Sunday, July 21, 2019

Hospitality

In the First Reading Abraham welcomes three heavenly guests, an image of the Blessed Trinity. But it is most of all these heavenly guests who are themselves the hosts, the gift-givers, who promise the favor of a Son to this aged couple. In the Gospel Mary sits and listens to Jesus, fascinated by her heavenly guest, while Martha prepares a meal for him.  Both offer him hospitality. Martha need not complain; she need only be mindful of the guest, the true host who longs to fill her and her sister with all good gifts.

The message of today's Gospel and First Reading is clearly one of hospitality. We must remember that first of all, it is God who is always our Host. God welcomes us, draws us to himself in Christ. God gives all good gifts, longs to feeds us, fills us with all good things. This is true most of all in the Mass, where God in Christ welcomes and feeds us with his Word and his very self in Holy Communion. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

No Other Way

We have no other way but Christ. To him we cling in all our anguish, in all our inability to repent, to purify ourselves, to pray. For he is our repentance, our cleansing, our prayer. It is in him that "anguish for death" becomes "anguish for God." For God incarnate, descending to hell, chose the way of horror in order to set us free.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines by Olivier Clement.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Monastery, a School

Saint Benedict calls the monastery "a school for the Lord's service." For Cistercians the monastery would be a "school of love." And traditionally Cistercian monks became known as "lovers of the brethren and the place." Here in the enclosure of the monastery in a hidden life of work and prayer, the monk is Christ's student continually learning from Him the way to love God and his brothers.

Photograph of the Abbey by Brother Casimir

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Our Retreat

Our annual community retreat has come to an end, but the words of Sister Maureen—her stories, her personal sharing, the rich array of quotes from our Cistercian fathers and mothers, both old and new—are still fresh in our minds. For the sake of our guests, Sister Maureen is the former Abbess of our Trappistine sisters in Wrentham, MA. It seems that the Lord chose her to bring his words to us, words filled with Spirit and life. And as we are sent back into the vineyard of our monastic life, I think Jesus wants to give us a word in continuity with and complementary to what Mother Maureen offered. And that word is the first reading from Deuteronomy.

The Book of Deuteronomy was a long reflection on the Israelites’ covenant relationship with God. On almost every page, the author (or authors) of Deuteronomy remind the Israelites of the mighty deeds that God had done for them and the need to reform their lives and renew their commitment: that is, to “heed the voice of the Lord, your God…and keep his commandments and decrees…” Our retreat was something like that, with the Spirit reminding us through Sister Maureen of all that Jesus has done for us personally and as a community. The Book of Deuteronomy goes even further combining reminders with forceful warnings. But we need those warnings, lest we become complacent towards the awesome responsibility we have received. It is no less than this: to be a hidden sign of Jesus’ prayer, his obedience, his common life with his Father and his brothers and sisters. This is our mission for his bride the Church.

There is another aspect of Deuteronomy that complements our retreat conferences: a sense of urgency - “when you return to the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.” The urgency was expressed gently by Sister Maureen but frequently; Deuteronomy expresses it very strongly (which must have put the fear of God into the Israelites): “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you. I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life then that you and your descendants may live.” And for us that means choosing over and over the ordinary, obscure, and laborious joy of our monastic vocation. Brothers, our Lord has a fire to cast upon the earth, and he rightly expects that his monks will be the tinder.

Finally, the reading from Deuteronomy concludes with these words: “This command I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky…Nor is it across the sea… No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out." The word of the Lord that has been given to us is indeed very near, a word that stands by our side, a Paraclete. Sister Maureen’s retreat conferences were a kind of Paraclete. When Deuteronomy spoke of the word as being very near to us, St. Paul interpreted that the mean the nearness of the word of faith, a word brought near by the Spirit who breathes into us the gift of faith. The Spirit puts into our mouths the confession that Jesus is the one Lord and in our hearts the realization that God raised him from the dead. This word is not too mysterious and remote for us; it is very near, the pure gift of the Spirit and life.

Brothers and sisters, the word of the Lord is in our mouth in our hymns of praise and in our heart as the seal of our hope of the resurrection. In a few moments the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus himself will be in our mouths and in our hearts. That will truly be Spirit and life for us. 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Today's homily by Father Vincent.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Retreat

Our annual week-long retreat begins today, a time for greater silence and focus; a time of less work and more time for quiet prayer. As we move into this subtle shift in our rhythm, we remember why we have come to this place; we are aware of our desire and Christ's desire coinciding. And so we recall the words of a favorite antiphon that we sing, 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.” Sister Maureen from our Cistercian monastery in Wrentham will give us talks each morning.

All week long we want to open our hearts to the loving presence of the Lord Jesus in all things, drawing us to Himself over and over. We send our prayers to all follow this blog, to all our benefactors and all our friends and neighbors. 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

With Our Lady on Saturday


When, despite our foolishness, our sinfulness, all our resistances, we dare to say yes to the Lord, we are blessed indeed. For then we come to inhabit a place where all things are possible, a place where we can even rejoice in our nothingness as Our Lady did. As always it is a matter of letting ourselves be loved and daring to believe, to trust in Another’s love and desire. Perhaps we could call it- holy allowing. Those who are in love have always known that. They know enough to trust in the foolishness of another’s fondness and partiality. How good it is to put everything else aside each morning and go to him, up to the altar of God to receive this Best Gift of his Body and Blood, which each day reminds us who we are- deeply loved sinners, from whom Jesus our Lord will never ever depart.

A rendition of the sanctuary of the Abbey church in an etching by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971). 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Independence Day 2019

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

Thus did the Declaration of Independence explain why the revolution was necessary. But this was just a beginning for us. No success is ever final, and there are always new challenges for us to face as Americans. Certainly during the Civil War the conscience of our nation's finest leaders recognized that slavery was antithetical to our nation's founding principles. And we continue to be engaged in a great contest, a struggle for the soul of America. 

For the principle that all human persons are created equal remains a stumbling block. It is a truth that that has a transcendent Source; it comes from above. This is what Jesus points to, when he declares in the Gospel that the Father makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust - on everyone always and everywhere. God is the Father of all without distinction. And all of us are therefore equally God's children, entrusted with the provident care of one another, without distinction. 

To attempt a government whose foundational principle is the the equality of all is eminently consistent with God's will. It is to this greatness that God's Spirit continually summons us. This is our unfinished work as Christians, as Americans.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father Isaac's homily for July Fourth.