Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Weeping at the Tomb

Woman, why are weeping? Who are you looking for? The one you seek is in your possession, and you do not know it? You have the true, the eternal joy, and yet you weep? It is within your inmost being, and you look for it without? You stand outside, weeping at the tomb? Your heart is my tomb. I am not dead there, but I take my rest in your heart, living forever. Your heart is my garden. You were right to suppose that I was the gardener. I am the new Adam. I till and care for my paradise. Your tears, your love and your longing are all my work. In your inmost being you possess me, although you do not know it, and so you look for me without. Outwardly, therefore, I will appear to you, and make you return to yourself, that in your inmost being you may find the one whom you seek outside.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Mary Magdalen with the Risen Christ, tempera on panel, 1308-11, Lines by an anonymous monk of the 13th century, Meditatio de Passione et Resurrectione Christi, 38; PL 184, 766.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Monday

Saint Paul testifies to the intimate, accessible vitality of the Risen Christ when he exclaims to the Galatians: “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.” Did he understand what he was saying? Probably yes and no. No, because he would be the first to admit that this is a mystery too vast for the mind to comprehend, the eye to see, or the imagination to have dreamed up. But yes, because he knew on some level; he recognized with the certainty of faith the Risen Christ in his very life- as the greatest gift to celebrate and live from. This gift is not just what Jesus said and did, but who he personally is: namely, the Word who reveals by giving himself to us, and who speaks to our hearts simply by being. This is the Risen Christ, spoken once into history, and now eternally alive. He is the event of faith who gives us an experience of God. 

And this is no ephemeral, ghostly, “spiritualized” Christ that Easter morning brings us. On the contrary, all that Christ experienced in his earthly life is alive in him. His earthliness is risen; but being risen, its vitality is infinite. As John of the Cross says in his Spiritual Canticle, the Risen Christ makes even the divine “always new and increasingly amazing.” (Cant.14:8)

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Dominic.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

He is sold, dirt cheap for thirty pieces of silver, but he redeems the world, and that at a very great price – for the price was his own blood. Like a lamb he is led to the slaughter, but he is the shepherd of Israel – and now of the whole world also. Like a sheep he is silent, yet he is the Word... He is bruised and wounded, but he cures every disease and every sickness. He is lifted up on the tree and nailed there, but he restores us by the Tree of Life; he saves even the thief crucified with him… He is given vinegar to drink and is fed with gall – who? He who turned the water into wine, who overcame the bitter taste, who is himself most sweet and altogether desirable. He lays down his life, but he has power to take it again. And the veil of the temple is torn, for the doors of heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise. He dies, but he gives life and by his death he abolishes death.

Safet Zec, Deposition, detail, 2014. Lines from Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Third Theological Oration.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jesus Washes Our Feet

We know that foot washing was something a Gentile slave could be required to do, but never a Jewish slave. Foot-washing was typically something wives did for their husbands, children for their parents, and disciples for their teachers. There is undoubtedly a level of intimacy is involved in these last scenarios. And in Jesus' case, there is an obvious reversal of roles.* Jesus calls his disciples his friends. And by washing their feet he overcomes in this act of loving intimacy the inequality that exists between them. And so he establishes an intimacy with them that signals their access to everything he had received from his Father, even the glory that is his as Beloved Son.* He does what he sees the Father doing, what love always does. It defers, lowers itself, and gives itself away.

Perhaps Jesus was inspired to wash the apostles’ feet because he had been so touched by what was done for him at Bethany six days before Passover, when Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil and anointed his feet most tenderly and dried them with her hair. Was this something that inspired his own most loving action on this night before he died? Perhaps. In any event Peter cannot bear the thought of his teacher doing this. We can imagine that probably it was something his wife had done for him many times. And doubtless he like the others is embarrassed by the intimacy of it, embarrassed by the intimacy, the touch, the loving condescension, and the unaffected tenderness, the unmanageability of the love that is so available. It is disorienting. We know it is a parable, a parallel to what he will do on the cross the next afternoon.

Photograph by Brother Brian.
* See
Sandra Schneiders.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Holy Week

   Holy Week commemorates the last few days of Jesus’ earthly life. And it is not an easy week. Holy Week is about real life, and so it can hit very close to home. It is meant to. We are invited to show up with all that we are and all that we have, because the Holy Week story is not just meant to be explained but to be embodied and lived. So just let the story be the story. It does not need to be explained, it needs to be experienced. It does not need to be understood, it needs to be lived. When we let the story of Holy Week be the story, we create room for it to become our story. We let it live in us.
   Saint Mark writes that Jesus “entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” Only Mark offers us the opportunity to look around at everything. And maybe this is what we must do before going any further into this Sacred Week.
   Take a look around at everything in your heart. What do you see? Where does it hurt? What’s the pain? In what way is your heart broken? Are you carrying guilt? What are the things that you may regret having done or left undone that chain you to your past? What frightens you? Do you feel overwhelmed by life, as if you were drowning and want to escape? Are there fractured relationships? Is your heart filled with loss, sorrow, grief? Who are the loved ones who have died and you miss? What is the dis-ease of your heart? Take a look around at everything in your heart. This is what Jesus did and continues to do with us. Jesus does not just look around at everything, turn away and leave. He looks at it all with us so that he might take it with him and carry it through this Holy Week. And so must we. Jesus leaves nothing behind. And we must not either. Whatever we refuse to look at and bring to this week cannot be healed, cannot be restored, renewed, re-created or resurrected. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Father Damian.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Saint Joseph

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife.
For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph our patron, we go to him as our great exemplar in faith and faithfulness. Perhaps brokenhearted, disappointed, surely confused, Joseph trusted God, and he trusted Mary. He let his life be turned around by God's desire to take our flesh. Saint Bernard will say that God had found in Joseph one to whom He could entrust His dearest secret. Joseph makes a home for God in Christ.

Statue of Saint Joseph at the Abbey lavabo.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

With Christ

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Excerpts from The Breastplate of Saint Patrick with photo of Abbey glass by Brother Daniel.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lifted Up

 Jesus said to them,
“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I am,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me. 
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him.”

Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

Jesus tells us that when he is lifted up, he will draw everyone to himself. Clearly his “lifting up” is his crucifixion. He will be raised up on a cross of humiliation, pain and death; and his lifting up will be his self-gift to his Father for us. And when he says, “Where I am, there also will my servant be,” it is because he longs to draw us with himself to the Father through the narrow gate of his passion. 

Still In the face of the ultimate inevitability of our death, our one time dying, and our daily dyings, we may want to run away. But Jesus offers us the cross a way out. He longs to draw us into his own his loving self-offering as a way out of death as dead end- self-giving as a way that absolutely cancels death, smashes it to pieces forever. “For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross despising its shame,” because he knows that death is only a gateway to life in love. We need not be afraid.

Follower of Jean Goujon (French, ca. 1510–ca. 1565 Bologna (?)), after a composition by Marcantonio Raimondi, ca. 1555, marble with traces of gilding, 43 1/4 x 24 1/2 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;

while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.

Jesus encounters a man who has been sick for years, and his heart is moved with pity. Jesus looks upon him with love and says to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man becomes well, takes up his mat, and walks away. 

Jesus is himself the Living Water. He is the place of healing and mercy. His five wounds are the porticoes from which his compassion streams in abundance.

Gospel excerpt from John 5.  Photograph of the reading cloister by Brother Brian.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday of Joy

As Father Vincent reminded us in this morning's homily, today on Laetare Sunday in the midst of our Lenten observance, the Lord God is inviting us to joy. This is the joy of a father who runs after a prodigal son who has squandered all his inheritance, a father who begs that son's reluctant brother to come and join the celebration because his brother has been restored to the family. The Lord God always waits for us, to catch us if we crash and draw us to himself in love. God's patience and relentless love are unimaginable. The crucified Jesus has absorbed all of our crashes in his wounded and risen body, the body that we are. Jesus has reconciled us to God forever. Let us rejoice.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


We mourn the passing of our Brother James Donohoe who went peacefully to the Lord last evening at 10:15. James entered the monastery on 12 October 1969, and like most of the monks worked at a variety of jobs during his monastic life. He was by turns farm hand, floor manager at Trappist Preserves production, and for the past several years he has been indispensable as purchaser and general factotum at The Holy Rood Guild. Always at the ready service of the brethren and our many lay employees, Brother James will invariably remembered for his generosity and availability; he would leave everything to do a favor or run a quick errand.
A strong man who could accomplish any difficult task with ease, James was also exquisitely sensitive- to a hint of light, the delicacy of a small blossom, a nuance in music. We remember his prowess at word play and his wonderful punning. James loved poetry and was himself a poet. As Holy Week approaches, one brother recalls a Holy Thursday some years ago: after a brief unseasonable snowfall Brother James remarked that the quiet whiteness was like His Body before the shedding of His precious Blood.

May Brother James rest with Our Lord in peace.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Grace Has Overflowed

Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high. Where have  your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy? More mercy than this no one has than that he lay down his life for those who are doomed to death.

My merit comes from his mercy; for I do not lack merit so long as he does not lack pity. And if the Lord’s mercies are many, then I am rich in merits. For even if I am aware of many sins, what does it matter? Where sin abounded grace has overflowed. And if the Lord’s mercies are from all ages forever, I too will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever. Will I not sing of my own righteousness? No, Lord, I shall be mindful only of your justice. Yet that too is my own; for God has made you my righteousness.

Photograph by Brother Brian of  a bas-relief of the 13th Station by Suzanne Nicolas in the east cloister of the Abbey. Lines from Saint Bernard, Sermons on the Canticle, 61.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Saint Katherine Drexel

Born in Pennsylvania in 1858, by age 33 Katharine Drexel had abandoned the charmed life of a wealthy heiress and soon founded the order of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, using her great fortune to create schools for Native Americans and African Americans across the United States. She died in 1955 at age 96. The service and love of Saint Katherine Drexel for the oppressed and despised racial minorities of a divided America helped in the healing of our nation. We can see that her witness is as important as ever. As we remember her today, we pray the Lord remove all traces of prejudice from our own hearts. 

Meditation by Father Luke.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

His Wounds

Where can the weak find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Savior? Indeed, the more secure is my place there, the more he can do to help me. The world rages, the flesh is heavy, and the devil lays his snares, but I do not fall, for my feet are planted on firm rock. I may have sinned gravely. My conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: He was wounded for our iniquities. What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ? And so if I bear in mind this strong, effective remedy, I can never again be terrified by the malignancy of sin.

Surely the man who said: “My sin is too great to merit pardon,” was wrong. He was speaking as though he were not a member of Christ and had no share in His merits, so that he could claim them as his own, as a member of the body can claim what belongs to the head. As for me, I can appropriate whatsoever I lack from the Heart of the Lord who abounds in mercy. They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds I may drink honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone: that is, I may taste and see that the Lord is sweet.

Hearing these words of Saint Bernard in the darkness of this morning's Vigils, our hearts were pierced with sorrow even as we were consoled.

Lines from Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Canticle.