Monday, January 30, 2012

With the Word

Cultivating mindfulness of God throughout the day is the goal of each monk. Here we see Brother Jonah pondering the Word in the Abbey cloisters and scriptorium.

Our Constutions tell us: Careful lectio divina greatly strengthens the brothers' faith in God. This excellent monastic practice, by which God's Word is heard and pondered, is a source of prayer and a school of contemplation, where the monk speaks heart to heart with God. For this reason, the brothers are to devote a fitting amount of time each day to such reading.

In a spirit of compunction and intense desire, monks devote themselves frequently to prayer. While dwelling on earth, their minds are occupied with heavenly things, desiring eternal life with all spiritual longing

Friday, January 27, 2012

Feast of the Founders

The rhythm of our life follows the liturgical calendar. Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Founders of our Order, Saints Robert, Alberic and Stephen of Molesme. Our liturgies were a bit longer with special hymns and antiphons. Even our diet changes when a solemnity is celebrated. And so there were special foods in the refectory- a fish dinner and a somewhat elaborate dessert.

Upon your walls, Jerusalem, I have set my watchmen to guard you. By day or night they will not cease to proclaim the name of the Lord.

Ring out your joy, fruitful Citeaux! Those who planted you and made you strong are rejoicing now in heaven. Alleluia.

Holy patrons, friends of God, fathers of our Order, unfailing their protection for those who rely on them.

Details of Abbey glass with the Window of Our Lady Queen of Citeaux in the Abbey's barn chapel at top. Antiphons from Vespers of the Solemnity.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


O God, you are my God, for you I long. For you my soul is thirsting; my body pines for you like a dry weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life; my lips will speak your praise.

In these words from Psalm 63 we hear the monk's longing for the Lord, who first longs to give himself. As the monk gazes on the Lord, the Lord gazes back. An essential part of the monk's work is realizing that God always makes the first move, that God loved us first, that our prayer, all that we do, is simply response.

True prayer is somehow about mutuality, we are not throwing out words into the unknown. For Christ Jesus always makes the first move; he wants to reveal himself, engage us. Grace precedes us, opens the way. We realize above all that if we desire union with Christ, he wants it more than we do.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


The novices clear doorways and pathways in the early morning when a snow storm hits. Here Brothers John and Joseph pause during their chores.

A brother helped is like a strong city. Proverbs 18

Monday, January 16, 2012

Quiet snows

We marvel at how winter snow quiets

and simplifies our landscape.

Friday, January 13, 2012

With Saint Hilary

On this snowy winter morning gathered for the Eucharist in the Abbey church, we prayed:

May he make of us an eternal offering to you, so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect, especially with the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with your blessed Apostles and glorious Martyrs, with Saint Hilary of Poitiers and with all the Saints, on whose constant intercession in your presence we rely for unfailing help.

The Saints, our forebears in faithfulness and love, are our companions on the way to the Kingdom.

Text from Eucharistic Prayer III. Photograph br Brother Casimir.

Monday, January 9, 2012


We can almost sense John’s resistance as suddenly he looks up and notices that his cousin Jesus is next in line for his baptism of repentance. In fact Scripture scholars tell us that this episode in the life of Jesus is among the most certain of all historical facts in the Gospel tradition. For in the light of their Resurrection faith, early Christians were most certainly very embarrassed by this memory of the One whom they believed was Messiah and Lord.

Why would he have offered himself for a cleansing baptism of repentance and conversion of heart? What on earth did Jesus have to be converted from or toward? Why would he choose to do this? The question nags even now. Was it a pious example of humility done for our sake? This does not sound right. Or was it simply that he who is Love could do no less? Perhaps only the logic of love can explain this action of Jesus or any other one of his for that matter. Love defers, love lowers itself.

Jesus wants to be there in the water with us. Love demands it. For he himself is the messenger of the covenant, the binding up between God and all humanity. For God "made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him." God is with us, in all that embarrasses and burdens us, in our regrets and our failures. Only the passion of his love can explain his desire for baptism, his desire to take our flesh. He has come to “share unreservedly” in our distress now in the water, and very soon on the cross. Love in the person of Christ has irreversibly plunged into the dark water that symbolizes our humanity- all that is wobbly, fluid and unpredictable. Jesus has immersed himself in all of it, descended into the soggy reality of it all, so that he can bring us home to the Father.

The heavens are opened, the new reality of communion between heaven and earth is proclaimed. The Father’s voice and the Spirit’s hovering declare who Jesus is, the Beloved Son who always does what the Father wants. The belovedness of Jesus is our baptismal inheritance; we too are beloved in him.

Plaque with the Baptism of Jesus, ca. 1150–75, South Netherlandish, Champlev√© enamel, copper alloy, gilt, 4 x 4 x 1/8”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


"We have seen his star and have come with gifts to adore him." Magi, wise visitors from the East, come to pay their homage to the Infant Christ. In this ancient mosaic they are of three different ages, and they advance with great intention, holding with arms extended their fantastically-shaped gifts. These Magi represent all that is opulent, foreign, extraordinary, even esoteric and exotic. They wear Phrygian caps, colorful leggings, gold and jewel-encrusted tunics and capes. They are all the nations and ages of humanity with their wisdom and accomplishments acknowledging the preeminence of Christ Jesus, he who is all beauty, all wisdom, all truth. Come let us adore him!

The Three Kings mosaic, Byzantine School, 6th century, Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


We are told that Mother Seton suffered periods of great depression and emptiness but always held fast to Christ in quiet faith. When we begin our monastic journey, the older brothers will often encourage us to persevere, to continue steadfastly, even when the way seems dark and confused. Like Jesus our Lord, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, we want to move forward in faith, trusting that Jesus understands us and accompanies us and even sometimes carries us.