Friday, May 31, 2013


How blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord through an angel would be fulfilled.

Mary believes beyond doubt that the Lord’s word is trustworthy. And so in the self-forgetfulness of love, even as she ponders in her heart the wonder and confusion of the Angel's message, she travels into the hill country to be with her cousin Elizabeth in the final weeks of her pregnancy.

Mary shows us how to keep faith and believe even when things seem like they do not fit together. Let us go to her and place ourselves in her keeping, for she can help us receive with joy even what we do not understand.

Visitation, Mariotto Albertinelli, 1503, oil on wood, 232 x 146 cm, 
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Monday, May 27, 2013


For God to be Trinity means that God explodes with delight from within.  Such delight requires mutuality of persons, for it is delight at knowing and being known, delight at belonging to Another, delight at the inability of having one’s own existence apart from that Other, delight in never for all eternity having been absent from the life of the beloved Other, delight that celebrates its freedom in a playful, unstoppable dance that has as stage the whole enraptured cosmos and that thrills in abiding with the blessed Two who are Persons other than Oneself.  This explosive, world-creating energy of delight wells up from the bosom of the Blessed Trinity. 

What is good is “diffusive of itself”, says St. Thomas. God is too good, and therefore too “diffusive” of himself—too exuberant and squandering of his Being—to keep his secret delight to himself. The action of a divine self-outpouring is a central biblical category already at work from the first verses of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…. And the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light.’” Each of these verbs—creating, moving and saying—imply a dynamic outward movement on God’s part, beyond the sphere of his own self-sufficient Being and into the void of nothingness, that he may pour himself out into what is not-God. Note the Trinitarian undertones present in Scripture from the outset: God creates not out of a splendid isolation but with the collaboration of “the Beginning, the First Principle, who says: “I was beside him as his craftsman.” The Father created all things in the Word through the Spirit.  Every action of God is a self-outpouring of divine life that in no way depletes the Being of God.  

The expansive throbbing of God’s triune Heart can never quite contain itself. The beaming forth of  primal triune joy provides the blissful pattern for all created love and friendship. From the Trinity we learn that our own greatest joy should be to fill someone else with life. 

Excerpts from Father Simeon's Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


May my prayer be counted as incense before You. Ps 141. 2

In the early Church a reluctance to use incense during the Liturgy because of its associations with pagan idol worship, soon gave way to an intuition that it was a fitting way to show honor and praise and image the rising of prayer to the heavens.

Here Brother Jonah  incenses the Sacrament at the Consecration in a photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mary in May

We remember that May is Mary's month, and now our gigantic bed of lilies-of-the-valley is blooming just outside the monastic refectory. The poet Hopkins says that the growth and flowering of May remind Mary of the joy she experienced while carrying the Lord in her womb. "All things rising, all things sizing, Mary sees sympathizing." 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost Sunday

We share some excerpts from Father Abbot's homily for this Solemnity:

There is always more when it comes to God. God always has more for us- as much as we can bear. In a way, we can say that the Holy Spirit is God’s more- God’s overflowing more for each one of us. So, how much can we bear? How much of God’s love can we bear?

The Spirit guides each one of us in countless and diverse ways. There are absolutely no circumstances in our personal life journeys that exclude the Spirit’s presence. When we sin, the Spirit guides us into repentance. When we are sick, the Spirit guides us into strength and healing. When we face death, the Spirit will guide us into the fullness of life. So, how can we remain open and receptive to the Spirit’s guidance? To my mind there is one essential condition for such openness and receptivity. We need moments in our lives when we can be still, when we can be silent, when we can listen.

Take a deep breath and listen to and listen for the Spirit of God breathing on you, breathing into you, breathing you. And what does the voice of the Lord carried on the Divine Breath say to us, to each one of us? "You are my beloved child in whom I delight." My brothers and sisters, take a few moments on this Pentecost Day, take a few moments every day if possible, and let go of all the inner noise, stop the interior dialog and allow God to delight in you.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Light in the Cloister

"The sunlight did not know what it was before it hit a wall," said the American architect Louis Kahn. Indeed, buildings that matter have spirit and meaning and are never merely functional.

With the assistance of local architects and contractors, monks designed and built our monastery in the 1950’s. Their vision formed the architecture, and its beauty has continued to form succeeding generations of monks. We remain grateful for their care.
Photograph of early morning sunlight in the southwestern corner of the cloister.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Saint Pachomius

Today in the Cistercian calendar we celebrate the feast of Saint Pachomius of Egypt, who in the first half of the fourth century and after having been a hermit like many others, founded one of the first communities of monks at Tabennissi.  A straight line leads from his idea of cenobitic monastic living, which was an innovation at that time, to our own Rule of Saint Benedict.  It should, then, fill our hearts with joy and gratitude to see how Pachomius’ vocation and teachings embody most effectively one very special way of living the single Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, common to all Christians. 

When Pachomius had reached spiritual maturity an angel ordered him to leave his hermit’s cave “and call the young monks together and dwell with them” (Palladius, Lausiac History).  This seems to be a clear monastic fulfillment of the Lord Jesus’ prayer to his and our Father in today’s Gospel:  “As you sent me into the world, so I send them into the world”—including this monastic caveat: “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world”(John 17: 11b-19).  Indeed, Pachomius is sent, like Jesus, to “keep in the Father’s name” the brother monks God has given him, “so that they may be one just as (Jesus and the Father) are one”.  Nor is such fraternal unity merely an abstract idea, as we see movingly enacted in the first reading, when the Christians of Ephesus smother Paul with the hugs and kisses of their affection at his final departure from them (Acts 20:37-38).

My brothers: we have obviously not brought ourselves together either to this monastery for our life-long monastic journey or even to this morning’s Eucharist, for we are nothing other than “the Church of God that he acquired with his own Blood”(Acts 20:28) when he called us out of the darkness of our selfish individualism and united us as his Body.  Let us, then, rejoice that Jesus had us here in Spencer in mind when praying to the Father, and let us also feel sorrow for ever having forgotten this life-giving truth which can bear such powerful fruit in our lives, if we allow it.

Excerpts from Father Simeon's introduction at this morning's Eucharist.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Seventh Sunday of Easter

With the disciples this morning, we hear the Lord reminding us that the self-forgetful love and intimacy of Father and beloved Son is where we belong. Jesus begs his Father that we may be swept up into the reality of the God’s own “mutual love and indwelling.”* There is room for everybody in this divine embrace. For as Jesus tells his Father, his desire is “that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

*Francis Moloney.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Remembering Who We Are

We share excerpts from Father Luke’s homily for Ascension Thursday.

A surgeon named Shawn from Nebraska, who participated in the marathon in Boston, had crossed the finish line seconds before the first bomb exploded.  He said, “When the bombs started to explode, I instinctively ran away from them, but then I stopped and turned back because I remembered who I am and ran to the first aid tents to  care for the wounded.” 

His statement is a summary of the Christian way of life: the passage from the darkness of being controlled by our instinctual passions to the light of  living in Truth and Love.  I don't know if he is a Christian, perhaps he doesn't know it either.  Yet, there is no one who acts outside the redemption won for us all by Jesus Christ.  “I remembered who I am.”  Sure, Shawn was talking about the fact that he is a doctor, but on a deeper level he was talking about the fact of his shared humanity: all of us redeemed by the blood of Jesus.

We are made in the image and likeness of God, and all of us here in this  Church have been baptized into Christ and put on Christ.  Baptism is our incorporation into a real body, the body of which the exalted Christ is the Head.  This is the Church, the Body of Christ.  When we remember who we are, created and re-created in Christ the perfect Image of God, we put on the mind and heart of Jesus Christ who is seated at God's right hand by virtue of the mystery of the Ascension that we are celebrating.  When we remember who we are, we ascend with Christ even as we descend in reaching down to help a fallen brother or sister.

Father Luke consults with Brother Francis before Mass in this photograph by Brother Brian. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ascension Day

Numerous manuscript paintings, such as this one from the early thirteenth century, show the Apostles and Our Lady gazing up at the feet of Jesus as he disappears into the heavens. We can imagine their sorrow and confusion. But we rejoice, for where he has gone, we hope to follow. His glorious Ascension into heaven is our destiny, our promised inheritance. As members of his Body, the Ascension of Jesus is the first moment of our own disappearance into God. 

"I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me," we hear Jesus tell his Father. His love has the power to draws us where he is in glory, our work is to be utterly nonresistant to this love.

Yes, angels tremble when they see 
how changed is our humanity; 
that flesh hath purged what flesh had stained, 
and God, the flesh of God, hath reigned.

Lines from Ă†terne Rex Altissime, the monastic hymn for the Ascension.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It Is Better For You

Even as Jesus reminds the apostles, “It is better for you that I go, so that the Comforter can come.” It may seem like a very slim consolation. Grief seems the proper response. Confusion too, for the loss is incalculable. Now there is absence. 

“We do not know where you are going, and we do not know the way,” Thomas will tell Jesus in frustration. Jesus reminds us, “I am the way," the way that leads through darkness and confusion, doubt and emptiness to a more wondrous presence that is not be limited by his earthly body.

And so we are reminded again this morning that our faith, our faithfulness is deep, dark mystery. “It is better for you that I go," says Jesus. For his seeming absence will allow a deeper, more mysterious presence. This is where we live as monks- in the mystifying darkness that often feels like Christ’s disappearance. This seeming absence of Christ beckons us to notice and experience his very real but hidden presence in the Eucharist, in our brothers in community, in our quiet contemplative prayer.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Father Edward

For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 4:6

Father Edward entered Spencer in 1951 when the Abbey was being completed. Through the years he has served the brethren generously in numerous capacities. He currently works at the labeling machine in the Trappist Preserves kitchen. Father is a man of prayer, and he says that he treasures the early morning hour when he meditates on a verse of Sacred Scripture.

With special permission Father Edward lives his monastic life as a hermit. He tells us, “I love the solitude of the hermitage where I have lived for 44 years. And when I am in community or at work at Trappist Preserves, I love serving the monks and being with them. They are Christ among us. We all have faults and when we love one another as we are, we imitate God who loves us in Christ without condition. Precious!”

He adds exuberantly, “I wish the whole world were attracted to the beauty of monasticism and that young men would fill our Abbey, as they did in 1960 when we had 200 in the community."

Friday, May 3, 2013

Praying with the Coyotes

In the predawn darkness as we rose for Vigils this morning, coyotes were already howling their praise. All you coyotes and wild creatures of the dark woodlands, praise the Lord! Were our chanted hymns and antiphons, our murmured psalms worthy to join their praises?

photograph by Charles O'Connor