Sunday, July 5, 2020

In the Spirit

Today we begin our annual community retreat. It is an important moment, not only as a special time to reflect on our monastic life, but also to think about our future and the transition to new leadership. So what is our situation? What is God asking of us at this time? What is the one thing necessary, or the two or three things? Thankfully, we can trust that God will give us a word that speaks to our situation today, and I think he does, if only we will listen to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel are like a window into his intimate relationship with his Father. In Luke’s version Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father…such has been your gracious will…No one knows who the Father is except the Son…” One thing necessary for our vocation is to look through this window of Jesus’ praise to see this intimate and familiar exchange of glory and honor that proceeds from the Father through the Son and back again from the Son to the Father – an eternal round of glory to glory. But not only are we to gaze upon this glory, but actually to participate in it. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. The one thing necessary is to allow the Holy Spirit to clear away what the wise and the learned find so absorbing, and receive from him a share in the mutual and unending gift of self that proceeds from the Father and the Son, which, in fact, is the Holy Spirit.

But there is a second thing that is necessary in our vocation. Zechariah points to it when he says: “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to continually urge “daughter Zion” and “daughter Jerusalem” – that is, the Church – to move in the direction of her meek and humble king, the one who by his death and resurrection removes all her indebtedness to the flesh. The Spirit accomplishes this movement by stirring up the friends of the Bridegroom to cry out, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!
’ Brothers, we are those friends of the Bridegroom. The Spirit wants us to cry out, not so much by words as by humility.

This is one of the mysteries of the Spirit. On the one hand, he manifests himself in overwhelming ways – think the giving of the Law on Sinai, when the Spirit enveloped the mountain in fire; or when Elijah was challenging the prophets of Baal, and the Spirit came down as a consuming fire and devoured not only the sacrifice, but the water, the wood, the stones, and even the dust! On the other hand, the Spirit manifests himself in hidden and discrete ways, or as the Catechism puts it so wonderfully, with a “properly divine self-effacement.” He does not speak on his own, but only what he hears. He comes to Elijah on Mount Horeb as a tiny whispering sound. He guides the Church into all truth, the very foundation of humility. This is a third thing necessary for us: to witness to humility in the heart of the Church.

This time of retreat is a blessing for us, a time to reflect on the things really necessary in our vocation and mission, that is, in the Spirit to participate in the self-giving love and glory of Father and Son; to abide in the heart of the Church like leaven kneaded into three measures of flour; and to follow the Spirit’s lead on the ladder of humility. Let us entrust our retreat to Our Lady of Citeaux. She is the Spirit’s exemplar of participation in the life of God. Her humility draws the Church to the gate of the Eucharist and to the gate of our beautiful monastery.
Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Today's homily by Father Vincent.