Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fire Burning in My Heart

The total unity of Word of God and human nature is perfectly accomplished only in Jesus himself, which is why Jeremiah and Peter must cringe with fear as they feel invaded by the fire of the Word.  They are all too conscious of their innate weakness. 

How magnificent that his suffering made Jeremiah find something in himself deeper than his fear; yes, he found the energy of God’s omnipotent Word abiding in him!  When he tries to repress that Word, he says that “it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”  He suffers the labor-pangs of the Word’s birth through him.  In the end, his yielding to possession by the Word reveals the prophet’s own deepest identity as mouthpiece of God. This is a God-assigned identity. In the end, after allowing themselves to be re-created from within by the fire of the indwelling Word, both the prophet and the apostle fulfill Paul’s pressing admonition: “I urge you to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God.”

It was precisely this eternal Will of God—the divine Plan of redemption—that Jesus was revealing to his disciples when he proclaimed that “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly … and be killed and on the third day be raised.”  Only such a suffering Savior can offer nourishing hope, for example, to those enduring unspeakable horrors at this very moment in the Middle East, since Jesus is not alien to their victimization.  But, in order to assent to Jesus’ teaching, we must believe that all along we are being “transformed by the renewal of our mind” by the work of Grace.  Only in strictest union with Jesus, and following the pattern of the Father’s Design, can we at last joyfully and freely embrace the Christian vocation to be self-sacrificing love.  I believe it was just this Jesus meant when he said “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Jesus’ Heart burns with the one desire to lose his life, to give his life away, so as to manifest his Father’s transforming love and communicate God’s very life to all. 

The supreme joy of the Father’s Heart is to look at Jesus and see us, to look at us and see Jesus.  What could bring the Father more delight than Jesus alone?  Jesus multiplied in his brethren!  He humiliated himself in a death that poured out the substance of his being eucharistically over the whole of creation.  As a result he is “raised on the third day” by the Father’s enfolding glory.  When Jesus invites us to take up our cross and follow him, what else could he intend but our indissoluble and fruitful intimacy with himself in his work of redemption?  What a calling we have, brothers and sisters!  “To [us] has been granted the grace not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for his sake” Phil 1:29. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.  Excerpts from this morning's homily by Father Simeon.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Thief

It seems Jesus is always showing up when we least expect, at the most unexpected times, sometimes when we’re asleep, certainly when we’re not anticipating him. Ultimately he admits to us this morning that he is like a thief, a real sneak. “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.’” He wants to break in. But that being said, the Gospel seems to imply that, almost playfully, he wants to be caught in the act.

We are called constantly to welcome the mystery of God in the midst of ordinariness. and our waiting is about powerlessness and poverty, for in Jesus the mystery of God is constantly revealed even as it is hidden. If indeed we seek intimacy with this Mystery, vigilance will always be essential because of the divine reversal that always obtains. God is always reversing things, turning things upside-down, doing it his way, sneaking in through the side door. 

In the crucified and risen Christ, we experience God’s modest but insistent plea for our love.* But there is always the real danger that we’ll miss him, get preoccupied. Waiting is so hard, so passive. But the thief is coming, sneaking in, rest assured. He rewards attentiveness; he is attuned to our deepest yearnings. And if we are meant, called to live in incessant desire for him, it is of course because he is always at the threshold of our yearning, yearning for us more than we can imagine. Our responsibility is incessant availability to his presence.

He is attentive to the desiring that underpins each action of our day. His coming toward us does not depend on our explicit words of prayer, but on our implicit, incessant desiring for him which he notices in the deepest recesses of our hearts. The Lord has taken us at our word; he remembers what we’ve told him we want. He is sneaking in through a low door even now. 

Bust of Jesus, Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488) Florentine, after 1483. Gessoed, painted, and gilded terra cotta. *OliviĆ©r Clement

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monthly Requiem

Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

In the midst of Ordinary Time, we remember the departed today with our monthly Requiem Liturgy. And during this morning's Eucharist, we heard a section of the passion narrative from the Gospel of Saint Mark. What was it about Jesus' final breath that made a Roman centurion understand so completely that it was truly God's own breathWhat was it about Jesus' last long breath that disclosed His divinity? How is Christ Jesus even now breathing His Holy Spirit upon us?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Question

Jesus' hauntingly beautiful question to Peter in this morning's Gospel is one that resonates in each of our hearts. Who do I say that Jesus is for me? What is my experience of Jesus? What love, what word has He spoken to me that makes it clear that He alone is my Lord and Master, my Redeemer, my only Joy and the true Consolation of my heart? Who can I say that Jesus is for me? What do I want to ask Him now?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

In Community

Love is the only reason for our life- love for Christ, love for one another, love for the Church. For those monks who have persevered, conversion clearly involves self-acceptance and the acceptance of the reality of the community as it is in all its brokenness and its beauty. For the community is truly a sacrament of the wounded and risen Christ Jesus.

We are all learning that we are most truly ourselves when we can freely give ourselves away. The challenge for all of us is to grow in compassion for weakness: our own weakness and the weakness of our brothers. And this compassion is the gateway to the contemplation we seek. 

Photographs by Brother Brian.

Friday, August 22, 2014


The Lord has placed in Mary the fullness of all good. So that if there is anything of hope in us, if anything of grace, if anything of salvation, we may rest assured it has overflowed into us from her. With every fiber of our being, every feeling of our hearts, with all affections of our minds, and with all the ardor of our souls let us honor Mary because this is the will of God, who would have us obtain everything through her hands. 

In the monastery we are reminded of Mary often; images of her are in many nooks and corners of the Abbey. And we go often to Mary for all we need from her Son, trusting that she will never forget those whom her Son has given to her.

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Gerard David (Netherlandish, ca. 1455–1523), oil on wood, 20" x 17.”  The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission. Lines from Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 6: For the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Saint Bernard

All of our desires, the lot of them, the loftiest to most disreputable, have a great brilliant message. They reveal to us the depth of our need for God, for his mercy. They reveal as well the fathomless extent of God’s desire for each of us, his desire to fill our hearts with himself. He has made us for himself. He has no illusions about who we are, and he only quietly awaits a small yes from us to enter our hearts.

If only we really understood the depth of God’s love and desire for each of us, then everything would be changed, transformed. “His desire gives rise to yours,” says Saint Bernard, “and if you are eager to receive his word, it is He who is rushing to enter your heart; for He first loved us, not we Him.”

God alone can satisfy our desire. Anything less will always only leave us frustrated and empty. And God cannot bear to see us that way- empty, unfulfilled. Perhaps like Saint Bernard we long to be dissolved and be with God in Christ? Rest assured, God wants it more than we can possibly imagine.

Francisco Ribalta, Christ Embracing Saint Bernard, Oil on canvas, 1625-1627, 113 x 158 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Heart

If we love God  with one heart and one soul in accordance with the purity of our profession, there is no doubt that the love of God will be poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit and that the one Spirit of God will animate all of us, as if we were one body. None of us then will live for himself but for God, and all of us together will live in unity of spirit through the one Spirit that dwells within us. It is by the love of God that this unity of spirit is found in us and is preserved in us by the love of our neighbor.

These words of our Twelfth Century Cistercian father, Baldwin of Forde, inspire and challenge us. For we are meant to grow in love in this "school of love" that is the monastery. And how can we love God, if we neglect the brother in our midst?

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Tractate XV by Baldwin of Forde.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Assumption

Mary’s greatest joy comes from the knowledge that the all-powerful God delights in her “nothingness”, because he has found in her a human space and disposition where he can make himself at home and work unhampered. In Mary, every human faculty and desire responds with perfect harmony to the desires and expectations of the Creator.  This is dynamic sanctity, which overturns every convention and tradition and value-system of human society.  After Mary, only those will be called “blessed” who are poor in spirit and courageous enough to allow God to be everything in them. In Mary, God has proved that such a thing is possible, and from now on every child born of woman will be judged by the standard that the very human Mary has set.  Mary is said to have been “taken up into heavenly glory”, because she made herself fully malleable in God’s hands; and this being-taken-up by another, this “assumption”, swept up both her body and her soul, because she had held nothing back, because she had offered her whole being to God’s work and transforming activity.  From now on, the shape of every human life will either be Marian or it will have failed in fullness of humanity.

God wants the whole of us, body and soul, for himself.  He created our whole being and he wants our whole being back for his own delight and for our complete glorification.  It is impossible to talk about Mary’s ultimate transformation in glory without, at the same time, talking about the same vocation and destiny for ourselves. Mary’s Assumption opens the way for the glorification, along with her, of every member of the human race.  In isolation from us, the mystery of Mary really makes no sense. Can you imagine a church, or a world, in which, out of all human beings, only Mary has been saved?  Impossible!  No mother can be happy without her children!  In the same way that “Christ has been raised from the dead, as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”, so too Mary enters into divine glory right next after Christ, even while human history still continues; but she does so only as a trailblazing anticipation of our own assumption into heavenly life and bliss.  First, the Son; then, the Mother; finally, “at his coming, those who belong to Christ”, all those who have come to fullness of life in the divine Son as a result of the earthly Mother’s obedient love; “each one in proper order”, as St. Paul says.

Tintoretto, The Assumption of the Virgin , 1582-97, oil on canvas, Scuola di San Rocco, Venice. Reflection by Father Simeon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

God's Yearning

Hosea is one of my favorite books of the Bible. For me, it functions as a real window into what dwells within the heart of God and what swells forth from the heart of God. And what is that? God’s faithfulness. God’s unfailing faithfulness in remaining near us and always forgiving us. God’s yearning for us to return to Him. As Pope Francis so simply and directly phrases it, “God never tires of forgiving us.” Never. And I would even dare to say that God created us in order to forgive us. As St. Ambrose writes: “I thank the Lord our God who created such a marvelous work in which to find his rest. He created the heavens, and I do not read that he rested; he created the earth, and I do not read that he rested; he created the sun, the moon, the stars, and I do not read that even then he rested; but I read that he created man and that at this point he rested, having a being whose sins he could forgive.” (Heameron, IX 76) As the Prophet Hosea puts it: “I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord.”
Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Abbot Damian.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, 
for He is going to say, "I came as a guest, and you received Me."

We were delighted to receive these pictures of our friends' little daughter. So many come each day to visit this place, for peace and prayer and quiet. Their presence is a blessing. Truly the monastery belongs to the whole Church. And we monks are, as it were, simply the caretakers.

Every monastery is to continue the tradition of welcoming guests and the needy as Christ according to local circumstances. Let those whom the providence of God has led to the monastery be received by the brothers with reverence and kindness .

Texts from: The Rule of St. Benedict and The Constitutions of the Monks. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Today's Gospel from Saint Matthew narrates a true experience of Jesus as the living God, an encounter with Jesus that seizes the disciples' and our own attention. Matthew evokes the poetry of the Psalms, the Book of Sirach and the prophet Isaiah in which God, the Lord of all creation treads upon the waves, marches over the sea. And on this stormy night poetry morphs into reality as a boatload of disciples discover Rabbi Jesus doing what only God can do. And they are stunned, terrified, undone. Awed by this recognition of the divinity of Jesus, the disciples instinctively bow down before Jesus. This is the body language of worship, as they acknowledge their experience of the awesome presence of the Holy One of Israel. 

But Peter seeks even more. His response to Jesus, "Bid me come to you" discloses his desire for union with Jesus, truly human, truly divine. Jesus' reply, "Come" is an invitation and confirmation, revealing Jesus' desire for union and communion with Peter, with us- now.

Christ at the Sea of Galilee, Jacopo Tintoretto, Venetian,  c. 1575/1580, oil on canvas, 46 1/8 x 66 5/8 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington. Excerpts from this morning's homily by Father Isaac.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Reflecting on the monastic vocation, Thomas Merton writes, 

He who hears the voice of God must recognize that he is called to an adventure whose ending he cannot foresee because it is in the hands of God. That is the risk and the challenge of the monastic calling: we surrender our lives into the hands of God and never take them back. As to the joys, the hopes, the fears, the needs and the fulfillments that will come to us-- we do not plan on them, and we do not evade them. Our business is to seek first the Kingdom of God in solitude and in prayer. The rest will be taken care of.

Truly as monks, as spouses, as parents, we are continually learning over and over how to surrender our lives in love, trusting in the Father's care for us.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Amazingly, as Paul says, the Father has made Jesus our sin, so that we might know ourselves holy and beloved like Him, in Him. Today we eavesdrop on an intimate conversation between the Father with the Son. The heavens are opened and in a place of intimacy and prayer, in an intense spiritual experience named Transfiguration, Jesus and all of us hear the Father say, “You are my beloved one.” Truly, beloved is our name written on God’s heart.

Raphael, The Transfiguration (detail), oil on wood, 1516-1520,  159” X 109”,  Pinacoteca Vaticana. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Enough to Share

Perhaps we are sometimes reluctant to help, because we think we have nothing to give. In the Gospel the disciples approach Jesus and ask him to send the crowds away so that they could get something to eat. Jesus says to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” It’s interesting that Jesus did not feed the crowd himself but gave that over to his disciples. Probably looking puzzled they answer, “But we have only five loaves and two fish.” What good is that? They felt that they had nothing to give but in fact they did. The little they had was multiplied to feed more than five thousand people. The possibility that so little could feed so many was beyond their comprehension. But they do what Jesus asks and are amazed. 

The lesson for us is not how much we have, but how generous we are with the gifts that God has given us. Even when we think we have little or nothing to offer, we have to remember that many can still be fed by our compassion and our presence. Perhaps that is what they hunger for the most. All of us are needy people in one way or another. But our deepest needs can only be filled by Jesus himself. 
Photograph by Brother Brian.  Excerpts from Father Emmanuel's Homily for the 18th Sunday of the Year.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Dedication Feast

Yesterday it was our great joy to celebrate the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Abbey Church on August 1, 1975. It was a solemn feast of gratitude for all the blessings received in this church by us monks, gratitude for the monks who designed and built this church where we meet the living God of our joy.

Photographs by Brother Brian.