Wednesday, January 28, 2015


     We cannot save ourselves, it is a gift. But we do have to receive the gift as and when it is given. And it is not received passively but requires discipleship and leaving behind everyone contrary to it. We must allow the look of Jesus to penetrate our hearts and tell us who we are in his eyes and what our response is to be.
   Wealth is a problem for Jesus because it stifles the capacity to hear and to respond.  In Jesus’ view this capacity is found most of all in the child. In fact, the passage just before that of the rich man is that in which people are rebuked by the disciples for bringing children to Jesus and he says, “Let the children come to me…for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. And then: “Amen, Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” And Jesus calls his disciples “children” "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
   From one perspective, Jesus is like a father to them, begetting them into his new family. But from another perspective, that of the relation of Jesus to his Father, Jesus is the Child, the archetypal child, and the disciples are children in him of the one Father. From this perspective, Jesus is the archetypal example and teacher of what it is to be a child before God. Therefore there is no paternalistic attitude here on the part of the Jesus when he calls his disciples ‘children’. Rather, it belongs to his desire to share with his disciples his communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit by granting them a share in his Sonship.
   Ever-begotten anew by the Father, who is “greater than I”, Jesus lives in the amazement of having received himself as sheer gift. The Father has handed everything over to him and this knowledge is for Jesus a source of infinite amazement, wonder and gratitude. In love, he receives the gift and hands it over again to the Father in total surrender. Jesus’ thirst is for his Father’s love, and in everything he does he strives to abide in it. Jesus loves children because they thirst for love, they feel his love, surrender to it and take it with them into their lives as a matter of course. They yearn for love. They receive the gift of the kingdom as the answer to their yearning. 
Reflection by Father Timothy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


When  Jesus says to Peter and Andrew, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men," without an apparent second thought, they abandon their nets and follow him We may wonder at the charismatic power of Jesus to elicit such an urgent, immediate response. But as Father Isaac reminded us in this morning's homily, to encounter the Lord Jesus is to encounter the Living God, the Holy One of Israel, not a deified man but the incarnate God. And an encounter with the incarnate God does indeed have the power to transform, so that perceptions are altered and faith becomes the most reasonable, most human, most spiritual, most responsible and natural response to Jesus and his proclamation.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, 1308-1311, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Saint Marianne Cope

In 1883 Sister Marianne Cope left New York with six sisters to minister to leprosy patients in Hawaii. She planned to remain only long enough to get them settled. But the patients’ great needs led her to remain in Hawaii for four decades; she would die there in 1918. Courageous, energetic and never daunted by any challenge, she is reported to have once said, “I am not afraid of any disease.”

In one of his treatises our own Cistercian father William of St. Thierry calls the monastery a menagerie, a zoo where wild beasts are sent to be tamed, and a great infirmary, where we monks have come to be healed. As we remember the holiness of Saint Marianne and her dedication to the lepers of Hawaii, perhaps we could also call the monastery a leper colony. We monks have come here because we realize we are covered with the disease of our sinfulness and our tendencies toward sin. We had to come away, for we are in desperate need of the healing grace and tender mercy that only Christ Jesus can give.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Brother Paul

We mourn the loss of our Brother Paul Forster, who passed away quietly in the Abbey infirmary on Monday afternoon. The community had gathered in his room the evening before to pray the prayers for the dying.

Brother Paul was born  in Union City, NJ in 1922. He was a veteran of  World War II, serving in Europe as a teletypewriter mechanic. In 1950 he entered the Abbey and through the years continually contributed his mechanical skills. He helped in establishing our monastic foundations in Snowmass, Colorado and Azul, Argentina. And here at Spencer he was the principal electrician and builder, overseeing the construction and maintenance of the Abbey's main wood-chip burning heating system. He also loved to putter in his beautiful garden.

God our Father, the death of our Brother Paul recalls our human condition and the brevity of our lives here on earth. But for those who believe in your love, death is not the end nor can it destroy the bonds of love you create in our lives. We bless and thank you for the life of Brother Paul, for the love and joy he brought. Fill us with the light of Jesus’ resurrection in this time of sorrow, as we pray for Brother Paul and those who loved him. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


At conclusion of this morning’s Mass, we prayed that we might have undivided hearts. Later on one monk mentioned that he senses that he cannot “un-divide” his heart on his own. He sees clearly his lack of wholeness and integrity, the reality of his divided heart. And he had the insight that he could only beg the Lord to put his heart right, beg Jesus to heal and put his heart back together the right way. Somehow, he realized it’s all about availability, the continuing desire to follow the Lord with greater purity of heart. Will we accept Jesus’ invitation, beg him for help and accept his healing intervention?

Indeed, we may sense the division in our hearts. We do want Jesus, we want to follow him completely, be his monks. And perhaps some mornings we also want to go backwards, back into a cozy blindness that we imagine might be a comfortable compromise. There are dreams and unfinished agendas that haunt us. But we know it’s too late for that. Too late. We have seen the Lord, experienced his call, felt his healing, his touch. We cannot deny it, though embarrassing as it might be to admit, we might want to sometimes. But Jesus has intruded, interrupted, transformed our lives. And he longs for us to allow him to come closer and closer.

Photograph of the monks in chapter taken by Brother Brian.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Come and You Will See

This morning with characteristic humility, John the Baptist sends two of his own disciples over to Jesus. Jesus notices them following and turns to them. And this glance in their direction will change everything, this turning of the blessed face of Jesus’ toward those who long to know him better. God in Christ allows them to see his face, not just his back as when he passed by Moses. They see God's face; they hear his question, “What are you looking for?” This most haunting question: What do you want? What is your deepest desire? What are you looking for? And it is clear that the “what” is soon to become a “who.” Who are you looking for? Who is at the heart of all your desiring? Jesus senses their curiosity, the first inklings of their desire. And he turns around and invites them to his house for the evening, for food and first conversations; they will come to know him. A relationship has begun. Never ever indifferent to our least move in his direction, Jesus continually looks over his shoulder at us and invites us, “Come and you will see.” Come closer and see for yourselves whom you desire; experience for yourself who I am, who I want to be for you.

Jesus’ question this morning is like that small persistent voice that keeps waking up little Samuel as he sleeps near the Ark of the Lord. Like the psalmist this morning, like little Samuel, like the disciples we may respond, “Here am I Lord. Speak. I am listening.” We want to follow. We become disciples. We put everything else aside. We have lost ourselves, but we find our truest selves. Then like Bernard of Fontaines, like Ignatius Loyola and Francis in Assisi we lay down all the trappings and encumbrances of our former ways of proceeding- the sword, the shield, the lovely clothes, the blind ambition, the other sweet relationships. Jesus is worth my all. Somehow everything else has turned stale and unsatisfying in the long term. We sense it. We are ready, and yet we are amazed. The admission of the deepest desire realigns our hearts. A new meaning draws us to a Person, who is worth all our desiring, one who cannot, who will not stop calling after us. 

Excerpts from this morning's homily. Photograph's from the recent clothing last July of Brothers Charbel and Micah taken by Brother Brian.

Friday, January 16, 2015

January Light

                       a winter light
                       opens air to iris blue,
                       glint of frost 
                       through the smoke....

Photographs by Brother Casimir. Lines from a poem by Denise Levertov.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Midwinter Sunrise

Photograph of the Abbey church field by Brother Casimir.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Available for the Gift

We were amazed by these words from this morning’s prayer after communion:

O God, who touch us through our partaking of your Sacrament,
work, we pray, the effects of its power in our hearts,
that we may be made fit to receive your gift
through this very gift itself.

What do we have that we have not received? Truly the gift of the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion makes us more available to the unfathomable Gift of Himself that He longs to bestow upon us unceasingly. If only we recognized the Gift more clearly.

Photo by Charles O'Connor.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


In these last days of the Christmas season, we reflect on God's desire for us that takes flesh in the person of Christ Jesus. And we recall these words from Pope Francis’ homily for Christmas Eve:

How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? "But I am searching for the Lord" - we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant's presence is: do I allow God to love me?

More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today!

The Christian response cannot be different from God's response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: "Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict."

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Rest on the Flight to Egypt, (detail), oil on canvas, c. 1597, Gallery Doria Pamphilj, Rome.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


The Magi are symbol of the journey we are all on; a journey that takes us not far from home but back home to God. The journey involves no distance and no duration. The beginning and the end are here and now: God is truly with us.

A joy and relief at long last to adore, 
to have discovered at last the goal of all our longing.
to bow down and worship One whose innocence 
is full of promise and peace, 
the Child whose presence is all we desire. 
Let us give Him gladly all that we are, 
all that we treasure, even all that we dread.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Adoration of the Magi, etching, (from Scherzi di Fantasia), 1740.     Meditation begins with words of Abbot Damian at this morning's Eucharist.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Celebrating His Birth

We gather on New Year's night in the Abbey library for supper and carols and performances by some of our talented brethren. Here we see Brother Micah one of our novices performing a guitar piece of his own composition.

Photograph by Brother Jonah.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Gazing Upon The Child

Let us gaze upon what Mary gazed upon, the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s covenants, namely, the whole mystery of Christ. On the one hand she saw in her infant son one like all other Jewish male babies – the Gospel says, “And when eight days were completed for his circumcision…” What greater proof that he was one of us and a child of Abraham than the fact that He was circumcised! Yet at the same time Mary could not doubt the word of the angel: “He will be called holy, the Son of God,” because “the power of the Most High will overshadow you...” The divine and the human: these are the two mysteries Mary held in her heart, not mixing or confusing them or leaving one aside. But at the same time, Mary maintained but one focus: taking her child in her arms and holding him close as only a mother can, she gazed on her little son, this little person in whom somehow the divine and the human were personally united. Her embrace was like that Sabbath rest with which God embraced the whole mystery of His creation, but here we have the mystery of a new creation. Mary is the great sign of God’s new and eternal covenant, and she leads us to that covenant today. In the Eucharist we partake of the marvelous exchange – simple bread and humble wine become the true body and blood of Mary’s Son, our one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Culmination of all God’s covenants, who lives and reigns for ever and ever! 

Orazio Gentileschi, Italian ( 1563 - 1639), The Virgin with the Sleeping Christ Child, c. 1610, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard. Reflection by Father Vincent.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year

January First is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. With our Blessed Lady to lead us, we begin a new year, praying for a year of continual prayer, a year of peace in our hearts, a peace that will spread through all the land and to all nations. Mary gives us Jesus, who is our Peace.

Photograph by Brother Brian of Saint Ann's altar in the Abbey church. The altarpiece is in tempera on wood, Fifteenth century, Sienese and was given to the monastery in 1952. The central image is of the Madonna of Humility. Simone Martini (c. 1283-1344) is credited with the invention of this iconographical type; and our altarpiece is thought to be a copy of one of Simone's masterpieces. The Virgin is shown seated on a cushion on the floor as she nurses the Christ Child, who relaxes on her lap as he gazes out at us.