Sunday, June 30, 2019

He Set His Face

In today’s Gospel Jesus is “resolutely determined” to go to Jerusalem, but the Greek text uses the Hebrew idiom “he set his face” to go to Jerusalem. This expression is found in the mouth of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah: “The Lord GOD opened my ear; I did not refuse, did not turn away. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who tore out my beard; My face I did not hide from insults and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help; therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” Jesus, the Servant, is resolutely determined to go to the cross, fully aware of the torture and humiliation involved; as the only way to procure salvation for humanity.

Now the fullness of time has come, God the Father has sent his Son into the world to reveal, once and for all, that at the heart of reality is unfathomable mystery of infinite love, of a God who is willing to undergo every humiliation, torture, rejection in order to bring his people, who have been lost to him through sin, back into fellowship with him and bestow on them the gift of eternal life. By his perfect poverty and obedience Jesus allows himself to be a completely open space for the definitive revelation of the Father’s glory. 

Jesus becomes this completely open space by renouncing his own glory. The ancient hymn found in St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians coins the word kenosis for this emptying out. "Though he was in the form of God, Christ Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave." Jesus expresses his love for his Father by becoming the empty space through which the divine glory can send its rays, by a life of complete poverty and abandonment of self. The hymn continues: "Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” We bend our knee before this name and confess him as Lord, when following in his footsteps we too set our face toward the goal, Jerusalem; when, like him, in poverty and self-abandonment we renounce any glory that is ours alone, to become an empty space for him to pour in his own glory. 

If we are to be credible disciples, his disposition must be ours also. Like him we will experience rejection, as in the case today in the visit to the Samaritan village, but like him the urgency of the journey must press us forward so that we find to time for judgment of others but must move on with our face set on the goal. His responses to those who wish to be his followers, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head"; "Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God"; "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God," are directed to us in all their radicality. Jesus demands are exorbitant, but we know that so is his grace, and that he never asks anything of us that he has not already done himself. 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Excerpts from this morning's homily by Father Timothy.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Two Saints

This morning we listen again as the Lord Jesus asks Peter, asks each one of us this most compellingly beautiful question: “Who do you say that I am?” Put another way – how do we, how do any of us experience Jesus? Certainly, it is their experience of Christ Jesus that has transformed both Peter and Paul. Who were they after all but both forgiven failures, transformed by Christ in his tender mercy?

Peter tells Jesus he is ready to die with him; then betrays him a few hours later. “I’d know that accent anywhere,” says the maid in the high priest’s courtyard. “You’re one of that Galilean’s followers.” “I don’t who you’re talking about,” mutters Peter.  Meanwhile Jesus is right next door being slapped and spat upon. But Jesus will welcome and forgive Peter by another charcoal fire at a seaside breakfast after his Resurrection, allowing Peter to say, “Lord, you know well that I love you.” 

And Paul so well-schooled in the Law, so sure he’s got all the answers; he has been tracking down followers of Jesus the blasphemer. As Peter has crashed into self-knowledge making Jesus’ prediction of betrayal come true; Paul will be knocked off his horse, insisting that he does not even know who Jesus is. Jesus assures him, “I am Jesus the one you’ve been persecuting.” 

Both saints have experienced Christ Jesus’ transforming presence. They come to us this morning with nothing to boast about. Both are forgiven witnesses to the reality of the transforming power of Jesus’ relentless pursuit, Jesus’ absolute refusal to reject any sinner, always drawing us, bringing us back to the Father, reminding us that we are meant for transcendence, for connectedness with this divine Other. It is this experience of him that transforms.

And, each of us, who do we say that Jesus is? Who is Jesus for you,? How do we name him? How has he touched you in a way that is perhaps at the same time somehow unutterable and so undeniably real that we have dared to stake our lives on in it. One thing is clear, this experience of relationship with God is unassailable, not simply subjective, romantic musing but very real and grounded in our experience. No one can talk us out of it. We know Jesus has called, has spoken, and still speaks, acts in us, through us, with us. For through his Spirit, he is no longer Palestine-bound but all around us, here, always. 

Like Peter and Paul, we too have seen and touched him. We know his name. Recall your own experience, his action and his real presence in your life. Does it ground your faith? Who do you say that He is for you? Where have you seen and touched him so that now you can name him?

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Sacred Heart

Today’s feast of the Sacred Heart represents the fruit of a theological inquiry that seeks to understand who Jesus is by meditating on his humanity, particularly as summed up by his human heart, the seat of the emotions, the fount of love, courage and compassion.

Instead of leaving us with a completely transcendent, impassible God, the Sacred Heart reveals a God truly with us: it shows us God who so loved the world, that he sent his only-begotten Son to share our humanity in the fullest way possible.  He lived a fully human life from its beginning to its natural end.  He certainly knew its joys and delights, but also fully tasted its pain and suffering. The Sacred Heart reveals to us that our God is not just merciful but compassionate, that literally He suffered with us.

This recalls Saint Paul: “For our sake made him to be sin who knew no sin.”  It is not too far-fetched so say that when Christ was “made to be sin who knew no sin,” He chose to endure all the violence and degradation that we are able inflict on one another.  He chose to take a full share of our sinfulness. By its nature, sin is damaging.  It damages the human race by weakening the bond of communion that exists among all human beings, and it damages the individual: the wounds it inflicts leave scars that render its victims less able to love others, and less willing to risk receiving the offer of love from others.  Jesus, when he chose to be made sin, willingly accepted the worst we have to offer.  He suffered, rejection, persecution, mockery, torture, degradation, and an agonizing, lonely death. 

The Sacred Heart reveals to us a God whose compassion comes from a love that takes the form of a radical and faithful solidarity. He is with us always, to the end and beyond. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the revelation of God who is Love. Jesus’ disciples encountered God’s love in his Sacred Heart and that encounter transformed their hearts and also those of all people, so that today our hearts have become the place where we are able to encounter God, the place where God speaks to us, comforts us, consoles us, and shows us the way forward. The Sacred Heart shows us not only that we are all living temples of God’s Love, but also that everyone deserves to be treated as such.

The Sacred Heart by Odilon Redon. Excerpts from Father William's homily.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Eastering in Us

Towards the end of his poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland, Gerard Manley Hopkins speaks of his hope that Christ will enter our lives: “Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us.” He understands Easter as verb - a reminder that Easter is about action, living and transformation. It strikes me that everything Hopkins poetically alludes to concerning Easter can be said of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not simply something we receive; it is something we do. It is not simply a noun; it is fundamentally a verb.

We believe many significant things about the Eucharist. We believe that the bread and wine become for us the real Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, a sublime mystery, a tremendous treasure of our faith. We cannot fully appreciate the body and blood of the Lord, the noun of the Eucharist, if we separate it from the verb of the Eucharist. For it is the Holy Spirit through the action of the Eucharist that allows the bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ for us.
In the Eucharist we gather, we listen, we bless, we eat, and we are sent forth. These are verbs of Eucharist. Our gathering is important because the action of the Eucharist is not the action of one person but of many. It is the action of the Church. We listen. We hear the Word of God proclaimed, and we remember all that God has done for us and has promised to do for us. We bless. We bless God in the great Eucharistic Prayer. It is the priest who says the words, but it is the prayer of the assembly - all of us bless God and pray this prayer together in memory of Jesus. And so, the real presence of Jesus comes into our midst. We then eat the Body and drink the Blood of the Lord, receiving Christ as nourishment. And finally, we are sent forth; sent forth to be Christ and to bring Christ to the world.

There are two truths flowing from these actions of the Eucharist - the truth of our dignity and the truth of our duty. The action of blessing in the Eucharist reveals to us our dignity as God's children. The gift of Christ’s Body and Blood does not happen if we do not ask for it. In our Eucharistic Prayer we ask for the outpouring of the Spirit on the gifts of bread and wine. God’s unfailing willingness to honor our prayerful request reveals our dignity as God’s own children. 

Because we have shared in the Body and Blood of the Lord, we then have a responsibility to bring the life of Christ to others and to recognize the life of Christ in others. We not only serve Christ by serving one another, we serve Christ in one another. It is one act of service - to love God and to love our neighbor are not two loves but one. And if we fail to reverence Christ in one another, we cannot authentically reverence his sacramental presence on the altar.  (see Vincent Pizzuto, Contemplating Christ and blog by Fr. George Smiga.) 
Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father Abbot's homily for Corpus Christ.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Like Saint John

John the Baptist is a towering figure in the history of our salvation. His importance is amply attested by all four Gospels and also the Acts of the Apostles.  It is difficult to imagine the development of Jesus’ earthly history without John’s presence and ministry from the very beginning. John’s intimate involvement in Jesus’ life and destiny, and the significance of John’s ardent devotion to his slightly younger cousin (who also happened to be the Son of God), are perhaps the outstanding instance of how Jesus brought us salvation by meshing his divine life inextricably with our human existence. How I would love to allow my own destiny to become as totally bound up with that of Jesus as was John the Baptist’s!  Is not this an excellent definition of “sanctity”: for one’s life to be wholly intertwined with Christ’s and lost with his in God?  So closely united was John’s earthly life to Jesus’ work of sanctification that he is the only saint besides the Mother of God whose biological birth into this world the Church celebrates as a resplendent work of nature and grace, inseparably, and as a turning point in salvation history. So essential is John’s role in manifesting the presence of the Incarnate Word to the world that his apprenticeship as a prophet and evangelist begins already in his mother’s womb, and this baby’s first (wordless) sermon consists in a mighty leap of joy at sensing the approach of God’s Holy One. 

As we go about our daily activities of prayer, lectio divina, work and fraternal relations, may we like John learn how to leap instinctively with joy at the approach of Jesus. If this becomes a blessed habit, we will then be allowing one another, and the whole world, to feel the presence in our midst of the One who alone brings us peace and lasting unity and evergreen freshness of life. The heart of the Baptist’s vocation coincides precisely with our own vocation as monks. In a moving self-portrait John says: “He who has the bride is the Bridegroom; the friend of the Bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the Bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full.  He must increase, but I must decrease.” These are clearly the words of one who is on fire with love and who wants to make all others fall in love with the same Beloved. 

Reflection by Father Simeon. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Corpus Christi

O precious and wonderful banquet that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more indispensable worth? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are washed away, virtues increased and the soul enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Ultimately no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that incomparable love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.

It was to impress the magnitude of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was about to leave the world to go to the Father…he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfillment of ancient symbols and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

In the early morning darkness during Vigils, we listened to these words of Saint Thomas Aquinas and pondered the inestimable beauty of Jesus' gift to us in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Which of us is worthy of such Holy Communion? It is only the gaze of Love that draw us into the reality of our belovedness. And so wisely enough the Church has given us this prayer to recite together before we receive Holy Communion: “O Lord, I am not worthy.” We are not worthy; Love has made us worthy. Indeed, in his desire for us, in his dying and rising for us, Jesus has loved us into worthiness. And the response of a grateful, awe-filled heart is always appropriately- I am not worthy. It is never about worth, but always about love, and the condescension of Christ’s tender mercy, the tenderness we never really deserve. 

Photograph by Brother Casimir. Lines from Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Like Saint Romuald

Born in Ravenna, Italy in the mid-tenth century, Saint Romuald was a mystic who led an eremitical life. Saint Peter Damian composed the Romuald’s biography and tells us:

Frequently he was seized by so great a contemplation of divinity that he would be reduced to tears with the boiling, indescribable heat of divine love. In this condition he would cry out: “Beloved Jesus, beloved, sweet honey, indescribable longing, delight of the saints, sweetness of the angels, and other things of this kind. We are unable to express the ecstasy of these utterances, dictated by the Holy Spirit.”

We are inspired by the great ardor of Saint Romuald and long to be filled the grace of the Holy Spirit that so fired his heart.

Monday, June 17, 2019


Icons can help us visualize what cannot be easily explained. They hover between two worlds, rendering in color and form what cannot be easily grasped by the intellect, somehow making the invisible visible. As such they are considered visual equivalents of Sacred Scripture. 

Probably the best-known of all icons is that of Andrei Rublev. Rublev’s icon of the Trinity was painted around 1410 in Moscow. It is a visual depiction of the mysterious story from the Book of Genesis of the three angels who visited Abraham. Abraham serves them a meal, and it seems that these ‘angels’ are metaphor for the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. In the background we see a house in the upper left and a tree in the center. A rocky hillside lies in the upper right hand corner. The whole composition forms a great circle around the table, drawing our attention to the chalice-like bowl at its center, a clear reminder of the altar at communion.

Although the ‘angels’ are shown as equals, each one wears different clothing. On the right the Holy Spirit has a garment of sky blue and a cloak of green, for the Creator Spirit breathed in heaven and on earth. In the center the Son wears a garment of reddish-brown the color of earth and a cloak of heavenly blue, for in his person he unites heaven and earth; he is truly human, truly divine. The Father is clothed in a garment of indescribable fabric that changes with the light, for no one has seen the Father. The light that shines about the heads of all three is pure white, the whiteness of untouchable light.

The Father looks forward, raising his hand in blessing to the Son; as if to say, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” The hand of the Son points to the Spirit. And we viewers complete the circle. Each Person holds a staff for their journey, since they accompany us on our journey across the face of the earth.

This great icon invites us into the depth and intimacy of life in God. Led by the Spirit, we are invited to live in the shadow of the Son of God, resting beneath his tree of life as we journey home to the house of our Father.

See Excerpted from Father Emmanuel's homily for the Solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

On Trinity Sunday

Once some years ago there was a note tacked to our community bulletin board by a departing monastic observer. It seems he  had opened his broken heart to the Lord and experienced the overwhelming everything of God’s forgiveness and great love for him. The note read something like this: “I think this monastery should be called Saint Joseph’s Heart Surgery Unit, for here my heart has been broken open, healed and put back together.”

To begin open-heart surgery, first of all the sternum is sawed in half, then the rib cage is cranked open the to make the heart available to the surgeon’s hands. How like the hands of God, the careful fingers of the Spirit who embraces our broken hearts, exposing them to the fullness of Father’s love for us, revealed in the wounded heart of Christ.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Saint Anthony of Padua

As we remember Saint Anthony today, we recall our mothers and dads, uncles and aunts begging him to help them find lost objects. "Dear Saint Anthony, please look around. Something is lost and must be found." Saint Anthony always helped. The saints after all are our family and on their "constant intercession...we rely for unfailing help." They care for us, because they are with Christ in God. We are not forgotten, we are connected.

The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were "put in charge of many things." Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.  from  the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Drawing of Saint Anthony of Padua by Guercino. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

To Pray

Beauty is the word that shall be our first. Beauty is the last thing which the thinking intellect dares to approach, since only it dances as an uncontained splendor around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another. Beauty is the disinterested one… Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself…. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name… can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines by Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Never Orphaned

Christ has no hands but yours; no feet but yours; no voice but yours. Saint Teresa of Avila

Jesus said to the disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” He then promises them, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you…I will love those who love me and will reveal myself to them.” That promise of Jesus is fulfilled with the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit has been breathed into them, into us. Jesus has not left us orphaned. In Scripture orphans and widows are those alone, abandoned, defenseless and vulnerable.

We all fear being orphaned - alone, vulnerable, powerless. It is a fear that points to a deeper reality that by ourselves, we are not enough, we were not created to be alone. We were created to love and to be loved; to live in relationship; to dwell, abide, remain within one another as the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father. This is the reality that Jesus offers us in breathing his Spirit into us.

Regardless of the circumstances of our lives, the ups and downs, the deaths and separations, we have never been and will never be orphaned by God. But is our love growing and expanding to all, far and near, no matter how different they are; no matter what language they speak? If so, then Jesus’ Spirit is for us a present reality, closer to us than we are to ourselves. This is what it means to know, to taste the fulfillment of his promise not to leave us orphaned. If we set limits on our love; if we remain self-enclosed and locked in the isolation of our upper rooms, then we relegate ourselves and each other to the orphanages of the world. Jesus’ promise is still real, and he remains faithful. Every time we expand our lungs with the in-flowing breath of Jesus, we expand the limits of our love and create space where the Father and Jesus make their home. 
Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Excerpts from Abbot Damian's Pentecost homily.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

In the Spirit

The kingdom happens when the love of Christ Jesus becomes the truth that inspires us into acting in his name. As one prayer will put it, “In the midst of conflict and division, we know it is you who turn our minds to thoughts of peace. Your Spirit changes our hearts: enemies begin to speak to one another, those who were estranged join hands in friendship, and nations seek the way of peace together. Your Spirit is at work when understanding puts an end to strife, when hatred is quenched by mercy, and vengeance gives way to forgiveness.'

The Spirit is always draws us together, always heals divisions  -  in our world, in our family, in our community, in our hearts. On this Pentecost we pray that, Spirit-filled, we may be healers and unifiers.
Photographs by Brother Brian.

Saturday, June 8, 2019


This day we pray and prepare for the Solemnity of Pentecost.

Come, thou Holy Spirit, come,
and from thy celestial home
shed a ray of light divine!

Come, thou Father of the poor!
Come, thou Source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine!

Thou, of comforters the best;
thou, the soul's most welcome guest;
sweet refreshment here below.

In our labor, rest most sweet;
grateful coolness in the heat;
solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill!

Where thou art not, man hath nought,
nothing good in deed or thought,
nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
on our dryness pour thy dew;
wash the stains of guilt away.

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
melt the frozen, warm the chill;
guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
and confess thee, evermore
in thy sevenfold gift descend.

Give them virtue's sure reward
give them thy salvation, Lord;
give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Welcoming God's Spirit

Come, Creator Spirit,
visit the minds of your children,
and fill the hearts you have made,
with heavenly grace.

You are called the Comforter,
the gift of God most high,
living spring, and fire, love,
and spiritual anointing. 

You are sevenfold in your gifts,
the finger of God’s right hand;
you are the Father’s  true promise,
endowing our tongues with speech. 

Enkindle your light in our senses,
infuse your life in our hearts;
strengthen our bodies’ weakness
by your never failing might.

Drive far away our foe,
and grant peace without end,
that with you to lead us on,
we may escape all harm. 

Grant us, through you,
to know the Father, also the Son;
may we ever believe in you,
the Spirit of them both.

In preparation for the great Solemnity of Pentecost, we pray our novena to the Holy Spirit. And each evening at Vespers, we chant this ancient Latin hymn. We share a fine translation completed by one of the monks.

Monday, June 3, 2019

With the Martyrs

We want to keep choosing to love, to stir up our ardor, to follow Jesus moment to moment. And we are inspired today by the witness of the young martyrs of Uganda, Charles Lwanga and his companions. Refusing to accede to the sinful demands of their king, they were condemned to death. They sang and prayed as they were burned on a giant pyre. 

Doing our small duties with love and faithfulness is the least we can do.

Sunday, June 2, 2019


Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.  John 17

We are the Father's gift to Jesus, and he wants to bring us to be with him always, that we may see him face to face. Jesus wants us to know the Father and be known by him just as he is known by him. Through the Spirit Jesus Christ our Lord draws us into the beauty and truth that God is - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This union with the Triune God is not a reality too high and well beyond our reach but totally accessible to us because God always wants to give Godself away to us more and more and more than we can imagine.

Photograph of the Abbey garth by Brother Brian.