The seed is the Word of God. How do we receive the Word that
is given to us each day, his Word spoken to us in prayer, in our lectio divina, in our hearts? Are our
hearts broken enough, open enough, to receive the abundance he longs to give?
Let us bow our heads and beg his mercy. Photograph by Father Emmanuel.
Now, today. What keeps us from living
the urgency of the now of Jesus’ presence and action in our lives? "Today.”
says Jesus. “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Gratefully the Lord Jesus is relentless. Indeed God uninterruptedly uninterruptedly
converses with us, even today, right now. Today his Word is being fulfilled in our hearing, if
we will allow it. Today. Now, Jesus wants to free those who are oppressed, now he wants to remove our
blindness, now he comes with great good news for us. Now he wants to make of us his compassion and his mercy-makers. Mercy-makers. But too often, perhaps, we find ourselves,
despondent, walking to a nearby village with our heads down, much too slow to
Living in the todayness
of Jesus’ compassionate presence always involves a surrender and a passover with
him into a place of precariousness and uncertainty, where we are invited to
abandon ourselves and depend on God alone, even unto death, just as he did on
the cross. This happens most often when we crash headlong into our own
limitations, when we do not
know how to go on, when finally, in desperation, exasperation and near despair,
we hand ourselves over into God’s hands, so that he can save us. Then
our today comes.
Probably for most of us some great, earth-shattering
revelation never comes. What we get instead are “daily miracles, illuminations,
matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.”*
And that is enough, more than enough for a day, today, the now of Jesus’
inbreaking. Each morning at Mass, Jesus opens the scroll and reveals himself, reveals
our true selves in his Word and in the Sacrament of the Altar, and then we understand
that we are enough in him.
Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Meditation iincludes insights from Gerhard
Lohfink, Jesus of Nazareth.
What He Wanted, Who He Was. * Quote by Virginia Woolf.
This morning Jesus
proclaims his truth and his heart’s desire in a passage from Isaiah, one which
probably he had heard and read more than once before. “The Spirit of the Lord
is upon me, he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim
liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go
free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” But today it's different;
he understands himself in what he reads. He is this Word. The Word made flesh
reads the scroll of the prophet and recognizes himself, his mission in and
through the Word. He simply cannot keep this good news to himself and so he
says, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."
And we hear an echo of the words he will speak later on to a Samaritan woman at a well,
“I who am speaking with you am he; I myself am the mercy and compassion of the
Father that Isaiah wrote about. This Word is me.”
Like Jesus, we too will
come to understand ourselves, our truth in in the Word. And surely, like Jesus,
each one of us has a passage that is ours, a word, words that have touched our
hearts and describe something we perhaps always felt but never knew how to
describe. This is our word, written by an author we never met, for Sacred
Scripture is our Book. And best of all, whenever we engage with the Word, our
reading is not just reading, it is encounter - with the Person of Jesus, Word
made flesh and Splendor of the Father. Such is the truth of our own lectio
divina - as we read, we discover, more often than not, that we
ourselves are being read. The life we live is not our own. We are Christ’s
body, part of him, in him.
And our stories are one
with his. In Christ Jesus God “has become not only one of us but even our very
selves.” Jesus himself is our story, our book, our destiny - now, today;
Jesus is the Book - with "the power to reflect and illuminate our life; the one
Book that forever informs how we navigate the life we have been given." The
wounded and risen Jesus is the template that makes sense of each of our lives.
Quotes from Thomas Merton & Katharine Smyth . Photograph by Father Emmanuel.
When I think of Moses I dwell particularly on his leading
Israel through the desert wilderness on the way to the promised land. It was our Father Saint Robert who led the
hermits of Colan from their solitude there even deeper into the wilderness
forest of Molesme with the two “tablets” of the Rule of Saint Benedict and the
Gospel as their guide. When this was no longer a place of solitude and fervent
monastic life, he once again took up those tablets and led a monastic Israel to
the inhospitable wilderness, “the desert place called Citeaux” there to found
the first house of our Order. And, like Moses, Robert was denied the joy of
really entering into the Promised Land that Citeaux would become. He was called
back by the Pope to his original monastery of Molesme after only about eighteen
months at the New Monastery. We today
still hold tenaciously to Robert's ideal of the monastery set in the wilderness
in imitation of Our Lord's own predilection for deserts, mountain tops and
wilderness as places of prayer, where
without the distractions of the
city, one can come to better know
oneself and God in Christ, God who allures us into the desert there to speak to our hearts personally and
communally through the Holy Spirit.
Words from the Letter to the Hebrews were used to describe Saint
Alberic in the early 12th century narrative of the founding of the
Order, the Exordium Parvum.In Hebrews 11:36 our ancestors in the faith
are described as those who “endured mockery, scourging, even chains and
imprisonment.”Likewise Alberic is
described in chapter 9 of the Exordium
as “a learned man, that is to say, well versed in things divine and human, a
lover of the Rule and of the brethren, who had for a long time been carrying
out the office of prior in the church of Molesme...and who had striven and
labored much and long so that the brethren could pass from Molesme to this
place (of Citeaux); and who for the sake of this affair, had to endure many
insults, imprisonment, and stripes.”We, who are so inspired by the purity of heart of our founders, can
easily forget how much shock, scandal and anger the decision of Abbot Robert,
Prior Alberic and 20 other monks to leave Molesme must have caused.This probably led to Alberic's
suffering so many insults and even violence from the abandoned monks of
Molesme.The decision to found Citeaux
took real courage and tremendous faith in the face of hostility.
Chapter 10 of the Gospel of Mark made me think of the one
authentic letter of Saint Stephen Harding in our possession. There in Chapter 10 Jesus speaks
lovingly to his disciples as his “sons,” his own children and
encourages them to the renounce earthly riches and even the the joys of home and family for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven with the
promise of a new kind of wealth in God and in human relationships that goes
beyond anything they have known - a hundred-fold increase.
A few years before his death in 1133. Stephen wrote to Abbot
Thurstan and the monks of the Benedictine Abbey of Sherborne in England which
he had entered as a boy. While still a young monk, Stephen became discouraged
and left. He writes, “Fear Christ, but with love; and love him, but with fear.” Stephen
says that he who ran offencountered
“the riches of God's mercy,” so that he “the empty vessel” who had
left the monastery of Sherborne was himself filled by “the living
fountain” that is the Lord, for at
his death Stephen was head of an Order with 40 monasteries.
We see here the fulfillment of the Lord's promise in Mark’s
Gospel of a hundred times more brothers and sisters and homes. Stephen concludes, “I exhort your love
to strive to make the good repute you have... the occasion for further progress
in virtues, so that, progressing from what is good to what is better and
cleaving firmly to monastic observance, you may never cease to observe chastity
and humility, submitting yourselves to the zealous practice of frugality
together with charity even unto death that you may see the God of gods. Amen.” Icon of the Holy Founders written by Brother Terence. Excerpts from today’s homily by Father Luke.
happiness lies in you alone...Your will is my delight.
Our life in the monastery makes us available to be drawn as completely, as immediately, as constantly as the disciples were - to be completely open, vulnerable to the
compelling presence of Christ. He beckons us even
now. And it is never too late to love him with all
our heart, all our soul, all our strength. Perhaps we feel that there is always
too little to give, but it is never ever too late to give all that we can, for
he is incessantly drawing us to himself.
The bells are our constant summons to put all things
aside. “The monks will always be ready to arise without delay when the signal
is given,” says St. Benedict. “On hearing the signal the
monk will immediately set aside what he has in hand and go with utmost speed.” Such attentiveness is grace
and gracefulness. And it is why we have come here, a way to name
our deepest desire. At the first stirrings of his call, were not our hearts
burning within us? Let us go to him once again without hesitation, without a
second thought, for our desire is itself his gift and his desire for us. Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Meditation by one the monks.
A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up
throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an
impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every
Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and
from the heart of every believer.
We pray that that every human being
will be protected in law and welcomed in life.
Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Excerpt from Evangelium Vitae of Pope Saint John Paul II.
When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." John 2 Mary cares for us, always attentive to our needs, to whatever we lack. She always speaks to Jesus on our behalf, "They have no wine." Perhaps, in other words, "They need you, they depend on the joy and gladness and consolation only you, my Son, can provide." In turn Mary always says to us, "Do whatever he tells you." As if to say, "Never despair, be attentive to him, to his invitation, trust that he will always fill you with good things and transform your ordinariness, your emptiness, if you make it available to him."
The Marriage Feast at Cana, Juan de Flandes (Netherlandish, active by 1496–died 1519 Palencia), ca.
1500–1504, Oil on wood, 8 1/4 x 6 1/4 in. (21 x 15.9 cm). The Metropolitan
Museum of Art. Used with permission.
So much to pray for, our hearts are full. The Lord is attentive. We begin today the Octave of Christian Unity praying that divisions among Christian churches may dissolve.
The division between Christ’s disciples is so obvious a contradiction that they cannot be resigned to it without feeling in some way responsible for it. The purpose of this particular week is to encourage the Christian community to devote itself more intensely to prayer, in order to experience at the same time how beautiful it is to live together as brothers and sisters. Despite the tensions sometimes caused by existing differences, these days give us in some way a foretaste of the joy that full communion will bring when it is finally achieved.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines by Pope Saint John Paul II.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out,
"What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to
destroy us? I know who you
are–the Holy One of God!" Jesus rebuked him
and said, "Quiet! Come out of him!" The unclean spirit
convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and
asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching with
authority. He commands even
the unclean spirits and they obey him."Mark 1
Christ Jesus has come
among us to quiet within us, around us, all that would impede God’s sovereignty
in the lives of us, his little ones. In Christ wounded and risen from the dead, we
have been brought into the glory and beauty that God is. Photograph by Brother Brian.
bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptized; let us
also go down with him and rise with him.
baptizing when Jesus draws near. Perhaps he comes to sanctify his baptizer;
certainly, he comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters. He comes to sanctify
the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us; he who is spirit and flesh
comes to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water.
protests; Jesus insists. Then John says: I ought to be baptized by you. He is
the lamp in the presence of the sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the
friend in the presence of the Bridegroom, the greatest of all born of woman in
the presence of the firstborn of all creation, the one who leapt in his
mother’s womb in the presence of him who was adored in the womb, the forerunner
and future forerunner in the presence of him who has already come and is to
come again. I ought to be baptized by you: we should also add, “and for you,” for John is to be baptized in blood, washed clean like Peter, not only by the washing
of his feet.
from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens like Paradise with its
flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open.
The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead. A voice
bears witness to him from heaven, his place of origin. The Spirit descends in
bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood
and so gives honor to the body that is one with God.
Today let us
do honor to Christ’s baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed
entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the
conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation
exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in
the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great
light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy
more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have
received – though not in its fullness – a ray of its splendor, proceeding from
the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and
We listened to these
words of Saint Gregory Nazianzen in the somber light of this morning's Vigils
and were amazed and delighted. Plaque with the Baptism of Jesus, ca. 1150–75, South Netherlandish, Champlevé enamel, copper alloy,
gilt, 4 x 4 x 1/8”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission. Excerpt from a
sermon by Saint Gregory Nazianzen (Oratio 39).
"Here we are, you and I, and I hope that Christ makes a third with us." These words of Saint Aelred, whom we celebrate today, remind us of his certainty that in his experience of relationship, Christ was ever present. Indeed, Christ Jesus is never ever in competition with his creation. God is Love; love is one. And so Jesus is truly with us in all of our loving interconnectedness. Aelred will at last declare, “God is friendship.” When at
last we realize that we ourselves are loved beyond all measure by God, we want to respond in love with our whole heart. Aelred understands well that this relationship of love will heal us. He says, "No medicine
is more valuable, none more efficacious, none better suited to the cure of our
temporal ills than a friend to whom we may turn for consolation in time of
trouble, and with whom we may share happiness in time of joy.” Image of Saint Aelred from an early
I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict
XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a
Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the
encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a
decisive direction”. Thanks solely to this encounter…with God’s love,
which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our
narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than
human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest
truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts
at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to
our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?
Echoing these words of Pope Francis, our own Constitutions remind us that it is only if we prefer nothing whatever to Christ will we be happy to persevere in our life that is ordinary, obscure and laborious. Evangelium Gaudii, par. 7. Detail of early Spanish-American corpus from the Abbey hermitage. Photograph by Brother Brian.
Herod is, in part, instrumental in leading the Magi to Bethlehem. He is the
one who calls the chief priests and scribes to inquire where the Messiah is to
be born. Herod wanted to kill him, the Magi wanted to worship him. And that really is a succinct summary of the responses that people
had to Jesus throughout his life and ministry. What is it about God's coming into the world that
humanity finds so difficult to take? What is it about
God’s coming into my world that I may find so difficult to take? Herod offers us a
When the Magi asked, “Where is the child who has
been born king of the Jews?” Herod was frightened. And that is what
goes on in all our lives. It is a story as old as Adam
and Eve; after Adam took the forbidden fruit the first thing he
did was hide! God came looking for Adam and
called, “Where are you?” Adam answered, “I was afraid, so I hid myself.”
So it is that in Scripture angels always preface
their approach to human beings with a “Don’t be afraid!” Certainly this
fear has something to do with the magnitude of the transformation God’s
presence offers us.
God’s presence, God’s love is always transforming.
To really encounter God, we must let go of
ourselves, our identities, our securities, our compromises, our tending to
‘business as usual’. We must come out of hiding. And this is frightening. It is really no wonder that we find it so hard to say
‘yes’ to God and to welcome his presence in our lives. It is so difficult to
really bow down and worship as the Magi did. It requires all that we have and
all that we are.
The Magi were on a journey; fundamentally a
journey of transformation. We are told that they returned home by another
route. In other words, they were different, changed, transformed by their
encounter with God. This is a journey that we are all on. The Magi’s journey
wasn’t easy. Neither is ours; it is hard to say ‘yes’ to God. It is hard to risk staying on the
journey of transformation. It is hard to let go of our securities, whatever they
may be. It is hard to entrust ourselves to an unknown future and to the way of
love. It is hard to continue on the journey of transformation.
But what is the alternative? There really isn’t
one, unless we want to live in a world where innocents are slaughtered; where
cruel tyrants reign supreme; where mercy is extinct. And if that is not the
kind of world we want to live in, then we must consciously continue on the
journey of transformation. It is a journey of receiving love and mercy and becoming ourselves loving and merciful. The only way to remain on this journey of
transformation, is to begin again every day, never
tiring of noticing my fear; noticing where I’m in hiding; where I’m tempted to turn back. As
much as I can, I must press on. Patience is a prerequisite; it was for the Magi, it is for us. The journey is a life-long, and I never want to stop asking that love make its home in me.
God gives each of us a gift; the gift is an
invitation to be transformed into his way of being in the world. Receiving
the gift means recognizing our fright and
not acting out of it as Herod did - not allowing it to keep us
hiding from God but inviting the gift of God’s presence to transform
us. This is what the Eucharist is all about - we welcome the magnitude of the gift we receive and allow it to fill the magnitude of our fright. Adoration of the Magi, Workshop
of Gerard David (Netherlandish, Oudewater ca. 1455–1523 Bruges), ca. 1520, Oil
on wood, 27 3/4 x 28 7/8 in., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with
permission. Excerpts from
Abbot Damian’s homily for Epiphany; he acknowledges his debt to Sarah
Bachelard for several of these reflections.
morning’s gospel, John the Baptist watches Jesus as he walks along and points
him out as the promised One, the Lamb of God. Hearing this, two of John’s
disciples decide to leave him and follow Jesus. Jesus senses their footsteps
behind him; he turns and gazes upon them, "What are you seeking?" he
says. "Teacher,” they say. “Where are you staying?" Jesus invites
them, "Come, and see." A relationship has begun.
takes place in Capernaum; some scholars believe Jesus had a little house there. Capernaum was after all Jesus' home base during his
ministry in Galilee, and the Gospel of Mark will call it "his own
town" and say that Jesus was "at home" when people came to see
him there. And so these two go home with Jesus; now right beside him not
behind him. And they see where Jesus is staying, and they stay with him that
day. It is, the Gospel tells us, about four in the afternoon; an hour they will
What did they do at Jesus’ house? What did
they talk about? Perhaps the typical questions – “You two are from around here
right? Fishermen? I think I’ve seen you out there. The weather’s been decent
for fishing, hasn’t it?” “Yes; and Rabbi where are you from?” “Nazareth,
really?” (They glance at each with a bit of surprise; it’s kind of a nowhere
place after all.) And then most probably there’s a meal. Maybe Jesus cooked; he
was good at cooking fish. And maybe there was some warm bread from the woman
next door. Some olives? I don’t know. But I’d bet anything that Jesus waited on
them; their new rabbi serving them at table. It would have been unheard of at
the time for a rabbi to do such a thing, but we can intuit that most likely
Jesus would do something that. As he will remind the disciples later on, “I am
among you as one who serves…I have come not to be served but to serve.”
In the religious world of ancient Judaism a
disciple always chose a teacher and followed him – a disciple followed, keeping
a respectful distance behind his teacher, always listening and soon serving and
caring for all his rabbi’s needs. With Jesus, it is all reversed; it’s all
about his invitation. The disciples’ decision to follow Jesus and leave
everything else behind is crucial of course, but it is Jesus who calls them to
himself - not behind him but beside him. Jesus’ way to form new disciples is to
make them his friends. And this morning we imagine his heart full of joy, for
he has found friends with whom he can share his dream of God’s kingdom. Meditation by one of the monks of the abbey.
In paragraph 323 of The Joy of Love, Pope Francis writes: “It is a profound spiritual experience to contemplate our
loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ in them. This demands a
freedom and openness which enable us to appreciate their dignity. We can be
fully present to others only by giving fully of ourselves and forgetting all
else. Our loved ones merit our complete attention. Jesus
is our model in this, for whenever people approached to speak with him, he would
meet their gaze, directly and lovingly. No one felt overlooked in his
presence, since his words and gestures conveyed the question: 'What do you want
me to do for you?' This is what we experience in the daily life of the family."
In community we are constantly reminded that each person merits our complete
attention, since he possesses infinite dignity as the object of the
Father's immense love. This gives rise to a tenderness which can
stir in the other the joy of being loved. Tenderness is expressed in a
particular way by exercising loving care in treating the limitations of the
other, especially when they are evident.” Note the word
“especially”- especially when those human limitations are evident. There go all
my excuses out the window! Adapted from a meditation by Father Luke.
There come to her doors men beating their breasts, confessing their sins, and having received pardon, they return home with joy...In the same way there draw near to her feet...the sad, the needy, the afflicted, the lonely...The prayers of all these who cry out of whatever tribulation she gladly receives and, making supplication to her Son, in her pity she turns from them every evil...with what great kindness she embraces and loves those who are akin to her in purity of heart...
We trust always in the kindness of Our Blessed Lady. She lets all the mercy that Jesus is come to us.
Orazio Gentileschi, Madonna with Sleeping Christ Child, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum. Lines from our Cistercian father, Amadeus of Lausanne.
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