Monday, May 31, 2021

With Utmost Haste


Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth. 
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy SpiritLuke 1

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, the distance is about a four-day journey on foot. Mary is in haste out of joy and wonder. It is a joy and wonder that will issue in praise of the dawn of universal salvation. And when the child in Mary's womb comes near to the infant John in Elizabeth's womb, Elizabeth cries out in praise and prophecy, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary has set out and traveled in haste, all because love and joy have put a liveliness in her step. 

This phrase that describes how Mary goes to visit Elizabeth is the very phrase used by Saint Benedict in chapter 43 of his Rule to describe how a monk on hearing the signal for an hour of the Work of God will go to the church. He will “immediately set aside what he has in hand and go with utmost haste, yet with gravity and without giving occasion for frivolity.” The love of God must so animate the hearts of Benedict's monks that they move with a liveliness, an urgency, joy, and wonder like Mary’s.  Lovers do not walk towards each other, they run. So the monks go with utmost haste to praise the Lord at the Work of God.

The Visitation by Giotto.  Meditation by Father Luke.

Sunday, May 30, 2021


For God to be Trinity means that God explodes with delight from within.  Such delight requires mutuality of persons, for it is delight at knowing and being known, delight at belonging to Another, delight at the inability of having one’s own existence apart from that Other, delight in never for all eternity having been absent from the life of the beloved Other, delight that celebrates its freedom in a playful, unstoppable dance that has as stage the whole enraptured cosmos and that thrills in abiding with the blessed Two who are Persons other than Oneself.  This explosive, world-creating energy of delight wells up from the bosom of the Blessed Trinity. 

What is good is “diffusive of itself”, says St. Thomas. God is too good, and therefore too “diffusive” of himself—too exuberant and squandering of his Being—to keep his secret delight to himself. The action of a divine self-outpouring is a central biblical category already at work from the first verses of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…. And the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light.’” Each of these verbs—creating, moving, and saying—imply a dynamic outward movement on God’s part, beyond the sphere of his own self-sufficient Being and into the void of nothingness, that he may pour himself out into what is not God. Note the Trinitarian undertones present in Scripture from the outset: God creates not out of a splendid isolation but with the collaboration of “the Beginning, the First Principle, who says: “I was beside him as his craftsman.” The Father created all things in the Word through the Spirit.  Every action of God is a self-outpouring of divine life that in no way depletes the Being of God.  

The expansive throbbing of God’s triune Heart can never quite contain itself. The beaming forth of  primal triune joy provides the blissful pattern for all created love and friendship. From the Trinity we learn that our own greatest joy should be to fill someone else with life.

Reflection by Father Simeon

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Saint Philip Neri


Today we remember Saint Philip Neri, an ardent lover of the Lord and a man of great joy and cheerfulness. Known for his playful wit, he once remarked, "A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one." We love the story of an overwrought Roman fashionista who once came to Saint Philip seeking counsel. She told him of scruples over her vanity -  she was fond of wearing the high-heeled shoes that were all the rage. Philip told her his only fear was that she might fall over. 

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said that “joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Joy is the fruit of real confidence in God's ineffable mercy. This is our joy as monks - we see over and over again our fumbling and sinfulness and learn to rejoice because Christ's mercy is always available to us.

Saint Philip Neri, Carlo Dolci, Italian, 1645 or 1646, oil on canvas, 17 1/4 × 14 1/4 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Mary, Mother of the Church

From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! We chant these words each morning. It is our privilege to spend our day praying and working and doing all things that the Lord's name may be praised.

The monastery is an expression of the mystery of the Church, where nothing is preferred to the praise of the Father's glory. Every effort is made to ensure that the common life in its entirety conforms to the Gospel, which is the supreme law. In this way, the community will not be lacking in any spiritual gift. The monks strive to remain in harmony with all the people of God and share their active desire for the unity of all Christians. By fidelity to their monastic way of life, which has its own hidden mode of apostolic fruitfulness, monks perform a service for God's people and the whole human race. Each community of the Order and all the monks are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother, and Symbol of the Church in the order of faith, love, and perfect union with Christ. The organization of the monastery is directed to bringing the monks into close union with Christ since it is only through the experience of personal love for the Lord Jesus that the specific gifts of the Cistercian vocation can flower. Only if the brothers prefer nothing whatever to Christ will they be happy to persevere in a life that is ordinary, obscure, and laborious.

Photograph of the Abbey church at sunset by Charles O'Connor. Quotation from The Constitutions of the Monks.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Pentecost Sunday


On this great feast of Pentecost, I feel sympathy for the devout Jews staying in Jerusalem, who witnessed the proclamation of the mighty works of God by the disciples. But like those bystanders, I am a little puzzled about what is going on? Are these people drunk? Are they religious fanatics? What is the source of their boldness? The simple answer is the Holy Spirit. But to recapture the experience of the Spirit by Our Lady and the disciples is difficult since we are so far removed from the event. But I think we can assume one thing: their experience was consistent with the experience of the People of God at other moments in salvation history. And to show that I will take two elements from the first reading. 

The first element is wind. The Spirit blows where he wills, but always to manifest the mighty deeds of God. This was the experience of God’s people at the crossing of the Red Sea. The Lord drove back the sea with a strong east wind and the Israelites passed through dry-shod. Today the Spirit is blowing through the cenacle and urging the disciples to go forward, not just through the Red Sea but to the ends of the earth to sing the Song of Moses & the Lamb to all who will listen.

Or again, Pentecost might be compared to what Ezekiel experienced in the broad valley with dry bones lying everywhere. The disciples had gotten over the initial shock of Jesus’ resurrection, but now they realized the truth of his words that apart from him and without the promise of the Father they could do nothing. They were like dry bones until Jesus would pour out the dew of the Spirit upon them. And that is our experience, too. But when the Spirit arrived, it was like the rush and clatter of dry bones being knit together, this time into the Church. The Spirit came with the four winds and breathed new life into the disciples, stood them on their feet, and sent them out to proclaim the marvels of God.

Finally, the experience of Pentecost might be compared to the love song between the bride and the bridegroom, when the bride cries out, “Awake, O north wind, and come O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its fragrance be wafted abroad.” At Pentecost, the Spirit is sending out the perfume of the Church to fill and captivate all creation in the knowledge of the mighty works of God.

But there is another aspect of this magnificent feast which is really the inner source of it all: the fire. I interpret this fire to be the inner being of the Holy Trinity, which is like fire. It is the mystery of total self-giving. When the Father gives to the Son, he gives all; when the Son receives all with thanksgiving, he gives everything back to the Father. And the Spirit, as he reflects this giving and receiving, holds back nothing for himself but is all witness to the glory of this inner exchange of fire in God – the fire of love. This fire is like the fire which lapped up the water and devoured the sacrifice which Elijah prepared, only in this case, the fire does not destroy but enlivens.

Today the Spirit is continuing this work of salvation begun with the People of Israel and drawing us into the heart of the Trinity. He is making a way for us through the Red Sea of this world as the Paschal candle led us through the night of the vigil; he is joining us bone to bone as one body and has become our very breath of life, and he is sending up the sweet fragrance of the bride’s garden to draw all people to God. But above all, he is manifesting the inner fire of the Trinity, which seeks to unite us in the unending sacrificial offering for which we were created. No wonder the onlookers were astounded!

Today's Homily by Dom Vincent.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Today we celebrate Blessed Franz Jägerstätter who refused to serve in the German Wehrmacht. He was convinced that as a devout Catholic he could not engage in active military service. His was one of the most prominent acts of resistance by an ordinary Austrian during World War II. In addition, Jägerstätter denounced Wehrmacht war crimes on the Eastern front, long before anyone publicly dared any critique of what became known as the Holocaust. Franz Jägerstätter was imprisoned and beheaded by the Nazis on this day in 1943. He is the patron saint of conscientious objectors.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, we watched Terrence Malick's very moving film about Franz Jägerstätter. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021



Why is the world so messed up?

I asked God,

So much anger, violence, poverty,

And everywhere I look

I see fear and doubt and loneliness.

Where in all this sadness,

Is your light -

Your grace-

Your touch?

Take your boots off,

said God.

Lines from "Soul Whispers" by Edwina Gateley. Image by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Please, Come

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.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Personal History of Awe


John’s Gospel is believed to have been written for the church of Ephesus at the end of 1st century; it addresses an emerging Christian community in transition, adjusting to their separation from Judaism; many or all of these early Christians have in fact been expelled from the synagogue. Certainly, they are disoriented.

And so appropriately John writes a highly symbolic text, which invites them to a radical reorientation. I suspect it may have been intended as a consolation for them, a reminder that as Christians they and we belong to a different reality, a new world that is hidden under the outer reality of things. “If the world hates you,” says Jesus. “Know that it has hated me before it hated you. Been there. It’s not where you belong anyway.” John’s language is one of radical relationality. “I am in my Father, and you are in me.” And this morning as he prays for us to his Father, I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world,” Jesus’ words reorient us. The “world” in this Gospel is all reality opposed to Jesus and his way of compassion and self-offering. As disciples we believers like our 1st-century forebears are not in that world but in a new world of radical relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit, imbedded in the Trinity, for we have been born from above.

Still, like those early Christians, we too experience the tension of a world not yet fully transformed, a situation that is ‘already’ and ‘not yet.’ And as monks, we have Saint Benedict to exhort us, “Your way of acting should be different from the world's way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” Benedict reminds us where we belong, better still to whom we belong. It is our love of Christ, but first of all His love for us that has changed everything.

Indeed only such love can reorient us. And we live now longing for Love’s in-breaking; transformative moments, when we can see that in Christ we are “out of this world”- out of the system that puts aggression and success first, the world of political discourse where one-upmanship takes hold, a world where ease and accomplishment grant status and prestige. We belong somewhere else; we have been called into a new order, a new cosmos named the kingdom- where Christ’s power over us is shown best in our weakness, where compassion trumps fear, where the truth of Jesus’ suffering and death into resurrection redefine any earthly notion of how to make it in life. As monks, we are poised to notice glimpses of this new world.

The American scholar Scott Sanders has written a wonderful book entitled, A Personal History of Awe. Sanders begins the book like this: "Words dice the world into pieces small enough for the mind to hold, but the world itself is undivided. Every being, from lilac to lover, overflows the boundaries of its name. And this is all the more true of Being itself, that current rippling through all things…The moments I choose to recount are those in which the shell of my small life has cracked open to reveal this nameless and perennial source." Sanders like John invites us to notice a world drenched with meaning/meanings. He writes about moments when the world becomes transparent to God’s kind presence.

I’d like to share with you one of those moments he recounts in his book. It happens when Scott is about ten years old. While repairing the foundation of their dilapidated barn, his Dad, a drinker whose wife is constantly hounding him, disturbs a beehive. The angry bees swarm, and his father gets badly stung. He rushes into the house and takes off his shirt. Dozens of stingers cover every quarter of his body above the waist.

Sanders tells us: “I had often seen my father without his shirt because he liked to work that way in hot weather, but seeing him now, upright at the table, with welts rising all over his ruddy skin, and seeing Mama bent over him, pulling out the stingers and then tenderly dabbing the spots with cotton soaked in ammonia, the two of them oblivious for the moment of Glenn or Sandra or me, their fights forgotten, it came over me how beautiful they were, and how much they loved one another. The love seemed larger than my parents, larger than all five of us in the kitchen, larger than our ragged farm…large enough to hold every creature and river and stone on earth. Right there was a taste of heaven, I decided. If Dad could have just kept sitting at the kitchen table and Mama could have just kept tweezing out those stingers and dabbing the welts gingerly, while we three kids stood by watching like a little chorus, all of us caught up in a force brighter and bigger than sunshine, we might have been happy forever. “But,” he concludes, “the clock ticked on.”

Indeed the clock ticks on, and here we are longing for glimpses of divine presence, when we may notice reality cracking open and our hearts suddenly available to the transcendent. Like Scott Sanders, we each have our own personal history of awe, when we may have glimpsed the “more” we’re made for. For we hope in the Word made flesh who continues to parse himself into smaller words and moments, bite-sized morsels so that we may savor him, savor his presence and savor our own blessed selves as indwelt and awesome. These moments attest to divinity, holiness forever thinly veiled and sometimes suddenly accessible; moments when we catch sight of mystery and the love that surrounds us more lavishly than we may have believed possible.

We are meant for these awesome previews of paradise, the world alive and laden with the holiness of Christ’s presence, drenching as it were all of reality; a moment when you noticed a wildflower and “knew the beauty of Our Lord by it;” a moment when a passage of Scripture became a burning bush; a moment when a kindness or a kind word given or received had the power to change everything.

The power of Jesus’ love overshadowing and embracing our weakness is the truth in which we live. The Bread and Wine we share will reawaken and remind us that we are always on the threshold, transparent to the mystery we bear, the mystery that we are.

Friday, May 14, 2021


At his Ascension, Jesus is presented to the Father whose throne he has been destined to share as an equal. The Father has glorified with himself the same Christ who is his own Son. And the Son of Man is glorified with the glory which he had before the world began. Heaven rejoices at having restored to it the Truth sprung from the earth. Jesus’ Ascension to the right hand of the Father is indeed the crown and consummation of all the other festivities and brings to a happy completion the journey of the Son of God.

Text adapted from words of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Time of Jesus

They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven."

Since Easter, we have been accompanied by the bodily presence of the Resurrected Lord. We have been present with Mary Magdalen when she went in the early morning to the tomb, and when he later appeared to her as she wept, we have been alongside Peter and John as they ran to the empty tomb and examined the burial cloths, we have walked with Lord on the way to Emmaus, and listened as he opened the mysteries of the Scriptures, we have seen him appear through closed doors, reveal himself in the breaking of bread, expose his wounded side to the doubtful Thomas, and so on. In all this we have looked on as this rhythm of manifestation and concealment, hiddenness and appearance unfolded; unpredictable, yet executed in astonishing, absolute, and sovereign freedom. Today we see the risen Christ appear in bodily form to the disciples for the last time and, for the last time, vanish from their sight. As the disciples looked on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took them from their sight, as read in Luke. Now he has been taken up into heaven and has taken his seat at the right hand of God. The disciples worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.

We rejoice today with them because we know that at Jesus’ Ascension absolutely nothing of the concreteness of the resurrection appearances has been lost, his presence is now hidden, but no less intimate, and, most importantly, it has been universalized. Whereas his resurrection appearances were limited by time and space, the glorified and ascended Christ is now able to hand himself over wholly and entirely to everyone anywhere and at any time. As the two men dressed in white said to the apostles: “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going up into heaven”.  He remains united with the world, not only through the partaking of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist but also by his power of acting in the world, particularly in the members of his body.  The apostles are to be his witnesses of this good news “in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” “And behold, Jesus says, “I am with you always, until the end of the age." 

In Christ, our humanity has been glorified, raised up, and seated at the right hand of the Father, “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion” In Him, the soul is wholly filled with divine understanding and conformed to the divine will, and the body is wholly submitted to the soul, as its willing servant. Of course, this glory is not something that the Lord has accomplished in order to hold on to for himself; he wants it to be ours, not only in the world to come but even now, insofar as life in this world allows. He wants us to share now in this glory out of love for us but, even more so, out of love for his Father.

When his hour had come, and his passion was about to begin, Jesus prayed, “Father…glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him… Father, I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do; and now Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world began. The Son glorifies the Father by our glorification; by giving back to the Father everything that the Father has given him. Each gives the other a gift as perfect as his divinity allows. The Father gives the Son man, the image of his image, his Son; the Son gives man back, as a glorified human nature eternally, unchangeable, and inseparably united to his Divine Nature. This mutual gift is their greatest joy and today we celebrate its completion in the Ascension. Of course, their joy is not complete until we join them. Even though we remain here below in our very much earthly humanity, pulled about by various desires and subject to temptations of all sorts, our glorified humanity in the glorified and ascended God-man already dwells in heaven in perfect unity with the eternal beatitude of the Father. Even now we are called to participate in this great mystery through Christ’s body, the Church.

Our task is to make this gift bodily present. For this, we look to Jesus as our model, for he not only holds out the gift to us but shows us the way to receive it, by his very existence, in everything he does. As God’s Son Jesus comes forth from the Father and returns to the Father. He is the uninterrupted reception of everything that he is, of his very self, from the Father. In receiving himself from the Father he also receives the Father’s will, to which he freely gives his yes as one with his own will.

This unity of will with the Father is something Jesus insists on in a whole variety of ways throughout the gospel, particularly in John. Jesus says, ““I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me”. Jesus does nothing of himself: a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also, "I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.  He doesn’t speak on his own authority: I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak”. This negative limitation is wholly at the service of the positive: doing the will of his Father; and this has its ground in his mission, in their common decision that he should come to us, reveal the Father’s love, and return us to him; restored, whole and glorified.

As Son begotten of the Father it is his essence to receive everything from another, from the Father; as the perfect unity of what he is and what he does, his whole existence is receptivity: openness to the will of the Father, and fulfillment of that will. It belongs to his nature to be always at the Father’s disposal. For Jesus real-time is God’s time. Unlike us, who are subject to sin and the claims of unruly desires, for Jesus there is no time outside of God’s time: work, prayer, leisure, rest are all in God’s time. To such an extent that any time that would not be God’s time would be outside of God and not time at all.  

Our life, if it is to be fruitful, must also participate in this real-time of Jesus: which, like his, must be an existence that is fundamentally receptive. This is not passivity; it requires the full and active engagement of all our powers. Jesus did not receive his mission once and for all, but at every moment; for us, too, the Holy Spirit comes to us as every moment with grace that is ever fresh, ever new, always specific, unique, and adapted to the circumstances that greet us in our day, leading and guiding us as the commissioned Spirit of Truth along the way of the Father’s will.

It seems to me that there are two main poles that we want to avoid if we are not to fall out of this real-time, and therefore outside of God. In both cases, we use time to carve out our own existence. In one, the daily monastic rhythm of work and prayer with its accompanying structure becomes an unwelcome, alienating, and cumbersome burden to set ourselves against in a state of perpetual struggle. In the other, it becomes something to perfect, master, and conquer, like a mountain peak on which we would plant our flag when we get to the top. In both cases, we have displaced God and inserted ourselves at the center. We then find our efforts, victims of our Father the vinedresser’s pruning knife, carefully snipped away from the vine to be cast into the fire to be burned.

We are called instead to lift up our hearts. As Paul says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  From the beginning, God planned to give mankind all good things, but from the beginning we have made of ourselves an obstacle, impatiently grasping after this good ourselves, in our own way, in our own time, according to our own lights. To receive the extraordinary goods that are being held out to us, as God sees fit, in his own time, we need to undergo being reconfigured to the meekness of the Lamb, who came from above but spent his life as one led. As St. Bernard exhorts his monks, “Let us follow the Lamb, brethren, wherever he goes". Let us follow him in his suffering, let us follow him in his rising, let us follow him more joyously in his ascension into heaven.”

And finally, as we prepare in these days for the coming of the Spirit let us heed the counsel of the Letter to the Hebrews and rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader, and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Today's homily by Father Timothy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

His Ascension


As we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, we are reminded again that our faith is a dark mystery. If Jesus reminds us “It is better for you that I go,” it is because his absence will allow a fuller, richer, more mysterious experience of his presence through the Holy Spirit. 

Imagine someone you love and really care for insisting, “It is better for you that I go.” How can this be? With the disciples, we gaze upwards in wonder at the wounded and resurrected Jesus who promises, “Fear not. I am with you always.” 

Ascension in an Initial V
Niccolò di Ser Sozzo (Sienese, active 1348– died 1363)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021


It is for others to serve God, it for you to cling to him; it is for others to believe in God, know him, love him and revere him; it is for you to taste him, understand him, know him well, enjoy him. 

With these words, our Cistercian Father, William of St. Thierry, reminds us of our call to deep familiarity with God in contemplation.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Every year during Eastertide, we listen to excerpts from the Last Supper Discourse, about four chapters long in the second half of the Gospel of John. Sections like today's Gospel: “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love...
You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. 
I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.

Jesus draws us into the very heart of his relationship with his Father. I listen, but I lose my bearings. There is surely a beauty to the language but also a circularity. I get confused. I want to say to Jesus, “Wait. What do you mean?” It’s just the wrong question. Asking what it means would be beside the point - like standing at the Grand Canyon and saying, “Wait, I don’t get it, what does it mean?” Or asking a person who is doing an unexpected kindness for you, “What exactly do you mean?” Or interrupting someone who’s kissing you very tenderly, “Excuse me, what do you mean by that?”

We are embedded in God, as beloved as Jesus is; the relationship is ours. Simple, astounding. We are invited to let ourselves be swept into the reality of mutual love that unites Father and Son. (See Francis Moloney) And it’s happening, we’re in it. Non-resistance is crucial; it’s like driving on ice, you don’t put on the brakes; drive into the skid, the flow, gently, attentively. God has lost himself in love for us. God is most truly Godself when he gives himself away.

The self-forgetful love and intimacy of Father and beloved Son are where we belong. Jesus begs his Father that we may be swept up into the reality of God’s own “mutual love and indwelling.”(Moloney) “That the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

In Christ God reveals Godself as lost in love for his own creatures who tragically reject him. In his unending love, Jesus empowers us to be God’s children, siblings with him of the one Father, and even more his dear friends. In John’s Gospel friendship is the ultimate description of our relationship with God. (See Sandra Schneiders) “I no longer call you servants,” says Jesus, “rather now I call you friends, for I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” Everything the Father has and is belongs to Jesus and he wants to give it all to us; this everything of God’s love and desire for us. 

We know that true friendship can really only happen between equals. And so friendship with God in Christ may seem like an exquisite, somewhat poetic, impossibility. It is impossible for us. We must depend on the Spirit to arrange things; we need the groaning of the Spirit to work out this relationship.

True friendship with God is accessible, possible because through the power of the Spirit. God has opened his heart to us, longing for our friendship. A God who is love would be inconceivable without the reality of the incompleteness that is love, the inner voice, the deep desire that says, “I cannot be me without you. You cannot be you without me.”(Jeremy Driscoll) This is the truth of who God is in the Trinity. In this mutual exchange, deferring to each other in love, Father, Son and Spirit utter these words to one another and to each of us. “I cannot be me without you.” 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Thoughts by one of the monks.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Cistercian Martyrs

In March of 1996, Dom Christian de Chergé and six monks from the Abbey of Tibhirine in Algeria were kidnapped and found dead two months later. This morning we celebrate our  Blessed Cistercian brothers. We are at once humbled and inspired by the passion of their perseverance, the passion of their self-offering.

But let us be clear. Even as he anticipated the possibility of his own death, Dom Christian feared that his dear Muslim friends would be blamed for his murder. He absolutely did not want this.

The only grace he eagerly awaited was at last in heaven to see, as God sees – to see the children of Islam all shining with the glory of Christ, all differences at last brought into communion and divine likeness by the joyful Gift of the Spirit. 

As each morning we receive Holy Communion, we pray for this same compassionate communion among all people, that the differences we so often cherish may be erased by a love beyond understanding. For our reluctance, let us beg God’s mercy.

Friday, May 7, 2021


The love Jesus expects of us seems to be truly unmanageable. “This is my commandment,” he says, “love one another as I love you.”  How can I possibly love like that?

The seeming impossibility, the unmanageability of loving as God loves is exactly the point. We cannot possibly do it. Only the overshadowing of God’s Spirit can transform and stretch our hearts wide open.

Unfortunately, I too often resist the Spirit’s stretch.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by one of the monks.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Mary's Month

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known in any age that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your powerful intercession, was ever left unaided. Inspired with this same childlike confidence, I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you, I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word made flesh, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

In May Mary's month and in every month this ancient prayer to Mary called the Memorare is a great consolation. Mary is our protector and a model for all our efforts at prayer and faithfulness.

Our Constitutions remind us, "By fidelity to their monastic way of life, which has its own hidden mode of apostolic fruitfulness, monks perform a service for God's people and the whole human race. Each community of the Order and all the monks are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Symbol of the Church in the order of faith, love and perfect union with Christ."
Detail of painting by Caravaggio.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

True Vine

One of the spectacular ornaments of the Jerusalem Temple was a golden vine with clusters of grapes as tall as a man. The vine, the vineyard, was a favorite symbol in the Jewish Scriptures representing Israel. It was a symbol that would have an immediate and obvious meaning to those who first heard today’s Gospel, and it would color how they heard Jesus’ claim to be the true vine—they could easily take it as implying that Israel is a false vine, as Jeremiah once prophesized: “I planted you as a fruitful vine, entirely genuine (true). How have you become a wild vine, turned to bitterness?”

But whatever indirect polemicizing against the Synagogue the evangelist may intend, the reality Jesus is describing by using the imagery of vine and branches, and mentioning his Father to justify his claim, is that he is the source of real life to his disciples, a life that can come only from above and from the Father. When John uses the word “true” or “real” here, it is not in contrast to “false” or “unreal,” but is typical of the dualism running throughout the Fourth Gospel which distinguishes “what is below” from “what is above,” the contrast between the earthly and the heavenly. The point, then, is that Jesus is the vine in the sense in which only the Son of God can be the vine, not that Israel produced sour grapes.

The Son identifies himself with the vine; he himself has become the vine. He has let himself be planted in the earth. He has entered into the vine. The vine is no longer merely a creature (i.e. Israel) that God looks upon with love but could still uproot and reject, or allow to be plundered. No, in the Son, God himself has become the vine; he has forever identified himself, his very being, with the vine. The vine belongs once and for all to God, who himself lives in it. What this means for us, as Benedict XVI tells us in his book Jesus of Nazareth is that “the promise has become irrevocable, the unity indestructible—God has taken this great new step within history, and this constitutes the deepest content of the parable.”

What is also original here, and not found in the OT at all, is that the vine is presented as life-giving. Just as Jesus is the source of living water and is the bread from heaven that gives life, so he is the life-giving vine. Just as the branch gets its life from the vine, so the disciple gets life from Jesus.

It is interesting that until now in John’s Gospel, the metaphors that concern receiving Jesus’ gift of life have involved external actions: one has had to drink the water or eat the bread to have life. The imagery of the vine, in contrast, is more intimate, more immanent: one must remain in Jesus as a branch remains on a vine in order to have life, and this remaining on the vine is above all symbolic of love, fruitful love. Branches that decide to “go it alone,” to live without the life of the vine, will wither and die—good for nothing but fire. Here Jesus tells the disciples: “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing.”

But that confronts us with a fundamental yet crucial question: what does it mean to “abide in Christ”? How do we practice this? How do we “remain” in him? St. John tells us, “by keeping his commandments.” But perhaps it is as simple (and difficult) as this: we abide by letting go, yielding, giving our “yes” to God. We stop trying to be stand-alone, self-sufficient vines, and become content to be branches. We know from experience that this is, after all, the essence of contemplative prayer—a practice of handing ourselves over to a reality that is given, that we don’t invent or construct or have to make-believe.

This “letting go” is a matter of faith, and it’s frightening at first. Why? To believe in Christ is different from and more than believing about Christ, even that Jesus is the Son of God. To believe in him is to entrust ourselves to him, to build our life on him, not by holding onto him or ideas about him, but by letting ourselves be held by him. The difficulty for us is that until we have given ourselves, “let go,” given our “yes” to God, we don’t know for sure that we will be held. In other words, faith that is “an abiding in Christ” isn’t a matter of having certain propositions in my head, but discovering myself welcome and at home in a compassionate reality vastly bigger than me. This is not something we achieve but is a gift received. Nonetheless, we discover that the more we yield to, or make ourselves available to this reality, the more our whole life shares in its life and energy. And that’s what proves its truth. Faith is daring to entrust ourselves to a reality that is, in James Alison’s words, “massively prior to us.”

So, how do we ever do this? I would suggest that we dare this only when we desire it deeply enough—when our yearning to be fully real, our yearning for God, has ripened (through much “pruning”). We dare to really let go only when we have come to the end of all the ways we try to hang on to some piece of ourselves, some safety net, some part of our life not yielded to Christ. Although we’re not sure exactly what we are getting into, we let go when we know in our bones there’s nothing else for us to do, and we desire him. That day we say a real “yes.” The spiritual life is, at core, the practice of continuing to say “yes” at deeper and deeper levels of our being. But we can do this only because Christ first truly abides in us more than we can imagine, through the Holy Spirit he has given us. That brings me to a brief final thought. 

The startling new twist in this Gospel is not only that the Son himself now has become the vine, but this is precisely his method for remaining one with his own, with all the scattered children of God whom he has come to gather. The Good News this morning is that the vine signifies concretely Jesus’ inseparable oneness with us, who through him and with him are all “vine,” and whose calling is to “remain” in the vine—to remain one with him and in him through his gift of the Spirit. The fruit we as branches of the vine can and must bear with Christ is love—a love that accepts with him the mystery of the Cross and becomes a participation in his self-giving.

Today we are the “vine” adorning the Temple of His Body, with clusters of grapes taller than any one of us. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. This morning's homily by Father Dominic.