Sunday, January 15, 2017

Jesus As Bridge

Reflecting on today's readings, Father Isaac invited us to ponder the image of Jesus as bridge- our bridge between heaven and earth. At once truly human and truly divine, Jesus our Lord supports and enables the reality of our very real connectedness, our crossing over into all that divinity is. Certainly this is something we look forward to as our final destiny, but, as Isaac reminded us, it is our reality even now, unfolding in the ordinariness of our lives. He then recalled the vision of Saint Stephen, just before he was stoned to death:

Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Stephen's vision is ours, for we are meant to notice the transparency of our earthly existence with divinity ever in sight. This is  our baptismal reality in Christ, renewed each day as we partake of his body and blood in the Holy Eucharist.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Through His Virginal Mother

To be inseparably God and man was unceasingly to accept the new life from his Father and at the same time to be heir, through his virginal mother, to all the earthiness of our humanity. It was to be the place where two pursuits, two thirsts, meet; the place where two worlds, of grace and of flesh, intermingle. It was to be the meeting point of two loves and the focus of their covenant; the place where two intense yearnings met, but also the source of their fulfillment. "Who would have believed what we have heard?" The fountain is there, and it is the heart of the Savior.








Image of the Virgin and Child from an ancient Cistercian manuscript. Lines from The Wellspring of Worship by Jean Corbon. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Unburdened

Because Jesus sees into the heart, he knows well that what burdens the paralyzed man in today’s Gospel most of all. It is the burden of his shame. For he knows the painful truth: his paralysis is the direct consequence of sin (maybe the sin of his parents, but probably his own sin.) He knows it; everybody in the town knows it, all decent Jews in Jesus’ day believed it. Sin leaves its mark; sin causes sickness. And so we can imagine he was reluctant, embarrassed to have four buddies carry him to Jesus, for he is sure that he deserves to be paralyzed. It’s probably his fault. Case closed. Dead end. Most truly human, most truly divine, Jesus our Lord comes to this dead end and says simply, "Child, your sins are forgiven" and then heals him. Jesus unburdens.

Trusting in the prayers of Saint Hilary who so ardently defended Jesus’ true divinity, let us beg Jesus, our Lord, God with us, to forgive us our sins. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Saint Aelred of Rievaulx

Here we are, you and I, and I hope that Christ makes a third with us. Spiritual Friendship

Saint Aelred whom we celebrate today could be certain that in his experience of relationship, Christ was ever present, for Christ Jesus is never ever in competition with his creation. God is Love. Love is one. And so Jesus is truly with us in all of our loving interconnectedness. And so Aelred will at last declare, “God is friendship.”

Image of Saint Aelred from an early Cistercian manuscript.

Monday, January 9, 2017

His Baptism

We imagine today's Gospel scene something like this. John has been so busy dunking people, he hasn’t noticed the next person in line. Quietly Jesus steps forward to be baptized, his head lowered. Jesus smiles shyly. John stops, looks around, then comes close to Jesus and whispers, “Ah, what are you doing here? Please don’t do this. Get out of here. I’m not doing it; I’m not baptizing you. If anything, you should be baptizing me.”

Why is Jesus here of all places? He has nothing to repent of? Why would he choose to do this? Perhaps it is that he couldn’t not do it. That’s what he’s telling John. And so his response is tender and insistent, “Please allow it now, for in this way we will fulfill all righteousness.” Simply put, he who is Love could do no less. 

Jesus has so identified himself with his people, his own- those he has prayed with and played with and worked and eaten with- that he wants to be with them, to do with them this awesome covenantal moment. He has to be there, there in the water with them, with us. For he is reconciling the world to himself, not counting our transgressions against us, "since for our sakes, God has made him who did not know sin, to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness of God.” Romans 5 

Jesus is with us in all that embarrasses and burdens us, our regrets and our failures, our sins. Only the passion of his love can explain his desire for baptism, his desire to take our flesh in the first place- no distance, no separateness but immersion and identification with us. He has come to share absolutely in our distress now in the water, and very soon on the cross. He wants to be with us. Love in Person has irreversibly plunged into the dark water of our humanness, into ordinariness. Jesus goes down into the cool waters of conversion to mark God’s irrevocable communion with us. Christ Jesus enfleshes both our sinful fragility and our restoration as he stands dripping wet in the Jordan. And thus he restores to us the realization of our belovedness in him.

 The Baptism of Christ Piero della Francesca, c. 1448-1450,  Tempera on panel, 66 x 46", National Gallery, London.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Epiphany

We have seen his star and have come with gifts to adore him.

Magi, wise visitors from the East, come to pay their homage to the Infant Christ. In this ancient mosaic they are of three different ages, and they advance with great intention, holding with arms extended their fantastically-shaped gifts. These Magi represent all that is opulent, foreign, extraordinary, even esoteric and exotic. They wear Phrygian caps, colorful leggings, gold and jewel-encrusted tunics and capes. They represent all the nations and ages of humanity with their wisdom and accomplishments, acknowledging the preeminence of Christ Jesus; he who is all beauty, all wisdom, all truth. 

As Abbot Damian reminded us in this morning's homily, the Magi follow the star with great desire and are overjoyed at seeing it rest over the Child. Father Abbot went on to say that many "stars" shine in our own lives, pointing to Christ's presence in our daily encounters with one another. These epiphanies great and small are the presence of God, which comes to us veiled in the beauty and love we may experience. God in Christ is breaking through to visit us from on high.

The Three Kings, mosaic, Byzantine School, 6th century, Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Poorest

It was the custom in the ancient world, long before engraved announcements or phones or text messages, that when a baby was born to a respectable family, messengers would be sent out to announce the birth to the “right sort of people,” friends of the family’s social class in the best neighborhoods of the city. So it is that heavenly messengers announce Jesus’ birth to shepherds. These poorest, smelliest, “lowest-esteemed laborers,” receive the birth announcement of God’s own Son. They are the “right sort of people” for our God, people of God’s own social standing. This open “traffic” of angels between heaven and earth in the Gospels is the great sign of the awesomeness of the event of the Nativity.(Luke JohnsonThe heavens are opened, angels are everywhere. There is now easy interchange for God’s dream of intimacy with his creation has come true in Mary’s womb. Through Mary heaven is wedded to earth in Christ Jesus her baby. And the right sort of people must be informed, people like us, poor sinners, desperate for the good news that is his mercy. 

Hugo van der Goes, The Portinari Altarpiece, c.1475, Uffizi Gallery, detail of shepherds.