Recently, I have found myself recalling the fact the first 10, now 11, and soon 12 months have passed, since we closed the guesthouse and then the chapel. You will remember those days I’m sure. We began hearing about this new virus and the reports of mounting deaths Soon we were horrified to discover that it had reached this country. Suddenly there was anxiety about how it spread, and were instructed to suspend various liturgical practices, such as the Common Cup, physically exchanging the Peace, and holy water at the doors of churches. Days after, we announced we were closing the guesthouse. By the end of that week, we closed the chapel. It’s now been almost a year.
Today, nearly half a million people have died from Covid-19 in this country, and almost 2.3 million around the world.
In many ways these last 11 months have been a time of disfiguration, quite literally, as many have been disfigured by disease and death. Some of those who have recovered continue to feel the effects and are living with post-COVID-19 syndrome. They live with chronic difficulties breathing, exhaustion, brain fog, and a loss of taste and smell. No one knows how long these symptoms will last.
2 Kings 2:1-12/Psalm 50:1-6/2 Corinthians 4:3-6/Mark 9:2-9
One of the things that drew me to this community back in 1996 when I was contemplating monastic vocation was the brand new Rule of Life. Br. Curtis, who was the novice guardian at the time, sent me a pre-publication copy. The new Rule was the fruit of eight years of reflection and revision by the Society. Since it was completed before I got here, I feel like I can “brag on it”, as we sometimes say in parts of the Midwest where I’m from.
It is a most extraordinary document. It is written with a depth and richness that reward reading and re-reading and re-re-reading over time (which is what we Brothers do, actually). I’m continually struck by the two chapters on Obedience. Each of the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience has two or three chapters devoted to it. I haven’t made a study of other monastic rules of life, but I suspect the chapters on obedience are ground-breaking in their depth and subtlety.
This cope I’m wearing today has great sentimental value: it was hand crafted as an ordination gift from my parents. As it happens, the process leading up to my ordination was rather harrowing, so this festal garment is a reminder that, in the end, things work out. Ultimately. As Julian of Norwich put it, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be very well”. At least ultimately.
Today Jesus gives Peter and James and John a preview of “ultimately”. A few days earlier he had told them that the Son of Man was to undergo great sufferings, rejection, death, and, after three days, be raised from the dead. The vision of transfiguration on the mountain was a kind of preview of resurrection. Perhaps because he knew the experience would be so harrowing he wanted the disciples to see for themselves how it was going to turn out in the end. All would be well—at least on the other side of the cross.
Br. Curtis Almquist originally preached this sermon on Feb. 22, 2009. We’re pleased to repost it in honor of today’s Feast of the Transfiguration.
Mark 9:2-9; Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-35
In early February, one of my brothers and I were on top of Mount Tabor where this event, Jesus’ transfiguration, took place. We were traveling with a group of pilgrims following the path of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection in Israel/Palestine. Mount Tabor is north of Jerusalem, and about 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee. Mount Tabor is forested with pine trees and offering stunning, panoramic views. On a clear day, to the north and west you can see Lebanon; to the east, beyond of the Sea of Galilee, you can see Syria, Jordan, and Mount Hermon. Jesus and his disciples would have known the words of Psalm 89 about these majestic mountaintops: “The north and the south – you created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.”i And that is because these mountain tops are so beautiful and breezy. Mount Tabor is only about 2,000 feet above sea level, but that is a lofty height above the sea level of Galilee and the nearby desert of the Jezreel Valley. Mount Tabor is a place where you would like to stay; we certainly would have been glad for a longer visit. (I wanted to get information from the Franciscan guesthouse about staying there!) And so, on the one hand, it’s no wonder that Peter and James and John were coaxing Jesus to stay around and build some tents, which is how people then and now would set up camp out in the wilds.ii
Mark 9:2-9; Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-35
In early February my brother Bruce and I were on top of Mount Tabor where this event, Jesus’ transfiguration, took place. We were traveling with a group of pilgrims following the path of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection in Israel/Palestine. Mount Tabor is north of Jerusalem, and about 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee. Mount Tabor is forested with pine trees and offering stunning, panoramic views.
1 Kings 19: 9-18 Psalm 27
2 Peter 1: 16-19 Mark 9: 2-9
What we hear in the Gospel today is an epiphany, a manifestation of Christ, a revelation of the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth. Was it a dream? Was it a waking vision? Was it a story Peter recounted many years later as he remembered it of his experience on the mountain that day?