Fr. Justin’s Holy Week Services

Wednesday, April 17th:
Chanting and Walking Meditation ~ 5-5:30 pm

During Lent this year we have been praying using simple and repetitive chant. We have focused on a chant from Revelation 22:13 “I am Alpha and Omega / The original and the latest / The source and the end”. We have been using a Latin translation to highlight the sounds and the interior dynamics of the chant as we circumambulate the sanctuary while the vesper light pours through our stained glass windows.

Contemplative Prayer and Teaching ~ 5:30-7 pm

Contemplative Prayer and Teaching on Wednesday of Holy Week offers some simple instruction in how to practice centering prayer; how to surrender our very being to GOD in prayer. This practice helps us enter into the life of the Spirit communicated and embodied in the ritual and ceremony of the ancient Liturgies of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, as well as in the ground of the heart.

Maundy Thursday, April 18th:
Eucharist 10am

The Eucharist at 10am commemorates Jesus’ institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist, also called the Mass, and the Lord’s Supper. In this sacrament we celebrate the Church’s sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving, whereby the sacrifice of Christ is made present and he unites us to his one offering of himself. The sermon at this liturgy will be a teaching on the Eucharist itself.

The Ancient Maundy Thursday Liturgy ~ 6 pm

The Maundy Thursday at 6pm is the ancient Liturgy of the Church, commemorating the institution of the Eucharist in the Last Supper with the mandate to “Love one another as I have loved you.” This mandate on Divine Love is expressed by Jesus in washing of the feet of his disciples and we follow this action by washing one another’s feet after we have celebrated the Holy Eucharist.

It is on this day the Church is stripped bare and the altar is scrubbed. There is no dismissal to this liturgy but a transition into the all night vigil, commemorating the agony of Jesus in the Garden as he prayed and asked his disciples to “watch and pray” with him.

We typically sign up for an hour commemorating three of Jesus’ disciples who were invited to join him in these hour long periods of prayer. Jesus struggled in prayer, preparing for his journey of the cross and death that would occur on the following day.

Our watch continues until just before 12 noon on Good Friday when we begin the liturgy of the 3 hours. We translate the Sacrament of Christ’s body from the monstrance (a vessel from which we can see the consecrated Eucharistic host/bread during the vigil) and reserve it in the sanctuary tabernacle for communion at the Good Friday Liturgy later that night.

Good Friday, April 19th:

The Three Hours ending with Stations of the Cross ~ 12-3pm

The Three Hours is a contemplative service commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus during the time he hung on the cross and the sky was black. Silent prayer periods of 20 minutes interspersed with readings from The Mystery of Christ by Fr. Thomas Keating O.C.S.O. make up the rhythm of the first portion of this liturgy. We pray the meditation chant Kyrie (“Lord, have mercy”) 33 times and continue with the walking meditation known as “the Stations of the Cross”. In our walking meditation we stop in front of 14 depictions of Christ; from his condemnation to death, to his corpse being laid in the tomb. At each station we hear the scripture according to the scene and pray together.

The Good Friday Liturgy ~ 6 pm

The Solemn Good Friday Liturgy is an ancient prayer; we hear the Passion from John’s Gospel in which the Church recounts the events of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest and torture, his final moments and death on the cross, and his subsequent burial in the tomb. We pray the Solemn Collects; a series of biddings and prayers for the whole world, used specifically at the commemoration of the death of Christ. We are invited into veneration of the Cross; an instrument of humiliation and death that was turned into the way of peace and life. This liturgy ends with the communion from the Reserved Sacrament, consecrated the day before at the Maundy Thursday Eucharist.

There is never a Eucharist celebrated on Good Friday. Traditionally it has been held that, through the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday, we more perfectly participate in the sacred mystery of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. The day itself in the liturgical and lunar calendar is key in the special grace of Good Friday and spiritual life of the Church.

Holy Saturday, April 20th:

On Holy Saturday we commemorate the day Christ’s body rested in the tomb. The Apostle’s Creed notes that Jesus “was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead.” We pray to God who was a dead body and entered into the realm of the dead. Christ among the dead manifests the love of God beyond any boundaries of human existence. The Church too will rest from its liturgical celebrations.
Easter Sunday, April 21st:

EASTER VIGIL ~ 5:30 am to 7am

The Great Vigil of Easter is the ancient celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Liturgy begins in the darkness of night with the lighting of the Paschal Candle which will burn throughout the 50 days of Easter and burns at each baptism and funeral throughout the year symbolizing the light that is Jesus Christ.

All the other candles are lighted from the Paschal Candle and we continue by candle light alone. We hear the ancient hymn the Exsultet and the readings called the Prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures that prefigure the resurrection of Christ Jesus. Between each Prophecy we sit silently in prayer and meditation. Silent prayer is the hallmark of our observance of this ancient liturgy.

We renew our Baptismal vows are blessed with Holy Water before we continue with hearing the Greek Scriptures and the proclamation of the Easter Gospel with the return of Alleluias. We celebrate the first Holy Eucharist of Easter and share in the Grace that God bestowed on Christ in his resurrection.

Easter Sunday Eucharist ~ 8 am

The Easter Sunday Eucharist is a festive Liturgy of the Resurrection. At 8am we celebrate with Rite One (traditional language), hymns and chant, with the renewal of our Baptismal vows and the offering of incense. In this Easter celebration we hear the Alleluias once again and receive Holy Communion, sharing in the Grace that God bestowed on Christ in his resurrection.

Easter Sunday Eucharist ~ 10 am

The Easter Sunday Eucharist is festive Liturgy of the Resurrection. At 10am we celebrate with Rite Two (contemporary language) singing hymns and chant, with Baptisms, renewal of our Baptismal vows and the offering of incense. In this Easter celebration we hear the Alleluias again and receive Holy Communion, sharing in that uncreated Grace God bestowed on Christ in his resurrection.

~ Peace, Fr. Justin



Recently in our book study, where we are reading, marking, and inwardly digesting, A Letter or Private Direction, that 14th century English work on prayer, we read this extraordinary section in chapter   V:

“…keep yourself recollected and undistracted as far as you can by grace and the strategy of spiritual endurance.  For in this dark contemplation of the substance of your being, in which as I have told you, you are one with GOD, you must do all that you have to do: eat and drink, sleep and awaken, walk and sit, speak and be silent, lie down and get up, stand and kneel, run and ride, labor and rest. Every day you must offer it up to GOD as the most precious offering you can make.”

Continuing the prayer, this dark contemplation is offering GOD the naked awareness of the simple substance of your being including this kind of litany of things you might do, walking, sleeping, talking being silent, etc., etc.  This section is trying to direct the reader and anyone who is following the injunction of St. Paul to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians. 5:17.  The author then tries to say this again to drive it home:

“It must take the first place in all your activity, whether what you are doing be styled active or contemplative.”

This chapter and especially this section was so very interesting, I went down to the Williams College library and took a look at the original Middle English to see if I could comb this little section once again for some more nuances. Here is the critical Middle English text on this last line.

“& it schal be þe cheef of alle þi doynges, in alle þi doynes.”

“and it shall be the chief of all thy doings, in all thy doings.”

This is a wonderfully profound instruction but can seem a bit hard to relate if first we are not quite sure about the naked awareness of the simple substance of your being.

Let me see what I can do here, maybe to spark a little recognition.  Please forgive my clumsiness here.   Let’s start at the basis here, beingBeing is just that, your existence in itself.  Not as anything in particular, but just that Isness that seems to be, that is seemingly present in all waking and sleeping states, walking and speaking etc.

Here let me point out that the author mentions that the substance or nature of being is “simple”, in his parlance, that is a technical term for not having any parts, no pieces, it is not composite or made of anything else.  It’s helpful to know it is utterly dependent on GOD’s being, that like all things it is nothing in itself.  But our Isness is GOD’s own Isness, we are nothing in ourselves. This is often a very startling realization at first but it is mentioned in scripture again and again that “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the lord” Proverbs 1:7.

Now there is another subtle nuance placed on our phrase, “the naked awareness of the simple the substance of our being.”  That naked awareness of the simple substance is not like looking out through a telescope to some far out thing, nor is it a looking inside to some deep down microscopic thing. Naked awareness is not looking at anything in particular, which takes some getting used to.

If you have ever been out hunting or hiking or looking up at the sky from these Green Mountains for any period of time, you might notice how awareness can become an awareness of all things in the field of vision.

The same goes for anyone who has been to a concert or listened to the their favorite album.   Your hearing just starts to hear all the parts as a whole, unified and diverse all at once.  This is a helpful natural experience that prepares us much like the practice of centering prayer, to not follow any one thing that moves across our mind, but allows them all to be there.

Naked awareness of simple being is without any object, and after a while we realize it is without any subject.  There is nothing in particular we are looking at, and no one in particular who is looking, yet awareness is present, awareness of itself, as itself.

It is naked of all things, not clothed in any of the senses, just being awareness itself, and thus aware of the simple substance of being.  This is not being zoned out or blank or in some other world, it is actually fully inclusive, including: eating and drinking, sleeping and waking, walking and sitting, speaking and being silent, lying down and getting up, standing and kneeling, running and riding, working and resting as the author points out.

This kind of practice for some reason doesn’t get much play from many preachers outside of folks like our A Letter or Private Direction (and the Cloud of Unknowing) author,  Meister Eckhart, Mectilde of Magdaburg, Julian of Norwich, and the Carmelite Doctors, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.

Paul enjoins us to “pray without ceasing” and yet it often goes without much commentary so it doesn’t get integrated into our daily lives and nightly slumbers.  Our simple substance of being does not come and go, it’s always here, just as god is ever present, loving us into existence.  So the helpful teaching from the Letter of Private Direction gives his reader helpful instructions in language natural to the religious life of his time.

And his line “and it shall be the chief of all thy doings, in all thy doings” is again instructive.  To recollect, to again return to being awareness itself and to offer this to GOD as the first fruits of this simple substance of our being is his teaching.

Now this kind of theology and prayer may be unfamiliar, and I am a clumsy exegete and presenter of it, so don’t worry a lick if this doesn’t make much sense.  As I struggle to present it myself I can understand why it has not been related to congregations for some time.

But, I believe that we as Christians need to bring these teachings again out of treasury and use them in as much as they are helpful in fulfilling the injunction to Pray Without Ceasing. I have heard so very many times that folks have gone elsewhere for their spiritual life, because they felt like they had kind of exhausted what was offered in their parish Church, or even in their Diocese, even the whole of Christianity.

Our world is in deep thirst to touch again the depths of our religion.  This prayer is available for everyone us, this and much more.  So even as unfamiliar as these texts may seem to us, they are neither new, nor are they for some elite bunch, they are for anyone who through prayer without ceasing seeks to follow Christ:  “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:21

Fr. Justin Lanier



State of the Parish by Fr. Justin January 27, 2019

My brothers and sisters, 2018 was a game changer. It was for me a monumental leap in really rebooting St. Peter’s. The vision that has emerged from the vestry is that of St. Peter’s being a blessing to Bennington, a spiritual antenna if you will, affecting the material, the subtle, and the spiritual life of people, the land, and the culture around us.

We have started to move beyond simply an organization to mobilize good works, or even a way to be your authentic self, but actually broadcast the spiritual knowledge and unconditional love we endeavor to manifest, the broadcast we hear each Sunday originating in the Peace of GOD which passes all understanding. When we become this blessing we see how like attracts like.

Let me now point to Kay Trafton, the freshman Senior Warden, who hadn’t been in an Episcopal service until my own first Sunday here. Or the great presence of Donna Lauzon who technically came in 2017, but who has become such a wonderful minister in the office and in her own community of Pownal over the year.

I have to talk briefly about Donna Menneto who not only was able to clarify our incomplete financials of last year’s meeting, but also has been instrumental in giving the Vestry such new confidence in our understanding of the finances. She also had the foresight to have us back up our computer and financial records on the cloud, which saved our keister (as my late grandmother used to call it) when our computer and external back up hard drive both had their own individual meltdowns. She was able to download the backed-up information on one of her own old laptops.

My point here is that there is a new level of care and creativity amoung both our own parishioners, and our staff. Between Kay and Scott Trafton, Donna Lauzon, and Donna Menneto, we have an annual report, end of year financials, and so many little pieces of importance.

You may not have noticed the new back door, the cleaned up and newly graveled area at the back door, probably not yet seen the newly painted Sanctuary or the continued improvements in the basements and the various light fixtures, but this again is the work of creative and devoted teams of parishioners and staff working together.

Junior Warden Bill Hardy not only envisioned the Sap Bucket fundraiser but worked closely with Jerry Byrd who volunteered last year to help Stan and do whatever was needed and has now stepped in as our new Sexton. It is with such great joy for me to work with these men, who are not only attending to the material needs of the building but also to the spiritual needs of this great antennae of blessing.
There has been so much in this last year that has been a blessing here. There are things we don’t see like Soul Food Sunday’s where folks of color come to have lunch together, or the quiet support this parish has been for those affected by racism here in Bennington. Or the many hidden works the vestry has covered over the last year, even in my own absence during my micro-sabbatical.

There are things growing like our relationship with the Tutorial Center, whose Executive Director moved his office upstairs here, or the growing relationships between St. Peter’s and St. John’s, Williamstown, and Second Congregational here in Bennington, and even First Congregational also in Williamstown. Even the Subtle Energy Group at the U.U. have come to pray in our space, reflecting the growing effects of St. Peter’s broadcasting blessing.

New projects have begun here, like the community solar array we are putting up on this very roof, starting up our Kids Formation and Vacation Church School this summer. And these are things that are not only for our benefit but the benefit of our neighborhood, the world, and the spiritual life of generations to come.

In 2018 I believe we passed over the threshold in truly rebooting St. Peter’s. We are coming to transmit that which we are more and more deeply receiving from GOD, that is the energy of the Resurrection, which is more powerful than weapons of mass destruction and mass distortion, more healing to us and our planet than anything global warming, national economy, or local corruption of mind and body by drugs and hatred could ever be.

We are just beginning, just starting to co-create this post-secular world. I believe we are seeing the start of a material, subtle and spiritual awakening among many people in our community: farmers, doctors, stay at home moms, carpenters. The number of first time conversations around town about St. Peter’s, the number of invitations to talk or teach or host teachings on Centering Prayer, Imaginal Prayer, Contemplation and the Sacraments, has increased as the year has gone on. Folks are even asking how they can support us in these ministries, be it Contemplative Outreach, The World Community for Christian Meditation or the Bless Bennington Project.

I feel we have made a right beginning here. We are in an uncentering time in our culture and we are here pointing to something that is deeper, whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere. And we are together with Christ endeavoring to broadcast that blessing that comes from the source of all that is, GOD: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I am so deeply grateful for the year that is past and encourage you all in this new year. Let us be a storehouse of walking sacraments, giving off the light of Christ in ways known to us and unknown. And may the Holy Spirit guide us. Amen.
~Fr. Justin


In my last Keystone article I mentioned a little series to help contextualize the imaginal realm or the imaginal heart in Christian Theology. Since it is Advent and we are preparing for the great celebration of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, let us return to the wonderful expression of the three-fold understanding of the universe in the Christmas liturgies.

I’m talking particularly about the Triple Birth of Christ celebrated in the three Christ-masses. You may have heard me preach during Christmastide or read about this Triple Birth in Christmas letters past, where there are three different and distinct celebrations of the Birth of Christ. For those familiar with the Book of Common Prayer you may notice that there are three different sets of readings and prayers etc. for Christmas. Celebrating the three different kinds of birth revealed in the Incarnation, we get a sense of three different “floors” of creation.

The first of the Triple Birth is that of God the Father begetting the Word in the depths of Divine Darkness before time and all worlds.

The second celebration of this birth is perhaps the most familiar; that of the historic birth of Jesus to the Blessed Virgin Mary, his mother, in the little town of Bethlehem.

The third birth celebration of Christmas is that ceaseless begetting of Christ in the ground of every heart rendered by God’s loving Spirit.

These three births each have their own Christ-mass, their own Eucharistic celebration.

The begetting of the Word in Divine Darkness is fittingly celebrated in the middle of the night on the 24th – 25th, so called the “Midnight Mass”.

The second birth is celebrated at a Christ-mass at dawn. We have the meeting of Divine Darkness with the light of day, the primordial with the historical.

The third Christ-mass is celebrated at high noon, in the full light of history and the revelation of the Gospel to the world. A single community would celebrate all three of these. Even though this kind of liturgical practice is presently out of favor, its framework is still found in the Prayer Book, lectionary and the traditional minor propers.

These three births illustrate for us these three “floors”, if you will, of creation. The first celebration in the darkness of night and the divine darkness is an aspect of let’s call it the “third floor”. This is the realm of deep prayer, the ground of being, that glimmering darkness where no Angel ever peaked, and no thing ever did reside, yet out of this time and space and all creation are brought forth.

The second birth at dawn is the unimaginable interpenetration of that which is beyond the third floor yet begotten and manifesting as this Divine Darkness, throughout the very material of creation, the “first floor”. Material reality is interpenetrated through and through with the Divine, and we see this in a unique way in the birth of Jesus Christ. This little baby, just like we were (or are, but it’s doubtful you are reading this and are a baby) is also God and also the very foundational energies of creativity in this world. The unimaginable is done in Christ and we are still in awe and spellbound by its great paradox.

We have become more and more materialist over the last 200 years, and so we can easily note the historical side of this second birth. It is the material birth that gets most of our attention and it seems all of the attention of the Secular Christmas Holiday. For Christians this Christmas celebration at dawn is a revelation of both the third and first floor. That, whom is the very luminous darkness of unapproachable light, is born as a humble human being.

The third of these three births is that of Christ in the human heart. And here we begin to focus in on the imaginalis. As you are perhaps becoming more aware, the human heart is not simply the wet pump that rhythms blood and electromagnetic waves. It is the organ of human perception.

This third birth which happens in the heart of the faithful, what I am going to call the “second floor”, is where we become aware of God’s presence and God’s action in us and throughout creation. The imaginal heart perceives the angels singing with us, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Host. Heaven and earth are full of thy glory” at the Eucharist. Even though perception is not the highest function of the human being, it is an important piece of the integrated Christian life, and what is not discovered here will be unwrapped in our transition to the heavenly estate.

The imaginal heart is especially important as we are finding that our human impact on this beautiful creature we call Earth is causing disastrous effects. It will be important for us as a human family to being to perceive again our relationship with God and to recognize God’s very presence and action in the all sorts of creatures including Earth herself. God’s ministry for us in this world includes that “in obedience to (God) we might rule and serve all (God’s) creatures.” This becomes more expansive when we remember that everything created in Biblical and Christian theology is a creature, i.e. the minerals, animals, plants, the Earth, those “under the Earth”, planets, time, space, etc.

Part of my point here is to expand our view of creation and (re)introduce a whole house, a three “floors” approach to our lives and God’s mission in us and through us. Much of our contemporary secular culture in Anglo North American is predominated by a worldview that seems only to include an exclusive materialist perception and life. It is an idea (contrary to scripture, tradition and experience) that everything that is, is on the first floor, and perceptible by the eyes, ears, nose… and materialist science and that is all there is.

I dare say people’s experience of life, whether a secular humanist or Christian or Buddhist or Jewish or Hindu or Muslim… have had typical natural experiences of all three of these “floors”, even as babies. Typically, the three natural states of so-called consciousness; waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep, are examples of these three “floors”. Even if many of us have not restored our capacities of the heart and the ground of being, they are there enfolded in our human nature, these three floors continue to be present. Not only can we pray from the ground, the heart, and the brain, but they can also be (re)integrated, which is exactly what the Holy Spirit is doing in us.

I am not the first to mention all of this. Our scripture, liturgy, theology and prayer are overflowing with these and much deeper teachings. We are here on this corner of Pleasant and School streets, together entering into this journey, week after week, year after year and moment by moment, exploring the different floors of our being and the world, and learning bit by bit to integrate them.

We are together being made instruments of God’s wisdom and love, sometimes kicking and screaming, but none the less we endeavor to “run the race that is set before us”.

I hope my brief foray into the triple-birth of Christ and this image of the “Three Floors” is helpful in getting a sense of the vast spectrum of Creation and our own created human nature, even if I have run rough shod over so many important and subtle points.
May these words be helpful in your Advent preparations. Amen.
~Fr. Justin Lanier


A note from Fr. Justin on the passing of Fr. Thomas Keating and Abbot Joseph Boyle at the end of October, 2018:

This past October, my two principle teachers, or spiritual fathers, died.

Abbot Joseph M. Boyle, O.C.S.O. on October 21st and Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O on October 25th. Both were monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey, in Snowmass, Colorado where I did my initial, monastic contemplative formation. I was under Fr. Thomas’ direction since 1996, and under Abbot Joseph’s direction since 1999. It is hard to estimate their influence on my life other than to say they were both foundational and instrumental in forming my understanding and practice of Christianity and the contemplative journey.

This past October, my two principle teachers, or spiritual fathers, died.

Abbot Joseph M. Boyle, O.C.S.O. on October 21st and Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O on October 25th. Both were monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey, in Snowmass, Colorado where I did my initial, monastic contemplative formation. I was under Fr. Thomas’ direction since 1996, and under Abbot Joseph’s direction since 1999. It is hard to estimate their influence on my life other than to say they were both foundational and instrumental in forming my understanding and practice of Christianity and the contemplative journey.

At Fr. Thomas’ funeral I was talking with the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault about their departure. Both of us were close with both of them for a long time, I first met Cynthia at St. Benedict’s when I was in formation there. I told her of the great vacancy in my life, losing my two principle guides.

“They were a great compliment to each other” I told her. “Joe was Christ at the table in the upper room while Thomas was the Alpha and the Omega”. She replied, “That is exactly right”. We hugged. I must say that I did not feel a great deal of sadness at the loss of these two pillars in my life as an adult, a contemplative, a priest, a Christian. I was however very much disoriented, it was a different world and I could feel the change. Both Abbot Joseph and Fr. Thomas spoke about death and their own deaths in World Without End by Bloomsbury Continuum, 2017.

Fr. Thomas used to talk about this life as the Womb of God and death as the great Birth Canal of Life. Abbot Joseph told me on many occasions that he was not a teacher. Joe felt he did not have the charisma of a spiritual teacher, which made for a great spiritual director and the “finest abbot of the Order” as it had been said. Joe wrote in his last message about hearing the second opinion of doctors to discontinue treatment, “Now I can set about taking these steps of the final journey in Christ. So, far from discouraging me the doctor’s words were a deep spiritual encouragement.”

It is very auspicious that the two of died within a week of one another. They were such collaborators in teaching the Contemplative Heart of the Christian tradition both in word and deed. I suspect they will continue to do so beyond the womb of this life. If you would, please pray for their continuing journey.

Requiem æternam,

If you want to get a sense of Abbot Joseph, check out this video on youtube: search “The Desert – Abbot Joseph Boyle”. There are many videos for Fr. Thomas on Youtube, or you can watch the movie The Rising Tide of Silence (available on Netflix) .



November Message from Fr. Justin

On September 1st, I led a short practice period of Centering Prayer at St. John’s in Williamstown, as part of the Conspire Conference put on by the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC). CAC is the organization Fr. Richard Rohr O.F.M. founded and continues to lead.

The Reverend Mark Longhurst, minister at First Congregational in Williamstown, is a graduate of CAC’s Living School and was one of Fr. Richard’s young contemplative leaders at the Contemplative Exchange last summer out in Colorado. The Conspire conference was actually live webcasted into St. John’s Episcopal where Fr. Nathaniel Anderson is the new Lutheran trained Rector.

It was an important first collaboration for the three of us and thanksgivings go in a big way to Mark who bore the brunt putting much of this together. Parishioners and members of all three congregations were present along with a few students from Williams College.

Later that Saturday, I was present at Dr. Patrick MacManaway’s talk that he gave at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship across the street from St. Peter’s. Patrick is a medical Doctor of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, but the talk reflected his work as a geopathic consultant and his subtle energy work with farms. This sort of practice is sometimes called “imaginal practice” especially by the 17th century Lutheran Jakob Böhme who wrote extensively on the “Imaginalis Mundi” or “Imaginal World”. You may remember a few sermons from last year that focused on this aspect of Christian prayer and experience.

So my day began with the high contemplative traditions of Centering Prayer and ended with the imaginal heart traditions and subtle energies of the land and electromagnetic properties of Bennington. It was an exciting weekend of collaboration and prayer and blessings. Over the course of the next year, I hope to collaborate more and more with my colleagues in Williamstown as well as with Dr. Patrick.

In doing so, it will be important for us to understand how the high contemplative and the imaginal practices in Christianity relate to one another and how they are different and engage differently the uncreated God as well as God’s wondrous creation. I hope to put forth a short series of Keystone articles providing some context for understanding these two distinct traditions and along side the moral, ethical, and ascetical traditions in our Christian tradition.

More to come.

A quick update on the deepening collaborations of the Reverends Mark, Nathanial, and Justin:

On October 2nd , at St. John’s Church in Williamstown, Reverend Mark gave the sermon for Nathanial’s installation, while I prayed along with the clergy and people of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts. The good Reverend Mark and I prepped for the whole affair with a period of centering prayer at First Congregational across the quad. The newly installed Rector later joined us and the parish at large in a feast of sausages, cheeses, and a variety of German beverages.


July Message from Fr. Justin

Posted on Jun 29, 2019 in rector's messages | 0 comments

From the Rector

Fr. Justin Lanier


Over the course of my time here at St. Peter’s I have made regular use of the doctrine of the triple-birth of Christ, to teach different aspects of the Person of Christ Jesus. Let me however talk a bit about the third of the triple-births as I mentioned in the last few Keystones.

In case you missed my previous attempts at a concise description of the triple-birth of Christ celebrated at Christmas:

Our Christmas celebration traditionally has three related and distinct liturgies; one in the middle of the night, one at daybreak, and one at high noon on Christmas day.  The first celebration at midnight is of the Word begotten of God the Father in the depths of Divine darkness before time and all worlds. The second celebration of this triple-birth is perhaps the most familiar: that of the historic birth of Jesus to the blessed Virgin Mary his mother, in the little town of Bethlehem. The third birth celebrated in Christmas is that ceaseless begetting of Christ in the ground of every heart rendered by God’s loving Spirit.

The Episcopal Church’s lectionary has the virtually identical gospel for two major celebrations, Christmas Day the high-noon liturgy and the 1st Sunday after Christmas; John 1: 1-14 and John 1: 1-18. This is the gospel passage that begins, “In the beginning was the Word…” This repeat is a rare occasion in our Lectionary and speaks to importance of this Gospel. Keep in mind that there was a time in which much of the Western Church concluded each Eucharist with John 1:1-14, where it was called, “the last Gospel.”

One of the sections particularly important in these two liturgies runs as follows: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” v 9

This points to that which enlightens every person, from which all things come into being, and though the entire world/cosmos comes into being through Christ, the world/cosmos does not recognize or comprehend it. (see John 1: 3,4,5,9,10) Christ, that light and life, is the very ground of all knowing, all awareness if you will. If you are aware, you are partaking of Christ. Whether you recognize that awareness as it is, well that is another story.

Understanding that this life, light, awareness, is actually being refracted and obscured is part of the effect of The Fall aka the Original Sin or Ontological Sin. Keeping in mind that all of us who have come into the world/cosmos are continuously lit up by this uncreated true Light that is Christ, yet our awareness collapses on objects of perception as well as identifying as a localized subject who is alienated from God and from our human family and even ourselves.

Be that as it may, every single person is actually overflowing with this Light of Christ, this recognition is but one important aspect of our sanctification along this Christian journey. This recognition is not a conceptual one, but a recognition at a level deeper than thought, or feeling. This recognition of Christ’s Light is called the birth of the Word in the Soul, and in many ways it can be said to be Christ’s recognition of reality as it is, in us. Here again we are participating in the life of Christ on God’s own terms, in God’s own house.

The psalmist puts it this way:

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room (ps 84:9)

I have found this sense of the uncreated light as one of the important aspects of Christ especially when we consider other traditions of contemplation. The Indo-Himalayan Buddhism, found for instance in Bhutan, has a very elaborate system of practices to recognize and to live from what is sometimes called the “Clear Light”. The teachings on the “Clear Light” seem to most often be transmitted orally, much like in our own tradition years ago of the post-baptismal training and education called Mystagogia.

Keeping in mind that in Baptism especially in the context of the Easter Vigil there is a kind of introduction to Christ and a grafting of a catechumen into the very body of Christ, which we chant in a darkness lit only by the Paschal candle:

Then we light each candle in the Church from that Paschal light. In more ancient times the ministry of Mystegogia seemed to be connected to the office of the Bishop and was of personal oral instruction.

There are some very profound commonalities found in the contemplative traditions around the world. As far as I can tell God, the “all inclusive isness” (aka God) is in fact continuously pouring forth God’s own life and light and that non-Christian contemplative traditions are recognizing this light and life and doing all they can to remove the obstacles of this recognition, this seeing with eyes of faith, the mind of Christ if you will. I cannot say I understand what God is doing in other religions, or in Buddhism, except what God seems to be doing everywhere and always, revealing God’s own everything. Why is the historical Jesus, celebrated in the second of the triple-birth, revealed to some and not others? I don’t know.

Why was the first of the triple-birth so central in former times, and now hardly heard about? I’m not quite sure. What I am sure of is that these realizations are given not to the learned or the well connected, they are given to the simple, faithful people of God who let themselves be held in God’s hand.

There are many little pitfalls along our journey in God. I am so very glad to have traveled part of this journey here with the people of St. Peter’s and all the people of God through the many generations as we all continue in thatuniversal mission to restoration in God whose name is beyond name.

peace, justin+