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 being 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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

More

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
 John 16

Again today Jesus promises us his Spirit, the Spirit who will continue to reveal to us the more that God is. This more, this infinity of God’s self-communication, is ours in Christ Jesus. God in Christ ceaselessly pours himself out for us, to us, in us. Our work is constant openness,  incessant availability to this more that Jesus longs to bestow.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A New Reality

John’s Gospel is believed to have been written for the church of Ephesus at the end of 1st century; it addresses an emerging Christian community in transition, adjusting to their separation from Judaism. Many or all of these early Christians had in fact been expelled from the synagogue. Certainly they were disoriented.

And so appropriately John writes a highly symbolic text, which invites them to a radical reorientation and self-understanding. It is perhaps intended as a consolation for them, a reminder that as Christians they belong to a different reality, a new world that is hidden under the outer reality of things. 

And so John’s language is one of radical relationality: “I am in my Father, and you are in me. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,and I will love him and reveal myself to him." We are reminded that we are in radical relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit; we are embedded in the Trinity, for we have been born from above.

Still like those early Christians we too may experience the tension of a world not yet fully transformed, a situation that is ‘already’ and ‘not yet.’ And we monks have Saint Benedict to exhort us, “Your way of acting should be different from the world's way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” Benedict reminds us where we belong, better still to whom we belong. It is our love of Christ, but first of all His love for us that has changed everything.

Indeed only such love can reorient us. And so we live with eager longing for the in-breaking of love; transformative moments, when we can see that in Christ we are “out of this world”- out of the system that puts aggression and success first, the world of political discourse where one-upmanship takes hold, a world where ease and accomplishment grant status and prestige. We belong somewhere else; we have been called into a new order, a new cosmos named the kingdom- where Christ’s power over us is shown best in our weakness, where compassion overcomes fear, where the truth of Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection redefine any earthly notion of success. We are poised to notice glimpses of this new world.  
Photo by Brother Brian.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Free

We once heard the story of the little boy from Italy who comes to America with his father; they are going to live with relatives in New York. They are poor; the father has scraped together just enough to buy two tickets for passage on an ocean liner. And with the bit of money that’s left he has bought a wheel of cheese and a few loaves of bread. This will be their food for the entire trip. Then one day the little boy, precocious as he is, wanders all over the ship and discovers the grand dining room. Plates full of food, so many people. And he spots a family from his village. He goes to them and learns the amazing truth. Then he races back to his teeny cabin. “Papa,” he says. “We can eat as much as we want; it’s free, e gratuito. It comes with the ticket.”

God wants to regale us. "God is to be enjoyed," says St. Augustine. A banquet is prepared for us; he is the banquet. Maybe too often we lower our heads and come to him with bowls that are much too small. Maybe we don’t want to risk being disappointed. But Jesus wants to fill us up with himself. Fill us with an infinity of compassion and mercy. We need to think big, bring a bigger bowl. Perhaps this is what Isaiah is trying to tell us: 

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. For I, the Lord, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as ransom for you, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you and nations in exchange for your life. Isaiah 43
Photographs of  the Abbey in spring by Brother Brian.

Friday, May 19, 2017

To Bear Fruit

Jesus said to his disciples:
"This is my commandment: love one another 
as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

I see you dying on the cross, your heart gashed open. I sense myself at the foot of the cross, self-absorbed, trapped in my selfishness.

You are my friends if you do what I command you.


All I have to do is to love, be compassionate this day -to myself, to others. It is all you ask, a small thing. I can manage with your kind grace.

I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.


You never coerce but invite me to love as you love.

I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.


Though I feel unworthy to be called friend, I sense in the depth of my heart that this intimacy with you is my destiny, my truest vocation- to be love at the heart of your Church.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you


I am consoled to know that you have chosen me. I rejoice despite my foolishness and unworthiness.

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.

If I can manage a small call for your help; it is you who will accomplish in me, through me, all that you invite me to do.

This I command you: love one another.


Indeed, O Lord, your yoke is easy, your burden is light. You bear everything with me. You do all through me. I want to be more and more available to do what I can through your power at work in my weakness and poverty.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Today's Gospel from John 15 with a meditation composed by one of the monks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Remain

Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
 John 15

Jesus remains in us,  like a vine which gives life to the branches.  He is awaiting our call, sending His Spirit, calling on His Father on our behalf. Jesus remains in us, going before us, accompanying us on the way,  preparing a place where He can bring us to Himself.

Jesus remains in us through the community of the Trinity. The Father plants His Son in us as a luxuriant vine and grafts us in as His branches. As a vine turns to the sun, we share in the Son’s constant turning to the Father. As the Spirit is the Gift breathed forth by the Father and the Son, so it becomes our life, keeping the branches alive.

Jesus remains in us as truth. He calls us forth to encounter this truth, especially through the witness of our conscience. Our conscience helps us to recognize what the Father must prune away. Through it we recognize the truth about ourselves. This truth does not lead to us despair, even when our hearts condemn us, because Jesus is both truth and mercy. His forgiveness is “greater than our hearts.” Jesus remains in us, actively seeking our good.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Vincent. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Awake

It is now time for you to wake from sleep; it is far on in the night; 
the day is near.
Keep awake, that the morning light may rise upon you, that is Christ, who will reveal himself as sure as the dawn.
Christ will enable those who keep watch for him to experience 
once more the mystery of his resurrection in the morning.

Then indeed you will sing with a  joyful heart: The Lord is God; he has bestowed his light upon us. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Blessed Guerric of Igny.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sentinels of the Dawn

On Saturday the one hundredth anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Pope Francis canonized Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta, two of the visionaries of Fatima. At the conclusion of his homily at the canonization, the Holy Father said, “With Mary's protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Savior, resplendent at Easter. Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love.”

Gazing upon the resplendent face of Jesus, who is for us "the way and the truth and the life," may we be "sentinels of the dawn" who help the world to rediscover the beauty of His Church.

Photograph by Brother Brian. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Good News

This morning's Gospel is taken from the fourteenth chapter of Saint John, the setting is the Last Supper.  Jesus tells his disciples that he will be betrayed and go to his father's house to prepare a dwelling place for them.  Then he tells them that they know the way to where he is going.  Thomas objects, “Master, we do not know where your are going; how can we know the way?” The answer that Jesus gives is considered by eminent Catholic biblical  scholars as as the highpoint of Johannine theology. “Jesus said to Thomas, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  For us who are the followers of Jesus Christ, this is indeed good news, but for the devotees of other faiths these words can seem arrogant and disrespectful of their religious experience. 

But Jesus is for us “the way, the truth and the life." When you love someone who loves you, you cannot help sharing this news with the people whom you encounter, especially when that love uplifts you and transforms your life. Thus the bottom line, according to Pope Saint John Paul is that, even as we respect other faiths, we as Church “offer mankind the Gospel, that prophetic message which responds to the needs and aspirations of the human heart and always remains Good News. The Church cannot fail to proclaim that Jesus came to reveal the face of  God and to merit salvation for all humanity by his cross and resurrection.”

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  We can think of this Good News as pointing to our going to our Father in heaven at the end of our lives. The words of Jesus today about going to prepare a dwelling place for us in his Father's house reinforce that notion of the other-worldliness of this statement.  Yet once the first disciples of Jesus hear about him from John the Baptist, they go to Jesus who asks them “What are you looking for?” They answer, “Rabbi, where do you dwell?” Jesus replies, “Come and see.” To be real disciples of Jesus we must dwell with him and live in him for he is our lifenot just the truth of our message. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father Luke's Sunday Homily.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Christ Jesus Calls us Out of Darkness into His Own Marvelous Light

A portfolio of recent spring photographs of the Abbey by Brother Brian.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Eucharist

On the night he was betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: “Take, eat: this is my body.” He took the cup, gave thanks and said: “Take, drink: this is my blood.” Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who can have any further doubt? Since he himself has said quite categorically, This is my blood, who would dare to question it and say that it is not his blood?

Therefore, it is with complete assurance that we receive the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. His body is given to us under the symbol of bread, and his blood is given to us under the symbol of wine, in order to make us by receiving them one body and blood with him. Having his body and blood in our members, we become bearers of Christ and sharers, as Saint Peter says, in the divine nature.

Do not, then, regard the Eucharistic elements as ordinary bread and wine: they are in fact the body and blood of the Lord, as he himself has declared. Whatever your senses may tell you, be strong in faith.

You have been taught and you are firmly convinced that what looks and tastes like bread and wine is not bread and wine but the body and the blood of Christ. You know also how David referred to this long ago when he sang: Bread gives strength to man’s heart and makes his face shine with the oil of gladness. Strengthen your heart, then, by receiving this bread as spiritual bread, and bring joy to the face of your soul.

May purity of conscience remove the veil from the face of your soul so that be contemplating the glory of the Lord, as in a mirror, you may be transformed from glory to glory in Christ Jesus our Lord. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Saint Cyril of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Apple Tree

The old, gnarled apple trees that fill the orchard behind the Abbey church are in full bloom now. And we recall the lyrics of an early American hymn, clearly informed by the author's reading of the biblical Song of Songs, dear to our Cistercian forebears.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.


For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.


This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.


From Divine Hymns or Spiritual Songs,
compiled by Joshua Smith, New Hampshire, 1784.
Set to a tune by Elizabeth Poston, 1905-1987.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Good Shepherd

Back in the days when we still had our flock of sheep, Father Robert, who was the shepherd, asked me if I would go down to the barn and feed the sheep in the morning because he had an early appointment. I said sure. I had seen him do it many times so I knew what to do. The next morning as I made my way over the barn I could hear the sheep bleating. When I opened the door and walked in the sheep froze, the bleating stopped and they all stared at me, as if I was an alien from another planet. I think I felt more uncomfortable than the sheep did. I went and got a bale of hay, cut the ropes and started to put the hay in their feeding troughs. Nothing happened. I tried to coax them to come and get the hay but they just stood there. There was some grain there that Fr. Robert used to give them for a treat so I poured some of it over the hay. Nothing happened. They just stood there and looked at me. I figured they are not going to eat while I’m there so I left. The next day I went down with Fr. Robert to see how he did it. When we got close to the barn he started call to them with a loud sing-song voice. They knew his voice. When we entered the barn all the sheep came running to the fence to be near him, sounding very happy. Then he did his roll call and called out their names – Margaret, Sally, Betty, and as they heard their name each one made a sound as if to acknowledge that they heard their name. Then Robert opened the gates to take them out to the pasture. He walked in front of them and they all followed. They won’t follow anyone else. It was then that the gospel story of the Good Shepherd became real for me.

The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one of the most often used and beloved images of Christ in Christian art. Some of the earliest depictions of Jesus are found in the Catacombs. He is shown as a young shepherd with a sheep around his shoulders. This image of the shepherd is woven into the very language of the Bible. In Matthew and Luke Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will risk his life to save the one straying sheep. In Mark, Jesus is deeply moved with compassion for the crowds that come to him and calls them, “sheep without a shepherd.” In both the Old and New Testament, the religious leaders of the people are referred to as ‘shepherds’ and the people are the ‘flock’.

The shepherd of the biblical Middle East had an intimate relationship with his flock. He would lead them out to pasture every day and remain with them. In the evening he would lead them back to the barn where they would be safe from predators. He knew each one individually and would notice immediately if one of them was missing. Jesus’ parable of the ‘lost sheep’ would have resonated perfectly with his hearers. 
Excerpts from Father Emmanuel's Sunday Homily.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Adoration

Yesterday as every first Sunday of the month was Retreat Sunday with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament all afternoon. The day was set aside as a day of special prayer for vocations.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life.
Psalm 62

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Regina Cœli

During Eastertide our recitation of the Angelus at dawn, noon and before retiring is replaced by the recitation of the Regina Cœli:

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
Has risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Spring has come at last to our area of New England, and violets are blooming in profusion on the edges of sidewalks and all over the lawns of the monastery. The low-growing violet is a symbol of humility. And our Father, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, described the Virgin Mary as the "violet of humility." In paintings the violet was also used to denote the humility of Christ in assuming our humanity. The violets we see everywhere remind us of the Virgin Mary and her Son, risen from the dead.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Wonder

The Lord is risen from the dead, "trampling down death by death." We monks rejoice for the next fifty days of Eastertide, singing Alleluia over and over in a seemingly endless variety of ways. Alleluia expresses our wonder at the beauty as well as the incomprehensibilty of the Resurrection of the Lord. Jesus wounded, full of the holes and marks of His Passion, is risen and among us.

Wonder happens when we allow ourselves to be disarmed by God’s in-breaking and respond with reverent awe. Wonder requires us to acknowledge what we do not know or understand. It is a different kind of knowing that leads to a hidden humble faith. We wonder and we believe. Like being in love, wonder is a way of being that colors all we know. It lets us acknowledge miracles.* Like love, wonder allows all things, believes all things. It lets God be God, magnificent, extravagant and sometimes incomprehensible. Wonder says, "Yes." It does not demand certitude. Instead, wonder says, “Why not?”

Wonder allows God to be God- absolutely Other, beyond and also nearer to us than we know- allows us to be amazed at God's marvels in us, all around us. Wonder says, "You are God, you can do all things." Only a loving, faith-filled wonder can comprehend God’s incomprehensible power and beauty enfleshed in the wounded risen Christ. Let us give "thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds" for for He has broken the bonds of pain and death for us, forever. The Lord is truly risen; let us rejoice. 


Icon written by Brother Terence.
*Some ideas from Peter de Bolla 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Hidden


Be glad, find joy there, gathered together and present to Him who dwells within, since He is so close to you; desire Him there, adore Him there, and do not go off looking for Him elsewhere... There is just one thing: even though He is within you, He is hidden.

Saint John of the Cross

Monday, May 1, 2017

May

May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Nature's motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfed cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation. 

Phoograph by Brother Brian. Poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins