Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Visitation

The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Like Our Blessed Lady, with Our Lady we too are tabernacles of the most High God; the Lord is within us. As the Lord rejoices over us, singing joyfully because of our openness to him, we rejoice greatly with Our Lady for all that the Lord in his mercy has done for us.

The Visitation, c. 1495, attributed to Rueland Frueauf the Elder, German (c. 1445 - 1507)
Oil on panel,  27 5/8 x 14 15/16 in., Fogg Museum.

Lines from the Prophet Zephaniah 3.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Feast of God's Embrace

We share some excerpts from Father Abbot's Pentecost homily:

Mesopatamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome. These names belong to the Jewish diaspora- all those places where Jews spread after being exiled from Jerusalem. Luke’s point here is that everyone in the Jewish world was capable of hearing the Good News, even if the accent pointed to Galilee. So it is the broader Jewish world that is being referred to. We already know from the later readings in Acts, which we have been hearing throughout the Easter Season, that the Good News was also heard and accepted beyond the limits of Judaism and the Jewish diaspora into the Gentile world. This is what Paul’s missionary journeys are all about.  In other words, the embrace of God’s Spirit knows no limits or boundaries. God’s embrace is infinitely wide and boundless.
            Pentecost is the Feast of God’s embrace. On the Cross, Jesus was incarnating, fleshing-out God’s forgiveness, embracing the universe. And this ‘fleshing out’ did not stop at the Cross. For as we heard in the gospel, “On the evening of the first day of the week” Jesus came and stood in the midst of the shattered and broken disciples and embraced them with his forgiveness and peace, continuing to incarnate God’s forgiving embrace. His death did not break this embrace. And this forgiving, universal embrace does not stop here either. For he breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” In other words, continue to incarnate, flesh out this forgiveness that you have received. Continue to embrace all with this forgiveness.
My brothers and sisters, to live such a life of universal embrace and forgiveness is impossible on our own. But it is not impossible in and through the Spirit of God that has been poured out within and among us.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Come Holy Spirit

We long for the fullness of Jesus' Promise, his gracious Spirit- within us, all around us. As Jesus speaks these words to his Father in the 17th chapter of Saint John's Gospel, we are reminded of the beauty and dignity that are ours in him. "I have given them the glory you gave me... I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them."     

And we hear echoes of the following words of Saint John Chrysostom, "But what do I care about heaven, when I myself have become heaven?" Indeed through baptism into Christ, we have become temples of the most high God in the Spirit.

Photograph of Abbey meadow by Brother Casimir.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Clothing of Brother Peter

On Sunday during Chapter our Brother Peter Lynch was clothed in the novice's habit. Peter comes to us after teaching for several years at a parochial school on Long Island. We rejoice to have Peter in our community.We include a portfolio of pictures of the ceremony taken by Brother Joseph.

O God, in that unutterable kindness by which you dispose all things sweetly and wisely, you gave us clothing, so that a triple benefit might be ours: we are covered with dignity, kept warm and protected in body and soul. Father, pour forth the blessing of your Holy Spirit upon us this morning and upon these clothes which your son here before us has asked to receive, so that he may serve you faithfully in the Cistercian way of life.

Our three novices: Brothers Joseph, Peter and John.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Saint Dunstan

When the Abbey was constructed  in the early 1950's numerous reasonably priced antique pieces were acquired to furnish the main rooms, other pieces were donated by generous patrons. Among the latter acquisitions were fragments of stained glass, some rare and important. In the Abbey library, shown above, an oculus window high above the mantle was filled with a fragment of stained glass depicting Saint Dunstan.

Professor Virginia Raguin of the College of the Holy Cross came to the Abbey late last year to give us a series of presentations on the history of stained glass. As the monks were giving her a tour of the cloisters, she noticed the oculus and asked if she could inspect it in detail. Sometime later an extension ladder was set up, and Professor Raguin ascended, promising to be careful. She did her research, examining the surface of the glass and the leading, as a few of the monks watched and steadied the ladder. Professor Raguin concluded that the glass was probably of the fourteenth century, English and quite rare since much pre-Reformation glass had been destroyed during the Dissolution. 

A very popular early medieval saint, Dunstan (909 –988) was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, later appointed Bishop of Manchester and London and subsequently named Archbishop of Canterbury. He is credited with the restoration of monastic life in England and the reformation of the English Church. Dunstan was a highly skilled artist and scribe and served as an important minister of state to several of the English kings.

As portrayed in our fragment, Saint Dunstan wears the mitre, rings, gloves and white wool pallium of his episcopal office. He carries his archbishop's cross. And the dove of the Holy Spirit perched on the apparel of his amice whispers divine inspiration. Saint Dunstan's feastday is May 19th.

Library photograph by Michel Raguin. Photographs of glass by Virginia Raguin.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


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.

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.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Love One Another

Jesus gave this command to his disciples, "Love one another as I love you." Jesus disavows any wish to dominate. And when he gets down on his knees and washes his disciples' feet, we see friendship and love truly enacted.  Power and love are incompatible in genuine human relationships. Mutuality and freedom must be present; people in relationship must be equals. Jesus says, "I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father." Somehow Jesus puts himself on a par with his disciples. He is "flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone." One with us in all but sin, he is truly our friend. He asks us to love as he loves, giving up any desire to dominate or manipulate others.

Photograph of the Abbey garth by Brother Brian.
Thoughts taken from Father Aquinas' homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Monday, May 14, 2012

In May

May is Mary's month. We include these words from our 12th century Cistercian Father, Saint Ælred of Rievaulx.

Let us come to his bride, his mother, his perfect handmaid, for Blessed Mary is all of this.

But what are we to do for her? What kind of gifts shall we offer her? Would that we could at least return what we are in duty bound to do, for we owe her honor and service, we owe her love and praise. We owe her honor, for she is the mother of our Lord. He who fails to honor the mother clearly dishonors the son.
She is our mother—the mother of our life, the mother of our incarnation, the mother of our light. As the Apostle says of our Lord, he became for us by God’s power our wisdom and justice, and holiness and redemption.

She then, as mother of Christ, is the mother of our wisdom and justice, of our holiness and redemption. She is more our mother than the mother of our flesh. Our birth from her is better, for from her is born our holiness, our wisdom, our justice, our sanctification, our redemption.
Woodcut by Eric Gill,
Excerpts from Sermon 20 On the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Ælred.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ordinary Work

In a spirit of simplicity and ordinariness, we monks work in order to support ourselves and to have enough to assist the poor. One of our primary industries is Trappist Preseves, our jelly-making business. On five mornings every week the brethren work together in the TP kitchen. We share here some shots from a typical morning's work.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spring Orchard

The gnarled, old apple trees that fill the orchard behind the Abbey church are in full bloom. Coincidentally we just came upon this early American hymn, clearly informed by the author's reading of the biblical Song of Songs so dear to our Cistercian forebears.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

From Divine Hymns or Spiritual Songs,
compiled by Joshua Smith, New Hampshire, 1784.
Set to a tune by Elizabeth Poston, 1905-1987.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Remain in Me

Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Jn 15

Jesus remains in us,  like a vine which gives life to the branches.  He is awaiting our call, sending His Spirit, calling on His Father on our behalf. Jesus remains in us, going before us, accompanying us on the way,  preparing a place where He can bring us to Himself.

Jesus remains in us through the community of the Trinity. The Father plants His Son in us as a luxuriant vine and grafts us in as His branches. As a vine turns to the sun, we share in the Son’s constant turning to the Father. As the Spirit is the Gift breathed forth by the Father and the Son, so it becomes our life, keeping the branches alive.

Jesus remains in us as truth. He calls us forth to encounter this truth, especially through the witness of our conscience. Our conscience helps us to recognize what the Father must prune away. Through it we recognize the truth about ourselves. This truth does not lead to us despair, even when our hearts condemn us, because Jesus is both truth and mercy. His forgiveness is “greater than our hearts.”

Jesus remains in us, actively seeking our good.

Excerpts from this Sunday's homily by Father Vincent 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

In Solitude & Silence

Monastic silence is not a virtue for its own sake but is cultivated as a way to open up a great empty space for God. I offer God a silent inner space into which God can speak his Word of Love, Jesus. Silence allows me to become like Mary, a womb for God.  And as Thomas Merton insists, “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say, because I come to see who I am." And this leads me more deeply into contemplative love of God, for Love is one.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Let Heaven & Earth Rejoice

The heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands. Day unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message.

There he has placed a tent for the sun; it comes forth like a bridegroom coming from his tent, rejoices
like a champion to run its course.

At the end of the sky is the rising of the sun; to the
furthest end of the sky is its course. There is nothing concealed from its burning heat.

Lines from Psalm 19. Photographs by Brother Casimir.