About Melodius Monk

I'm 30 years old, and I grew up at the Community of Jesus. My parents moved from Ohio to live at the Community two years before I was born, so with the exception of a few years at college, I’ve lived in the Community my whole life. I became a Novice Brother in 2003, and made my profession as a brother in 2005. Currently I have a pretty varied life as a brother. In addition to daily responsibilities in our liturgies, I cook, sing, play trumpet, and am responsible for various cleaning and maintenance needs in the church building (my favorite jobs is changing the light bulbs at 45 feet!) I also arrange transportation for brothers to various appointments, work on repairing musical instruments, clean the barn, give tours of the church, make the weekly food menu for the Friary, and help out with various other needs as they arise around the Community. Growing up, I was not particularly interested in the religious life, but I met Jesus at an inter-varsity fellowship meeting my second year in college, and that re-directed my life drastically. I feel very fortunate to have found my life’s calling, and the hope for more wholeness is what keeps me on my monastic journey on difficult days.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

This past Saturday my assignment at our Community’s “Beehive” was to cut holes for new supports in a concrete basement. “Beehive” is a time when all of our community family participate in projects around the monastery. Being one of the youngest members of my particular team, I had the task of crawling in a four-foot dusty crawl space to cut holes in concrete from the inside. Cutting a concrete wall is most challenging at the start. Concrete’s strength is in the bonding together of the materials that comprise it. An eight-inch thick wall is very strong, but once a hole is cut, it becomes easier to widen the hole and possibly disintegrate an entire wall to rubble.

We had three holes to cut form the basement to the outside. The first one was done in about an hour. After small holes are drilled along the outline of the space to be cut, the outline is cut with a saw and lastly, we break the pieces out with a hammer.

Sitting down in the crawl space I was aware of how much brighter the basement space felt with just a small stream of light beaming in from the outside. There were so many qualities to the shaft of light illuminating the basement. The light itself is very bright and gives warmth equally to everything it touches. Its glow is vibrant, glistening, and creates many patterns and shadows that reflect about the room.

As our team preps for the second hole on the outside, I sit in the quiet basement awaiting the signal to start cutting again. I can’t help but think of the parallels between my morning’s work and my spiritual life. Cutting a hole in a concrete wall requires effort, intention, and tools. But cutting a “whole” in the spiritual walls of our beings also requires effort, intention, and proper tools! Like the wall that has been put up between a friend and me over a disagreement, or a wall of fear, or a wall of anything, really, that keeps me from being fully my truest-self in Christ.

Whatever these walls may be, and no matter how strong they might appear, it’s possible to have them broken down and allow light to penetrate. Sometimes we may have to choose to crawl down in a dusty basement with intent and proper tools to break down these walls. I’ll need to remind myself that like this concrete wall, often extra effort and motivation are needed at the start to allow light to enter. With the light comes the possibility to expand the fabricated opening to allow in more light, until the time when the whole wall can be knocked down.

Gratitude

Here at our monastery different ones of us take turns giving regular tours of our church to anyone who wishes to see it. In the winter months visitors are less frequent, and so on my one day a week of tour duty, I often have a few extra minutes to browse the bookstore for new authors. Last week I picked up a beautifully covered book by Ann Voskamp, not an unknown name, but one I haven’t read. Feeling a bit depressed that day, the sub-title “Reflections on finding everyday graces” caught my attention as something I’d like to find today!

Recently I’ve started the habit of starting and ending each day with things for which I’m grateful. I jot down 10 things I was grateful for from the day, especially on days I feel down. In Voskamp’s first reflection, Surprising Grace, she writes, “To bring the sacrifice of thanksgiving means to sacrifice our understanding of what is beneficial and thank God for everything because He is benevolent. A sacrifice of thanks lays down our perspective and raises hands in praise anyways—always.”

Laying down my perspective is the challenge for me-always. I know God to be only good, but some days, like this particular day, when something I really want doesn’t happen, I don’t want to remain grateful to God. I’d rather blame him, be angry at him and cry out why aren’t things different? Why can’t my perspective work? Laying down and giving thanks-always, doesn’t naturally come to practice. But in His grace he always answers us and is always patient with us.

Voskamp sums it up more eloquently, “We give thanks to God not because of how we feel but because of who He is.” Amen to that—and thank God for his never changing nature which always only has our truest and best intentions in mind.

Sts. Timothy & Titus – January 26th

Sculpted wooden panels of Saints Timothy and Titus at the Church of the Transfiguration on Cape Cod

Saints Timothy & Titus

On January 26th, we celebrate the feasts of St. Timothy and St. Titus, two men best known for their companionship and commitment to the Apostle Paul. They were converted to the Christian faith at an early age by St. Paul, and spent their lives serving the Gospel and assisting Paul in his missionary work. Their lives remind us that we are strengthened by each other and that few, if any, can carry out God’s purposes alone. Timothy and Titus inspire me to ask God, who am I meant to be companion to and what missions are you asking me to assist or encourage? In a culture that stresses the importance of “do-it-yourself” or “make it you own,” Saints Timothy and Titus exemplify our need for companions and trusted friends to help us on our journey.

 

Advent IV

Night-Light

It was cold and cloudy with little moon and no stars as I walked home late in the evening. The wind lofted the cow barn smell pungently into the air. Seeing the barn reminded me of choir earlier in the day when sang a setting of Richard Crawshaw’s poem In the Holy Nativity of our Lord.

In the Crawshaw poem the shepherds sing of this blest night: Gloomy night embrac’d the place Where the Noble Infant Lay; The Babe look’d up and show’d his face, in spite of darkness, it was day. It was thy day, Sweet! And did rise Not from the east, but from thine eyes. Great little one, whose all-embracing birth Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav’n to earth.

With the fresh smell of the stable and the shepherd’s song running through my mind, I imagine what it was like for Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds that night. I wonder how the shepherds felt seeing the Christ-child. I wonder how I would have felt being a shepherd. Would I have recognized His light, would I have been excited, or afraid?

As I continued home, I cast prayers into the night. Prayers of things I don’t understand and questions longing for answers. I hope for healing in broken relationships, and courage to make bold choices when I feel afraid. I ask Jesus what to do with my many wants and desires. And then my heart smiles remembering how bright and sweet Your face is. I smile knowing that as sure as anything, Jesus will come again this season.  And in His coming, His all-embracing birth will bring sweet light into any place we will welcome it.

Transcendence

In this passage about prayer from Ronald Rolheiser’s book, Sacred Fire, the words seem to articulate unconscious thoughts swirling in the back regions of my brain. It’s from a section of the book about prayer in which Fr. Rolheiser poses a question we all face from time to time. He writes:

“We all have our moments of chaos and crisis. Loss, death, sickness, disappointment, hurt, loneliness, hatred, jealousy, obsession, fear—these come into our lives and often we find ourselves overwhelmed by the darkness they cause….How can we pull ourselves out of the dark chaos they put us into?”

I’m sure most of us can relate on some level to this dark chaos, the slippery slope that seems to have no ladder out, only pathways to more darkness. Fr. Rolheiser suggests we too naturally try to climb out or resolve the chaos ourselves, often to our detriment:

“Sometimes when we try to pray when hurting, the prayer serves not to uproot the hurt and obsession, but to root them even more deeply in self-pity, self-preoccupation, and over-concentration. We end up further letting go of God’s Spirit and, instead, giving in to more panic, fear, chaos, bitterness, obsession, and resentment…it is important that our prayer be focused upon God and not upon ourselves…we must force ourselves to focus upon God or Jesus or upon some aspect of transcendent mystery.”

I find hope in Fr. Rolheiser’s simple wisdom to “force” my prayers away from myself and onto God. However large or small my prayer offering may be, in the difficult choice to force my thoughts upon Jesus, this becomes a way of letting go of darkness and a way of recognizing His transcendence. In recognizing my inability to save myself, I’m given a path in which Jesus promises to carry me out of my dark chaos.

 

God’s Power

The last few weeks have provided ample evidence of God’s power. I’m reminded of how precious life is. The creator of life and the weather can far out-wit and out-muscle even our greatest ambitions.  We truly are helpless as to the timing of these events, either death or the weather. Not that there ever isn’t evidence, but it has been more at the forefront of my daily activities and therefore more on my mind.  We just celebrated the fourth funeral in our Monastery since the first of 2018. Yes, celebrated, is the purposefully chosen word. Each funeral rite has been a rich celebration of life and a pointed reminder of how uniquely precious all life is.

Over the last six weeks, our neck of the woods has experienced three nor’easters. These destructive storms force trees down, power outages, injuries, and even take lives. Sitting inside during a powerful storm is a helpless feeling. We sit helpless against dangerous rising tides, and wind powerful enough to drop a giant tree flat on its back- helpless to stop it, but in awe of its power.

I hope I can start each day with this helpless feeling so as to be reminded of the gift that life is.  To be reminded just how precious, unique and awfully special each day we are given can be.

Silence

At first glance, I generally think of silence as still, inactive, quiet. While silence can be these things, there’s also a silence that allows for more to be heard. In Madeleine
L’Engle’s poem, Ready for Silence, God does many extraordinary things in silence. He
enters, He moves, He rises and He ascends– all in silence.

Ready for Silence 
Then hear now the silence
He comes in the silence
in silence he enters
the womb of the bearer
in silence he goes to
the realm of the shadows
redeeming and shriving
in silence he moves from
the grave cloths, the dark tomb
in silence he rises
ascends to the glory
leaving his promise
leaving his comfort
leaving his silence
So come now, Lord Jesus
Come in your silence
breaking our noising
laughter of panic
breaking this earth’s time
breaking us breaking us
quickly Lord Jesus
make no long tarrying
When will you come
and how will you come
and will we be ready
for silence
your silence.               — Madeleine L’Engle

Often I find myself calling, even yelling to God “I can’t hear you! Can you be more obvious?!” Time and time again I need to create and search out silence in order to break or be broken into a place of silence. Without this silence I have too many worrisome, fearful and panicking thoughts blocking my capacity to hear. I must find a place where I can quiet my noising laughter of panic in order to hear His ever beckoning and loving voice.

Blind Noel

Our region saw the first snowflakes of the year this weekend. Small heavy wet flakes as it was just cold enough in the sky above to see snow crystallize.  The snow fall spins my mind to a short Christmas poem by R.S. Thomas that I’d read earlier in the week.  The poem is titled, Blind Noel.

Christmas; the themes are exhausted.

Yet there is always room
on the heart for another
snowflake to reveal a pattern.
Love knocks with such frosted fingers.

I look out. In the shadow

of so vast a God I shiver, unable
to detect the child for the whiteness.

Isn’t it both distressing and hopeful that love has to knock with such frosted fingers?

When this knocking comes, and it always comes, will I be able to hear it? Will I have the courage to open its door, the courage to extend, even slightly, into the unknown vastness of God?

I long for love but am scared to open the door to those frosted fingers. Perhaps they are my own, longing to be let into my heart. Longing to have God reveal to me who I am and who he has created me to be; to find and have revealed to me what of Himself God has planted in me. And I thank God for His Blind Noel that will undoubtedly come.

 

Have a seat

by Melodius Monk

“We as followers of Christ don’t have some kind of special super power. We are not the spiritually elite. We just have the authority to show up. To show up and proclaim the nearness of God that scatters the darkness. And we can show up for life and for each other and for the world because what we need for healing and sustenance is always the same as the simple, ordinary things right in front of us—that’s just the way God works.“     -Nadia Bolz Weber

Early this morning, I was reading the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and already knowing the end, I started losing focus when surprisingly the story grabbed my imagination—as if to say, “don’t be so bored”—I have more to teach you. Jesus then took the loaves and gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.”

And I started thinking of Nadia’s quote in relation to being seated. Being seated is simple un-profound, and not hard to do. The people with Jesus that day simply had to show up, sit, and Jesus did the rest.

Daily I’m crying out to Jesus, where are you?  What are you saying to me? Why can’t I find more answers? I want more assuredness from God, more peace, more answers, less doubt. I assume I must need to do more of “something” to gain access to God.

Sitting can be challenging. It feels unproductive, a little boring, vulnerable and uncomfortable. Yet I need not run, hide, or try to produce, but simply sit and take in what God puts right in front of me today.

Perhaps in the rootedness of staying put, we open ourselves to the possibility to receive from a God who wishes to give us as much goodness as we dare to want.

Abundant life

By Melodius Monk

Ever ask yourself the question, is this all life has to offer? Coming off the “holiday” season (you know the one that was supposed to make you feel peace and joy?) or the start of the New Year (when I realize that all of the grand resolutions I vowed to fix in my world may either be impossible, or not part of God’s timing)—perhaps this is a time when this question surfaces! It’s like when you work really hard planning a dinner party: the dinner happens—ends—and I’m left feeling disappointed. The party was fun, really fun in fact and enjoyed by all, but two days later I’m sad it’s over and start to wonder how long it will be until the next enjoyable moment in life. Instead of savoring the fun evening, I start to think if only I had prepared a little better for the party, maybe the feeling of satisfaction would have lasted a whole week instead of two days. Maybe next time I can buy better wine, or not invite so and so, or have the bruschetta just a little crisper, or add one more desert (even though we already had four, but I didn’t know my friend was off sugar)!

My guess is I’m not alone in this waste of time search for the ever elusive “more” in life.  In her story-filled book, Sister Bridget Haase answers my questioning with a swift and simple belief.  She writes, “You do not need to seek abundant life anywhere else. It is right here, right now, under our feet, and in the air we breathe. This is all there is to life and it is quite enough.”

This often inexhaustible search for more in life can manifest itself in small and large ways. God has planted within each of us exactly what we need for a full and abundant life. In her book Generous Faith, Sr. Bridget teaches us that this type of faith “compels us to mine, with integrity, fortitude, and abundance, the faith within each of us.” She continues; “We, too, are created to savor and enjoy every moment of life. Unfortunately we do just the opposite. When we shower, we plan the day’s schedule rather than simply feel the rush of water on our shoulders. When we smell a gardenia, we draw up future plans for a garden rather than just let the fragrance bless us. When we sit by a stream in a local park, we wish we were at a popular mountain resort, far away from our daily routine and duty, rather than hear the gurgling gift of flowing water. When we see flowering lilac bushes in the spring, do we begin a summer countdown or linger over the beauty of lilacs? When watermelon juice runs down our chin, do we wonder if mangoes would have tasted better?”

Though I believe Sr. Bridget’s words to be true, I need regular reminders that God makes no mistakes, and that in Jesus I will be given precisely what I need each day for a full and abundantly rich life.

"Roses" by Leonid Afremov

“Roses” by Leonid Afremov