Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Marvelous Exchange

           Today’s responsorial psalm has a plea which captures the mood of Advent: “Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” It is a heartfelt prayer, simple in its aim. The psalmist wants mercy; he wants God’s kindness and salvation. He wants God to respond and intervene because the harshness of life and the anxieties of the world can overwhelm us.
            The Prophet Isaiah – or better, Deutero-Isaiah, or Second Isaiah, as scholars refer to him – was facing this harshness of life. His fellow Israelites had been defeated in war and enslaved in Babylon. They realized their guilt and accepted their punishment, but their servitude was a bitter humiliation. So the words of today’s psalmist found a ready place on their lips: “Lord, let us see your mercy, and grant us your salvation.”
But this plea was only one side of a back-and-forth between God and his people. Even as the people were acknowledging their misery, God was promising to renew his covenant with them and intervene on their behalf. Speaking through Isaiah, he said: “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.” This is the rhythm of Advent: a plea for kindness, a promise of comfort and expiation; a longing for salvation, and a promise that exceeds what the mind can conceive. Back and forth – a kind of marvelous exchange with the creature imploring and the creator intervening.
We see something similar in the scene from today’s gospel. “People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out…and were being baptized by (John) in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” It must have been quite a sight. John standing there, clothed in camel’s hair, and the people going down into the Jordan, confessing their sins: “Lord, let us see your mercy, and grant us your salvation.” And John, in turn, responding, “One mightier than I is coming after me…I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy spirit.” Back and forth, back and forth: each plea of the people increasing their longing for a response from God who alone could calm their anxiety.
Even we, brothers and sisters, fortified as we are with the fullness of God’s promises in the Eucharist, continue this back and forth: our pleas rise up from the difficulties of life and the anxieties we face, and his words of comfort sustain us. So it will be until the final coming of the Lord Jesus. “Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” 
Copper beech tree in the Abbey garth in the snow. Homily from today's Mass by Fr. Vincent.


Friday, December 8, 2017

A Garden Enclosed

This is the Abbey's cloister garth in early summer- a secret garden surrounded by the four cloisters. This garden enclosed is a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her beauty, and fragrance set apart for Christ alone, a place where He could nestle and grow. On this Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception we celebrate her chosenness. We rejoice in the Virgin Mary's privilege, for she reveals the breadth of our human capacity for God, the breathtaking beauty of our availability to all that God wants to accomplish in us.

A garden enclosed is my sister, my bride; a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up. Song of Songs 4

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Fulfilled
















Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra's den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord,
as water covers the sea. IS 11

The dream of the Prophet Isaiah in today's First Reading is fulfilled in the Person of Christ Jesus. He is the Holy Child who will bring together all the seeming dichotomies, all that separates and divides us - encounter, reconciliation, peacemaking - are all real and possibilities in Him.
Photograph by Father Emmanuel.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Watch



















Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.  Is 63


As Father Isaac reminded us in this morning's homily, the cry of the people of Israel as articulated by the prophet Isaiah is ultimately answered in the person of Christ. And so according to Matthew, at Jesus' Baptism in the Jordan the heavens are indeed torn open and the Spirit comes down upon Jesus. 

It is he whom we await, he whom we watch for, he who is coming to us constantly though often hidden and disguised. It is he the Lord Jesus who is himself God for us, God with us. This event of his constant presence in our midst is truly God's awesome deed on our behalf, always more than we could hope for.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Amidst Turmoil

 As the visions during the night continued, I saw
One like a son of man coming,
on the clouds of heaven;
When he reached the Ancient One
and was presented before him,
He received dominion, glory, and kingship;
nations and peoples of every language serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed. Daniel 7


Amidst all the turmoil and terrorism, the totality of geopolitical strife and instability, in the midst of all our fears, the prophecy of Daniel seems remarkably timely and consoling. The prophet reminds us that God's love and dominion are everlasting, very real and will not be outdone. We delight to entrust ourselves to God's providence.

Photograph by Brother Brian. A meditation inspired by words of Father Isaac.