a little artifice

We have just finished our annual eight-day, silent retreat here at the monastery. A line from Henry James comes to mind: “Something, it seems, has happened.” But what, exactly? And how to articulate or understand it? I hardly know.

From the Gospel of Thomas, which Fr. Matthew Wright shared with us during our retreat:

Jesus said, ‘If those who lead you say to you: “See, the kingdom is in heaven,” then the birds of the heaven will go before you; if they say to you: “It is in the sea,” then the fish will go before you. Rather, the kingdom is within you, and it is outside of you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the children of the Living One. But if you do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty, and you are poverty.’ (Logion 3)

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where are the midwives?

I first noticed her on the headboard of my bed, her protuberant backside proclaiming her pregnancy to all the world. It was so large and full that it seemed a wonder her spindly legs could hold her up. It wigged me out having her so close to my head. What if she wanted to crawl on me while I was asleep? After looking at her for a moment, reigning in the impulse to swat her flat, she turned and crawled into the darkness between headboard and wall.

Over the next week I found her by the bedside lamp and, finally, on the wall by my sink. Each time her belly was even larger than the time before, a moon waxing to fullness. One morning I opened the cupboard that holds my sink to find her nestled into the door jamb, weaving a dense blanket for her young to hatch. Its soft white threads glowed in the light as she stood guard, an icon of potentiality.

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baptism by fire

As the wildfires of Southern California rage near our monastery in Santa Barbara, I can no longer escape the message of our Advent lectionary. For years now I have been impatient with that lectionary. The first Sunday of Advent begins not with Mary’s ‘yes’ to stoke our own enthusiastic longing for the divine child, but instead with the destruction of the world.

Until the fourth Sunday of Advent (Christmas Eve this year), that’s pretty much the tone of the readings: keep awake, the Lord is coming, repent, return, prepare, look out for the fire that’s about to consume the world. We long for a savior, yes, for the coming of the Word made Flesh. But do we really have any sense of what that coming might look like? This Advent I’ve paid attention to the readings in a different way. I hear the coming of the Word in the context of Amos:

Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? (5:18-20)

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a new materialism

A few months ago the poet Nikki Giovanni gave an interview with Krista Tippett. She posed a question that has haunted me: “What would happen if we spent as much time looking in the Manger as we do looking at the Cross?”

The traditional story goes that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, forever staining their progeny. In his (and in the traditional story it is always ‘his’) love for humankind God sent his son to die on the Cross to make the payment we never could. With many Christians, I have, for years, turned away from the idea of substitutionary atonement as a kind of divine child abuse. But I have only recently begun to see that the entire structure of Christian thought and practice has been horribly compromised by the idea of original sin.

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a new word

This Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year. I had the responsibility to preach here at the Monastery, a responsibility that I did not relish, because I do not resonate with the themes of Christ the King. I ended my sermon with these words: “For myself, I long for a different word than king, a word yet to be uttered by human lips, a word that is more silence than speech. And I’ll pray for the ears to hear that word in the searching gaze of my human brothers and sisters, of the devastated and majestic earth we live on, and in the cave of my own heart.” (You can read the full text here or listen to the audio here.)

More and I more I find myself longing for a new word. More and I more I ask myself the question: “to what extent do the religious forms we have inherited facilitate our deeper movement into God, and to what extent do those forms hinder that movement?”

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a deacon in God’s church

Tuesday of this week I was ordained a deacon in God’s church. It was a joyful and moving service. Friends and family from various communities that have supported me in my life of faith and discernment joined the bishop, the monastic community, and me to witness this moment in my life, a moment that is also a moment in the life of the church and the life of our monastery.

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the missing piece

Last Tuesday, All Saints’ Day, I renewed my monastic vow for two years. I hadn’t anticipated what an emotional experience it would be. I figured that I had made the big commitment the year before and that renewing that vow was a bit pro forma. But like all things having to do with God and vows, this action of mine mattered. I was aware as I read out and signed the vow for the second time that I was, perhaps even more than the first time, surrendering my whole life to God in the monastic context.

Since my retreat in Glendalough a few weeks ago, I’ve been aware of a new and more expansive freedom in my interior life. My intuition tells me that that retreat brought to an end a 10 or 12 year period of searching and healing in my life. It isn’t that there’s not more internal work to do, more freedom to walk into, more healing and transformation to undergo. There always is. But I can say that I am freer than I have ever been, that I have forgiven many of the hurts from childhood, that I have let go resentments that have followed me for many years.

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update

Dear regular readers,

I’m writing to let you know about some updates to the blog site, two opportunities for pilgrimage, and an exciting new endeavor here at Holy Cross.

As always, thank you for subscribing to the blog, for reading, for sharing, and for commenting. This project has become an essential aspect of my monastic and Christian life. I have the opportunity, and sometimes the challenge, of reflecting regularly on my life in God and the privilege and responsibility of sharing that life with you, my extended community. Thank you for participating in this ministry.

Site Updates

If you’ve been to the main blog site in the last week, you’ll notice the site has a different look. I wanted to make the site more complete and more fully and obviously integrated with the other aspects of my life and work. You’ll now find easily accessible links to the monastery website, to a twice-monthly video podcast I put together about my life as a knitter and maker, to information about upcoming pilgrimage opportunities, and to the website for the Holy Cross capital campaign. I also hope to put together a list of resources on contemplative and eco-based Christian spirituality soon.

Pilgrimage

After my recent two-week pilgrimage to the UK, I have caught the pilgrimage bug. I’m excited to let you know about two upcoming opportunities to join me on pilgrimage. In January 2019, Fr. Matthew Wright and I will lead a group to southern India to immerse ourselves in the Christian ashram movement and the conjoining of the Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. And in May 2020, I’ll lead a group on a contemplative immersion to Iona and Lindisfarne, including the 62-mile St. Cuthbert’s Way. For more information, and to sign up for e-mail updates about the pilgrimages, please click here.

Open Doors, Open Hearts

Some of you may know that we at the monastery have just launched a capital funds campaign. With the Open Doors, Open Hearts campaign, we hope to raise $3 million to renovate the monastic church and parts of the guesthouse and to increase our endowment to help meet future capital projects. The good news is that we have already secured pledges in excess of $2 million! But, we need your help to make the rest of our goal.

Please take a moment to watch this short video about the capital campaign. Then, take a moment to visit the Open Doors, Open Hearts website where you’ll find detailed project information and a pledge calculator. I hope you’ll consider making a pledge, which can be payable over three years, to support our life and work, of which these weekly meditations are a part. Please also consider sharing our need with your community. We can’t do it alone!

Thank you for however you’re able to help.

 

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you for reading the blog and offering your own experiences and comments. I have grown a tremendous amount from my engagement both with you and with my writing.

With love,
Aidan