Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Martyrs


In May of 1996 seven of our Cistercian brothers of Tibhirine in Algeria were found dead. These monks were kidnapped from their monastery and beheaded by a group of Islamic terrorists trained by the al-Qaida network. Caught in the conflict between the Algerian government and the extremist Armed Islamic Group, these monks chose to remain at their monastery amid threats from extremist elements and face death in solidarity with the Muslim neighbors whom they loved. We were pleased to learn that our Trappist brothers will be among the 19 martyrs of Algeria beatified on 8 December this year in Oran, Algeria. 

Pregnant Muslim women from the village adjacent to the monastery would often come to pray before the statue of Our Lady in the garden for safe deliveries. Muslims honor Mary as mother of Jesus the Prophet. We pray to her for an end to all terrorism, for peace, understanding and mutual respect between all Christians and Muslims. May these martyrs teach us to be models of Christian friendship, encounter and dialogue, and may their example help us build a world of peace.

The monks' story was treated in the film "Of Gods and Men," which won the grand prize at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.


Photograph of the abandoned monastery of Tibhirine in Algeria.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Arguing on the Way

“What were you arguing about on the way?” This question asked by Jesus in today's gospel and met with a stony silence then is still being asked of us, each one of us here individually and corporately as members of Christ's body, the Church. “What were you arguing about on the way?”  The word “way” was the ancient name for the Christian faith, both as a theory and as people following in the footsteps of Christ along “the Way.” Following and arguing! The stony silence of the disciples is the silence of shame and embarrassment.

To admit that they were arguing about who was or would be the greatest might make them feel foolish in the light of the fact that Jesus had just finished telling them for the second time of his imminent passion and death: that as Son of Man he would drink the cup of suffering for their sake and for all people. They had heard him say it, but their concern and really their minds were elsewhere: on their own advancement in their little world of discipleship—perhaps something even better if this Jesus guy pans out and really does establish a kingdom. 

There is so much in the news today about the damage that egotistical people cause in our society, our Church and our political system. Today's readings help us to understand that none of this is anything new.  St. James tells us the problem and a solution. He says, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” 

Jesus hugs a child and shows it to them. A child in that society was a nobody. He tells them to reach out in his name to all the people ranked by society as nobodies and serve them. This is certainly to go against the current cultural tide of contempt for the poor and oppressed in our nation and the world. “Losers!” people shout at them. Jesus tells us his disciples that if we wish to receive him and his Father into our lives, we have to begin by ourselves receiving the nobodies, that is, those we think are nobodies because of our foolish delusions of grandeur, and worse, our self-delusions of goodness and holiness.
      
The Lord of the Universe becomes a nobody in the Eucharist. Pure being, infinite Trinitarian life and love, the glorified humanity of Christ become manifest to us by faith in a little piece of  consecrated host that we receive into our very selves that we may all together grow in our graced identity as the Body of Christ. We can all stop arguing along the way, for He, Jesus Christ, is the Way.

Fritz von Uhde, Let the Children Come to Me, 1884Excerpts from Father Luke's Sunday Homily
        

Friday, September 21, 2018

Medicine

Many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
"Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
He heard this and said,
"Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." Mt 9

Each morning Jesus sits at table with us. We are sinners, so hungry for the Mercy that he is. We are sick and desperate for healing, and our Physician comes to give us the Medicine that he is.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

To the Cross

As we celebrate the Martyrs of Korea today, it is wise to remember that the cross happens when we love…or try to. And as we take up our cross, Jesus is our brave and compassionate companion along the way. In following him, we are made one with him. And he invites us to imitate him – in patience and hope in our Father’s most loving regard for us always.

Love always gives itself away; it cannot be unaffected by the beloved’s troubles. As each morning we go up to the altar for Holy Communion, we go up to the cross, where Christ’s body was first offered, where the bread that is his body, God’s wheat, was finely baked in the heat of his passion. May the passion of Christ Jesus our Lord become our own more and more, as we eat his body and drink his blood.

Vintage photo of the Abbey church.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Cross




This morning we listen as Jesus murmurs this hauntingly beautiful question to Peter and to each of us, “Who do you say that I am? Who am I for you?” Whatever we answer, however we have come to experience and love him, Jesus reminds us - the cross must be part of our relationship with him. We dare not shy away from it. And we can well imagine the apostles’ confusion as Jesus teaches them that he must suffer greatly and be rejected, killed and rise after three days. No doubt enjoying Jesus’ recent celebrity, they don’t want to hear about it. And Peter will go so far as to reprimand Jesus. 

Jesus will have none of that. And he states emphatically, to Peter, to each of us in our reluctance, “Get behind me.” In other words: “Just follow me. Come after me.” To follow, is to carry the cross as Jesus our Master does. And always it is our own cross, probably unexpected, invariably not one of our own choosing but our own. We all have one; we do not go shopping for it in the cross store. It comes, and we are invited to bear it with Christ Jesus our Lord; he in us, burdened with us, encouraging us, sustaining us, leading us forward in hope, teaching us confidence in the Father’s love and resurrection as our promised inheritance. For the cross is always, absolutely joined to the resurrection. They are inseparable, one event. Jesus asks us to take up our cross because it is the very narrow gate to love and risen life in him.

The cross is inevitable for Jesus, for it is the way he can love without limit. That is why he is so adamant with Peter – to deny him the cross would be to keep him from the fulfillment of his total self-gift, to be held back from it is unthinkable. The cross is the “marriage bed” granting him total, unremitting self-surrender to us, down to the very last drop of his most precious blood. This was always the goal of his Incarnation to share unreservedly in our sorrow, to rescue us from unending death and fear; and so, his coming down to us in Mary’s womb reaches its culmination on the cross, for there he can reveal the unimaginable breadth of God’s compassion. Jesus allows himself to suffer, because he can do no less. And it is there in this very weakness, the weakness of love, that he reveals the sublimity of his divinity. (Walter Kasper) On the cross God is most truly God. His power is made perfect in his weakness, and his power can reveal itself only in our weakness. And battered now as Church, angry and hurting, perhaps we have come to realize our weakness more than ever. Is it opportunity? Perhaps. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Our Lady of Sorrows

As the Church celebrates today a memorial in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows, we recall often images of Our Lady collapsing in Saint John's arms as Jesus breathes His last on the cross. Perhaps she was braver than that. As Mother of God, Mother of Jesus, she feels with God; she compassions as God does, empathizes with Christ's sacred wounded Body even now. Mary, given by Jesus to all his beloved disciples as their Mother, feels with us all the aches and sorrows of our hearts and minds and bodies. 

Virgin and the Man of Sorrow, detail, Simon Marmion, c.1485, oil on panel, Groeninge Museum, Bruges, Belgium.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Faithful Cross


Tradition credits Constantine's mother Saint Helena with the discovery of the buried cross of Jesus during the second quarter of the 4th century in Jerusalem. Immediately this relic became the object of tender devotion and lavish ritual. The pilgrim nun Egeria has left us a vivid account of the ritual for exposition and the procession to venerate the cross on Good Friday in Jerusalem. The true cross became a nexus of holiness, sacred presence and healing. Egeria even writes of one overzealous devotee caught biting off a chunk of the cross during the Good Friday Liturgy.

The Fathers of the Church loved to find in every reference to wood or tree, staff, rod or ark in the Hebrew Scriptures a type of the cross of Christ. Cyril of Jerusalem declares, "Life ever comes from wood!" Paulinus of Nola chants to the cross, "You have become for us a ladder for us to mount to heaven." And in an anonymous Easter homily inspired by Hippolytus, the tree of the cross reverses the destruction wrought by the tree of Eden: “For me this tree is a plant of eternal health. I feed on it; by its roots I am rooted; by its branches I spread myself; I rejoice in its dew; the rustling of its leaves invigorates me...I freely enjoy its fruits which were destined for me from the beginning. It is my food when I am hungry, a fountain for me when I am thirsty; it is my clothing because its leaves are the spirit of life.” Pascha IV

The poetic intuition of the Fathers found beautiful expression in the splendid processional hymns of Venantius Fortunatus. The Pange Lingua written to celebrate the reception of relics of the true cross by Queen Radengunde at Poitiers in 569 addresses the cross directly:

Faithful cross, O Tree all beauteous
Tree all peerless and divine!
Not a grove on earth can show us
Such a leaf and flower as thine.

The lovely Vexilla Regis hails the cross as a triumphant emblem of victory:

The royal banners forward go,
The cross shines forth in mystic glow,
Where he as man who gave us breath,
Now bows beneath the yoke of death.

On this Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, we rejoice for the cross is the place where Jesus gave himself completely to us, there he shed his precious blood to free us from the inevitably of unending death.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

This Morning

The fairness of the day is come,
The radiant dawning of the sun;
And all the earth in every hue,
To brightly shine begins anew.

O Christ, who far outshine the dawn;
To know you perfectly we long;
To you we turn with hymns of praise,
Who live and reign through endless days.

Let all our speaking be sincere,
Our hearts by truth and goodness cheered,
That gladness, bright as dawning sun,
May light our minds when day is done.

As we sang this hymn at Lauds, we were reminded how much we long for Jesus and will depend on his loving-kindness all the day long.

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Excerpts from the hymn Sol Amoris.  

Monday, September 10, 2018

Be Opened

“And looking up to heaven Jesus groaned and said to him, “Ephphatha!”—“Be opened!” 

Regardless of how it comes about, the tragedy of spiritual deafness is that connection is broken. We can no longer hear the voice of God. We can no longer hear the voice of the people in our lives. It seems that the only voices we hear are the ones in our heads. The only conversation we have is with our self. Such spiritual deafness is ego-centered. When we are spiritually deaf, we assume that ours is the only, or the most important, voice to hear. We end up cut off from God and others, and progressively closed to new ideas, understandings, and experiences. This is one way of understanding “hardness of heart.” Closed to new ways of thinking, behaving, and relating, we continue business as usual and nothing ever changes. Sadly, that makes for a lonely, isolated, miserable existence. How different our daily experience would be if we let nothing go by without being open to being nourished by the inner meaning of that event in life!

Spiritual deafness is one of the primary causes of conflict in our relationships with one another, within our communities and families, within our nation and world. It’s not hard to see how deafness of the heart destroys relationships.

We are deaf when we become self-preoccupied, self-referential and refuse to forgive. We are deaf when we are too busy to really listen and be present. We are deaf to the teaching of Jesus when judgment triumphs over mercy, and indifference rather than compassion and love defines our relationship with our neighbor. We are deaf to God’s presence when we refuse to be still, quiet, and listen.

Deafness abounds all around us and within us. The media today gives plenty of evidence that talking heads are a dime a dozen, but listening hearts are few and far between. So what about us? We all can admit to having poor “connections” in at least some of our relationships. What, then, are the places in which we are closed? Where is our life disconnected? To whom or to what are we deaf? And what can we do about it?

According to the Gospel, the cure for our deafness is not “to hear” but “to be opened.” Hearing follows openness. “Ephphatha!” That’s what Jesus tells the deaf man. He says the same thing to you and me. Jesus is always saying “Ephphatha!” to the closed parts of our lives, so that he might dwell in us. “Ephphatha!” is Jesus’ prayer to God, his commandment to the deaf man, and his longing for each and every one of us. 

Photograph by Brother Daniel. Reflection by Father Dominic.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

On Our Lady's Birthday

Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is attested from the earliest days of the Church. And the oldest known written version of a prayer to her is found on an Egyptian papyrus from the Third Century. It is the prayer we sing to her each Sunday evening:

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, holy and blessed.

She will never forget us or neglect us, for her Son has entrusted us to her care. How fitting that we remember her Birthday, for she is gateway to the Hope, Holiness and Peace which is ours in Christ Jesus, her Son. 


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Beloved

If only we understood our dignity in Christ; if only we knew God’s gift. If only we knew God’s desire for us, then everything would be changed, transformed. “His desire gives rise to yours,” says Saint Bernard, “and if you are eager to receive his word, it is he who is rushing to enter your heart; for he first loved us, not we him.” We are embedded in God, in his image, in God’s beauty, God’s Light. 

Do we know our truth, our reality - that we are indeed sinners, often selfish and hardhearted but always beloved of God? If not, says Saint Bernard, “What glory is there in having something you do not know you have?” 

Photograph by Brother Brian. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

By Love

How does the Father draw us? By love. For God is love, as St. John tells us in his First Letter. And love is known only by love. In the experience of being drawn, we experience nothing less than the logic of love: Amando trahitur, Augustine says, it is through the pleasure of loving that one is drawn. “Give me a man who loves, and he will understand what I say,” he says. As William of St. Thierry says, “In the things which pertain to God, the sense that allows the mind to attain them is love.” Love, William explains, is nothing other than a will that is vehement and well-ordered. And this love that is able to receive and be drawn by the God of love comes to us as a pure gift. When God comes to us as love, he brings with him the love that we need if we are to believe him and know him. In other words it is by remaining open to and accepting the grace of love offered by the Father through the Spirit of Truth that we come to the Son and through him to the Father. In this process our hearts are purified, strengthened and set free, so that we can let go of idolatrous ways of thinking. 

It is in the gift of Charity that the genuine encounter with God’s takes place. Our task is simple readiness to receive this gift when and as God wishes to give it and then to give it away, in praise and thanksgiving to God and in the love and service of our neighbor. Our guide and example in this open readiness is Mary, who in her assent, received the fullness of God. May she come to our assistance, that we may conceive him in our hearts and come to see him as he is. 

Picture by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Timothy.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Not Idol But Icon

In this morning's Gospel we see Jesus exasperated with the Pharisees because they have made an idol of religious observance and lost sight of the deeper truth of God's commandments, as they "cling to human tradition."

But Jesus proclaims the law of love and compassion. He is the Icon, the perfect image of the Father's love, transparent to the beauty and truth that God is. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation from Father Timothy's homily at this morning's Eucharist.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

On This Saturday

In today's Gospel we hear the parable of the talents. Our Father Simeon comments on the passage, "Our greatest talent and treasure is our ability to love, and in this enterprise the champion is the greatest risk taker, which means the one most willing to invest himself."

As we celebrate Our Lady on this Saturday, we recall that it is Mary Our Lady who was most willing to risk everything in love and "invest" herself completely in God's plan. Thus she became most fruitful and gave us our one Treasure, Christ the Lord.

Picture by Brother Brian.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

We Work

Here, we work. Whether in the kitchen, the jelly factory, the laundry, the greenhouse, the brewery or at the guild; whether sweeping, scrubbing, packing or cooking - we work. Our work never eclipses our prayer but provides balance and a level of creativity and expression to our day - all for Christ - in this life that is quite ordinary. We live by the work of our hands - to support our life together in the monastery, to support the poor and needy who seek our assistance. 


Pictures by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

With Paul

And as we grieve the current suffering in our Church and in our country and our world, we recall Saint Paul's admonition 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."

We pray with confidence; we live in hope.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Memorial of Saint Monica

When Monica was told of Augustine’s conversion, he tells us in his Confessions that she leapt for joy, rejoiced and praised God, who can do more than we ask or think; for she understood that God had given her more than she had ever dared to beg for. He continues, “you changed her mourning into joy, much more plentiful than she had desired, and in a much more precious and purer way than she ever required.”

God hears our prayers, God always answers our prayers – in ways we may recognize and in ways that we may never understand. We pray with confidence and even wonder. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Nathanael

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him."

An amazing compliment given by Jesus to this apostle-to-be. May our hearts be like Nathanael's - ever be pure and free, brimming with truth and love and transparent to the Lord Jesus.

Photograph of the south cloister by Brother Brian.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Beauty

But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,
than this deepest affinity between your eyes and the world.
...maybe such devotion, in which one holds the world
in the clasp of attention, isn't the perfect prayer,
but it must be close, for the sorrow, whose name is doubt,
is thus subdued, and not through the weaponry of reason,
but of pure submission. Tell me, what else could beauty be for?

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpt from the poem Terns by Mary Oliver.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

With Mary

Saint Bernard says that above all what has drawn God to Mary is her humility. God finds it absolutely irresistible. Certainly we will come to our humility by a route very different than Our Lady’s, but it can give us the same irresistible quality. We can do it through our sinfulness, acknowledging that we have nothing to boast of before God but our weakness. It is after all the only thing about myself that I am absolutely confident about. Problem is it’s also the one thing I most want to deny. But this reality, this humility lets God be God. Said another way, when things fall apart then God can be God, for he desperately wants to mercy us. Our humility - our humble self-knowledge - allows God a place in our hearts.

An etching by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971).

Monday, August 20, 2018

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux


…whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him... Phil. 3

So it is that one theologian will write of the "madness of the vowed life." Indeed daring to give ourselves to Christ Jesus in our monastic way of life that is "ordinary, obscure and laborious" is utterly mad and wonderful and worth all our effort. 

As we celebrate the Solemnity of our Father, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, we are reminded of his words as he ponders the great loving mercy of Christ. He writes of the human soul trying to respond to such love: “She loves ardently, yet even when she finds herself completely in love, she thinks she loves too little because she is loved so much.” 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Real Food


One of the monks tells us this story. One day when he was a four or five, he was playing in his backyard when he noticed, of all things, scraps of chocolate cake on the lawn. A neighbor had thrown bits of stale cake onto the grass for the birds to eat. Without thinking twice he picked up some cake and started munching. It was definitely a bad move. His mother happened to be looking out the window and saw what he was doing. She roared, “Stop. What will the neighbors think! If you’re hungry just ask, and I'll give you something to eat, anything you want.” And he admits after all that the cake definitely quite dry, quite stale and not very tasty.

Christ Jesus wants more for us. What the more is, each of us probably knows somewhere, way down in the depth of our own heart. Like our friend’s mom, he wants us to come to him for everything we need. His loving regard is healing, drawing us, calling us away from all the stuff that distracts us, all the things that we think might be nourishing but are just stale, dry and not at all life-giving.

In the Eucharist he gives us everything - his very Self as our Food. He is the living Bread; his flesh real Food, his Blood real Drink. He is our hope, our fulfillment, well worth hungering after. Riches, accomplishments - whether spiritual or material - are nothing in comparison with him. And so he sets the table for us and cries out to us, “Come, eat and drink.”

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mary’s Glorification

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary affirms something very important, not only about the dignity and destiny of Mary but about the dignity and future destiny of every human being. Her Assumption reminds us that God’s infinite desire is that we be with him for all eternity. Jesus himself explicitly revealed this desire when he prayed: “Father, I want those you have given me to be where I am.” Jn 17:24 This is the God who loves our company.

Mary’s glorification in body and soul is a sign that every aspect of our lives is important to God and is touched by God’s saving Spirit. The salvation Jesus offers us is not just about our souls getting to heaven in the future but about our whole multi-dimensional existence being sanctified in the present in a way that leads to a future fulfillment. Our entire existence has already been touched by the redemptive love of Christ in the present, as we await its future fulfillment.

The Assumption proclaims loud and clear the amazing inheritance that is ours as sons and daughters of God. An inheritance that is enjoyed by us already in the present but awaits a future fulfillment preserved and reserved for us by God. By our Baptism, we have all received “confirmed reservations.” Such a confirmation does not deny any of our real present-day responsibilities and challenges. Human dignity is ‘assumed’ and lifted closer towards its future in company with Mary in whose life the seeds of her Son’s resurrection have fully blossomed. Thus, Mary is a profound symbol of hope and healing for body and soul in our very broken world.

Mary’s Assumption urges us never to forget the destiny of the journey we are on together. And it functions as a window into the beauty in which we see our entire existence transfigured and radiant with God’s glory. The Assumption is an inspiration for us to protect and defend human dignity, especially for those whose futures are being threatened through violence or neglect. In every age and time, there are dark forces that try to reduce the dignity of the human person. The Assumption of Mary holds before us the awesome truth of what the Gospel teaches and the awesome dignity to which God has raised humanity. 

Fra Angelico, The Dormition and the Assumption of the Virgin, 1424-1434, (detail.) Tempera with oil glazes and gold on panel. The Gardner Museum. Excerpts from Abbot Damian's homily for Assumption Day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Her Assumption

There is nothing that pleases me more, and nothing that terrifies me more than to preach on the glory of the Virgin Mary. For, see, if I praise her virginity, I see that there are many who have offered themselves as virgins after her. If I preach on her humility, we will find, perhaps, even a few who, taught by her Son, have become meek and humble of heart. If I want to proclaim the greatness of her mercy, there are some also some very merciful men and women. There is, however, one thing in which she does not have someone like her, before or after, and that is her joining the joy of motherhood with the honor of virginity. This is Mary's privilege, and it is not given to another: it is unique, and it is also something that words cannot perfectly describe. Nevertheless, if you pay attention closely, you will find not only this one virtue, but even other singular virtues in Mary, which she only seems to share with others. For can one even compare the purity of the angels to that spotless virginity which was found worthy to become the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit and dwelling place of the Son of God? How great and how precious was her humility, together with such perfect innocence, such wisdom without fault, and such a fullness of grace? How did you obtain such meekness, O Blessed Woman, such great humility? You are indeed worthy, whom the Lord considered carefully, whose beauty the King desired, on whose lap with its sweetest fragrance the eternal Father was brought to rest. Behold, with these acts of devotion we have meditated on your ascension to your Son, and we have followed you as though from a distance, O Blessed Virgin. Let the grace of your mercy, the favor that you found with God, be made known to the world: may your prayers obtain mercy for the condemned, remedy for the sick, strength of heart for the lowly, consolation for the afflicted, aid for those in peril, and freedom for your holy ones. And on this day of celebration and gladness, may Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, through thee, O merciful Queen, pour out the gifts of His grace upon all those who invoke the sweetest name of Mary with praise, for He is the God of all things. 

Fra Angelico, The Dormition and the Assumption of the Virgin, 1424-1434, (detail.) Tempera with oil glazes and gold on panel. The Gardner Museum.  Lines by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Self-offering

The self-offering of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, whom we celebrate today, seems a perfect imitation of Jesus' self-gift in his passion and death. We deserved punishment, but Jesus says,"Let me do this for you. I will bear your burden, you may go free. I love you, I do not want you to suffer." 

Jesus takes our place, just as Maximilian volunteered to take the place of a fellow prisoner  in a starvation bunker.

Lord, teach us to be generous as you and your servant Maximilian were. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

To Follow

The Good News of Jesus proclaimed in the Scriptures is always joy-filled, freeing and an invitation to follow him to the cross. But the cross is never separated from resurrection.  We follow him with hope and confidence in his love. Christ Jesus is with us in our sufferings and dyings; we are always with him and in him. With faith in his call, we dare to continue to follow. It is always a journey through a very narrow gate, but one that inevitably leads to to life -  Jesus himself who is our life. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Understanding

Our earth is wonderful, indeed, for Jesus has come to stay with us. His mercy finds us here over and over again. Eternity is always interrupting, if we dare notice. The amazing yet ordinary things - the beauty, the sorrow in human experience and in all of creation - beckon to us and draw us to him, who is constantly seeking opportunities to engage us. And the needier we are; the more impossible our impediments, the greater the opportunity for Jesus’ graced entrĂ©e. The “horizon of the reign of God is immeasurable…and begins here, on this earth, and it is about this world because from the very beginning God's intent was nothing other than the world,”* a world that he longs to heal and sanctify more and more.

Day after day atrocities beyond imagining all over the world. And painfully, astoundingly, embarrassingly, disaster and mass murder have become ordinary occurrences. Our hearts numb, desensitized, inured to horror. And so we come to him; we bring each other, we bring the world in its suffering and despondency and seeming hopelessness, longing for the intrusion of his grace. Impeded, our tongues thick, not knowing how to speak our need and longing.

Christ Jesus assures us that he hears, he understands; that he is with us, he himself praying, articulating our desire in words beyond words. This is what our prayer is best of all: our desire groaned by Jesus for us, within us.

Photograph by Brother Brian. *Quotation by Gerhard Lohfink.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Anniversary

In his brief treatise on prayer Origen speaks of one's entire life as prayer. He notes that 'one prays constantly... who unites deeds of virtue or fulfilling the commandments with prayer and prayer with right deeds'. He elaborates this by saying that the entire life of a saint taken as a whole is a single great prayer and that what is customarily called prayer is part of this single great prayer. Frank Houdek, SJ

As today we celebrate today the 43rd Anniversary of the Dedication of our Abbey Church, we recall the ceaseless prayer that our Church has held, the prayers of monks and their guests. We ponder, and we wonder at all the desires and urgent pleadings, the prayers of praise, the hymns of gratitude and thanksgiving that our Lord has heard from within these walls.



Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Gathered As One

God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:14

The Eucharist is a celebration of God so loving the world that he gave us his only begotten Son through the incarnation of the Word and in the Eucharist. By the death and resurrection of Jesus and the gift of his Spirit, we who acknowledged Jesus come-in-the-flesh and who eat his flesh and drink his blood, will not perish but have eternal life. Our eternal life begins in our gathering for the Eucharist and culminates in our glorification in the Spirit with Christ in the presence of God the Father. 

It is possible that John, when he composed his gospel in the 90's of the first century, knew the Eucharistic prayer from the ancient community rule called the Didache, written perhaps decades earlier:

                      We give thanks to you, our Father,
                      for the life and knowledge to us 
                      through Jesus your Servant.
                      To you be glory unto the ages!
                      As the fragments of bread were scattered over the hills,
                      and then, when gathered, became one,
                      so may your church be gathered
                      from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom.
                      For yours is the glory and the power,
                      through Jesus Christ, unto the ages!

The Father has given us his only begotten Son to gather up the fragments of our broken lives and fragmented relationships, to gather us into one, that none may perish, but that all may have eternal life. 

Photograph by Brother Casimir. Reflection by Father Luke.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Immeasurability

A conversation overheard recently: 

“I've never seen such a crowd follow him." 
"Does he realize it's getting late?"
" You know, I don't think he's even noticed." 
"They must be getting hungry, I know I am." 
"But how could we possibly feed all these people?" 
"Just wait, if I know him, I bet he's got something up his sleeve.” 
“Like what?” 
“John, get Philip to ask him what he wants to do.” 

Just as Philip is about to whisper in his ear, Jesus says, "Hey, Philip, where should we buy bread for all these people?" Without missing a beat, Andrew picks up on Jesus' humor. “Well, there's a little boy here who brought five teeny rolls and a couple of fish maybe that will help.” “Perfect,” says Jesus. “Send him over. And have the people recline on the grass.” “Now what's he going to do?” says one of them. As the little boy comes to him, Jesus stoops down and whispers in his ear. The boy smiles, nods and hands Jesus his small basket. Jesus takes it, rises, looks up to heaven and gives thanks, and then starts handing out bread, and more bread and more bread and then the same with the fish, fish and more fish. The sun is setting. Everyone is famished, and they are enjoying every bite. There are a few muffled belches; chatter builds up again. Everyone is full. "Gather all the fragments,” says Jesus. “Let's not waste anything." Many of the people now begin filling up the laps of their robes and gathering up the edges; filling kerchiefs and head scarves and bags, excited to share their leftovers with those at home who couldn’t make it to hear Jesus this time.

So, it is that once upon a time a little boy's picnic lunch was transformed by a Word of love into a huge banquet with baskets and baskets of leftovers. This is not a story about what a friend's mother would refer to as a "genteel sufficiency," just enough. It is all about overflowing abundance and the immeasurability of God’s love and compassion. This is God's dream of the kingdom; for in this scene from John's Gospel we see that the reign of God has become a reality in Christ Jesus. In him heaven is wedded to earth forever, and a celebration is in order. God's Promised One is here to feed the poor and lowly with as much as they want. The Good Shepherd has brought his sheep to recline on the very green grass where he has prepared a banquet for them. And he has invited us to join them. 

Photograph by James O'Kane.