Perhaps you know the story of the boy from Italy who comes to America with his father; they are going to live with relatives in New York City. They are very poor; the father has scraped together just enough to buy two tickets for passage on an ocean liner. The bit of money that is left is just enough to buy a giant wheel of cheese and a few loaves of bread. This will be their food for the entire trip. Then one day the little boy, precocious as he is, wanders around the ship and discovers a grand dining room. Plates full of food, so many people. He spots a family from his village. He runs to them and learns the amazing truth. Then he races back to his teeny cabin. "Papa," he says. "We can eat as much as we want; it's free, e gratuito; it comes with the ticket."
It comes with the ticket. God wants to regale us. "God is to be enjoyed," says St. Augustine. A banquet is prepared; Jesus is the banquet. But maybe too often we lower our heads and come with bowls that are much too small. We don't want to be greedy, or risk being disappointed, or seem too desperate. But Jesus wants to fill us with an infinity of compassion and mercy, fill us with himself. If only we knew the gift of God.
Pope Benedict has called this the "law of excess or superfluity;" the too-muchness of God. And it runs through the whole of salvation history and reaches its perfection in Christ. This superfluity is perfectly expressed in his signs and words, in his passion, dying and resurrection; it is he who reveals this boundlessness and immeasurability of God's love and compassion. Extravagant abundance announces the day of salvation in Christ.
Photograph by Brother Brian of a festive bouquet by the altar in the Abbey church.