Friday, July 29, 2016

Community of Divine Love

This morning, after attending my weekly meeting of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, I went to a lovely communion service at the Community of Divine Love, an Episcopal monastery in the Benedictine tradition, located in San Gabriel, next door to the Church of Our Saviour, I went because my spiritual director is a member of this community and because I wanted to experience a communion service in the contemplative mode. I also wanted to balance my activism with contemplation.

The service took place in a small chapel, large enough to hold perhaps 20 people.The Byzantine icons on the walls and the smell of incense recalled my Orthodox roots and made me feel right at home. Four monks led the service--three sisters and one brother. Around 8 lay people were present. And a contemplative dog sat peacefully by the altar. 

The worship seemed very Quakerly. Not only was there a lot of silence, there was also open worship sharing in which everyone could take part. After Brother Dennis read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, there was a period of silence. 

Several people shared about Jesus' compassion, the tears he shed for his dead friend and for his grieving family. Brother Dennis noted that after Lazarus is raised from the dead, Jesus tells bystanders to take off the linen cloths in which he was wrapped. "Unbind him," says Jesus. Brother Dennis interpreted this to mean that when an encounter with Jesus raises us from spiritual death (such as addiction), it takes a community to complete the process of resurrection and a renewed life. 

I was struck by how Martha (the activist) and Mary (the contemplative) both worked together to help Jesus fulfill his mission. Martha rushed out to greet Jesus and engage him in conversation. After he revealed to her his true nature ("I am the resurrection and the life"), Martha rushed home to share this good news with her sister, who had been grieving in isolation. When Mary left her home and encountered Jesus, her vulnerability opened his heart:

She fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled
This moment in which Jesus the Christ connected emotionally with hurting humanity spoke to my heart and to my condition, and so did the way it was presented. I have never attended an Episcopal service so Quakerly in its openness to Spirit. I look forward to returning.

I also admire this group of monks because they are all committed to prison ministry. Their spirituality is grounded in service to the "least of these" that I deeply respect. 

I have always been drawn to the contemplative life. After spending time in a Zen monastery, as well as Christian ones, I wrote this poem thirty years ago, when I first became a Quaker. 


Walking down to the river
after vespers:

swirled like Persian script--

an undecipherable hymn
floating upward....

Climbing back up the hill
through the dark orchard:

the Dipper poised
above the abbey's lights:

so much     
  poured down
     from all that


As Meister Eckhart notes in one of his sermons, God is no-thing and from no-thing comes everything. This is the Great Mystery that frees us from the tyranny of materialism and lets us feel the joy of just being.  May we make time in our busy lives to experience timelessness, the peace that passeth understanding. May we be content with a God who is No-thing so that we can rejoice in our own No-thingness!

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