Saturday, June 24, 2017

Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A


“Do not be afraid,” Jesus tells us in today's gospel (Matthew 10: 26-33). “You are worth more than many sparrows.” If God cares for a single, simple bird, how much more does he care for us? Even the hairs on our heads are counted. This trust in God's loving care is the perfect response to fear, no matter what form fear may take in our lives.

Julian of Norwich, an English solitary who lived in the late fourteenth century, wrote these wise words on trust in God:
During our lifetime here we have in us a marvellous mixture of both wellbeing and woe. We have in us our risen Lord Jesus Christ, and we have in us the wretchedness and the harm of Adam’s falling. Dying, we are constantly protected by Christ, and by the touching of his grace we are raised to true trust in salvation. And we are so afflicted in our feelings by Adam’s falling in various ways, by sin and by different pains, and in this we are made dark and so blind that we can scarcely accept any comfort. But in our intention we wait for God, and trust faithfully to have mercy and grace; and this is his own working in us, and in his goodness he opens the eye of our understanding, by which we have sight, sometimes more and sometimes less, according to the ability God gives us to receive....
And even so, when this sweetness is hidden, we fall again into blindness, and so in various ways into woe and tribulation. But then this is our comfort: that we know in our faith that by the power of Christ who is our protector we never assent to [spiritual and bodily sin], but we complain about it, and endure in pain and in woe, praying until the time that he shows himself again to us. And so we remain in this mixture all the days of our life; but he wants us to trust that he is constantly with us in three ways. He is with us in heaven, true man in his own person, drawing us up. And he is with us on earth, leading us. And he is with us in our soul, endlessly dwelling, ruling and guarding.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Corpus Christi, Year A

Today we celebrate the great solemnity of Corpus Christithe Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. (The US Conference of Catholic Bishops allows us the option to move it from Thursday, in order that more of the faithful can celebrate it.)
Last Supper,.14th c. Dominican gradual. (Karlsruhe, Germany.)

This is a great feast day! It is the day we thank God for the gift Jesus gave us of the Eucharist. On the night before he died he instituted this Sacrament that allows us to be one with him in a sublime and mysterious way. Our union with Jesus in Holy Communion is beyond our imagination and it yet it is not our imagination; the whole of Jesus - body, blood, soul and divinity - is present within us. He hears our deepest thoughts, love, worries and desires with all the interest, concern and love that only a parent or lover has for another but even more. How blessed we are!

St. Thomas Aquinas, who composed the liturgy for this day, wrote the beautiful sequence Lauda Sion salvatorem. Here it is sung by the Benedictine monks of Clervaux, and here's an English translation.

And finally, here is a reflection of this great feast from  St. Thomas himself:
No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion. 
It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Holy Trinity, Year I

Blessed Feast of the Holy Trinity! This great mystery is beyond our understanding, yet God longs for us to know how deeply he loves us as the individuals we are. Pope Francis, reflecting on the unity of the Trinity, said that “The relationship between Jesus and the Father is the 'womb' of the link between Christians. If we are rooted in that womb, in this burning fire of love which is the Trinity, we can become able to possess one heart alone and one soul alone, because the love of God scorches our selfishness, judgments and divisions.”

Icon of the Trinity, Andrei Rublev (1425)
And last year on this feastday, the Holy Father said:
Our being created in the image and likeness of God-Communion calls us to understand ourselves as beings-in-relationship and to live interpersonal relations in solidarity and mutual love.

Such relationships play out, above all, in the sphere of our ecclesial communities, so that the image of the Church as icon of the Trinity is ever clearer. But also in every social relationship, from the family to friendships, to the work environment: they are all concrete occasions offered to us in order to build relationships that are increasingly humanly rich, capable of reciprocal respect and disinterested love.

The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity invites us to commit ourselves in daily events to being leaven of communion, consolation and mercy. In this mission, we are sustained by the strength that the Holy Spirit gives us: he takes care of the flesh of humanity, wounded by injustice, oppression, hate and avarice.
We pray that the deep love and relationship that is within God may bear fruit in all our lives and relationships!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost Sunday, Year 1

A glorious and grace-filled feast of Pentecost to you! Today ends the Paschal season, and we sing the Veni Creator Spiritus for the last time. This beautiful hymn is attributed to the Benedictine monk Rabanus
Pentecost, 14th c. Missal (Natl. Library of Wales
Maurus (776-856). It is a tradition to sing it as a novena in the evening at Vespers, begging for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to transform all of us and bring us to the fullness of the life that God so desires us to have. May there be an outpouring of his grace and peace on all the world!

Here's a recording of the Veni Creator Spiritus, sung by the Schola Gregoriana Mediolansis under the direction of Giovanni Vianini, and here's a translation of it (the choir sings it first with women's voices, and repeats it with men and women):

COME, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Seventh Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

As we near the feast of Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit, the sublime prayer of Jesus to his Father at the Last Supper (John 17:20-21) is given us as the gospel reading: Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.

That unity of charity which is the mark of a Christian is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Here are some words of St. Augustine, taken from his commentary of the First Letter of St. John:
Descent of the Holy Spirit, Syriac Rabulla Gospel (6th c.)
Whoever carries out his commandment abides in God and God in him. And we can tell that we are dwelling in him by the Spirit he has given us. If you find charity in yourself, you have the Spirit of God to give you understanding, a thing most necessary.
How can we know whether or not we have received the Holy Spirit? Let each one question his own heart. If he loves his brothers then the Spirit of God dwells in him. Let him examine and test himself in God’s sight, to discover whether he harbors in his heart a love of peace and unity, a love of the Church as it extends throughout the length and breadth of the world. Let him not look for love only of the brother who is present, for we have many whom we do not see, but with whom we are united in the Spirit.
There is nothing strange in that. They are not all here with us, but we all belong to the one Body and have a single Head in heaven. So then, if you would know whether you have received the Spirit, ask your own heart: do you perhaps have the outward sign of the sacrament without the virtue of the sacrament? Ask your heart: if the love of your brothers is there, you can be at peace. There can be no love without the Holy Spirit, for Paul cries out to us: The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit he has given us.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Feast of the Ascension, Year I





The Church allows the faithful to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension either on the traditional Thursday, or on the following Sunday in order that more of its members can participate. Here in the monastery we celebrate it today, so we’d like to share with you part of the reading we hear at Vigils. It's from a homily by St. Augustine:
Ascension, Giotto (c. 1305)
As he was about to ascend, he spoke the last words he was to utter on earth. At the moment of going up to heaven, the head commended to our care the members he was leaving on earth, and so departed. No longer will you find Christ speaking on earth; in the future he will speak from heaven. Why will he speak from heaven? Because his members are being trampled underfoot on earth. He spoke to Saul the persecutor from above, saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I have ascended to heaven, but I still remain on the earth. Here at the Father’s right hand I sit, but there I still hunger and thirst and am without shelter.’
...My friends, you have Christian hearts. Think, then; if the words of one who is on the way to the grave are so sweet, so precious, so important to his heirs, what must the last words of Christ mean to his heirs as he departs, not for the grave but for heaven! When a person has lived and died his soul is borne away to another place while his body is laid in the ground. Whether his last request is carried out or not, it matters little to him now. He has other things to do or suffer. His corpse lies in the grave, feeling nothing. And yet his dying wishes are carefully obeyed! If that is so, what will be the lot of those who fail to observe the parting words of the one who is seated in heaven and who looks down to see whether they are flouted or not – the words of him who said: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? and who reserves for the Day of Judgement all that he sees his members suffer?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sixth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

At the Last Supper, Jesus prepared his disciples (and that includes us) not only for his Passion and Resurrection, but also for his Ascension to the Father (Jn. 14:15-21). Yet he promised he would not leave us orphans. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.

Pope Francis spoke about this gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, 2013:
Holy Spirit, Bernini (St. Peter's Basilica)
The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ.
The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter,” who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel!
The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission? Today let us remember these three words: newness, harmony and mission.