THE PRIOR'S MISSIVE
The Prior’s Missive is a semi-regular (usually annual) update on the life of our community, written by our Prior, which will be shared here on our website. Since peoples’ email inboxes are often so flooded these days with digital newsletters, and frequently those newsletters get sent to the spam folder, we felt this would be a better format in which to share some occasional news and reflections from our communal context with our friends and supporters. Links to these missives will also be made available on our Facebook Page.
Many blessings to you and yours from the Rosarian community.
The Prior’s Missive (1.21.23)
Following the string of Feasts that graces the midst of the month of January on our sacral calendar, a time in which we honor some of our most crucial monastic founders (e.g., St. Paul of Thebes, St. Antony the Great, St. Evagrius of Pontus), and on the eve of the Episcopal Church’s very first ‘Religious Life Sunday’, I was moved to draft a new update missive to our friends and supporters.
I’ve been reflecting this evening on the time that has elapsed since my last Prior’s Missive (slightly over two years, which is hard to believe), and everything that’s transpired in that time-frame. For our community, and for the world at large, these last few years have brought immense change. The world in which we presently dwell seems to be caught in a rather strange loop of dissolution. Perhaps it’s simply the nature of what Vedic tradition would refer to as the Kali Yuga: our present world age; to wit, the ‘Age of Discord’, ‘Age of Contention’, or, ‘Age of Strife’.
Blessedly, with regard to our order, these most recent years have brought much growth and development. We have been gifted with a large handful of new vocations and vows, shared a number of phenomenal retreats together, received formal acceptance by the governmental powers that be as a non-profit religious corporation, and further refined our process of vocational inquiry, testing, and formation.
I have often reflected over the last decade or so on the medieval phenomenon of monastics, like proverbial life-rafts, going off into the wild and carrying with them the treasures of the ancient world, to preserve them through the chaos and ignominy of the Dark Ages. It feels to me that we as Rosarians have a similar calling: to reclaim and preserve the most effectual (and usually hidden or ‘esoteric’) tools for totalizing interior transformation that the Christian tradition has to offer, carrying them through this present storm to share with others as a life-line, now and in times to come.
In my own journey as Prior—and, more broadly, as an Elder monastic, Spiritual Father, contemplative practitioner and teacher—I am mindful of the expansion of thought and inner resource these recent years have brought. A large part of that has been a reclamation of roots—not only ancestral roots, but also roots in this lifetime as a spiritual seeker who was initially formed in Hindu and Buddhist environments. The central importance of inter-religious knowledge, discourse, and meaningful exchange at this stage in the history of Western religion has been impressed upon me more profoundly than ever, and I am embracing that need and (God willing) meeting the challenge and invitation of it as robustly and authentically as possible.
We are all always in flux, both as individuals and in our families and communities: nothing remains static, as common wisdom reminds us. To imagine otherwise is one of the principal delusions that fuels the corrosive passions or ‘inner demons’ which plague us and keep us alienated from the truth of our own divine nature: the Imago Dei that constitutes our deepest essence. Indeed, the only thing we can be sure of in this manifest Creation is continual movement: growth and dissolution, death and birth and transmutation, ever unfurling in endless spirals of time and manifestation. As Heraclitus famously put it: Panta rhei — All flows.
The landscape of the Episcopal Church has changed rapidly over the last few years, and unfortunately much of that change has had the shape of decline. But as our Rosarian family of dedicated spiritual seekers continues to grow, I feel more and more certain of my years-long intuition that we have been called to embody a new (and ancient) model of Christian life: one that is built on the core pursuit of liberative illumination or theosis, and on supportive, multi-vocational communities of practice (what I have sometimes lately called a ‘Christian sangha model’)—and that this model we are living and developing serves as one very fruitful and sustainable way to take the beating heart of Christianity forward into the future.
I pray that our community would not only continue to bear witness to an authentic ascetical Christian way of life, and to a process and technology of spiritual transformation, continuing to support and equip people for the most important work a human being can do, which is the work of deification (theosis), but also that it would increasingly be a sign that signifies a better way to live in this ailing world: a way that is more whole, more connected, more spiritually attuned and efficacious than what the world or the Church have previously offered in our time.
To that end, as we look out on 2023, our eyes and hearts are turned toward establishing a monastic settlement that can be our core spiritual home in physical form, as we’ve always dreamed and envisioned: a full-time residence for our traditional monastics, and a spiritual home, retreat, and resource for all our other members, for the Church, and for the world at large. Thus, we humbly ask the prayer and support of all our friends to help us find an appropriate property for this long-awaited development, and we invite you all to be part of the actualization of that dream through your contributions of treasure and talent, for the sake of all beings on this living Earth.
We are presently searching for an appropriate property in the Western or Southwestern United States that will allow us to develop our skete-style, ecologically minded and sustainably built hermitage and retreat, which will serve not only as a monastic residence, but also as a contemplative teaching and training center open to all, and will be the location of our foundation for interfaith mystical studies. We feel acutely the imminent need to pursue this sacred work; we hope you do, too, and will consider joining us in it.
May our Holy Mother guide you, dear friends, and may the eternal Wisdom of God, Christ-Sophía, bless you and keep you, and overtake you with the saving gnōsis of Her ineffable and all-pervading Truth, in the glorious unveiling of the heart.
Ad Maiorem Matris Gloriam — For the Greater Glory of the Mother,
Prior, The Communion of the Mystic Rose
The Prior’s Missive (11.25.20)
Ad Maiorem Matris Gloriam — For the Greater Glory of the Mother
This is just a small (and brief) refraction of light from the midst of our community at present, which I was moved to write today, largely because Saturday’s Feast was such a profound and holy day. It was the Feast of the Presentation of the Most Holy Theotokos, and Br. Aidan made his Simple Profession of monastic vows. Avadhan (one of our Postulants) and several Inquirers were in attendance, as well as some beloved local spiritual family. The Liturgy took place in the Black Forest of Colorado, a gorgeous and sacred place we have all come to cherish.
It is apparent to me as Prior that, having undergone the recent reforms to our community’s charism and outward-facing presentation, we are now walking firmly on the path we were meant to walk. That path is one of greater clarity, and, I think, by the grace of God, of yet greater sanctity, depth of heart, and seriousness of commitment. It is also a path of deep consecration to the Blessed Mother. This latter aspect in particular has impressed itself upon me in profound ways of late—ways I will not attempt to enumerate or elaborate on here, but I will say, in reference to Saturday’s vows ceremony, that when Br. Aidan knelt down before the icon of the Blessed Mother and made the heartfelt prayer to be consecrated to her, I felt that everything had finally fallen fully into place as it needed to, as the Mother intended it to. She has called us toward herself, toward her radiant and infinitely loving, untarnished heart—and we, for our part, have finally answered with resounding fullness, Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum (‘Let it be done to me according to your word’). We have given ourselves over to her care, as I now feel strongly we were made to do all along.
I’m confident that everyone in attendance Saturday felt the power of this alignment. I don’t know how else to describe it other than as a kind of ‘seismic shift’ that took place in the unseen. In a Mystery, the Blessed Mother has been knocking on the doors of our hearts, and Saturday I felt that we finally answered, and answered once for all, shedding all fears and inhibitions, all unhelpful limitations placed upon us by the denominational and institutional context in which we’re situated (which generally does not understand or support such full-hearted devotion to Our Lady). Quite fitting, of course, that this Liturgy took place on the naked body of the Land, in the wildness of the forest, not in places made by human hands.
Indeed, that is the territory into which we have been called: the territory of the wild, the uncharted. We are courageously treading new Deer-trails within that untamed landscape—luminous pathways that I pray will also grace future generations of seekers, but, most importantly, they are the pathways that the Mother has invited us to walk here and now. With her infinitely loving care and guidance, we cannot go astray. With her at the center of our lives, we are sure to bear great fruit in the Way of Wisdom.
I didn’t fully grasp it when we began to make the long-discerned changes that came to our community this past spring and summer, but I see it clearly now: that the core of this evolution in our charism was meant, above all, to place the Blessed Mother at the center of our life. The other changes have been equally needful and supportive of that, but this devotional shift of focus is ultimately, I think, the heart of the matter. Having at last emptied ourselves collectively of all we thought or were taught was ‘normative’ and ‘acceptable’ in our context, we have finally set out into the ‘Promised Land’ of our unique charism, and are finding now that she was waiting there for us all along, with open arms.
Monastic Profession is, above all, about letting go—: letting go of the human-made world and one’s attachments to it, even more deeply than before, so that one can be more open, more free in heart and mind and body to receive the ineffable love of Divinity. We are normally taught in this society to acquire more and more. In fact, it occurs to me that for most people life is largely about acquisition, in one form or another. But for the contemplative monastic or vowed religious, it is quite the opposite: life for us is about releasing, shedding more and more as we move through this precious and fleeting lifetime. And for us as a community, shedding the things we thought we needed to do simply because ‘that’s what we’ve always done’, or, ‘that’s what’s acceptable in our environment’ should by now have taught us one thing above all: we cannot receive God’s true will for us until we empty ourselves of our own designs and attachments. Only then can we become the ‘hollow bones’ for Spirit’s theophanic emergence that all of us are called to be. Only then can we reach true contemplation, true listening. Only then can God use us fully and sustainably in the co-actualization of a living Kingdom (or, ‘Kin-dom’) vision.
I happened to hear today a quote from the late Fr. Thomas Keating, in which he said: ‘No one has asked us to judge anybody—including ourselves. It’s receiving the compassion of divine mercy and letting it flow to others, and doing this uninterruptedly, that is the transformation that’s really substantial—and certainly the one that makes sense in the Christian religion; but I see it pretty much offered in all the others.’ Indeed, that seems to me a perfectly good way of speaking about the central aim of the contemplative religious life, and, as anyone who has attempted it earnestly knows, it is not an easy path. To walk it in an optimally fruitful way, we need the loving guidance of the Mother; we need the perfect ‘template’ of that compassion that she embodies and reveals. She is, as it were, the supernal ‘psychopomp’ for our souls in navigating the darkened wilderness of that one needful path of existential transformation.
I pray that she would thusly guide us, her unworthy servants, both now and always.
Tuus totus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt. I am utterly yours, O Mother, and all that I have belongs to you.
Prior, The Communion of the Mystic Rose