Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Father Edward

For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 4:6

Late this morning our dear Father Edward entered eternal life. He had been a monk of Spencer for over sixty years, having come to the Abbey in 1951. A man of deep prayer and a lover of the brethren, he has served the community generously in numerous capacities and was permitted to live as a hermit for some 44 years of his monastic life. We are grateful to now have him interceding on our behalf with Our Lord and Our Lady in paradise.

We remember that year or so ago he told us, “I love serving the monks and being with them. They are Christ among us. I wish the whole world were attracted to the beauty of monasticism."  Requiescat in pace.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wounded

  Perhaps you remember hearing about Stephanie Decker, the woman from Indianapolis who in March of 2012 saved her two little children during a tornado. As the storm ripped through their home, Stephanie covered her kids with a big quilt and protected them with her own body. She was crushed under a cascade of debris. She lost parts of both her legs and suffered a punctured lung. But her eight-year-old son and five-year-old daughter both survived the storm unharmed because Stephanie put her great loving body on top of theirs, sheltering them and absorbing the impact of all that debris. How like Jesus is this loving mother.
  As we try to grasp what Jesus does for us in his passion, death and resurrection, Stephanie’s deed can help us understand. Like Stephanie, Jesus absorbs all the shock and pain- the great tornado of sin throughout history- wars, holocausts, all the evil choices, large and small, all the resistances to God, all the proud refusals that have always been and even now are tragically part of our humanity. Jesus has borne all of it because he cannot bear to have us burdened or trapped by the guilt and regret and the chaos of our sinfulness. 
  He has allowed this immeasurable quantity of ugly debris to fall upon him as he shelters us with his body. But it could not crush him, for he is truly God. Still the crash has not been without effect. Gloriously resurrected, Jesus has nonetheless emerged, like Stephanie, with real wounds that won’t go away. God is forever full of holes, these great marks of his love and compassion and mercy. And so he is not embarrassed by the intimacy of baring these wounds for Thomas, for each of us. He gladly shows us his wounds because they are the radiant sacraments of his compassion. God is wounded by our sins just as we are, but his wounding means transformation and the revelation of the unending availability of his mercy.
   In the passion-gashed Jesus we see ourselves clearly: our utter human fragility joined forever to resurrected divinity. In him we see our reality and our sublime destiny, as individuals, as Church, as monastic community. For he shows us who are and who we are meant to become more and more- wounded healers, never poor victims of our sin and bad choices, never mere hapless victims of our sin-filled histories and misery, never wounded wounders, but wounded shock-absorbers, wounded healers, wounded forgivers like Jesus. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Peace

This morning we see Jesus sneak in to visit his frightened disciples even though the doors are locked. He returns without recriminations or regrets, no reproaches. Think of all the things he could have said: “You left me, you denied me. You feel asleep. How could you have done this?” But he’ll have none of it. He is utterly defenseless, wounded, disfigured forever by his passion. The scene is absolutely astounding in its simplicity. He is essentially silent, almost forlorn, coming through the locked doors as if on tiptoe. Jesus simply says, “Peace.” He offers them the gift of silent acceptance and unconditional love. Peace. He gladly shows the disciples his wounds, the holes that love has made in his heart, in his hands and feet. And here at last in silence He teaches us with his Body. He shows us his wounds and so reveals God’s forgiving love in and through his own disfigured humanity.* For on the cross he has given himself completely and so has made known God’s great love for us. His wounds are the signs of this love, God’s wonderful secret, they make clear what love has done to God’s heart to God’s beautiful body. God is wounded forever out of love for us. No wonder the apostles are glad. No wonder Jesus delights to quietly show us his wounds for they show how much he loves us. 


*See Nathan Mitchell, Worship, March 2006.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Octave

How to adequately celebrate the grandeur of the Resurrection of Our Lord? The Church gives us eight days, an octave. Eight is the number of extravagant fullness, overabundance. For seven is fullness- a whole week, a seemingly perfect combination of three and four; three the heavenly number for the Trinity plus four the number of things earthly- the seasons, the classical elements. But eight is one more, the number of beyondness, infinity, life in God. In one festive hymn we call the Day of Resurrection, "the first and eighth of days." Alleluia!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Resurrected Love


Love doesn’t forget; love remembers; and the memory of Jesus in us throbs with the power of his Word and the promise of his Resurrection. ‘Do not forget what I have done for you,’ Jesus says to us incessantly. When we are overwhelmed by sorrows of any kind, or are perhaps suffering the pangs of a devouring guilt that can tempt us to despair; when it seems that our life has reached a dead-end either through the treachery of others or through our own grave errors: then our only salvation is to believe with all our might in the power of Christ’s creative anticipation, that is, in the sovereign ability Christ demonstrated at the Last Supper and on the Cross to take an evil deed that will lead to his own crucifixion and providentially transform it into an event of Resurrection.
  Christ’s unconditional handing-over of himself to us in advance of anything we might do ought to give us the certainty that no sin we commit can defeat the Mercy of God, and that no wound that is inflicted by others on us can surpass the power to heal of the divine Physician. “Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus commanded us (Jn 13:34). As Christians we must strive to love as we have been loved, which is with all the tenderness of God’s whole Heart. “The measure of love,” says St. Bernard, “is to love without measure.”

Deesis, mosaic, detail, 13th-century, Hagia Sophia, Meditation by Father Simeon.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

  Up to now we have been comforted by the luminous aspects of the Paschal Mystery. But we must pursue our meditation into the dark side of the Redemption, because this is a darkness we all carry within us. We must glimpse into the abyss of suffering into which our Lord Jesus was plunged in the hours that led him into the desolation of abandonment by the Father and, ultimately, to a horrendous death.  In the days of his Passion, Jesus, obeying the will of the Father, willingly and even joyously (Heb 12:2) entered into what Paul calls “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thes 2:7). Fully aware of what was involved, and with full consent of heart and will, Jesus handed himself over into the hands of sinners, to be treated by them as they pleased. 
  But who are these “sinners” into whose hands Jesus so willingly hands himself? Ourselves, of course. And yet Jesus sits at our table and eats with us, scandalizing the Pharisees. He surrenders himself into our sinful hands just as literally as the fact that we today receive his Body as bread in our hands and drink his outpoured Blood as wine. ‘When you did not have mercy on one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not have mercy on me’, the all-knowing King says to us at the Last Judgment (cf. Mt 25:31-46). How could we forget this painful truth? Jesus knew who we were; he knew what we would do with him; and yet he still surrendered himself totally into our hands. If we are ever tempted to view Jesus’ Passion and Death as merely the regrettable failure of an otherwise admirable mission, then we should read the Gospels carefully again. There we would see clearly the dazzling light of an ardent love, a light that blinds our natural logic with the divine truth that precisely surrendering into the hands of sinners who he knew would kill him was the strategy of divine love to redeem the world. “For our sake [the Father] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son while we were [his] enemies” (Rom 5:10). What an incredible exchange!
  Don’t such declarations make us gasp? Consider the depth of the mystery of divine love: On the one hand, God cannot be God without being from all eternity the Father of his only Son, his beloved Jesus Christ. At the very same time, however, God did not love the One by whose sonship he is God more than us, his creatures! Paul’s words above declare this wonderful, terrible truth: God did not spare his own Son but made him to be sin for our sake. For us to be liberated from the death of sin, the Father deemed it necessary that his innocent Son should become sin, that which is most abhorrent to God! Christ, the All-Holy One, became sin by taking up into his person the full consequence of our sins, namely, death. The very God who would not allow Abraham to kill his beloved son Isaac “did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all”! The all-powerful King exchanged his dignity for that of the condemned slave. The greatest truths are always unbelievable, and that’s precisely why we have to believe them.
Image from the series of prints known as the Miserere by Georges Rouault (1871-1958). Meditation by Father Simeon.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Thursday

  
  The most striking aspect of Jesus’ actions in the text of the Mass is what can be called Jesus’ creative anticipation of his death. Christ sacramentally institutes in the present an action that overtakes in time the destructive historical action of his murder that hasn’t yet occurred, while at the same time giving to it a startling redemptive meaning. Thus, the interior significance and effects of the future action of betrayal are radically changed by divine intervention before the betrayal occurs. The malice of man is overtaken by the goodness of God. Love swallows up hatred, even though the lover dies of its poisoning. A hate-filled enemy—including both his evil intentions and his murderous deed—is embraced as brother and friend.   
  In the Sacrament, Jesus’ death becomes the source of our life because the power of his love anticipates the mangling of his body and the shedding of his blood, and it transforms their vital meaning and effect: from an act of violent hatred it is transformed into the execution of a sacrifice and the preparation of its victim as food. At a moment when one would expect the victim to be overwhelmed with fear, such anticipation is instead a forceful and deliberate initiative by the One in whom the universe was first created and which the humiliated Word is now re-creating through his Passion. Jesus takes bread, pronounces a thanksgiving that changes it substantially into his Body, breaks it and distributes it for eating; takes wine, blesses it and transforms it into his Blood, and then pours it out to be drunk. This is Jesus’ way of guaranteeing that the Substance of his being will not fall on the Cross into a bottomless abyss as a result of human violence, but rather that that sacred Substance will be made available to all as a source of new life and joy: “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again” (Jn 10:17-18). This power and choice of Jesus to lay down his life contains the whole secret of his love.
  At the very moment when he is going to allow himself to be handed over to the forces of darkness, Jesus shows himself to be more than ever the sovereign Lord of creation and of history: of creation, because he takes the elements of bread and wine and re-creates them, transforming them into his Body and Blood; of history, because he takes the impending evil deed of his betrayal and transforms it already before it occurs into the best possible occasion for him to surrender his person to us, his betrayers, out of love, as the Bridegroom of the Church, with the total fidelity, dedication and passionate love that befits a royal bridegroom.

The Last Supper, Ugolino da Siena (Italian, Sienese, active 1315–30s), Tempera on panel; Overall 15 x 22 1/4 in. (38.1 x 56.5 cm), painted surface 13 1/2 x 20 3/4 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.   Meditation by Father Simeon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Multiplying Mercy

  The Gospel everywhere urges us to allow the irresistible tenderness of Christ to invade our person and take over our every thought, feeling and action. Realistically, however, none of us can by nature be as selfless as Christ, the Good Samaritan who has only to glance at a wounded or needy person to shudder with mercy. The problem is not so much that of willfully imposing on ourselves a strict consistency between faith and action; it is more a matter of allowing the power of the Christ, who has given himself to me with love, to have its full effect in my person, rather like a pregnant mother-to-be who allows the child to grow in her womb and simply nourishes it by offering it her whole being and doing nothing to harm it. This is not our work, but the work of God in us. Christ in us is never a mere static object that we dispose of; he is the Subject acting in my soul, the risen Lord who lives in me and strengthens me, the true Protagonist of my life and personal history.

Photograph by Charles O'Connor. Meditation by Father Simeon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Holy Week Schedule

As always during this most holy week, we invite our friends and neighbors to join us at prayer.  

Palm Sunday
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6:40 followed by Solemn Mass
with blest palms distributed following the Liturgy
Vespers & Benediction at 5:10
Compline at 7:40

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
our normal daily schedule with
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6 followed by Mass
Vespers at 5:40
Compline at 7:40

Holy Thursday
Vigils at 3:30 amLauds at 6:40
The Beginning of the Sacred Triduum withThe Solemn Mass of the Lord's Supper at 4
followed by procession to the Altar of ReposeCompline at 7:40

Good Friday
Vigils at 4:30 am
Lauds at 7:40
Solemn Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at 3
Compline at 7:40

Holy Saturday
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6:40
Vespers at 5:40
Compline omitted

Easter Sunday
Solemn Paschal Vigil Mass at 3 am
Lauds at 7:30
Easter Day Mass at 11
Vespers & Benediction at 5:10
Compline at 7:40

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Wounds

In a special prayer for these last days of Lent, we pray, "By your sacred wounds, purify our senses..." Indeed, may the the Lord Jesus fill us with himself, so that all else is eclipsed by his brightness. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Realization























“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I am,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me. 
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him.”  

John 8

It is on the cross that Jesus is lifted up. And there in the hour of his crucifixion, we witness the truth of who God wants to be for us. For in his death and dying, he absorbs and transforms all the horror and contradiction of sin; he frees us from the sin that would otherwise hold us captive.

Christ Crucified, Diego Velázquez, c. 1632, oil on canvas, 248 × 169 cm, Prado Museum. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lazarus


He cried out in a loud voice, 
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands, 
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Jesus is our life and resurrection. And as he tells us, he can only do what he sees the Father doing. As the Father will call  forth Jesus from the dead, so Jesus calls forth his dear friend Lazarus from the tomb this morning. As individuals, as Church, we are Lazarus, summoned by Jesus from death and darkness. The Lord's promise is that he wants this for us. 

Photo by Charles O'Connor

Friday, April 4, 2014

We will find him there.

 “When Christ came into our midst to redeem us,” says Hans Urs von Balthasar,, “he descended so low that after that no one would be able to fall without falling into him.” Now we can all fall down into our pain, the truth of who we really are and find him there. But how to be continually nonresistant to the falling? 
  A group of doctors from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston went to Haiti after that devastating earthquake in January 2010. And a young woman oncologist told the story of being totally overwhelmed by the situation in a very primitive tent hospital. There was a seemingly endless barrage of impossible medical traumas, and they were without proper medicines or instruments. And at one point she became paralyzed by her helplessness and fear. She was just then at the bedside of a little boy, whose leg had been amputated a few days earlier. It was all too much. Suddenly unable to function any longer, she began sobbing uncontrollably, her face hidden in her hands. It was then that this little fellow about six or seven years old, saw her tears and her trembling and with a smile lifted his head from his pillow and encouraged her to move on to some other kids nearby whom he knew needed her attention more than he did. And remarkably she found she was able to do so. It was a numinous moment for this woman. For in that moment the power of death, the horror and hopelessness and fear was broken open. She witnessed in that little boy the triumph of love over pain and fear.*
  We too look for the little hand of God beckoning us not to be afraid. Whatever our fears- great or seemingly insignificant, great traumas or smaller nagging ones- Jesus our kind Lord notices and offers us accompaniment and a way out. You and I are more than our fears. This is why he comes for us, to save us from all that would paralyze and hurt us. Falling under his cross in his wounded body Jesus has drawn all of our stories into his story; and it is no longer a dead-ended tale, but a story of life and hope. We don’t need to avoid our death, our dyings, if we do we’ll miss him who is our truth, our reality. We can fall down with him, into him and find him there with us.


Image from the series of prints known as the Miserere by Georges Rouault (1871-1958).
*Story from The Boston Globe, Spring 2010.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cannot Forget

He who pities them leads them and guides them beside springs of water. Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains. For the Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.           Isaiah 49.8-15.

  The Prophet Isaiah reminds us of God’s tenderness and loving pursuit. This is the real truth of Jesus' passion and death. Our God enfleshed in Jesus will be wounded out of love for us. And so the invitation is to honestly even joyfully take ownership of our lostness, our very real need for mercy, our desperate need to be found and "pitied" by Jesus. For our sinfulness, apartness from God can never estrange us from him. But instead, once we beg his mercy, it becomes a very great gateway which will lead us closer to him.
  Jesus has noticed us, lost in our sinful truth and is rushing toward us to take us to himself, even into his wounded side as refuge. He loses himself in love over us. He can’t help himself. This is the same Lord who will come through locked doors on Easter day, because he cannot bear to be apart from his frightened apostles. This is the God who in the very beginning came looking for Adam in the garden

“Adam, where are you? Why are you hiding?”

“I took what was not mine; I am naked, exposed, so naturally I hid myself from you. Please go away.”

“No, no, I cannot. Please come out. Come out, show yourself. I have sought you in sorrow. You have nothing to fear. Come out to my side.”

  Will we allow ourselves to be endlessly sought after by Christ out of love? Or will we choose to be stranded and alone, pretending that everything is really just fine? Our lostness can be our joy because it gives us ready access and makes us totally available to him. That is why it would be foolish, so very foolish to pretend that we are not lost, sinful and empty. 
  On the cross we see a God who overdoes it, loves us more than we know, to the end, no matter what. We are invited to allow ourselves continually to be overpowered by the mystery of his love.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hope

Snowdrops blooming at different spots outside Abbey windows, signs of hope in a seemingly unendless winter. We long for spring days, as we long for Easter.