Wednesday, September 28, 2011

With the Angels

Each day during the Divine Office and especially during Holy Mass we join our praise with that of the angels- Michael


and all angels in their unending chorus of adoration.

Saint Michael, Piero della Francesca, 1469; The Annunciation, Duccio, 1311; Archangel Raphael with Tobias, Pietro Vanucci, c. 496-1500.

Friday, September 23, 2011

At the General Chapter

Dom Damian our Father Abbot is away in Italy for the General Chapter of the entire Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance. The abbesses and abbots of our Order from around the world gather every three years to discuss the state of the Order and to hear about each other's monastery. As our Constitutions state:

They discuss there the salvation of their own souls and of those committed to them. They take measures regarding the observance of the Holy Rule and of the Order where there is something that needs to be corrected or added. They foster anew among themselves the benefit of peace and charity. They devote themselves to maintaining the patrimony of the Order and safeguarding and increasing its unity.

When Father Abbot returns the one-page reports that each community of Order prepared for the Chapter decribing their monastery will be read to us during the noon meal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Resuming Cowls

The characteristic Cistercian habit is the white cowl which is given to the monk at his solemn profession. It is a sign of his consecration and of the unity of the whole Order. As he blesses the cowl during the rite of solemn profession the abbot prays to the Lord Jesus, "May its ample folds be for our brother a daily reminder of the freedom which he received in baptism. May its form of a cross remind him of the life he is to lead in following you, and may he be clothed entirely in your unutterable mercy."

The cowl is worn by the solemnly professed monks; the cloak is worn by novices and simply professed brothers. In the warmer months we do not wear cowls or cloaks in church. But as mornings get chillier, we await the prior's announcement which appeared on the community bulletin board last evening: "Resume Cowls and Cloaks for Vigils, Lauds and Mass."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Meditating on the Passion

In the liturgical celebrations of this past week, we honored the triumphant Cross of Christ and Our Lady's Sorrows. Somehow it is the Church's intuition that these aspects of Good Friday deserve our special attention and remembrance. The Cross is key to our freedom in Christ, our release from the clutches of sin and death forever. We need no longer be afraid. Standing with Our Lady by her suffering Son, we are in solidarity with all the suffering members of his wounded Body. We remain there meditating in sorrow but also in hope. Jesus now risen from the dead has turned our mourning into gladness. We promise to be hope for one another in him.

Christ Crowned with Thorns and the Mourning Virgin (Ecce Homo), detail
Adriaen Isenbrant, Netherlandish, active by 1510, died 1551
Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
41 1/2 x 36 1/2 in., ca. 1530-40
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Used with permission

Monday, September 12, 2011

Our Tribute

In addition to prayers of intercession and a special tolling of the Abbey bells after communion during yesterday's Mass, our tribute for 9/11 included an arrangement of small candles in the sanctuary. Their flickering was like soft prayers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


As we remember the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the readings at today's Eucharist remind us that Jesus calls us to keep on forgiving as we have been forgiven. But we may feel that our hearts are too small, the hurt too big, the horror, the sadness all too much, almost incomprehensible. Forgiving may seem impossible one time let alone the zillions of times Jesus asks of us.

Perhaps our helplessness is the key. We are right; we simply cannot do it on our own. Forgiving seventy times seven times is impossible for us on our own. The invitation is to realize over and over again how powerless we are without Christ Jesus our Lord. We must depend on him. Our hearts are too small, we need his heart, the heart of God. Then the little we bring will become a banquet of forgiveness. Poverty joined to deep faith brings abundance. Mary experienced it, Jesus knew it on the cross. That’s how things work in the Kingdom. Jesus uses what we bring, meager as it is, to make the Kingdom happen; nothing is too little for him to use. He has forgiven and freed me. Finding the treasure means I do as Jesus does, or I try to. I go to him; I hide in him, in his heart.

Forgiving does not mean that nothing has happened, too much has happened to each and everyone one of us. Hidden in Christ, baptized into him, we dare to believe in the possibility of forgiveness. And indeed forgiveness takes time; perhaps it does not happen all at once or once and for all. It may begin with a desire to forgive, or even a desire to desire to forgive. I let myself be forgiven, and I learn to forgive. Forgiving is a work of love that must be rehearsed, repeated, seventy times seven times.

Christ Jesus calls us into the unfathomableness of God’s love for us. Loved so much, forgiven by God so much and so often, we must go and do likewise, consoling with the same consolation we have received, forgiving as best we can or at least beginning to. Forgiveness, even the longing to forgive makes a future of freedom and hope and love possible.

Peace to all men of evil will! Let there be an end to all revenge, to all demands for punishment and retribution. There are already too many martyrs...Lay not their sufferings to the torturers’ charge to exact a terrible reckoning from them, Lord. Instead put down in favor of all men of evil will the courage, humility, dignity, love and spiritual strength of the others. Let it be laid before Thee for the forgiveness of sins. And may we remain in your enemies’ memories not as their victims; not as haunting specters but as helpers...there is nothing more we want for them.

From a note scrawled on a piece of worn paper and tucked between the cracks in two old boards, found in a shed in the concentration camp at Buchenwald.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

New Settings

The American Bishops have agreed to permit the gradual implementation of musical settings of the Order of Mass from the new Roman Missal beginning in September 2011 to “give time for communities to learn the various parts of the new translation in a timely fashion and an even pace.” And so we gathered this morning in the Abbey church under the direction of our Fr. Gabriel to learn eight new settings of the Holy, Holy, Holy and the acclamations at the Mystery of Faith (Memorial Acclamations). In October we will learn new settings of the Glory to God. We are blest to have Fr. Gabriel in our midst. He is an expert in Gregorian chant performance, and he himself composed many of these new settings in chant mode. This is an opportunity for us monks to deepen our "understanding of the Sacred Liturgy, and to appreciate its meaning and importance in our lives."

Photographs of Abbey grisaille glass by Brother Daniel. Quotations from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.