Monday, August 29, 2016

John the Baptist

Raised in a most faithful, observant Jewish household, at some point John understands a more urgent call. He takes to the desert and feasts on locusts and wild honey, living on the fringes of the Jewish society of his day. He comes to understand that he is to prepare a path. And he preaches a baptism of repentance to which all of Judea and Jerusalem make their way, even Jesus himself. And then as John catches sight of him, he recognizes him, rejoices and points to him, this Other. “Look there,” he says. “There is the Lamb of God. This is the one.” And without missing a beat, he tells his own disciples to leave him and follow Christ. “What you suppose me to be, I am not. Someone greater is in your midst. I am not even worthy enough to undo his sandal straps.”

John’s deference to Christ is ascetical, insightful, and it is relational. John could defer to Jesus because he loved Jesus. And, perhaps it was even from his childhood that he began to recognize in Jesus the enfleshment of God’s promise to his people. And so he cries out to us, “Look, there is God’s Lamb.” Jesus his cousin was God’s innocent Lamb who would be slaughtered by jealous men; God’s own Lamb whose own blood would save and redeem his people. John recognizes that in Jesus, God’s Lamb, Hope breathes and dwells in the midst of his people

John realizes he needs look no further, he begs us to do the same. And so he shows us how to become all fire, all love, even unto death. John’s ardor urges us on. It is his relationship with Jesus that will shape his future, as it must shape our own. 


Photograph by Brother Brian. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our Humanity


*       The incarnation of the Word fully reopens to creation its transcendent destiny.

Each person is a great universe exceeding the cosmos in grandeur.

Humanity is in the image of God because like God it is beyond definition.

Our capacity for transcendence distances us from the world and makes us responsible for it.

The image of God is revealed by our intelligence, by our capacity to express meaning and by our love.

Since we are made in God’s image, there is within us an attraction to what transcends us.

Endowed with freedom and available to grace, God can do everything but force us to love him.

Humanity is the invisible made visible, even our flesh has great dignity.

Photograph of the Abbey hillside by Brother Brian. Sentences on the human vocation adapted from Olivier ClĂ©ment, The Roots of Christian Mysticism.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Loving

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux reminds us that love is the only way that we as creatures can fittingly respond to our Creator and make some sort of similar return, no matter how unequal it might be. “When God loves,” he says. “All that he desires is to be loved in return.” And Bernard assures us that those who love God will be made happy by loving him. Still sometimes we may have believed that selfishness would make us happy. And we have not brought joy to others because we have forgotten to love. And so we beg the Lord for his mercy.
Photographs of the Abbey in late summer by Brother Brian.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mercy in the Church

God is the great gatherer – whatever our backgrounds, whatever our talents, whatever our weaknesses, whatever separates us and scatters us, whether it be our own fault or the fault of others, God wants to gather us together to experience his overwhelming goodness, tenderness, and fidelity, in other words, his mercy.

In yesterday’s Gospel Jesus utters a warning: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” Jesus’ warnings have a purpose: they are meant to keep us from hardening our hearts. Hardness of heart is the one thing that can block mercy, because it refuses mercy to others. Jesus uses the sharp edge of mercy; he speaks the truth in love– to gather us back from the dead-end of self-sufficiency and into the company of those who realize their need for mercy.

And it is the Spirit’s task to make the face of mercy present in our midst. In the Church the Word of God punctures our hardened hearts to soften them up; in the Church the Spirit makes a new start possible in the Sacrament of Confession; through the Church the Spirit gathers the most diverse set of human beings imaginable so that he can smooth out our rough edges.

But for those who still may have difficulty finding God’s mercy in the Church, the Spirit brings forth another face– the face of Mary. In her we see what the Church is meant to be and will be. This humble woman entered through the narrow gate of mercy, enduring the trials which are part of being merciful. She is blessed, because she was merciful, first to her son, even to the cross, then to the frightened disciples, and finally to all of us in our every need. She continues the gathering of God’s children, as a merciful mother but also as one who knows and tells us the demands of the cross.
Photo by Br. Brian. Excerpts from Fr. Vincent's homily for the Twenty-first Sunday of the Year.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. 

Which of us, knowing the truth of who we are, feels really comfortable hearing Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world.”? But he has noticed the glimmer of our desire, the flicker of our lovingkindness, the incipience of our compassion; and he assures us, it is enough, we are enough, enough to light the way for him, for God’s people; for he will make the flickering into a blaze of light.

Where does Christ’s light come from? For Saint Bernard it is clear. The light shines out most all from Jesus’ wounds. The light is his mercy, his compassion expressed perfectly through his passion. This is what he says, “The man who said: 'My sin is too great to deserve pardon,' was wrong. As for me, I take whatever I lack from the heart of the Lord which overflows with mercy. They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds, I can suck honey from the rock. I can taste and see that the Lord is good. The lance pierced his soul and his heart, so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weaknesses. Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of his love and mercy. Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy.”*

The light we are called to be is always reflected, refracted light from the wounded, mercy-filled Christ Jesus whose open heart and wounds blaze with light of his compassion. We are called, invited more and more into a becoming that is cooperative. It’s not about us. We have only to be transparent, reflective, compassionately vulnerable, then we will be light in him.

* Saint Bernard, On the Song of Songs6i.



15the words of today’s Gospel are part of the Sermon on the Mount, and they come right after the Beatitudes. These are words spoken to the anawim of Galilee, those lowly and insignificant who look to God for everything. These are the ones who follow Jesus around, and hang on his words. They have experienced that life isn’t fair; they don’t expect their rights to be respected. They have nothing; and they are nothing. These live on the fringes of power and prestige. The world pays no attention to them, because they can’t be exploited for anything.[1] Their one advantage- they desperately know their need for God. Is this who we are, who we are meant to be?
Which of us, knowing the truth of who we are, feels really comfortable hearing Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world.”? I want to respond, “Excuse me, my Lord, you’ve got the wrong party. Try a couple of cells down the hall. I’m not light; it is you who are my light. I’m a mess; it’s pretty dark in here.” But Jesus insists, “Yes, you are light.” He has noticed the glimmer of our desire, the flicker of our lovingkindness, the incipience of our compassion; and he assures us, it is enough, we are enough, enough to light the way for him, for God’s people; for he will make the flickering into a blaze of light.
Where does Christ’s light come from? For Bernard it is clear. The light shines out most all from Jesus’ wounds. The light is his mercy, his compassion expressed perfectly through his passion. This is what he says, “The man who said: “My sin is too great to deserve pardon,” was wrong…As for me, I take whatever I lack from the heart of the Lord which overflows with mercy…They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds, I can suck honey from the rock…I can taste and see that the Lord is good…The lance pierced his soul and…his heart, so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weaknesses. Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of his love…and mercy. Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy.”[2]
The burden is on God; for the light we are called to be is always reflected, refracted light from the wounded, mercy-filled Christ Jesus whose open heart and wounds blaze with light of his compassion. We are called, invited more and more into a becoming that is cooperative. It’s not about us. We have only to be transparent, reflective, compassionately vulnerable, then we will be light in him.




[1] Dennis Justison.
[2] Saint Bernard, On the Song of Songs, 6i.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Good Things

O God, who have prepared for those who love you
good things which no eye can see,
fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,
so that, loving you in all things and above all things,
we may attain your promises,
which surpass every human desire.


We were struck by the beauty of this week's collect for Mass. As we seek to love God in all things and above all things, we rejoice because we find the Lord Jesus in all things we see and experience and yet all we experience only whets our appetite for more of Him. We are reminded of an admonition of Saint Ignatius of Loyola for scholastics:

they should practice the seeking of God's presence in all things, in their conversations, their walks, in all that they see, taste, hear, understand, and in all their actions, since His Divine Majesty is truly in all things by His presence, power, and essence. This kind of meditation, which finds God our Lord in all things, is easier than raising oneself to the consideration of divine truths, which are more abstract and which demand something of an effort, if we are to keep our attention on them. But this method is an excellent exercise to prepare us for great visitations of our Lord, even in prayers that are rather short. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

With Our Lady

When we are tempted to get lost in our little human joys and pleasures, what we celebrate in Mary’s Assumption is like a beacon drawing us onward to the joy of the Kingdom. This is because real joy, the joy that rejoices to the end, is very deep-rooted and will strike root in us as a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work within us. It is infinitely more than our experience of pleasure, comfort, and delights of many kinds.

And so, as we celebrate Mary’s complete and perfect joy today, it is good for us who are still “on the way” to remember that joy is the seed-bed in which all life strikes root—without it, we cannot live. Joy is the mark of being alive and of progressing. The joy that is at the root of our being propels us ever onward. AndrĂ© Louf captured the great role joy plays in our lives when he wrote: “It is joy’s own task to pull us up to a better level of being than we now ‘enjoy.’ Only joy can do this. Joy is always in the process of surpassing its own boundaries. In a sense, our joy always lies a little beyond where we are today. It is a summons, a challenge. It anticipates the joy of further growth in our relationship with God, who alone makes it complete, perfect….”

Mary’s complete joy as she was taken body and soul into heaven is a cause of great hope to us. She is one of us and with us. In her, all God’s promises have been proved trustworthy. Enthroned in glory, she shows us that our hope is real; even now (in the words of the Letter to the Hebrews) it reaches as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” to where Jesus is seated in glory.
   
Reflection by Father Dominic.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Newest Novice

O God, in that unutterable kindness by which you dispose all things sweetly and wisely, you gave us clothing, so that a triple benefit might be ours: we are covered with dignity, kept warm and protected in body and soul. Father, pour forth the blessing of your Holy Spirit upon us this morning and upon these clothes which your son here before us has asked to receive, so that he may serve you faithfully in the Cistercian way of life.

Last Sunday August 7 during Chapter,  our Brother John Bosco was clothed in the novice's habit. We rejoice to have him in community. Generous, hard-working and truly kind, John came to us from South Korea. May the Lord grant him the grace of perseverance.



The novitiate: Observer Michael Rivera, Brother Richard, Brother John Bosco, Novicemaster Father Luke, Submaster Brother Daniel. 

Photographs by Brother Brian.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mercy

His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”   Matthew 18

Forgive us our trespasses, 

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Once again we are invited by the Lord to forgive, as he has forgiven us over and over and over again. God never tires of forgiving us, even though so often our sins and failings are the same each time we confess them. Let us be like God; let us go and do likewise, never tiring of offering the Mercy that is of God.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Saint Lawrence

As we celebrate the saints,we may sometimes imagine them smiling a bit sheepishly; their heads lowered. And as we chant in their honor, perhaps they are more than a bit embarrassed by all the hoopla. They point quietly to the wounded Christ. “It’s not about us,” they insist. “It’s all about Jesus, what his tender mercy has accomplished in us.”

The saints, like Saint Lawrence whom we celebrate this morning, ultimately know themselves as mercied sinners, who have been transformed by the love of Christ. 

No wonder then that even as he was being roasted over a slow fire, Lawrence could joke, "Turn me over. I think I'm done on this side." Love made him brave and self-forgetful and even silly.

St Lawrence, Limoges polychrome enamel plaque, late 16th century–early 17th century.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

To Turn

“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.” With these words Jesus reminds us again this morning that if we want to be his disciples, we have to keep turning- that’s what conversion means- you keep turning around and learning to live as if God were truly in charge.

Still we know all that turning and turning can be exhausting. But it’s worth it, for then as little ones we will be totally dependent on him and even dependent on one another. And then the kingdom of God will happen in our midst.

Let us turn and go down to the very low place of our sinfulness, we will find the Lord there waiting to forgive and mercy us.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Dominic

We are told that in the year 1221 as Saint Dominic lay dying in his friary at Bologna, he spoke the following words to his brothers, “These, my much loved ones, are the bequests which I leave to you as my sons: have charity among yourselves; hold fast to humility; keep a willing poverty.” Such is his legacy, brilliant in its simplicity.

Having promised to be poor with the poor Christ and to prefer Christ Jesus our Lord above all else, Dominic’s bequest is ours as well. For as Cistercian monks, charity, humility and poverty are among the treasures we have inherited.  

Perhaps sometimes we have been unfaithful, and misused this legacy handed down to us by our monastic forebears. Let us beg the Lord’s tender mercy.

Giovanni Bellini,  Fra Teodoro of Urbino as Saint Dominic.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Divine Thief

This morning Jesus just about promises us that he will show up when we least expect, at the most unexpected times, maybe even when we’re asleep. And even somewhat outrageously he admits that he is a real sneak, a thief. “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.” Jesus wants to break in. And that being said, he seems to imply that, almost playfully, he wants to be caught in the act.

We have come here to wait for him, wait on him, to welcome the mystery of God incessantly in the midst of ordinariness. The poor are always waiting. Our waiting is about powerlessness, littleness, 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, quietly even on tiptoe. 

Photographs by Brother Brian.





Saturday, August 6, 2016

Transfiguration

This morning we ascend Mount Tabor with Jesus and eavesdrop as the Father says, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” This is our truth as well. Baptized into Christ, we too are the beloved of the Father.

To be sure, the brilliance of this morning’s Transfiguration and points us to another hilltop, that of Calvary. There the Beloved one will give himself away to us completely. His clothes, his flesh once bright with light on Tabor will be torn and stained with the spittle and blood of his passion.

Empowered by his Father’s love, Jesus will freely give himself up for us. Trusting in the Father’s love, we too may be transfigured and fearless enough to be self-forgetful like Jesus. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Come After Me

“To come after me you must deny yourself, and take up your cross.” It is always sobering to hear these words of Jesus.

But we know the great beauty of the gift he first gave us- the gift of his very Self- which has drawn us beyond ourselves. We are willing to lose ourselves, for we have found in his love the very reason for our being.

Our promise to follow him inevitably entails a willingness to suffer and die with him. 

Jesus wants all that we are. And he deeply desires to give more of himself away to us. Let us open to him.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Saint John Vianney

This morning with Peter we will listen as Jesus whispers this hauntingly beautiful question to him and to each of us, “Who do you say that I am?”

We have the following prayer written by Saint John Vianney. Perhaps this would be his answer:
I love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you. I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally. My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath.

But who do you say that Jesus is for you? What is your name for him?  Perhaps first of all for each of us, Jesus is Mercy. Let us open our hearts to him.

Photo by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Do You Want?

A Syrophoenician woman will interrupt Jesus this morning. She’s an outsider on two counts: a non-Jew and a woman now alone with a man.* And she knows that she of all people has no right to make demands on Jesus, so she does what she has to do- she falls at his feet, and she begs. She’s got nothing to lose; she’s lost it all already, she’s desperate, her life is in shambles.

Jesus seems uninterested and insists that he has come only for the children of Israel, not for dogs. She is undaunted by his very blunt metaphor.

“Fine, then, call me a dog if you want. But even dogs get the scraps. Please, Lord, give me a scrap, just a scrap of your mercy.”

Jesus is outdone by her forthrightness, won over; his heart stirred by her anguish and her need. He is transformed in the encounter. And he reveals himself as amazingly, humanly relational.

What do you want? Perhaps the message this morning is to take this woman’s lead and be a bit insistent, even desperate. Jesus is never ever unaffected or unresponsive.



* Donahue & Harrington, Sacra Pagina: Mark, p. 237. Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

On the Water

Wondering if it were really the Lord calling us to monastic life, and wanting to be absolutely certain, like Peter we may have cried out to the Lord, “If it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.

Truly monastic life is oftentimes like walking on water in a bad storm. And we know that it is only with our eyes always fixed on Jesus that we live this life. Even better we have come to understand that it is only by continually sinking and crying out in desperation to him that we truly become monks.

The wind is picking up, there is a storm on the way; it is frightening, but there is nothing to fear. The Lord Jesus is here, offering us here us the rescue of his mercy.

Photo by Father Emmanuel.

Monday, August 1, 2016

August 1

Today we celebrate the Anniversary of the Dedication and Consecration of the Abbey Church. This is a special solemnity that is ours alone to remember. Our rose window, detailed above in this photo by Brother Jonah, composed as it is from fragments of glass from the large lancet window in the church of the monastery of Our Lady of the Valley is an apt symbol of the many transitions that have marked our community's history.

During the Abbey's early years, the growth of the community was remarkable. And ground was broken for our church on 19 March 1952. On 15 August 1953 the first Mass was solemnly celebrated in the newly completed church. Designed by some of the monks in collaboration with a local architectural firm, the church was built by contracted lay workers and the many monks who assisted them. We are grateful for the beauty and simplicity of our monastic church, grateful for the labor and inspiration of our monastic forebears. 

Today's feast, brothers, ought to be all the more devout as it is more personal. For other celebrations we have in common with other ecclesiastical communities, but this one is proper to us, so that if we do not celebrate it nobody will. It is ours because it concerns our church; ours because we ourselves are its theme. You are surprised and even embarrassed, perhaps, at celebrating a feast for yourselves. But do not be like horses and mules that have no understanding. Your souls are holy because of the Spirit of God dwelling in you; your bodies are holy because of your souls and this building is holy because of your bodies.   Saint Bernard, Sermon for the Dedication of a Church.