Saturday, July 22, 2017

Gathering Us

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Light in the Cloister

 
"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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Sower

In his 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.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Retreat

"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.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mercy

"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.

Friday, July 7, 2017

An Infirmary

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.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Together

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.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What Perhaps We Monks Can Offer

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.
Photographs by Brother Brian. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Losing Everything

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.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Our Lady on Saturday

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.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Saints Peter and Paul

As we celebrate the great Apostles Peter and Paul, we recall the words of an ancient Latin hymn for this feast, Aurea Luce.

O happy Rome!
Ruddied by the noble blood of these princes;
It is not your praise,
But their merits which excel
All the beauty of the earth.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

After the Storm

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

Photograph by Charles O'Connor.

Providence

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.

Monday, June 26, 2017

As a Child

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.” 

Let 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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Passing Beauty

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 Wisdom remind 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."


Friday, June 23, 2017

Sacred Heart

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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rabbits

Numerous bunny rabbits have been sighted hopping around the monastic enclosure this year. We are glad to know they feel safe among us in this place.
Praise be to Thee my Lord with all Thy creatures!
Saint Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Living Bread

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 appetites.

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.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fragile



















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.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

His Body

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. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Friends

You are my friends if you do what I command you.
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 15:12-17    
     
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.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday


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.

Excerpts from Father Aquinas' homily.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Ephrem

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. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Love

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.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

If You Can Remember...

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 Son...” 

Window at the Abbey Cottage photographed by Ted DeSaulnier.

Monday, June 5, 2017

At Pentecost

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.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

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."*

*see Gerard Sloyan

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Charles Lwanga

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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

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 30, 2017

Loved

Every 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."

We 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?”

We 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.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mary in the Upper Room

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.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Welcoming God's Spirit

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.
Amen.

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.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Saint Philip Neri

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. 

Saint Philip Neri, Carlo Dolci, Italian, 1645 or 1646, oil on canvas, 17 1/4 × 14 1/4 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ascension

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 from Æterne Rex Altissime, the monastic hymn for the Ascension.