John, the Golden-Mouthed

“If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find him in the chalice.”

“Not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth, but theirs.”

“We must not mind insulting men, if by respecting them, we offend God.”

The saint we know as John Chrysostom, was not called Chrysostom (which means “golden-mouthed) until after his death.  It was his golden-mouthed preaching and writing that made him a great teacher of the early church, but also caused him great personal grief. His feast day is celebrated on September 13.

As a result of his reputation as an orator, John was kidnapped from his church in Antioch in 398 and made the Archbishop of Constantinople, the center of the Roman Empire at the time.  He accepted the position as the will of God, but denounced many important leaders (including clergy) in the city for their extreme wealth and corruption. His denouncements of Roman citizens by name led to his banishment more than once, the last resulting in his sickness and death in 407.

To put John Chrysostom’s life in perspective:  Emperor Constantine issued his edict decriminalizing Christianity (the Edict of Milan) in 313.  John was born in 349, just 36 years later. It was not until 380, when he was 31, that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.  He became a deacon in Antioch the following year.

Saint Francis

Sunday, October 4th is the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the world’s most popular saint! 

Francis was born in 1182, the son of a wealthy merchant of Assisi. His early youth was spent in harmless revelry and fruitless attempts to win military glory. He soon gave this up for a life of poverty, joyfully and literally following the sayings of Jesus. When Jesus spoke to him from a cross in the neglected chapel of San Damiano and told him to go build up His house, Frances thought this meant repairing the chapel. Over time he realized that God was speaking about the larger Church. He founded the Franciscan Order and devoted himself and his order to serving the poor. Not long before his death, he received the marks of Jesus’ wounds, the stigmata, in his own hands, feet and side. He was canonized in 1228, and the great basilica of St. Francis was built over his tomb in Assisi. His great love of nature and animals led the church to make him the patron saint of animals.
 
Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words. – Saint Francis

St-Francis-Quote

Walking on Water

By Melodious Monk

This past Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Transfiguration here at the Community of Jesus. Because our church is named after this feast, we always celebrate the feast on the Sunday closest to the traditional feast date of August 6th.

As the Gospel story was read aloud, I was drawn to St. Peter’s words first words to Jesus, “It is good to be here.”  But the Transfiguration gospel also made me recall another story about Peter and Jesus.  I’ve just been re-reading one my favorite books titled Walking on Water: reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle. In the final chapter titled “Feeding the Lake”, she writes:

“When Jesus called Peter to come to him across the water, Peter, for one brief, glorious moment, remembered how and strode with ease across the lake. This is how we are meant to be, and then we forget, and we sink. But if we cry out for help (as Peter did) we will be pulled out of the water; we won’t drown. And if we listen, we will hear, and if we look, we will see.

That sounds so simple –all we need to do is step towards Jesus and we can partake in the glorious impossibility of walking on water.  But the tiny word IF can become a stumbling block — IF we can listen, and IF we can hear.  We all are capable of hearing the divine voice, but how quickly we forget to do this!  We forget to cry out for help.  Scripture tells us Peter was apparently scared both stepping onto the water and when he witnessed the dazzling white light on Mt Tabor as Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared with them. But even in being scared, Peter proclaimed,”It is good for us to be here!”

When I’m scared, that’s the last thing I think of. Usually I want to protect, run the other way, or fight.  Many fears come up every day, in relationships, over unexpected events, through anxiety, or perhaps real physical dangers. I mostly want to avoid the things I’m afraid of, rather then proclaim that it may be good that I’m here. I don’t usually remember that perhaps this point of fear is good for me today.  For if God brought this fearful point into my life today, instead of running, perhaps I can conquer this fear.  Perhaps I, like Peter, can take just a step or two walking across new water.  If I don’t listen, and if I don’t look, the alternative might be to miss out on some of the “brief glorious moments” that God most certainly designs uniquely for us.

L’Engle moves on to write: “The impossible still happens to us, often during the work, sometimes when we are so tired that inadvertently we let down all the barriers we have built up. We lose our adult skepticism and become once again children who can walk down their grandmother’s winding stairs without touching.”  If we listen and if we hear…..we can be transfigured in ways we can’t even imagine or understand.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By: Sr. Fidelis

Transfiguration

The Feast of the Transfiguration is an important one at the Community of Jesus. Tt is our “Namesake” feast at the Church of the Transfiguration.  The actual feast day is August 6th, but it is usually celebrated on the closest Sunday to that date.

The feast was originally celebrated in the East as early as the 4th and 5th centuries, but was not commonly celebrated in the West until the 10th century.  In 1456 Pope Callixtus III extended the feast to the Universal Church.

We see this interesting history reflected in the chants for this special feast.  Appropriate texts were “borrowed” from other parts of the liturgy, or newly composed, which was the case with the Alleluia, “Candor est lucis”.  Using an original tune which dates back to the 9th century, a new text was added to the original notes, with some slight variations to accommodate the text. Listen to this lovely chant, while reading these words from the Book of Wisdom, 7, 26.

He is the brightness of eternal light, the flawless image (or mirror without stain) of God and the best image of the same.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr. Fidelis

The Reading for Lauds at the Community of Jesus this morning was from an Epistle of Clement I. The last paragraph read, “Even the Creator and Lord of the universe rejoices in his works.  By his supreme power he set the heavens in their place; by his infinite wisdom he gave them their order.  He separated the land from the waters surrounding it and made his own will its firm foundation.  By his command he brought to life the beasts that roam the earth.  He created the sea and all its living creatures, and then by his power set bounds to it.  Finally, he formed humanity, the highest and most intelligent of his creatures, the copy of his own image.  We must recognize, therefore, that all who are upright have been graced by good works, and that even the Lord himself took delight in the glory his works gave them.”

This seemed like a summary of the beautiful Vespers hymns we’ve been looking at these past weeks with themes of the various days of creation!  The Friday hymn is the last in the set, with text mostly likely attributed to Saint Gregory the Great. Here is as description of true Paradise on earth.

O God, shaper of man, you who, alone, ordaining all things, order the earth to produce species of creeping and wild beasts;

You, who gave the great bodies of creatures, made alive by a word of command that they might serve in their place subduing them to mankind:

Drive away from your servants, whatsoever, by uncleanness, either suggests itself by customs, or insinuates itself by actions.

Give the rewards of joys, grant the gifts of graces; dissolve the chains of quarrelling, bind fast the agreements of peace.

Grant this, O most loving Father, and you, the only One equal to the Father, with the Spirit, the Paraclete, who reigns through every age.  Amen.

The Community of Jesus

 

Come What May

By Sr. Nun Other

If I were to have a conversation with the Apostle Paul, I’d like to pose this question, “How did you learn to be content in all circumstances?” My admiration comes, of course, from reading Philippians 4:12, in which Paul proclaims, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  I suspect it wasn’t a “firefly” of faith landing on Paul’s shoulder that produced such serene confidence.  A quick overview of his life proves that not to be the case. His personal journey was punctuated by suffering, both of his own making, and forced on him by others. He was a persecutor of the church and present at the stoning of Stephen, struck blind and converted on the road to Damascus, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and eventually martyred. Since I can’t ask my question directly, let’s speculate. Perhaps this passage is about joy, abiding joy, deeply rooted in reality and knowledge of the love of God.

The Community of Jesus

Alike In Our Differences

By Sr. Nun Other

I’m sometimes tempted by the concept of “alone.” It’s very appealing (and elusive) to one who’s called to live with sixty sisters! While being alone has benefits, when demanded, it seldom produces the hoped-for result. (That is, continued peace and tranquility.) Jesus called twelve men to participate in His earthly journey, not for His sake, but for theirs. They were of varying temperaments: Andrew, who introduced his brother to Jesus, was optimistic and content in second place, while Peter became the gregarious spokesman for the Twelve; Bartholomew was a scholar, James the Elder, a man of courage and forgiveness, and the fiery tempered John, beloved for his devotion. Like all friends, they arrived with individual attributes and deficits. They needed each other – we need each other — both as support beams and sandpaper.

The Community of Jesus

Live Generously

By Melodious Monk

In Eugene Peterson’s Idiomatic translation of the Gospel of Matthew, many of Jesus’ words come alive in a somewhat shocking way.  I pause to re-read and re-acknowledge the awesomeness of what Jesus brings us, and the duty that he calls us towards.  Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us:

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’  I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love you enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves…If you simply love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?…”In a word, what I’m sayings is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

I’m slow to listen to Jesus’ call to “Grow up.”  I’d rather nurse old hurts, take jabs at my enemies and not work to give energies of prayer and peace to others, especially those people or circumstances that I would normally shy away from. God desires so much more fulfilment for my life then I can comprehend. After re-reading this whole chapter from Matthew, I’m shockingly aware of how much possibility there is for an outrageously fulfilling, adventurous, and hope-filled life. God offers such a life to us, if we choose to live inside His kingdom.

The Community of Jesus

 

A Need to Stretch

By Melodious Monk

I’m too small to understand much about God.  Perhaps this is why I’m drawn to ponder over a sermon from the 14th century.  Father John Tauler was a Dominican priest who taught that the way to union or friendship with God was through detachment from earthly matters. He said, “To be guided by one’s own light and not by God’s is the chief cause of our not attaining to union with God. There is an overmastering joy in self-guidance, even in spiritual matters; nature is intoxicated by this pleasure more than by any other; and withal, it is deceitful, and its hurtfulness too often remains hidden.”

I certainly strive to guide myself! I like to do things, to accomplish things, and to have things somewhat organized — not without change and variety mind you, for without could be boring and uninteresting! But I’d still rather have some foreknowledge of what’s coming so as to be prepared. And I do find joy in guiding myself through things…but at what cost?  Did my drive to accomplish a job today, even a job that may have been God’s will, cause me to miss being with Christ today?  And in the process of organizing and making the job happen, did I run over blessings God had intended for me or someone else, all in the name of finishing a “worthy” task?

“God’s friends are afflicted to the marrow of their bones as they see and hear the injury done to God and the harm to immortal souls by people’s affection for creatures, which is all too prevalent around them.”  I find this thought somewhat humorous when juxtaposed to the goal of loving ones neighbor, but nonetheless true. Our “affection for creatures” is very high, and takes a number of subtle forms, working hard, working for the joy of accomplishment, of self-worth, or looking for praise.  In getting this temporary joy and praise from other creatures, I find myself continually striving for more of this unrequited goal, pushing aside people and events that seem like interruptions.  I don’t stretch to think or pray about the hidden hurtfulness that this selfishness can cause.  I’m much too small to realize that God is in anything that comes into my day, yes, truly everything. He may be asking me to do more, or He may be sitting on the side of the road wishing I’d stop and sit with him a while.

The Community of Jesus

Room to Wander

By Sr. Nun Other

A few years ago, I tried writing a folk song recounting the story of Jonah. While my song had several (now forgotten) verses, I do remember the first one:

Old Jonah looking for a ship to sail,
Ended up in the belly of a whale.
When the wind blew, he drew a lot,
And a hungry fish was the best he got!

Jonah’s testimony is a fascinating one. His four brief chapters of fame are a case study in vacillation between faithlessness and faithfulness. The cowardly man who “fled from the presence of the Lord,” is the same who later insists that the sailors, to save themselves, throw him into the midst of the sea. Swallowed by a whale and incarcerated in an unknown environment, his earnest prayer is one of  thanksgiving to God. His gratitude quickly turns to indignation when Ninevah is spared, and he’s inconsolable when a worm eats his shade tree. Perhaps the greatest thing about this story is God’s love for and infinite patience with His wayward child. He uses everything at His disposal — from a whale to a worm — to accomplish His will in both Jonah and 120,000 Ninevites.

The Community of Jesus