Thursday, November 16, 2017

Notice

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, the lust for power, and idle talk. 

Give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to your servant.

O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own transgressions and not judge my brother, for blessed are you for all ages. Amen.

This prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian is a fitting reflection for the close of the day, as we notice blessings as well as those times when our love was too small.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Transformation

The hundredfold is ours. God has spoken His Word to us, as to the lost son’s older brother, “You are always with me. All I have is yours.” Jesus is himself this message of the Father’s deep love. Christ Jesus our Lord is himself the hundredfold he promises. He has pressed himself to us, to our humanity in its shabbiness and breathed new life into us. In his passion and resurrection, he has healed and refreshed, renewed and transformed it all.

And if, as Benedict exhorts us, we are to prefer absolutely nothing to Christ, it is because he has first of all preferred absolutely nothing at all to each of us, accepting even death, death on a cross for our sake. We are invited to lose everything in order to gain everything. Jesus himself is the everything; Jesus who is the gift given to us a hundred times over. Beyond our wildest dreams, the love of the Father for the Son in the Spirit is now ours in Christ Jesus, our Lord. 

Icon written by Brother Terence.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Kindness of Christ Jesus

But, brethren, from all that might be said of His character I single out one point and beg you to notice that. He loved to praise, He loved to reward. He knew what was in man, He best knew men's faults and yet He was the warmest in their praise. When He worked a miracle He would grace it with Thy faith hath saved thee, that it might almost seem the receiver's work, not His. He said of Nathanael that he was an Israelite without guile; He that searches hearts said this, and yet what praise that was to give! He called the two sons of Zebedee Sons of Thunder, kind and stately and honorable name! We read of nothing thunderlike that they did except, what was sinful, to wish fire down from heaven on some sinners, but they deserved the name or He would not have given it, and He has given it them for all time. Of John the Baptist He said that his greater was not born of women. He said to Peter, Thou art Rock, and rewarded a moment's acknowledgment of him with the lasting headship of His Church. He defended Magdalen and took means that the story of her generosity should be told forever. And though He bids us say we are unprofitable servants, yet He Himself will say to each of us, Good and faithful servant, well done.
Detail of The Savior, El Greco (and workshop), 1608-1614, oil on canvas, 72 cm x 55 cm, The Prado, Madrid. Lines from a Sermon of the poet, Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, preached on November 23, 1879, at Bedford Leigh.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Martin

In this two-tiered manuscript painting of The Legend of Saint Martin, the story begins on the bottom level. There the Roman soldier, Martin, cuts his military cloak in half to share it with a shivering beggar. The upper tier shows Martin's dream vision that night in which Christ appears to him wearing the cloak and thanks him for his generosity. Our Lord's message is clear, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." We want to notice the needy one in our midst; Christ Jesus assures us that He is the Needy One.

St. Albans Psalter, English, early 12th century, Dombibliothek Hildesheim, Germany.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Saint Paul's Insight

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.

These words from the twelfth chapter of Saint Paul's Letter to the Romans are a beautiful distillation, a kind of prĂ©cis, of Jesus' Beatitudes. 

Detail of an early Cistercian illuminated manuscript.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Radiance

"Who are these wearing white robes?” says an elder to the narrator in the Book of Revelation, as he glimpses all the Blessed in heaven. The elder then answers his own question, “Why these are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” Now anyone who has ever tried to remove even a small blood stain from a piece of clothing can understand that it must have been a near-impossible task in first century Palestine, long before OxyClean, Spray and Wash or Shout. And so we can only wonder at the perfectly ridiculous image of robes made radiantly white by washing them in lamb’s blood. But this is not just any lamb. And the offbeat beauty of these words reveals the truth of the dazzling, unprecedented victory of the Lamb of God, which he has “achieved not by domination and aggression” but by his loving acquiescence even unto death.It is Jesus’ self-forgetful love that has created this radiance.

Photograph by Brother Anthony Khan. *Insights from Wilfrid Harrington.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

On Sunday

They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'
As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called 'Master';
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." 
Mt 23

The heart of Christ is always drawn to what is small and seemingly insignificant. This is natural since he himself has come among us as One who serves. He is the One who humbled himself accepting derision and crucifixion to unburden us, free us. Because of his exquisite, loving, crucified self-forgetfulness, the Father exalted him on high. 

But how to fittingly follow the humble Lord, God Most High, who became for our sakes God most lowly? We are reminded of the words of Saint Ignatius Loyola: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I do for Christ?”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Heart of the Law

Jesus takes us to the very heart of the Law, the substance on which all other laws depend, namely love of God and love of neighbor. And if one does not keep these two commandments, then all the other laws have no meaning. 

If we do keep these two commandments, loving God alone above all else and our neighbor as ourselves, we will be keeping all the Law.

Whatever we do, if to the question - "Is it based on love of God and love of neighbor?" - we can answer, "Yes," then we can be assured that our life has meaning because it respects love, the root of all human life.

Meditation by Father Aquinas.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

All Souls Day

The month of November is dedicated to special prayer for the faithful departed. On All Souls Day we processed through the cloisters in the predawn darkness. We paused in the south cloister chanting psalms as the Abbot and his assistants went into the cemetery to sprinkle the graves of our deceased brethren with holy water. The Abbot reminded us as we began the Liturgy that we pray for the dead because we "need to." For the departed "life is changed, not ended;" they have entered the great mystery of Christ's resurrection. As we beg the Lord in prayer to draw all the faithful departed to himself, we remember our love for them and our connectedness with all those who have gone before us in faith.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Beatitude

The Beatitudes are not a checklist for the holy, but a call to imitate the wounded Christ and allow him to reform our hearts so that they conform to his broken heart. This is the grace of Beatitude - a way to imitate Christ Jesus, who is all mercy, all peace, all mourning turned to joy, imitate him in whom we are becoming Beatitude. We are invited to take on the mind of Christ in our embrace of our own poverty and neediness and inadequacy. The saints are here to remind us, “Don’t be afraid. It’s not about you. It’s about him; let him transform you.”

Jesus invites us to step into the poverty and helplessness we need no longer fear and flee or deny - because we will find him and our brothers and sisters down there. What Jesus enumerates are attitudes and ways of being that come from relationship - with him and with one another - attitudes arrived at by the hard road of humility, vulnerability and doing the opposite of what my first snarky reaction might be. For when I finally recognize how poor and mercy-hungry I am, maybe, just maybe I begin to notice that I am not alone, that others are needy like me - they need mercy and peace like me. Then hopefully, my heart gets broken open.

In the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus this morning, a revolution is happening, with vulnerability at the center. Inadequacy, vulnerability are the key to Beatitude, the source of all that gives us life and joy, love, belonging and connectedness. For when I am vulnerable, I realize that I desperately need God; I realize that I desperately need others. I come to understand that I am imperfect, inadequate and on the way along with my brothers and sisters, and so I am connected.* It is this loving connectivity that is true Beatitude. To be poor, merciful, to mourn over all the tragedy that surrounds us, to allow ourselves to be rejected for doing the right thing - this was Jesus’ way. It is to be our way, as it was for all the saints. But bear in mind, when you love like this you bleed like Jesus did and your robes get stained but absolutely radiant.

Our way is imitation of Christ, not dumb impersonation, but likeness that will lead to transformation. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I that live, but the wounded Christ living in me; the life I now live in the flesh, I live in faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me. This is what the saints wanted with all their hearts, what Jesus longs for - for each of us - this deep inter-subjectivity and connectivity. And so, because he loves the humble beauty of our inadequacy, our need of him, he comes to abide with us in Holy Communion. Let us open to him.

*See Jamie Arpin-Ricci on Brené Brown in Huffington Post blog for April 8, 2015.