I recently came across a 2016 podcast in the On Being series by Krista Tippett, in which she interviews Br. David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk at the Gut Aich Priory in St. Gilgen in Austria and a teacher and author on the subject of gratitude, who is the founder and senior advisor for A Network for Grateful Living. A Benedictine monk for over 60 years, Br. David was formed by 20th-century catastrophes. He calls joy “the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens”. And his gratefulness is not an easy gratitude or thanksgiving — but a full-blooded, reality-based practice and choice.
Why do I share this at Pentecost? Because he defines “spirituality” from “spiritus” that means “life”, “breath”, “aliveness”. Spirituality is aliveness on all levels. It must start with our bodily aliveness. But of course, when we say “spirituality”, we also mean aliveness to interrelationships, aliveness to our confrontation with that great divine mystery with which we are confronted as human beings and which we can look away from or forget or be dead to. We come alive to it. When people are grateful, they come alive.
I share with you a reflection and a prayer for Palm Sunday. May you have a blessed Holy Week.
From an Oration by Andrew of Crete:
Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives. Today he … comes of his own free will to make his journey to Jerusalem … and proceeds of his own free will towards his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation. He comes without pomp or ostentation. He will be meek and humble, and he will make his entry in simplicity.
As Lent progresses we are called to turn our thinking from repentance, our work at the start of Lent, to Jerusalem – specifically Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem… a journey of sacrifice that leads to crucifixion. Today’s scripture readings are clearly part of that shift.
The shift is not just a call to think literally about the city of Jerusalem and the pending crucifixion. Embedded within the shift is a call to change the way we think about God.
Why do monastics spend so much time with the Psalms? I think the following reflection by Kerry Hasler-Brooks goes some way towards answering that question.
Two years ago, I heard Kathleen Norris read her poetry, and I immediately got a copy of her much-loved book Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and read it straight through.
I have since read the book three times and some portions many more, used it in a sermon, and discussed it with first-year college students in a class on reading, faith, and place. In the book, Norris tells of an abandoned faith resurrected in a small South Dakota town and in an ancient monastic liturgy that taught her to read, recite, hear, and know the Psalms deeply, beyond time, beyond herself.
Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptized; let us also go down with him, and rise with him.
John is baptizing when Jesus draws near. Perhaps he comes to sanctify his baptizer; certainly … he comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us; he who is spirit and flesh comes to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water.
Benedictine monastic tradition values stability above just about everything. Our single monastic vow is stability, obedience, and conversion of life. Our monastic lives, like our baptized lives, lead to conversion of life – Jesus calls us to be made new. I believe that Benedict included stability and obedience in the vow because without them conversion of life is nearly impossible.
So here we are at St Benedict’s Priory, moving house for the second time in as many years… Where’s the stability in that?
This week saw our celebration for the second time at Volmoed of our Order’s Founder’s Day. We were pleased to host the other Volmoed residents and staff to a festive lunch following the midday Eucharist.
Fr. James Otis Sargent Huntington was the first member of the Order of the Holy Cross to make his life profession, doing so on 25 November 1884 in New York, NY, USA. James Huntington was a passionate advocate of social justice, seeing prayer and action as inextricably intertwined. He has been described as forward-reaching, looking for enriching change and development, interested in the future.
We ask for your prayers for us and for our brothers throughout this Order that was established by the confident endurance of that remarkable man, that we may continue faithful to the spirit of our Founder.
We recently sent out our second newsletter to those on our email address list. You are welcome to sign up to receive future newsletters by email here. The text of the newsletter follows …
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.
2 Peter 3:8 (NRSV)
This is such wisdom from St Peter, and the words might have been written for us at St Benedict’s Priory as well. Who can believe that it is already a year since we arrived here at Volmoed? And looking back and reflecting on this year that was, it seems to me the things that make the day feel like a thousand years might threaten to outweigh the things that make a thousand years feel like a day.
During lockdown big celebrations are not in order. But we couldn’t turn one without something. So today at Eucharist we had a nice, small outdoor coffee time with some beautiful edible treats. Just about everyone from Volmoed was with us – so it was not a big group, but it is the people who have been part of our lives at Volmoed for the year.
It has been a fascinating year to say the least. We arrived on the last day of August, 2019, and began our worship life here the next day. There was a time of settling in. Then a time of reaching out to folks in the region. Then there should have been a time of ripening and growing in ministry, but COVID-19 had a different plan. Lockdown has now extended for about half our life at Volmoed.