First of all, happy Feast of the Transfiguration, everyone! Today is the day liturgical Christians commemorate Jesus taking Peter, James and John onto the mountaintop where, in one of the Gospels’ most beautiful and mystical passages, we read this:
And Jesus was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:2-9, NRSV)
For me, the Transfiguration — like all of mysticism, really — is about transformation; about change. Jesus was changed into a truly Deified luminous presence. Peter and James and John were changed, by an experience terrifying in its beauty and strangeness, and then by the need to keep it secret. And it is the nature of life, that all of us experience change and transformation — maybe not as mystically awe-inspiring as Jesus’s transfiguration, but significant nevertheless. “Life is change,” chanted Jefferson Airplane 45 years ago in their apocalyptic song “Crown of Creation,” before adding this sardonic comment: “how it differs from the rocks.”
So my friends, it is time for me to announce a fairly major change in my life. After almost eight years of service, I have resigned my position as the book buyer at the Abbey Store of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. My last day will be August 15: the Feast of the Assumption, which seems an auspicious day for such a major shift.
Why? Very simple. By the grace of God, I have been blessed with a growing lay ministry as a teacher, speaker, and retreat leader, sharing my passion for contemplative spirituality, mysticism, and interfaith dialogue with a wide variety of churches, retreat centers, and other venues. Indeed, my speaking/teaching work has grown so rapidly in the three years since The Big Book of Christian Mysticism has come out that last year I cut my hours working at the monastery to three days a week, and I’m still finding it difficult to do everything I want or feel called to do.
Long-time readers of this blog will note that, ever since The Big Book of Christian Mysticism came out, I have gone days or even weeks between updates. And while I have managed to write two books in the last three years, I am long overdue on my proposal to my editor for the foll0w-up to Answering the Contemplative Call. So needless to say, I’ll be very busy just with the writing I want to do. Being able to devote my energy full-time to my freelance writing & editing and my growing ministry as an advocate for the contemplative life is, frankly, a dream come true. I feel so blessed and privileged. And I owe such a great debt of thanks to all of you who have read this blog, purchased my books, or have come to hear me speak (and yes, I know that 90% of my events have been in the Atlanta area — that’s another goal for life after the Abbey Store: to travel more. So if you are connected to a church or other institution that would be willing to host a retreat or other event… well, please get in touch).
I should point out that this does not represent a complete break with the monastery. I remain a professed Lay Cistercian and I will continue to teach the Lay Cistercian novices, provide guidance to the ecumenical Lay Cistercians, and lead at least one retreat a year (at least, for as long as the monks will have me). I cannot begin to express the depth of my gratitude to the monks of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, who not only have been my employers for the past 7+ years and my spiritual directors the past six years, but have mentored me as a writer and retreat leader, have encouraged the expansion of my ministry, and — best and most humbling of all — have been my friends. I truly would not be where I am today without their loving, silent support.
So, my friends, after a week from this coming Thursday, I won’t be at the Abbey Store at the monastery any more. I’ll miss the store and the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful folks (including Christian authors like Thomas J. J. Altizer, Jane Tomaine, John Dear, Charles Cumming, and Cynthia Bourgeault). I’ll miss the day to day interaction with the monks, the Lay Cistercians, and the many wonderful customers. But I’m looking forward to reviving this blog, writing my next book(s), and developing new opportunities to share my love for the contemplative life with many new friends. Hopefully I’ll see you on the road. Until then: thanks for reading, and please stay in touch.