Saturday, March 25, 2017

Annunciation

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
  only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
                     Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–
but who was God.

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation, c. 1438-47, fresco, 230 x 321 cm, Convent of San Marco, Florence. Lines from the poem Annunciation by Denise Levertov.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Revelations?

Moments of temptation are revelatoryof who we are and of what’s going on inside us. There is so much we are meant to learn from them; we grow by them.  Like Jesus in the desert, in struggling with our temptations we begin to know ourselves not only as weak but also filled with and led by the Spirit. The temptations by the devil called forth in Jesus the confirmation of his baptismal identity, and it was that identity by which he overcame the temptations. The remarkable thing is that Jesus ended up knowing and experiencing the truth about himself (his sonship, his belovedness, and his Father’s pleasure) in a confirmatory way precisely in response to temptation. And this is what prepared him to then go on to speak to the people of Nazareth immediately afterwards. The same is true for us. Our struggle with temptations (regardless of whether we are successful or not in resisting them at the moment) teaches us volumes about ourselves, and confirms our deepest identity and relationship with God, even if through weakness we momentarily give in to them. (That, after all, is what compunction is about.) Perhaps we do better to think of temptations not as judgments but as revelations.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Dominic.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Temptation

The good news is that our temptations, struggles, and “wilderness experiences” offer an opportunity for us to become more whole, more integrated, more fully ourselves, because they teach us about ourselves, they gradually form our self-understanding, and they even return us to ourselves. That is what they did for Jesus, and that is what they can do for us. The desert monks certainly saw it this way. Saint Antony the Great, the father of monasticism, goes so far as to say: “Without temptation no one can be saved.”
Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Dominic.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fire at Our Lady of the Valley


This is a day of remembrance for our community. For on 21 March 1950, the Feast of Saint Benedict, the monastery of Our Lady of the Valley in Lonsdale, Rhode Island was ravaged by a devastating fire. The original wing was destroyed; the church was rendered structurally unsound and would have to be demolished. The community of 140 monks was homeless.

Friends and neighbors of the monastery look on
as the fl├Ęche goes up in flames.
laybrother assists the firefighters.

Well before the fire the monks had been searching for a new location that would insure their solitude and economic stability, since the population in the area around the monastery had increased considerably. And by 1949 the community purchased a large agricultural property, Alta Crest Farms in Spencer, Massachusetts. The 1950 fire merely accelerated the community's projected move. In God's providence the end of one story became the seed for a new one.

We dare not compare the plight of a few monks with the trauma of so many homeless people, especially refugees in the Middle East. Nonetheless it is good for us to open our hearts in prayer for them, recalling that we monks were once homeless as well.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Joseph

There is no doubt that the Joseph to whom the Savior's mother was betrothed was a good and faithful man. In him the Lord found a man after his own heart to whom he could safely confide his most holy and secret design. To him he revealed the unfathomable, hidden depths of his wisdom and granted him knowledge of that mystery which was known to none of the princes of this world. In a word that which many kings and prophets had longed to see and had not seen, to hear and had not heard-that was granted to Joseph.

Saint Joseph was a man of faith and faithfulness. He trusted God; he trusted Mary. Living in close union with Christ Jesus and Our Lady in their home at Nazareth, with Mary he loved the person of Christ most tenderly. Joseph most faithfully cared for Mary and their Son in a hidden workaday life that was undoubtedly “ordinary, obscure and laborious.”

 Fragment of a wooden  carving of Saint  Joseph in one of the corners of the Abbey. Lins from Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Woman of Samaria

A number of biblical scholars have suggested that the Samaritan woman is a symbol of her people with whom Jesus wishes to enter into a relationship as Bridegroom and Messiah. Seen from this perspective, a marvelous dialogue unfolds between Jesus and his potential bride-to-be. And it is appropriate that he would speak of a “gift” to show the seriousness of his intent. Jesus’ gift is not gold or silver but “living water” that wells up to eternal life.

The Samaritan woman asks Jesus to give her this living water. But before Jesus can give her this gift, she must be ready to receive it. So Jesus tells her to go and bring before him the main obstacle, her husband. She must bring before him her principal sin. Jesus wants us to bring him the big things, in which the contradiction between sin and grace is seen by us in all clarity.

The woman hesitantly accepts the Lord’s challenge by confessing a partial truth: “I have no husband.” She has nevertheless taken a new step. Jesus accepts her half-confession. But being Jesus, he looks right through her, sees her whole previous life and tells her so. He wants candor on both sides; he needs a full confession.

“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet”, she says; meaning, you look right through me; you see what I am and what I was.  Jesus has not given her the least reproach. He does not ask for anything more. Freed now from sin, she goes immediately to the essential and asks about worship. How am I to pray? She looks for guidance, she says to Jesus “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes he will tell us everything.” With this open, straightforward confession of faith, the woman creates a space for the Lord to disclose himself to her with a fullness and clarity not yet given to anyone up to this point in John’s Gospel: “I who speak to you am he.”

With this she is prepared for mission, to go forth and bear spiritual children for the Lord. But the Wedding Day as well as the handing over the promised gift is yet to come. We will celebrate it in a few weeks in the events of Holy Week, when Jesus will make the ultimate sacrifice in undergoing the humiliation of the Cross, that from his pierced side living water may flow, slaking the thirst of all who believe in him and washing away all their sins. Here on the Cross Jesus will be united to his Bride, with whom he will dwell in all eternity.

Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255 - c.1319)Christ and the Samaritan Woman, 1310-1311, tempera and gold on poplar panel, 17 x 18 1/8 in., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Excerpts from Father Timothy's homily for the Third Sunday of Lent.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lost in Love

In his great love for us, Jesus became the Lost Son. Coming down to us from his heavenly home, from his Father's house, he squandered himself for our sake, even unto death, death on a cross. But God exalted him, raised him up. And so we rejoice in Jesus crucified and risen, for baptized into Christ, we too are God's beloved sons and daughters. Jesus has brought us all back to our Father's embrace.

Stubborn in our sinful pride, we may forget who we are, to whom we belong. But the Father reminds us over and over, "All I have is yours." In Christ Jesus wounded and risen for our sake, all the Father has is ours. Jesus is ours.