August 3rd to 9th: Conclusion & Epilogue

Reading: Conclusion–The Answer & Epilogue–One Cup, One Body
“As we drink the cup, we drink the cup that Jesus drank, but we also drink our cup.”

We have been on an incredible and spirit-filled summer journey together, and I am deeply grateful to each and every person who has travelled with us, both actively and silently.  We have all been blessed by your participation, your sharing, and your prayers.

And as we complete our journey, it is important to take the time to reflect on the experience to see where we have been, to treasure what we learned, and to understand how we have grown so that our time together with Henri as our guide may be truly memorable and, perhaps, even life changing.

In my professional life I am often called on to prepare PowerPoint®  presentations that attempt to show in a few words the highlights of work we accomplished (note: work that is never as meaningful, enlightening, or rewarding as reading and reflecting on the the writing of Henri Nouwen).   It occurred to me this week that Henri himself poses Jesus’ question “Can you drink the cup?” and then he provides us with the PowerPoint highlights of his answer if we simply use his chapter titles.

We can drink the cup that Jesus drank by…

  • Holding… The Cup of Sorrow …The Cup of Joy
  • Lifting… The Cup of Blessings… To Life
  • Drinking… The Cup of Salvation… To the Bottom

Like many things in the spiritual world, it is both that simple and that difficult.   Henri reminds us that Jesus’ question will have a different meaning for us every day of our lives and he asks, “Can we embrace fully the sorrows and joys that come to us day after day?”  Then Henri assures us that if make the commitment and persevere in the three disciplines  “…we are transformed into the one body of the living Christ, always dying and always rising for the salvation of the world.”

I invite you to take some time to look back over our time together and remember the most important things you learned or heard in your reflections.   If you are willing, please share with us the one or two things that you really want to take with you and integrate more fully into your life from here on in.

In closing I would like to thank Maureen at the Henri Nouwen Society, regular book discussion facilitator Brynn Lawrence, and in a special way each of you for making this summer discussion such a rewarding experience for us all.  If you have found this to be worthwhile, I encourage you to participate in the next book discussion this Advent.

And in the words of St. Francis, “May the Lord give you peace.”


August 8th Update:  As we come to the end of the final week of our discussion I once again want to thank each of you that travelled with us on this spirit-filled journey.   It has been a blessing to read and reflect on the heartfelt sharings.  I have spent this week at the Deer Valley YMCA Family Camp with my wife Dawn, my daughter, son-in-law and three grandsons.  This was my 11th summer here.  I was led to Deer Valley in 2004 at a very difficult time in my life–and the experience of returning each year has been transformative.    We are Week 8 campers and we have a very special summer “community” here.   Arts and crafts is one of the many family-friendly activities at DV.  In 2004 I painted a bisque cup that I later realized accurately portrayed the challenges I was facing at that time.  This year–10 years later–I am in a much different and better place, and sharing the  writing of Henri Nouwen in online discussions with people like each of you on this journey had a lot to do with it.  So I decided to paint another bisque cup that illustrated where I hope I am heading on my spiritual journey.  It is shown in the photo below.

Thanks again for your presence and participation.


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34 Responses to August 3rd to 9th: Conclusion & Epilogue

  1. Busi Madzorera says:

    I read the book once and had never thought of putting myself in the Father’s position. This made me think of my actions. Am looking forward to the discussion. I am a new comer to discussions.

  2. Ahnnie says:

    I am just noticing your Nouwen book study and you are at the end of it! What comes next and how does one join in this online book study?

  3. Gloria says:

    Henri Nouwen’s books give me hope as I struggling with transitions in my life. His words are so comforting to me. It was a huge risk for me to join this book study because I am a very quiet person and rarely share my thoughts with others. I want to thank you for including me, for giving me a deeper perspective on the ideas presented in this book, and for the opportunity to remember each of you in my prayers.

  4. Ray Glennon says:

    Please plan on joining us for the Advent book discussion. Watch for further information in emails from the Henri Nouwen Society, on the Society’s website , and in the emailed Daily Meditations.

    May you drink the cup to life until we meet again.


  5. nancy T says:

    I have been with you silently on this journey and I thank each of you for all you have contributed to deepening my spiritual growth…..”silence…word…action” mean so much more today.
    Pace e Bene,

  6. Dr Connie says:

    Dear Community of the Beloved,

    I often think how great it would be to sit and chat with Henri. I wish I would have had that opportunity, but Henri left us his words and his thoughts and the spirt of community to follow long after him. This community has kept Henri’s contribution going. I am so blessed to have read your posting and to have part of the community with you.

    Ray you did an awesome job!!!!!

    Maureen thanks so much.

    To all of you, Thank you and God Bless.

    God Willing – we meet again in Advent

  7. Todd G says:

    Still processing here… but I echo earlier comments that this study exceeded my expectations. Thanks, Ray, you did a wonderful job. Thanks to all the posters– I agree- I gained so much from your thoughtful reflections.

    Plan to be back for Advent. Till then, let’s keep one another in prayer. Blessings to you all.

  8. Diane C. says:

    At the morning mass yesterday, the gospel reading was from Matthew 16:24-28. Jesus says to His disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (16:24). As our priest read this I realized that “taking up the cross” and “drinking from the cup” are 2 different ways that Jesus tried to help his disciples. (and us!) get this important message. I am humbled by this revelation because typically in my life God has to basically beat me over the head a few times before I finally “get it”. But Jesus had to do the same thing with his disciples, who actually lived among Him! In His great love and mercy He doesn’t give up on them and will never give up on me. I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude and relief having made this connection.
    This community has been a healing place, as always, for me..and I can tell, for all of you. Thank you, my cyber-friends for your beautiful insights. I am so grateful to have been a part of this discussion…thank you so much Ray for leading us through this amazing book. Henri is and will always be my “guru”.

    Blessings…We are all wounded healers.

  9. Lata Hall says:

    Thank you Ray for your wonderful insights and keeping us all focused. I read this book at least 4 times in the last month, sometimes just for the pleasure of reading it and I tend to hear Henri’s voice as I have heard him many times. So this time I could hear him asking me, if he made little more sense to me. The cup of my life may be full of sorrows at times and joys at another time, yet, I lifted it drank it sometimes happily and sometimes with lot of why me. But over the years the why has gone and what this book has made it clear is why the WHY is no more, my Heavenly Father has been filling it with His Grace, His love. It was always there, but I had difficulty seeing it, now I understand that my pain is shared and blessed. He never gives me more than I can ever handle. Each cup has unique Joy and Sorrow, yet the Beloved Father is all the time turning those sorrows into different joys and is always calling us home. A permanent home which we try to run away from by being too busy and never listening to His Loving Voice. Inner Silence has become my beloved friend as it here where I listen to my Father in Heaven.

    I will miss you all very much, but I will read this blog many a times, and I know I will still get more out of it. Hoping to seeing you all again in this space.

    Marianne, you will be in our daily prayers and yours will be the first name I would be looking for at Advent. Praying you will be able to take the second round lot more easily. Get well, dear Friend and God bless you with all your family.
    God bless you Ray, It has been a blessings to know you here. Blessings and prayers, Lata

  10. Marianne says:

    Sorry, I need to add one more point – Jesus got through difficult times by staying very focussed on what his job was. I know my walk through Cancer is not meaningless and my divine task is to notice all the wonderful things which are right beside the painful, worrisome and fearful things. The silent times will be very important times for me to gain the strength to keep on this divine task. Thanks.

  11. Marianne says:

    I have really benefitted from having this book study at this time. One of the things that makes my Cancer journey difficult is that it is just so long. I’m preparing for my second round of Chemo tomorrow. It’s hard not to be fearful after I ended up so sick and in the hospital after my first round. It’s hard to accept help or even know what we need!

    Eventually, this is a journey which will have enriched my life but at the moment, I’m just putting one foot in front of the other. I’m not sure where that is in the book!

    Hopefully we will be able to follow through with getting a group together to meet and pray regularly. That will be my take away.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading every post and I look forward to seeing you during Advent. Thanks, Ray for hosting the study. I have ALWAYS looked forward to your posts in past studies with your gift for restating things, tying in scripture and suggesting other reading resources, so thanks so much. M

  12. Midori Nishino says:

    Hi, everyone! I live in Matudo-city near Tokyo, Japan. Because of my poor English, I have been keeping just silent from the beginning. However I felt very comfortable here and I learned a lot from you all. At the very end of this program, I cannot stop saying ‘thank you Ray and everyone, I feel now this community is really a family to me.’ Again thank you all, and I’m looking forward to seeing you all soon. God bless you all!

    • Marianne says:

      Your English looks great, Midori! Don’t let that stop you from participating at Advent!

    • Daniel Templeman Twells says:

      Hi Midori, I live in Kinshicho, Tokyo and was interested to see that you had been participating in this online book discussion as well! Glad you experienced a sense of community through the reading of this book. Daniel

  13. Vi says:

    I too wanted to add some final comments. I reread each section several times as we went along and now – just was about to say, went for another drink – reread the book again – starring sections along most pages. Felt like things went deeper with this “drink”. While I was mostly a silent participant, I have deeply absorbed and been most blessed thru this Study together in this manner. To live authentic, vulnerable and “With Open Hands” – thank-you so much for this rich opportunity.

  14. Christine says:

    I have been following along silently reading Henri’s words and the insightful reflections of those here. The past few weeks have been for me a time of relative silence. I felt the need to take in rather that pour out and this book and discussion have helped replenish my partially empty cup with life-giving liquids so to speak.

    Ray, I will take away those succinct “PowerPoint” highlights of holding, lifting and drinking the cup you mentioned. It occurred to me as well that Henri’s disciplines of silence, word and action could be bullet points beneath the main highlights. In silence we study, consider, and accept the joys and sorrows we hold in our cup. With words, we lift our cup and share with others the sorrow and joys and blessings and life we have found in our cup. We then move to the action of drinking the cup of salvation, taking in that which has been given to us, knowing that the cup will be filled and re-filled as it is emptied. As Henri wrote, our action, our drinking of the cup is “an act of selfless love . . . immense trust . . . surrender to a God who will give what we need when we need it.”

    In light of the fact that Henri did not live to celebrate his 40th anniversary which he so joyfully anticipated, I was particularly touched the by the Epilogue. Henri wrote so lovingly of the changes and beauty experienced in his lifetime of celebrating the Eucharist. Though the chalice had changed, the contents remained the same: “The life of Christ and our life, blended together into one life.” That is certainly a cup to hold, lift, and drink with hope and thanksgiving.

    Thank you all for sharing the contents of your cups and blessings to all on the way.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Thanks for sharing your insight about how the discipline of silence can be linked to “holding”, the discipline of the word can be linked to “lifting”, and the discipline of “action” can be linked to “drinking.” Your comment adds to my understanding and it also relates to something that I read this afternoon in Henri’s Making All Things New written in 1981 several years before he moved to L’Arche.

      Henri wrote: “To set our hearts on the kingdom (of heaven) therefore means to make the life of the Spirit within and among us the center of all we think, say, and do.” This sentence written 15 years before Can You Drink the Cup? makes similar points from a slightly different perspective. To set our hearts on the kingdom is the “drinking” of our cup of life. The life of the Spirit is the intimacy of the love between Jesus his Father (Abba) that Nouwen emphasizes in our book. Finding the life of the Spirit within us is “holding” our cup and acknowledging ourselves. Finding the life of the Spirit among us is “lifting” our cup in community. And all we think, say, and do are the three disciplines of silence, word, and action.

      Peace and all good.

      • Peggy Hoffman says:

        Dear All and especially Ray and Maureen:

        My first try but feel strongly that I must add to all the wonderful words about Henri Nouwen’s teachings. Thank you for keeping them alive. Have been doing the books on “Spirituality Series” with a friend over the phone for over a year. What a joy and meaning his words have had. Thank you for keeping his words alive and available to so many of us. Hearing John Mogabgab speak about Henri and talking to him over the phone have just added to the way Henri saw life to the fullest. As prayers are flowing for John at this time memories of Henri are held high. Thank you again.

  15. Janet B Edwards says:

    Thank you all for sharing your insights. I have been so grateful for the opportunity to read and savor this book. I love the way Henri is able to express spiritual truths in his writing. It has made me think more about how God wants to work in my life as I hold, lift, and drink the cup. I think it’s a book I need to re-read and reflect upon more.

  16. Anna says:

    One final note on partings through death. The book was given to me from a friend whose brother had died in the last year. I put it aside at the time as I did not have the time to read it. A few months later this discussion was created to read the book.
    God works in mysterious ways for the betterment of all.

  17. Anna says:

    Thank you Ray and all the participants. What I take from this book is a new concept of salvation. The disciplines of silence, the word, and in action. As I age, I experience many more deaths of friends and acquaintances. As well, many pastors and associates who have left the parishes I belonged to. I appreciated that Henri quoted Jean Vanier concerning the loss of those who are dear to you: “your joy and your pain give you a mission. … you will be able to send your friends to continue their journeys without losing the joy they brought you.” Blessings for the rest of the journey.

  18. Sharon K. Hall says:

    So much wonderful in Henri Nouwen’s book–page 89 “How then can we, in the midst of our ordinary daily lives, drink our cup, the cup of sorrow and the cup of joy? How can we fully appropriate what is given to us? Somehow we know that when we do not drink our cup and thus avoid the sorrow as well as the joy of living, our lives become inauthentic, insincere, superficial, and boring. We become puppets moved up and down, left and right by the puppeteers of this world. We become objects, yes, victims of other people’s interests and desires. But we don’t have to be victims. We can choose to drink the cup of our life with the deep conviction that by drinking it we will find our true freedom. Thus, we will discover that the cup of sorrow and joy we are drinking is the cup of salvation.” I also deeply appreciate the language Henri uses at the end of the book, the disciplines of “silence, word and action.” So many theologians would say “prayer, Word and stewardship” or something like that. To me, the way that Henri writes is from his belief and mine too that mysteriously everyone is included and God has written our inclusion in our hearts and the opportunity is to walk with each other until we finally uncover this Truth already inside of us. As I journey along with all my friends and relatives and also people I just meet along the road and feel sorrow for many of them and also for me from time-to-time that we can have such complex relationships with God and with each other and especially in the institutional church, I am strangely comforted by Henri using such ordinary and seemingly non-religious but very spiritual words to describe the practices and disciplines that can help us: “silence, word and action.” Henri offers me terminology and thinking that give hope to my sorrow and let me know I can share with all in such a non-self-righteous and non-holier-than-thou way, that he understands deeply the things that some people are afraid of in some religious people. All of these book studies are enlightening–this one especially so. Thanks for making it available to all of us. Looking forward to the Advent selection.

  19. Ray Glennon says:

    From Todd G Copied from last week.

    This section resonated with me on many levels. I love Henri’s writing style, his thoughtfulness, his practicality, ability to tie into scripture, and have us reflect on our own life/experiences. Adding the beautiful comments shared by all of you made for a rich experience. Thanks to each of you.

    Page 85– “Refusing a drink is avoiding intimacy”. This struck me between the eyes. As an introvert, I often pass on invites with co-workers or acquaintances. I sometimes use the excuse that I am not interested in the bar scene or am tied up with the children. Bottom line– it is avoiding intimacy– and prevents me from fully drinking the cup. …….more prayer and reflection.

  20. Tom says:

    I was introduced to this discussion, yet never had a book! When will the next one begin and what is the book, so I can pick it up and being,… for I read slow! Thank you for your attention on this matter! Tom

    • Maureen says:

      Hello Tom,

      Glad you found your way to our online book discussion and we look forward to welcoming you to the the next one. We haven’t made a book selection as yet – suggestions happily received.

      Advent begins November 30th this year so we will probably start a few days before that. Stay tuned at, Facebook and Twitter.

      Many blessings,
      Henri Nouwen Society

  21. Rose says:

    Thank you all. I’ve reflected on many of the sharings and much has helped me during a difficult time when I struggle with saying YES (and meaning it). This evening near the end of read what Henri said that to be truly ALIVE (all of it)….. we have to be able to surrender and say yes to all of it….. (I am too lazy to walk upstairs to get the book for the exact quote), but it helped. I have read this book several times and at EACH and every mass for years now, I ask myself this question and the ironic thing is that I never receive under both species either —- but it is only in a current cross (sorrow), that I don’t want that I have finally “accepted”, as where Jesus wants me now — and this summer helped me to SURRENDER the yes to Jesus on a journey I would rather run from. SHALOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Ray, Maureen and all – a safe and peaceful rest of summer. Treasure your loved ones and live each day as if it could be your last — don’t wait until the cup of sorrow hits your family before you wake up. Yes, we need to provide financial security and have mega chores to do constantly, but take the time to be with loved ones while they are healthy, even if it is a long drive etc., because at terminal illness or death, we drop our lives to visit and help, lets do it while everyone is well….(I mean this lovingly)…..

  22. Cathy says:

    Several things have come together for me as I read this book. Together they all point to the idea that you must open your heart to feel and experience the difficulties of your life in order to also experience the joy. I’ve just finished reading Brene Brown’s “Dare Greatly,” in which she talks about letting yourself be vulnerable to the possibility of pain as a necessarily prerequisite to living what she calls a Wholehearted life. And I’ve also been reading Rachel Naomi Remen’s “My Grandfather’s Blessings,” in which she talks about the way our wounds make us who we are, because it is our most difficult challenges that show us how much we are capable of. Those are incredibly brief summaries of both of those books, I know, but I think those two women and Henri all have lessons to teach us about what is valuable in life, and if we think we try to shield ourselves from the hard parts of our lives, we risk missing out as well on the richness of what life has to offer. But I would say also that we have to feel secure in the knowledge that God loves us deeply before we can possibly take risk of living this way.

  23. Ray Glennon says:

    From Lois Copied from last week
    Dear Ms. Robertson,
    Thanks for that good reminder! I have called them mini-vacations, that moment when I am distracted from the noise/activity about me and transported elsewhere, usually by something beautiful in nature. I can still see so clearly many of these moments in my mind’s eye, even years later – a bright red Cardinal flitting in the green bushes alongside the road on a rainy day, amazing cloud formations in my rear-view mirror, the laughter of my niece totally absorbed in the delights of sand, the quiet and fleeting movement of deer out the kitchen window. Maybe because I live in a big city, these moments in nature catch and move me so profoundly. But I liked the examples you gave from in the house. You reminded me that I can be more aware and open to these moments of silence as well!
    Thank you!

  24. Charles says:

    Thank you so much Ray for taking the lead on this book study. It has far exceeded my expectations. And thanks also to everyone who participated, I gained a lot from all of your comments and perspectives.

    At the end here, things have finally come together for me, and it all makes much more sense, at least to me. I will be very honest, I struggled with this entire notion of drinking the cup. My answer to the question was a big “I don’t know if I can do that!” However, I am beginning to see.

    I always adhere to the notion that there are no coincidences. This was the last book Henri Nouwen wrote. To me that is significant. So I paid close attention to the last words he penned, at least in print, in the final pages of this book. I also noticed that I had a prayer card in the book, and was using it as a bookmark, but oddly enough paid little attention to it. As I read the final pages, I looked at the card, and it was an invitation to Eucharistic Adoration. A line on the back of the card reads: “Get to know Me better so that I can better help you carry your cross.” I change it now to read: “Get to know Me better so that I can better help you ‘drink the cup.’”

    In the conclusion, Henri Nouwen speaks of the invitation to drink the cup as one without a reward, and as such the great challenge of the spiritual life. That it asks for trust in God, the same trust Jesus had when he drank the cup in the Garden. He explains that drinking the cup that Jesus drank is done so in the spirit of unconditional love. I am reminded of the Beatitudes, and “blessed are the poor in spirit,” this notion that blessed are those that have complete and unconditional love and dependence upon God not unlike the relationship between a child and its father.

    Finally, it all came together for me, taken together with the above, in the Epilogue, when Henri Nouwen speaks of the cup as holding the life of Christ and our life, “blended together into one life.” We not only drink the cup that Jesus drank, but we drink our cup as well. And the following was the greatest statement in the entire book for me: “That is the great mystery of the Eucharist.” Henri Nouwen goes on to explain that it becomes one cup, that when we drink the cup Jesus drank, we become one in the “body of the living Christ, always dying and always rising for the salvation of the world.”

    Explaining drinking of our cup as a mystery makes sense to me and brought it all together. A mystery is not what we typically think about when we hear the word “mystery,” as a story or novel that has a solution at the end. A mystery is something that we can always learn more about, and no matter how much we learn, there is always more to come to know and understand. It is a lifelong process that is never complete. And that is the mystery of the Eucharist.

    Thanks you to everyone in this study, and may God bless you all.

  25. Ray Glennon says:

    Several comments from Saturday afternoon that I copied into this week to make sure everyone sees them…Ray

    From Gloria
    When I was young, my piano teacher assigned a Chopin piece. It proved too difficult for me.; not because of the notes, but because I did not have enough life experience to feel the emotion. She would say, “Can’t you feel Chopin’s sadness in each phrase?” A few years later both of my parents died. A decade later I was single mother of three beautiful children. It was bittersweet because I carried so much responsibility and I missed my parents dearly. Thirty years later I have returned to piano lessons and this piece. The joys and sorrows of my cup pour out with each measure of Chopin. Mature and more confident hands play the same notes now because I am “befriending” (page 87) my life and drinking my cup.

    From Jeanette F
    I am one of the silent participants, faithfully reading the comments that are shared so openly. Perhaps this has been a time of silence for me so that I can “confront my true self.” I feel that God has been opening my heart and enriching me with all that I am contemplating, learning and praying about. Thank-you for allowing silent participants like me in this community.

    From Anna
    Henri writes that “making the best of it” is not what drinking the cup is about. I always thought that is was. If the wine has turned sour you use it for salad dressing.
    Perhaps he meant both making the best of it and perhaps not being ashamed of our plights. What comes to mind is the old notion of people deserving their misfortunes because they did something wrong and they were paying for it. It reminds me of John 9:2-3 “His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 I am wondering if this is what he meant by “Drinking our cup is a hopeful, courageous, and self-confident way of living.”

  26. Ms. Dean Robertson says:

    I take away with me a reminder of the quiet enrichment of my life by community found anywhere, of the daily contentment that comes to me in this energy of like-minded people, on the road to God, sharing their “confession and celebration”. Especially, my whole thinking about my friend, Chris, has changed as the result of the reminder of the power of this exact kind of community, and its prayers, for good in the world. I am willing to take into my heart a small portion of Chris’ burden; I pass along some of that burden to you; you pick it up; and, by all our wounds, Chris is healed.

    I am most struck, this Sunday morning, by one of the last lines in Nouwen’s book, “Jesus’ inviting us to drink the cup without offering the reward we expect is the great challenge of the spiritual life.” Again, I am reminded of my favorite, “The Path of Waiting,” where he says that the essence of the spiritual life is to wait “with expectation,” not of what we want, but in the hope that “something wonderful is about to happen.”

    This book club has been something wonderful in my life this month.

    And I do believe that “we are transformed into the one body of the living Christ, always dying and always rising for the salvation of the world.”

    • Jeanette F says:

      Dean, I thought of you when I read the daily meditation this morning.

      Wednesday August 6, 2014

      Being Joyful Witnesses

      To speak about Jesus and his divine work of salvation shouldn’t be a burden or a heavy obligation. When we go to people feeling that unless they accept our way of knowing Jesus, they are lost and we are failures, it is hardly possible to be true witnesses.

      It is a great joy when people recognise through our witness that Jesus is the divine redeemer who opened for them the way to God. It is a true cause for gratitude and celebration. But we should also be able to live joyful and grateful lives when our witness with deeds and words does not lead people to accept Jesus in the way we do.

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