Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In the Dark

Our celebration this Christmas invites us to pass through the darkness that has enveloped our troubled and fearful world so intensely in recent weeks and to allow ourselves in a spirit of simple faith to be led and enlivened by the hope of finding the “great light” that alone can usher in joy and happiness on earth. Indeed a “great light has come upon the earth.” And as the Prologue to John’s Gospel proclaims, the Word, who was “in the beginning with God and through whom all things came to be, was coming into the world and is the true light which enlightens everyone . . . What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark. It starts right now in the darkness of our own fear, sadness and pain, for as Saint Ambrose has said, “His desire is always to enter and make his home with us.” Our desire, the deepest desire of our heart, readily recognizes his.

Contemplating the Christ Child in the manger scene is not a matter of fleeting sentimentality but a wonderful grace and opportunity to let go of our bright ideas about God, so that our eyes are open anew to the God who is: who is in our midst and flesh, in our world with its darkness and troubles, its suffering and violence, its homelessness and loneliness. Our God, “in whom we live and move and have our being,” makes himself small for us  in order to take away our fear of his greatness. God deliberately, mercifully, made himself small in Bethlehem at a predawn hour, so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him as the light of our life, a light that always shines in our darkness, a light that only love bestows and discovers.

Reflection by Father Dominic.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holy Family

The Holy Family is a very ordinary human family in its intense mutual love, in the specificity of its history, in the peculiarity of its challenges, and in its need to survive from day to day materially and socially.  And yet, at the same time, this very human ordinariness is precisely the sacred “space” and condition used by God to reveal his own nature as supernatural community of Persons and as absolute Source of love, mercy and redemption for all humanity. 

The particular and intimate joys and pleasures that the members of this human family took in one another were always at the service of God’s plan to save the world.  The Gospel today shows us both sides of the paradox.  On the one hand, Jesus, Mary and Joseph blend in with all other Jewish families in the way they cling to one another with love and care, conform with Jewish religious and social traditions, and generally live from day to day.  On the other hand, this ordinary human existence as a family is transformed by the presence of the divine Word, incarnate in Jesus, transformed into a vessel for God’s work of redemption.  Such a transformation requires, however, an event symbolized by Jesus’ temporarily turning his back on his earthly parents and first subjecting them to anguish before he subjects himself to them in obedience. 

The full meaning of the refrain of today's responsorial psalm, "Blessed is he who dwells in your house, O Lord!," is that God’s “house,” ultimately, is neither the nuclear human family nor the temple in Jerusalem nor any earthly church but rather the Kingdom of God in eternity.  The ultimate Holy Family is the communion of the saints in the bosom of the eternal Community of the Blessed Trinity.  It is this ultimate Family which the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph manifests to us today in a prophetic mode: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.…  We should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.…  The way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit that he gave us." Truly, because of Christ’s birth as one of us into a human family, we are already living the triune life of God!  

But let us never forget that, even while enjoying such a magnificent privilege, we are the fruit of the labor-pains of Mary and Joseph, and of all others also who have birthed us into the life of faith in any way whatsoever, with immense joy, yes, but also with sharp human suffering.  Being a Christian family, too, is one aspect of the Paschal Mystery, in which death and life are interwoven until the final Resurrection and definitive victory of Life over death.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Excerpts from a Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family by Father Simeon.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

God's Secret

How secret are the sleeping quarters of a king! Can you understand how without this Virgin’s awareness he has produced the outlines of his sacred body in her venerable womb, the whole of our nature; how he has taken on its every quality? Since everything is possible with God, and it is impossible for you fully to understand even the least of his works, do not inquire excessively into this Virgin’s conceiving, but believe it.  Be reverently aware of the fact that God wishes to be born. Grasp by faith that great mystery of the Lord’s birth, because without faith you cannot comprehend even the least of God’s works.

Thus what God commands, an angel relates.  His Spirit fulfills it, and his power brings it to perfection. The Virgin believes it, and nature takes it up. The tale is told from the sky, and then proclaimed from all the heavens. The stars show it forth, and the Magi tell it about.  The shepherds adore, and the beasts are aware. Do acknowledge him in company with the beasts. Look, they give homage with their tails; they show their delight with their ears, they lick with their tongues, and with whatever sign they can they acknowledge that their Creator, in spite of his nature, has come into yours.  
Let us bow down at the manger, worshiping Him who has come to be with us in all things. Mary gives us her Son, who longs to embrace us.
Giotto, Nativity frescoes, Arena Chapel. Saint Peter Chrysologus, excerpts from Homily 141: On the Incarnation of Christ.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In Haste

Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth. 
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy SpiritLuke 1

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, the distance is about a four-day journey on foot. Mary is in haste out of joy and wonder. It is a joy and wonder that will issue in praise of the dawn of universal salvation. And when the child in Mary's womb comes near to the infant John in Elizabeth's womb, Elizabeth cries out in praise and prophecy, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary has set out and traveled in haste, all because love and joy have put a liveliness in her step. 

This phrase that describes how Mary goes to visit Elizabeth is the very phrase used by Saint Benedict in chapter 43 of his Rule to describe how a monk on hearing the signal for an hour of the Work of God will go to the church. He will “immediately set aside what he has in hand and go with utmost haste, yet with gravity and without giving occasion for frivolity.” The love of God must so animate the hearts of Benedict's monks that they move with a liveliness, an urgency, joy and wonder like Mary’s.  Lovers do not walk towards each other, they run. So the monks go with utmost haste to praise the Lord at the Work of God.

As Christmas fast approaches, we go in haste with the shepherds, our hearts renewed in love, joy and wonder, as we seek Mary and Joseph and the Infant lying in the manger.  

The Visitation by Giotto. Meditation by Father Luke.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


It takes work to get back to the peace of knowing yourself loved. And perhaps we never fully get there while we’re here. But the desire is set deep inside us, that incompleteness, the ache for the surprise of love to find us. Perhaps some of us follow certain old scripts handed on to us by our own histories, stories filled with fear and failure. The script often reads- don’t trust, don’t hope. Jesus, God’s tender Word comes to us and offers us a new script, new words to rewrite our story and reimagine the old hopelessness as possibility and opportunity for grace; even allowing ourselves to believe that we are rejoiced over.

Jesus invites us back to this place where we can learn to receive life and love as underserved and unexpected blessings. We may sense the near impossibility of opening our hearts to make a space for love and hope, a place inside us where God’s rejoicing can sprout and blossom from the hard, unpromising stump of our tired old fear and loneliness. And so we each morning we go up to the altar again to receive his precious Body and Blood, the promise of his rejoicing over us.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Gaudete Sunday

How dare we rejoice this morning? So much pain and conflict, too many refugees, wounded and murdered victims of the terrorism that seems to be stalking us; so many still grieving in Paris, San Bernardino, all through the Middle East, over and over. It may seem like a mockery of their memory and suffering or a hairbrained attempt at distracting ourselves from too much pain, constant fear and premonition- as if Advent or Christmas were an anti-depressant. But, there’s something more. The Church does not invite us to rejoice as some kind of liturgical diversion. Just the opposite; this rejoicing is a very real summons to awakeness. For we dare to rejoice only and foremost because, as the prophet Zephaniah tells us this morning, we are being rejoiced over. God is rejoicing over us, promising us that he is with us, always drawing near.

We dare to rejoice because hope, mercy and compassion are with us and always coming closer in Christ Jesus our Lord, the God of all consolation. Hope is beside us. Not false hope (there’s never ever been anything false about hope) for now in Christ, Hope is a Person who is searching for us. Love and mercy are relentlessly coming to us as an undeserved and surprising gift. The prophets, Isaiah and today Zephaniah, remind us that “a pattern of reversal” is unfolding in our midst.” And we are being invited to collaborate in the divine subterfuge. For God is taking disaster, pain and contradiction as his opportunity for grace, and he begs our cooperation.

Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.

Photograph of Abbey window by Brother Daniel.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Our Lady At Guadalupe

On an icy cold day in December of 1531, Our Lady promises Juan Diego that he will find many flowers blossoming on the hilltop where he first met her. He does as she says and gathers roses, lilies, carnations, iris, fragrant jasmine blossoms, yellow gorse and tiny violets. The Virgin arranges them all in the fold of Juan’s coarse cactus fiber tilma and sends him to visit the bishop. When the flowers fall to the floor before the dumbfounded bishop in Mexico City, he sees Our Blessed Lady’s lovely handiwork. She has painted her self-portrait with spring blossoms in winter.  

Mary is at the center of what Pope Francis has called “the revolution of tenderness." Today as we remember Our Lady of Guadalupe.We are greatly consoled by her words to Saint Juan Diego in 1531:

Do listen, do be assured of it, my littlest one, that nothing at all should alarm you, should trouble you, nor in any way disturb your countenance, your heart. For am I not here, I, your mother? Are you not in the cool of my shadow? In the breeziness of my shade? Is it not I that am your source of contentment? Are you not cradled in my mantle, cuddled in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Desiring to See God

We long to see God's face, but as Saint Peter Chrysologus reminds us, how can our "narrow human vision apprehend God, whom the whole world cannot contain?" Still we are filled with yearning, we have come to know and understand that nothing else, nothing less than Christ Jesus himself can satisfy the desire of our hearts.  Peter Chrysologus continues:

But the law of love is not concerned with what will be, what ought to be, what can be. Love does not reflect; it is unreasonable and knows no moderation. Love refuses to be consoled when its goal proves impossible, despises all hindrances to the attainment of its object. Love destroys the lover if he cannot obtain what he loves; love follows its own promptings, and does not think of right and wrong. Love inflames desire which impels it toward things that are forbidden. But why continue? It is intolerable for love not to see the object of its longing. That is why whatever reward they merited was nothing to the saints if they could not see the Lord. A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on its side, but it is the evidence of filial love. It gave Moses the temerity to say: If I have found favor in your eyes, show me your face. It inspired the psalmist to make the same prayer: Show me your face. Even the pagans made their images for this purpose: they wanted actually to see what they mistakenly revered.

In Christ our hope, our longing will never ever be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Immaculate Conception

Today is special for several reasons, not only because we are celebrating the wonderful event in salvation history of the Immaculate Conception, but because today begins the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Regarding today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception the Holy Father remarked that it is a fitting day to open the Holy Year because it “recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of mankind. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. So he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and Immaculate in love, choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy.”

Today’s feast is thus an eloquent witness to the fact that, as the Holy Father says, “Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.” God is not deterred by sin; in fact, history shows that he uses it to bring about even better things. All of us, as Paul tells us, have been chosen by God in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. This reality has been realized in history for our sake in Mary, by her Son from his death on the Cross.

As an action of the Divine Mercy in history, Mary’s purity is in God as a mutual gift between the divine Persons: from the Father, who wishes who provide a perfect Mother for his Son, and from the Son who wishes to restore to the Father a creation perfectly redeemed, and from the Spirit who cooperates in the will of both. Mary’s Immaculate Conception is no afterthought for a world gone wrong, but the mutual gift of divine love perfectly achieved. 

The Pope tells us that “we need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy, which is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace,” and a bridge connecting God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” But the Holy Year is an occasion “to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we can become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.” The ultimate goal being more effective witness through growth in holiness.

Mercy of its very nature is unmerited gift. A gift to truly be a gift must be received and requires a response. And the fitting first response is simply gratitude. Mary the Immaculate Conception is our model. Her gratitude can be summed up in her self-definition as handmaid of the Lord. Thanksgiving for all she has received is expressed in unreserved obedient service, above all in her unbounded “yes” to the request of the angel to be God’s mother and to all that was to follow in her life from that “yes.”  

Immaculate Conception by Diego Velasquez, Excerpts from Father Timothy's homily at today's Eucharist.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent Discovery

Our yearly celebration of the Advent mystery is a kind of jolt, a reminder that wherever we stand in our commitment to God, there is always room for some adjustment. An important aspect of this growth consist, as it did for John the Baptist's listeners, in the ongoing discovery that our relationship with God is not something static.

It was from God's initiative that the story of each of us began. This takes us back into the depths of God's eternal plan for each of us. God ardently desired this. And he set in motion the great work of our creation as unique images of himself and incorporated us into Christ as members of his Body. God keeps his plan for us going on. But to be sure, our own cooperation is essential. Our principal contribution is to embrace his divine will at each moment. This is the ideal by which Christ himself lived on this earth.

Excerpts from Father Gabriel's homily at this morning's Eucharist.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Our hearts like that of Jesus, must embrace all humanity. Be loving, gentle, humble, with all human-beings. This is what we have learned from Jesus, not to be aggressive towards anyone.

As we begin the season of Advent, we remember today Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) a one-time French soldier and playboy who died as a poor, malnourished hermit in the desert of Algeria. We are inspired by his great simplicity and ardor, as we like him long for the presence of the Prince of Peace . 

Let us concern ourselves with those who lack everything, those to whom no one gives a thought. Let us be the friends of those who have no friends, their brother... I want all the people here, Christians, Muslims, Jews, non-believers, to look on me as their brother, the universal brother. They begin to call my house ‘the fraternity’ and this makes me happy.