claustrophobic. I was reminded of being a college student in a small town, where everything that exists seems dependent on a single institution, and the thought of my life happening in that context felt smothering. Read More

Heralds of Good News – Br. James Koester

Br. James KoesterGalatians 1: 13 – 24
Psalm 139: 1 – 14
Luke 10: 38 – 42

If truth be told, I don’t much like this passage from the Gospel of Luke about Martha and Mary. It makes me uncomfortable. I hear it as the great Martha put down, with Jesus saying, in effect, “Martha, I like your sister Mary better!”And that makes me uncomfortable. It seems to me to be saying that Jesus prefers some people to others, And that makes me uncomfortable. It seems to me to be saying that Jesus prefers some activities, or rather no activity, to others, or rather any activity. And that makes me uncomfortable. It seems to me to be saying that Jesus prefers contemplation to action. And that makes me uncomfortable. It seems to me to be saying that you can only be in relationship with Jesus when you are sitting at his feet, rather than making him dinner. And that makes me uncomfortable. It seems to me to be saying that when I get busy, doing any number of things, Jesus likes me less, than when I am quiet, and still. And that makes me really, really uncomfortable, because probably like you, I have a zillion things on my to do list, and even when I am supposed to be, I can’t always be quiet and still.

But is that what is really going on here? Is Jesus really making these invidious distinctions between Martha and Mary? Between busyness and stillness? Between housework and hospitality? Between action and contemplation? That’s what we’ve been told over the years, but is it really the case? Read More

The Meeting Place of Our Heart – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Genesis 1:20-2:4

While growing up, I was fascinated by questions like “What does it mean to be a human being? What makes us who we are? Why are we the way are?” I would read a lot of sociology, anthropology, psychology, and probably a few more “ologies” I can’t remember at the moment. And it was all very interesting, if ultimately not quite as enlightening as I had hoped. And I remember often encountering one particular sort of statement about human beings that would always give me pause, a doubtful, skeptical kind of pause. It was the kind of statement that would compare humans, usually very favorably, to other forms of life on our planet. Read More

The Radical Practice of Contemplation – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

Galatians 2:19-20
Matthew 6:5-6

Marina Abramovic has spent many hours of her life completely motionless, silent, and fasting. She has endured voluntary poverty and physical pain for the sake of her vocation. She is not a nun or a mountaintop hermit, but a performance artist – sometimes called the “grandmother of performance art.” Born in Yugoslavia in 1946, her childhood was shaped by the Eastern Orthodox spirituality of her grandmother and the intense, communist discipline of her distant parents. Her performance pieces, most of them ephemeral or time-based, explore the limits of the human body and the mind. All of them challenge our cherished definitions of art. In 2010, Abramovic performed a piece at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, entitled “The Artist is Present,” part of a retrospective of her forty years of work. For this, she sat motionless and silent in the center of the Museum’s atrium surrounded by four bright lights. An empty chair stood opposite the artist, in which anyone who cared to was invited to sit and engage in a silent, mutual gaze with her. Abramovic was present in this way for three months, six days a week, for 7.5 hours a day. While the curator of the museum advised her to be prepared to face a frequently empty chair, her simple offer to be unflinchingly present touched a collective nerve and awakened a widespread hunger. That chair would be occupied by a total of 1,545 people, many of whom lined up before the museum opened or slept on the pavement to get a spot in line. People smiled uncontrollably, laughed or silently wept. Each face was met with the same gentle, mysterious, steady gaze, in a physical environment that framed each encounter as a moment of art enfolding a moment of life. Of the piece, Abramovic said, “The hardest thing is to do something which is so close to nothing that it demands all of you, because there is no story anymore to tell, no object to hide behind. There’s nothing – just your own, pure presence.”  Read More

Sermons for the Beach: Contemplative Vision

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, silence, and recreation. The Chapel will reopen on Tuesday, August 30, 2016.

geoffrey 150xIt is so good to be back again, worshiping in this lovely place, after our time away of retreat and community discussions.  And it is so good to see you all again.  I do hope you have had a great summer – a time for rest and refreshment.

We had a wonderful retreat.  To spend those days amidst the natural beauty of Emery House was a great gift.  Certainly for me, and I know other Brothers, it was an occasion to deepen our contemplative vision.  In the Letter to the Hebrews which was read this morning, verse 14 says, “For here we have no abiding city, but we are looking for a city that is to come.”  And I think that’s really what the contemplative vision is all about.  It is about seeing with the eyes of faith; seeing that this life which we have is not the only reality.  When our contemplative vision grows, we see that the apparently ordinary things of life are shot through with the glory of God.  Spending time on retreat is a wonderful opportunity to really see again heaven breaking through – or as William Blake put it, “to see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.” Read More

Sermons for the Beach: Stop the Motor

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, rest, solitude, and recreation.

Br. Mark BrownMark 6:30-34

Jesus calls his disciples to many and various good works. In the story today they’re all exhausted.  So he calls them to something very different: let’s go for a boat ride and get away from all this. So they go for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.  It doesn’t say whether it’s a row boat or a sail boat, but out they go. It’s time for rest.  Resting, getting away from it all, retreating is a spiritual practice.  It’s also a religious duty: it’s right there in the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath Rest. The Sabbath Rest in the most literal sense is about taking it easy on the seventh day of the week.  But Sabbath pertains to other time frames as well.  We might have annual retreats or a monthly retreat day. Read More

Contemplative Vision – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

geoffrey 150xIt is so good to be back again, worshiping in this lovely place, after our time away of retreat and community discussions.  And it is so good to see you all again.  I do hope you have had a great summer – a time for rest and refreshment.

We had a wonderful retreat.  To spend those days amidst the natural beauty of Emery House was a great gift.  Certainly for me, and I know other Brothers, it was an occasion to deepen our contemplative vision.  In the Letter to the Hebrews which was read this morning, verse 14 says, “For here we have no abiding city, but we are looking for a city that is to come.”  And I think that’s really what the contemplative vision is all about.  It is about seeing with the eyes of faith; seeing that this life which we have is not the only reality.  When our contemplative vision grows, we see that the apparently ordinary things of life are shot through with the glory of God.  Spending time on retreat is a wonderful opportunity to really see again heaven breaking through – or as William Blake put it, “to see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.” Read More