Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In A Family

Not long ago a friend was visiting the Cloisters Museum in New York and sent us this photo. The gentle playfulness of the Child Jesus seated on his mother's arm reminds us that Jesus was a real child in a real family. His little head leans quizzically as he holds a tiny ball in his left hand and grasps his mother’s veil with the other. Today as we celebrate the memorial of Saints Joachim and Ann, parents of Mary, grandparents of Jesus, we pray for families everywhere, for health and peace and safety.

Virgin and Child, ca. 1340–50, made in probably Paris, Île-de-France, France, limestone, paint, gilt, glass, Height 68 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

God Alone

As monks we have come to realize more and more that God alone is enough for us; and so we have surrendered our lives and fixed our gaze upon the Lord, retreating into the cell of our heart in the inhabited solitude of the cloister and fraternal life in community. In this way, we seek to become more and more an image of Christ Jesus our Lord who seeks to encounter the Father on the heights.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines adapted from Pope Francis' new Apostolic Constitution: Vultum Dei Quaerere.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mary Magdalen

We rejoice today on this new feast of Saint Mary Magdalen, first witness to the Resurrection, truly an evangelist who announces the joyful message of Easter to the apostles, indeed to the whole world. 

We love Mary Magdalen because of the way in which the boldness of her love for Jesus made her stare death down beyond all human logic or hope.  For her there is no question that the Messiah of Israel, sent to redeem all humankind, and the Beloved of her most intimate heart are one and the same person. She perseveres in weeping at the entrance to the tomb because she perseveres in her love: the presence and actions of Jesus in her own life had taught her that love is indeed stronger than death. Against all odds and logic, in a sort of sublime madness, she clings to her Jesus dead or alive; and she does not reason about a her relative physical strength when she says ironically to the man she thought was the gardener, “Tell me where you laid him, and I will take him away.” Because she loves Jesus so much, she is prepared to carry his body away single-handed.

Such passionate intensity surely was born from her gratitude at having had no less than seven demons driven out of her by Jesus. As one transformed by the healing power of Jesus’ love, she becomes “the apostle to the Apostles,” since more than any of them she can easily believe in Christ’s Resurrection. For all time St. Mary Magdalen stands as the foremost embodiment of the soul thirsting for God, the soul passionately seeking God.  And in the end she does find him. “He whom her heart loves” is also the Beloved of the Father who had first come seeking her. Mary could find him because he first chose, in utter love, to put himself within her reach.
Mary Magdalene Announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles, from the St. Albans Psalter, St Godehard's Church, Hildesheim. Reflection by Father Simeon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Requiem


On one day each month we celebrate the Office and Mass for the Dead, praying for our relatives, friends, benefactors and brethren who have died. Now with so much tragedy, so many senseless killings, our hearts are full and this morning we remembered as well all the recent victims of violence in Orlando, Nice, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Turkey. Unfortunately the list goes on and on. So many broken hearts, so many grieving. We stand in prayerful solidarity with them all, as we trust in the Lord Jesus who promises us eternal life.
Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Holy Desire

Strengthened by this past week of retreat, we pray that our desire for holiness will ever increase. We recall that even Saint Bernard had to remind his monks at Clairvaux that they were called to be saints, dedicated to living holy lives. He wrote: “This community is made up not of the wicked but of saints, religious men, those who are full of grace and worthy of all blessing. You come together to hear the word of God, you gather to sing praise, to pray, to offer adoration. This is a consecrated assembly, pleasing to God and familiar with the angels. Therefore, brothers, stand fast in reverence, stand with care and devotion of mind, especially in this place of prayer and in this school of Christ where the Spirit is heard.”

Photograph by Father Emmanuel . Lines from Sermon for St. John the Baptist, 1 by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

On Retreat

Our community retreat begins today. Moments of retreat are indispensable, because they invite us to intimacy with God and summon us to conversion. There is an antiphon that we sing that sheds light on the meaning of retreat. It is a paraphrase of the words of Jesus: “Come away awhile to a desert place and watch and pray with me to the Father. Listen to the Word, dwelling within the silence.” Jesus calls us to set aside our concerns and join him in a quiet place to pray to the Father. He wants to renew our strength, both physical and spiritual. And above all, he wants us to listen to the God’s word which always calls us closer to him but also lays bare the secrets of our hearts. These two elements are interwoven – closeness and conversion – and both are present in today’s readings.

The Book of Deuteronomy begins with a summons to conversion: “…heed the voice of the Lord, your God…and return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.” The discipline of a retreat, helps us realize that God is much nearer to us than we may have thought. Indeed, God’s word “is not too mysterious or remote…it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your heart; you have only to carry it out.” Going apart with Jesus, our hearts are opened to receive his Spirit; and the Spirit of Jesus awakens in us that obedience of faith which holds fast to God in all life’s difficulties.

In today’s Gospel a scholar asks, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” When Jesus asks him what the Law requires, he replies: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus approves his answer, but perhaps he was ready for a deeper encounter with this scholar. It seems the scholar did not want to go deeper; he only wanted “to justify himself...” that is, to prove he was right; to prove that he was learned in the law. And so to test Jesus he asks: “And who is my neighbor?”               

Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, whose heart was pierced when he saw the robber’s victim lying there half-dead, and compassion overwhelmed him. As the Samaritan turned in mercy to the other, we must do likewise, turning in mercy to others (and even toward ourselves, for we have our own wounds). This is how a retreat becomes fruitful: when it finds itself in the bosom of God's mercy. 

Seeing our own wounds and those of others, we can see who our neighbor is; following the example of the Good Samaritan, we learn who our God is. It is the Lord Jesus, who through his word and sacraments, pours oil and wine upon our wounds. And as in the silence and solitude of retreat we open our hearts to him, he wants to lay bare the secrets of his own heart for us, if we will allow him. 

Photograph by Brother Daniel. Adapted from this morning's homily by Father Vincent.

Friday, July 8, 2016

God's Reliability

God asks us to entrust ourselves to his word. Faith understands that something apparently so ephemeral and fleeting as a word, when spoken by the God who is fidelity, becomes absolutely certain and unshakable, guaranteeing the continuity of our journey through history. Faith accepts this word as a solid rock upon which we can build, a straight highway on which we can travel.

It is in Jesus that there appears “the complete manifestation of God’s reliability…the supreme manifestation of his love for us” which finds its clearest proof in Christ’s dying for our sake. “It is precisely in contemplating Jesus’ death (in the light of the resurrection) that faith grows stronger and receives a dazzling light.” It is this love, which in order to show its depth does not recoil from death but embraces it, that enables us to entrust ourselves to him completely. Indeed surrender to the light of faith unites us to Jesus. “Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes; it is a participation in his way of seeing.”

Photograph of Abbey windows by Brother Daniel. Reflections on Lumen Fidei, the encyclical letter of Pope Francis by Father Timothy.