Friday, December 30, 2011

A Brother's Passing

Last week in the midst of our preparations for the great Solemnity of the Lord's Nativity, we paused to celebrate the funeral of our Brother Leo.

The procession through the Abbey cemetery.

Brother Amadeus assisted by Brother Francis prepares the body of our deceased Brother for internment.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God. In the fullness of time, in our time God spoke to us a Word most tender, Jesus our Lord. Jesus reveals all that God could say. Christ Jesus enfleshes the love God has for us, the love that pours itself out constantly. In Christ God loses himself in self-forgetful love. God Most High becomes God most low, emptying Himself in quiet into the womb of the Virgin Mary, becoming who we are, hidden now in our midst. This is God’s dream of intimacy with us. In stillness the Lord comes to take Mary's flesh, our flesh. As in the Eucharist he comes small and defenseless. Awe-filled adoration is our fitting response.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Come to save us!

In these last Advent days we chant the "O Antiphons" at Vespers, begging the presence of Christ using seven different titles. We often use nicknames for those who are dear to us. So it is fitting that we chant Jesus' "nicknames," titles that recall who he is for us: Wisdom, Lord, Flower, Key, Radiant Dawn, King and finally Emmanuel, the name that means God is with us. Always surrounding us, within us, closer to us than we know, Jesus our Lord longs for our presence even as long for him.

photograph of stone Madonna by Brother Jonah

Sunday, December 18, 2011


The Lord’s approach is so often unremarkable, so quiet that we need to keep watch, that is the essence of our life as monks. For we are always learning God's way of doing things, how he moves in silence and obscurity. Hidden first of all in the warm womb of a very young, virgin mother; he then lives a hidden small town life as a carpenter and wandering preacher. Then in the excruciating hour of his death on the cross, all his beauty and divinity will be obscured by the blood and spittle of his passion. And even after his resurrection he will sneak in quietly through locked doors and whisper to his disciples, “Peace.”

The Lord is disguising himself in our ordinariness over and over, hidden in mystery. But rest assured it is our love and desire that give us clear vision. Love is knowledge and assurance, because if we want to be with him, see him; he wants it more than we do.

Truly God in Christ is hidden and yet revealing himself over and over, doing anything at all to get our attention; “playing in ten thousand places,” in nature and grace all day long. We must keep watch, willing to be surprised at every corner of the cloister, as St. Bernard would say, because angels will be there reminding us, as one did our Blessed Lady, that Someone is here. Someone is coming. Someone wants to take our flesh. Someone we love has seen our sad predicament and is coming down to be with us now.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Am I Not Here?

Today we remember Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of our Land. Each year on this day we set up a special shrine in the transept of our church with her image adorned by flowers and two candles that are illumined throughout the day. She is our Mother and our Refuge in all tribulation. We are greatly consoled by her words to Saint Juan Diego in 1531:

Do listen, do be assured of it, my littlest one, that nothing at all should alarm you, should trouble you, nor in any way disturb your countenance, your heart. For am I not here, I, your mother? Are you not in the cool of my shadow? In the breeziness of my shade? Is it not I that am your source of contentment? Are you not cradled in my mantle, cuddled in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Like A Garden

Here is the Abbey's cloister garth in early summer- a secret garden surrounded by the four cloisters. This garden enclosed is a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her beauty and fragrance set apart for Christ alone, a place where He could nestle and grow. On this Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception we celebrate her chosenness. We rejoice in the Virgin Mary's privilege, for she reveals the breadth of our human capacity for God, the breathtaking beauty of our availability to all that God wants to accomplish in us.

A garden enclosed is my sister, my bride; a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up. Song of Songs 4

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Today the Church celebrates Saint Nicholas remembered through the ages for his generosity to the poor. We just came upon the following words of the martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero which we imagine the Bishop Saint Nicholas might have appreciated.

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God — for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.

Artwork by Elisabeth Jvanovsky

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Today we remember Saint Francis Xavier, one of the first companions of Saint Ignatius Loyola. They always remained close friends and exchanged letters while Francis Xavier was on mission in the Far East and Ignatius stayed in Rome. One letter from Ignatius to Francis Xavier concludes poignantly, "I shall never forget you. Entirely your own, Ignatius.” Imagine the deep friendship between these two saints. We hear an echo of the words of our own Cistercian Father, Saint Ælred of Rievaulx, “God is friendship.” Indeed it is through the love of those we love, that we may learn what God is like.