Saturday, July 31, 2021

Saint Ignatius Loyola

In the closing meditation of his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius Loyola asks the retreatant to ponder, cuánto el Señor desea dárseme how much the Lord wants to give himself to me. Certainly, this arises out of Ignatius' own experience of Christ's love for him. In Ignatius' expression, we hear an echo of Saint Augustine's words centuries earlier, "God thirsts to be thirsted after." 

Given the endless loving desire of our God and Lord for us, our only work minute by minute, all day long is to allow the Lord easy access to our hearts. He only asks us to crack the door open. If we give him even just a little space, he will enter and love and transform our hearts, our very selves.

How much the Lord desires to give himself to each of us. Relentlessly. If only we understood. 


Friday, July 30, 2021

Saint Peter Chrysologus

 

Saint Peter Chrysologus, whom we honor today, puts the following words on the lips of the Risen Lord Jesus, who still bears his wounds as he appears to his disciples:

In me, I want you to see your own body, your members, your heart, your bones, your blood. You may fear what is divine, but why not love what is human? You may run away from me as the Lord, but why not run to me as your father? Perhaps you are filled with shame for causing my bitter passion. Do not be afraid. This cross inflicts a mortal injury, not on me, but on death. These nails no longer pain me, but only deepen your love for me. I do not cry out because of these wounds, but through them, I draw you into my heart. My body was stretched on the cross as a symbol, not of how much I suffered, but of my all-embracing love. I count it no loss to shed my blood: it is the price I have paid for your ransom. Come, then, return to me and learn to know me as you father, who repays good for evil, love for injury, and boundless charity for piercing wounds.

Indeed we are called to recognize our own humanity in both the Crucified and Risen Lord. In the incarnation Jesus reflects back to us, actually reveals to us, our own humanity. St. Leo the Great will add in a Lenten homily: “Is there anyone whose own weakness is not recognizable in Christ’s?” And he assures us: “The body that lay lifeless in the tomb, that rose again on the third day, and that ascended above the heavens to the Father’s right hand, belongs to us.”

Reflections by Father Dominic.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Hosts of the Lord


We celebrate Mary, Martha, and Lazarus today, and so we travel to Bethany. After Lazarus has been raised by Jesus there is a dinner in the house of his dear friends and Mary washes Jesus’ feet. This often reminds us of another scene in John’s Gospel- Jesus washing the feet of his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. We know that foot washing was something a Gentile slave could be required to do, but never a Jewish slave. Foot-washing was typically something wives did for their husbands, children for their parents, and disciples for their teachers. There is undoubtedly a level of intimacy is involved in these last scenarios. And in Jesus' case, there is an obvious reversal of roles.* Jesus calls his disciples his friends. And by washing their feet he overcomes in this act of loving intimacy the inequality that exists between them. And so he establishes an intimacy with them that signals their access to everything he had received from his Father, even the glory that is his as Beloved Son.* 


We like to imagine that Jesus was inspired to wash their feet because he had been so touched by what was done for him at Bethany six days before Passover when Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil and anointed his feet most tenderly and dried them with her hair. Was this something that inspired his own most loving action on this night before he died? Perhaps. In any event, Peter cannot bear the thought of his teacher doing this. We can imagine that probably it was something his wife had done for him many times. And doubtless, he like the others is embarrassed by the intimacy of it, the touch, the loving condescension, and the unaffected tenderness, the unmanageability of the love that is so available. It’s disorienting. We see now it is a parable, a parallel to what he would do for us on the cross the next afternoon.

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. *See Biblegateway.com. and Sandra Schneiders Written That You May Believe,.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Praying

Perhaps most especially for us as monks, loving our enemies will mean praying for them, for to pray for those who hurt us is to love them. And if you’ve ever tried it, you know how dumb and awkward and even phony it can feel. But we also know that not doing so may have dire consequences. For soon the inner room of our heart will no longer be a place for prayer but a shoddy hovel for wound-licking. We pray for those who hurt us, even though sometimes it feels impossible.   

It is our work, our duty, our promise is to pray. And we know it is the only way to make sense of hurts- individual, communal, national. And so we pray. We pray for victims and for perpetrators, for politicians who believe what we do, and for those who might seem to disregard our cherished values. And our praying helps us parse the incongruity, make some sense of it. Prayer helps us get to the core of things. We pray; for craziness and hurt and broken hearts are too many. We can pray because we know our own poverty; we have come to know our own foolishness. We pray because we realize that we are no better than the worst. No better.

Our praying is always for; it is our humble privilege and responsibility. In a life marked by, what our Constitutions describe as, a “hidden apostolic fruitfulness,” what we do here matters, because it lies at the heart of the Church, very close to the heart of God who sustains all things.

Our life of prayer affords us the extravagance of luxuriating in our helplessness and utter dependence on God. Our praying is always unaccomplished but perfect in that it allows God to accomplish all things in us and through us. And perhaps our perfection as monks consists most of all in this- that we accept willingly the burden and responsibility of honest attention to our weakness, the weakness that lets us pray. This is the secret we were made for. 

Photograph of the Abbey's Manning Hill by Brother Anthony Khan.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Abundant Bread


When Jesus feeds that enormous crowd, the dream comes true - a banquet has been prepared by the Messiah for God's holy people. Jesus, God’s own Word of love, himself feeds the hungry as they recline on the grass, in their Sabbath rest. And the Psalmist’s dream comes true- “He has prepared a banquet for me…fresh and green are the pastures where He gives me repose.” And what Isaiah glimpsed from afar in prophetic reverie is now seen clearly- “they shall be fed with rich sweet food on my holy mountain; no more fear or hunger or tears or mourning.” 

All this abundance only dreamt of has come true, taken flesh in Jesus; bread ‘as much as they wanted,’ as much as we want. Perhaps it was on this mountain that Jesus understood most clearly for the first time that it would never be enough for Him, merely to feed those He loved even with such abandon and abundance. Perhaps it was after this busiest day of blessing and doling out all that bread that Jesus dreamt of Himself being our Food, dreamed that He had to do it, dreamed with longing to be hidden in His creatures, dreamt of Himself as real Food. Perhaps it was also here that Jesus dreamt the frightening dream of another mountaintop, where He saw too clearly the only way that He could feed us forever with the healing Bread of Himself. Then and there he dreamt the most frightening dream of all, the dream of Golgotha, where the Bread would finally be broken to pieces for us. 

What else is there left to say if God has loved us so, if God wants to feed us with Himself so much? Maybe all we need to say is "Thank you" and open our hands and hearts to receive Him  Desire is the only thing left- preferring nothing whatever to the Bread, becoming ourselves desire for him, becoming even bread for one another; realizing in all truth that he has spoiled us so that nothing else can really please or fill us but Him. He wants the joy of filling us up. That is what love does - it gives itself away. And so once again we come to him, to whom else shall we go. Here at this altar, we are invited to give ourselves, as he gives himself, and to get caught up in the self-forgetfulness that is God.
Photograph by Brothr Btsin,                 .

Friday, July 23, 2021

With Saint Bridget of Sweden


O Jesus! I remember the abundant outpouring of Blood which You shed. From Your Side, pierced with a lance by a soldier, Blood and Water poured forth until there was not left in Your Body a single Drop; and finally, the very substance of Your Body withered and the marrow of Your Bones dried up.

Through this bitter Passion and through the outpouring of Your Precious Blood, I beg You to pierce my heart so that my tears of penance and love may be my bread day and night. May I be entirely converted to You; may my heart be Your perpetual resting place; may my conversation be pleasing to You; and may the end of my life be so praiseworthy that I may merit Heaven and there with Your saints praise You forever. Amen.  Saint Bridget of Sweden

When I finally understand that my heart is desperately in need of mercy, it becomes a perfect resting place for our Lord, who is himself all Mercy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Humility

But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.  Matthew 13

The seed is the Word of God, Jesus himself. In his Incarnation, he has fallen into the soil of our humanity, our lowliness. Humus is the Latin word for soil and is the origin of the word humility. In the rich loamy earth of our sometimes-bitter self-knowledge, we are on the ground, in the humus of our reality. It is in the lowliness of this truth, that we realize who we are, what we are, who we long for, who it is we need. Perhaps this is our most important work - to realize that we are always in desperate need of his mercy. Jesus always comes to meet us down there. 

Humiliation is the only way to humility, just as patience is the only way to peace, and reading to knowledge. If you want the virtue of humility you must not shun humiliations.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux

It’s never been about worth, but always about love; the condescension of God's tender mercy, and his mercy reflected in our compassion for one another.

Photograph by Brother Brian.