Sunday, March 31, 2013


In the following passage from the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Peter explains the mystery of Christ's Resurrection, understanding David's Psalm 15 prophetically:

God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. 
For David says of him:

I keep Lord ever in my sight,
since he is at my right hand I shall stand firm.
And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety,
for you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.
You will show me the path of life;
the fullness of  joy in your presence.

The Lord Jesus our Hope is risen from the dead. Ever confident in the Father's love, he trusted that he would "not let his beloved know decay." Thus Jesus has trampled down death by death. With him and in him, our hearts rejoice and our souls are glad, for in Christ wounded and risen we have found the path of life and the fullness of joy in God's presence forever. Alleluia!

The Risen Christ, Ambrogio de Stefano Borgognone, 1510.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Saturday

We await Christ's rising in prayerful expectation.

Photograph of the paschal moon by Charles O'Connor.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Patience of Jesus

Nothing animates us so much to love of enemies as grateful consideration of the Lord's admirable patience. By it, the fairest of all men offered his beautiful face to the ungodly to be spit upon. By it, he subjected to the veil of the iniquitous the eyes whose glance governs all creation. By it, he bared his back to scourges. By it, he bowed beneath the sharpness of thorns the head before which principalities and powers tremble. By it, he delivered himself up to insults and outrage. By it, finally, he patiently endured the cross, the nails, the lance, the gall, the vinegar, all that while remaining mild, meek and calm. Oh human pride, Oh proud impatience consider what he bore. Who is there whose wrath would not be cooled at this marvelous sight?

 Crucifix of Fra Innocenzo da Palermo, 1637, Assisi, San Damiano.
 Lines from the Cistercian Father, Aered of Rievaulx in The Mirror of Charity, III.5.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

On Holy Thursday

"I will not serve," man says to his Creator. "Then I will serve you," his Creator says to man. "You sit down, I will minister, I will wash your feet. You rest; I will bear your weariness, your infirmities. Use me as you like in all your needs, not only as your slave but also as your beast of burden and as your property. If you are tired or burdened I will carry both you and your burden.

Marveling at the breadth of Christ's love for us revealed in His passion, our Cistercian Father, Guerric of Igny puts these words on Christ's lips. 

Will I allow Christ Jesus to wash my feet?

Lines from First Sermon for Palm Sunday by Guerric of Igny.
Photograph of the Holy Thursday Mandatum ceremony in the Abbey Chapterhouse.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


At the central axis of this rather modest panel painting by Hieronymus Bosch is the quiet  face of Christ Jesus. Bosch's depiction seems a visualization of these words of the prophet Isaiah:

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted
and opened not his mouth;
like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,
he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people.

Veronica's elegant profile in the lower left quadrant is the second place of peace in this crowded composition. Legend says she bravely risked the scorn of crowd and soldiers to wipe Christ's blood and sweat stained face. 

Hieronymus Bosch, The Carrying of the Cross, 1515-1516,  oil on panel, 29" x 32", Ghent.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reclining at Table

In this detail of a thirteenth century window from the Sainte Chapelle in Paris,  Jesus reclining at table with his disciples is deeply troubled and says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples look at one another, wondering whom he means.

Judas receives a dipped morsel from Jesus and Scripture says,  "Satan entered him." And Jesus tells him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

When he departs, Jesus says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once."

As Father William reminded us at this morning's Mass, Jesus' hour of glorification is the hour of his passion and death, for his divinity will be revealed most clearly in his abasement.

Let us follow, trusting that our transformation in Christ will be accomplished as we entrust our lowest selves to his mercy.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Above Every Name

As we follow Christ during these days, we monks will sing the following antiphon in Latin many times, as if the repetition were a reminder. 

Christ became obedient for us unto death,
even to the death, death on the cross.
Therefore God exalted Him and gave Him a name
which is above all names.

Jesus is the Name above every other name; we try to follow him in obedience and self-emptying love- relentless, ordinary and hidden.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Holy Week Schedule

Especially during this most holy week, we invite our friends and neighbors to join us at prayer. 

Palm Sunday
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6:40 followed by Solemn Mass
with blest palms distributed following the Liturgy
Vespers & Benediction at 5:10
Compline at 7:40

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
our normal daily schedule with
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6 followed by Mass
Vespers at 5:40
Compline at 7:40

Holy Thursday
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6:40 
The Beginning of the Sacred Triduum with
The Solemn Mass of the Lord's Supper at 4
followed by procession to the Altar of Repose
Compline at 7:40

Good Friday
Vigils at 4:30 am
Lauds at 7:40
Solemn Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at 3
Compline at 7:40

Holy Saturday
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6:40
Vespers at 5:40
Compline omitted

Easter Sunday
Solemn Paschal Vigil Mass at 3 am
Lauds at 7:30
Easter Day Mass at 11
Vespers & Benediction at 5:10
Compline at 7:40

Friday, March 22, 2013


A friend just sent us this poem entitled Gethsemane 
by Mary Oliver:

The grass never sleeps.
Or the roses.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.
Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.
The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet, and it sings, 
have you noticed, with its whole body, 
and heaven knows if it ever sleeps.
Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn't move, maybe, 
the lake far away, where once he walked as on a blue pavement, 
lay still and waited, wild awake.
Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not keep that vigil, how they must have wept, so utterly human, knowing this too must be a part of the story.

In watching and prayer during these last days of Lent, we accompany the Lord in his agony and suffering. But even more we come to understand that it is he after all who is accompanying us in all the sorrows of contradictions of our lives.

Mary Oliver, from her collection of poems, "Thirst" 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Saint Joseph

As we celebrate the Solemnity of our patron Saint Joseph, we remember his humility and simplicity The quiet ordinariness of Joseph hidden with Jesus and Mary in Nazareth is our example and desire.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fall in Love

We recently came across these words attributed to Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who was the Father General when our new Holy Father was a young Jesuit.

Nothing is more practical than
finding God-
than falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed
in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you
with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love
and it will decide everything.

In these days we pray for our new Pope Francis I. May he be one after the Lord's own heart. May he lead us in the ways of truth and true love and faithfulness to Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Silent Wonder

Silent wonder beckons us to be aware, to step into God’s world, to see as God sees, and to take nothing for granted. Such wonder can be poisoned by cynicism and the need to analyze or trivialize or dissect, or by a silence of negativity and withdrawal. And our response may become- “It’s just too ordinary after all. I've seen that before”- whether it be the subtlety of light falling upon a monastery wall, the drama of a sunset or the kindness of a friend. Silent wonder is the way of faith and deference to God's way of acting in our midst.

Photo of dusk at the Abbey by Charles O'Connor

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Life-Giving Word

How could humanity on earth, enslaved by death, recover its wholeness? It was necessary to give to dead flesh the ability to share in the life-giving power of God. Now the  life-giving power of God is the Word, the only Son...He, though he is Life by nature, took a body subject to decay in order to destroy in it the power of death and transform it into life. As iron when it is brought in contact with fire immediately begins to share its color, so flesh when it has received the life-giving Word into itself is set free from corruption. Thus he put on our flesh to set it free from death.                                                        Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Photograph by Charles O'Connor

Monday, March 11, 2013

Father Aquinas

This is the second in a series, introducing individual monks of our monastery.

Father Aquinas entered the monastery in 1959 when vocations were numerous and religious life was flourishing. Through the years he has held many important positions in the community including prior, subprior, dean of the junior professed, vocation director, and submaster of novices. He currently serves as the Abbey's guestmaster, a post well-suited to his very warm and engaging personality. Aquinas describes himself as a "jack of all trades" and like many of the monks, he has served in many other jobs- as jelly factory worker, carpenter, librarian, laundry manager and clerk in the Abbey gift shop.

Father Aquinas will say that any "success" in the monastic life is the result of "flexibility, a good sense of humor, non-judgmental relationships and steadfast perseverance in the vows of religion." Formed by the Word of God and following the Rule of Saint Benedict, the monk is led to "the Author of Creation in the Beatific Vision."

Friday, March 8, 2013

He Shall Blossom

I will heal their defection, says the LORD,
I will love them freely;
for my wrath is turned away from them.
I will be like the dew for Israel:
he shall blossom like the lily;
He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth his shoots.

These words from the prophet Hosea seemed especially haunting during this morning's Eucharist, as the winds howled and it snowed heavily. We long for the blossoming of an Easter Spring full of Christ's bright presence and warmed by His Mercy.

Photo by Charles O'Connor.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Our Wounds

A candidate for monastic life who works with the disadvantaged and unemployed recently sent us the following: "Wounds, we are taught, are not to see the light of day. We dress them in any way that we can- with clothing, stories, personas. We are afraid of the unknown, of what the Light might bring, what myths may die or what so-called truths will be transformed." He included a verse by the Persian poet, Rumi: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  

Indeed, Jesus tells us, "I have not come to call the self-righteous but sinners," those who know their need for God, their desperate need for Light. Revealed to Jesus, our wounds and  our woundedness become the places where the Light of Christ can shine forth from us.

 Recent photograph of moonlight over the Abbey meadows by Charles O'Connor.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Third Sunday of Lent

If ever you have eaten a fresh fig, plump, fleshy and sweet, you will understand the vineyard owner’s longing, expectation and disappointment in today’s Gospel, as he keeps returning to his tree only to find it fruitless. The gardener’s plea may seem indulgent and misinformed. “Let it alone for one more year. Give me more time. I think I can help.” But this is the voice of Christ Jesus on our side, asking for time, time for mercy; but always, always waiting upon our request, our admission of our sinfulness to do His work. Seeing our potential for conversion, Jesus begs for more time.. If on the one hand God in Christ is always ready to heal, nurture and forgive; clearly in this morning’s Gospel, He is also reminding us with more urgency than ever that time may be running out. This urgent call to repent is Christ’s urgent desire to love and mercy us. 

What to do? Only what Jesus the good gardener recommends this morning. Depend on him. Repent. Beg His mercy, His compassion. Only His sweet mercy, delectable as a plump new fig, can retrain our tendency toward sin. Tendency literally means inclination. We lean toward, stretch out toward sin, haplessly like vines programmed to cling to the nearest solid thing. 

But always, always Jesus begs our cooperation, not to resist the painful trimming, the smelly fertilizing, the shock of his loosening the hard soil at our feet and the sudden drenching with clean, cool water. Our privileged task is the repetitive work of humility- continually returning to the back door of the church and standing there in the dim light, our heads lowered, begging with the publican, “Lord, be merciful to me a poor sinner.” 

Such is the treasure, the challenge of our conversatio as monks, indeed as baptized members of Christ’s body, constantly to depend on God’s mercy. The Lord longs for our availability. He longs for access to our broken, guilt-ridden hearts, but He cannot get in unless we open up. Christ Jesus our Lord knows well that we have the potential to bring forth the sweet fruit of peace, justice and reconciliation. He asks only that we take a small step into the reality of our tendency, our truth, our sinfulness and invite Him in to do His work, over and over again.