Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mary in the Upper Room

This morning Saint Luke relates that the Apostles and disciples returned to the upper room and devoted themselves to prayer, waiting for the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. They were to be clothed with power from on high so that they could witness to the marvel of the Risen Lord. And Luke says that Mary, the mother of the Lord, was there. Mary’s role in preparing the disciples for the coming of the Spirit was very important indeed, for in her the disciples could see that what they were waiting and praying for– to be clothed with the Spirit– had already happened in Mary. The promise of the Father had already clothed her with power, the power that Jesus had: patient endurance; loving forgiveness; unshakable peace and joy– all fruits of the Spirit’s presence. The disciples realized that being clothed with the Spirit meant becoming something like Mary.

Mary’s role in preparing for the Spirit goes deeper. She was like an open window given by the Spirit to gaze into the very life of the Trinity. That is because like Jesus she had accomplished the work the Father had given her to do. Her one desire, like that of her Son, was to receive from the Father with grateful acceptance whatever he gave her; and once received, to give back to the Father her whole self in order to glorify him. Gazing through this window which is Mary, the disciples could glimpse the eternal life to which the Spirit was calling them.  

The Scriptures say that the disciples “devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” It was in the breaking of the bread at Emmaus that the two disciples first recognized the Risen Lord. Perhaps something similar happened in the upper room. During the breaking of the bread, the disciples not only recognized that the Lord Jesus was present; but they recognized in Mary what the Spirit intended them to become – one spirit with the Lord; “a chosen race, a royal priesthood”…a people set apart to declare the marvelous works of the one who had brought them out of darkness into his own marvelous light. In the breaking of the bread the Spirit would bring forth the Church, patterned on Mary. 
Excerpts from Father Vincent's homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter:A.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Welcoming God's Spirit

Come, Creator Spirit,
visit the minds of your children,
and fill the hearts you have made,
with heavenly grace.

You are called the Comforter,
the gift of God most high,
living spring, and fire, love,
and spiritual anointing. 

You are sevenfold in your gifts,
the finger of God’s right hand;
you are the Father’s  true promise,
endowing our tongues with speech. 

Enkindle your light in our senses,
infuse your life in our hearts;
strengthen our bodies’ weakness
by your never failing might.

Drive far away our foe,
and grant peace without end,
that with you to lead us on,
we may escape all harm. 

Grant us, through you,
to know the Father, also the Son;
may we ever believe in you,
the Spirit of them both.
Amen.

In preparation for the great Solemnity of Pentecost, we pray our novena to the Holy Spirit. And each evening at Vespers, we chant this ancient Latin hymn. We share a fine translation completed by one of the monks.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Saint Philip Neri

We rejoice today as we remember Saint Philip Neri, ardent lover of the Lord and man of great joy and cheerfulness. Known for his playful wit, he once remarked, "A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one." We love the story of a scrupulous Roman fashionista who came to him seeking counsel. She told Saint Philip that she feared she was being too vain, as she was fond of wearing the high-heeled shoes that were all the rage. Philip told her his only fear was that she might fall down. 

Saint Philip Neri, Carlo Dolci, Italian, 1645 or 1646, oil on canvas, 17 1/4 × 14 1/4 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ascension

Numerous manuscript paintings, such as this one from the early thirteenth century, show the Apostles and Our Lady gazing up at the feet of Jesus as he disappears into the heavens. We can imagine their sorrow and confusion. But we rejoice, for where he has gone, we hope to follow. His glorious Ascension into heaven is our destiny, our promised inheritance. As members of his Body, the Ascension of Jesus is the first moment of our own disappearance into God. 

"I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me," we hear Jesus tell his Father. His love has the power to draws us where he is in glory, our work is to be utterly nonresistant to this love.

Yes, angels tremble when they see 
how changed is our humanity; 
that flesh hath purged what flesh had stained, 
and God, the flesh of God, hath reigned.

Ascension in an Initial V, Niccolò di Ser Sozzo (Sienese, active 1348– died 1363), The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission. Lines from Æterne Rex Altissime, the monastic hymn for the Ascension.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

More

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
 John 16

Again today Jesus promises us his Spirit, the Spirit who will continue to reveal to us the more that God is. This more, this infinity of God’s self-communication, is ours in Christ Jesus. God in Christ ceaselessly pours himself out for us, to us, in us. Our work is constant openness,  incessant availability to this more that Jesus longs to bestow.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A New Reality

John’s Gospel is believed to have been written for the church of Ephesus at the end of 1st century; it addresses an emerging Christian community in transition, adjusting to their separation from Judaism. Many or all of these early Christians had in fact been expelled from the synagogue. Certainly they were disoriented.

And so appropriately John writes a highly symbolic text, which invites them to a radical reorientation and self-understanding. It is perhaps intended as a consolation for them, a reminder that as Christians they belong to a different reality, a new world that is hidden under the outer reality of things. 

And so John’s language is one of radical relationality: “I am in my Father, and you are in me. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,and I will love him and reveal myself to him." We are reminded that we are in radical relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit; we are embedded in the Trinity, for we have been born from above.

Still like those early Christians we too may experience the tension of a world not yet fully transformed, a situation that is ‘already’ and ‘not yet.’ And we monks have Saint Benedict to exhort us, “Your way of acting should be different from the world's way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” Benedict reminds us where we belong, better still to whom we belong. It is our love of Christ, but first of all His love for us that has changed everything.

Indeed only such love can reorient us. And so we live with eager longing for the in-breaking of love; transformative moments, when we can see that in Christ we are “out of this world”- out of the system that puts aggression and success first, the world of political discourse where one-upmanship takes hold, a world where ease and accomplishment grant status and prestige. We belong somewhere else; we have been called into a new order, a new cosmos named the kingdom- where Christ’s power over us is shown best in our weakness, where compassion overcomes fear, where the truth of Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection redefine any earthly notion of success. We are poised to notice glimpses of this new world.  
Photo by Brother Brian.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Free

We once heard the story of the little boy from Italy who comes to America with his father; they are going to live with relatives in New York. They are poor; the father has scraped together just enough to buy two tickets for passage on an ocean liner. And with the bit of money that’s left he has bought a wheel of cheese and a few loaves of bread. This will be their food for the entire trip. Then one day the little boy, precocious as he is, wanders all over the ship and discovers the grand dining room. Plates full of food, so many people. And he spots a family from his village. He goes to them and learns the amazing truth. Then he races back to his teeny cabin. “Papa,” he says. “We can eat as much as we want; it’s free, e gratuito. It comes with the ticket.”

God wants to regale us. "God is to be enjoyed," says St. Augustine. A banquet is prepared for us; he is the banquet. Maybe too often we lower our heads and come to him with bowls that are much too small. Maybe we don’t want to risk being disappointed. But Jesus wants to fill us up with himself. Fill us with an infinity of compassion and mercy. We need to think big, bring a bigger bowl. Perhaps this is what Isaiah is trying to tell us: 

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. For I, the Lord, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as ransom for you, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you and nations in exchange for your life. Isaiah 43
Photographs of  the Abbey in spring by Brother Brian.