Commitment to Community 1/ 26/ 2010
The Order of Saint Luke is an odd, unconventional order in the family and history of monastic orders. Some within and outside OSL would say that we are not a monastic community at all. Or, to put it another way, some members of this community would say, “I am a member of the Order, but I don’t consider myself a monastic.” This invites an ongoing conversation, which I would like to start with this installment of the Abbot’s Column.
What makes for a monastic community? Celibacy? Obedience? Poverty? Sometimes these are seen as the marks of monastic life. Benedictine vows are oriented around obedience, stability, and fidelity. For some there is the perception that monastic life can only be lived in a “monastery”—a place with chapel, cells, refectory, and work spaces. In reality, there are many monastic communities, and the life of each is distinctive in its origins, identity and lived experience.
So, the fact is we, the Order of Saint Luke, are a community of souls within the Church catholic. We are baptized men and women, lay and clergy who have felt called to a community around the sacramental life and the Rule of Life and Service. We journey as a community with one another. The ties that bind us differ: some are tenuous; some are strong and long standing. Some live under annual vows; some live under life-vows. We explicitly do not recognize a hierarchy of those in life vows and those in annual vows.
However, those who have discerned readiness and professed life vows may recognize the reality of what the Benedictine, Timothy Wright, says:
In many ways, the concept of stability is the root vow for monastic identity. It contains two distinct elements, the first of which is commitment. A monk is committed not to an institution, nor to an ideal, nor to a philosophy or even to the Rule itself. The monk is committed to a community, to a group of people with its own particular past and present and future. Very often, this group of people is tied to a particular place, but in need not be so. Monks have always moved around, and no monastery can ever afford to put its physical location before its community. So what stability does is anchor the monk within a community, for better or for worse.* (emphasis added)
Those of you who are currently discerning readiness for life vows may want to meditate at length on this paragraph. The rest of us living under annual vows (I have been an active member since 1978 and I am still a annually vowed member) might well brood on Wright’s words too.
In what ways are we anchored in this community? What is it that you are committed to as a member of the Order? What anchors you in this Order? Our publications? Our passion to renew the sacramental life of the church? The annual retreat? The life of your local chapter?
What keeps me in the Order? Quite honestly, many things: An early zeal that jumped for joy when I found the Order early on in my life as an ordained minister. Relationships with brothers and sisters I have known for more than thirty years. I can name names but that would be a long list and incomplete. Indeed, I seek, as abbot to include all members in that list as I pray name by name through our membership. It is also the sense of community we have in squaring off with the liturgical and missional malaise in the Methodist family of churches and other mainline Protestant communions. In this community I find encouragement and strength to address extreme indifference to our heritage from the church catholic, and to continue to live in the world of daily life where God has placed me.
*The Rule of St. Benedict and Business Management: A Conversation, 2002, p. 201. Immediate source, The Monastic Way, edited by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, p. 2006. p. 12.
Sharing in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (1/18/2010)
January 18 is designated in our ordo as The Confession of Peter, and marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Many of our communities across the world will mark this week with ecumenical gatherings to express our prayer and yearning for unity of faith and mission in the name of the triune God. On Oahu, the churches will come together at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew on Wednesday evening. I urge that as many of us as possible attend a service in our respective communities to witness to the unity that is God’s gift to us in Christ, and that we actively seek ways to reveal that what we share in common is greater than what we have yet to agree hold with a common mind.
For All the Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations for United Methodists (OSL Publications, 1995) gives a bit of the history of this week of prayer for unity:
The idea of praying for the unity of the body of Christ is, of course, nothing new. In modern times, the idea of devoting a week to such payrer has its roots in two rather different sources. Since its preparatory meeting in 1920, the Faith and Order movement had advocated a Week of Prayer for the Unity of the Church concluding on Pentecost. Since 1916, an Octave of Prayer for Unity had been observed by Roman Catholics; its origins lay in the work of the Anglican Friars of the Atonement (who first celebrated the octave in 1980, the year they were to become Roman Catholic). Largely because of the work of the Roman Catholic ecumenist Paul Couturier in “decentralizing” the theme of octave, Faith and Order shifted the date of the of its week of prayer to that of the octave (Jan. 18 - Jan.25). Since 1966, materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been produced jointly by the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. (Footnotes omitted; for more begin with "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity")
In a sense the Order of Saint Luke is an expression of the unity of the church in that our membership includes a circle wider than the United Methodist Church or the Wesleyan community of denominations. We include Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptists, United Church of Christ, and others. I recently had greetings from a Orthodox metropolitan with the warmest greetings and an expression of his intentions to become a member of the Order. (I have had no further communication from him since my reply, but we shall see!)
I am deeply heartened by the recent full communion of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The United Methodist Church. Br. Evan Dodge is putting together a very substantive issue of Sacramental Life devoted to the story and significance of that development in Christian unity.
Of course, the unity of the church is something that is “negotiated” at the top levels of our churches, but it is always manifested most concretely in the common life and mission of churches in local geographic settings. In our local settings we can enact the Lund Principle of not doing separately what conscience permits us to do together. This is a tall order and one that demands more than casual efforts. Celebrating the Easter Vigil together, baptizing from a common font, or celebrating the Eucharist in the context of a community foodpantry (see Sara Miles, Take This Bread for a poignant story).
I think we sometimes resist the hard work of Christian unity thinking that it is optional and perhaps a diversion from the “real” mission of the church. Yet, how can the mission of the church proceed unless we wrestle with shared recognition of the hard issues that divide us. I highly recommend for your reading and local ecumenical study of the World Council of Church’s One Baptism: Toward Mutual Recognition, especially the provocative questions in Appendix I that invite local ecumenical conversation and discernment leading to expressing the mutual recognition of baptism and lived collaboration.
I commend you and all your churches to unity in the triune God.+
 The third world conference on Faith and Order at Lund, Sweden, in 1952 issued this challenge known as the Lund Principle:
“Should not our churches ask themselves whether they are showing sufficient eagerness to enter into conversation with other churches, and whether they should not act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately?”
This principle is affirmed in the 1995 papal encyclical Ut Unum Sint. See specifically ¶¶ 2, 40, 42, 43,75,
“…especially those who live on the margins…” HAITI (1/13/10)
Almost none of us are unaware of the massive earthquake that struck the already impoverished nation of Haiti, yesterday, January 12. It seems that the eyes and compassion of the whole world is fixed on this small country.
Our baptism into the new humanity in Christ and our Rule of Life and Service call us to timely and compassionate response. I remind all of us of the section on the call to service:
By virtue of our baptism, God calls each us to ministries which are a proclamation of Christ, seeking wholeness for Creation. Through sacramental, prophetic, and pastoral ministries we turn in openness and love to the world. We identify with the whole community of humankind, especially those who live on the margins, and invite people to touch our lives as we touch theirs. (emphasis added)
As a Brother and as abbot of the Order, I urge each of you listen to the call of the Spirit and respond as prompted. The need in Haiti is great, the suffering now and in days to come deep, and the grace for compassionate response from the heart of God is real.
If you have requisite skills and resources (doctor, nurse, heavy equipment operator, etc.) that call for you to consider going to Haiti or supporting those who are organizing resources and relief from a staging area, I urge you to respond. If you’re your response is most appropriately sending a check or donating on line, then do that.
Since we are a diverse order, each of us will have denominational venues for response and you will likely respond through your church’s emergency response agency. Sr. Sarah Flynn sent me the following link that points to a number of options: http://itsjustlight.com/?page_id=777 For United Methodist keep UMCOR in mind. http://secure.gbgm-umc.org/donations/umcor/donate.cfm?code=418325&id=3018760
I invite you to join in prayer within the communities where you pray the Daily Office or share Word and Table. Br. Taylor Burton Edwards offers a prayer on the GBOD worship website that may assist you and your congregation or house church (http://www.gbod.org/worship/default.asp?act=reader&item_id=48375)
I commend you to the grace of God.
Br. Abbot Daniel+
Reaffirmation of Baptism and “the fountain of grace” 1/11/2010
I am struck at how often we are hot for the latest books on theology and homiletics, in hope that we will find some wonderful new hermeneutical twist. Or, in less formal language, how we want to read something relevant and timely by the latest megachurch pastor or widely favored Christian writer. Nothing wrong with that, but what if we were as attentive toward our ancient sisters and brothers in the communion of saints. They too have a way of being timely and relevant, and surprisingly so. It’s as if they see what none of us in our own time can see.
For example, Sr. Mary O and I have been praying the Order’s Daily Office (the six volume version) regularly, as requested by Br. Dwight in order to be attentive to producing a one volume revision of the Daily Office in the next few years.* We have also been trying to make good use of Benedictine Daily Prayer (Liturgical Press, 2005—see my review of this volume in the Spring 2009 issue of Sacramental Life). For today, the Baptism of the Lord, the first reading for Matins is part of St. Maximus of Turin’s wonderful sermon that reads:
“The Gospel tells us that the Lord came to the Jordan to be baptized and to be consecrated by heavenly signs. This day, too, we may rightly call his birthday, for while on Christmas he was physically born among people, today he is reborn in sacramental mystery. “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” His Mother offered him to the wise men to adore; his Father offers him to all the world.
“You may say: “Why should the Holy One wish to be baptized?” He is baptized, not to be sanctified by water, but rather that the water may be sanctified and purified by him. The consecration given by Christ is thus the fundamental consecration of the sacramental element. For when the water spreads over him, all water is cleansed for our baptism, and the source is purified so that it may be a fountain of grace for coming peoples. Christ is baptized first so that Christians may follow his example with confidence.”
St. Maximus of Turin (ca. 380—ca. 465)—emphasis addedImmediate Source: Benedictine Daily Prayer, p. 104 For the complete sermon click here and on “On Holy Epiphany”
Today, we again approached the “fountain of grace” and reaffirmed the grace given under the sign of water, and welcomed the call to live as the daughters and sons of God.
I commend you to God.+
*As Abbot I have discerned with the support of the Council that it is time for us to produce a single volume daily office for our common use.
Carried by Liturgy
I am serving as a supply pastor at Parker UMC for three months while Br. Gilbert Stones, OSL, is on renewal leave. This will be the longest sustained period of planning, preaching and presiding that I have experienced in 16 years! The gears are rusty and the patterns of life that go with weekly sermon and liturgy creak with rust and disuse.
There is one comfort: the liturgy of the church sustains me and will carry me in this period. (Fortunately, I am doing this in a context where a brother who has formed his people in the ordo or structure of the liturgy has paved the way for what I yearn to engage with these folk from January through March.) The liturgy gives structure to worship and to life, like the stretcher carried by the friends in Mark 2. I am always glad to be reminded of this by appreciative reflections on the liturgy. I suppose I collect them in my mind.
Two come to mind just now. In England last November, we worshiped for four Sundays in a church built in 1157. In conversation one Sunday, a woman who had been to the US told me she had attended an “innovative” church in Myrtle Beach, North Carolina. (I suppose if you worship regularly in a 900 year old English parish church, anything American would be innovative!) She described her amazement at all that she had experienced. Then, without a “but” or hesitation, she said, “I need the discipline of the liturgy.”
I thought it was a telling comment. It had no baggage with it; simply the recognition that as interesting, innovative, and different as the American experience had been, she needed the liturgy of Anglican worship.
Second: today, I came across “Liturgy that Gives Rest” by Julie Lane-Gay in the Anglican Planet, a Canadian publication. In the article she writes:
After ten years of marriage, flexibility and professional success, parenthood upended our lives. The liturgy took on a startling new role: it did the work of worship for me. I did not have to think up my prayers or create my own confession – neither of which I could have done in my sleep-deprived state. It took the pressure off me to evoke certain feelings. I rested in the liturgy; I sunk deep. The actual definition of liturgy is “work of the people” and now it was that for me. I could say the words just as they were printed, following the order of service step-by-step and leave the rest to God. I did not have to cajole myself into being joyful or thankful or contrite. I could just show up at church, baby in tow, burp stains on my shoulder and participate. (emphasis added)
“[I]t did the work of worship for me,” may strike us a glib or overstatement, but, as a busy mother and wife with burp stains on her shoulder, being carries and supported without having to conjure godly feelings has a ring of authenticity and grateful recognition to it.
Yes, the article here is old. It was written last August as a way of creating a mock up of the new site. Now that the new OSL site has been rolled out I will be writing regular columns as Abbot of the Order. Until a new column is ready, I simply want you to come back to this page by January 8 and a new column will be up. DTB
Ash Wednesday at hand: While many think of actions such as the imposition of ashes, signing with the cross, footwashing, and the use of incense as something that only Roman Catholics or high church Episcopalians do, there has been a move among Protestant churches, including United Methodists to recover these more multisensory ways of worship. This is in keeping with a growing recognition that people have multiple ways of learning and praying. Worship that is oriented to the intellect or to the emotions, both interior, leaves out those who engage in prayer through vision, smell, touch, movement, etc. We are increasingly aware that people are formed in faith when practices become embedded in memory, nerves, muscles and bone through sensory engagment. United Methodists have had resources for worship that include the imposition of ashes since 1979 when Ashes to Fire was published as Supplemental Worship Resource 8. This practice became part of our official worship resources in 1992 when General Conference adopted The United Methodist Book of Worship (UMBOW). See the service for Ash Wednesday, p. 321-324. It is, of course, optional and no congregation or individual is required to use it. Still, congregations will only know the meaning of Ash Wednesday when they do impose ashes. That is the nature of liturgical action!
For more on how voices from the pre-Enlightenment speak to deliver us from Modernity's rigidity, see my blog "Apples and Advent: Doxology, Sin and Paradox" at http://strongcenterwidehorizon.blogspot.com/