Sunday, April 23, 2017

Jesus and Thomas

A whole Sunday is set aside by the Church to celebrate the abundance and constant availability of Jesus' mercy. As we see Thomas put his hand into Jesus' open side, we pray with our Cistercian Father, Blessed William of Saint Thierry:

Those unsearchable riches of your glory, Lord, were hidden in your secret place in heaven until the soldier's spear opened the side of your Son our Lord and Savior on the cross, and from it flowed the mysteries of our redemption. Now we may not only thrust our finger or our hand into his side like Thomas, but through that open door may enter whole, O Jesus, into your heart, the sure seat of your mercy, even into your holy soul that is filled with the fullness of God, full of grace and truth, full of our salvation and our consolation. Open, O Lord, the ark door of your side, that all your own who shall be saved may enter in, before this flood that overwhelms the earth. Open to us your body's side, that those who long to see the secrets of your Son may enter in and receive the sacraments that flow therefrom, even the price of their redemption. Open the door of your heaven, that your redeemed may see the good things of God in the land of the living. Let them see and long, and yearn and run...

Andrea del Verrocchio, Christ and Saint Thomas, bronze, 1483, Orsanmichele, Florence. Lines from William of Saint Thierry, Meditations, 6.11-12

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Understanding

On the night before he died, when Jesus wanted to give his disciples the most accurate understanding possible of what he was about to do on the cross, he did not give them a theory. He gave them an action: a meal interpreted by a foot washing.

It was very intimate, precious and personal. It was as if Jesus were saying: "I am doing this for you; yes, you. Not just the person sitting next to you. I can cleanse and refresh every part of you: the sad parts, the lonely parts, the messy and muddled parts, the parts you wish with all your heart could be healed. They can be. Let me wash you. Taste my bread and drink my wine. This is what my coming death is all about." Indeed this is what his Resurrection is all about.

Meditation by Abbot Damian. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

When Desire Grows

When a man's intellect is constantly with God, his desire grows beyond all measure into an intense longing for God and…is completely transformed into divine love. For by continual participation in the divine radiance his intellect becomes totally filled with light; and when it has reintegrated its passible aspect, it redirects this aspect towards God, filling it with an incomprehensible and intense longing for Him and with unceasing love, thus drawing it entirely away from worldly things to the divine. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Maximus the Confessor.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Always

Our Easter celebration is imbued with joy, marked by the ringing of bells, the lights, incense, solemn vestments, and the seemingly continuous chant of Alleluia.  And this is entirely as it should be.  For what other emotion could we feel when, after reliving the Lord’s suffering and death, after contemplating his lying in the tomb, we encounter him risen from the dead, returned to us with his promise, “I shall remain with you always."

We naturally assume  that this same joy also permeates the Scriptural accounts of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances, that the disciples were overjoyed to see the risen Lord, but in fact, only Luke makes specific mention of joy, and then only once.  In verse 41 of chapter 24, while the two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus were recounting their experience to the Eleven, Luke mentions, almost in passing, that when Jesus himself appeared, “they still disbelieved for joy.”

Strangely enough, the emotion that dominates the biblical accounts of these encounters is fear. The kind of fear we are talking about certainly contains an element of fright or alarm, but limiting our reading to this narrow range of emotions would be a mistake.  Because even though all these incidents or encounters were unprecedented and even unheard-of, and would certainly have startled or frightened those who witnessed or experienced them, they were essentially manifestations of the power of God.  Therefore the fear they evoked  was holy fear, overwhelming awe at the presence of the Omnipotent God.  


Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Abbot Damian.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How Foolish

Not long ago we heard about a disabled man named Walter who lives in a group home for the severely physically handicapped. Walter loves to dance. But this is next to impossible given his condition. And at parties when he has made attempts, wiggling and shaking, he has been restrained by staff who fear for his safety. One day the sounds of rock music and loud crashes are heard upstairs in the residence. The ruckus is traced to Walter’s room. Nurses rush upstairs, knock frantically, call Walter’s name and finally burst into his room. They see him twirling around and falling to the floor as the music booms. He is flushed and sweaty and laughing. As they rush to help him up, he reassures them, “It’s OK, the falls are part of the dance.”

It is probably something we all get to learn sooner or later- how to welcome the falling, the mess and see it as opportunity, perhaps even grace. How wonderful then to have the Lord Jesus remind us this morning in the Gospel, "Oh, how foolish you are!" We have forgotten that the falls and seeming disasters are opportunities for God's intervention. We too often forget that the Lord Jesus, the Lord of all creation, the promised Messiah had to suffer and die. "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Christ Jesus

T
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. And may he lead them all together into eternal life. 

Detail of resurrected Christ by Bergognone. Lines from The Constitutions of the Monks.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Resurrection is not simply a doctrine. It is not just a future fact for us, or a past event for Jesus that we celebrate on Easter Sunday. It is a person, and according to the Fourth Gospel the disciples believed that when resurrection happened, it would happen to all God’s people all at once. Not to one person in the middle of time. Not just to Jesus. That would be an odd, outlandish event, unimagined, unheard-of. Resurrection is a new creation in the person of Jesus for all of creation. 

There was another “emptying of a tomb” shortly before Christ’s death and resurrection. When Jesus raised Lazarus, Lazarus returned to present life. The echoes of the Lazarus story in the Easter Gospel are there partly to tell us that it was the same kind of event, but mostly to tell us that it was not.  Lazarus came back into a world where death still threatened. Jesus goes on through death and out into a new world, a new creation, a new life beyond, where death itself has been defeated and life, life in all its fullness, can begin again. Easter is the beginning of a new creation, not just for Jesus but for all of us in him.

As we face the many dark and chaotic places in our world, and no doubt many dark places in our own lives where fear, resentment, shock and anxiety cripple our understanding, restrict our faith and stifle our love, let us follow Jesus out of that empty tomb, out of the dark and into the light of eternal Day. Jesus himself, risen from death to the glory of eternal life, is the beginning of the new story of our lives— not a distant historical event, but as Caryll Houselander loved to insist, “We are his resurrection; he continues to rise within us.”

The stone has been rolled away. The day dawns with a new light. The earth quakes in celebration and joy. Christ is risen, and in him so have you and I.  Jesus is alive and with us. He calls us now to live everyday as Easter. His resurrection is not a one day celebration. It is a way of life. This means that every cross may flower with new life, every tomb become a womb of new birth, and every darkness be overcome by light. That is why we proclaim with hope arising from the very center of our sorrows and losses,  “Alleluia! Christ is risen!”
Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Dominic. 
                                               

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter

In celebrating Christ’s resurrection, we are celebrating the fact that God has made the impossible possible for us. The resurrection has made it possible for us to live, together, in God’s love, to overcome all differences of language, ethnicity, station and culture and be united in the body of the Church. The resurrection has made it possible to break the cycle of sin and violence, by enabling us to resist responding to hatred with aggression, to turn the other cheek and even offer a good word. The resurrection has made it possible to be holy, as our heavenly Father is holy, to love others as God loves. The resurrection has made it possible for us discard the myths of individuality, independence and self-sufficiency and to live with and for each other.

To finish a little closer to home, the resurrection has made it possible for us to lead this impossible and unnatural life of ours in the monastery, to love the brothers and the place, to prefer nothing to the Work of God, to live to sing his praises and to cherish his word. The challenges that all this possibility represents may indeed inspire fear, but let us remember and rejoice that God has raised his Son from the dead, and given us the Spirit of his Love, who casts out all fear, and who makes everything possible.  

Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Abbot Damian.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Saturday


Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh...

In the stillness of Holy Saturday we await all that Christ's Resurrection will bring.

Illustration by Eric Gill (British, 1882-1940). Lines from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

Yesterday we shared with Jesus in the foot washing and in his last supper. That sharing continues today as we participate in the mystery of his death. We stand at the foot of the Cross because there is really nowhere else to go. During today’s liturgy, we pray the solemn collects for the Church, the nations and the people of the world. We name the suffering, the messiness of our lives and of our world. We feel and enter into the isolation and abandonment of this day. We dare to ask ourselves the question that so often haunts us and haunts so many of our brothers and sisters around the world: “Where is God?” We ask it not so much looking for an answer but as a portal into the mystery of God’s absence.

And we do not stop there. We glory in the Cross of Jesus. We declare that joy has come to the world by virtue of his cross. We adore and bless Christ because by his holy cross he has given us life. We sing about the faithful Cross

This is the mystery and paradox of Good Friday. It means that there is more to this day than death. The cross is not the end. It is Jesus' entry into and presence with us in the last place we ever want to be. So today we take our share in him and with him that he might take his share in our hell, in whatever form it takes in our lives. Today Jesus is on the cross, death is there, and hell awaits. But Jesus presence tramples down hell. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Abbot Damian.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday

Perhaps more than any other liturgy of the year, the liturgy of Holy Thursday is about intimacy. Intimacy revealed in a bath, a washing, and in a a meal. The bath occurs in the Chapter Room, where we commemorate John’s account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. 
In John’s account of the washing of the feet, Jesus kneels on the floor in front of each disciple. One by one, the water of his life and love washes over each of them. No one is left out. Peter, even though initially, along with the others whose words are not recorded. Even Judas is not left out. All are washed. All are loved. Each one and all.

This evening’s liturgy holds before us, each one of us---a choice. That choice, fundamentally, at its core, is about vulnerability and intimacy, because it is about love. In some ways this choice may be more challenging, more real, more bodily than many of us are comfortable with. It is somewhat easy to talk and sing about love. In so doing we can easily forget or lose sight of, the challenge, the risk, the vulnerability and the intimacy involved in the washing and kissing of someone’s feet; and in the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Jesus together.

Intimacy can be frightening. It calls us to a place of vulnerability, risk and openness; a place in which we will certainly be changed and transformed; as transformed as the bread and wine. Intimacy is fundamentally about relationship, oneness, union and communion, with God, each other and ourselves. Intimacy is about how God loves. Jesus said to Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 
Brothers and sisters, such vulnerability, risk and intimacy is the way of Jesus Christ. It is the way of love. And such love is a choice. It is a choice that Jesus made in washing and feeding each one of the disciples gathered around him. And it a choice that he invites, no, commands us to make. “As I have loved you…you must love one another.” Jesus holds out to each one of us a stark reality. The choice to love or not to love. And to love, not some, but all. This is the choice that is before us. We cannot choose to love only those whom we like, who we think are deserving, for whom we have warm feelings, who look like us or act like us. It is an all or nothing proposition. If we do not love all, we love none. 

Love for Jesus is about a choice. In Jesus’ teaching if you have feet, you get washed, regardless of where those feet have been or where they are going. Jesus first handed Judas the morsel before he left the group. That is the example and commandment he sets before us. 

Photographs by Brother Brian. Reflection by Abbot Damian.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Light and Living Water

Christ Jesus comes to all the dead-ends in our lives, what seems impossible, what seems to trap and bind us. He resolutely steps into our primordial darkness and says, “No! I won’t have it. God won’t have it. Let there be light.” For the Light that is Christ Jesus our Lord cannot abide the darkness, the shame and isolation. He is Light that transforms us.

Jesus who is sent by his Father to heal and redeem and relieve us will anoint us with the blood and water flowing from his sacred wounded side. He is the Living Water that recreates and refreshes. And even as he prepares in these days to step into the darkness of rejection that is hanging over him, oppressive, inevitable; he does not hold back, he moves steadfastly into it all, knowing that he can bring life out of what seems impossible; all the while trusting in his Father's love. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

His Light

Jesus is the in-breaking of God’s regenerative intimacy with us. On Calvary in his Hour, he will pour himself out, the blood and water gushing from his hands and feet and his wounded heart will drench and anoint the earth, from this sacred clay a new creation will blossom. And all of creation gone hopelessly astray will be released from the burden of sin and all darkness and shame and Satan’s constant deceptions. Things must made right again. Light will indeed conquer darkness once and for all, because God will allow Godself to be crushed by death or darkness. They will be duped and reversed, for they are no match for the light that he is. 


Monday, April 10, 2017

This Week

We pass this statue of Saint Benedict often. His admonition to silence is a fitting reminder for us, as we go up to Jerusalem with Our Lord during this most holy week. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

I would like to welcome you all to the discomfort of another Holy Week. In Matthew’s gospel reading of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, he says that when Jesus “entered into Jerusalem the whole city was shaken (in turmoil)”… The Greek word here literally means to shake or to quake, as in an earthquake. Matthew likes this word. He will use it to describe the shaking of the earth and the splitting of the rocks at Jesus’ crucifixion; at the earthquake that accompanies the angel rolling the stone away from Jesus’ tomb and the shaking of the guard who stood at the tomb.

Holy Week is meant to be one earthquake after another. On Monday Mary will pour costly oil on Jesus’ feet and everyone in the house will be shaken with dismay. (Why is she wasting this costly oil!) On Tuesday, Peter (and each one of us) will hear Jesus’s invitation to die before we die. And that invitation becomes the epicenter of our faith. On Wednesday Judas’ betrayal will reveal the fault line that runs through each one of us. On Thursday we will tremble at the intimacy of touching, washing and kissing one another’s feet. On Friday the earth will quake as the cross of our God and Savior is plunged into the heart of the earth. The silence of Holy Saturday will cause the gates of hell to shudder and burst open.

The shaking, turmoil and destruction of Holy Week is meant to be real for each one of us. Somewhere in each of our lives we need the triumphant turmoil of Christ. We all need the devastation of anything that keeps us from being fully ourselves, fully alive as God’s beloved children. The turmoil of this day and this week is really Christ’s earth shaking entrance into our world and our lives. A Blessed Earth-shaking Holy Week to you all.

Entry into Jerusalem by Giotto; Father Abbot's Homily for Palm Sunday, 2017.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lifting Up

When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me. John 8



Jesus reminds us that it is in the Hour of his lifting up on the cross that God's identity will truly be made clear to us. God is always toward us, pouring himself out for us in self-forgetful loveAnd in Jesus crucified we see this most unambiguously. God could not bear to have us trapped in sin, death and darkness, and so he rescues us in Christ. Jesus' unimaginable suffering reverses everything; death is overcome forever because God cannot die. Death dies in Christ.

Crucifixion by Diego Velasquez,

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Clothing of Brother Mikah

In the midst of the soberness of Lent, we rejoiced last Sunday as our Brother Mikah was clothed in the novice's habit during Chapter. As is our custom the ceremony began with Dom Damian asking Brother Mikah, "What do you seek?" He responded, "The mercy of God and of the Order." This brief dialogue reminded all of us that our life as monks is a life of total, loving dependence on Christ our Savior who constantly invites us to draw water in joy from the fountains of his mercy flowing from his wounded side.
O God, in that unutterable kindness by which you dispose all things sweetly and wisely, you gave us clothing, so that a triple benefit might be ours: we are covered with dignity, kept warm and protected in body and soul. Father, pour forth the blessing of your Holy Spirit upon us this morning and upon these clothes which your son here before us has asked to receive, so that he may serve you faithfully in the Cistercian way of life.
Photographs by Brother Brian.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Come Out to My Side!

Ezekiel begins: “O my people…” He reminds the Israelites of the very foundation of their faith: God always takes the initiative and chooses them first. They were like dry bones, scattered abroad, but he knit them together and raised them up. God always takes the initiative with us, too. We are a people, not held together by our own likes and dislikes, but by the hands of our heavenly Father. We belong to Jesus. His Spirit dwells in us. The heart of Jesus embraces his closest friends and disciples without shunning those leaders who wanted to see him dead.

Ezekiel continues, "I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” What a word of hope, for the Israelites and for us. Perhaps these words filled the heart of Jesus as he approached the tomb of Lazarus. He trusted in his Father to bring Lazarus back and in doing so to glorify both himself and his Son. As opposed to the fear of death that holds so many people in its clutches, Jesus’ mission is to banish that fear by passing through death with us. The heart of Jesus is a heart filled with hope, a hope that cries out, “O my people, come out to my side!”

Ezekiel then remarks, "...thus you shall know that I am the Lord." It is a call to faith. Jesus had to do the same even with his closest friends. To Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” To the disciples, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe.” And to all the people standing at Lazarus’ tomb, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” Jesus could become exasperated when he encountered a lack of understanding and unbelief, but he pressed forward. His heart could not rest until all those standing near recognized the glory of God.

Ezekiel concludes, “I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.” Everything depends on God’s promise, his promise of faithful love. If we want to know the essence of what lies in the heart of Jesus, it is this. John puts it this way: “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Excerpts from Father Vincent's homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tree of Life

I like a trusting lamb led to slaughter,
had not realized that they were hatching plots against me:
"Let us destroy the tree in its vigor;
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will be spoken no more."
But, you, O Lord of hosts, O just Judge,
searcher of mind and heart... to you I have entrusted my cause!  

Jeremiah 11

Jesus is the most beautiful young tree cut off in his vigor. But he will foil the forces of destruction, for he is truly God. The blood-soaked cross of his agony and death will become the radiant Tree of  Life.

Madonna and Child with Saints, Girolamo dai Libri, Italian, Verona 1474–1555, ca. 1520, Tempera and oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Suffering

Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put him to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience. 




These prophetic words from today's First Reading taken from the Book of Wisdom set the stage for all that Jesus our Lord will suffer in the days ahead. We want to accompany him in prayer and watching, and to open our hearts to the suffering members of his body in our world right now- refugees, those persecuted for their faith, victims of poverty and war. So very mindful of the reality of so much, too much suffering, we feel helpless. We trust in God's love and mercy, even though we do not understand. We want to cradle Jesus' wounded body with our prayer, awed and humbled by the Mystery. We want to suffer with,  accompanying him, allowing all the pain to bring us to silence.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fulfillment in Christ

As the days of the his suffering and death draw near, Jesus reveals more clearly the truth of who he is. Today he tells us that Moses wrote about him. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law that Moses gave, for he is the way, the truth and the life. In his mighty deeds and in all he spoke, he revealed the righteousness of God that the Law was pointing to.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Duped

Jesus is the in-breaking of God’s regenerative intimacy with us. And on Calvary in his Hour he will pour himself out. The blood and water gushing from his hands and feet and his wounded heart will drench and anoint the earth, from this sacred clay a new creation will blossom. And all of creation gone hopelessly astray will be released from the burden of sin and all darkness and shame and Satan’s constant deceptions. Things must made right again. Light will indeed conquer darkness once and for all, because God will allow Godself to be crushed by death or darkness. But they will be duped and reversed, for they are no match for the Light that he is. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

At the Cross

I ask you to “fast forward” to the crucifixion scene; imagine it as vividly as possible, with Mary at the foot of the cross and please listen to the following quotation which characterizes Jesus’ ministry:

Success or failure has little to do with living the gospel.  Jesus just stood with the outcasts until they were welcomed, or he was crucified, whichever came first. 
Greg Boyle, Tattoos in the Heart: the power of boundless compassion

In the crucifixion Jesus undergoes a radical de-humanization, he becomes the Outcast, and Mary stands there with Jesus the Outcast. She stands there until he is welcomed or she is crucified, whichever comes first. On her watch she welcomes his mangled corpse; she receives and embraces him as portrayed so hauntingly in Michelangelo’s Pietà

In the stark light of Greg Boyle’s reflection on Jesus’ mission, Mary is revealed as grasping the heart of Jesus’ inauguration of God’s kingdom. She really “gets it”, she is the extension of Jesus’ mission even before the resurrection. And in so doing she becomes the primordial disciple.

Detail of crucifix attributed to Michelangelo. Meditation by Father Isaac.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Once Blind

What is most disappointing in this morning's Gospel is the tragic lack of wonder; we hear only doubt and denial and rejection. A man blind from birth is healed. And the stubborn Pharisees, blind and arrogant guides that they are, refuse to see. They despise Jesus and the light he bestows because it bursts the boundaries of their expectations and the protocols they are sure God should follow. They know better. And perhaps saddest of all, since his blindness has always shamed his parents, now fearing they will be shunned completely, they say disinterestedly. “We don’t know. Ask him.”

But they all have got it wrong; it is not sin that causes blindness, it is sinning itself that is blindness. This is perfectly depicted in a fresco by the early Renaissance master Masaccio. In his painting Adam and Eve are expelled from Paradise by an angel floating above them brandishing a huge sword. Embarrassed, stark naked, they cower together, their eyes tight shut in grief. Blinded by their sinning, they depart in shame.

No wonder that for centuries today’s Gospel has been used in preparing catechumens for their baptism. For baptism is rightly called enlightenment; the washing away of original blindness. And in today’s Gospel we witness a dramatic progression from darkness into light, as the once-blind man becomes an enlightened disciple. He speaks the truth of his experience of Jesus, simply, emphatically. Harassed by the Pharisees, he is unflinching. “If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything…One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see." He knows it is all amazing grace

The Pharisees are so outraged by his outspokenness that they throw him out. Sighted, but rejected, he is truly a disciple now, rejected like Jesus, his new Master. Jesus seeks him out once again, and reveals his true identity as the Son of Man, “I who speak with you am he.” And then this once-blind man gazing on the beauty of God in Christ sees and believes and instinctively bows down in worship. It is what we all desire most ardently- to see his face, to hear his voice.

Masaccio, The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, detail, fresco, 1425, Brancacci Chapel,  Church of Santa Maria del CarmineFlorence

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Annunciation

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
  only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
                     Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–
but who was God.

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation, c. 1438-47, fresco, 230 x 321 cm, Convent of San Marco, Florence. Lines from the poem Annunciation by Denise Levertov.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Revelations?

Moments of temptation are revelatoryof who we are and of what’s going on inside us. There is so much we are meant to learn from them; we grow by them.  Like Jesus in the desert, in struggling with our temptations we begin to know ourselves not only as weak but also filled with and led by the Spirit. The temptations by the devil called forth in Jesus the confirmation of his baptismal identity, and it was that identity by which he overcame the temptations. The remarkable thing is that Jesus ended up knowing and experiencing the truth about himself (his sonship, his belovedness, and his Father’s pleasure) in a confirmatory way precisely in response to temptation. And this is what prepared him to then go on to speak to the people of Nazareth immediately afterwards. The same is true for us. Our struggle with temptations (regardless of whether we are successful or not in resisting them at the moment) teaches us volumes about ourselves, and confirms our deepest identity and relationship with God, even if through weakness we momentarily give in to them. (That, after all, is what compunction is about.) Perhaps we do better to think of temptations not as judgments but as revelations.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Dominic.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Temptation

The good news is that our temptations, struggles, and “wilderness experiences” offer an opportunity for us to become more whole, more integrated, more fully ourselves, because they teach us about ourselves, they gradually form our self-understanding, and they even return us to ourselves. That is what they did for Jesus, and that is what they can do for us. The desert monks certainly saw it this way. Saint Antony the Great, the father of monasticism, goes so far as to say: “Without temptation no one can be saved.”
Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Dominic.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fire at Our Lady of the Valley


This is a day of remembrance for our community. For 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.

Friends and neighbors of the monastery look on
as the flèche goes up in flames.
laybrother assists the firefighters.

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 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.

We dare not compare the plight of a few monks with the trauma of so many homeless people, especially refugees in the Middle East. Nonetheless it is good for us to open our hearts in prayer for them, recalling that we monks were once homeless as well.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Joseph

There is no doubt that the Joseph to whom the Savior's mother was betrothed was a good and faithful man. In him the Lord found a man after his own heart to whom he could safely confide his most holy and secret design. To him he revealed the unfathomable, hidden depths of his wisdom and granted him knowledge of that mystery which was known to none of the princes of this world. In a word that which many kings and prophets had longed to see and had not seen, to hear and had not heard-that was granted to Joseph.

Saint Joseph was a man of faith and faithfulness. He trusted God; he trusted Mary. Living in close union with Christ Jesus and Our Lady in their home at Nazareth, with Mary he loved the person of Christ most tenderly. Joseph most faithfully cared for Mary and their Son in a hidden workaday life that was undoubtedly “ordinary, obscure and laborious.”

 Fragment of a wooden  carving of Saint  Joseph in one of the corners of the Abbey. Lins from Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Woman of Samaria

A number of biblical scholars have suggested that the Samaritan woman is a symbol of her people with whom Jesus wishes to enter into a relationship as Bridegroom and Messiah. Seen from this perspective, a marvelous dialogue unfolds between Jesus and his potential bride-to-be. And it is appropriate that he would speak of a “gift” to show the seriousness of his intent. Jesus’ gift is not gold or silver but “living water” that wells up to eternal life.

The Samaritan woman asks Jesus to give her this living water. But before Jesus can give her this gift, she must be ready to receive it. So Jesus tells her to go and bring before him the main obstacle, her husband. She must bring before him her principal sin. Jesus wants us to bring him the big things, in which the contradiction between sin and grace is seen by us in all clarity.

The woman hesitantly accepts the Lord’s challenge by confessing a partial truth: “I have no husband.” She has nevertheless taken a new step. Jesus accepts her half-confession. But being Jesus, he looks right through her, sees her whole previous life and tells her so. He wants candor on both sides; he needs a full confession.

“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet”, she says; meaning, you look right through me; you see what I am and what I was.  Jesus has not given her the least reproach. He does not ask for anything more. Freed now from sin, she goes immediately to the essential and asks about worship. How am I to pray? She looks for guidance, she says to Jesus “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes he will tell us everything.” With this open, straightforward confession of faith, the woman creates a space for the Lord to disclose himself to her with a fullness and clarity not yet given to anyone up to this point in John’s Gospel: “I who speak to you am he.”

With this she is prepared for mission, to go forth and bear spiritual children for the Lord. But the Wedding Day as well as the handing over the promised gift is yet to come. We will celebrate it in a few weeks in the events of Holy Week, when Jesus will make the ultimate sacrifice in undergoing the humiliation of the Cross, that from his pierced side living water may flow, slaking the thirst of all who believe in him and washing away all their sins. Here on the Cross Jesus will be united to his Bride, with whom he will dwell in all eternity.

Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255 - c.1319)Christ and the Samaritan Woman, 1310-1311, tempera and gold on poplar panel, 17 x 18 1/8 in., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Excerpts from Father Timothy's homily for the Third Sunday of Lent.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lost in Love

In his great love for us, Jesus became the Lost Son. Coming down to us from his heavenly home, from his Father's house, he squandered himself for our sake, even unto death, death on a cross. But God exalted him, raised him up. And so we rejoice in Jesus crucified and risen, for baptized into Christ, we too are God's beloved sons and daughters. Jesus has brought us all back to our Father's embrace.

Stubborn in our sinful pride, we may forget who we are, to whom we belong. But the Father reminds us over and over, "All I have is yours." In Christ Jesus wounded and risen for our sake, all the Father has is ours. Jesus is ours. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

With Patrick


Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

In the midst of our Lenten observance we pause to remember and celebrate Saint Patrick. The words of his own prayer called the Lorica or Breastplate remind us where we can find Christ Jesus from moment to moment.

Excerpts from The Breastplate of Saint Patrick with photos of Abbey glass by Brother Daniel.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Love Unknown

My song is love unknown,
my Savior’s love to me.
Love to the loveless shown,
that they might lovely be.
Oh, who am I that for my sake,
oh, who am I that for my sake
my Lord should take frail flesh and die?


He came from heaven’s throne
salvation to bestow;
but they refused, and none
the longed-for Christ would know.
This is my friend, my friend indeed,
this is my friend, my friend indeed,
who at my need, his life did spend.


Photograph by Brother Brian. Text from our Lauds hymn this morning, Love Unknown by John Ireland.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Consoled

Faced with various challenges and difficulties, we were consoled this morning during Vigils as we recited these words from Psalm 72: 

Yet I was always in your presence;
you were holding me by my right hand.
You will guide me by your counsel
and so you will lead me to glory.

What else have I in heaven but you?
Apart from you I want nothing on earth.
My body and my heart faint for joy;
God is my possession for ever.


O Lord, teach me to love you more and more with my whole heart and all my energy. Let me ever look toward you, that I may radiate your peace.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Transfigurations

Sometimes we are so bogged down with the distractions and preoccupations of daily life that we miss the everyday transfigurations that are waiting for us. They are not dramatic and we do not have to climb a mountain to experience them. We encounter them in the quiet moments of prayer. When reading or listening to the Scriptures something jumps out at us and commands our attention. When we are captivated by the beauty in creation, awestruck by a sunset, moved to tears by a passionate piece of music or the radiant smile of a friend, Christ is in all of these experiences and many more that we take for granted. 

We all have our mountaintop experiences, even if they are brief and fleeting and we should cherish them. Being on the mountain is a wonderful experience, but Jesus himself did not remain there. He came down to be with the people in their pains and sorrows, in their fears and anxieties, in their neediness and their sins. When we come back down the mountain we also return to the ordinariness of daily life. All the same problems, challenges and disappointments are there but in some way changed. We begin to recognize, little by little, the things that are really important in life. We are freer to experience God’s presence in our daily life. The full meaning of a mountain top experience often does not become clear until we return to the ordinary.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation excerpted from Father Emmanuel's homily for the Second Sunday of Lent.