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.