Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Their Cry for Mercy

"Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
In this morning's Gospel, ten lepers beg to be cleansed, restored to  community and family. Jesus hears their pleading, heals them, brings them hope in the midst of despair; he makes outsiders, insiders. One wise, newly cleansed Samaritan knows enough to return and say thank you. The Spirit of Jesus binds up and joins us together. What do we say? What return can we make for all the Lord has done for us? 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Gift of Self

Mindful in faith and love, in wonder and thanksgiving, of our own being as gift we are to be moved to a reciprocal gift of self to others. Moreover, giving to others must hold as its pattern gift’s proper measure, which is totality. The total gift of one’s own being from nothingness calls for a reciprocal gift of all of oneself. Jesus himself alludes to this logic when responding to a scribe’s question about which was the first of all the commandments, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

We can get a better grasp of this total reciprocal gift of self, by looking at its archetype, which is the “vow”. When a man and a woman exchange vows at their wedding or a religious makes vows at his or her profession or a priest at his ordination, in each case it is a gift of all of oneself. It is important to recognize that this giving of self is made as a response in love and thanksgiving to the mystery of being given to oneself, it is not a claim to have the capacity to spend the rest of one’s life in a state of unremitting total self-gift. What the vow does do is gather up all that has gone before and all that is to follow in a person’s life into a unity with God; so that every other giving of oneself is now an expression of this totality; which is meant to unfold in the ordinary living out of our lives through our daily attempts to give ourselves to others.

The widow’s contribution of her two small coins is her attempt to live from within the totality of self-gift. It is her way of abiding as a traveler in the land of the gift, which is the realm of God. He is her dwelling place, where taking risks in love opens up pathways of never-ending newness and discovery, he is her joy, her place of the experience of fullness and peace, her home; and resting there in union with him as the mystery of the divine source of life, her eternal father, means reciprocating in her own way the totality of the gift that she has received, confident that as for the widow of Zarephath, “The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth."

What gives Jesus such joy, is that in her action, he sees a unity with his own action as only-begotten Son, making a total gift of self to the Father through taking on our flesh, and now moving toward his suffering and death in order to bring back to the Father all those the Father has given him. He summons his disciples and points her out in the hope that they too will know this union with him. May he enlighten us and strengthen us that we too may dwell with him, united with him in the offering of self, without limit, calculation or reserve. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Father Timothy.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Widow


Reflecting on this Sunday's Gospel, one monk recounts the following:

I am reminded of scene from my childhood. It’s the morning of my birthday, and I have just come in with the mail, anxious to open my birthday cards. I’m tearing them open. There is one from my Aunt Florence, recently widowed; two crisp dollar bills fall to the table. Spoiled brat that I am; I pay little attention. My mom is there in a flash, “Who sent you that card?” “Aunty Flo,” I say. “Oh, God. Call to thank her now, please.” “Hi, Aunt Florence, thank you for the birthday gift.” My mother snatches the receiver from my hand, “Flo, you know you shouldn’t have done that. You can’t afford it.” Florence was living on a wing and a prayer; she had worked in a little hat shop; her husband my Uncle Ralph had projected movies at the local theater. They had educated two kids. She had nothing. The gift was huge. My mother understood. Like my mom, Jesus really understands as he watches the widow this morning. Compassionate mercy is enfleshed in Christ Jesus. It is he alone who really truly understands each of us, our context, our stories, our own need to be mercied by him. Jesus is gazing on us with mercy and compassion right now.  He understands and he calls us blessed. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Scripture and Contemplation

A point worth pondering is the link between Scripture and contemplation. The Cistercian Fathers insisted especially on the link between Scripture and the Beatific Vision. And so Saint Bernard will say, “Reading is an anticipated vision of divine glory.”

Our understanding of Scripture is ordained to that supreme contemplation where we shall see its Author face to face. The journey begins with the reading of the sacred texts in the darkness of faith, which is a kind of incipient vision. To the eyes of faith, God’s face shines dimly in the shadows, but it is not yet revealed in all its splendor. And so, we must continue to seek it in the pages of Scripture. As Augustine said so beautifully in his commentary on Psalm 104: “When love grows, the search for what has already been found also grows.”

If perfect contemplation is reserved for heaven, it is also true, according to the Fathers, that to understand with our mind the mysteries of Scripture and to live them is already to live in the kingdom of God. Jerome went so far as to say: “The kingdom of heaven is knowledge of the Scriptures.” The premise on which such a conviction depends is that the Bible is not just a written book, but a living Book.

Abbey barn photographed by Brother Brian. Reflection by Father Dominic.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Without Reserve

Dom Thomas Keating's funeral Mass was a celebration of love and remembrance. And many  of his relatives and friends joined us in the Abbey church last Saturday. Abbot Damian presided at the Mass and preached movingly about Thomas' last days. He told us that Father Thomas frequently asked him to read the following prayer of Blessed Charles de Foucauld to him as he lay dying.

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Friday, November 2, 2018

All Souls Day

Today we ponder the last things, and we mark this solemn day with our traditional procession through the cloisters and the blessing of the graves in the Abbey cemetery all in the early morning darkness. The dear departed, our brethren, friends, relatives and benefactors, belong to us and we pray that the Lord Jesus will raise them up to himself. With them we belong to God in Christ; we are filled with hope.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

All Saints Day

"Who are these wearing white robes?” says an elder in heaven to the narrator in today’s First Reading from the Book of Revelation. 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.

He is the radiant, blood-stained Lamb, who is seated on the throne at God’s right hand. We live now in the period of his sovereign rule over us. But it is a reign that is, nonetheless, far from complete. And ultimately the Beatitudes describe those who are putting his reign into effect, making the kingdom happen. And as all the saints would remind us, it’s all about Christ Jesus - losing ourselves for him, in him, and ultimately becoming transparent to him. Today is this great feast of transparency and transformation.

Jesus tells us, “How blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;” he invites us to recognize ourselves among the lowly and insignificant - those who look to God for everything. The Beatitudes are not Jesus' philosophy but his way for us to become kingdom, a way to live as if God were truly in charge, the way to live in him, who is our Beatitude, our way to true happiness.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

All Hallow's Eve

We always look forward to Halloween when we have a festive supper of Brother Patrick's homemade pizza. With Brother Daniel's assistance, he spends the day making sauce, chopping peppers and onions and kneading his own dough to create delicious giant pies. It is a special meal when speaking is allowed and there is candy and ice cream for dessert. After pitching in for a quick but thorough clean-up, we head to church for Compline and then to bed.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Dom Thomas Keating

A little after ten in the evening on Thursday October 25, Dom Thomas Keating passed to the Lord after a long illness. He is beloved of the many monks who were formed under his direction.

One friend and fellow monk recalls that Dom Thomas’ teaching on prayer represented “the finest in the mystical Catholic tradition, with its origins in the earliest centuries of the church." Dom Thomas  brought the rich mystical contemplative tradition of the Church to many and was a leading Catholic proponent of interreligious dialogue, cultivating ties of friendship and understanding. He will be remembered by many as a much beloved friend and teacher.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Saturday of Our Lady

She is our mother, mother of our life, of our incorruption, of our light...She therefore who is the mother of Christ is the mother of our wisdom, mother of our righteousness, mother of our sanctification, mother of our redemption. Therefore, she is more our mother than the mother of our flesh. Better therefore is our birth which we derive from Mary, for from her is our holiness, our wisdom; our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption.

Scripture says, ‘Praise the Lord in his saints’. If our Lord is to be praised in those saints through whom he performs mighty works and miracles, how much more should he be praised in her in whom he fashioned himself, he who is wonderful beyond all wonder.

Details from an early Cistercian manuscript. Lines from our Cistercian Father, Saint Aelred of Rievaulx. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

His Body

The Church shares its spiritual riches with its members through its common faith, its sacraments, its Liturgy and worship, its gifts and talents and most of all in charity, the love which makes us one with Christ and one another.

The Communion of Saints represents the notion that all who are in Christ serve one another in love. As Christ’s body, the Church, we are called to communion, holy communion. Our ambition is not to glorify ourselves but to bring others to Christ. For us as monks we are not called to evangelize. Our life itself is our witness. Our prayer, silence, hospitality, charity and our joy will attract others to Christ. That is our ambition. To paraphrase the words of St. Francis of Assisi to his friars: “Preach to the people, but only use words when necessary.”

Initial from an early Cistercian manuscript. Meditation by Father Emmanuel.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Vigilance

Jesus said to his disciples: 
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.” Luke 12

Our work as monks is to remain constantly vigilant for the Lord's kind presence. This is the reason for our earlier rising and our return to prayer at the various hours of the day.
Photos by Joan Bennett.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

True Discipleship

At this point in their relationship with Jesus, the apostles do not truly understand what discipleship will entail. And perhaps too readily they agree to drink the "cup" of Jesus and be "baptized" with him. He is of course referring to his passion. Loving him more and more, identifying with his mission of mercy and self-gift, soon they will understand more clearly, as they see mocked and scourged and crucified.

As Father Emmanuel reminded us in his homily this morning, worldly ambition is always a temptation - seeking power and prestige and predominance. To follow Christ means to serve, just as he came to serve, not to be served. This is a lesson to be learned and re-learned here in the "school of love," that is the monastery. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

How do any of us, come to understand the cross as, of all things, an opportunity? How do we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who, for the sake of the joy that lay before him, embraced the cross out of love, heedless of its shame? Can we imagine truly embracing the cross, embracing our own crosses? 

Saint Ignatius of Antioch had his gaze so fixed on Christ Jesus that he begged his friends not to keep him from the wild beasts who would eat him up in the Roman arena. “I will gladly die for God, if only you do not stand in my way,” he said. “I offer my life's breath for the sake of the cross…let me imitate my suffering God...I am God's wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” Perhaps we are humbled by such reckless ardor, but such passion is meant to be ours as well. 
Photography by Brother Brian.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Teresa

As Pope Francis said yesterday during the canonization ceremony, "Jesus invites us to return to the source of joy, which is the encounter with him, the courageous choice to risk everything to follow him, the satisfaction of leaving something behind in order to embrace his way. The saints have traveled this path." Certainly this was true of Saint Teresa of Avila, whom we remember today. She tells us, "On this road of prayer it is more important to love much than to think much." We pray that we may be consumed with love for Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Detail of the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Gianlorenzo Bernini.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.


As we sang this hymn as the recessional at Mass this morning, we could hear echoes of Father Aquinas' homily. He admonished us to constantly put aside everything in order to follow Christ Jesus wholeheartedly. Let us make haste.

Photo by Br. Brian. Some verses from  the Gaelic hymn by Dallan Forgaill.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Our Lady on Saturday

It is our joy to celebrate this ordinary Saturday in honor of Our Lady. Saint Bernard says that above all what has drawn God to Mary is her humility. God finds it utterly irresistible. We arrive at humility by a route very different than Our Lady’s, but it can give us the same irresistible quality. We do it through, what we call in the monastery, bitter self-knowledge – the realization that we are sinners beloved by God, humbly acknowledging that we have nothing to boast of before God but our weakness. This humility allows God to be God for us, for when things fall apart we seek the only One who can restore us to wholeness, peace and joy. We rejoice because through the Virgin Mary God has chosen to be part of our fragmentation and restoration.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Saint John XXIII

Image result for pope john xxiii quotes

As we remember good Pope John XXIII today, we recall his words, "If God created shadows, it was to better emphasize the light." With so much darkness in our world, we realize our longing for the Light - Christ Jesus our Lord. May His truth, the truth of self-forgetful love, move our hearts to prayer and acts of compassion and mercy.

Saint John XXIII pray for us.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Our Dependence

To test Jesus, the Pharisees pose this question, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife.” But Jesus goes back to the beginning and reveals the mystery of communion: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.” A communion of persons is possible only because of mutual help. We are not sufficient unto ourselves. We are dependent on others.

We are limited creatures, but God gives us helpers to help us bear our limitations and accept them. We see this clearly in married life but also in the common life of monks. Going one’s own way by refusing any dependence on others, is a recipe for disaster. Our Lord embraced his dependence – first, his dependence on Our Lady and Saint Joseph; then, on the companionship of his disciples, and above all, on his intimacy with his heavenly Father. We must do the same. Marriage is fruitful physically in the blessing of children but also fruitful spiritually in a partnership of life to the end. And the spiritual fruitfulness of monks is drawn out of the crucible of common life.

And so we recall a story from the Special Olympics. A group of youngsters with Down syndrome were lined up for the fifty-yard dash. Off they went, but half way down the track one of the children tripped and fell to the ground. After a few more yards, the others stopped, turned around, and went back to their fallen companion. They lifted him up, and locking arms, they all walked the rest of the way, crossing the finish line together with big grins on their faces. That is the communion of persons we will see in heaven – a communion of little children who realize their dependence, recognize the grace of God, and bear fruit in abundance. In the Eucharist we receive the greatest Helper of all, “bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh,” thanks to his mother Mary. 

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

Thursday, October 4, 2018

With Francis

Image result for saint francis and jesusJesus is consumed with love for the mission entrusted to him by his Father, and nothing can separate him or even distract him from its accomplishment. When he asks us to follow him, this is an expression of the divine pleasure to have us truly united with him in his task. Saint Francis knew that this union was the way of peace, joy and fullness of life in the midst of every conceivable trial and tribulation. Perhaps we are well aware of the distance between our level of discipleship and what Francis and the Lord Jesus hold out to us. The Lord can close the gap by the gift of his Spirit. Let us open our hearts to him. 

Meditation by Father Timothy.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Angel Guardians

Many of us remember seeing this image as children. Perhaps unsophisticated or schmaltzy, it nonetheless communicates the truth of God's all enveloping care and watchfulness as embodied in the Angel Guardians.

A thousand may fall at your side,
 ten thousand fall at your right:
 you it will never approach.
Your eyes have only to look
 to see how the wicked are repaid.
 For you, O Lord, are my refuge.
 You have made the Most High your dwelling.
Upon you no evil shall fall,
 no plague approach where you dwell.
 For you has he commanded his angels
 to keep you in all your ways.
They shall bear you upon their hands,
 lest you strike your foot against a stone…
Since he clings to me in love, I will free him,
protect him, for he knows my name.   Psalm 91

Monday, October 1, 2018

With Thérèse

If you are willing to bear in peace the trial of not being pleased with yourself, you will be offering the Lord Jesus a home in your heart. It is true you will suffer, for you will feel like a stranger in your own house. But do not fear, for the poorer you are, the more Christ will love you.

We are always consoled by these words of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux; she reminds us that Jesus' power is made perfect in our weakness. How she trusted that God knows us in our smallness and frailty. Too often we try to be big, pretend to be big, when we ought to know better. God only wants our littleness and dependence on him. What a relief not to have to pretend any longer.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Blest

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ, 
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Mark 9


How blest we are, though we may not know it or feel it or fully realize it - for we belong to Christ. We are his own. Nothing, nothing at all can separate us from him. We want to spend this Sunday recalling over and over, savoring this reality - we belong to Christ. 

Photo by Brother Brian.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

With the Angels

In the presence of the angels, I will your praises Lord.

As we celebrate Saints Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and all the holy angels and archangels, these messengers of God Most High, we recall that when we chant our praise to God, we join them. When we pray the heavens are thrown open, and we accompany the angels and saints in their endless praise. 

Detail of The Assumption by Fra Angelico.

Friday, September 28, 2018

In Our Hearts

What advantage has the worker from his toil?
I have considered the task that God has appointed
for the sons of men to be busied about.
He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
without man's ever discovering,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.  
Ecc. 3

In this morning's First Reading the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that the Lord has put timelessness into our hearts. We are made for God, made for heaven, made for a Beauty and Truth far beyond, a Mystery very near that we glimpse from time to time with his grace. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

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.