Cyprian and The Plague

Over at Church Life Journal, Alex Fogleman, one of our Brazos Fellows tutors, writes on what St. Cyprian can teach us about Easter joy during pandemic. St. Cyprian presided as bishop during a brutally deadly plague in the early 250s. He exhorted Christians to devote themselves to love of neighbor, reminding them that their otherworldly faith should, paradoxically, push them into greater solidarity with their fellow humans:

In fact, Cyprian asks would-be world fleers to contemplate what they hold in common with their non-Christian neighbors. Some Christians, it seemed, thought that Christian baptism rendered them immune from the disease, when in fact the plague claimed both Christian and non-Christian alike. “It troubles some that we have this mortality in common with others” (§8). One does not become Christian, though, because faith is a magic bullet that inoculates from suffering.

As long as we are here in the world, we are united with the human race in equality of the flesh, [though] we are separated in spirit. And so, until this corruptible element puts on incorruptibility and this mortal element receives immortality and the spirit conducts us to God the Father, the disadvantages of the flesh, whatever they are, we have in common with the human race (§8).

Christians share with all humankind the simple, irrefutable fact of death. While Christianity provides a “difference in spirit,” it does not extract us from the common humanity and the “disadvantages of the flesh.”

Read the whole thing here.

Changes coming for Brazos Fellows

As you’d expect, it’s been a strange few weeks for the Brazos Fellows. The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to our gathering, much of our programming has been rescheduled or canceled, and we’re meeting virtually for prayer and class.

We’re grateful for good technology and flexible guest lecturers, like Dr. Andrea Turpin. We’re also newly grateful for the community life we’ve enjoyed all year. As Brazos Fellow alum Jess Schurz wrote in a rather prescient 2018 post, “The sanctity of loneliness reminds me that I am not at all entitled to community. When I do find myself in times of rich relationships, it is a gift and nothing else.”

But I’m also glad to say that this is about to change. After strict social distancing, our family and the fellows will be sheltering together starting next week. A nearby house has been provided for the three fellows, and, remarkably all three have part-time jobs they can maintain in isolation or remotely. For the next six weeks, between the two houses, we and the fellows will be a cloistered community committed to praying the daily office, study, and sharing life together. (For the fellows who’ve been interested in exploring monasticism, well, here we go! Community garden included.)

Our hope is that our community can be a remnant that lives together for the sake of the whole church. As St. Cyprian put it, “when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one.” Even when we appear to be isolated, the theological reality of the communion of the saints means that the whole is present in every part. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name,” Christ promised, “there am I in the midst of them.”

We ask your prayers for this new arrangement and the rest of our semester. And to get a window into Brazos Fellows in a time of pandemic, follow along on our new Instagram account for regular updates and this blog for longer reflections.

Social-Distancing & Lessons from Rapunzel

Over at her blog, Brazos Fellow Savannah Anne offers a few tips–both whimsical and profound–on how to lead the good cloistered life:

“I’ve been reflecting on the occurrence of this pandemic during Lent. Asking ourselves, ‘do I really “need” this right now?’ and adopting a more frugal lifestyle may be a helpful exercise to reorient our lives and our affections to what ultimately matters and where our daily bread ultimately comes from.”

Read the rest here.