Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Stations of the Cross

   I still remember from my grammar school days the Lenten Friday afternoon Stations of the Cross. That practice was a simple yet profound expression of one of the core truths of our faith. In becoming human Jesus embraced the drama of every human life- our triumphs and our failures, our joys and sorrows. In the Stations of the Cross we recall how the Lord is with us, especially when we seem to be stuck and don’t know how to move on. He walks with us and stumbles with us when we stumble and helps us get up again.
   A ‘station’ simply means a place of stopping. Throughout his Passion Jesus stops. He stops to offer compassion to the weeping women; he stops when he falls to the ground, unable to carry on; at Golgotha he stops because that is the end of the line.
   Jesus is close to us when we are stopped in our tracks and possibly wonder if we can carry on or even whether we really want to carry on. We can be stopped by illness or failure, grief, depression, despair. But throughout his passion; throughout his Stations of the Cross, Jesus carries on and makes his slow, painful way to the Cross and to the Resurrection. And in doing so he brings us with him in hope. May this hope imbue our Holy Week journey this year.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Way to Calvary, tempera on panel (51 × 53 cm), 1308-11, Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo, Siena.      Reflection by Abbot Damian.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Holy Week Schedule

Especially during this most holy week, we invite our friends and neighbors to join us at prayer. 

Palm Sunday
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6:40 followed by Solemn Mass
with blest palms distributed following the Liturgy
Vespers & Benediction at 5:10
Compline at 7:40

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
our normal daily schedule with
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6 followed by Mass
Vespers at 5:40
Compline at 7:40

Holy Thursday
Vigils at 3:30 am

Lauds at 6:40 
The Beginning of the Sacred Triduum with

The Solemn Mass of the Lord's Supper at 4
followed by procession to the Altar of Repose

Compline at 7:40

Good Friday
Vigils at 4:30 am
Lauds at 7:40
Solemn Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at 3
Compline at 7:40

Holy Saturday
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6:40
Vespers at 5:40
Compline omitted

Easter Sunday
Solemn Paschal Vigil Mass at 3 am
Lauds at 7:30
Easter Day Mass at 11
Vespers & Benediction at 5:10
Compline at 7:40

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Annunciation

Disarmed by God’s desire for her, Mary allows her life to be wildly interrupted by God’s desire for a body.  Her wholehearted, half-overjoyed, half-fearful “yes” gives God a home, a body in which to dwell; God growing there in increments, until she is filled to overflowing with him. God will reply with delight and gratitude,A body you prepared for me. Behold I come.”
We celebrate this morning Mary’s gift of her body to God. She gives him her flesh. Because of her, he has hands that will heal and bless and be nailed to the wood of the cross. Because of her, he has a heart to love with, a heart that will gashed open by a cruel lance.*

If as Pope Francis reminds us over and over again, we must go to the fringes to be with the poor and forgotten, it is because that is where God is. That is where God goes to find Mary, among the poorest and most powerless. And each of us must go down there to the fringes, to the frontiers of our own poverty and emptiness. For our poverty and emptiness make God happy, not because he wants us sad but because they allow God to fill us with himself, which is all he really wants to do. Down in the dark recesses of our hearts, we discover like Mary a great empty space where God’s mercy can grow and swell in us, a space that he can fill with his own gracious presence.

God in Christ desires to surrender himself to us. It is the secret we were born for. And our unending work is to let ourselves be defenseless, utterly defenseless, like Mary, in the face of such self-offering; utterly nonresistant to God’s desire for us, for our body, our whole selves.

Formed and nurtured under the pliant, loving heart of Mary, Jesus will do as his Mother did and give his whole body over to God, in loving obedience to his Father’s desire to save us from our selfishness and sin. It is what we will watch him do next week in the horror of his passion; it is what he does for us each morning in the Eucharist: give us the body that was given to him by the Virgin Mary.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, 1898, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
*See Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Hour of Jesus

   One of the most interesting elements in today’s Gospel is the dialogue between the Father and Jesus. Listen to them converse about the hour that has come. Our Lord says, “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Jesus realizes the immensity of the sufferings approaching Him. He has to renew his acceptance of this hour in the midst of the temptation to flee. And He does renew it, reminding Himself of the mission given Him by the Father and of the divine plan which is about to reach its fulfillment. He cries out, “Father, glorify your name.” The Father replies with a kind of thunder, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again;” the Father acknowledges His Son’s cry and accepts His willingness to enter this final hour. The Father’s glory is that His Son be glorified; that the ruler of this world be judged and cast out; and that we be saved from innumerable slaveries. This dialogue of the Father and the Son draws us into the hour of Jesus, and we are invited to participate in it.
   The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reveals another aspect of Jesus’ hour. It reads: “…and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” Note the phrase: “…and when he was made perfect.” This is the terminology used in the Old Testament to describe the consecration of the High Priest. What the author of the Letter is saying is that in this hour of suffering that Jesus humbly endures, the Father consecrates Him High Priest on our behalf, that is, the perfect mediator. We need a mediator, and Jesus’ mediation includes a worthy sacrifice – the sacrifice of His own will and the gift of His life’s blood to cleanse and reconcile us to God. The priestly sacrifice of Jesus, which is the source of our eternal salvation, is made present to us in this liturgy, and we participate in it.
   Finally, the hour of Jesus mediates a new way of life for us, a new relationship with God, which Jeremiah describes as a “new covenant”. This hour of Jesus, you might say, is poured out on us in the person of the Holy Spirit who writes the law of God upon our hearts – the law of the love of God and love of neighbor. This writing can be painful at times, because the “finger of God,” touches and lays bare the secrets of our hearts. But with His touch the Spirit forgives our sins and lifts us up to the pierced heart of our Savior where we can drink of the Spirit unceasingly. This is the hour of the new covenant which the liturgy makes present for us to embrace. 
Photograph by Charles O'Connor. Excerpts from today's homily by Father Vincent.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fire in Rhode Island

On 21 March 1950, the Feast of Saint Benedict, the monastery of Our Lady of the Valley in Lonsdale, Rhode Island was ravaged by a devastating fire. The original wing was destroyed; the church was rendered structurally unsound and would have to be demolished. The community of 140 monks was homeless.

Well before the fire the monks had been searching for a new location that would insure their solitude and economic stability, since the population in the area around the monastery had increased considerably. And by 1949 the community had purchased a large agricultural property, Alta Crest Farms in Spencer, Massachusetts. The 1950 fire merely accelerated the community's projected move. In God's providence the end of one story became the seed for a new one.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Saint Joseph

Our Constitutions tell us:

The organisation of the monastery is directed to bringing the monks into close union with Christ, since it is only through the experience of personal love for the Lord Jesus that the specific gifts of the Cistercian vocation can flower. Only if the brothers prefer nothing whatever to Christ will they be happy to persevere in a life that is ordinary, obscure and laborious.

How appropriate that Saint Joseph is our Abbey’s patron. Certainly he lived in close union with Christ Jesus and Our Lady in their home at Nazareth. And with Mary he loved the person of Christ most tenderly. And Joseph most faithfully, preferentially cared for Mary and their Son in a hidden workaday life that was undoubtedly “ordinary, obscure and laborious.”

Photograph  by Brother Brian.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Little Willingness to See

It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance - for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light .... Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don't have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? .... Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave - that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.

Image by Father Emmanuel. Lines from Marilynne Robinson, Gilead.

Friday, March 13, 2015


Each Friday at Lauds during Lent we sing this hymn with a Gaelic text set to music by the late Theodore Marier.

Think of the Son of God, how He
Died on the tree our souls to save.
Think of the nails that pierced Him through,
Think of Him, too, in lowly grave.

Think of the spear the soldier bore,
Think how it tore His holy side,
Think of the bitter gall for drink.
Think of it, think for us He died.

Think upon Christ Who gave His blood
Poured in a flood our souls to win,
Think of the mingled tide that gushed
Forth at the thrust to wash our sin.

Think of repentance timely made,
Think like a shade our time flits too,
Think upon death with poisoned dart
Piercing the heart and body through.

Pondering Christ's suffering, we remember his pain, the suffering of his body even now.

Photograph by Father Emmanuel.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Brother Richard

Our dear Brother Richard passed away quietly this afternoon at Saint Vincent's Hospital in Worcester. Our Prior, Father Dominic, was at his side. We will remember always Brother Richard's constant cheerfulness and faithfulness. He entered as a young man from Vermont and worked hard through the years in various positions at the monastery. For a long time he served as community cook. Later for many years he worked at The Holy Rood Guild carefully pressing vestments before they were folded and shipped. Brother had a beautiful singing voice and was part of the Abbey schola. One of Richard's greatest gifts to us was that he was always so appreciative- he noticed each brother’s contribution with gratitude. We will miss him.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Cleansing of the Temple

In the Gospel of John we always stand contemplatively before the figure of Jesus. And in this morning’s Gospel we notice him as he calls the Jewish leaders to acknowledge the true meaning of the temple: it is the meeting place of God and the people, not a place for business, but his Father’s own house. No wonder he is so driven to clear out what does not belong there. Ultimately he understands himself as the new temple, the place we will truly encounter God. 

How to describe the indescribable: the embrace of one you love, a meal shared, a small kind word or a smile that can erase a hurt, the vision of a sunrise through morning mists or the experience of sitting quietly beside someone as they lay dying? How to describe the nearness of God in Christ through the Spirit? How to describe what we experience as real but really indescribable? And if ever you have loved, or fallen in love, and known your friend, the one you love, as refuge, safe haven; their beauty, their presence, their kindness as home and even sanctuary, then perhaps you get an inkling of what Jesus is saying this morning when he refers to his body as temple. "He was speaking about the temple of his body."
Photo by Father Emmanuel.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Fr. Michael Casey reminds us that "renunciation is an evangelical imperative which is an attempt to eliminate anything that could obstruct, distract from or substitute for the love of Christ." Indeed, all of our attempts at Lenten observance whether fasting, almsgiving or efforts to make more time for prayer, all of this is valid, useful, truly Gospel-driven only if it leads to love, greater love for Christ and for all the members of his body. Lent means springtime, a time for new growth in love. It is never, ever about spiritual athleticism or toughing it out until a great splurge at Easter. It is all about making room for love. We give up other bodily "delights," Casey reminds us, so that we can be more available to "delight" in loving Christ Jesus our Lord and our sisters and brothers in him. Love is the only reason.   Photo by Father Emmanuel.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said,
“Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah.
It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests,
nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets.
And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue;
let us carefully note his every word.”

Heed me, O Lord,
and listen to what my adversaries say.
Must good be repaid with evil
that they should dig a pit to take my life?
Remember that I stood before you
to speak in their behalf,
to turn away your wrath from them.

In these words from the prophet Jeremiah, we can hear the predicament of Christ Jesus our Lord as his rivals plot against him. He has come to do the will of his heavenly Father, and so he embodies the mercy of God in all his words and his mighty deeds. Still they resist and misunderstand him, even though he only wants to heal the sick, comfort the afflicted, set sinners free and "speak in their behalf."

Photograph by Brother Casimir

Sunday, March 1, 2015

That We Might See Him

Let us pray for the Church, that walking not by sight but by the light of faith we might see the transfigured Christ bleeding through all that is disfigured in our world and by this humble hope give witness to the truth that God has taken all weakness, all tragedy and disaster to himself in his passion and redeemed them so that in and through them his mercy might be revealed. Let us pray to the Lord.
The Risen Christ, Ambrogio de Stefano Borgognone, 1510, detail. Prayer offered by Brother Micah at today's Eucharist.