Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul


One of the harsh graces of monastic life is that a memory can come back in a flash and pierce your heart wide open and lead you to beg for God’s mercy. So it is that I remember with embarrassment yelling at my Dad many years ago over some triviality. I was not proud of myself. And a day or so later, I had the sense to apologize. His response was simple, “Jimmy, you never have to apologize to me.” This touched me deeply. His words were my forgiveness. He knew me and understood me, he loved me. And I understood that the love, the relationship we had, meant more and could tolerate the breach. In the end, I think I really learned how to forgive and what it feels like to be forgiven - from my father. He simply was not a grudge-holder. And when I was trying to muster the courage to take steps toward entering this monastery, it was somehow imagining his words as the Father’s words deep in my heart that gave me the courage I needed, “Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”

I begin here because ultimately, Peter and Paul whom we feast today came to understand themselves as sinners, forgiven and understood and fully known by Christ Jesus – known in the fullest, richest sense of the biblical expression - a knowing that is highly personal, most intimate, and relational. It is the intimate knowledge we read about in Genesis - when Adam "knew Eve his wife." - and in the psalm, “O God, you search me, and you know me, you know my resting and my rising. You mark when I walk or lie down. All my ways lie open before you.” This is not about God spying on us, watching for our every misstep, it is rather all about God noticing, his constant, compassionate knowledge of who we are.

Peter and Paul come before us this morning, pointing quietly to the wounded Christ Jesus, whose mercy alone is their boast; they know for sure that on their own they have nothing to be proud of except their weaknesses.

Peter says he’s ready to die with Jesus; then betrays him in a heartbeat to save his skin. “Wait a minute; you’re one of that Galilean’s followers,” says the maid in the high priest’s courtyard. “I’d know that accent anywhere.” “Get out of here,” Peter mutters. “I don’t who you’re talking about.” Meanwhile, Jesus is next door being slapped and roughed up by soldiers, sentenced, and spat upon.

And Paul, so certain he is following the dictates of Law and prophets in every jot and tittle, has been self-righteously dragging the followers of Jesus to prison and persecution, utterly clueless that this Jesus is himself the fulfillment of all the Law and the prophets promised.

Each will be transformed by their graced encounter with the risen Lord. At a beachside breakfast, Peter will have the opportunity to reaffirm his love for Christ, “Lord you know well that I love you. You know all things.” Paul, suddenly blinded by the light of the risen Lord, will insist that he doesn’t even know who Jesus is. Jesus assures him, “You know me alright. I am the One you have been persecuting.” His conversion is underway.

Finally, there is Jesus’ question to Peter, tinged with self-doubt, magnificent in its quiet simplicity – “Who do you say that I am?” It is an achingly beautiful question that each of us must answer, “Who do you say that I am? Who am I for you? What is your experience of me in your life, in your history? How do you experience me now? Do you know that I know you, and love you well?” How shall each of us answer Our Lord? Perhaps when we come to understand who we are, how wounded we are, and who Jesus wants to be for us, we can say with Peter, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. You search me and you know me. All my ways lie open to you. You alone are my love, my fortress, my stronghold. All I want is to know is you Christ Jesus my Lord and the power flowing from your resurrection. Everything else is a pile of rubbish to me.”

Jesus did not give up on Peter or Paul and he will never, ever give up on us. He is a relentless rescuer, the God who saves us, even chases after us because he knows us. Our life of incessant prayer requires incessant awareness of how much he understands us, knows us in all our wavering and inconsistency and nothingness, and yet cannot bear to leave us alone. And so he comes once again to feed us with his very Self.

Saints Peter and Paul, 15th century, Fondamenta Cavour, Murano, Italy. Today's homily by one of the monks.

Sunday, June 27, 2021



It was physically and spiritually draining, being the woman with the hemorrhage. I can easily imagine that the possibility of healing would lead the woman with the hemorrhage (and what a thing to be known for throughout all time) to brazen and desperate measures. She emerged in public and touched a stranger’s cloak, a stranger who said things like, "Do not be afraid." But when she was miraculously healed, he knew instantly and called her forth from the crowd. She trembled with fear, but Jesus only said, in his perceptive, succinct way, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace." All we have to do is touch him. Just the hem of his cloak. Touch Jesus and...we will be restored to full spiritual health and vigor. Touch Jesus, and we will be sent forth, faithful, well, and in peace. Why do we make it so hard? 

Image by Brother Brian. Meditation taken from an article by Valerie Schultz from America, 2008.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Birthday of John the Baptist


Have you ever wondered if you were following God’s will for your life? Are the choices that I have made mine or God’s? Is it even possible to know? These are questions that many of us ask from time to time. I think absolute certainty is impossible. Perhaps even John the Baptist wondered if he was doing God’s will.

John had a special purpose to play in salvation history. He acted as the bridge between the Old and New Testaments. John was the last and in some ways the greatest of the Hebrew prophets. As the preface for today’s Mass says he was chosen “from all the prophets to show the world its redeemer, the Lamb of sacrifice.”

Jesus praised his greatness but at the same time said that even the least in the Kingdom was greater than he. While he knew and proclaimed Jesus as the one who was to come and the straps of whose sandals, he was not worthy to untie, he never saw Jesus as his Risen Lord, a privilege granted to the very least of the baptized.

He is often referred to as the Precursor, whose mission was to go ahead of the Messiah and proclaim his coming.  Hence the titles associated with him describe his vocation and mission, “The friend of the Bridegroom,” “The voice of one crying out in the desert,” and of course, “The Baptizer.”

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard: “John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” The success of his mission would eventually put him out of a job, as he modestly said that Jesus must increase, and I must decrease. And that is still the role of the missionary today – to plant the church and then withdraw, leaving it in the hands of the new local community. In our monastic context, we could also say that it is also true for new foundations.

In Luke’s gospel there are many parallels between the birth of John and that of Jesus. Both births were announced in advance: in John’s case to his father Zechariah and in Jesus’ case to his mother Mary. In my curiosity, I discovered that there are 7 children that we read of in the Bible who God named before birth. Isaac and Ishmael, sons of Abraham (Genesis 16:11. 17:19). Solomon, son of King, David. Josiah, King of Israel, Cyrus, King of Persia, John the Baptist, And last, but not least, Jesus.

In our first reading today, we hear the prophet Isaiah speak of a “servant” of God. The “servant” could have been a person or the nation Israel. From the beginning God called, fashioned, and offered this “servant” an important place in extending the glory and kingship of God. The servant hears that he is not to toil merely for the restoration and union of Israel, but to open the way for the light to the “nations”. Salvation is going to come to all the world and this servant is going to toil for the coming of that salvation. As St. Paul says in The Acts of the Apostles: “My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent”

The Gospel has to do with the birth of John, but even more, his naming. Elizabeth and Zechariah are advanced in age, so their lack of fertility was seen as a kind of curse. We know from earlier in the chapter that Zechariah was struck speechless by God for his lack of belief. Who could blame him for being incredulous? An elderly couple cannot have children. How absurd!

When the birth of John took place, it was a special occasion of rejoicing among relatives and neighbors. When they heard “that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared their joy.” According to Jewish custom, the child was to be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This ritual showed that the child belonged to God’s own people, the Jews. It was also the day on which the child was officially named. Customarily the first male child was named after his father, Zechariah. When the day of circumcision comes his mother announces that his name will be John. It was not customary for the mother to make this announcement; it was the father's role. We see this by the way the guests try to get Zechariah to say something, even if he had to write it. Upon writing “John is his name, immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God and all were amazed.”

“The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” It seems as though God’s plan for the life of John the Baptist was clear. But the scriptures never tell us how he felt about it. What we do know is that he did it.

When we talk about following God’s will for our own lives, we too might have a bit of Zechariah in us, we are incredulous. That? Are you kidding? It can’t be! We have our own plans and often God’s plan does not align with ours. We resist, we get in the way, we want to be in charge.

Acceptance of God’s plan requires letting go of what we want and open our heart to God in surrender, trust, and humility. It is only in dialogue with God in prayer that we discern his will. It allows us to align our will to his. The one thing we do know is that if it is God’s will, only good things will come from it. As St. Paul says in his First Letter to the Thessalonians, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

Saint John the Baptist, c. 1230,  North Portal, Chartres Cathedral. Today's homily by Father Emmanuel.

Monday, June 21, 2021

With Aloysius


We are always inspired by the ardor and single-heartedness of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, who died as a Jesuit scholastic at age 23 while caring for plague victims in Rome in 1591. Indeed, so confident was Aloysius in God's tender love for him, that one day as he was playing ball with the other young Jesuits, Saint Robert Bellarmine approached him and asked what he would do if he were told he was going to die the next day. "I would go on playing ball," said Aloysius.

So may we always trust in the Lord's merciful love.

The Vocation of Saint Aloysius (Luigi) Gonzaga, Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) (Italian, Cento 1591–1666 Bologna), ca. 1650. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

"Quiet! Be still!"


A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind...  Mark 4

The early 13th-century Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, is credited with the division of the books of the Bible into chapters. Today's gospel of the calming of the storm at sea is the final section of Chapter Four of Mark. It seems odd that a chapter that is chock-a-block full of parables should end with the beginning of the narrative of a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, especially as the boat trip ends at the beginning of the next, chapter five. Why didn't the Archbishop simply make Chapter Four a collection of parables with a unified theme, and then begin Chapter Five with the entire narrative of the crossing of the sea? 

The scripture scholar Marie Sabin proposes a solution to this enigma. She writes, “in the first part of chapter 4, Mark shows Jesus teaching in parables. In the end, however, he shows Jesus teaching by his actions. He shows Jesus stilling the sea as God stills the sea in the psalms. He shows Jesus to be 'like God.' He shows Jesus to be in Himself a Wisdom parable. Those who are his disciples have been granted a direct encounter with 'the mystery of the kingdom of God+.'” There is more to this parabolic mystery of Jesus who is like God than just the fact that Jesus and our God of the psalms calm the raging seas at their command. The purpose of the parables (and indeed of this parable whether Sabin's theory is correct or not) is to illuminate our hearts and minds about God's being and acting in our lives. This final parable-in-action is more than a narrative to make us say “Wow, Jesus can still a storm by his word alone!” Rather, Jesus can calm the storm of doubt that constantly churns in my heart, our hearts.“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus, do you not care about me? About us? 

If a parable is a wisdom riddle that asks a question of our hearts, the real question in today's is posed by that mysterious God-man Jesus himself in a double-barreled way: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith? Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” These are questions I ask myself often—perhaps they are being asked within me by the Lord himself as I tremble before each new storm in my life, each new challenge to believe and to love, each new call to be who I say I am. 

That little word yet in the middle of the second question, “Do you not yet have faith?” gives me hope. It helps me realize that even as I mostly fail to trust in the Lord, the Lord Jesus has hopes that eventually I will realize what it means that He, “just as He was” (truly God and truly man), is in the boat with me. No! Actually, I am in the boat with Him. He it was who invited me and all of us with the words, “Let us cross to the other side!” He wants us to be with Him. Let us leave our little safe harbors where we see only to protect ourselves and sail out on the open sea of life inChristwhose depths (as sounded by the Holy Spirit) are “too deep for words”, whose new horizons are so broad, as broad as the shoulders and arms of Jesus that span the cross and embrace the whole of creation in God's love. But our incarnate Lord Jesus is not content to be in the boat with us. The incarnate Lord Jesus desires to be within us in the Eucharistic communion. Soon, He will be within us in His body, soul, and divinity to love us from within and make our “not yet” existence move closer to“now.” He rebuked the wind and said to the sea and to you and to me, “Quiet! Be still!” 

Rembrandt van Rijn (Leyden, 1606 - 1669, Amsterdam) Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633, Oil on canvas, 63 x 50 3/8 in. Homily by Father Luke.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Nameless Treasure

Come, true light; come life that never ends; come, hidden mystery!
Come, nameless treasure; come, name that can never be uttered!
Come, inconceivable One; come, joy without end!
Come sun that never sets!
Come, name well-loved and ever repeated!
Come, joy that knows no end; come, untarnishing crown!
Come you whom my poor soul has longed for, 
and longs for still!
I give you thanks that you have become one single spirit with me. 

We are called to ceaseless prayer, Saint Augustine will name this living in ceaseless desire for God. Ever-mindful of this, we treasure these lines from a hymn of Saint Simeon the New Theologian. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Clothing of Brothers Andrew & Kenneth

On Sunday the community gathered in the Abbey Chapterhouse, as our brothers were clothed in the novice's habit by Abbot Vincent.  He addressed the following remarks to them.

Br. Andrew and Br. Kenneth, I understand that the two of you are energetic souls who have participated in strenuous athletic and spiritual activities in your younger days. St. Benedict has a word for you in the Prologue of his Rule; in fact, not only a word, but a kind of map for the entire life of conversion to which you are dedicating yourselves. Let us listen to his words, the words of a father who loves you and wants only the best for you.

He starts in a good place, quoting the words of Jesus: “Run while you have the light of life…” It is interesting how often in the Prologue St. Benedict refers to running, as though you were joining a cross country team. But it is true that monastic life is a long race. There are times of jogging, times of sprinting, and times of enduring long stretches of grueling countryside. He wants us to keep moving. The one who stands still or runs in the wrong direction is doomed. God forbid that we be daunted by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation.

But we can’t run aimlessly. We have to run in the light of life. And what is that light? As always with St. Benedict, the light is Christ who is dwelling within us, whether it be in his word of Scripture, in the Divine Office and sacraments, or in the brothers we meet. His indwelling began with the grace of baptism, and our monastic calling is a flowering of that grace. The presence of the Lord lightens our path, especially when monastic life becomes dark. Since our life is limited and the darkness can be great, we need to let that light shine forth from us to lead us toward that voice which we hear in faith: at vigils, in quiet prayer, in service to the brothers.

That is why as a loving father, St. Benedict offers firm directions and exhortations. Above all, he exhorts us to the labor of obedience, to prayer, to watchfulness, to receptivity. He wants us to run now and do those things that will profit us for eternity. But before we can do anything, we need to rise from sleep and open our eyes. Rub them if you need to. Clear the wax from your ears! The Lord and his angels are all around, urging us to join our brothers, whether it be at the divine office, at work, at chores, or anywhere else. Any temptation to avoid the daily exercises and one’s duty must be dashed against Christ. We don’t do these exercises just because St. Benedict said to do so. He urges us to do them because Christ did them, and he wants us to be totally like Christ Jesus. Of course, St. Benedict never fails to remind us that any good that we do comes not from us but from the Lord who dwells within. The theme song of our running must be, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory!”

Finally, St. Benedict reminds us of the most important point: God has run to us first. He loved us first. He called us first. Like the father in the gospel going out to welcome his prodigal son, our heavenly Father is constantly running to meet us and make his dwelling place within us, together with his Son and the Spirit. We must simply embrace this grace. A little fidelity and gratitude on our part, and we will hear him whisper, “My eyes are already open to you and my ears likewise to listen to your prayers, and even before you ask me, I say to you, ‘Here I am.’” As St. Benedict says, “What indeed could more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.”

Brothers, you are here with your brothers who welcome you into this new phase of your monastic journey. We invite you now to run with us in the race of holy obedience. It may seem that some of us have become too old to run, but you have to look into our hearts. If you hold fast, you, too, will learn that running with hearts expanded on the way of God’s commandments is worth whatever dura et aspera you may encounter. May St. Benedict bless you on your journey!

Photographs by Brother Brian.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Eleventh Sunday

“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord, the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

In today’s parables, Jesus reminds us of the promise hidden in what is small and unremarkable – seeds that grow in hiddenness and mystery. How like our prayer, our life that is ordinary, obscure, and laborious. We dare to believe that what we bear and what we do and pray has an apostolic reverberation – fruitfulness far beyond the cloister, with a blessing for those in need. We trust, we believe, though we do not always understand. We love Jesus our Lord. Love brings us knowledge and trust of a God beyond our simple understanding. And so, we live, we pray in mystery and in wonder.

Wonder allows God to be God. It beckons us to be aware, to see as God sees, and to take nothing for granted. Wonder receives with open hands, open heart; it never grasps; it loves all God loves and gives and gazes upon. Wonder does what God does. It is reverent awe that is at once humble and selfless.

Wonder happens when we allow ourselves to be disarmed by God’s in-breaking and respond with reverent awe. It lets us acknowledge what we do not know or may never know or understand, allows us to acknowledge and appreciate our limits, our finiteness. It is a different kind of knowledge, a state of being with the world and with oneself that allows humble faith; it allows uncertainty. Like love, wonder allows all things, believes all things. It lets God be God, magnificent, extravagant but also hidden and quiet and unremarkable. We begin to see the world ever charged with the divine, with an ever-present porosity - a thinness between the ordinary and the divine. This is the beginning of contemplation, perhaps its essence.

We notice reverently - whether it be the pattern of light falling upon a wall, a blossom or a tiny bug inching along, the unexpected kindness of a friend, or a passage of Scripture. Wonder demands fascination and simple noticing. It is poisoned by cynicism, which is the absolute enemy of contemplation.

To pray we must relax into an unknowing that is a certitude beyond argument. To allow Christ in means I don’t have to understand; I believe. I pay attention. I love. I gaze on beauty as well as confusion and believe that God is working. I allow myself to be disarmed and fascinated by Christ and how he will use anything at all to get my attention. Our life of liturgy and prayer demands wonder, not dramatic but real and ongoing; an unwillingness to judge, a willingness to be still, a second naiveté, perhaps a constant naiveté, back down to a place where we can be amazed and inefficient, unaccomplished. 


Friday, June 11, 2021

His Heart


Paul’s desire for the people of Ephesus is that they come to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. The Father and the Son and the Spirit most of all want to see this prayer of Paul’s realized, not only then, but in each of us today. The Three Persons are the ones who have placed this desire in Paul’s heart. They are the ones who have driven Paul to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ.

The mystery of today’s feast is that the supreme place where this love, the heart of God, is disclosed is from the cross, in Jesus’ wounded side. To know the depths of the heart of God and the incomprehensible love that resides there we are to look upon him whom we have pierced, gaze upon the wounded side of Christ.  This wound is not the same as Christ’s other wounds in that it is the symbol of the heart of God laid bare, rent open, precisely for our gaze, that in it we might see the extent of God’s love, which calls out to us to respond, be converted and be transformed in him.

In the first reading from Hosea, God himself relates through the prophet the history of his love and care for his people in the most tender terms. “When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son.” He taught Ephraim to walk and took them in his arms. He drew them with human cords, with bands of love, he fostered them like those who raise an infant to their cheeks and bent down to feed them. But there is nothing on the side of the people that corresponds to this constant love of God. Israel even runs away, but on his part, God is not ashamed even to run after him. “The more I called them, the further they went from my face” he says in the second verse, which is not included in today’s reading. (11.2). He says, “they did not know that I care for them.”

Israel causes God to suffer: “My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred”. Here we come up against the mystery of a suffering God; mustn’t God be above all suffering, isn’t suffering something that belongs to  this world? St. Bernard answers this dilemma in an elegantly pithy phrase: “Impassibile est Deus, God is impassible, sed non incompassibilis”, but not uncompassionate. “It is his nature show mercy and pardon.” (SC 26.5)

Although he was free to do so, and would have lost nothing of the fullness of the Godhead if he had, God did not choose to remain safely enclosed in the community of the three divine Persons, but instead took the risk and ventured forth with the gift of creation, ultimately bringing forth man, a creature in his own image, who is free, capable of love, with the capacity therefore also of accepting or rejecting his offer of love, of saying yes or no. God undertook not only the risk of love but also the risk of suffering, for these are  inseparable, as we know.

As Origen said “The Father is not without empathy (impassibilis), not beyond being moved. When he is implored, he has compassion and feels the suffering. He endures things on account of his love, and [because of it] he is transported to the side of those with whom he cannot be on account of his exaltedness.” (Origen, Hom. in Ezech., 6.6)

Origen says of the Son, “he came down to earth out of compassion with humanity. He underwent our sufferings before he underwent the cross and before he took our flesh upon him, for if he had not already suffered, he would not have entered on the course of human life. First he suffered, then he came down and became visible. What was that suffering that he went through for us? It was the suffering (pathos) of love. And the Father himself, the God of the universe…does he not also suffer in a certain sense? Or do you not know that when he involves himself in human affairs in the shape of providence, that he suffers the suffering of humanity with it?

Joseph Ratzinger comments on this passage that “it was…Origen who formulated the normative hermeneutic on the theme of the suffering God: whenever you hear of God’s passions and sufferings, says Origen, you must always relate these to love. God, says Ratzinger, is a sufferer only because he is first a lover; the theme of the suffering God follows from the theme of the loving God and continually points to it. The decisive step that the Christian concept of God takes beyond that of the ancients is the realization that God is love.”

The mystery of the wound is the mystery of divine love. So let us gaze upon this love. As St. Bonaventure says: “Let us through the visible wound, gaze at love’s invisible wound!”

And the path to this God of love is love. And what greater guides into the mystery of this love do we have than the Lord’s blessed Mother and his beloved disciple, who, united in their new relation as Mother and son, by the Lord’s own gift, stood together under the Cross and were witnesses of the wound.  

Whatever John may have experienced during the lifetime of Jesus, no matter what he might have grasped up to that point of the mysteries of baptism and the Eucharist, and of the whole of the life of Jesus, was only a beginning compared to what has been opened up by the mystery of the wounded side. John believes. And from within this belief, everything he has encountered and grasped so far is now burst open in all directions. But wherever the wound leads him he always finds love at its source and end. And it is only love that understands love. Here we find ourselves at heart of one of the principal insights of our Cistercian mysticism. That love itself is a kind of knowledge. It is its own justification and meaning, and whoever lives in love searches for no other reason than love. Love desires nothing but to take a stand of pure belief, because it is only from within that simple faith that human love is fully open to the disclosure of divine love, where the love of the disciple encounters the love of the God through the wound and becomes fruitful in the fruitfulness of God.

Mary stands there as the Mother of Sorrows and the Mother of us all, as the one to whom it has been granted to participate in the Lord’s suffering and cross in an intimacy and fullness beyond that of any other creature. Her heart, too, has been pierced, and in this piercing her motherhood is brought to full fruitfulness. Through her suffering she has been prepared by the Lord to stand with him as a genuine partner in all the mysteries of his fruitfulness and be a mother to all. In their union of hearts, he can lead people to her and she can lead people to him.

By the Lord’s own gift, John stands there as the son of this mother and as such a complete brother to the Lord.  In all her purity and simplicity, in her constant state of being beyond all sin, Mary would have been utterly open and transparent with her new son John about all the mysteries of her relationship with her son Jesus.  John has all of the Blessed Mother’s fruitfulness at his disposal. It is his mission to be the guardian of this fruitfulness and of all the mysteries that the Lord has disclosed. The heart of John is to be one with the heart of Jesus and one with the heart of his mother Mary. He is to keep his eyes on the fruitfulness of the open heart of Jesus on the cross, from whose already dead body flowed the living water and the living blood.

When in our lectio we pray his Gospel, his letters, and the Apocalypse, he is a sure guide into the heart of God and of his blessed Mother. Fruitful prayer, lectio, require a movement out of ourselves into the heart of God, through his wound, corresponding to the movement of God out of himself into our wounded human nature. We have to let him in, just as he has let us in. Like he became naked, so must we be naked to him. As he endured the pierce of the lance so must we. As he did not retreat from love from fear of suffering neither should we. And finally, as he has shown mercy so should we. As we celebrate this day dedicated to his sacred heart, let us ask him for this grace

The Sacred Heart, by Odilon Redon. Homily by Father Timothy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

On this Memorial of Saint Ephrem

One of the first to introduce song into the Church’s public worship, in the fourth century Saint Ephrem took the melodies of the heretics and composed beautiful hymns to teach sacred doctrine. Thus is he called “Harp of the Holy Spirit,” such a lovely nickname.

Christ Jesus our Lord has come to fulfill all promises of the ancient Law. The messenger of a new covenant, the poet of the kingdom, He shows us the way into the heart of God.

Jesus would have us sing and praise the truth of God’s mercy and compassion. And all day long, like Jesus and Ephrem, we will have the opportunity to make a hymn of praise out of our drudgery and ordinariness.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Corpus Christi

Lately I have become more aware of the fragility of life. Maybe that’s what happens when one becomes an abbot. But any of us can look at the newspapers and feel the disarray: mass killings; the breakdown of family and political life; the gradual loss of vigor in the aging and dying process, including our own. There are broken bodies everywhere, both physical and social, and our community is not immune to the reality. Oddly enough, however, I think today’s feast is a perfect fit for the situation. The broken body and poured out blood of Christ is right at home with all this fragility, and it is the perfect remedy.

Why the perfect remedy? Because this feast celebrates the unbreakable covenant God has made with his people. The body and blood of Christ is our way into the sanctuary, that is, into a familiar and constant nearness to God. We pass through the veil, which is the flesh of Christ, in order to rest in the presence of God. When Moses gathered the people together on Mount Sinai, the covenantal sacrifices he offered were meant to prepare them for this intimate closeness to God. That covenant was a foreshadowing of the permanent covenant that we celebrate today, a covenant that leaves out nothing broken.

When Christ came into this world of fragility, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you have prepared for me…As it is written of me in the scroll, ‘Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” His body and his will have become the covenantal means by which God would deal with all the fragility of life. He bound himself to all the brokenness in the world. He said to his disciples, “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see that I have.” His body is our guarantee of God’s mercy. It is not some kind of virtual reality out there in cyberspace. “Take. Eat. This is my body.” With these words, we, weak as we are, are drawn up into his body, both fragile as seen on the cross, and indestructible as seen in his resurrection.

The paradox, even scandal, for so many is that this mixture of fragility and transcendence comes to us through such a fragile vessel: the Church. An apparently fragile body of believers and doubters becomes the sign of God’s everlasting covenant, where the body of Christ forever resides and feeds us. We cannot remove all the brokenness around us and within us and in our Church. But we can take and eat and trust that God will bring us through this veil into the inner sanctuary where the fragile takes on immortality, forever.

Recent photographs by Brother Brian. This morning's homily by Dom Vincent.

Friday, June 4, 2021



We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 
2 Cor. 4

Paul's words tell us what it is like to live always in hope. Simply falling backwards into Christ’s compassionate embrace in our desperation is always disconcerting but an exquisite refuge and relief. As Paul tells us elsewhere, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Christ Jesus will never forsake us. And our daily dyings, daily defeats, disappointments, and near despair are endless opportunities to trust and rely on Him, "so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." Each of us then becomes a finely detailed icon of the crucified and risen Jesus. Surrendering in hope to the contradictions that our lives present day by day, moment by moment, we can say with Paul, "I live now not I, but Christ lives in me."

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Wedded Together

This morning it seems it’s time once again for that favorite first century Palestinian game show: Stump the Rabbi. The scribes and Sadducees are great at it. Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, their question was: “Should we pay taxes or not?” This morning it’s: “Well if she had seven husbands, whose wife will she be?” I am reminded of sixth grade at my parochial school where we often played: Stump the Nun. It went something like this: “Sister, suppose you were walking to church, and you began biting your fingernails. Could you go to Communion, or did you break the fast?” “Gary, are fingernails food?” “No, Sister.” “Thank you, dear. Be seated. Boys and girls, take out your geography books.” Or how about this one? “Sister, suppose you were at a restaurant, and you ordered a hamburger, and just as you were about to bite into it, you remembered it was a Friday, in Lent! Should you eat it or not?” “Of course, it would be a worse sin to waste food. By all means, you should eat the burger.” Sr. Elinor Gertrude was sharp. And like her sixth graders, the Sadducees this morning are no match for Jesus. He cuts through their foolishness like a hot knife through butter.

If only the Sadducees realized the gift of God and who it was who was speaking with them. They focus on an outlandish “what-if” scenario - the preposterous possibility of six of the “brother-in-law” marriages prescribed in the Book of Deuteronomy. But Jesus draws them and us into a more astounding revelation. Marriage in its beauty, intimacy, and commitment is appropriate to this present age, but it will come to an end with this present age. (See Anchor Bible) But the reality of eternal life, this endless, intimate relatedness with God in the Kingdom, will never end. 

For Jesus one thing is true - we live for God, and those who live for God are truly alive forever. (See Alois Stoger) Resurrection is real. “Those who are deemed worthy,” says Jesus, “will never really die at all but be raised up, for God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. And all are alive to him.” At death, our lives will be changed definitively but not ended. Jesus promises us transcendence, unending mystery. He points to the discontinuity between our present earthly bodies and the glorified resurrected body. For life after the resurrection will not be a continuation of our earthly life. It is a lack of faith, but even more “an impoverished imagination,” which insists on a preoccupation with things of earth rather than those of heaven. We must live in faith and wonder.

But how can we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, fragile, will rise to everlasting life? Why? What for? And what exactly does rising mean? Death is the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. And we believe that, in his power and love, God will grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection. The resurrection of the body will occur because of God’s great love and reverence for our bodies, our flesh - not just a husk for an immortal soul, but sacred. God has taken our flesh to himself in Christ. Heaven and earth have been wedded together in Him.

But even as I believe, I want to know. What will it be like to be resurrected? Maybe it’s a dumb question. Don’t you wonder though? You know one of the loveliest depictions of heaven is that given us by the Renaissance painter, Fra Angelico. He portrays a gathering of the resurrected, each one hand in hand with an angel dancing a kind of a minuet in a verdant, enclosed garden. It’s charming enough, but... I don’t know about you, but it just doesn’t seem to hit the spot. Do you want to dance for the rest of eternity? I never liked dancing. It just doesn’t do it for me.

The Gospel accounts of the resurrected Jesus paint a much more dynamic and gutsy reality and give us real glimpses of what resurrected life is like. Jesus is alive alright, but forever marked with the holes and wounds of his suffering; he is transformed, transcendent, luminous, and yet wholly available and wonderfully interactive with all his friends. He defies all barriers of time and space and continually seeks communion, connectedness, indeed intimacy with those whom he loves. They recognize him, recognize his body, but somehow, they know he’s different, completely Other.

And what does he do once he’s together with those he loves? You know, most often he eats with them. Whether it is at Emmaus or in the upper room or on the beach, he breaks bread with them, feeds them, or even asks to be fed by them. “Have you got anything here to eat?” He often tells them not to be afraid. And one day walking through a garden, he is mistaken for a gardener. “Mary,” he calls to one heartbroken disciple.  And when we hear her called by name, we hear each one of our names called, known in the deepest depths of our hearts by Christ. Perhaps this is why he says to her, “Do not touch me.” She and we who truly love him do not need to touch him, for his resurrection accomplishes our total union with God; in the resurrection, we are completely intertwined, intermingled with God in Christ. We are with him, in him, body and soul, and we will be forever.

Baptized into Christ, resurrection is our destiny, our reality. We believe that God will raise us up as he raised Jesus. God has taken on our flesh and raised it to eternal life in Christ, and we have been made divine. God has fallen madly in love with flesh and blood, our flesh and blood, and made it God’s body. Best of all, most mysteriously of all, it is Jesus himself who is the resurrection and the life. The resurrection is not an event but a person. It is he in whom we live and move and have our being. He shows how to live for God always; for he is continually drawing us with himself, to the Father in the Spirit. We will be raised up through him, with him, in him. Endless communion with God will be ours, body and soul, with each other, with all our loved ones, indeed with all creation forever because of him. The Holy Communion he feeds us with is a foretaste of our destiny and his desire for us.

Photograph of the Abbey cemetery by Brother Brian. Meditation by one of our monks.



Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Saint Justin Martyr


Well trained in Greek philosophy, Saint Justin encountered Christian Revelation and was converted to Christianity in 132. Filled with ardor he soon began preaching with great conviction. In Rome, he was denounced as a subversive and condemned to death by beheading. Before his martyrdom Justin was asked by the Roman prefect, "Do you think that by dying you will enter heaven and be rewarded by God?" Justin answered, "I do not think. I know.”