Friday, November 30, 2012

Father Kizito

The community mourns the passing of our Father Kizito. Born Earl Anthony Thompson in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1940, Father Kizito served the monastery as infirmarian, cellarer and porter. He passed to the Lord on Wednesday, November 28 at 4:10 in the afternoon. As soon as Father Prior received the sad news, two of the brothers went to the church and began tolling the bells of the Abbey for the deceased.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This Morning

Morning light dapples the wall of the upper dormitory landing in this photograph taken by Brother Joseph.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Behold Your King

After Jesus has fed the five thousand the Gospel writer tells us, “When the people saw the sign which he had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take him by force to make him king, withdrew again to the mountain by himself alone." As we celebrate Christ as King today, it is wise and wonderful to remember this scene. For “King” may be a title we need- to remind us of the place we want Jesus to have in our lives, in our hearts- but if we are not clear about who Jesus really is, he may elude us and withdraw. King is a dangerous title after all, all about domination and power. And it is simply not a title Jesus chooses for himself. In the trial scene in John’s Gospel, Pilate asks Jesus, “Then you are a king?” Jesus’ response, “You say I am a king,” is not an affirmation like, “You’ve said it!” Scholars tell us that it is probably something like, “Call me a king, if you so desire.”

Such is the humble majesty of Jesus in John’s Gospel that even here as he is being interrogated as a criminal by Pilate; it is Pilate himself and not Jesus who seems to be on trial, it is he who puts Pilate on the spot. Jesus goes to his passion and death in sovereign freedom. Jesus speaks of truth and about a place, a place called the kingdom, where God’s truth has absolute precedence. It is this place, this kingdom that Jesus enfleshes with every fiber of his being. He embodies the kingdom that he himself proclaims. He enfleshes the humility of God’s love that the kingdom is, for God’s loving-kindness has taken flesh in him.

Jesus has not taken our flesh to bully us or make power plays or exercise domination as worldly kings might do, who try “to make their importance felt.” There’s no drama. He says simply, "My kingdom does not belong to this world.” From the very beginning of his ministry he has absolutely refused to be Super-Jesus. Ignoring Satan’s prodding when he is tempted, “C’mon, you can do it. Change these stones into loaves of bread. Jump off the top of the Temple,” he says emphatically, “No! Be gone.” Jesus has come to serve, to heal, to console and feed us and to wash our feet.

Detail of The Redeemer, Michelangelo, 1521, Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome.Essay includes insights from Gerard Sloyan, Interpretation: John and James Alison, Undergoing God. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Grace Abounds

No one shows greater mercy than he who lays down his life for those who are judged and condemned. My merit therefore is the mercy of the Lord. Surely I am not devoid of merit as long as he is not devoid of mercy. And if the Lord abounds in mercy, I too must abound in merits. But what if I am aware of my many failings? Then, where failings abounded, grace abounded all the more. And if the mercies of the Lord are from eternity to eternity, I for my part will chant the mercies of the Lord forever.

Quoting this passage from Saint Bernard, Father Luke reminded us in his Sunday homily that we have every reason to be filled with hope even as we look ahead to our individual “ends” and ultimately to the end of the world. If we seem to be “flunking” out in the school of life and falling flat on our faces as we try to run in the way of his commandments, God only loves us more and more. For when he looks with love on the Son of God, he sees all of us in his beloved Son. We too are his beloved ones.

As we celebrate this Thanksgiving Day, we have every reason to hope and to be filled with gratitude for all that God in Christ is accomplishing for us, through us, with us and in us.

Lines from Sermon 61 0n the Song of Songs by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Photograph of an ancient elm on the Abbey grounds by Brother Daniel.

Monday, November 19, 2012

True Joy

Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good.

This moving collect prayer for the Thirty-third Sunday of the Year reminds us that serving God is our joy. We may have thought in the past that surrendering our will would entail unbearable hardship. We come to discover that choosing to obey and to serve grants joy and freedom. Jesus said, "I have not come to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." Pleasing the Father was Jesus' delight. May it be ours as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our Lady on Saturday

We celebrate the Mass and Office of Our Blessed Lady again on this Saturday. She is everywhere in the Abbey, her images and icons in sacred spaces and in the workplaces. Mary protects us and accompanies us; we trust in her powerful intercession.

We place ourselves in your keeping, Holy Mother of God. Refuse not the prayer of your children in their distress, but deliver us from all danger, ever Virgin glorious and blessed.

An etching by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Last Cut

The monks rent out a few of the Abbey fields to local farmers to cut for silage. In late autumn they took their final cut of the season.

Photographs by Brother Daniel.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Merciful Compassion

We share excerpts from this Sunday's homily:

Context is everything. And clearly in this morning’s Gospel, the simplicity and generosity of a poor widow is contrasted with the ostentation and greed of Scribes, who “devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers.” Jesus is always on the side of the poor. And today it seems he is speaking out against the “temple establishment” who have “manipulated” this widow into parting with the pittance she has to live on. Jesus is truly God with us, who as the Psalmist sings: always, always defends the orphan and the widow. He is the tender mercy of the heart of God, a heart always magnetized by poverty and littleness.

So then, we may wonder, is this poor widow to be imitated for her generosity or pitied as the hapless “victim of religious exploitation?” We can imagine her focus is simply on doing the right thing. Being generous is natural for this woman, and she wants to be in the mix, to do the communal act, get in line with the others and throw in her two cents (literally.) It won’t make a big clang in the collection box like the offerings of the well-heeled; and she could stay on the sidelines and most people would pity her and understand, but she chooses to do otherwise. Duty, generosity are her way of being, and giving to God is everything for her. She freely chooses to give her all. She freely chooses to give from her poverty. And it is this exquisite choice that makes what she does, what she gives, so precious and ultimately so imitable. And of course Jesus notices. How could he not, he himself is the extravagant outpouring of the Father’s love for us?

Jesus really understands the widow’s gift and her predicament. Jesus notices the widow’s offering perhaps because it is his story too. Hounded, harassed and eventually condemned by the local religious authorities, he too will freely choose to give over “all he has to live on,” his very life blood and his precious body, because love is more important. Love and giving from the heart, real generosity always have the quiet power to overthrow oppression.

We are reminded today that it’s never ever about the entitlement of a know-it-all Scribe, but always about compassion. The Gospel reveals to us a Jesus who sees with perfect clarity- names the pretensions, sees most clearly the unfairness, the injustice and above all notices the generosity of one who gives without counting the cost. Even now, our generosity, the little things we do no matter how unremarkable give him pleasure. Our task is to keep noticing with the compassionate merciful eyes of Christ, to have his compassionate mind in us, and so to get on our way to becoming compassion for one another.

Initial quotations from: Donohue & Harrington, Sacra Pagina: Mark, p. 365

Friday, November 9, 2012

First Snow

A monk ambles through the south cloister after our first snow of the season.
Photograph by Brother Anthony Khan.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday Morning

Frost on the grass in the light of the rising sun
made millions of prisms,
diamonds everywhere this morning.
We pray for our nation on this Election Day .
Two cars are available
all day for the monks to take trips
to our polling place in downtown Spencer.

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Souls

An older Italian man, the father of one of the monks used to say that, "Life is just a glance out the window." Indeed as the Psalmist says, "How fleeting is my life." Father Abbot reminded us this morning that, notwithstanding our confidence in the Lord's promise to take us to himself, death remains for each of us a great mystery. We pray for our deceased brethren, relatives, friends and benefactors on this All Souls Day. We hope to join them one day in Paradise.

Lord, let me know my end, the number of my days,
that I may learn how frail I am.
To be sure, you establish the expanse of my days;
indeed, my life is as nothing before you.
Every man is but a breath.

Lines from Psalm 39.
Photograph by Brother Daniel.