Monastery of the Ordinary is an online contemplative community that is rooted in the Christian tradition in conversation with other schools of thought that extend beyond Christianity itself. This community is open to all in a spirit of inclusiveness that is intentionally broad in an effort to reflect the infinite love of God for everyone. This is a place for sinners and saints alike, whether you belong to a spiritual tradition or not. Because this is not a church affiliated ministry, we do not seek to exercise spiritual authority over your life, rather pass along ways of thinking about and connecting to God in ways that transect the ups and downs of everyday life.
The reason why Monastery of the Ordinary was founded is to be a resource, one outpost among many, for the cultivation of ordinary mystics whose profound connection to God and experience of his presence informs and enriches life where it is lived on the ground. None of us are experts or masters here, we follow one Master who has descended to us and opened up a pathway to the heavens. The reality of the heavens is our birthright and true home, and these infinite realms reside within us, and can be accessed by anyone who will take the time out of their busy schedules to take this upward journey in to the very heart of God’s radiant presence. It is the ordinary mystic, the lifelong student, who is able to make a real difference in the world, not by retreating to the mountaintops (though this may be an important calling for some), but by living here on earth where life is happening all around us and bringing the wealth of the heavens to a spiritually impoverished world.
While some of the stances we take here are controversial in Christian circles, our aim in assuming these is not to engage in debate over these matters, as there are plenty of better outlets for this purpose, but to live in such a way that demonstrates the infinite scope of God’s grace. So, we maintain an insistence on the universality of God’s saving work in Christ (that every rational creature’s destiny is union with God and has been secured by the revelation of the crucified and risen Christ) as a first principle of reason itself. Likewise, this Monastery is an open and welcome place for many who find they have no place in modern Christianity. So, if you are a member of the LGBTQ community, belong to another religious tradition, or are just curious about spirituality in general, you are absolutely welcome here. Our goal is not to have you change who you are, but to show that the path into God’s presence is truly open to all. We respect that many disagree with such stances, but firmly maintain this as a welcome and inviting space for everyone. After all, Monastery of the Ordinary is a house of contemplation for anyone interested in being part of this community for however long you wish to join us.
There are many helpful spiritual practices that people can use to help them better connect into God’s living presence both within the Christian tradition and beyond it, and we are not here to denigrate any of these paths. The practices we will discuss here include: 1) Jacobs Ladder, which is a way of meditating through the Seven Heavens; 2) The Way of Jubilee which is a way of contemplating and integrating the liberating teachings of Jesus into everyday life; and, 3) The Cloud of Unveiled Witnesses, which urges us onward in apocalyptic (revelatory) witness to the Cosmic Kingdom of God where the Incarnate Christ is fashioning the universe into a place where God will be All in all and we participate in bringing this Kingdom into reality in the course of our ordinary lives. None of what we contemplate here cannot be found in some way elsewhere, and if you have a set of practices that already work for you, we affirm this. However, if you find this way of approaching the spiritual life attractive, we are always happy to hold a place for you for as long as you wish to spend time with us.
Monastery of the Ordinary upholds five key distinctives as a community:
- We are a COSMIC community: Monastery of the Ordinary exists to call to attention our place in God’s vast, mysterious creation. Normal people, by virtue of their beginning in God, are dynamic finite expressions of the Divine Infinity. We believe that each person has been called forth into existence to experience and express the infinite love of God as we ceaselessly grow into the Divine Life. Life in God is full of possibility because the Infinite actualizes the Infinite infinitely; or as St. Maximus the Confessor says, “The Word [or Logos] of God, very God, wills that the mystery of his Incarnation be actualized always in all things.” For this reason, this house of Christian contemplation is one that is consciously cosmic in its orientation. We believe that in Jesus it is possible to behold the Divine Life actualized in all things and as we grasp this we gain a clear sense of our life purpose. It is as we come to hear the purposes of God for our lives, spoken and revealed in the heavens, that we are able to live our lives on earth in a way that honors and fulfills the reasons for which we were made.
- We are a CATHOLIC community: While Monastery of the Ordinary is not Roman Catholic or affiliated with that venerable communion (and of course if you belong to this tradition you are most welcome here), we do embrace the catholicity of the Kingdom of the Heavens. (Note: Catholic is just another term for Universal – an all-encompassing reality). This means there is nowhere where God’s Kingdom isn’t. The Kingdom exceeds all religions, as well as all social, political, and economic institutions, and indeed will one day redeem them all in the ages to come. In this present age, where the world is marred by brokenness and the illusions brought about by evil, the Kingdom persists even now, calling the world into becoming a true world where the good alone is real. Jesus speaks of a Kingdom that will mark the restoration of all creation and that will be realized in all things as the entire cosmos is healed of all the injuries of time. As we find healing in the presence of God we too become agents of healing in a broken world, regardless of what failures and pains linger in our own personal histories. When we discover the meaning of what Jesus taught when he said, “the Kingdom of God is within you,” (Luke 17:21) we find our place in the universal Symphony of the Heavens and slowly learn to play our part in it. Because the Kingdom is catholic, or universal, as we have said before, all are welcome here because all have a place in the Kingdom.
- We are an EVANGELICAL community: While the label ‘evangelical’ is a hotly contested one in today’s world with many understandably abandoning that tradition, Monastery of the Ordinary proudly displays the banner of evangelical, not because it refers to a specific cultural iteration of Christianity, but because the term refers to the good news of God’s own self-revelation in the person of Jesus. The good news, or gospel, or evangel, is nothing less than Jesus himself – the Incarnate God-Man who has given himself as and for the life of the world, and that this good Word, spoken by the Father and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, is nothing less than a surety of the salvation and restoration of all into union with the very Life of God. Our evangelical orientation is about so much more than a ticket to heaven when you die, or an intellectual transaction about a certain set of doctrines about Jesus that makes one the right sort of person, it is about a Life of infinite possibility, an ascent through the heavens throughout the unending ages that has been made possible by the One who has descended to us. The gospel is a sacred promise that God and humanity were always destined for an infinitely unfolding union. St. Athanasius famously wrote in his treatise On the Incarnation which chiefly discusses why Jesus died on a Roman cross, “God became human so that we might become God.” This astonishing reality means that in every respect we will become by grace what Jesus is by nature. To us, this is unmistakably good news that places immense dignity on ordinary people whose destiny is Divine. This gospel meets us in the ups and downs of everyday life and lights our eyes to behold God in all things, and we are happy to revel in this good news and share it with anyone.
- We are an ECLECTIC community: One of the great theologians of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin said, “all truth is God’s truth.” Monastery of the Ordinary upholds this axiom by celebrating and contemplating the truth wherever it is found. The Word of God (or Divine Logos, who is Incarnate in the person of Jesus) is everywhere present as the foundational principle of existence of all things, and when the glorious light of the Holy Spirit shines on all things, or any particular thing, the inner Logos – the very logic of being itself – of that thing becomes transparent and its ultimate truth points us back to God. This means that we draw eclectically from the Christian tradition, Eastern and Western, ancient and modern. However, it would be woefully inadequate to maintain that all truth is God’s truth, and to assume that truth is only found within the Christian tradition. So we take the Light of Divine Logos, and our intimate knowledge of Jesus, with us to illuminate our way as we fearlessly explore many domains of knowledge, systems of belief and practice in an effort to both grow in the depth of our own convictions and to be challenged in areas where we must change. We therefore will seek to understand and respect the claims and traditions of other religions ranging from Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, and numerous other schools of thought. We will also explore the domains of esoteric and hermetic thought in Christianity as well as these religions. If all of this sounds a bit like New Age spirituality, this is a fair characterization inasmuch as there is a lot in New Age thought that is in fact quite helpful (while also admitting that there are elements that are not). We believe that the truth of Christ can be explored and expressed in a wide variety of ways both within and outside the Christian tradition. We are confident enough in the truth of God’s self-revelation in Christ that no form of genuine spiritual understanding need shake our faith, rather these can indeed strengthen us and allow us to be engaging conversation partners with those who do not believe as we do. Monastery of the Ordinary is a contemplative community that rigorously seeks out the truth in all things, and all are welcome to join us on this journey.
- We are an APOCALYPTIC community: Monastery of the Ordinary is also a place of apocalyptic contemplation and imagination. In saying we are an apocalyptic community we affirm both usages of the term apocalyptic. The first sense in which we are apocalyptic refers to the act of revelation itself, and simply means ‘unveiling’, and we believe that as we encounter truth in the presence of God we gain a fresh and enduring vision of him and his activity in the world, even old truths and lost ways of thinking can take on revelatory significance as we are gripped by them in the Heavenly presence of God and the company of redeemed creation. The second sense in which we are apocalyptic is in reference to the passing of this present broken age, and the coming of a new and glorious age that Christians have long believed to coincide with the second coming of Christ. This age of the Kingdom of the Heavens was indeed inaugurated in Jesus’ first coming and will be consummated upon his return, and while this hope has long been fruit for all kinds of overheated religious mania, we maintain that it is at the bedrock of our hope. Some treat this topic with a measure of embarrassment due to the 2000 year interval since Jesus’ ascension to the Father’s right hand, however given the depth and relativity of cosmic time, such an interval can barely be considered a tick on the cosmic clock. Given the turbulence of our times and the many existential threats facing our world today, to avoid these apocalyptic questions seems rather silly, however we also realize that cultivating a proper apocalyptic imagination takes incredible balance so as not to veer off into sheer fanaticism. Taking this apocalyptic approach doesn’t involve tin-foil hats, or stockpiling guns and ammo and heading for the hills, it involves a radical engagement with the world as it presently stands as we build into the realities of the Age to Come in such a way that the Kingdom is actualized here and now through our sacrificial service to our neighbors. We have the unshakable confidence that every good thing we build toward in this present world will endure in coming Kingdom, and welcome the immanence of Christ’s return as an urgent reminder of our task. Whether he returns in our lifetimes or not, we will show ourselves to be faithful stewards of the world to come, believing that is possible to realize and model the life of the Age to Come even now in the present troubled moment.
If there is any question on the beliefs that serve as foundational for the Monastery of the Ordinary, these are summarized in the Nicene Creed. While we will certainly explore other beliefs and schools of thought here, giving them the deference and respect they deserve in a spirit of mutual learning and enrichment, the core of our convictions arise out of the bedrock of this great confession.
ABOUT THE FOUNDER:
Hello my friends, my name is Jedidiah Paschall, forgive me, I take terrible profile pictures, my daughter claims that in this one I look dorky and serious, and its rather hard to argue with. I am a creative writer, Christian mystic, single dad, and jack of many trades (and of course master of none). Over the past several years I have undergone a radical transformation in my own understanding of the Christian faith and God’s universal work in the world arising out of several mystical experiences. I have started this community to create a space for spiritual explorers like me. While I am endlessly curious and moderately intelligent, I claim no expertise in any particular domain of knowledge. I am, rather, an enthusiastic novice, eager to not only learn, but to share what I have learned with others. If Christian mysticism is about being overly ‘spiritual’ or an enlightened guru, I am certainly not these things. I am a recovering alcoholic, and live with a lifelong battle with bipolar disorder, and generally have failed more than I have succeeded in life. However, I have found, even in the depths of my own personal struggles, incredible grace and tenderness in the presence of God that strengthens me onward as I travel the path God has set before me. I didn’t found this Monastery to create a community of self-righteous individuals who assume they all have it figured out, sadly the Christian community has far too many examples of these. This is a place where God’s grace reigns supreme, so no matter who you are or what you have struggled with in life, I want to encourage you that the path into God’s presence is only a step away. To be certain, learning to consciously live in God’s presence brings tremendous growth and learning over time, but it doesn’t remove us from the daily struggle with life or insulate us from failure – however, living a life in the heavens while on earth does enable us to navigate the trials and troubles of life with grace and assurance that wherever our journey takes us we can never outrun the goodness and beauty of God.
If you are interested in reading more of my writing that ranges along several topics in theology and poetry in particular, check out my personal website St. Jude’s Tavern. I have also published a work of apocalyptic fiction entitled The Damned May Enter.