Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trinity

For God to be Trinity means that God explodes with delight from within.  Such delight requires mutuality of persons, for it is delight at knowing and being known, delight at belonging to Another, delight at the inability of having one’s own existence apart from that Other, delight in never for all eternity having been absent from the life of the beloved Other, delight that celebrates its freedom in a playful, unstoppable dance that has as stage the whole enraptured cosmos and that thrills in abiding with the blessed Two who are Persons other than Oneself.  This explosive, world-creating energy of delight wells up from the bosom of the Blessed Trinity. 

What is good is “diffusive of itself”, says St. Thomas. God is too good, and therefore too “diffusive” of himself—too exuberant and squandering of his Being—to keep his secret delight to himself. The action of a divine self-outpouring is a central biblical category already at work from the first verses of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…. And the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light.’” Each of these verbs—creating, moving and saying—imply a dynamic outward movement on God’s part, beyond the sphere of his own self-sufficient Being and into the void of nothingness, that he may pour himself out into what is not-God. Note the Trinitarian undertones present in Scripture from the outset: God creates not out of a splendid isolation but with the collaboration of “the Beginning, the First Principle, who says: “I was beside him as his craftsman.” The Father created all things in the Word through the Spirit.  Every action of God is a self-outpouring of divine life that in no way depletes the Being of God.  

The expansive throbbing of God’s triune Heart can never quite contain itselfThe beaming forth of  primal triune joy provides the blissful pattern for all created love and friendship. From the Trinity we learn that our own greatest joy should be to fill someone else with life. 

Reflection by Father Simeon.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Heaven

"I have given them the glory you gave me... I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them." As Jesus speaks these words to his Father in the 17th chapter of Saint John's Gospel, we are reminded of the beauty and dignity that are ours in him.   

And we hear echoes of the following words of Saint John Chrysostom, "But what do I care about heaven, when I myself have become heaven?" Indeed through baptism into Christ, we have become temples of the most high God in the Spirit.

Photograph of Abbey meadow by Brother Casimir.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mary's Month

May is Mary's month. She is never far from from our hearts and our prayer.

In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.

Virgin and Child with Two Angels; Verocchio, c. 1475
Text: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Outpouring

What is good is “diffusive of itself”, says St. Thomas. God is too good, and therefore too “diffusive” of himself—too exuberant and squandering of his Being—to keep his secret delight to himself. The action of a divine self-outpouring is a central biblical category already at work from the first verses of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…. And the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light.’” Each of these verbs—creating, moving and saying—imply a dynamic outward movement on God’s part, beyond the sphere of his own self-sufficient Being and into the void of nothingness, that he may pour himself out into what is not-God. 

Meditation by Father Simeon.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

More

There is always more when it comes to God. God always has more for us- as much as we can bear. In a way, we can say that the Holy Spirit is God’s more- God’s overflowing more for each one of us. So, how much can we bear? How much of God’s love can we bear?

The Spirit guides each one of us in countless and diverse ways. There are absolutely no circumstances in our personal life journeys that exclude the Spirit’s presence. When we sin, the Spirit guides us into repentance. When we are sick, the Spirit guides us into strength and healing. When we face death, the Spirit will guide us into the fullness of life. So, how can we remain open and receptive to the Spirit’s guidance? To my mind there is one essential condition for such openness and receptivity. We need moments in our lives when we can be still, when we can be silent, when we can listen. 

Meditation by Abbot Damian.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saint Dunstan

When the Abbey was constructed  in the early 1950's numerous reasonably priced antique pieces were acquired to furnish the main rooms, other pieces were donated by generous patrons. Among the latter acquisitions were fragments of stained glass, some rare and important. In the Abbey library, shown above, an oculus window high above the mantle was filled with a fragment of stained glass depicting Saint Dunstan. The glass is probably of the fourteenth century, English and quite rare, since much pre-Reformation glass was destroyed during the Dissolution. 

A very popular early medieval saint, Dunstan (909 –988) was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, later appointed Bishop of Manchester and London and subsequently named Archbishop of Canterbury. He is credited with the restoration of monastic life in England and the reformation of the English Church. Dunstan was a highly skilled artist and scribe and served as an important minister of state to several of the English kings. 

As portrayed in our fragment, Saint Dunstan wears the mitre, rings, gloves and white wool pallium of his episcopal office. He carries his archbishop's cross. And the dove of the Holy Spirit perched on the apparel of his amice whispers divine inspiration. Saint Dunstan's feastday is May 19th.



Library photograph by Michel Raguin. Photographs of glass by Virginia Raguin.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Come Holy 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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hidden with Him

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 14, 2018

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Initiation into the sufferings and mystery of the Cross the Lord reserves for those who respond to his gift of unconditional love with their own gift of unconditional love. Two well-known and classic examples of people in recent times whose lives of total self-gift disposed them to be received into the mystery of the Cross were Thérèse of Lisieux, as she approached death, and Mother Teresa, with her long dark night experienced over decades.

In the context of John’s Gospel, Jesus gives this privilege to his Mother and the Beloved Disciple, or John, with whom he is traditionally identified. The rest of the disciples are on a different level. They have faith but cannot share this ultimate intimacy; in this way they are like most of us believers today, and of all times for that matter, who have faith, but haven’t let go enough, aren’t sufficiently at the Lord’s disposal for him to be able to lead them into this degree of intimacy.  Ever since Mary’s assent, her “Yes” at the Annunciation, she is the Son’s companion in everything that happens to him. We cannot think of her as being absent from any essential part of his life. It is of her essence to be where the Son is. Out of her physical motherhood there flows directly a spiritual motherhood. 

Mary raised Jesus, nourished him, and instructed him in the religious traditions of Israel. But then, more and more, it was he who educated his Mother for the greatness of the task that lay before him; leading, enlightening and challenging her throughout her life, up to granting her an intimate share in his Cross. In this way, Jesus prepared her to be spiritual mother to all. As our spiritual mother, she is there to accompany us and lead us to her son, in the fullness of his mysteries, as one who has known the full gamut of human experience herself and knows her Son, more profoundly than any other creature, because he introduced her into all of his mysteries, sparing her nothing.

John, like Mary, belongs to all those whom the Lord freely chooses to stand beneath his Cross and share in his suffering. 

Reflection by Father Timothy. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Hope



We are the Body of Christ. We live in hope and are saved in hope. Our exaltation – what lifts us up – is this gift of hope, “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…” By hope we are called, urged, and enabled to follow where our Head has gone.

This gift of hope is a key to our vocation as Trappist monks. Our call is to follow Christ in our longing and desire; to reach in behind the veil where Our Lord is seated at the Father’s side; to keep alive the longing for heaven among the People of God. And we have guides to strengthen our hope: all the words of our holy father St. Benedict and the example of our Fathers of Citeaux. We also have St. Paul’s admonitions as a stimulus to hope: to live “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace…”

Our vocation calls us to be signs of hope like Our Lady. As Lumen Gentium puts it: Mary shines forth “…as a sign of sure hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God…” 

Excerpts from Father Vincent's homily for Ascension Thursday.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Lovable

Christian love is the infusion of the divine lovableness and love into the human spirit, repairing the damage which love’s absence has wrought and lifting up the human to the level of the divine. Simultaneously, it is an upgrading of our perception so that we are able to see just how lovable our neighbor is. This gift enables us to see through the objective failings of others to reach the inner core of their being, where everything is beautiful…This is not a human quality or skill but a gift of God that that is a sign that we are already living on a supernatural plane. 

An historiated initial from an ancient Cistercian manuscript. Lines by Fr. Michael Casey, o.c.s.o.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ascension Thursday


Our life is hidden in Christ. and so His Ascension to the Father's right hand is our ascent as well, for we are His Body. And where the Head has gone, so will His Body.  Indeed, to be alive in Christ, we must remember where we are, where we belong. No wonder that the Fathers of the Church will speak of our sinfulness as forgetfulness. We are meant to live mindfully, with remembrance in our hearts of our great destiny and our dignity as God's own children with Christ. As we chant so often, "You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Alleluia!"

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Hidden

In his recent exhortation Pope Francis encourages us to notice the holiness that the Lord shows us through the humblest of his people. He then quotes these words of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein):

The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly, the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed.

We were reminded of the words of our own Constitutions which speak of the monastic life  as having "a hidden apostolic fruitfulness." In the mysterious reality of prayer for and in the mystical Body of Christ, we hope that our lives here help to draw the world closer to the heart of Christ.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

To Love

Jesus is not proposing an ideal of love to us but rather a gift of God, which both fulfills and simultaneously surpasses our heart’s desire to be loved and to love. Michael Casey will say that Christian love “upgrades our perception” of one another. It is not easy, or even natural, to see simple goodness, let alone God’s presence, in everyone, especially in those whom we readily criticize or find difficult or repugnant. How are we to glimpse buried beneath other people’s failures and sins the seeds of a desire for God?

Our eyes are myopic; we only see the surface; we are never without distorting prejudice. The Good News is that there is nothing moralistic about loving God and neighbor. This precept is a gift - the gift Jesus holds out to us, whom he calls “friends.”

Such love is a gift precisely because we cannot generate it, despite our best intentions. It is not the result of an act of the will - we cannot try harder and force ourselves to love. As Saint John tells us, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” Love arises out of an encounter with God, who is Love, and who loves within us - we learn love by being loved. Thus, we love God because we have experienced that God first loved us. The more we experience God’s love, the more likely we are to return that love.

“To love God is to accept God’s love.” Everything follows from that. And we do that by accepting one another’s love as well, which may be harder and more humbling to do than any of our attempts to love. But nothing more effectively expands the heart!

Love of God and love of neighbor is the same one love, undivided and indivisible, because God is its source, and he is one. The human heart cannot simultaneously experience love and hate; for when we are touched by love, we are taken over by a force which knows no limits, draws no boundaries. Saint Bernard will say, “The measure of love is to love without measure.” This means that nobody can be excluded from our love.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father Dominic’s Sunday homily.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Lowly

Small flowers, violets, bluets and pussycat paws are blooming in the lawns and meadows of the abbey. These low-growing flowers, symbolic of humility, remind us of Our Blessed Lady and her Son risen from the dead.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Spring

At long last the re-greening of the earth, bird song and warm breezes. Spring came much too late this year; winter lingered. 

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

We read these words by the American poet, Mary Oliver, and remembered to wonder and give thanks the Giver of all good gifts.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

His Body

Your hand holds up the world
and the universe rests in your love.
Your life-giving body is the heart of your Church;
your sacred blood protects the Bride. 


Corpus from a Crucifix, Italian, Doccia, ca. 1745-50Hard paste porcelain, h. 25 3/8", Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Used with permission. Supplication to God by Cyrillonas, Syrian, 4th century. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Cooperation

To cooperate means literally to work together. 

As Father William reminded us in his Sunday homily, God's desire is meant to be received and echoed by our desire to do his will. We must choose to follow our deepest desires, those longings for the Good and the True that persistently arise in the depths of our hearts, planted there by the Holy Spirit. God speaks to us through these deepest desires, as they are discerned to be consonant with Sacred Scripture, the Church's Tradition and teaching and our abilities and our prayer. Then, as Peter Kreeft will say, we must test our choice "by holding it before God."

Vintage image from Our Lady of the Valley, the monastery from which our Abbey was founded.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Way

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.”  Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

Recalling the numerous artistic renditions of the encounter between Saint Thomas and Our Lord after his resurrection, we imagine that their exchange in this morning's Gospel could also have been illustrated by the same image. As he he opens his wounded side, he shows the way to truth and life - through vulnerability, through the wound of love -  his love for us, our love for him and for one another.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Saint Mark


For today's Feast of Saint Mark, we hear the final verses of his Gospel, in which Jesus bestows on his apostles their great commission to "Go into the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature." Jesus assigns this task as his apostles' rejoice in their encounter with him as risen. This is how they and all of us who come after them are to spread the Good News, as propelled forward and nourished in the joy of the encounter with the risen Christ. Within this space everything is possible. Sin enervates and blocks the dynamism and joy of the Spirit's action within us, and so we beg the Lord's mercy.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Timothy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Love

There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?    

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Good Shepherd

In today's Gospel, Jesus names himself Good Shepherd, assigning to himself a favorite image from the Old Testament to describe God's love and concern for his chosen people. Thus Jesus proclaims himself the Promised One - who lays down his life for his sheep, the One who has "power to lay it down, and power to take it up again."

In this morning’s homily Fr. Isaac pointed to the astounding truth of Jesus’ resurrection – once dead after being brutally tortured and crucified, he is alive forever. The healing of the crippled man in the passage from Acts is accomplished through the invocation of the holy name of Jesus, revealing the power of his resurrected presence. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

From the Beginning

Certainly the horizon of the reign of God is immeasurable; God's revolution also eliminates death and leads in the end to an eternal life with God. But it 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. From that point of view the "world" of resurrection can be nothing other than the perfected, healed and sanctified world in which we now live. To misuse or deny this is to slander Jesus' message and corrupt it.

Photograph by Brother Casimir. Lines from Is This All There Is? by Gerhard Lohfink.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Stephen

Today and tomorrow in the First Reading at Mass, we hear the story of Saint Stephen's martyrdom. Clearly in these passages from the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen is presented to us as one like Jesus his Master. Like Jesus, he works great wonders and signs among the people and, he is full of wisdom in his teaching. And as happened to Jesus, Stephen is condemned when false witnesses testify against him, denouncing him as a blasphemer. Finally as Stephen is being stoned to death, like Jesus in his agony, Stephen hands his over his spirit. And as he is dying, Stephen falls to his knees forgiving his persecutors, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Looking at Jesus

God is forever full of holes, the marks of his love and compassion and mercy. It may be difficult to look at him, for we see ourselves too clearly: utter human fragility joined forever to resurrected divinity. In him we see our reality as individuals, as Church, as monastic community. It takes courage to gaze upon the passion-gashed Jesus. For he shows us who are and who we are meant to become more and more - never poor victims of our sin and bad choices, never mere hapless victims of our sin-filled histories and misery, never ever wounded wounders, but wounded healers, wounded forgivers like him. Our wounds are meant to make us more compassionate.

Jesus has been wounded by his loving us to death. To become his body now, we must go and do likewise, break the cycle of hurt by continually being vulnerable and compassionate - pain and sin and hurt-absorbers for one another. As we look upon Jesus, he reveals who we are - his beautiful wounded body. No wonder that Saint Bernard will say to Christ: “When you gave me yourself; you gave me back myself.”

Friday, April 13, 2018

God's Intention

The resurrection of the dead "...is giving form to that for which creation was intended from the beginning: to be a world before God, created out of incomprehensible and unjustifiable love, and always meant to find its way home to God. The resurrection of the dead...is the consequence of the world's creation, its coming forth out of pure grace. And above all it is the consequence of the raising of Jesus from the dead...he is the prototype and firstborn of all creation."

from Is This All There Is by Gerard Lohfink.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Peace



Fear and shame hang heavily over the scene in the upper room. The apostles have much to regret. Everything’s just about fallen to pieces, and now they’re hiding out. And then very quietly Jesus sneaks in to be with them. “Peace,” he says, and they are filled with joy. Jesus is neither boastful nor grand but almost shy and self-effacing. The very unpretentiousness of his presence is overwhelming. Jesus is obviously very physically present - disarmingly familiar to them - but also totally Other. He walks through the door and shows them his wounds, the deep scars in his body. The wounds confirm his “drastic physicality,” it’s really Jesus alright, but there is also mysteriously something much more. The apostles are filled with joy and utterly bewildered.

At this point we can imagine all the things Jesus might have said to them: “You fled. You left me. You denied me. How could you?” But he’ll have none of that. He simply breathes on them his own Spirit, the Spirit of forgiveness. And he says, “Peace.” No recriminations, just his warm breath, his peace and the instruction to forgive - to forgive even as he is forgiving them. Jesus’ resurrected presence allows them, first of all, to grieve the loss of their identity as perfect disciples and forgive themselves for all they have failed to do. And so he shows the apostles his wounds, for it is from this place of woundedness and vulnerability that they like him will be able to forgive others. Without vulnerability grace cannot happen,* without vulnerability any forgiveness we offer will be only cosmetic. Jesus has returned as the forgiving victim.

Photograph by Brother Brian. *from notes given by Dr. Patricia Kelly.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Annunciation

She did not cry, 'I cannot, I am not worthy,'
nor, 'I have not the strength.'
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Annunciation by Fra Angelico. Lines from the poem Annunciation by Denise Levertov.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Forgiving

Like Jesus, we are invited to remember without bitterness. That’s what forgiveness means – to remember without bitterness. Forgiveness does not mean nothing happened; too much, very much has happened to Jesus and to each one of us. Jesus has been wounded by our sins just as we are, indeed seeing his body wounded by sin makes sin and its consequences undeniable. But his wounding accomplishes our transformation, for his open wounds allow for the unending availability of his mercy. Jesus will be forever full of holes, those marks of his love and compassion and mercy. Jesus is not embarrassed by the intimacy of baring these wounds. He shows us his hands, he most willingly opens his pierced side, his broken heart for Thomas, for each of us, for it is the radiant sacrament of his compassion, the floodgate for his mercy. “Come touch me,” he says. “Put your hand in my side.” His wounded body holds the remembrance of his passion and suffering but without bitterness only love and the longing to console us.

Seeing the wounded Christ, and at the same time acknowledging my own stubbornness and stupidity, which is to say my own woundedness, how could I ever withhold forgiveness, or judge another. If Jesus could forgive in his agony his persecutors, forgive that poor thief writhing on the cross next to him, if he could take back his loser apostles after his resurrection, if he is always so ready to mercy me, who am I to ever withhold forgiveness or nurse a grudge? “Peace,” he says and he breathes on us. Too much has happened but forgiveness is worth it, love is worth it.

The Incredulity of Thomas by Caravaggio.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Alleluia!

The Lord Jesus is indeed risen from the dead. We rejoice in hope, as we celebrate the great fifty days of Eastertide. During this holy season, we chant over and over at all the Offices and at Mass, "Alleluia,"  which means literally "Praise God!" In the chant repertoire there are myriad variations. Some alleluias convey a quiet joy, a sense of joyful repose after a long ordeal. Others are more exuberant; so many ways to express the almost inexpressible. With our Alleluias we give voice to our joy and thanksgiving for all that the Father has given us in Christ Jesus our Lord, now risen from the dead. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Life of the Risen Lord

Realize that in you Christ lives his risen life, that he has already overcome death - died and risen from death and overcome it. If you will only realize that, you will soon be convinced that you will also come right up through the darkness into the light…let this seed of supernatural life fight its way out through darkness, just as an ordinary seed fights up through the darkness and heaviness of the hard, frozen earth. First it has to sharpen its own green blade in the night and cut through the ground or pierce the wood if it is a leaf on the tree, but suddenly it breaks into flower or leaf; and when it does that, it does not see its own beauty—the world outside it sees that; what it sees is the glorious sun that drew it up out of the darkness…So too will it be with you; your soul, your mind, will break into flower and you will find it is flowering in the midst of light, the light of Truth and Beauty and Life.

Christ is not in the tomb. He doesn’t seem to be anywhere, and yet he is everywhere. This week the Liturgy will recount various appearances of the Risen Lord to his disciples, events which are just as mysterious and elusive as the empty tomb itself. His Spirit moves us to turn in simple faith to him who now lives his Risen Life within us and among us.

Jesus came back from the long journey through death to give us his Risen Life to be our life, so that no matter what suffering we meet, we can meet it with the whole power of the love that has overcome the world. . . He has come back as spring comes back out of the ground, renewing the earth with life, to be a continual renewing of life in our hearts, that we may continually renew one another’s life in his love, that we may be his Resurrection in the world. We are the Resurrection, going on always, always giving back Christ’s life to the world.

The life of the Risen Lord is given to us to give to one another. To stand in awe before the fact of the Resurrection and the hope it carries does not mean to stand still or alone. It is through his risen life in us that Christ sends his love to the ends of the earth. The empty tomb has given each of us this mission - we who often struggle along the uncertain, dark, and mysterious journey of our own personal lives are sent forth to give Christ’s life to the whole world through the daily bread of our human love. 

Drawing by Brother Mikah. Meditation by Father Dominic with quotations by Caryll Houselander.  

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday

That Jesus is risen from the dead means that he is now present to us in an utterly new way, overcoming all the absences, distances, silences, misunderstandings and disloyalties that separate us from one another and from God. The Risen Christ is not “up there” or “out there” but truly rising in our own hearts.

Saint Paul testified to this intimate, accessible vitality of the Risen Christ when he exclaimed to the Galatians: “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.” He recognized with the certainty of faith that the Risen Christ in his very life was the greatest gift to celebrate and live from. This gift is not just what Jesus said and did but who he is - the Word who gives himself to us, and who speaks to our hearts simply by being. This is the Word spoken once into history and now eternally alive. He is the event of faith who gives us an experience of God.

As John of the Cross says in his Spiritual Canticle, the Risen Christ makes even the divine “always new and increasingly amazing.” (Cant.14:8)  The Easter experience is for us to arrive at the tomb of utter loss – the loss of Jesus, of God, of Life and Light and Love and Truth and sometimes ourselves and discover that this tomb is mysteriously empty of the deepest emptiness, of the most insuperable inaccessibility, empty of death itself. 

Ultimately, the Easter experience is to experience in our exhaustion, in our powerlessness, in our failure, that it is Christ who comes to us, the Risen One who lives and comes and finds us, enabling us to seek and find him.  This is what Peter with the other disciples experienced when the Risen Lord suddenly came to them behind locked doors in the upper room.  As we anticipate life beyond the empty tomb and our own locked doors, let us believe with deep confidence the Psalmist’s promise: “He himself will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in his presence, at his right hand happiness forever.” (Ps. 15:11)

Detail of The Resurrected Christ by Bergognone. Meditation by Father Dominic.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

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...

The stillness of Holy Saturday fills us with hope and anticipation.

Photograph by K'een Trainor. Lines from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday

How is it that something as brutal as the Cross has become the centerpiece of our faith? How is it that we glory in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ? Some say that Jesus suffered and died because we are so bad. Rather, I think Jesus suffered and died because we suffer and die. Who among us hasn’t known suffering, loss, grief, powerlessness of all sorts? Jesus’ Cross is unique to him but not exclusive to him. This is the heart of our faith - that he shares with us the totality of his uniqueness as the eternal Son of the Father. Whether that uniqueness is being expressed on the Mount of Transfiguration or on the Mount of Calvary.

The Cross is definitely not exclusive to Jesus. It is also my story. It is your story. It is the story of Spencer, the United States, Russia, Syria. It is the story of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. It is the story of those close to us and those we don’t even know. It’s the story of those we love and those we shun. How is this so? I don’t know. Why is this so? I don’t know. I don’t have any good, satisfying or easy answers. I don’t think any of us really do. But, what I’m convinced of is that what we do have is a God who suffers with us. Ultimately, that’s why we cling to and glory in the Cross of Jesus Christ. It’s all we’ve got. And it’s all we need. 

Excerpts from Abbot Damian's reflection for Good Friday. Safet Zec, Deposition, detail, 2014. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Holy Thursday

We have now opened the Sacred Triduum of our Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection; the most solemn days of our liturgical calendar. And how do we open these most solemn days? We began this liturgy by chanting the words of St. Paul to the Galatians: “We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “We should glory in the Cross.” Powerful words, to say the least! And yet, how is it that something as brutal as a Cross has become the centerpiece of our faith? And we shouldn’t evade the horrendous brutality of the crucifixion. 
            In the Roman empire, crucifixion was a form of punishment exquisitely calibrated to inflict suffering on different levels. It involved not only agonizing physical pain, but it also maximized exposure and humiliation; it insured maximum vulnerability to the disdain, disregard, and derision of passersby. After all, no one would want to risk being associated with someone in this position - it was just too dangerous, it would have ensured complete social ostracism.
            To me, this is why Paul’s words which we sang in our entrance chant, are so shocking. Because when Paul speaks of Christ crucified he is not just describing the manner of Jesus’ death. He is evoking the shame of it; the utter desolation of dying outside the city limits, outside the law, rejected, abandoned and despised by just about everyone. And yet, bizarrely, almost unbelievably, this is what Paul proclaims. Jesus Christ, afflicted, crucified, accursed, is ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ Such words strain the very borders of what makes sense, humanly speaking. So why does he say this? And why do we so solemnly proclaim it?
            To proclaim Christ crucified, as Paul does and as we do with him is to say that this place of affliction, of shame and dereliction, has been entered into and undergone by God. The worst that can befall us, the suffering most threatened by sheer meaninglessness - right here, Paul says, Jesus Christ has come and known it from the inside. Known it and broken its power over us. How? By revealing that even this place of utter degradation cannot separate us from the love and life of God.
            Christ redeemed us by becoming accursed. Christ redeemed us by going to the place where everyone was sure God was not. The love of God is a love that goes where God is not supposed to be; where God cannot even be imagined or conceived to be. [he became sin] God’s love in Jesus Christ becomes recognizable precisely as that love which goes where it has no business going; the place of the curse; the place where God is forgotten.
            My brothers and sisters, on this evening over 2000 yrs ago, Jesus gathered with his close circle of friends to celebrate a final, farewell meal together. Jesus pretty much knew what was in store for him by this time. He had heard the whispered accusations of blasphemy and felt the growing antagonism of the religious leaders. And he knew that blasphemy was grounds for the death penalty. And since Jewish law wouldn’t allow the religious leaders to put him to death, he’d have to be handed over to the Roman authorities. And he knew well that crucifixion was their preferred mode of execution. He knew what awaited him. And so he also knew what awaited his friends and disciples. He knew the fear, disappointment, disillusionment and distress that was going to be theirs over the next few days. And he passionately wanted to offer them something. Passionately! As Luke’s Gospel puts it: “When the hour arrived, he took his place at table and the apostles with him. He said to them: ‘I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you…” What he so passionately wanted to offer to them was more than just words of advice or consolation or encouragement. That was part of it. But He knew that wouldn’t be enough. He wanted to offer them, and us, himself - whole and entire. Take eat, this is my body. "Take drink, this is my blood." Nothing less would satisfy his fervent desire. Think of this when you come up for communion this evening. When you proclaim ‘Amen’ to the body and blood of Christ, not only are you satisfying your own hunger and desire for God; but you are also allowing God’s fervent desire and hunger for you to be satisfied. 

Excerpts from Abbot Damian's Homily for the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ascesis

Visitors or newcomers often ask if monks get bored. I suppose I do - not bored by the rhythm of liturgy, work, and prayer, but bored by me. It is perhaps the most difficult part of the ascesis - to see clearly over and over again the sad, boring truth of who I am. The truth is - I bore myself constantly with my sinfulness, my lostness, and stubbornness. And having seen and known that painful, neuralgic reality all too well over and over again, the challenge, the invitation is there and then to allow God in Christ in that very moment to gaze on me with love and exquisite tenderness. It seems utter madness to allow myself to be the object of Christ’s love and attention and mercy precisely in that moment. It is the great reversal, the sublime trick of the monastic vocation - I thought I was coming to the monastery to gaze upon Christ, but it is Christ Jesus the Lord himself who wants to gaze upon me in my lowliness and poverty. 

As the sacred days of the Triduum draw near, we ponder with love and wonder the forgiveness and mercy Jesus lavishes upon us through his passion, death, and resurrection.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by one of the monks.