Tuesday, May 31, 2022



The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.
 Zephaniah 3

With Our Blessed Lady, we too are tabernacles of the Most High God; the Lord is within us. As the Lord rejoices over us, singing joyfully because of our openness to him, we rejoice greatly with Our Lady for all that the Lord in his mercy has done for her, accomplished for all of us through her.

The Visitation, c. 1495, attributed to Rueland Frueauf the Elder, German (c. 1445 - 1507), oil on panel,  27 5/8 x 14 15/16 in., Fogg Museum, Cambridge.

Monday, May 30, 2022

On Memorial Day

The practice of decorating graves with flowers on specific days in spring is an ancient custom and may be the remote origin of what we celebrate now on the last Monday of May as “Memorial Day” in commemoration of those who have lost their lives serving their country.

“Decoration Day” (as it was originally called) began in the bloody wake of the Civil War, when women, especially in the South, began tending to the graves of fallen soldiers, often regardless of which side they fought for. Their willingness to overlook past divisions was lauded in the North, and their kindness was viewed as an olive branch to many—exactly what we need in our polarized country today.

In the Gospel this morning, Jesus tells his disciples that they will have trouble in the world, but to take courage and have peace in him. This always begins with humbly acknowledging our sins.

Meditation by Father Dominic.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Over and over during these final days of Eastertide, we have been listening to excerpts from the Last Supper Discourse, about four chapters long in the second half of the Gospel of John; today’s Gospel is from the concluding section of the Discourse. And this morning we eavesdrop on the prayer of Jesus the Beloved Son to his Father. It’s as if we’ve barged in on Jesus in the midst of a very intimate conversation. But Jesus draws us into the very heart of his prayer to the Father. So I listen, but I lose my bearings.

There is surely a beauty to the language but also a circularity. It’s just not a simple, linear narrative. I get confused, and I want to analyze. I want to say to Jesus, “Wait, wait. What do you mean?” But clearly, that’s the wrong question. Asking what it means would be beside the point. It would be like standing at the Grand Canyon and saying, “Wait I don’t get it, what does it mean?” Or like asking a person who is doing an unexpected kindness for you, “What exactly do you mean?” Or like interrupting someone who’s kissing you very tenderly, “Excuse me, what do you mean?” 

So it is that we hear Jesus speak to the Father about us this morning, his deepest desire for us, “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… that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

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.1 For, “God is to be enjoyed,” as Augustine says. My brothers and sisters, it’s big, it’s happening, we’re in it. And first and foremost, we don’t have to do anything. If we simply let it sink in, then the possibility that we will go and do likewise is very real. And then the unity that Jesus prays for may happen- that we may become one with him, with believers all through the ages, a community of friends. Non-resistance is crucial; it’s like driving on ice, you don’t put on the brakes, but drive into the skid gently, attentively.

Perhaps what we hear in today’s Gospel is the reality of divine Eros- God’s self-forgetful love; the joy and peace and exhilaration and self-realization we know when we love, please and comfort and console someone. This is who God is for us. God has lost himself in love for us. God is most truly Godself when He gives Himself away. This is the glory that Jesus has come to reveal- this glory of divine love.

And so it strikes me that if we want to understand this Discourse; we might have to go backwards in the Gospel, back to the washing of the feet, a scene that directly precedes the Discourse. We know that foot washing was something a Gentile slave could be required to do, but never a Jewish slave. Foot-washing was typically something wives did for their husbands, children for their parents, and disciples for their teachers. There is undoubtedly a level of intimacy involved in these last scenarios. And in Jesus' case, there is an obvious reversal of roles.Jesus calls his disciples his friends. And by washing their feet he overcomes in this act of loving intimacy the inequality that exists between them. And so he establishes an intimacy with them that signals their access to everything he had received from his Father, even the glory that is his as Beloved Son.He does what he sees the Father doing.

Perhaps Jesus was inspired to wash their feet because he had been so touched by what was done for him at Bethany six days before Passover when Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil and anointed his feet most tenderly and dried them with her hair. Was this something that inspired his own most loving action on this night before he died? I like to think so. In any event, Peter cannot bear the thought of his teacher doing this. Perhaps it was something his wife had done for him many times. And doubtless, he like the others is embarrassed by the intimacy of it, the touch, the loving condescension, and the unaffected tenderness, the unmanageability of the love that is so available. It’s disorienting. We see now it is a parable, a parallel to what he would do on the cross the next afternoon.

And so with the Twelve this morning, their feet still a bit damp, we hear the Lord reminding us that the self-forgetful love and intimacy of Father and beloved Son is where we belong. Jesus begs his Father that we may be swept up into the reality of God’s own “mutual love and indwelling.”4 There is room for everybody in this divine embrace. As Jesus tells his Father, his desire is “that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

This is after all the reason the Gospel has been written- that all of us who contemplate this Gospel may be brought into “a union with Jesus which will plunge (us) into the depths of God’s very life, the life Jesus shares with the Father.”5 It is this mystical union of disciple with God in Christ through the Spirit that we see happening for Saint Stephen in the first reading. He has spoken boldly and proclaimed Christ Jesus as crucified Messiah. His Jewish hearers find his testimony unbearable and drag him away to stone him. He looks up intently and sees the heavens are thrown open and Jesus standing at God’s right hand.

If we too look with great intent, intention of heart, ardent desire, we may see him with us, above us, near us, beside us, within us. And if in the Book of Revelation we hear Jesus say this morning, “Behold, I am coming soon,” it is our desire that will open our eyes to the presence of “the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star,” who even now is coming to feed and comfort us at this Table. 

Homily by one of our monks. References: 1. Sacra Pagina: John, Francis Moloney, p. 479. 2. See Biblegateway.com. 3. Written That You May Believe, Sandra Schneiders, p. 173. 4. Sacra Pagina: John, Francis Moloney, p. 479. 5. Sandra Schneiders, p. 15.

Thursday, May 26, 2022



How to explain the experience of Jesus after his resurrection? There is the drastic reality of his physical presence, wounds and all; he is disarmingly familiar, but there is also, mysteriously, something much more, what we might call a transformed physicality. He walks through a door, eats a piece of fish with his disciples then disappears; he suddenly shows up again wishes peace, then opens the wound in his side for Thomas to touch, and vanishes again. This coming and going happens over and over again and then after forty days, these appearances no longer occur. At this juncture the Ascension describes the event of his exaltation and enthronement as Israel’s Messiah, seated at God’s right hand; he is at last victorious Lord of the world, and he commissions his followers to act on his behalf and inaugurate this new epoch of his reign.

It seems a bit incongruous, but I keep thinking of a scene from a Neil Simon comedy. The actress Anne Bancroft is just back from the supermarket; cradling armloads of groceries, she struggles to open the door to her apartment. Once inside her jaw drops, the place is in shambles, ransacked; drawers opened, valuables missing. A few moments later her husband played by Jack Lemmon comes in, he looks around and says, “What happened?” “We’ve been robbed,” she says. “Robbed? What do you mean?” “Robbed,” she yells, “You know, first it was ours, now it’s theirs. Robbed! Gone, disappeared.”

My brothers and sisters, we have not been robbed. Jesus has not disappeared into the ether, only to be seen again in a heaven far, far away. Ascension is instead the great feast of intersection and interconnectedness. Jesus’ Incarnation has come full circle – the One who took our flesh in Mary now takes our flesh with him into the bosom of the Father, God’s most loving desire for us is now in its ascendancy. And as our Vespers hymn expresses it, the angels, those bodiless adorers, are baffled and trembling as they see their turf invaded by our lowly humanity. “Flesh has purged what flesh had stained, and God, the flesh of God has reigned.”

What the Ascension of Jesus makes clear is that our flesh is very precious to God, this wounded, embarrassed body that we are. Jesus loves our humanity; he has embraced our flesh longing to rescue it and bring it home to his Father. Today is the festival of the future of our flesh, a sign of things to come for all of us and for all creation, a great sign of hope, for it reveals the destiny God intends for each of us. Our homeland as human beings is heaven, and the Ascension of Jesus is the first moment of our own definitive disappearance into God. In the meantime, we are not left down here left waiting and wondering. Jesus has assured us, “I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go?” His bodily departure is better for us, because, through the gift of his Spirit, he will be with us always and everywhere, not time-bound, or Palestine-bound but “always, until the end of the age.” Jesus has not gone anywhere, he’s gone everywhere.

“Heaven is not light-years away, but closer to us than we are to ourselves.” Certainly, there is more to come, a Paradise with joy beyond telling. But as those two men in Acts insist, we often run the risk of looking in the wrong direction. Jesus is not up there somewhere. Mysteriously, wonderfully for faith-filled eyes, Jesus is seated at God’s right hand and most fully present with us here. The “withdrawal of Jesus is not so much an absence” as it is a more superabundant presence made possible by the Spirit. We are continually being drawn more deeply into a new life of friendship with God; beckoned into a beyondness, invited into the ordinariness of Mystery, the ordinariness of incessant intimacy with Christ Jesus, at once hidden, discernible only to the eyes of faith but very, very real. This is where we live.

Jesus will be seen clearly when we act with compassion in his name and create a community of friends, where rivalry and pretension are things of the past. And even though our love may be uneven, we hope to live again with Jesus in heaven, because in reality even now in him our body is already there. We hope to find ourselves with him and with those we love, even with those we may have found it difficult to love; all of us a heaven of souls in bliss. This is imaginable if ever we have loved anyone, and we would understand it even better if we were to love more and to believe that the kingdom of God is among us and depends on us.

There’s a lot of talk now about what “the new normal” will be. Seems to me, what’s normal is never new but the same old astonishing reality – what’s been normal all along – that things are continually falling apart, that change is constant and inevitable, that life is, of course, fragile and precarious, always was, but that best of all, truest of all, most normal of all - God in Christ is always, always right here with us in this mess. The only place he has disappeared is into our precarious humanness now as always. In our prayer no matter how dry or desolate, in our fear no matter how overwhelming, God is with us – especially when we make the least effort to love and forgive as he does.  Jesus has not gone anywhere; he’s gone everywhere. And most especially when we are privileged to gather for Holy Eucharist, with our hearts and voices joining those of the angels and saints, we are in heaven with him, better still, we become heaven in him. 

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

His Peace


As we approach the great feast of the Ascension, we hear the Lord Jesus assure us yet again today: My peace I give you. Without doubt, Christ gives us his peace, and joyfully so, for that is what he came to do; his Death and Resurrection are intended to bring us his peace, that is, the magnificent joy and serenity that come from his perfect harmony with the will of the Father. But will we truly be able to receive Christ’s peace as he gives it to us? Peace, after all, cannot be simply handed over like a peach or a book!

God forces neither his peace nor his love on anyone; indeed, he cannot. By their nature, such gifts cannot be imposed, since their very existence depends on their receiver engaging in a free, interpersonal relationship with their Giver. The Lord’s peace is not something that falls upon us in our passivity like the rain, and suddenly we find ourselves wet. We have to cooperate in order to receive inwardly this gift of peace since nothing can enter the inner sanctum of our soul unless we actively throw open its door to welcome our peace-bearing Visitor. Certain conditions are required of us that spell out what opening the door of our soul entails.

The gospel today heralds Jesus’ approaching departure from the earth in his visible form. Again, and again the Lord Jesus, like a loving Spouse, whispers the one word My peace I give you into his young Church’s ear. He stresses that this is the kind of peace that can come only from him, the only genuine and lasting peace, based on a relationship of intimate trust and friendship with him who is the Source itself of all truth and life. A so-called “peace” as the world gives is at best a precarious armistice or a cold war, or perhaps the lifeless “peace” of the cemetery. Through their association with Jesus in faith and trust, the disciples have access to the eternal archetype of true peace that exists only in God himself.  

Whoever keeps Jesus’ commandment of love will enjoy the love of the eternal Father. Peace can come only from loving as God loves because for precisely this are our persons structured. To be fully vibrant and alive our being requires loving as much as food and drink. This is the first condition for enjoying true peace. Hearing Jesus’ word and living by it is what gives us access to the hidden divine life. When we listen to Jesus’ word as he listens to the Father’s word we open our inner door to God, and then both Father and Son draw near to us, and their Holy Spirit interprets for us all the truth Jesus has communicated to us. The perfect harmony pulsating within the Blessed Trinity is the burning peace of eternal Love. Indestructible, life-giving peace is the climate in which Triune Love circulates. Though the gentlest of melodies, it drowns out the rattle of death. Peace is the bond of love: among the Three Persons of the Trinity, between Them and human beings, and among all the members of humanity—mystery within mystery within mystery.

If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, Jesus insists. The disciples must joyfully let go of their beloved Lord Jesus in his tangible humanity so that the Son of God can be reintegrated, as both God and Man, into the bosom of the eternal Trinity, from where he had come to us at the Incarnation. Such a renunciation, such a letting go on our part of the material form of Jesus also pertains hugely to the peace of the Church, the Body of Christ, as a society on earth. The mystical reality has social repercussions. The apostles and elders of the Jerusalem Church wrote a letter to the Christians of the Church at Antioch to intervene in a difficult situation that was dividing the community. They wrote: [To promote the peace of Christ among you,] we have with one accord decided [these things].

The Church must be a place of peace in a world without peace. Internally, too, the Church must overcome problems that initially create tensions and can only be resolved in peace under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in prayer to Him and in listening to Him. Perhaps the most serious problem the Church faced already in the apostolic period was this: how to create peaceful coexistence between the chosen Jewish people, who possessed a millennia-old revelation from God, and the new pagan converts who, as recent polytheists, found themselves theologically back in kindergarten. The cultural and spiritual chasm between Jews and Gentiles was enormous, and so the tension between them great and dangerous.

To achieve a truly peaceful coexistence among Christians in Antioch, renunciations were required on both sides, and the apostles’ lengthy consultations necessarily enacted such renunciations in the end. We may call this ‘ecclesial asceticism’. The Jewish Christians had to let go of certain laws they had considered essential to their faith. They had to accept that the Gentile Christians did not have to abide by sacrosanct Jewish customs, such as circumcision. And yet the Gentiles themselves had to make certain concessions to the Jews with regard to dietary customs and marriages within a certain degree of consanguinity, called unlawful unions in the text.  These were intensely contentious and divisive matters in the early Church.

Perhaps these specific objects of compromise seem very strange to us today, but the situation and its resolution by the apostles instruct us about how to handle all potentially divisive issues in the Church at any time. We should take an example from this episode in Acts and ask ourselves what each of us must give up today as a disciple of Jesus to ensure that, what with the divergent tendencies in the contemporary Church, we will not come to a mere truce or standoff but that the true peace of Christ will prevail. Never will one side be perfectly right and the other perfectly wrong! Surely, if we are moderately sane and have a touch of humility, none of us, whether leaning to the right or to the left, firmly believes herself or himself to be in possession of the whole Christian truth!

Only by steeping ourselves in the peace of Christ can we listen to one another fruitfully. Only rooted in Christ’s peace can we calmly consider and weigh the reasons put forth by the opposite side, and avoid making an absolute of our own reasons. This goal will require real renunciations in our day as it required them in the early Church. Is everything I believe truly essential and non-negotiable? Don’t I often tend to make eternal truths, written in stone, even out of matters of personal style, vocabulary, and taste in spirituality, theology, and liturgy? Only when we make the necessary renunciations, that is, when we are willing to “trim the fat” from our own personal opinions and preferences, will the peace of Christ be granted to us as a community. Quite simply, peace is not possible without giving up one’s prejudices and fixed ideas. There is nothing more destructive in the Church than odium theologicum, partisan ‘theological hatred’.

In truth, the only remedy to heal our tendency to assert ourselves against others and contribute to dividing rather than uniting the Church is to fall ever more deeply in love with Christ. If we habitually abide in the mystery of Christ’s love for us, in the unfathomable mystery of the Holy Trinity dwelling in us, then we will only want to cooperate in making the light of such wonderful love shine throughout the world, beginning with our own community. Then we will burn with the desire to love and serve, in Christ and for the sake of Christ, all those he loves and has redeemed with his Blood.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Homily by Father Simeon.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Keeping His Word

Jesus answered and said to him, "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words…

In these opening two verses of today’s Gospel, Jesus distinguishes between two responses to him: those who love him and those who do not love him. Those who love him keep his word and those who do not love him do not keep his word. Of those who love him and keep his words, he says that his Father will love him and that he and the Father will come to him and make their dwelling with him. Of those who do not love him and do not keep his commandments he says nothing regarding their relationship to the Father and the Son; only that this word is not his but that of the Father who sent him. 

These are solemn words of the Lord; they are a matter of eternal life. Jesus has set the weight of the Trinity behind them. They seem to divide people into two classes. It is true that there are some who receive his word in faith, and these have had their lives turned upside down, and there are others who either reject him or have not heard his word, and these remain in the darkness of unbelief, but in another sense, it seems to me also true that although the Lord in his discourses speaks again and again of those who love him and those who do not, he is not one to divide humanity into groups, but is fundamentally always talking about everyone. This, I wish to claim, remains true in this case also.  For this morning my aim is to take a stab at this second sense, that the words of Jesus “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” can be applied to everyone. Here are my struggles with it up to this point.

If someone were to say to the disciples, “Do you love the Lord?”, they most certainly would have responded with a resounding, “Yes!” We would all do the same, as would any Christian. But if the same person were to ask the disciples, “Do you keep his word?”, to the degree that they were at all honest with themselves, and possessed any degree of self-knowledge, they would have to admit that well, not all the time, no. I cannot say that I keep the commandments.  They would have to admit they often fall short, that they sin. That they make choices and act in ways that are not in accord with the commandment. Likewise, we would have to give the same response. The Church implicitly admits this state of affairs when she requires that everyone go to confession at least once a year. This is because in fact no one keeps the commandments.

But here the Lord has set up a condition: that to love him is to keep his commandments. We can imagine that these words must have been very unsettling for the disciples, as they struggled to find their bearings within this word of his; eager as they were to please him, and to be counted among those who love him, and disturbed already by the evening’s events so far: the solemn foot washing, the departure of Judas, the prediction of Peter’s denial of Jesus, and Lord’s saying that he is going away and where he is going they cannot come. The disciples know that they sin against the commandment and therefore they have demonstrated to themselves that they do not have love. If they were to say that they were not sinners they would be liars and the truth would not be in them.

We may resist this kind of thinking and find it too stark, too black and white. We may say that we prefer a more nuanced view. “Well, it’s true that even the best of us at times do not keep his word, but it’s not that we do not keep his commandments at all. This is too much. Likewise, regarding our love for the Lord, certainly it could be better, but it’s not that we don’t love him. Isn’t this a rather inflexible, unrealistic, perfectionist, and even inhuman view of things? We are not angels, but that doesn’t make us beasts.”

On the other hand, once we make this move, we have applied a measure; but what, we must ask, is this measure, how is it applied, and by whom? Let us take one example. Have I kept the word of the Lord by the fact of being present today at Mass? Or is it when I am fully attentive, or possess a living faith? In each case, as we consider these and other such thoughts and attempt to grab hold of the matter and get a foot hold, we find that it dissolves and slip through our fingers, that the ground on which we have attempted to stand turns out not to be firm at all, the standpoint that had seemed secure has fallen away. This has to do with the very nature of the word of the Lord, for wherever we place this standard of keeping it we find the word of the Lord is always greater; however much we strive to meet its demands, it always lies beyond us. Its dimensions grow ever vaster. The measure, after all, does not belong to us, the measure of the keeping of the word is always the Lord himself. He is the measure and we have no measure by which to measure him. His only measure is to love without measure. Shortly before this he had told his disciples; “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Before this love all our assessments of our own love collapse. We see in all clarity that, despite all our protestations, we do not just fall somewhat short of his word but infinitely short. In fact, in the end, the only sure ground on which we can take our stand is the certainty that we do not keep the word of the Lord and therefore we do not love him. 

Here then is one aspect of how this word of the Lord is intended for everyone: the ever-greater and measureless nature of the commandment. No one can count themselves among the lovers. No one is up to this standard of measurement. By the very nature of things full agreement between the demand of God as God and its fulfillment by human beings as human is impossible. This word of the Lord turns out to be, therefore, the great leveler. It is all-inclusive. Whatever our background, our personal gifts, talents, education, status, wealth, if there is one thing that we can say of ourselves and of one another with the utmost certainty is that I, you, all of us, do not keep the commandments and therefore do not love the Lord. In this we are one.

This is not pessimism or an occasion for despair, on the contrary it is the cause of our joy. For once we acknowledge this reality, we allow the great, very real, and unbridgeable chasm that exists between our being as creatures, not to mention our imprisonment in sin, and the Lord’s uncreated divinity to come into view. From this standpoint the world of grace opens up. In this new space everything becomes possible. For it is through the Lord’s grace that human beings love the Lord. Yet even with grace, we still sin, and we know that in this world there will never be a time that we do not sin. Therefore, we find ourselves once again among those who do not love the Lord and do not keep the commandments.

This word from the Lord has been spoken out of love. Its purpose is to awaken love. When we allow ourselves to be held firm by the gaze of the Lord’s love, we cannot avoid being confronted by the Lord’s absolute righteousness, and under its unyielding light our own claims to love wither. This is a word of judgment, but it comes from love. Its judgment is a light of love that shines into our darkness, that penetrates, illumines, overcomes and disperses the darkness. This light gives us the power to become aware of our darkness and to judge it as such.

It would be a perverse God who would give us his word only in order to discourage us or to show us our incapacity to keep it. On the contrary his word has been given to us in order that it become our path toward him and our life in him, that through it our love for him may become living and vibrant. The commandments of the Lord are not a dead law but something living that contain what they demand and communicate it. With the commandments the Lord always extends the offer to be able to keep them.

It is the Spirit that enables us not only to see the distance between the word of the Lord and our keeping of it, but as our Advocate, Counselor and helper, shows how through grace that it is possible to become lovers, possible to become a welcome space in which the Father and the Son can come and set up their dwelling. In the acceptance of this distance then, we find ourselves disposed to receive the gift of peace, which is not the world’s peace, but the Lord’s peace, within which the whole drama of discipleship can unfold.  As graced, fellow sinners in a shared humanity, hoping to make progress in love, we are ready then to be sent from the Lord as his witnesses.  

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2022



From Jesus’ parable of the Vine and the Branches, one thing should remain very clear: the Father as Vinedresser sooner or later is going to cut into all the branches—the withered ones to cut them away and burn them, the fertile ones to prune them so that they bear still more fruit. In other words, none of us, Jesus’ disciples, is going to escape this necessary and often painful process of purification in view of a more abundant harvest. True love always bears fruit because love is for giving away, and true love is the only thing God ultimately cares about.

I don’t suppose it feels very good to be a branch and to be cut into, for whatever purpose! And yet God’s love for us must often take precisely this form, performing on us a painful operation in order to heal, purify and sanctify us, so that through us the fruits of God’s love may then be borne into our hungry world.

We are sentient, soul-endowed branches on Christ the Vine. As such we are not fated to be either sterile or fertile irreversibly. We can actually choose whether we are going to be fruitless or bear much fruit. If this were not so, would Jesus be telling us this parable today? It seems to me it is nothing but a generous invitation for us to become fruitful as a result of cultivating a most intimate and synergetic union with himself. Our fruitfulness depends on the extent of our surrender to divine grace, which is continually trying to surge up within us like the life-bearing juices of a vine.

Detail of an initial from an ancient Cistercian manuscript. Today's homily by Father Simeon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

She Remembers


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." 

Trusting in Our Lady's care, we pray for the people of Ukraine and the grieving families in Buffalo. Too much pain. Mary's heart opens to console all who are in need. 
Detail of painting by Caravaggio.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Practicing the Resurrection


Today Jesus reveals to us the heart of the New Covenant in his blood: "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so also should you love one another." This passage of John’s Gospel, brief as it is, packs a whole new world of meaning, transformation, and hope. It offers us the legacy—which is both a gift and a task—that Jesus leaves to his disciples. Agápe is Jesus’ legacy to us: loving as God loves. The Lord is communicating what he considers indispensable for his disciples in the future. As is always the case when the end of life approaches, he is disposing of his inheritance. The act of transmitting something precious has to do with death and fills the moment with solemnity. But Jesus is not simply handing over an inert something, like money or property. He is bequeathing to us the form of his life, a life characterized by the kind of love that is the most powerful antidote against death.

Expressed in the form of a command (Love one another!), the love that Jesus asks his disciples to practice has a Paschal form in the sense that it calls for us, his disciples, to exit from ourselves in order to receive in ourselves the form of Christ, and, as Cyril of Alexandria says, “the form and figure of Christ in us is love”. To live love as Jesus lived it is to participate in the energies of the Risen One, to pass from death to life. It is to profess our Easter faith in our every daily encounter. The love lived by Jesus is the innermost power of his Resurrection. Therefore, Jesus points the disciples to the way of love as the way to make the Resurrection a constant practice. To love unconditionally and without hesitation is the infallible way to live the radical newness of Christianity. The way of concrete love is the existential proclamation in daily life that death does not have the last word.

Behold, I make all things new: the meaning of this affirmation by the One who sits upon the throne of glory is revealed in Jesus’ Resurrection. The Resurrection is the vantage point from which to look at everything in a radically new way. Since Jesus’ Resurrection, nothing in the lives of humans and in history has changed from how things were before. Historical tragedies and personal dramas have not ended, and humans stubbornly show their persistence in the errors, vices, and follies of all previous times. But the Resurrection allows us to look at all reality from a fresh point of view, and to seize whatever happens as an opportunity to do something truly new within ourselves and in the world around us. The Resurrection does not so much teach us to expect new and different things to occur outside ourselves: that would be to exempt us from all responsibility. Rather, the Resurrection instills in us the responsibility to live the often painful and distressing realities of everyday life in a new way. It leads us to look in a new and different way at the same old narratives and the same old human existences.

You may have missed the very beginning of our text, which provides the essential context for understanding Jesus’ New Commandment in all its radical newness. Our passage begins with the words When Judas had left them… Jesus is celebrating the Last Supper with the apostles, and the verse before this one says: After receiving the piece of bread, Judas immediately went out. And it was night. And then: When Judas had left them, Jesus said… It is the point of view of the Resurrection, that is, of the concrete practice of love, that enables Jesus to look at Judas’ betrayal as an opportunity for loving, as a chance Jesus is given to practice love. Jesus does not make Judas better, does not change him, does not convert him. He does not even try to bring Judas back into the fold with words of persuasion, exhortation, threats of exclusion. Instead, Jesus welcomes what is concretely happening before him and turns it into an opportunity to live out love and concretely manifest God’s love. For Jesus, Judas’ betrayal is an opportunity to love even those who make themselves his enemies. In this way, he is proclaiming by his deeds and attitude that God’s love is for everyone, not just for some. God’s love is not only for the lovable but also for the unlovable, those who don’t deserve love because they have forfeited it through betrayal and infidelity.

This gospel closely relates Judas’ exit from the heart of the community to Jesus’ glorification. Immediately after Judas leaves, Jesus strangely exclaims: "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him." The act of betrayal could have been denounced and blamed, judged, and condemned. It could have been used as grounds for Judas’ formal expulsion from the apostolic community. Instead, Jesus chooses to see it as an element within the Son’s relationship with the Father and thus as a sign of the Son’s and the Father’s glorification. Jesus refers everything back to the Father’s plan of redemption and never allows private feelings to stand in the way of such clarity of purpose. It is through the Father’s eyes that Jesus sees even his own betrayal and death, something impossible in purely human terms. The question that emerges from this and challenges our reactions, our ways of reasoning and behaving, even as faithful, church-going Christians, is this: What use do we make of situations of conflict or injustice? How do we react to the difficulties a person poses to us through unjust and hurtful behavior? Often our first reaction is self-defense, which is more than legitimate and probably even required on many occasions if not always. However, here Jesus shows us a different behavior.

To understand Jesus’ attitude, we must change the point of view from which we view reality and others. Judas’ gesture of betrayal is an opportunity for Jesus to ask himself how he can continue to love Judas even in that situation. Jesus is glorified by the way he decides (yes, decides!) to love Judas to the end. And if Jesus’ elevation on the cross is the sign of his glorification by the Father, and the cross is the place where Jesus reveals God most fully, then this glorification takes place already now, in the decision by which Jesus chooses not to oppose Judas’ wickedness. Jesus is showing us, his own disciples, that absolutely everything can be lived as the Gospel teaches, that is, under the sign of love—even the evil that people do. 

It is clear, therefore, that the hour of Jesus’ glorification is not ushered in by Judas by his act of betrayal, but by the love of Jesus who loved his own to the end. Jesus forgives, that is, he continues to love faithfully those who stop loving him, those who betray him, those who lie to him. And so he demonstrates through his own manner of existing in the world that love is stronger than death, that to love is the logical practice of the Risen Life, and this paradoxically at the very moment when his unconditional loving will lead him to his death. Jesus’ words, "Now is the Son of Man glorified," sound like a cry of victory, and the victory consists in the glorious fact that evil has not stifled loving. Disappointment and bitterness at his friend’s betrayal did not prevent Jesus from unilaterally persevering in loving. 

This victory of Jesus over the evil of others, without this evil tainting him or drawing him into the coils of its perverse logic: this is Resurrection! At this moment Jesus is about to leave his friends. He has a lucid awareness of the bleak future immediately before him and his followers. In order not to forsake his own, Jesus leaves them a legacy: it consists of the suggestion, the warning, and the commandment that love is the only way to practice Resurrection. By engaging in active agápe as their ordinary way of life, Jesus’ disciples will show that they, as his true Body, are the living extension of Jesus’ redeeming presence in the world throughout history.  

As towering examples of this truth let us remember in conclusion three of the ten persons who were declared saints in Rome just this morning by the Holy Father: our own, St Charles de Foucauld, of aristocratic origin, former monk of Neiges, who chose to spend his life in utter simplicity and poverty among the Tuareg of the Sahara Desert and was murdered for it; St Titus Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite friar who refused to carry out Nazi ordinances and perished at Dachau for it; and St Lazarus Devasahayam, an 18th-century Indian layman who not only had the boldness to convert to Christianity but then proceeded to denounce the Hindu caste system as unworthy of human beings, and was executed for it. This is what the Paschal Mystery of Christ looks like when it is lived out in the concrete circumstances of this world with all its injustice and prejudice. This is what it means to practice the Resurrection in our lives: to love unto the end as Jesus did.  No wonder Paul and Barnabas had to “strengthen the spirits of the disciples [at Antioch], and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying: ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God’”. Saints Charles, Titus, and Lazarus: pray for us!

Today's homily by Father Simeon.

Friday, May 13, 2022

At Fatima

The apparitions of Our Lady exist in a very delicate, mysterious but always lovingly attentive atmosphere. Even as she pleads for penance and prayer at Fatima, Mary has not come to reprimand. Rather her concern is for all of us, her children lost, and often inured to our sinfulness. At Fatima and always, Mary’s compassionate care far exceeds our expectations.

In 1917 three shepherd children from a village in Portugal are rapt in awe at her lovely presence and heed her requests. Let us follow them, as we remember our sins and beg her Son’s forgiveness.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Saint Damien de Veuster of Moloka'i

So fully does Damien of Moloka'i take on the mind and heart of Christ, so devoted is he to the lepers, that soon, because of his fearless ministry, he will become a leper himself. In Saint Damien’s total self-gift, we have a true icon of Jesus, Jesus who constantly gives himself away to us in love and self-forgetfulness. It is what he did on the cross, it is what he does each day in the Eucharist. He draws us into the life of God; we are "spliced" into the very life of the Trinity, into the self-forgetfulness that God is.

Jesus wants to be our food, for he knows he is indispensable to us. “My Flesh is true food,” he tells us. “And my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him.” Jesus becomes bread and wine so that he can be dissolved in us, and surrender himself to us completely.

Life in the monastery is meant to accomplish the very same self-forgetfulness in the monks. Like Jesus in his passion, like Damien in the leper colony of Moloka'i, we are trying to learn how to give ourselves away with ease, without reserve or fear.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Shepherd Us


The 23rd Psalm is the ambient music surrounding this morning’s Gospel. Words we know so well: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose; near restful waters, he leads me to revive my drooping spirit. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for he is with me… This cherished image, perhaps banalized by overexposure in song and art, nonetheless shines out as an enduring description of who God is. The ineffable One whose name could not be spoken by the people of Israel, would be fittingly, repeatedly described as Shepherd.

Jesus appropriates this imagery for himself, boldly, lovingly, “signaling his consciousness of his Messianic role.”1 This is the Father’s will for him. Earlier in the chapter from John that includes today’s Gospel, Jesus has announced, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Because he understands his vocation as beloved Son, he senses that this reality is coming true in him. Israel had been promised repeatedly that a Messiah would come, a Good Shepherd at last, who would guard and protect and console them, gather all the tribes, all the nations, Jews and Gentiles alike. In Christ Jesus, the Lord, visions and longings cherished by the prophets are fulfilled and enfleshed.

Jesus is the One who will leave ninety-nine sheep to rush after one stray until he finds it. He is the One who looks out upon a weary crowd and sees a flock of sheep without a shepherd, feeling their weariness most deeply in his very guts. He is the One who will feed a huge crowd on a hillside, inviting them to recline on the green grass, because he is the good shepherd who gives us repose in green pastures.

“My sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them,” says Ezekiel. “But I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” This is Jesus’ truth, he has come to rescue the lost, feed the hungry, and be compassion for all who are in need. And it was precisely when we were lost and helpless and could not find our way back to God, that he loved us more than ever and came after us, “while we were still sinners.” And this morning he assures us that there is no taking us out of his very beautiful, wounded hand. We have been given to Jesus by his Father. Held by God.

As we look at the characteristics of this very good shepherd, it becomes clear that Jesus fittingly uses this motif because we so often act like dumb sheep - dependent and vulnerable creatures who huddle together for safety and are often prone to wandering. Yet they will respond readily to a voice and a word they recognize. So it is that Jesus tells us this morning, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” We his sheep are listeners, called to attentiveness. And as we grow closer to the Lord, we come to know his voice - direct, clear but never coercive, most often perhaps a mere whisper.

So, it dawned on me not long ago that as I begin to pray or try to pray, I must admit that I really don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to pray. All I hope and know is that God is seeking me. Called to a life of incessant prayer, we’re probably much better off understanding this as our vocation to an incessant lostness. Incessant lostness. Lostness means everything. And we always go to God as beggars. “Help” is always our first and best prayer.

After college with few job prospects available, I often got gigs as a substitute teacher, sometimes at my old parochial school. One day the first-grade sister who would be absent left me instructions: in the morning, she said, I should begin by playing the record she would set on the little turntable in the classroom. So, after the sign of the cross and a prayer, I lowered the needle to the record. It was Carey Landry singing out, “Hi God, how are you today?” On and on it went, as the children sang along. Amazing. Now even at 22 and poorly catechized, the concept seemed a bit out of whack to me. Everyone wants intimacy with God, but we need a Savior, not a buddy.

Jesus our Savior, our Shepherd, has indeed called us his friends. But something far more breathtaking is being offered to us. In and through Christ Jesus, we are being swept into the reality of the God’s own “mutual love and indwelling,”2 invited into “a union with Jesus which will plunge (us) into the depths of God’s very life, the life Jesus shares with the Father”3 in the Spirit.

If God wants to chase after those who wander off, feed the hungry, and console the weary, I must realize where I am, who I am, and who is seeking me, and let myself be found, let myself be found, simply that. Unless I realize how lost, hungry, needy, and unfinished I am, I’ll be stranded in the stratosphere orbiting on my own planet or else hiding in the underbrush like Adam pretending, “I’m good; no need to search for me. Everything will be fine.” This just won’t work.

Jesus is like the father in the story of the lost son, he abandons all dignity and decorum, as he rushes to us, he does not cling to his equality with God, but runs, leaps over hills in search of us, over and over. And if we are brave enough, wise enough not to elude him, he will take us to himself and bring us home to God. One like us in all but our sinning, wounded out of love for us, has come for us. And his wounding is our rescue from fear and death. His wounding is our rescue. His passion death and resurrection our freedom and peace. The pierced Lamb has become the Good Shepherd, and he is perfectly equipped for the part, for he is as vulnerable as the sheep he cares for.

And as on the first Easter day, again this morning the Lord Jesus sneaks in on us, says, “Peace” and offers us his own body and blood for our Supper. As he gives us this gift of himself, he “beckons us to respond with our own self-gift.”If we are overpowered by the mystery of his love, by the unquestionable reality of the mystery of a God who is relentless compassion and mercy, all the better.5  We have been found.

1 See NT Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 538., Sacra Pagina: John, Francis Moloney, p. 479., 3 See Written That You May Believe, Sandra Schneiders, p. 15., 4 See John Baldovin, Bread of Life, Cup of Salvation., 5 Adapted from Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, 23. 

Image by Bradi Barth. Homily by one of the monks.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Now In May

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
Has risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
Small flowers, violets, bluets, and pussycat paws are blooming in the lawns and meadows of the Abbey. These simple, low-growing flowers remind us of Our Blessed Lady and her Son in their humility.
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins responds:

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Nature's motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.


The beauty and exuberance of springtime, profusion of blossoms, chanting of birds, all remind us of Our Lady’s joy as she carried Our Lord in her womb. May is Mary's month.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Following in Love

After the meal, Jesus begins a dialogue with Simon Peter during which the Lord entrusts Peter three times over with the care of his beloved sheep. In this passage the evangelist plays alternately on two different Greek verbs for ‘to love’ when Jesus asks Peter Do you love me? The first, agapao, refers to selfless love originating in God. The other, phileo, refers to the human love of friendship. By distinguishing the two loves and including them both in his questions to Peter, the Lord is in fact affirming the need for both divine and human love in a Christian heart. The love of God excludes no authentic form of love, and friendship too was created by God. To be vibrant Christians we must first be fully alive human beings! 

Jesus can now tell Peter everything. He does not remind him of his sin of denial and fear on the night of the Passion, but he reveals to him what awaits him, as if he were saying to him: ‘Yes, Peter, you were then young, full of life and enthusiasm, and at that time you decided what you wanted and you went wherever you wanted. But as you become old, you will no longer be completely in charge of yourself. You will be forced to get help. You will stretch out your hands and ask for others to dress you because you will not be able to do it alone, and you will be taken where you do not want to go.’ This is certainly a prophecy of the martyrdom that awaits Peter, of the form of death that will befall him when he is crucified and sheds his blood for the glory of God. But Jesus’ words are also a prophecy of a form of daily ‘dying’. What is Peter’s task in the end? Simply, to follow Jesus. Jesus’ final word to Peter is the same as the very first had been on the shores of this same lake: Follow me! Even in the decline of old age, in passivity, in failure, in having to surrender one’s faculties to others, we can always follow the Lord. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus himself also experienced in his Passion—being turned into an object, a thing, being manipulated and subjected to others who did with him what they wanted?

Such is the following of Jesus from which none of us can escape because a disciple is not above his Master, nor a servant above his Lord. This is an intrinsic part of the Paschal Mystery. But can we find our joy in being with Jesus in this way? And does our love for Jesus override all our other desires and fears? Probably none of us is there quite yet! However, the Lord knows it, and this is precisely why he will now give himself to us wholly and unconditionally at the altar—to make possible our endless communion with him in indestructible joy. Christ is risen!

 Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from a homily for the Third Sunday of Easter by Father Simeon.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Do You Love Me?


So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord."

This final resurrection appearance of Jesus in John appears to many scholars to be an addition to the original Gospel, for various reasons, but mainly because it seems to draw to a close at the end of the previous chapter.

For the reader of the Gospel, the effect is as though the narrator had tied things up and then thought, “O, there’s just one more story that I must tell. They need to know this also.” This is the attitude of a lover, who wants to tell you all the wonderful qualities of the one he loves and can’t resist telling you just one more thing. Just when you think he’s finished he starts up again: “If you are to get a full picture of the one I love, you must know this also.” This is the disposition of the beloved disciple, to whose vision the Gospel of John wishes to remain faithful, the one for whom Jesus had such affection, who reclined on his breast, and whose relationship with him was the most intimate of all the disciples. The lover sees things about the one he loves that others pass by. For the lover every detail is interesting and stands out as unique. John knows the Lord so intimately because he loves him in faith, which illumines his love with supernatural understanding.

In this scene seven disciples are listed, a perfect number. As such, these represent not just themselves but the whole of the disciples. Together in the boat, they represent the “bark of Peter”, the Church. Five are identified and two remain anonymous. As in any particular historical period of the Church, we have a number of disciples who are known to all, and then those who live out their faith in anonymity, yet who have freely chosen to follow Peter into the boat, to venture out into the sea, into the new, the unknown, in unity, obedience and love. These all cast the net with Peter and the others, and help to draw in the fish, each with the unique commission entrusted to them. In the Holy Father’s vision of the Synodal way, these anonymous disciples are to have a voice and shape the Church just as the others.

Peter, accompanied by the rest of the disciples, goes fishing. They are out all night but catch nothing. At dawn, Jesus is standing on the shore and opens a conversation with them. They follow his instructions and, as a result, they catch such a large number of fish that they are unable to pull in the net.

At this point, “the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ Peter tucks in his garment and jumps into the sea. Here Peter and the beloved disciple act in perfect unity.

Yet, it is significant that it is the disciple whom Jesus loved who first recognizes that the man on the beach is the Lord. For to come to know something, we must love, it is necessary that we be moved by love. It is love that pushes us toward faith and knowledge, that opens up the soul, that readies it for this new thing that offers itself for this encounter. It is love that is able to take a particular sequence of events and perceive their interconnectedness, that is able to see things in the light of being and transmit that light to others. In this passage, as in others, it is the beloved disciple who recognizes something, and then passes it on to Peter, who, as first among the apostles, representing the official side of the Church, takes this information, weighs it, and comes to a judgment.

In the previous chapter, when Mary Magdalen ran from the empty tomb and went to Peter and “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved” to report the news, both ran together but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He respects Peter’s primacy by letting him go in first. Peter examines the particular details regarding the empty tomb, the linen cloths, and the face cloth. Then the other disciple also went in “and he saw and believed”.  It is love that is able to make this quick synthesis and arrive at once at faith and knowledge. Love runs faster than office and arrives at the conclusion more quickly and more surely than office, whose task it is to examine, ponders, consults, weigh and discern.

It is all-important that this love from which the other disciple acts does not have its source in himself. He is the one whom the Lord loves. He loves from the Lord’s love. His faith and knowledge are a gift that comes from the intimate relationship he has with the Lord. This will be the role of the beloved disciple in all his manifestations throughout the Church’s history. Out of this consummate fullness that is his through the Lord’s love, the beloved disciple will function again and again to activate the official Church and set it into motion.

In her meditations on this verse, Adrienne von Speyr treats the relationship between the beloved disciple and Peter as an archetypal example of the relationship between “love” and “office” in the Church.

“For the Church, the Lord’s becoming present lies necessarily in the coming together of the mutual necessity and dependency between love and office. This is a mystery of his free determination; because he wills love and office, he is thus to be found where office and love meet. Wherever these two come together, one can be sure that the Lord abides with them; and where the Lord abides, one can be sure that office and love come together. All this has shown what the Church ought to be: the synthesis of office and love in the Lord. And therefore the Lord also expects of his Church that the two should meet in him again and again.” (The Birth of the Church: Meditations on John 18-21, p. 309)

It seems to me that Pope Francis’ initiative of the synodal way is precisely a response to Lord’s expectation that love and office should meet in him again and again, so that he may be this unity for the Church, that he may be present to her and through her be present to the world, which is in such desperate need of his presence.

From the perspective of today’s Gospel, in the Synodal Way, the Holy Father would be asking God’s people, as believers, to be as the beloved disciple and announce to him, “It is the Lord”, wherever they see the Lord present, yet perhaps unrecognized. This is a call to deep conversion. Since we are sinners, our hopes and desires, in their limited perspectives and horizons, need to be lifted up into the Lord’s own perfect unity of love and office by a process of discernment that is similar to what happens in the offering of the bread and wine in the Eucharist. There the priest blesses the elements he has received from the assembly by sacrificing them. He thereby gives them the highest thing that a man can give. He consecrates them to God, leaving them free so that they might become the body of the Lord. Inasmuch as they are given back to the Father in faith and sacrifice, offered in a way that the Father expects, the Father can give them back again, transformed into the living form of his Son.

This is indeed a lofty goal. If it is to have any hope of success, we are all called to be conformed to the beloved disciple and, like him, submit our love to Peter. Peter, on the other hand, and all his representatives, must never be office alone, but must also bear in themselves the love of the beloved disciple, for only love recognizes love. We see here the significance of the Lord’s insistent repetitive questions posed to Peter. Three times he asks, “Do you love me more than these?” The Lord must come first. “Feed my lambs.” “Do you love me?” “Tend my sheep.” “Do you love me?” “Feed my sheep.” Without love Peter would never be able to discern the voice of love. Jesus never asks Peter about his skills as an administrator, or his capacity to gather and distribute information. Even more, we cannot exempt ourselves from what the Lord demands of Peter, that is, to submit to the grace to be willing to be conformed to him in his passion and death.

In my opinion, this is all extremely important for the success of the Synodal Way. When office comes to discern the voices that come to it from the faithful, it must receive them with the heart and eyes of the beloved disciple and present them to the Father in such a way that they may come back from the Father in the form of the Son. Office, at every step of the way, must bear in itself the unity of love and office and be able to recognize and say, “It is the Lord.” So that the Lord may look at his Church and say, “This is my body.”

As we begin this month of May, dedicated to our Blessed Mother, let us call upon her assistance in this great venture. 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Sunday's homily by Father Timothy.