To everything there is a season – Ecclesiastes 3:1

In Benedictine monastic life, while we take a vow of stability, change is always a part of our lives! For many years we have posted weekly on a variety of topics, including the lives of the saints, words of spiritual encouragement, as well as insights into bellringing and Gregorian Chant.

We are writing to let our readers know that this is our final post. We will continue to share regularly on our social media channels and encourage you to follow us there. In particular, on our YouTube channel we uploaded a number of videos during the stay-at-home months that combined music and art from the Church of the Transfiguration. 

Click here for the YouTube “Gift of Listening” playlist on the Community of Jesus channel

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Also, as you may know, we post a daily spiritual meditation on the Community of Jesus website that includes an excerpt from the Liturgy of the Hours, a meditation, a prayer and the lectionary readings. The “Daily Bread” can also be delivered to your mailbox.  

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments with us over the years. May the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones!

Feast Day of St. Thomas – July 3rd

Saint Thomas the Apostle was born in first century Galilee. Syrian Christian tradition maintains that he was martyred at St. Thomas Mount, Chennai, India, in 72 AD.  Saint Thomas was reportedly a reluctant missionary, but obedience overcame his misgivings, and he traveled as far as present-day India, converting many to Christianity through preaching, baptism, and the performing of miracles. He is honored as Patron Saint of India.

As we celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Thomas, let us do so with eyes wide open. We’re blessed to know this man who personifies our own times of unbelief, our skepticism, and tendency to look first at the dark side of an unknown. I point my not-so-understanding finger and refer to “Doubting Thomas,” often not recognizing he’s one of us and a figure of hope, compassion, and forgiveness. His stubborn insistence on touching the wounds of Christ stand as a sacred witness to His Resurrection for all time.

Let’s turn to another page of Thomas’s story. In John 11:16 upon the death of Lazarus, the other apostles, knowing Jesus’s life was in danger, wished to avoid travel to Judea. Thomas, however, aware of the Lord’s great desire to go to Bethany, fearlessly proclaimed, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

In John 14:5, Jesus explains to the disciples that He is going away to prepare a place in heaven for them, where they will one day join Him. Thomas asks the obvious, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered him with that most treasured phrase, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Thomas, the practical, the skeptical, the stubborn, the doubter, the brave, and the loyal – so much revealed in so few words – left a legacy of faithful service.

Community of Jesus Cloister

Cloister of the Community of Jesus — St. Thomas

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul — June 29th

Saints Peter and Paul – Community of Jesus, Cloister

Each man has his own feast day.  Why then, do we celebrate the third feast, honoring both men together?  According to legend, both died as martyrs on the same day at the command of the Roman Emperor Nero. Because Saint Paul was a Roman citizen, he was executed by beheading;  Peter, a Jewish peasant, was crucified. Considering himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ, he asked to be crucified upside down.

Peter, originally named Simon, was a fisherman of Galilee. Jesus gave him the new name Cephas (Petrus in Latin.) Peter, His rock upon which He would build His Church, was both a bold and passionate follower. Impetuous, opinionated and head-strong, Peter none-the-less was chosen as shepherd of God’s flock and head of the Church.

Paul also received a new name. He was Saul, a Jewish Pharisee, and persecutor of Christians. His conversion along the road to Damascus, blindness and the subsequent return of his sight, led him to take the new name, Paul. In Hebrew, Paul means small or humble. He later earned the title “Apostle of the Gentiles”. His letters are an important tool of the New Testament, teaching us not only about his life, but the faith of the early Church.

We honor two strong and worthy men, one a fisherman, the other a well-educated Roman citizen. Both were impulsive by nature and tireless in their work as they proclaimed the gospel and shared  God’s love for mankind.

From a sermon of Leo the Great: About their merits and virtues, let us not make distinctions or draw comparisons; for both were chosen, they were alike in their labors, they were partners in death.

Peter and Paul, whom the grace of God has raised to such a height among all the members of the Church that He has set them like twin lights of eyes in that Body whose head is Christ.

 

Looking Back – Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration, June, 2000

Each year in June we acknowledge the Dedication of the Church of the
Transfiguration that took place on June 17, 2000. We posted earlier this month to honor that day specifically, but as this is the 20th anniversary year of the Church, some additional meditation seemed appropriate.

The Church was the culmination of a vision that had sprouted at least ten years earlier. There were years of planning and research that emerged in the final design. There were meetings with architects, sound and lighting engineers, and landscape architects. There were artists to be interviewed and employed for the fresco and mosaic work. Much of the carving and sculpture work had already been completed by Dedication. But the Church was virtually a solid framework of stone and bronze when it was dedicated.

When I thought about celebrating Dedication this year, my thoughts went back to the Dedication of the original Temple in Jerusalem. I dug back into the chapters in 1st Kings, which describe the event. It struck me that David, as great as he was, did not build the Temple. It was Solomon to whom the task was given:

“Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands to heaven. He said,” Oh Lord God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on the earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand…” I Kings 8:22-24 NRSV

Solomon continues on in a long set of prayers and requests. He could have asked for many things. Here are a few of the openings to his prayers: “If someone sins against a neighbor,” “When the people Israel, having sinned against you”; “When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain because they have sinned against you….”  I Kings 8 NRSV

Notice that Solomon does not say if they sin, but when they sin. He prays that when the people stumble, and repent and turn from their sin, God will be merciful and forgive them; that he will restore the relationship that was broken.

Recently we have all been living through difficult days. The corona-virus and social unrest have brought the entire population to a place of reflection. Our foundations are shaken but not destroyed. And what do all the events of recent months have to do with Dedication? I believe many of us as Christians have been part of this shaking. I have had to look at areas in my own life where I fall short and need forgiveness and the Living Jesus. But through it all, the Church stands firm.

In some mysterious way, I think we need to appropriate the solidness of the “temple”.  As a forgiven people (with a continual need of forgiveness), we need to find ways to reach into the surrounding culture. Not to insulate ourselves and hunker-down, but just the opposite. Stand up and move with conviction and dedication into our confused nation. God has given each of us some way, some voice to demonstrate that He is alive. We need to be fully alive to Jesus for ourselves and the world around us.

So as I recall the Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration,  I pray to wholeheartedly dedicate myself to all that Jesus desires.

Feast Day of the Birth of St. John the Baptist – June 24

“Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear a son, and you will name him John.” These words spoken by the Angel Gabriel at the altar in the Temple, over two thousand years ago, startled and amazed Zechariah, who was taking his turn offering up incense to God. This astounding event underscores the importance of John the Baptist.

The Angel also told Zechariah that John would never take strong drink, but be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. Gabriel, messenger of and from God, spoke with unquestionable authority. However, because of his unbelief, Zechariah, even though a righteous man, was rendered mute until John’s birth.

Then three months later, Mary visited her kinswoman Elizabeth in the hill country of Judea. The visit was an unusual and greatly blessed event –  the baby John leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth spontaneously greeted Mary as the future mother of the Lord.  At least one famous painting depicts Jesus and John playing together as little boys, an altogether possible event. They were kinsmen, and they were children of the same age.

John was a descendant of Aaron and grew up faithful to his call as a Nazirite, striving always to live in harmony with God’s law. He brought many in Israel back to the Lord their God, fulfilling Gabriel’s declaration at the Temple altar. Eschewing strong drink, dressed in a rough camel hair tunic, and eating locusts and wild honey, John faithfully preached repentance and baptized many in the Jordan River. He also proclaimed that there is “One coming after me who is more powerful than I; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Realizing he was only a forerunner, John knew himself and his limits and said he was not worthy even to untie the thong of Jesus’s sandals. His humility was apparent when Jesus asked John to baptize him, and John hesitated. When John finally agreed, and Jesus emerged from the water, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus. God spoke from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

John, who was likened to Elijah by Jesus, was a speaker of the truth. Elijah confronted King Ahab, and later, John confronted Herod for divorcing his wife and unlawfully marrying his sister-in-law. Even though the great Herod knew this was true, he was not pleased. It was Herod’s order that John the Baptist, an outstanding servant of God, was beheaded. Nevertheless, as the Angel Gabriel foretold, Saint John the Baptist obediently fulfilled God’s call on his life and was greatly beloved by His Lord.

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*Biblical narrative is from John, Chapter 1 and Matthew Chapter 3 and includes direct quotes.

 

Feast of the Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration, June, 2020

Today we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration.

This past December, the installation of the glass doors to Emmanuel Chapel were a beautiful, last addition to the physical building. These glass doors, full of color, shimmer with creation’s spectrum and introduce us to to the sacred space for the reserved sacrament that lies behind them. In the past few months, the final organ console was also installed, and we look forward to the organ’s completion in the coming year, when all remaining pipes will be in place and this instrument will speak with a majestic voice – proclaiming the word in music and supporting the songs of praise offered in this space.

The hymn, “O Wondrous Name” – written for the initial Dedication of the Church in the year 2000 by Hal M. Helms is a fitting prayer of praise that reflects on our spiritual journey, God’s guidance in past years and hope for the future.

O wondrous Name, all other names above
O blessed bringer of the Father’s love
O holy Jesus, Saviour, Lord and King
Accept the thanks and praise your people bring.

On paths untried your guiding light has shown,
You hand has led through trackless ways unknown.
You bid us trust, though steep our way may be,
That we Your greater glory yet may see.

And hitherto each promise You have made
Has been fulfilled in Your unfailing aid.
The hand that led and blessed us in the past
Will still sustain and keep us to the last.

O wondrous Lord, whose holy Name we bear,
Keep this your flock forever in Your care.
Where’er Your way shall lead, we follow on
Until we stand at last before Your throne.

Your Name, O Father and Your Name, O Son,
Your Name O Holy Spirit ever One,
With all the host of heaven we adore,
And praise Your holy Name for evermore.

Your Name, Your Name O Son
Your Name, O Holy Spirit ever One,
With all the host of heaven we adore
And praise Your holy Name for evermore.

 

 

St. Barnabas, Apostle – June 11th

Saint Barnabas, according to tradition, was of Jewish descent, possibly from the island of Cyprus; he was one of the earliest and well known Christian disciples in Jerusalem and worked alongside the apostles. Joseph was his given name, but the early disciples called him Barnabas, ‘Son of Encouragement.’ Barnabas was also described as ‘full of the Holy Spirit.’ He excelled in peacemaking, encouraging and exhorting, gifts much needed in an early church, which was fraught with struggles, difficulties, and persecutions both real and potential.

In the book of Acts, we meet Barnabas as a friend and staunch supporter of Paul. Paul needed reconciliation with the Jerusalem Christians, whom he had assiduously persecuted. Barnabas was able to confirm and testify to Paul’s conversion and faith in Jesus, facilitating Paul’s acceptance.

Saint Barnabas also understood the work of God, including the Gentiles in His saving grace; he probably spent his life serving God to this end. Barnabas and Paul worked side by side in Antioch.  They included John Mark, possibly the cousin or nephew of Barnabas on missionary journeys to Asia Minor. Paul and Barnabas had their differences and separated at one point, reconciling later. These were flesh and blood men. Barnabas was no stranger to opposition as he spoke directly against false practices and concepts. Tradition says that Barnabas was martyred by stoning.

The Book of Acts outlines and describes how this ‘Son of Encouragement’ was instrumental in the formation and growth of the early church, attempting to steer a true and accurate course.

Community of Jesus St. Barnabas, Cloister Saint, Church of the Transfiguration

St. Barnabas, Cloister Saint, Church of the Transfiguration

St. Columba of Iona, Abbot – June 9th

Early in the 1960’s, Benjamin Britten composed a hymn to celebrate the 1,400th anniversary of St. Columba’s voyage to Iona in Scotland. But how is it that Columba born in Ireland in 521 A.D., and also a descendant of the great Irish King Niall, ended up in Scotland? As a youth showing much brilliance, Columba or Colmcille attended the monastic school at Clonard Abbey in Ireland. Taught by the famous scholar Saint Finnian, he later became part of the group known as the Twelve Apostles.

Columba became a deacon, then a monk, and at twenty-five, a priest. A vigorous and imposing man, he traveled all over Ireland the next fifteen years, with only a brief return home to the north when a plague struck central Ireland in 554. During this time, Columba spent his time teaching, preaching, and founding churches and monasteries wherever he went, seemingly reaching the pinnacle of his religious life.

Suddenly, Columba’s life took a turn. Secretly he had borrowed Finnian’s recently acquired copy of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate and did his own translation into Gaelic. The problem arose when Finnian demanded the return of his book, but Columba steadfastly refused. Strong feelings on both sides resulted in the “Battle of the Book” occurring in 561 and the cause of much bloodshed. Feeling guilty for indirectly causing the death of many, Columba, believing in expiation for his sins, left Ireland with twelve followers.

Traveling in a wicker boat covered with leather, Columba and his men landed on Iona, a tiny Scottish island. There he built his first Celtic church, established a monastic community, and converted most of pagan Scotland and northern England. Iona became so famous that its influence spread throughout mainland Europe. It is there that Columba died in peace in June of 597. What is striking is how Columba acknowledged his wrong-doing, moved ahead and let God weave together the many strands of his life creating a tapestry more intricate than he could have imagined.

Feast Day of Saint Boniface, June 5th — Eighth Century Bishop

The feast of Saint Boniface, celebrated June 5th, honors a man credited for three major life time accomplishments: missionary to and apostle of Germania, reformer of the Frankish church (and its ensuing influence on Western Christianity), and zealous pursuit of an alliance between the papacy and Frankish aristocrats.

Born c. AD 675, in Devon, England, Boniface was martyred for his missionary work on June 5, AD 754, in Frisia (now part of the Netherlands.)  It is said that he was attacked and martyred as he read Scripture to new Christian converts on Pentecost Sunday. During his life, many honors were given him, including selection as archbishop and metropolitan of all German territory east of the Rhine.

Boniface, in his whole-hearted desire to convert the German people, destroyed the sacred oak of their pagan God, Thor.  Witnesses claimed at the first stroke of the axe, a mighty wind came down and felled the ancient oak. Many were converted to Christianity through the  brave action of Boniface.  A popular legend in Germany is that the traditional Christmas Tree began with this event. It is said that Boniface urged all who were present to take home a fir tree in celebration.  The evergreen symbolized peace, immortality, and praise to the Christian God.

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The Feast of Pentecost

-From the Greek Pentekostos or Fiftieth Day

When the Day of Pentecost had come, they (the chosen disciples and Mary, the Mother of Jesus) were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.   Acts 2:2-4

 It was an amazing display of God’s creative power:  wind, fire, and a musical cacophony of many languages. But it was so much more than an event, an anomaly to be discussed, misunderstood, and sometimes discredited, by the gathering crowd of pilgrim Jews.  Thousands were in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Shavuot, which honors spring harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.  Peter, often first to seize the moment, raised his voice and addressed the crowd.  He quoted the prophet Joel, who some 850 years prior, described the coming of this day:  And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.  And also on My menservants and on My maidservants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days. It was an important and necessary component to the fulfillment of Jesus’ death and resurrection.   God united Christian followers then and forever by sending the Holy Spirit to fill their hearts.  A foundation was laid for His church; indeed, some refer to Pentecost as the birthday of the church, where all find equal access to the gifts of the spirit and all that His love offers.

Pentecost Icon – Church of the Transfiguration, Community of Jesus