Sunday, November 22, 2020

With Our King

If you were ever the new kid on the block, in the classroom, on the team, and remember how you just wanted to fit in... Or if you ever loved from afar and dreamed of being with a person who seemed too good, too beyond you and your clumsy efforts, and can remember how you just wanted to be close and somehow you just did not know how to do it... Or if ever you were all alone, far from home and had to eat in a restaurant by yourself at a teeny table and longed for family, someone familiar, a friend, the warmth of home and table, then perhaps you get a glimpse of what God is trying to do in the Incarnation. It as if for ages God had been trying to get closer, longing for intimacy with each of us, longing to be ordinary and hidden in our midst. Finally in Christ Jesus, God's desire for intimacy with humankind takes flesh. In Jesus God gives Everything, indeed His very Self. 

God always makes the first move toward us in love. “Love consists in this, not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent us his Son.” God so loves us, that He is always, constantly, very gently trying to get our attention. Monastic silence is only possible if we believe that we are so deeply loved and sought after by God. We need to feel safe to be silent. And anyone who has been in love knows that there are times in a loving relationship when words are unnecessary or would even inappropriate. Love makes silence possible, appropriate, meaningful, and secure. Silence depends on love and leads to love. Once again in the silence that love engenders, we are invited once again by Christ our Lord and Master and King to notice His divine presence in the least,  the lowest, and the last.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Presentation of Mary

 
An ancient tradition holds that Mary was presented in the Temple of Jerusalem as a little girl. And so today the Church celebrates Mary as Ark of the Covenant and House of Gold, the dwelling place of God Most High who chose her chaste body as his nesting place.

At this morning's Mass, we heard the Gospel reading in which a woman from the crowd listening to Jesus is so taken with him that she cries out, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed."  Jesus responds, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep  it.” Jesus tells us that we are like his mother when we hold on to the words he speaks to us and ponder them in our hearts. Then like Mary, we can become Christ-bearers.

The Child Mary Asleep, Francisco de Zurbaran, 1630-1635, oil on canvas,  Galerie Canesso, Lugano.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

To His Side

Today we remember Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn, a 13th century Cistercian nun from the convent of Helfta. Even in her lifetime Mechtilde was renowned for her humility, fervor and gentleness. Her prayer was marked by the great familiarity and intensity with which she lived her relationship with Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

It was said of Mechtilde that, "the words of the Gospel were a marvelous nourishment for her and in her heart stirred feelings of such sweetness that, because of her enthusiasm, she was often unable to finish reading it.” In one of her visions, Jesus opened the wound in his heart and said to her, "Consider the immensity of my love: if you want to know it well, nowhere will you find it more clearly expressed than in the Gospel. No one has ever heard expressed stronger or more tender sentiments than these, ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.’ 

In another vision Jesus showed Mechtilde his heart and after receiving such a unique grace in prayer, Saint Mechtilde exclaimed to Our Lord, "O generous King! Such a magnificent gift is not suitable for me. I am not even worthy to serve in your kitchen and wash the dishes there." Christ Jesus answered her, "The kitchen is my divine Heart. As the kitchen is open to everyone...so my heart is always open to all, and ready to give everyone what they desire."

Let us go to this Kitchen always.

Insights from an address of Pope Benedict XVI and from Scholars and Mystics by Sister Mary Jeremy, OP.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Eternal Rest


Lord Jesus, please have mercy on the souls of your servants!

Once a month during Ordinary Time, we celebrate the Office and Mass of the Dead, praying for our deceased brethren, relatives, friends, and benefactors. And so once again on this very chilly, autumn morning, it was our duty and privilege to pray these prayers.
 
In his Rule, Saint Benedict admonishes the monks, "keep death daily before your eyes." The Abbey cemetery is located outside the south cloister and provides a fitting memento mori. As we pass through this cloister, back and forth all day long, we can look out at the crosses marking our brothers' resting places. They are still with us. Death is not fearsome but part of our monastic rhythm,  a gateway to deeper intimacy with Christ Jesus who died and rose for love of us.

Requiem aeternam, Domine, dona eis.

Monday, November 16, 2020

With Saint Gertrude

 

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fountain of eternal life, your Heart is a glowing furnace of love. You are my refuge and my sanctuary. O my adorable and loving Savior, consume my heart with the burning fire with which yours is inflamed. Pour down upon my soul those graces which flow from your love. Let my heart be united with yours. Let my will be conformed to yours in all things. May your will be the rule of all my desires and actions.

These are words of Saint Gertrude the Great, a Cistercian nun of the thirteenth century, whom we remember today.  Her ardor inspires us to follow Christ more fervently, even with every fiber of our being.

O God, you are my God. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. Psalm 62

Andrea del Verrocchio, Christ and Saint Thomas, bronze, 1483, Orsanmichele, Florence.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Today's gospel


The Lord God Most High has lavished blessings upon us. Even given us His very Body and Blood  - this greatest Gift of all. Do I celebrate the love I have received, ready to share this Abundance with all in need? Or have I buried the Gift, hidden the great treasure of God's overflowing mercy and lovingkindness?

Photograph by Brother Daniel.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Hope

We face adversity as we look ahead to the remaining weeks of 2020. We are so often disheartened by the divisions in our nation and our Church. And we are distressed by ongoing inequities based on race, ethnicity, and national origin.  We have seen the dangerous impact of climate change in floods and fires.  We are concerned about our sisters and brothers who have lost jobs and homes. We are frightened and distressed by the grim statistics of a surging pandemic – so much suffering, so many deaths.  The tensions in the air have impacted us all even in the cloister.  We try to continue in patience and charity.  And we praise and thank God for the self-sacrifice of so many healthcare workers and people of goodwill everywhere. 

May we all be attentive to the unexpected graces that God will bestow on us during these trying times. As we look ahead, let us be mindful that with vaccines and therapeutics progressing, there’s every reason to hope. On this Saturday of Our Lady, we entrust our cares to her motherly protection.

Drawing by Leonardo. Message adapted from a text by Joseph O'Keefe, SJ.