Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Down There

Perhaps we had thought that God was after us, trying to catch us, watching from far off to see if we would mess up. But perhaps we got it wrong. God in Christ is never that far away, he’s with us; he has come to share unreservedly in all that we go through. He is always able to empathize with us in our weaknesses. He has been tempted in every way that as we are, yet without sinning.  He has taken upon himself all that we are. It’s who he is. He’s not far away spying on us; he’s down here with us in the mess, accompanying us, even in the confusion of our temptations.

Jesus' will was always to do the will of him who sent him. Yet incredibly he was tempted to do otherwise. Like us in all things but sin; he knows the reality of what it means to be pulled in the wrong direction. So much does Jesus love us, that our temptation to sin has become his temptation. And by identifying with us down there, Jesus has paved the way for us to share the righteousness that characterizes God himself, “so that in him we might become the very holiness of God." 

Some years ago in the flush of new fervor, a love for Christ I had never before experienced, I think I felt a bit rarefied and somewhat above the common fray. I remember one afternoon a temptation sneaking in, softly, suddenly, insistently. I was embarrassed, lost my balance. Imagine feeling such things again; I was supposed to be way beyond that now. And as I tried to pray through it, I sensed Jesus somehow saying to me, very quietly but definitely, “Would you be less than I am?” “Would you be less than I am?” which is to say, “I went through all of these things, I was tempted in every way as you are, I am, I will be with you, in you, through all of it. Trust me, rely on me alone. Don’t you want to be like me?” 

Our weaknesses, our temptations are a place of encounter with Christ. Down there we have the blessed opportunity to depend on him alone, to cry out in our helplessness and flee to him for refuge, hide in him. Then he can save us, for his power is always completed in our weakness.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by one of the monks.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Saint Joseph

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife. For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph our patron, we go to him as our great exemplar in faith and faithfulness. Perhaps brokenhearted, disappointed, surely confused, Joseph trusted God, and he trusted Mary. He let his life be turned around by God's desire to take our flesh. Saint Bernard will say that God had found in Joseph one to whom He could entrust His dearest secret. Joseph made a home for God in Christ. 
Statue of Joseph at the lavabo with orchids grown by Brother Adam.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Way Out

We remember a movie shown at the monastery a few years ago called Moonstruck. In one scene Rose is sitting in the parlor with her almost son-in-law Johnnie. She has become painfully aware that her husband Cosmo is unfaithful, and it’s killing her, eating her up inside. And she says to Johnnie something like, “Why do men cheat on their wives?” He closes his eyes, thinks for a moment and says, “Fear of death.” “That’s it,” Rose replies. Just then the front door opens and her husband walks in. Without missing a beat, she yells to him, “Cosmo, you’re gonna die anyway!” “Thank you, Rose, for that sentiment,” he says; as he walks upstairs to bed.

Perhaps our lives like Cosmo’s are marked by a continual flight from death but at the same time toward death. We just can’t avoid it. We’re stuck. And in the face of the inevitability of our death, our one time dying, and our daily dyings - the pains and sins and defeats we cannot control - we may want to run. But Jesus comes to show us a more excellent way; he shows us that death has no more power over us.

He tells us that the seed must fall into the earth to bear abundant fruit, and then, “When I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to myself.” Clearly his “lifting up” is his crucifixion. He will be raised up on a cross of humiliation, pain and death. His lifting up will be his self-gift to his Father for us. And when he says, “Where I am, there also will my servant be,” it is because he longs to draw us with him to the Father through the very narrow gate of his passion.

Jesus shows us that God dreams something extraordinary and beautiful for us. Jesus reveals that the cross, all of our crosses, are a way out. He longs to draw us into his own his loving self-offering as a way out of death - self-giving as a way that absolutely cancels death, smashes it to pieces forever. “For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross despising its shame,” because he knows that death is only a gateway, excruciatingly painful, but an utterly porous membrane that we can break through by means of love - the very gift of ourselves to him and to our brothers and sisters.

An etching of the Abbey by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971).

Friday, March 16, 2018


We become humble, not because we see ourselves - one way or another, that always leads to pride because false humility is just another aspect of pride, perhaps the most difficult to conquer - but only if we see God and his humility.  Alexander Schmemann

When our hearts are broken open, suddenly aware that God in Christ has lowered himself  for us and wants to care for us, wants to wash our feet and cleanse and free us by the flood of blood and water gushing from his broken heart, then we can fall in reverence and wonder and see at last who we are, and who he is for us.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Two Notes

Recently discovered correspondence between two monks:

One writes: “What shall I say? I feel so frustrated but not abandoned, pressed on all sides in a million ways, as we continue here in his school of love. I am perplexed, but not in despair. And I hope, I believe I am trying more ardently, faithfully, unremittingly to hold Jesus as my treasure in my crumbly clay self. I falter, I fear, I doubt, but he is so often so gracious to me in prayer, so sweet, as is his Virgin Mother.”

His senior responds: “Your self-reflection reveals two important things. First, your total Christ-centeredness, even while aware of your own lacunae and dark pulls. The other thing is your sense that life is a walk on the tightrope of faith, with an abyss gaping beneath you. But, despite occasional vertigo, which is inevitable considering the circumstances, your heart is certain you are held in Christ's firm grasp. I can't imagine a better place to be, all said and done!” 

Postcard from the Abbey archives.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Our Need

We rejoice in the reality of a forever wounded God. And as Jesus will remind Saint Faustina, the only one who will be abandoned is the one who refuses to allow him to be merciful to them. Who would dare be so stupid or foolish? The access is too easy for us to do otherwise. It’s all there in and through him, all this mercy. The wounds of our sins remind us of our need for mercy. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my pick, my paintbrush, my needle — and my heart and my thoughts.

Always seeking our attention, looking for any chance to draw us in love for him, for our neighbors and for our deepest selves, Jesus is indeed always very near.

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Quotation by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.