Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mechtilde

Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Mechtilde, a thirteenth century Benedictine nun from the monastery of Helfta in Germany. Mechtilde had a tender devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who opened His wounded side to her in love and gave her His Heart as a place of refuge and consolation. In one of her visions Jesus told Mechtilde that His Heart was like a kitchen where we could go to get whatever we needed at any time. In another He told her, "In the morning let your first act be to greet My Heart and to offer Me your own." Jesus continued, "Whoever breathes a sigh toward Me, draws Me to himself." 

It only takes a sigh. Let us sigh quietly, insistently, confidently.

Photograph by Brother Brian  of  a bas-relief crucifix by Suzanne Nicolas  in the Abbey church.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beyond Fairness

   
    What sort of fairness is going on here? We are obviously not talking about fairness at all. What we are talking about is a higher level of consciousness where the normal rules just do not apply. This is a theoretical story told to make a point about three kinds of people.  Each of the three responds to the divine good fortune differently.  In neither case is the amount of money determined by the servant “earning” it. Neither of them deserves anything. We think that because we are good and work hard, it is only fair that we should be rewarded. This is fairness in the way of the world. However, Jesus is not talking about that kind of “fairness.” He is trying to raise our consciousness to a divine level. His Father who sent Him loves him (and loves us), unconditionally and without limit.  Five talents or two talents or one talent are all irrelevant in this story. In this parable the first two servants got this point and were not afraid to risk losing their gifts. After all, the same source who gave them their talents out of a divine, unlimited goodness would continue to be good to them. They knew that. They might as well use this money as a way of being grateful.  It had nothing to do with deserving or earning God’s goodness. It had everything to do with gratitude.
    In the section which follows this parable just before the Passion, Matthew tells another story with the same theme. This is the story of Mary of Bethany who anointed the head of Jesus with costly ointment. She is strongly defended by Jesus when the others begin to criticize her extravagant expression of love. In both stories, we are dealing with a new level of logic. We are at the heart of the mystery we call the Incarnation.  The world,and all its comparisons of good and bad, more and less, success and failure, have just been made irrelevant. The only one in the crowd who seems to have gotten the point is this woman, who extravagantly emptied her jar of perfumed oil all over the head of Jesus. The men of the world and the followers of the world’s rules are horrified. Jesus gives solemn testimony, not only to the woman’s spiritual wisdom and understanding, but also to her courage in daring to go way beyond the logic and the normal rules of human affection and courtesy.
    Now, it is our turn. We are invited to risk everything and place all our trust in this divine level of life.  Let us take the risk of believing in this mystery of unlimited, but at the same time, incarnate love, which goes way beyond all our pathetic human rules.  

Photograph by Michael Rivera. Excerpts from Father Robert's homily for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time.                                       

Friday, November 14, 2014

Praying in Him

   Truly Jesus is our place of prayer. All of our praying takes place in his heart; for we can only pray in him, through him. Indeed, we can only pray at all because he prays first, begging the Father incessantly on our behalf. And each time we step into the Abbey church, we enter Christ’s wounded heart, the sanctuary that he is for us. In our praying through him, in him we are becoming more and more with him a most beautiful temple, a life-giving flood of mercy gushing from our woundedness, if we will allow it. 
   This transcendent beauty of the wounded, resurrected Jesus is what we reveal as individuals, as monastic community and as Church. We are his most beautiful body, a temple meant to overflow with mercy and compassion. He is our broken wounded Self, forever risen and pierced.
Photographs by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saint Martin


Saint Martin shares his military cloak with a shivering beggar, and Jesus notices. That night in a dream He visits Martin wearing the half-cloak he had shared. The beggar is Christ. A bit of unseasonable balminess this morning reminds us that in Italy a warm spell at this time of the year is called l'Estate di San Martino- Saint Martin's Summer. Legend has it that after Martin had shared his cloak, God made it a little warmer so that neither Martin nor the beggar would suffer from the cold with only a half a cloak each. 

Those who need us are the Lord Jesus in disguise. How will I encounter Him this day? 


El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), Greek, 1541 – 1614, Saint Martin and the Beggar, 1597/1599, oil on canvas with wooden strip added at bottom, 76 3/16 x 40 9/16 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington.     Francí Gomar , Spanish, Aragon, active by 1443–died ca. 1492/3, Altar Predella of Archbishop Don Dalmau de Mur y Cervelló,  detail, Saragossa, 1456–1458, Alabaster, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Used with permission.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Temple

“He was speaking of the temple of his Body.” The temple of his Body. The temple that will be destroyed and raised up is not the temple of stone but the temple of Jesus’ own body. The temple, the sanctuary, will no longer be a place, but a person. Jesus declares himself now and forever the meeting place between God and his people, the place where God’s desire for us and our desire for God merge.

Jesus will restore the meaning of temple as sacred place of wonder and worship; the sanctuary where we may encounter God’s mercy. Jesus himself is God’s Lamb who will be slain once and for all. His self-offering in its bitterness and pain, in its immeasurable mercy and compassion will fulfill all that the temple liturgy aspired to. Jesus’ sacrifice will reinvigorate the meaning of all liturgy, for it means service- leitourgía. And liturgy is always, always first of all God’s service of us. This is the true meaning of worship: our celebrating with gratitude and praise all that God in Christ is doing for us. It is not about us, our service of God, but God’s astonishingly humble service of us in Christ. Jesus as physician, healer, and messenger of the new covenant comes to serve us, to heal and feed and console us. It is his risen and wounded body that is our sanctuary. 

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” says Jesus. He is referring to his Hour, the Hour of his passion, death and resurrection. For it is most of all in this Hour that he will truly become the place where we can encounter the most tender, self-emptying love and service of the Father for all creation. For when Jesus’ body, his heart, is gashed open and shattered by the horror of the passion, it becomes that wonderful leaky temple of Ezekiel’s vision in the First Reading, life-giving waters flowing from his wounded body, recreating the beauty of Paradise. For in his Hour death dies, for Jesus’ Hour includes his final lifting up, the resurrection, accomplished by the Father’s love.

Antique corpus in the Abbey Hermitage photographed by Brother Brian. Excerpts from this mornings homily for the Feast.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Work of God


We believe that the divine presence is everywhere
and that "the eyes of the Lord
are looking on the good and the evil in every place."
But we should believe this especially without any doubt
when we are assisting at the Work of God.
To that end let us be mindful always of the Prophet's words,
"Serve the Lord in fear"
and again "Sing praises wisely"
and "In the sight of the Angels I will sing praise to You."














Let us therefore consider how we ought to conduct ourselves 
in sight of the Godhead and of His Angels, 
and let us take part in the psalmody in such a way 
that our mind may be in harmony with our voice.


Photographs of monks at the Divine Office by Brother Brian. Text from Chapter 19 of  The Rule of Saint Benedict. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November

We notice transitions as autumn wears on; transitions subtle and bold; and the leaves dying and falling in this most beautiful of ways.  
Nature helps us, as we learn how to welcome the dying, the falling, all the alternations and transitions in our lives together as opportunities for God, opportunities for hope, opportunities for grace.