Do not allow pride to swell in you, let it shrivel instead, and rot. Be disgusted by
it, throw it out. Christ is looking for a humble Christian. Christ in heaven,
Christ with us, Christ in hell – not to be kept there, but to release others
from there. That’s the kind of leader we have. He is seated at the right hand
of the Father, but he is gathering us up together from the earth: one in this
way, one in that; by favoring this one, chastising that one, giving this one
joy and that one trouble. May he that gathers gather us up, otherwise we are
lost; may he gather us together where we can’t get lost, into that land of the
living where all deserts are acknowledged and justice is rewarded.
Shunning all that could keep us from Christ, we long to be filled more and more with the ardor that so formed the heart of Saint Mary Magdalene.
Fresco from the Arena Chapel in Padua by Giotto. Excerpts from Saint
Augustine, Sermon 70A, 1-2
"The sunlight did not know what it
was before it hit a wall," said the American architect Louis Kahn.
Buildings that matter have spirit and meaning and are never merely
functional. We are grateful for the quiet beauty of this place.
In your light, we see light. Ps 36
Photograph of early morning sunlight
in the southwest corner of the cloister.
explication of the parable of the sower in today's Gospel, Jesus details the various ways in which
the unprepared heart fails to embrace the Word. The twelfth-century Cistercian
father, Isaac of Stella, comments on the parable as follows: “There are those with hearts trodden down and unyielding. The Word reaches their outer ears but their
hearts give it no welcome. The seed has
fallen by the wayside, since the way of faith and obedience is not theirs. Faith, we are told, does not reach all
hearts; some do not obey the call of the Gospel. Poised between their ears and hearts, the
devil bars the way to the heart, as the saying goes, by taking out through one
ear what has entered by the other. As a
preacher rises to proclaim the Word exteriorly, the devil prompts the counter-
utterance within, denies the truth of what is said, changing its meaning,
criticizing the preacher, distracting the hearer with drowsiness or daydreams.”
When Isaac says
that “the way of faith and obedience is not theirs,” we recall the Prologue of the Holy Rule, which promises that, “the labor of obedience will bring you back to Him
from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience.” If indeed the labor of obedience in faith represents the most
fundamental preparation, it is not the only kind of work required. Corresponding
to the stony ground, Isaac says that “There are others who find no difficulty in obeying, but lack the
virtue of endurance…Ever prepared to mend their ways, they are still more prone
to relapse. To all appearances they are
live-wood, but in fact they are dead-wood, time-servers and shallow-minded. Lacking the
taproot of love, they cannot believe and endure to the last. In time of peace they keep the faith, but in
time of temptation, internal or external, they fall away. They are chaste while passion slumbers,
courageous when no one opposes them, meek if left alone. Their devotion depends on how well things
go. They are the sort who praise God as
long as he blesses them.”
And lest we attach too much importance to the role of human
agency, Isaac reminds us that it is the Father, “the heavenly husbandman who
through the Holy Spirit has made us capable of receiving the seed, the
Son. The fire of love that he has poured
out upon our hearts has burnt up the thorns, cleansed our field, has enabled us
to endure and to yield a harvest thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.” The seed of the Word is God’s gift of
himself, and our ability to receive it is also God’s gift. Our job, in the end, is to make ourselves
ready to accept and treasure that gift. The Word is God’s gift of himself.And in order to receive such a gift, we must
prepare our hearts to welcome a person, a beloved guest, whose presence will
grow within us and heal us, enabling us to bear fruit some a hundredfold, some
sixty, some thirty.
The Sower, 1850, Jean-François
Millet, 40 x 32 1/2 in., oil on canvas, The Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston.Excerpts from Father William's homily at this morning's Mass.
"The love of God has been poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Love itself moans, love itself prays; against it he who gave it cannot close his ears. Be free of anxiety; let love ask and God's ears are there.
During this coming week the community will be on its annual retreat, a special time for greater silence and solitude. Daily conferences will be given to us by Dom Erik of Mount St. Bernard Abbey in Great Britain.We will pray for all of our family, friends, relatives and benefactors.
Lines from Tractate 6: On the First Epistle of John, by Saint Augustine.
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." As we ponder Jesus' words in today's Gospel from Saint Matthew, we are reminded of Pope Francis' message in Misericordia Vultus: “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. The
Lord lifts up the downtrodden, he casts the wicked to the ground” (Ps 147:3,
6). In short, the mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality
with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the
very depths out of love for their child. It is hardly an exaggeration to say
that this is a “visceral” love. It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full
of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy. “For his mercy endures
forever.” This is the refrain that repeats after each verse in Psalm 136 as it
narrates the history of God’s revelation…With our eyes fixed on Jesus and his
merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The mission
Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of divine love
in its fullness. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16), John affirms for the
first and only time in all of Holy Scripture. This love has now been made
visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a
love given gratuitously. The relationships he forms with the people who
approach him manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable. The signs he
works, especially in favor of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick,
and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of
mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.
Very many tax collectors and sinners came and sat at table with Jesus in Matthew's house. The Pharisees are scandalized and ask the disciples why the Teacher eats with such people. Well aware of who we are, we want to respond to the Pharisees' question with something like, "Thank God Jesus has chosen to sit at table with sinners like us."
Our hearts overflow with gratitude for Christ's condescension to us in his mercy. For we are desperately in need of a physician who understands, a wise physician who knows where it hurts and why. Each morning he brings us the perfect remedy- his own body and blood. Jesus our Lord is our physician and our medicine. And we come to understand more and more, it is just as our Cistercian father, William of St. Thierry has reminded us- the monastery is in fact a giant infirmary where the sick, those disfigured by sin, have come to be healed and made whole again.
On these warm summer mornings the windows of the Abbey
church are open to the fields, the twittering of birds and chortling of
little beasts. As we chant the Divine Office we join them in praising the Lord
of all creation.
On this Independence Day amidst all the divisions in our nation and our world, even in our families; the terrorism and fears that threaten us from from all sides, what can we do as monks to make things better? In his homily this morning Father Vincent invited us to do what Saint Paul recommends to the Philippians: "...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Doing As Paul suggests will lead us to heartfelt thanksgiving for all the blessings we have received; we will turn aside from cynicism and negativity. Then living in a spirit of deep gratitude, our hearts will be led naturally into prayer and contemplation. As monks we trust that this praying is never ever private for as our hearts are stretched open, they embrace all of God's people. This is perhaps our most important contribution. The monks strive
to remain in harmony with all the people of God and share their active desire for
the unity of all Christians. By fidelity to their monastic way of life, which has its
own hidden mode of apostolic fruitfulness, monks perform a service for God's
people and the whole human race.Constitutions of the Order.
In this morning's Gospel Jesus tells us once again, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Just as Jesus "lost himself" in his desire always to do the Father's will, we long more and more to lose ourselves in him, finding our true selves in the self-forgetful love he embodies. We long to give Christ Jesus all our possibilities, making his Kingdom the horizon of our desire. Photograph by Brother Brian.
We celebrate the Mass and Office of Our Blessed Lady again on this Saturday. She is everywhere in the Abbey watching over us, her images and icons in sacred spaces and in the workplaces. Mary protects us and accompanies us; we trust in her powerful intercession.
We place ourselves in your keeping, Holy Mother of God. Refuse not the prayer of your children in their distress, but deliver us from all danger, ever Virgin glorious and blessed.
Last evening during Compline a terrific downpour, and then when we left the church for bed, we noticed a giant rainbow, sign of hope, joy and covenant. And we recalled God's words to Noah, "I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth."Genesis 9.13
God is constantly “acting on
our behalf, out of love for us;” drawing us into our truest identity. And
since God preserves
the universe in
being, we believe that he acts in and with every creature in each and
all its activities. This is not to say we are stuck in
some plan, some occult predestination, but that God is always, always calling,
beckoning us, drawing us to himself, longing to fill us with himself, drawing us into the Trinity. We name this Divine Providence.*
We are all invited to look back and
notice the finger of God, to reflect on our own lives with a kind of road-back-to
Jerusalem-from-Emmaus insight- “It was the Lord all the time, though I did not
recognize him. It was you Lord, calling, using anything at all to bring me to
you, to my truth, to the secret for which I was made.” It was, it is God’s
finger in my life day in day out.
In the end each of us can say with
Isaiah, “The Lord called me from my mother’s womb; he pronounced my very name…”
Divine Providence has been at work in our individual stories, our histories,
through all the blessings and reversals. These graces must be named and
celebrated as God’s work in us, through us, for us.
* See The Catholic Encyclopedia. Photograph by Brother Brian.
Jesus tells us that “Whoever does not accept
the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it. Here is what Saint
Thérèse of Lisieux had to say about being a child before God at the end of her life, in
her Last Conversations: “It is to recognize our nothingness, to expect
everything from God as a little child expects everything from its father; it is
to be disquieted about nothing, and not to be set on gaining our living…To be
little is not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices, believing
oneself capable of anything, but to recognize that God places this treasure in
the hands of his little child to be used when necessary; but it remains always
God’s treasure. Finally, it is not to become discouraged over one’s faults, for
children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much.”
us then show ourselves always ready to accept God’s kingdom, to receive the embrace
and blessing of Jesus, by acknowledging our faults and our need for his mercy. See Saint
Thérèse of Lisieux, Her
Last Conversations, trans. John Clarke, pp. 138-39.
Each morning we pass these wildflowers, called white campion, on the edge of one of the Abbey pathways. The delicate articulation of their petals recalls the adage, "God is in the detail."
And indeed the following words from the Book of Wisdomremind us to leap ahead from beauty to Beauty:
...how far more excellent is the Lord than these;
for the original source of beauty fashioned them. For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen. Once after noticing a wildflower, the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins noted in his journal, "I know the beauty of our Lord by it."
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High. Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven. Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity. Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills. Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy. Heart of Jesus, rich to all who call upon Thee. Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance. Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation.
The compassionate Jesus will always be the God with a broken, open, wounded heart.And so the invitation is to honestly even joyfully take ownership of our very real need for his mercy.Our sinfulness can never estrange us from him, but instead lead us right into his broken heart, for he wants to heal and console us, if we will allow him.
Jesus notices us, lost in our isolation and confusion, all the stuff that does not fit, and he rushes toward us without delay to take us to himself, even into his wounded side as refuge. God in Christ has lost himself in love for us. Let us open our hearts to him.
Face of Christ by Georges Rouault. Excerpts from the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
We live as hungry people in a hungry
world. Everyone is looking for something that will sustain and nourish life,
something that will feed and energize, something that will fill and satisfy.
Everyone is looking for bread. The problem is not so much that we are hungry,
but the kind of bread we eat.
Think about the varieties of bread being eaten in our lives and in the
world today. In Syria all sides are eating the bread of violence and war.
Here in our country, Republicans and Democrats share the bread of negativity,
hostility, and name-calling. Closer to home, many of us eat the bread of having
to be right and get our way. We eat the bread of hurt feelings and resentment.
Sometimes we eat the bread of loneliness, fear, and isolation. There are times
we eat the bread of sorrow or guilt. Other times we eat the bread of power and
control. Sometimes we eat the bread of revenge or one-upmanship. We eat all
kinds of bread. But the bread we eat reveals something about the nature of our
But there is an appetite that we may not be explicitly conscious of, but is
nonetheless the most basic and powerful of all. Only God can complete us, only
he can make us happy. That is how we are made. It is a consoling truth that
hunger for God, once it seizes us, does not disappear easily; for that we can
be grateful to God. Indeed, he will continue to intensify this hunger, if only
we respond to it.
In the Gospels people come to Jesus hungry. They want to feed themselves
with bread. Jesus wants to feed them with God. “Do not work for the food that
perishes,” he tells them, “but for the food that endures for eternal life.” The
Good News we celebrate is precisely this: the food that endures is Jesus
himself. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this
bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the
life of the world.” He is the bread that is broken and distributed for the life
of the world. He is the bread that is broken, and yet never divided. He is the
bread that is eaten, and yet never exhausted. He is the bread that consecrates
those who believe in him, and eat him.
Excerpts from Father Dominic's homily for Corpus Christi.
He is The Bread sown in the Virgin, leavened in the flesh, molded in His passion, baked in the furnace of the sepulchre, placed in the churches, and set upon the altars, which daily supplies Heavenly Food to the faithful.Saint Peter Chrysologus
In the Most Blessed Sacrament Christ Jesus graciously hands himself over to us in self-forgetful love, longing to be dissolved within his own creatures as our food, our life, our sweetness and abiding consolation. Too often we run after food, that we mistakenly believe can fill the deep hunger and void within us. Jesus sees clearly our need, our longing and his desire to fill us answers our deepest desire. Let us go to Him eagerly, hungrily; knowing that He indeed is Heart of all our desiring, He alone is able to satisfy us.
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus,so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.2 Cor 4 The vessels that Paul is referring to in this passage were apparently very fragile clay containers used for lowly purposes, and they were prone to cracking and easy breakage. Amazingly Paul says that is what we are. Truth be told, our own experience often verifies that, indeed as Paul would insist, we are fragile- too prone to sin and self-absorption. The good news is that this knowledge of our weakness combined with a desire for God's grace-filled healing makes us perfect candidates for God's overwhelming, loving presence and action in our lives. With Saint Paul then we can rejoice in our weakness because it grants us availability to the grace that God in Christ always longs to lavish upon us. We long to be more and more transparent to the powerful presence of Christ Jesus within the earthen vessels that we are.
Your hand holds up the world and the universe rests in your love. Your life-giving body is the heart of your Church; your sacred blood protects the Bride. Supplication to God by Cyrillonas, Syrian, 4th century. Corpus from a Crucifix Italian, Doccia, ca. 1745-50 Hard paste porcelain, h. 25 3/8" (67 cm) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Used with permission.
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.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.” John
What might it be like to know myself liked by
God, truly appreciated, loved with great tenderness, understanding, compassion? Could
God be at least as good as my best friend, a friend who knows my goodness
as well as my sometime cantankerousness and angularity and still just loves
being with me? What might it be like to imagine a God like that? Photograph by Brother Jonah.
It is God's radical love that gives our world its importance. It is the same love that gives all of us our essential dignity. God's love is all the more significant because it is fully aware of the sin, brokenness and stupidity that are part of who we are. At the center of the mystery of God is his everlasting love and fidelity to us. Given our often shabby response, this radical love may be difficult for us to understand.
In his ceaseless love for us, God sent us his beloved Son. In his faithful love the Son faced the ultimate infidelity and was put to death by those he dearly loved. But God raised his Son and sent us his Spirit so that we might share the very life of God.
As we honor the Blessed Trinity, we celebrate the awesome stubbornness of God's extravagant love for us. We can depend on this love always and everywhere. It is a love that sets no limit to forgiveness and mercy. Loved so boundlessly, so extravagantly, we must go and try to do likewise.
Today we remember Saint Ephrem
a fourth century scholar from Syria. Although he later retired to a cave on the outskirts of the city, he was a
well-respected preacher in Edessa. Ephrem's concern was always to
oppose local heretics, who spread their false teachings by setting them to
popular tunes. So it was that in defense of the faith, very creatively Ephrem began to compose his own poetic lyrics to be
sung to the same tunes. He then trained a choir of local women to chant these
tunes during the liturgy. It is said that this is the beginning of organized hymn
singing as a part of worship and as a means of religious instruction. Saint Ephrem
became known as the "Harp of the Holy Spirit.”
Supported by the prayers of Saint Ephrem,
we promise to use all our talents, all that we have and all that we are to praise our Lord.
See Butler's Lives of the Saints, the July volume, for Saint Ephrem's complete biography.
The first and greatest commandment is love. Thanks to love, the spirit sees the original Love, namely God. For by our love we see God's love for us, as the psalm says, 'He teaches his ways to those who are gentle.'
Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Evagrius of Pontus, Letter 56.
If you can remember what it was like if you were ever the new kid on the
block, the new kid in the classroom, the new kid on the team and how you just wanted to fit in, be hidden...
Or if you ever loved from afar and dreamed of being with a person who seemed
too good, too beyond you and you can remember your clumsy efforts, how you just wanted to be
close and somehow you just didn’t know how to do it... Or if ever you were all
alone, far from home and had to eat in a restaurant all by yourself at a teeny
table and longed for family, someone familiar, a friend, the warmth of home and
table, then perhaps you get a glimpse
of what God was trying to do in the Incarnation. It as if for ages God had been
trying to get closer, longing to be with us, like us, longing to be
ordinary and hidden in our midst. God has made, is always making the first move toward us. We could say that God in Christ is indeed always toward us. “Love consists in
this, not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent us his
Window at the Abbey Cottage photographed by Ted DeSaulnier.
In order to see, know and love as God does, we
must first experience what it is like to be seen, known and loved by God. We
can view Pentecost as the Feast of God’s self-implication, God’s total
self-involvement with us. The Holy Spirit allows us to affirm that our human
experience, all of it, is now God’s experience. We do not have to get away from
or escape from ourselves to find God. God has found us right where we are and
as we are.
Here is a true story that opened up this gospel truth
for me. It is a very sacred story about a boy named Billy, who was an altar boy. The
pastor of his church had ordered him to do public penance- to kneel
at the altar rail throughout a Sunday Mass, to repent for failing to show up
for an altar boy assignment. But it wasn't Billy's fault. His father had kept him home to help with essential family chores. Billy told
his dad that he would probably get some sort of penance for missing his assignment, and his dad told him to simply do whatever the pastor required. We can imagine the shame
Billy must have felt as he went up the aisle one Sunday morning to be humiliated in front
of the whole parish. His legs trembled as he knelt. He wished he were dead. Then suddenly his humiliation was transformed. He felt a hand on his shoulder,
looked up and saw his father kneeling at his side.
The disciples gathered in the upper room on
Easter day weren’t just fearful. They were also locked in by guilt and shame.
They had abandoned Jesus in his final hours. And yet, here he
was with them, offering them peace. It is as if he were saying, “I know your shame from the inside. I know what
it’s like. I shared it as I was spit upon, stripped naked and hung on a cross
for all to see. But now it’s OK. Here I am with you. Peace be with you. I love
you anyway. And my love for you is unkillable.”
By his gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus empowers all of us to see as God’s sees, to
love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives. And
when we know what it is like to be seen, known, loved, forgiven by God, we can
share that Pentecost experience with the world.
I bet that Billy had been taught by the sisters in his parish school
and by his parents that God is love and God forgives. But I doubt that it ever
was as real and life-altering for him as that morning when he felt a hand on his
shoulder, looked up and saw his dad sharing his shame. Think of that the next
time you pray before a crucifix and plead for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Excerpts from Abbot Damian's homily for Pentecost Sunday.
The Gospel chosen by the Church for this Pentecost Sunday takes us back fifty days to the evening of the Resurrection. Jesus wounded and risen has snuck in on the frightened apostles, as if on tip-toe, very quietly to introduce God’s consoling presence in the Spirit.
The disciples are in hiding, confused and probably feeling tremendously guilty, especially Peter. What should they have done to save Jesus? What could they have done? In all ordinariness Jesus seeks those whom he loves. He shows them his wounds, and he says, “Peace.” And then he breathes the Spirit on them, gently, most intimately, the warm breath of God.
Bestowing his Spirit Jesus empowers them to forgive, for through his passion and death he has absorbed all recrimination, all reproach. God’s forgiveness is now abundant and free. God in Christ breathes the Spirit as in the beginning of creation, for this is "the beginning of new life for all believers in the risen Lord."*
Saint Charles and his twenty-one companions served as pageboys to King Mwanga of Uganda. Charles protected his fellow pages, aged 13 to 30, from the immoral demands of King Mwanga. On this day in 1886 he was burned to death for endeavoring to safeguard the faith and chastity of his young friends and for refusing to submit to Mwanga himself.
O God, who have made the blood of martyrs the seed of Christians, mercifully grant that the field which is your Church, watered by the blood shed by Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions, may be fertile and always yield you an abundant harvest. Photograph by Father Emmanuel.
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.
year during Eastertide, we listen to excerpts from the Last Supper Discourse,
about four chapters long in the second half of the Gospel of John, sections like
this lovely one in today’s Gospel reading.
"I revealed your name to those whom you
gave me out of the world. They belonged to
you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept
your word. Now they know that
everything you gave me is from you, because the words
you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted
them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have
believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for
the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are
yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of
yours is mine, and I have been
glorified in them."
seem to eavesdrop on the prayer of Jesus the Beloved Son to his Father. Jesus
draws us into the very heart of this prayer. There is surely a beauty to the language but
also a circularity. We get confused. We listen, and perhaps we are meant to lose our bearings. And we might want to say to Jesus, “Wait. What
do you mean?” But that would simply be the wrong question. Asking what it means would
be beside the point. It would be like standing at the Grand Canyon and saying, “Wait I
don’t get it, what does it mean?” Or asking a person who is doing an unexpected
kindness for you, “What exactly do you mean?” Or interrupting someone who’s
kissing you very tenderly, “Excuse me, what do you mean by that?”
are embedded in God, as beloved as Jesus is; the relationship is ours. It is that simple, that astounding. And we are invited to let ourselves be swept into the reality of mutual
love that unites Father and Son, for as Augustine says, “God is to be enjoyed.”
It is happening, we are in it. And so non-resistance is crucial; it is like
driving on ice, you must not put on the brakes; you have to drive into the skid, into the
flow, gently, attentively.
God has lost himself in love for us; for God is most
truly Godself when He gives Himself away. We are invited to let ourselves be
loved in our unworthiness.
This morning Saint Luke relates that the Apostles and disciples returned to the upper room and devoted themselves to prayer, waiting for the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. They were to be clothed with power from on high so
that they could witness to the marvel of the Risen Lord. And Luke says that Mary, the mother of the Lord, was there. Mary’s role in preparing
the disciples for the coming of the Spirit was very important indeed, for in
her the disciples could see that what they were waiting and praying for–
to be clothed with the Spirit– had already happened in Mary. The promise of
the Father had already clothed her with power, the power
that Jesus had: patient endurance; loving forgiveness; unshakable peace and
joy– all fruits of the Spirit’s presence. The disciples realized that being
clothed with the Spirit meant becoming something like Mary.
Mary’s role in preparing for the
Spirit goes deeper. She was like an open window given by the Spirit to gaze into
the very life of the Trinity. That is because like Jesus she had accomplished
the work the Father had given her to do. Her one desire, like that of her Son, was
to receive from the Father with grateful acceptance whatever he gave her; and once
received, to give back to the Father her whole self in order to glorify him. Gazing
through this window which is Mary, the disciples could glimpse the eternal life
to which the Spirit was calling them.
The Scriptures say that the disciples “devoted themselves to the teaching of
the Apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the
prayers.” It was in the breaking of the bread at Emmaus that the two disciples first
recognized the Risen Lord. Perhaps something similar happened in the upper
room. During the breaking of the bread, the disciples not only recognized that
the Lord Jesus was present; but they recognized in Mary what the Spirit
intended them to become – one spirit with the Lord; “a chosen race, a royal
priesthood”…a people set apart to declare the marvelous works of the one who had
brought them out of darkness into his own marvelous light. In the
breaking of the bread the Spirit would bring forth the Church, patterned on Mary.
Excerpts from Father Vincent's homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter:A.
Spirit, visit the minds of your children, and fill the hearts you have made,
are called the Comforter,
gift of God most high, living spring, and fire, love, and spiritual anointing.
are sevenfold in your gifts,
finger of God’s right hand;
are the Father’s true promise,
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.
far away our foe, and grant peace
without end, that with you to lead
may escape all harm.
Grant us, through you, to know the Father, also the
Son; may we ever believe in you,
Spirit of them both. Amen.
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.
We rejoice today as we remember Saint Philip Neri, ardent lover of the Lord and man of great joy and cheerfulness. Known for his
playful wit, he once remarked, "A joyful heart is more
easily made perfect than a downcast one." We love the story of a scrupulous Roman fashionista who came to him seeking counsel. She told Saint Philip that she feared she was too vain, as she was fond of wearing the high-heeled shoes that were all the rage. Philip told her his only fear was that she might fall down.
Philip Neri, Carlo Dolci, Italian, 1645 or
1646, oil on canvas, 17 1/4 × 14 1/4 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used
Numerous manuscript paintings, such as this one from the early thirteenth century, show the Apostles and Our Lady gazing up at the feet of Jesus as he disappears into the heavens. We can imagine their sorrow and confusion. But we rejoice, for where he has gone, we hope to follow. His glorious Ascension into heaven is our destiny, our promised inheritance. As members of his Body, the Ascension of Jesus is the first moment of our own disappearance into God.
"I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me," we hear Jesus tell his Father. His love has the power to draws us where he is in glory, our work is to be utterly nonresistant to this love.
Yes, angels tremble when they see how changed is our humanity; that flesh hath purged what flesh had stained, and God, the flesh of God, hath reigned.
Ascension in an Initial V, Niccolò di Ser Sozzo (Sienese, active 1348– died 1363), The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission. Lines fromÆterne Rex Altissime, the monastichymn for the Ascension.
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