Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. David Bryan Hoopes OHC
RCL - Proper 3 A - Sunday 25 May 2008
I Corinthians 4:1-5
“But strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
“In a time of favor I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you;
I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people.” Isaiah 49:8
“Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.” I Cor. 6:1
During the first week of May I had the privilege of participating in an ecumenical gathering of leaders of religious communities: the conference was held in the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration of our Saviour Jesus Christ in Nafpatkos, Greece. The monastery buildings were most beautiful and complemented the stunning site on top of a mountain overlooking the Bay of Patra and the port of Lepanto.
The monastery was founded in 1972 by Fr. Spyridon Logothetis (now abbot). Fr. Spyridon was a parish priest in Nafpatkos. He ministered to a congregation made up of people of modest means as well as many very poor. There was a need for an orphanage in the town and the priest and his people built one and staffed it. But Fr. Spyridon also felt called to build a monastery. Five young men also felt the call and the 6 of them set out to build a monastery. Skeptics reminded the men that they had no money, and no land. Fr. Spyridon’s response was (and is) “God has money.”
The city of Nafpatkos gave the land. They were given the choice of two sites. At first the brothers chose the alternative site, but Fr. Spyridon did not feel easy about it. He recounted that as the men were about to make the decision it felt as if he were being pushed very hard in his back. He in fact, fell down a hill, broke his leg and had to be hospitalized. While in hospital he had the conviction that the brothers should choose the other site for the monastery. They did. As they were building they discovered that the site had been the venue of a small 12th century monastery. The foundation of the first monastery church was discovered as were the graves of the monks who had lived at the
monastery. Only one very old man of Nafpatkos remembered hearing of the monastery.
As the men began to build, contributions came from people in the area, the larger Greek community and the Greek “diaspora” abroad. Today, there are 30 monks - all university educated who run the monastery, a conference center, a 24-hour radio station, a printery for devotional
and instructional materials; they raise their food with a state-of-art fishery, and make their own wine. There are 3 churches on the property - an oratory open at all times for pilgrims; a monastic church, and a Cathedral which is in the process of being built (the original Cathedral was destroyed in 1572 and never rebuilt). The monks also run a summer camp for children of the area. Abbot Spyridon calmly maintains “God has money. We are doing God’s work. All will be well.” The monks work hard, look to be very healthy and seem happy.
As the Order of the Holy Cross prepares for our annual chapter in June, the superior, each house and each brother-not-in-residence prepares a budget for the coming year. The approach of each of us is telling of our faith, our understanding of God’s involvement in our monastic life and our personality. The national economy is volatile - the value of the dollar is down and the cost of living steadily rising.
In all reality, contributions may be less. Perhaps fewer people will be able to visit. Undoubtedly we will try to curb expenses and discern what is unnecessary or even extravagant. What is our attitude - is it confidence, panic, anger, helplessness - or even escapism? Jesus tells us not to worry but to strive first for the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness and all these things will be given. “All these things” - referring to life’s necessities, tools for wholeness of life. In chapter 7 of Matthew's gospel account Jesus says. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” One of the companions of our Order is very savvy about financial matters and some years ago we asked her to serve on the financial committee of the Order. She continues to remind us that the good ordering of our financial resources is a theological exercise. God gives us life, our talents, our resources. “God has money.” Money is power. God has power. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he reminds the church and us that we are both servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries (I Cor. 6:1).
How do we use those resources? How do we manage if we have plenty? How do we manage if we have little? How do we exercise generosity and hospitality?
Do we believe in our mission, our work, our lives? Will we ask God’s help; will we seek out resources which are there; will we knock (explore) the various possibilities?
Do we believe that God has made and keeps covenant with us - a covenant based on love, righteousness, hope?
I have shared one story of a religious community in Greece. There are countless stories of God’s generosity to those who want to live godly lives and who also want to enable others to know the riches of God’s grace.
We receive life from God - it is God’s gift, a gift made marvelous by the grace given through Jesus Christ and the abiding presence of God’s Holy Spirit. When God, and the gift of God, is our chiefest joy, needs are met and there will be abundant sufficiency for others as well.