Sunday, April 23, 2017

Jesus and Thomas

A whole Sunday is set aside by the Church to celebrate the abundance and constant availability of Jesus' mercy. As we see Thomas put his hand into Jesus' open side, we pray with our Cistercian Father, Blessed William of Saint Thierry:

Those unsearchable riches of your glory, Lord, were hidden in your secret place in heaven until the soldier's spear opened the side of your Son our Lord and Savior on the cross, and from it flowed the mysteries of our redemption. Now we may not only thrust our finger or our hand into his side like Thomas, but through that open door may enter whole, O Jesus, into your heart, the sure seat of your mercy, even into your holy soul that is filled with the fullness of God, full of grace and truth, full of our salvation and our consolation. Open, O Lord, the ark door of your side, that all your own who shall be saved may enter in, before this flood that overwhelms the earth. Open to us your body's side, that those who long to see the secrets of your Son may enter in and receive the sacraments that flow therefrom, even the price of their redemption. Open the door of your heaven, that your redeemed may see the good things of God in the land of the living. Let them see and long, and yearn and run...

Andrea del Verrocchio, Christ and Saint Thomas, bronze, 1483, Orsanmichele, Florence. Lines from William of Saint Thierry, Meditations, 6.11-12

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Understanding

On the night before he died, when Jesus wanted to give his disciples the most accurate understanding possible of what he was about to do on the cross, he did not give them a theory. He gave them an action: a meal interpreted by a foot washing.

It was very intimate, precious and personal. It was as if Jesus were saying: "I am doing this for you; yes, you. Not just the person sitting next to you. I can cleanse and refresh every part of you: the sad parts, the lonely parts, the messy and muddled parts, the parts you wish with all your heart could be healed. They can be. Let me wash you. Taste my bread and drink my wine. This is what my coming death is all about." Indeed this is what his Resurrection is all about.

Meditation by Abbot Damian. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

When Desire Grows

When a man's intellect is constantly with God, his desire grows beyond all measure into an intense longing for God and…is completely transformed into divine love. For by continual participation in the divine radiance his intellect becomes totally filled with light; and when it has reintegrated its passible aspect, it redirects this aspect towards God, filling it with an incomprehensible and intense longing for Him and with unceasing love, thus drawing it entirely away from worldly things to the divine. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Maximus the Confessor.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Always

Our Easter celebration is imbued with joy, marked by the ringing of bells, the lights, incense, solemn vestments, and the seemingly continuous chant of Alleluia.  And this is entirely as it should be.  For what other emotion could we feel when, after reliving the Lord’s suffering and death, after contemplating his lying in the tomb, we encounter him risen from the dead, returned to us with his promise, “I shall remain with you always."

We naturally assume  that this same joy also permeates the Scriptural accounts of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances, that the disciples were overjoyed to see the risen Lord, but in fact, only Luke makes specific mention of joy, and then only once.  In verse 41 of chapter 24, while the two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus were recounting their experience to the Eleven, Luke mentions, almost in passing, that when Jesus himself appeared, “they still disbelieved for joy.”

Strangely enough, the emotion that dominates the biblical accounts of these encounters is fear. The kind of fear we are talking about certainly contains an element of fright or alarm, but limiting our reading to this narrow range of emotions would be a mistake.  Because even though all these incidents or encounters were unprecedented and even unheard-of, and would certainly have startled or frightened those who witnessed or experienced them, they were essentially manifestations of the power of God.  Therefore the fear they evoked  was holy fear, overwhelming awe at the presence of the Omnipotent God.  


Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Abbot Damian.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How Foolish

Not long ago we heard about a disabled man named Walter who lives in a group home for the severely physically handicapped. Walter loves to dance. But this is next to impossible given his condition. And at parties when he has made attempts, wiggling and shaking, he has been restrained by staff who fear for his safety. One day the sounds of rock music and loud crashes are heard upstairs in the residence. The ruckus is traced to Walter’s room. Nurses rush upstairs, knock frantically, call Walter’s name and finally burst into his room. They see him twirling around and falling to the floor as the music booms. He is flushed and sweaty and laughing. As they rush to help him up, he reassures them, “It’s OK, the falls are part of the dance.”

It is probably something we all get to learn sooner or later- how to welcome the falling, the mess and see it as opportunity, perhaps even grace. How wonderful then to have the Lord Jesus remind us this morning in the Gospel, "Oh, how foolish you are!" We have forgotten that the falls and seeming disasters are opportunities for God's intervention. We too often forget that the Lord Jesus, the Lord of all creation, the promised Messiah had to suffer and die. "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Christ Jesus

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The organisation of the monastery is directed to bringing the monks into close union with Christ, since it is only through the experience of personal love for the Lord Jesus that the specific gifts of the Cistercian vocation can flower. Only if the brothers prefer nothing whatever to Christ will they be happy to persevere in a life that is ordinary, obscure and laborious. And may he lead them all together into eternal life. 

Detail of resurrected Christ by Bergognone. Lines from The Constitutions of the Monks.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Resurrection is not simply a doctrine. It is not just a future fact for us, or a past event for Jesus that we celebrate on Easter Sunday. It is a person, and according to the Fourth Gospel the disciples believed that when resurrection happened, it would happen to all God’s people all at once. Not to one person in the middle of time. Not just to Jesus. That would be an odd, outlandish event, unimagined, unheard-of. Resurrection is a new creation in the person of Jesus for all of creation. 

There was another “emptying of a tomb” shortly before Christ’s death and resurrection. When Jesus raised Lazarus, Lazarus returned to present life. The echoes of the Lazarus story in the Easter Gospel are there partly to tell us that it was the same kind of event, but mostly to tell us that it was not.  Lazarus came back into a world where death still threatened. Jesus goes on through death and out into a new world, a new creation, a new life beyond, where death itself has been defeated and life, life in all its fullness, can begin again. Easter is the beginning of a new creation, not just for Jesus but for all of us in him.

As we face the many dark and chaotic places in our world, and no doubt many dark places in our own lives where fear, resentment, shock and anxiety cripple our understanding, restrict our faith and stifle our love, let us follow Jesus out of that empty tomb, out of the dark and into the light of eternal Day. Jesus himself, risen from death to the glory of eternal life, is the beginning of the new story of our lives— not a distant historical event, but as Caryll Houselander loved to insist, “We are his resurrection; he continues to rise within us.”

The stone has been rolled away. The day dawns with a new light. The earth quakes in celebration and joy. Christ is risen, and in him so have you and I.  Jesus is alive and with us. He calls us now to live everyday as Easter. His resurrection is not a one day celebration. It is a way of life. This means that every cross may flower with new life, every tomb become a womb of new birth, and every darkness be overcome by light. That is why we proclaim with hope arising from the very center of our sorrows and losses,  “Alleluia! Christ is risen!”
Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Dominic.