Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holy Family

On this very snowy morning, on this Feast of the Holy Family, our monastic "family" was absorbed in all the activities that make the community run smoothly. While one group cleared the paths and entryways of snow, others were preparing the noon meal, still others caring for the infirm, while others were praying quietly.

We were reminded of these words of the early Cistercian abbot, Baldwin of Forde:
Since they have one heart and one soul and all things in common, there is concord and unanimity throughout, and they always put the general profit and the common good before their own individual convenience…The greater their love, the stronger is their bond and the more perfect is their communion: and conversely, the greater their communion, the stronger their bond and the more perfect their love.
Photographs by Brother Anthony Khan and Brother Brian.

Friday, December 28, 2012


We share recent photographs of the brothers in formation and their directors, taken by Brother Brian on the occasion of Brother John's Simple Profession.

From left to right: Fr. Luke, Novicemaster; Br. John, Simply Professed; Fr. James, Junior Director; Br. Peter, Novice; Br. Stephen, Simply Professed; Br. Daniel, Submaster of Novices; Michael, Observer.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

God With Us

In 1941 W. H. Auden wrote “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio.” The poem is a series of dramatic monologues spoken by characters in the biblical Christmas story along with choruses and a narrator. The characters all speak in modern diction, and the events of the story are portrayed as if they occurred in the contemporary world. Simeon’s meditation in the poem in part goes as follows: “And because of His visitation, we may no longer desire God as if He were lacking; our redemption is no longer a question of pursuit but of surrender to Him who is always and everywhere present. Therefore, at every moment we pray that, following Him, we may depart from our anxiety into His peace.”
There really is no such thing as “as if” when it comes to what we are celebrating on this night. Emmanuel, God with us, is really and truly with us tonight, today in our lives. Christian reflection through the centuries always comes to Simeon’s conclusion- the birth of Christ, “His visitation,” changes the entire human agenda, changes it from pursuing a missing, an absent God to surrendering to an “always and everywhere present God.”
The Incarnation, God becoming human, is really a landmark, cosmic, ontological  shift which changes everything. When God was missing (or presumed missing) we could always ask questions like, “Where is God in all this anyway?” with its presumed answer of “nowhere.” Or we could scream out, often hysterically, “How long, O Lord, how long?” to some distant, remote deity. After all one can always deny or scream at or blame a distant, missing god (who may or may not really be there anyway). But if God is “always and everywhere present,” what then?
Brothers and sisters, this is what we’re all about tonight- learning to continue to surrender to our “always and everywhere present God.” And this year that always and everywhere includes Friday, Decmber 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. That was the day that I began to reflect and put together my thoughts for this homily. I was doing just that when I received the news of that tragic event. To be honest, I couldn’t continue. Whatever I was thinking and trying to say, seemed so meaningless at that moment. So, I went for walk. The following day when I returned to my reflections on today’s Feast, it was still a struggle for me. I found myself wanting to avoid this horrendous tragedy; to put it out of my mind and get on with my Christmas homily. But would it really be a Christmas homily if I bracketed all the very real human tragedies in our world today?
We who worship Jesus on this holy night, we who listen again to the song which the angels sang, we who begin to glimpse the reality that in Jesus heaven and earth really do come together, we now have the responsibility to sing this song for ourselves, and so to discover what it might look like in practice for Jesus really to be the Savior, the King, the Lord in this so sad, and often tragic world of ours. The Christmas message is about the reality of God becoming flesh- part and parcel of our reality, with all the suffering and puzzlement that goes with it.
I just mentioned that on first hearing of the tragedy in Newtown I tried to avoid it, so I could get on with my Christmas homily. What I came to realize was that it was right there in the midst of all that pain and heartache that God was being born. And I pray to God that in saying this I am not putting some "theological veneer" over the whole painful, tragic mess. A Jewish rabbi ,who was present in the fire house where family members were gathering in the midst of the chaos of that day, was interviewed by a reporter. He said the following: “There’s no theological answer to this. What you have to do is be with them, hug them and cry with them.” Isn’t that why God became human, so that He could be with us, embrace us and cry with us? The images that I saw in newspapers or on the internet of so many people doing just that, embracing and crying with each other, became for me a sort of living icon of God’s Incarnation. And I am more convinced now than I was before December 14, that because of God’s Incarnation God’s embrace is wider, broader, deeper than any evil. And God’s tears can quench the flames of any hell.
And so brothers and sisters, let us praise this Jesus tonight from a full heart, full with all that we carry within it, and from a glad heart. And let us celebrate His birth with everything we’ve got. And then in our own unique ways, big and small, let’s go and bring God’s glory in heaven to his people on earth. The angels sang their song. And they did a pretty good job of it. Maybe it’s time we learned to sing it back to them.
Excerpts from Abbot Damian's Homily for this year's Christmas Mid-night Mass. Photograph of a detail of the Abbey Creche taken by Brother Jonah.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Come Down

In these darkest days of the year, the shortest days, “as the year grows older and the chill sets in,” let us make a place for Christ, a place where hope can grow as he did in the Virgin womb of Mary. Let us open to him all places of fear and helplessness in our hearts and in our world, dare to open that darkness to the Divine Child of Hope, who longs to be near. A tiny hand reaches out to us; God is whispering a message that we need not fear. We can be unafraid, for we are dearly loved, even liked, by a God who dares to become a little Child.

Like the Virgin Mary, who allowed herself to be tenderly overshadowed by Mystery, a Mystery who loves us beyond all telling, let us step quietly, perhaps even a bit forlornly, into that place of trust in our belovedness.

Overshadow us, come down O Love Divine, and invade our space with your more than imaginable "benignness" and tenderness and compassion. Fill us with yourself; for left to ourselves, we will believe ourselves too small, too lonely, too afraid and forgotten.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Guests are always welcome to join us for the Christmas Liturgies. On Christmas Eve Vespers will be at 4:40 PM. Solemn Vigils begin at 12:50 AM with Mid-night Mass at 2 AM. On Christmas Day Lauds will be at 7:30 AM with an Aurora Mass immediately following. The Solemn Day Mass is at 11 AM; Christmas Vespers begin at 5:10 with Benediction to follow. The other Offices are celebrated at the usual times.
Christ the Lord is born on earth today for us.
Come let us adore him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


With rain pelting the roof of the Abbey church during this morning's Advent Eucharist, we heard once again these astounding words from the Gospel of Matthew,

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.

With all the preparations for Christmas even in the monastery- songs, cards and little lights- how sobering to hear this Gospel. It reminds us just how Jesus is born, how Christ comes into our lives- in ordinariness- in what seems awkward, even incongruous. It is God's delight to make this reality, our reality, his holy dwelling place.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Our hearts and prayers are with the families of Newtown, Connecticut. We grieve with them. As Father Vincent reminded us in his homily this morning the senseless tragedy is a grim and very tangible reminder of our desperate need for a Savior. We draw close to Christ Jesus, who never ever abandons us. Only his wounded and resurrected love can help us cope with such horror.  Come Lord Jesus and do not delay. Please show us how to hope.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Brother Subprior

The juniors, therefore, should honor their seniors, and the seniors love their juniors. In these words Saint Benedict reminds his monks of the beauty of mutual respect. Here we see our Subprior, Brother Robert, in a photo by Brian Brian. Brother Robert is ever-attentive in the kitchen and in church to make sure that everything moves along smoothly. He notices what needs to be done and gently encourages our engagement and attention to one another's needs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eyes of Mercy

We are touched by the tenderness of the gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as we recall her words to Juan Diego, "Are you not in the cool of my shadow? In the breeziness of my shade? Is it not I that am your source of contentment? Are you not cradled in my mantle? Cuddled in the crossing of my arms?"
Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine
eyes of mercy towards us!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brother John

On Sunday, December 9 Brother John Kim pronounced his simple vows during the weekly Chapter. We continue to be edified by John's goodness and generosity in sharing his many gifts with us. Born and raised in South Korea, John came to us after a brief career as a teacher of English. We share a portfolio of photographs taken by Brother Brian.


Saturday, December 8, 2012


In her response this morning Mary surrenders to God’s desire with a serenity and, it would seem, even a kind of a quiet joy. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." In the first reading we heard God’s very first recorded question. God says to Adam: “Where are you? Where are you, Man?” For Adam is hiding after all, naked and embarrassed at his lost innocence, hidden there in the underbrush. “Where are you?” Mary’s reply, centuries later, is the healing antidote to Adam’s fearfulness and furtiveness. She is utterly present. Mary stands right in the middle of the garden, small, delicate, defenseless but truly courageous. She comes forward, unembarrassed by her nothingness, and she says simply, “Here I am, you called me. Behold I am your handmaid. May it be done to me.”

And so Mary models for us our human capacity to be God-bearers, God-collaborators, at a very visceral level- every fiber of our being, our very bodies, totally available for God, for what God wants. “May it be done to me," she says as she steps quietly into mystery, into God’s arms. Such abandonment is always disorienting. And as Mary perhaps suspects at this moment of her Annunciation, her yes (like ours when we dare to say it) will be her undoing; things are going to fall apart. Still she names herself handmaid, not understanding fully, but believing that love is worth it, believing that God is trustworthy. She is grace-fully confident that God never deceives or manipulates but simply waits, always waits. Forever and ever and over and over God invites and waits- awaits our response most patiently. God pursues, even allures, proposes gently, modestly; but he is never ever coercive or pushy. Perhaps our response is not always as quick as Our Lady’s, but God always waits for us; and the offer always stands, for God cannot, will not withhold his compassion.

Most of all in this tale of Annunciation, we witness the surrender of love, the surrender of mutual desire that happens in any real relationship. Most truly it is Mary and God who are both losing themselves in each other. If we take the Incarnation seriously, this is perhaps exactly what is so scandalous about God becoming human. God has lost himself in love, given himself over to us completely. God in Christ through Mary is now subject to the laws of nature, of human flesh, its smells, its aches and heartaches, its narrowness and limitations, its unpredictableness.  
In defining this dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, Pius IX proclaimed, indeed it was wholly fitting that so wonderful a mother should be ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness and so completely free from all taint of original sin. We  celebrate this solemn feast not only out of our loving obligation to the Mother of God, a sort of family duty as Catholic Christians. That’s nice enough, but  Our Lady would want something more for us. For we also celebrate what her privilege means for our human flesh. We are not like her ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness. Far from it, but our destiny and potential are foretold in her privilege. Foretold in her privilege. We are meant for more, to be more. This is what Mary shows us. For her work is always to be transparent to Christ, to point to him, to his most beautiful body, as it once was on earth, as it is forever in heaven, as it is here and now on earth in his body that we are becoming.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent Morning

On this Advent morning in the reading at Mass, the prophet Isaiah presents us with his vision of a real place where all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for us:
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord God will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken.

In the proclamation of the Gospel we see this place of fulfillment. It is Christ Jesus our Lord.
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame,

the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others.
They placed them at his feet,

and he cured them.
The crowds were amazed

when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole,
the lame walking, and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Sunday of Advent

"Be vigilant at all times," Jesus tells us on this First Sunday of Advent. Perhaps one good reason that he so urgently exhorts us to be attentive is that the mode of his approach is most often so unassuming, ordinary, unremarkable, and almost forgettable. We need to keep alert or we’ll miss out. The hour is now, God’s time is now. But we must be aware that his coming, his advent toward us is usually in silence and obscurity. Hidden first of all in the warm womb of a pregnant virgin mother, he then lives a hidden small town life as a carpenter and wandering preacher. Then in the excruciating hour of his death on the cross, all his beauty and power will be hidden, smeared and obscured by the blood and spittle and scorn of his passion. And finally even in his joyous resurrected return to his disciples; he will sneak in through locked doors to whisper, “Peace” and to ask quietly for something to eat.