Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Saint Bernard

All of our desires, the lot of them, the loftiest to most disreputable, have a great brilliant message. They reveal to us the depth of our need for God, for his mercy. They reveal as well the fathomless extent of God’s desire for each of us, his desire to fill our hearts with himself. He has made us for himself. He has no illusions about who we are, and he only quietly awaits a small yes from us to enter our hearts.

If only we really understood the depth of God’s love and desire for each of us, then everything would be changed, transformed. “His desire gives rise to yours,” says Saint Bernard, “and if you are eager to receive his word, it is He who is rushing to enter your heart; for He first loved us, not we Him.”

God alone can satisfy our desire. Anything less will always only leave us frustrated and empty. And God cannot bear to see us that way- empty, unfulfilled. Perhaps like Saint Bernard we long to be dissolved and be with God in Christ? Rest assured, God wants it more than we can possibly imagine.

Francisco Ribalta, Christ Embracing Saint Bernard, Oil on canvas, 1625-1627, 113 x 158 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Heart

If we love God  with one heart and one soul in accordance with the purity of our profession, there is no doubt that the love of God will be poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit and that the one Spirit of God will animate all of us, as if we were one body. None of us then will live for himself but for God, and all of us together will live in unity of spirit through the one Spirit that dwells within us. It is by the love of God that this unity of spirit is found in us and is preserved in us by the love of our neighbor.

These words of our Twelfth Century Cistercian father, Baldwin of Forde, inspire and challenge us. For we are meant to grow in love in this "school of love" that is the monastery. And how can we love God, if we neglect the brother in our midst?

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Tractate XV by Baldwin of Forde.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Assumption

Mary’s greatest joy comes from the knowledge that the all-powerful God delights in her “nothingness”, because he has found in her a human space and disposition where he can make himself at home and work unhampered. In Mary, every human faculty and desire responds with perfect harmony to the desires and expectations of the Creator.  This is dynamic sanctity, which overturns every convention and tradition and value-system of human society.  After Mary, only those will be called “blessed” who are poor in spirit and courageous enough to allow God to be everything in them. In Mary, God has proved that such a thing is possible, and from now on every child born of woman will be judged by the standard that the very human Mary has set.  Mary is said to have been “taken up into heavenly glory”, because she made herself fully malleable in God’s hands; and this being-taken-up by another, this “assumption”, swept up both her body and her soul, because she had held nothing back, because she had offered her whole being to God’s work and transforming activity.  From now on, the shape of every human life will either be Marian or it will have failed in fullness of humanity.

God wants the whole of us, body and soul, for himself.  He created our whole being and he wants our whole being back for his own delight and for our complete glorification.  It is impossible to talk about Mary’s ultimate transformation in glory without, at the same time, talking about the same vocation and destiny for ourselves. Mary’s Assumption opens the way for the glorification, along with her, of every member of the human race.  In isolation from us, the mystery of Mary really makes no sense. Can you imagine a church, or a world, in which, out of all human beings, only Mary has been saved?  Impossible!  No mother can be happy without her children!  In the same way that “Christ has been raised from the dead, as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”, so too Mary enters into divine glory right next after Christ, even while human history still continues; but she does so only as a trailblazing anticipation of our own assumption into heavenly life and bliss.  First, the Son; then, the Mother; finally, “at his coming, those who belong to Christ”, all those who have come to fullness of life in the divine Son as a result of the earthly Mother’s obedient love; “each one in proper order”, as St. Paul says.

Tintoretto, The Assumption of the Virgin , 1582-97, oil on canvas, Scuola di San Rocco, Venice. Reflection by Father Simeon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

God's Yearning

Hosea is one of my favorite books of the Bible. For me, it functions as a real window into what dwells within the heart of God and what swells forth from the heart of God. And what is that? God’s faithfulness. God’s unfailing faithfulness in remaining near us and always forgiving us. God’s yearning for us to return to Him. As Pope Francis so simply and directly phrases it, “God never tires of forgiving us.” Never. And I would even dare to say that God created us in order to forgive us. As St. Ambrose writes: “I thank the Lord our God who created such a marvelous work in which to find his rest. He created the heavens, and I do not read that he rested; he created the earth, and I do not read that he rested; he created the sun, the moon, the stars, and I do not read that even then he rested; but I read that he created man and that at this point he rested, having a being whose sins he could forgive.” (Heameron, IX 76) As the Prophet Hosea puts it: “I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord.”
Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Abbot Damian.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, 
for He is going to say, "I came as a guest, and you received Me."

We were delighted to receive these pictures of our friends' little daughter. So many come each day to visit this place, for peace and prayer and quiet. Their presence is a blessing. Truly the monastery belongs to the whole Church. And we monks are, as it were, simply the caretakers.

Every monastery is to continue the tradition of welcoming guests and the needy as Christ according to local circumstances. Let those whom the providence of God has led to the monastery be received by the brothers with reverence and kindness .

Texts from: The Rule of St. Benedict and The Constitutions of the Monks. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Today's Gospel from Saint Matthew narrates a true experience of Jesus as the living God, an encounter with Jesus that seizes the disciples' and our own attention. Matthew evokes the poetry of the Psalms, the Book of Sirach and the prophet Isaiah in which God, the Lord of all creation treads upon the waves, marches over the sea. And on this stormy night poetry morphs into reality as a boatload of disciples discover Rabbi Jesus doing what only God can do. And they are stunned, terrified, undone. Awed by this recognition of the divinity of Jesus, the disciples instinctively bow down before Jesus. This is the body language of worship, as they acknowledge their experience of the awesome presence of the Holy One of Israel. 

But Peter seeks even more. His response to Jesus, "Bid me come to you" discloses his desire for union with Jesus, truly human, truly divine. Jesus' reply, "Come" is an invitation and confirmation, revealing Jesus' desire for union and communion with Peter, with us- now.

Christ at the Sea of Galilee, Jacopo Tintoretto, Venetian,  c. 1575/1580, oil on canvas, 46 1/8 x 66 5/8 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington. Excerpts from this morning's homily by Father Isaac.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Reflecting on the monastic vocation, Thomas Merton writes, 

He who hears the voice of God must recognize that he is called to an adventure whose ending he cannot foresee because it is in the hands of God. That is the risk and the challenge of the monastic calling: we surrender our lives into the hands of God and never take them back. As to the joys, the hopes, the fears, the needs and the fulfillments that will come to us-- we do not plan on them, and we do not evade them. Our business is to seek first the Kingdom of God in solitude and in prayer. The rest will be taken care of.

Truly as monks, as spouses, as parents, we are continually learning over and over how to surrender our lives in love, trusting in the Father's care for us.