Talks and Homilies Archive

2018 Talks and Homilies

Christmas Mass During the Night (Midnight Mass)
Tuesday, December 25 2018

(No transcription available.)

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Saturday, December 8, 2018

+ Transcript: This whole assembly is singing Mary’s song. Mary sings, but she uses the Church’s voice. “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord. He has clothed me in the garment of salvation— a bride adorned with her jewels.” Mary is present now. She sings. But she sings with our voices. We are totally caught up in her mystery, her reality, her being. Step by step this whole liturgy takes us more deeply into sharing in Mary’s reality and being.

Are we clear on what “Immaculate Conception” means? It is the doctrine which states that God let Mary share beforehand in the salvation Christ’s death would bring, keeping her sinless from the first moment of her conception. (It’s called “prevenient grace,” because it prevenes, it precedes, it gets there before anything else. Prevenient grace— Catholics have words for everything!) From a mere human point of view, this is a mind-boggling juxtaposition of the chronological order in which events normally unfold, but from the divine point of view it is an providential arrangement that applies Christ’s redemptive work not only to what comes after but even to what comes before. Mary too is saved— by the death of her Son in the first moment of her conception!

We refer to the Immaculate Conception as a doctrine. Yet doctrines are but clear descriptions in words of a divine reality. It is the reality itself that matters. How can we ever forget Mary’s stunning revelation at Lourdes to Bernadette in the dark grotto? When Bernadette asked the beautiful woman who she is, the woman answered, “I amthe Immaculate Conception.” Her entire being isthis wondrous mercy that God has wrought in her. She is a new beginning to the human race, its fresh conception, a new Eve, the mother of all the living. And if she is the mother of all the living, then there is some sense in which we too, as Church, can say her words, “I am the Immaculate Conception,” meaning that as Church we share in what our mother is. As today’s preface has it, the Immaculate Conception— Mary— “signifies the beginning of the Church, the beautiful bride without spot or wrinkle.”

Why do we read the Gospel of the Annunciation on the feast of the Immaculate Conception? The Annunciation tells of the conception of Jesus, not of Mary. This is today’s Gospel because the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is a “derived” doctrine. That is to say, there is no scriptural scene that explicitly portrays it, yet it is implied— and so can be derived— from the Annunciation. From the way that the angel greets Mary and from the way in which Mary reacts in this scene, the Church— gazing on her in contemplation through the centuries— has been able to derive the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as a description of the Marian reality.

Let us look at this more closely. The Annunciation shows us Mary being directly addressed by God in trinitarian terms. The archangel’s three salutations (manifesting successively Father, Son, and Spirit) are each followed by a reaction on Mary’s part. The archangel first greets her saying, “Hail, full of grace!” And referring to the Father, the angel continues, “The Lord is with you.” Putting this in doctrinal language, we could say, “Hail, Immaculate Conception! Hail, you who are full of grace already even before Christ is conceived.” Mary’s reaction to this first greeting is entirely appropriate. She is alarmed, and she wonders what sort of greeting this might be. But this reaction provokes, as it were, the archangel’s second word and the revelation of the Son. “Do not be afraid, Mary,” the angel says. “You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son… who will be called Son of the Most High God.” This time Mary’s reaction is more practical. What concrete steps, she asks, ought to be taken for this to come about; for she has had no relations with a man. This reaction of Mary provokes the third word of the archangel and the revelation of the Spirit. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” the angel says, and continues, “Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” The Son of God— as opposed to, for example, the Son of Joseph, or the Son of some other man. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, it will be clear that Mary’s child will have God himself as Father. And look! The entire presence of the Trinity stands before us in Mary, the Immaculate Conception. Overwhelming, unfathomable proposal and plan! And yet Mary’s reaction is complete acquiescence to what she must have struggled to grasp. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord,” she says. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary was immaculately conceived and preserved from all sin for this moment. She was immaculately conceived so that she could conceive God’s only begotten Son!

This moment is clear reversal of the Fall. The Fall— described so terribly in the first reading. That fall breaks the man and woman’s relationship with God. A legacy of sin and disobedience is passed on from one generation to the next.

Mary’s yes to the angel’s proposal reverses that legacy. She is a new Eve, a new mother of all the living. A new race springs from her. And from now on every human being must decide, as Mary once did, to which race he or she will belong: to the race of those who say yes to God or the race of those who say no. For it is still possible for us to remain where Adam was, cowering in the garden, hiding from God, divided from ourselves and one another. Every age, every moment of human history can continue to be that dreadful story; and it is only too clear that our times are part of the same. But now, through Mary, there is a huge alternative course. For now every age and every moment of history can also be for each person alive the sudden and unexpected appearance of an angel, proposing a new creation into which we enter by obedient assent to what God offers and asks.

We are about to turn now to the liturgy of the Eucharist. We know that through the sacramental signs the sacrifice of Calvary is made present on our altar and offered to God. We know that Mary stood by her son’s cross and that a sword of sorrow pierced her heart. What was her sorrow then? Surely, it was seeing her beautiful son suffering so and bearing in his body the sin of the whole world. But more sharply the sword pierces her during the long hours in which she stood there as she herself realizes that she too is saved by her son’s death, that only through that was she immaculately conceived, that grace from his death prevened in her conception. This is what gives her such motherly sympathy for us sinners and puts her so close to us in our need. She too relies on her divine son’s death for all the holiness with which she has been filled.

In holy communion today we take into our very bodies the Body and Blood of the Lord given us from the cross. This is the moment when the Church as beautiful bride is made one flesh with Christ her bridegroom, just as Mary was. We sing magnificent words today as this whole assembly comes forward in procession and consummates this bridal mystery. We sing, “Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary which bore the only Son of the eternal Father.” Those words reveal what is hidden in the ritual action. Mary’s womb is not somewhere else. That womb is this assembly receiving Communion. This whole assembly is transformed into that as we bear in one Body “the only Son of the eternal Father” into which we are all formed.

Thanksgiving Day
Thursday, November 22, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Solemnity of All Saints Thursday
November 1, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Mass of Christian Burial of Br. Francis Weigand O.S.B.
Saturday, October 27, 2018

(No transcription available.)

The annual Abbot's Appreciation Brunch
Sunday, September 30, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Abbot's Appreciation Mass Sunday
September 30, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Pontifical Mass of the Solemnity of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and all the Angels
Saturday, September 29, 2018

+ Transcript: Today we celebrate our patronal feast, and this sacred liturgy unveils for us visions of angels, who in fact are always present with us when we pray in this church and indeed present with us everywhere we go. In today’s liturgy we celebrate the fact that we really are Mount Angel. The name of our monastery and seminary really means something. This name is a special grace which marks our particular lives and defines our vocations. This is our place, either for awhile or for life. For all of us, what we are doing here is immensely important, and the name of the place is Mount Angel.

God’s creation is vast and marvelously ordered. Countless and magnificently varied are the things he has made. Here on Earth human beings, made in God’s image and likeness, are a pinnacle of his wise fashioning. But God and his creation are much more vast than Earth, and through Revelation we know of a world of creatures that surround God and contemplate with swift and bright intelligence God’s very essence. They adore God and reflect his glory that he shares with them. These are the angels, and they are our friends.

All this was implicitly operative in the way we began our prayer this morning. We sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.” This is a song the angels taught us, when they came to sing praise at the birth in the flesh of the eternal Son of God. They are always praising God, but these especially love to praise him for what he does for us human beings. We acknowledged this in the Collect, praying, “O God, who dispose in marvelous order ministries both angelic and human, graciously grant that our life on earth may be defended by those who watch over us as they minister perpetually to you in heaven.” Look— these swift Angels can do two huge things at the same time! They minister to God in heaven, and they watch over us. How great God is! Constantly overflowing himself in a complex and brilliantly ordered creation!

The first reading from the Book of Daniel let us see what angels see. It is sheer revelation. “As I watched,” says Daniel, and then he begins to describe what he saw. It is a vision of God himself, called the Ancient One, taking his throne. Clothing as bright as snow and a surging stream of fire flowing out from him. And then another appears, called one like a Son of Man. This is a vision of the eternal Father and his consubstantial Son and the Son receiving everlasting dominion from the Father. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. And all the while that this is happening, there are “thousands upon thousands ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attending him.” God is not God for himself or by himself. Swift, bright, intelligent creatures contemplate and adore God’s godness. These are the angels, and they are our friends.

God’s most godlike creatures— angels and human beings— are not robots and zombies, just doing what they do by nature or instinct— like a giraffe or a tree or a slug. No, we are given something very godlike: free will. God has placed in our hands the power to please him… or not. For he brings us into existence from nothingness and then leaves us genuinely free to be in a relationship with him or not. That power of choice creates the drama of human and angelic existence.

We heard in the second reading the terrifying words, “Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back.” We do not know— we cannot know— the details of what the battle was about, but we are certain that we have told here the story of a rebellion in the ranks of these angelic creatures. God lets unfold the consequence of their rebellion, and by their own choice they are cast out of his presence. Angels created to contemplate God and at the same time to be friends to human beings are instead cast down to earth and now count us humans as their enemies. They despise the ways in which God loves us, and they despise us when we love God. Thus, the drama of the war which broke out in heaven is transposed to a drama of equal proportions for us on earth.

Good angels help us in this fight; and indeed, definitive victory is won for us by no less than the Son of God himself come among us in the flesh, crucified for us and raised from the dead. This too is part of the heavenly scene unveiled for us in this very liturgy. We heard the words, “Now have salvation and power come… for the accuser of our brothers is cast out.” So, the victory in this drama of ours is already established, but we have to claim it and live within its orbit. This is done by staying close to the Eucharist and to the Word. The text put it this way, “They conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” Eucharist and Word.

Quieter and more simple are the words of the Gospel this morning. This is a scene from the first chapter of John’s Gospel, where Jesus is walking about slowly attracting his first disciples. Nathanael is struck by something mysterious in the presence of Jesus and right here at the beginning of the story is already able to express a rudimentary act of faith in Jesus. He says to him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” But in effect Jesus says to him, “Ha! There’s a whole lot more than that!” Then he discloses what Nathanael would see— what we all would see— if we had the full capacity to discern whom we have present among us in the man Jesus. He says, “Amen, Amen I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” On Jesus— Jesus preaching, Jesus healing, Jesus crucified, Jesus risen— on Jesus angels ascending and descending, or as we heard in the Book of Daniel, “thousands upon thousands ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attending him.”

My dear brothers and sisters, this is Mount Angel! Jesus is here in our midst, with us always even to the end of the ages. And “thousands upon thousands minister to him, and myriads upon myriads attend him.” And we are meant humbly to join those angelic ranks and live an angelic life in the presence of Jesus. We do this in a supreme way by proceeding with our celebration of the Eucharist now. Myriads of angels help us to offer our thanksgiving sacrifice. We come forward with our simple human gifts— gifts that angels don’t have, gifts of bread and wine, the fruit of the earth and the work of our hands. In the Prayer over the Gifts today we will pray in these words, entreating God that “as these gifts are borne by the ministry of Angels into the presence of your majesty, so may you [God] receive them favorably and make them profitable for our salvation.”

The Preface, which is the beginning of our eucharistic prayer, sings of the angelic creatures in whom God delights and notes that when we honor those in whom God delights, this honor redounds to God’s surpassing glory and shows how infinitely great God is. The Preface also shows how all glory is given to the Father through Christ, and that the angels too extol the Father’s majesty through Christ. It is precisely here that our voices join with theirs, and we sing the angels’ song. We know the angels’ words. We know the angels’ tune. We are in heaven with them when we sing it on earth: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are filled with your glory.” We do not sing it alone. We sing it with “thousands upon thousands ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attending him.”

Michael, prince of all the angels! Gabriel, salvation’s horn! Rafael, the Father’s healer. You archangels, join with us. Every choir sing out his praises, chanting to his holy name! Ever more and ever more. Mount Angel.

Pontifical Mass of the Profession of Solemn Vows
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Pontifical Mass of the Profession of Simple Vows

Saturday, September 8, 2018

+ Transcript: My dear Novices, you have heard the Word of God, and you respond now by professing monastic vows. You were consecrated to God in Baptism. You seek to deepen that consecration now by vowing to live in stability, conversion to the monastic way of life, and obedience. This is a good response to the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has formed it in you.

And according to our custom here at Mount Angel, you make your profession on the feast of the Nativity of Mary. This is a traditional date for our profession. This is because the monks of Mount Angel have wanted to put their monastic profession under the protection of Mary and to understand their monastic vocation in the light of the Marian mystery.

So, dear Novices about to make vows, and dear confreres who have made your profession already, and dear students and friends who are listening to me speak as an abbot to his monks— let us ponder the monastic vocation and vows in the light of today’s joyful feast.

The City of Portland is a pretty nice place as far as cities go. I think some of its special charm is that a river runs through it. This is true of a good many cities. A river can define a city’s character and quarters. The Potomac for Washington, the Charles for Boston, the Seine for Paris, the Tiber for Rome. The psalmist tells us, “A river gladdens the City of God.” The City of God is this monastery, and a river runs through it. Right through its middle there flows from the pieced side of Christ blood and water, and it never ceases to flow. It gladdens us. And it flows within each one of us as well, for Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, from within him rivers of living water shall flow.”

Today we visit and celebrate the headwaters of this river: the birth of the Virgin Mary. We use the mysterious prophesy of Micah in the first reading to ponder with wonder how far upstream lie the workings that prepare for our city’s full flowing river. Mary, a daughter of David. Bethlehem “from whom shall come forth one… whose origin is of old, from ancient times.” The prophet speaks of David— no, but of more, of something further back still. Of Ruth and Boaz, Obed, their son, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the Father of David. Headwaters way back there, dear novices, all converging on you and on us in this feast and in your profession on this feast. This is something lovely and amazing.

But from these headwaters, in today’s gospel we arrive at the place where the river begins to flow especially strong: the announcement of the birth of Jesus. There are no gospel accounts— naturally enough— of Mary’s birth, which we celebrate today; and so the liturgy chooses as a gospel text to focus on the scene in which the woman born today is proclaimed to be with child by the Holy Spirit. An angel reveals this to Joseph, pointedly addressing him as “Joseph, Son of David.” The significance of this title becomes more clear when we note that the passage we read follows immediately from the long list of names that forms the genealogy of Jesus, a list that underlines a phase of special importance with the phrase, “Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed became the father of Jesse, the father of David the king.” At the end of this list is “Joseph, the husband of Mary.” The angel tells him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that her child has been conceived.” Sweet and gentle headwaters are now flowing strongly. Then Joseph, precisely because he is a descendant of David, is commissioned to give the child a name. Whatever the name shall be, the name will include the title “Son of David” because Joseph is a son of David.

A name reveals the essence of someone’s very person. Mary’s child is to be called Jesus (Jesus), the angel explains, because “he will save his people from their sins.” But he has another name as well, which reveals yet more. He shall be named “Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God is with us.’” God is with us in Jesus. Mary carries him. Joseph names him. He is Son of God and Son of David.

Why am I going into all this on the day of your monastic profession? Because the birth of Mary and the birth of Jesus can give you an essential key to the deepest sense of your monastic vocation. St. Ignatius of Antioch, in his Letter to the Ephesians, writes a strange line that is worth a brief scrutiny. He says, “Three mysteries to be cried out were worked in the silence of God: the virginity of Mary, the birth of her offspring, and the death of the Lord, all crafted from the silence of God.” “Mysteries,” he calls these three things. That means there is something hidden there, something going on that we can’t see or hear, something silent, indeed, the very silence of God. But he says these mysteries are to be cried out. That is, the deeds whose meanings were hidden are now understood in their significance and press from within to be cried out.

Your lives as monks are meant to be deeply immersed in the silence of God, in a pondering of his mysteries. But there should also be in you a drive to cry out what is detected in this silence. Not to cry out with words or shouts, but rather a life lived in such a way that your whole bearing and being cry out in witness to the Christian mysteries. You feel the river that flows within all those who believe in Jesus. It flows in you. You know its headwaters in the birth of his mother and in all of her and Joseph’s ancestors. Your lives must proclaim by their fruits what your vows declare today: stability in remaining anchored inside these mysteries, obedience to those entrusted with shaping your lives into the pattern of the Lord’s death, fidelity to the monastic way of life. No one sees or hears the ways in which these vows will work silently within you. But I repeat, they are meant little by little to cause your whole bearing and being to cry out in witness to what God has done and is doing for us in Christ Jesus.

The ritual within which you make your vows is placed between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. You respond to the Word, and you bring your vows as an offering to this altar to be joined to Christ’s own sacrifice. One of the mysteries that Ignatius lists being worked in the silence of God is the mystery of the Lord’s death. The Eucharist itself is that mystery. The reality of the Lord’s death and his resurrection is hidden within the signs of bread and wine. And after your offering is transformed into the body and blood of Christ, we will cry out that mystery, the mystery of faith. You have communion in that mystery when from the altar on which you place your vows you receive the Lord’s body and blood as his response to your gift. As you receive him, your heart silently cries out Thomas’ words as he touched the wounds of the risen Jesus, exclaiming: “My Lord and my God.” This is the mystery that your whole bearing and being must cry out: Jesus is Lord. Jesus is God with us.

So let us proceed to enact your response to the Word of God and to bring your gift of self now to the altar for consecration and for transformation.

Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit
Opening of the 2018-2019 School Year at Mount Angel Seminary
Monday, August 27, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Solemnity of Saint Benedict
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

+ Transcript: Micah 6: 6-8. Phil 4: 4-9. Matt 11: 25-30

Today we celebrate with the whole Church “the feast of our holy Father Benedict.” As we sang in the sequence, “Cause we have for celebration, this great leader’s exaltation, He whose light have left its rays.” The rays of Benedict’s light— still shining bright here in Oregon, so far away from his hidden cave in Subiaco, so long away from the year 480. It’s interesting that the devotion of those of us who are disciples of St. Benedict is directed somehow as much to his teaching, if not more, than to the man himself. I think this is probably rooted in something that St. Gregory the Great said, where toward the end of his own discussion of the life of St. Benedict, he tells us this about the relation of Benedict’s life to his teaching. He says, “But I don’t want you to miss out on the fact that among the many miracles that made him famous, the man of God’s teaching also flashed forth brilliantly. For he wrote a Rule for monks that was outstanding for its discretion and limpid in its diction. If anyone wants to examine his life and customs more closely, they can find in the same Rule all that he modeled by his conduct. For the holy man could in no way teach other than he lived.”

This last year here at Mount Angel, as abbot I offered some nine conferences to the monastic community on chapter 7 of the Holy Rule, on humility. And as you know, dear brothers, we are not done yet. I think we have seen how wonderfully deep is the teaching of St. Benedict about humility, about how in fact the monastic life somehow centers around the question of the monk’s growth in humility. It is with this teaching of St. Benedict on humility in mind that I chose the three scripture readings today. As you know, St. Benedict’s Rule is nothing less than a very practical program for teaching us how to embody the Scriptures in our lives. In this way he shows himself to be deep inside the monastic tradition which preceded him, where the whole structure was built on the desire of a disciple to receive a word from his master, asking, “Father, give me a word. What should I do?”

What should I do? This is a huge question. It is a “meaning-of-life” question. What should I do with my life? And in fact, God’s word directs us. A monk is someone who day by day, hour by hour, is devoting himself to listening to God answer the question, “What should I do?” We have one clear answer in the first reading today from the book of the Prophet Micah. There the question is asked, “With what shall I come before the Lord?” We hear these words in response: “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to dothe right and to love goodness, and to walkhumblywith your God.” To walk humbly with your God— this, dear brothers, is what I am trying to remind you of as your abbot.

From the letter to the Philippians we heard other scriptural words that encourage us and direct us as monks. St. Paul urges upon us a series of virtues that we would not be wrong to identify as the sort of thing we— precisely by our monastic profession— ought to be striving for. He says, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Yes. And I want to add, “All day long!” Think about these things all day long, and try to dothem. Those are Paul’s next words. “Keep on doing,” he says, “what you have learned and received.” This is a very concrete program for what surely is the monastic goal, expressed in this same reading as “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

In the Gospel we heard the words of Jesus, and they are directed straight at us. He says, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” St. Benedict’s whole teaching in chapter 7 of the Holy Rule is a program for teaching us how to imitate Christ, who is humility itself. Recall Benedict’s teaching. The first step of humility: living one’s whole life in the presence of God as Jesus lived his life in total communion with the Father. Or the second step, which is that a monk loves not his own will. And Benedict justifies this by explicitly saying that we do this in imitation of Jesus, who said, “I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. The third step reminds us of Jesus, “who became obedient even unto death.” The fourth step has the monk embracing suffering— putting his arms around it!— “in difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions,” and thus imitating Jesus, who embraced the cross. Of course, it is close to laughable to think that Christ’s cross is adequately described if we were to call it “difficult and unfavorable,” as if such words could get anywhere close to the depths of Christ’s suffering there. And so the difficult, unfavorable, and unjust situations that a humble monk embraces are really but a faint imitation of Christ’s own sufferings. Nonetheless, they are communion in them.

St. Benedict wants his teaching on humility to be at work everywhere in the monastery, to completely invade and mark the monk’s life. Listen again to his description of the point of arrival in the steps of humility. He says, “The twelfth step of humility is that a monk always manifests humility in his bearing no less than in his heart, so that it is evident at the Work of God, in the oratory, the monastery, or the garden, on a journey or in the field, or anywhere else.” What is interesting about this list of places is that it radiates outward from the church. But here is a curiosity that needs to be explained. Benedict, listing where humility should be evident in the monk, begins by saying “at the Work of God, in the oratory.” What is the difference? Doesn’t the Work of God— this is Benedict’s name for the prayers of the Divine Office— take place in the oratory, in the church? Of course, it does. But if Benedict distinguishes the two, he must want us to understand something fundamental about the Work of God. For Benedict, the Work of God is not a place, like all the other things mentioned in his list. For him the Work of God is the fundamental reality that calls forth humility from the monk. For remember, when we pray the Divine Office, it is God who is at work on us. God’s work is the death and resurrection of his beloved Son, Jesus, and the application of that work to us, the granting us communion in the Son’s divine life. This awesome, unfathomable mystery is the Work of God, and dare we be any less than completely humbled to come under its force? If we really grasp all that God is doing there, then surely the rest of the monastery will be permeated by this atmosphere.

I like how Benedict moves us after that in his list from the oratory to the monastery. That would be all the other parts of the building in which we live and work. From there to the garden, getting a little farther away but taking with us the same fundamental “humility should be evident” of this step. We get even farther away on the next step. From the garden we move to “on a journey or in the field.” He’s wanting to say that there is nowhere we go that this should not show up. Finally he just says, “or anywhere else.” I love the Latin word for that. Ubicumque. I’d like to see if we couldn’t introduce that into our talk around here. If I just every now and then say “Ubicumque!” we could agree to take this as a shorthand reminder that St. Benedict wants us everywhere and always to “manifest humility in our bearing no less than in our hearts.”

Let’s do that now as we celebrate the Work of God, this Holy Eucharist. Here and now God is at work on us. This is the Work of God. Here and now we are given communion in God’s great work, the death and resurrection of his Son. Surely our movements inside this Work of God and inside this oratory should evidence humility in our bearing no less than in our heart. And from here throughout the monastery, and then in the garden, and then on any journey or in any field. And then ubicumque. “Go and announce the Gospel by your lives.” Ubicumque!

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
Friday, June 29, 2018

+ Transcript: There is a happy difficulty in trying to celebrate today’s feast rightly, for in fact we are dealing with two saints together, each of whom is truly a giant figure in the community of the first generation of believers. How to celebrate one without taking attention from the other, how to find unity in figures so strikingly different from each other— that’s the happy problem. Well, I suppose we just rejoice in it year after year as the day rolls around, and maybe by adding up the years through a lifetime we begin to approach some understanding of how wonderful God is in his saints.

Different as St. Peter is from St. Paul, they have in common that both of them reached Rome as the end and culmination of their apostolic journeys. Both of them were martyred there, and their blood was and still is the seed of the Church universal. Rome is not just any place, then or now. Rome was the capital of a worldwide empire, and its system of roads and commerce and travel were the providential preparation— the infrastructure!— for the fulfillment of the words of the risen Jesus uttered just before his Ascension. Jesus had said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you; then you are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes, even to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8) When the Gospel reaches Rome in Peter and Paul, these words are fulfilled. We are still celebrating! “Roman Catholics”— it means something! Of course, we celebrate this day as a solemnity.

A saint from any century is a good deal, and perhaps we feel more awe sometimes if they are from a very long time ago, like the fourth century, or the third, or even the second. But there’s more than that in Peter and Paul. Each of them in his own unique way is part of the Jesus event itself. They were actors and direct players in the center of God’s huge deed in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter was chosen by Jesus himself at the beginning of his ministry. He confessed his faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. This was given him not by convincing human arguments but in a direct revelation from the heavenly Father. We just heard of this confession in the Gospel. (Matt 16: 13-19)

Paul was an apostle “born out of the normal course,” (1 Cor 15: 8) but what made him an apostle is that he was privileged to have had the risen Lord appear to him directly and constitute him as the Apostle to the Nations. Peter was enmeshed in the events that surrounded Jesus’ death, where he denied Jesus three times. But the risen Lord appeared directly to him as well, and the fact became an actual formula for confessing the Church’s faith. It is stated by the other apostles to the two disciples as they return from Emmaus. We sang it every day all during the Easter season: “The Lord Jesus has indeed been raised. He has appeared to Simon. Alleluia. Alleluia.” (Luke 24: 34)

“You will receive power when the Spirit comes down on you,” Jesus said just before his Ascension. Pentecost fulfilled his promise. And Peter is the first evidence. The bumbling denier of Jesus during his passion— not to mention mistakes in understanding during Jesus’ ministry— the bumbling denier becomes a fearless witness on the day of Pentecost, and the story rolls on from there. Ascension and then Pentecost is the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, but after that Peter steps onto the scene as stunning preacher of the Christ-event and the Christ-truth. (Acts 2: 14-41) “Some three thousand were baptized that day.” (Acts 2:41)

In many ways the book of the Acts of the Apostles centers around Peter and Paul. But it is a story full of adventures and surprises that we can associate with the Holy Spirit. I’ve got to share with you a description of the Acts that I came across some years ago. It was penned by the biblical scholar E. J. Goodspeed way back in 1923, and he really captures its mood. He says, “Where, within eighty pages, will be found such a varied series of exciting events—trials, riots, persecutions, escapes, martyrdoms, voyages, shipwrecks, rescues—set in that amazing panorama of the ancient world—Jerusalem, Antioch, Philippi, Corinth, Athens, Ephesus, Rome? And with such scenery and settings—temples, courts, prisons, deserts, ships, barracks, theaters? Has any opera such variety? A bewildering range of scenes and actions (and of speeches) passes before the eye of the historian. And in all of them he sees the providential hand that has made and guided this great movement for the salvation of mankind.”

“This great movement for the salvation of mankind”— Peter and Paul are at the center of the drama. That is today’s feast, and it belongs to us, for the faith has reached us through them and in communion with them.

In the first reading we heard of Peter’s second jail break, aided by an angel both times. (Acts 5: 19-21; 12: 1-11) Paul has a jail break too in a later chapter, caused by an earthquake, but who knows if the earthquake wasn’t caused by the earthquake-making angel in Matthew’s Gospel that got the stone rolled away from the tomb to show that the body of Jesus’ wasn’t in there. (Matt 28: 2) There are angels all over these stories. In any case, all the jail breaks are so that Peter and Paul can proclaim that the Jesus who was crucified, God has raised him up and made him Lord and Messiah. (Acts 2: 36) This is the bedrock core of their message, and they take it out of those jails all the way to Rome and seal their preaching with the shedding of their blood. Paul joyfully declares, as we heard in the second reading, “I am being poured out like a libation.”

Out of those jails all the way to Rome— the significance of this fact was not lost on Luke, the author of Acts, nor on the earliest thinkers in the Christian community who reflected on the fact that Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome. Rome was an Empire that controlled under its sway virtually all of the known world. Many things were to be admired in its organization, its culture, its language. And yet she was corrupt in her center, a corruption which appeared in full light of day under the light of the new deed of God worked in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

So what now? Peter and Paul put to death by Roman authorities just as Jesus himself was? But God raised Jesus from the dead— Peter and Paul preached it fearlessly. And so their own being put to death in Rome receives a similar response from God. The words of Peter that we heard at the end of today’s first reading ultimately refer to his share in Christ’s own resurrection and the fruits of his own passion being joined to Christ’s: “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel to rescue me…” (Acts 12: 11) Or Paul in the second reading ultimately is referring to the same: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.” (2 Tim 4: 18)

Rome’s corrupt center is claimed for Christ by the deaths of these two glorious apostles. It seems to the authorities that they have simply been disposed of, gotten out of the way, just as was done with Jesus in Jerusalem. But no. Paul’s words in the second reading can speak for both him and Peter and what they experienced every step of the way after Pentecost: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” (2 Tim 4: 17)

Peter and Paul’s mission has reached us and has been bequeathed to us. We are the witnesses to the same realities now in our day. As we celebrate the Eucharist, we profess Peter’s same faith in Jesus, saying to him, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” On the rock of this faith Jesus builds his church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Matt 16: 16, 18) As we celebrate the Eucharist, we pray with Paul that we may be conformed to it, that our lives too may be poured out as a libation and that we may keep the faith.

 

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Sunday, June 3, 2018

+ Transcript: We are accustomed to calling today’s solemnity Corpus Christi, or Body of Christ, but this is shorthand for the longer title. The longer title is Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This year’s scriptural texts especially focus on the blood of Christ. Body and Blood — why both for our communion with the Lord?

The Passover meal, which was also the setting for the Lord’s Last Supper, primarily recalls the Exodus and Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt by the protecting blood of the paschal lamb. But the Lord’s mighty deeds for Israel do not exhaust themselves in the Exodus from Egypt. They are completed later on Sinai, where the Lord makes a covenant with his people, a covenant ratified in blood.

Jesus goes to his death celebrating the Passover with his disciples. And in the course of that last supper with them he selected two signs from the whole meal that would help us to understand the ultimate meaning of his cross, which he was to undergo the next day. While they were eating, over the unleavened bread of the meal, Jesus pronounced the words, “This is my Body which will be given up for you.” After the supper, in the cup of wine that followed it, he pronounced words that identified the wine with his blood. He called it “the cup of the new and eternal covenant in my blood.” And he also added the command, “Do this in memory of me.”

What was Jesus intending with these signs and with his words, signs and words so precisely chosen? As I said, the liberation from slavery in Egypt does not exhaust God’s intentions for his people. Indeed, he liberates them from Egypt precisely so that he can make a covenant with them at Sinai. God longs for this. He says, “You shall be a people dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine.” God wants his people to be “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). This is what is achieved at Sinai. And it is here that blood becomes important.

Jesus’ language over the cup indicates that he was intentionally alluding to to the scene on Sinai that we heard in the first reading. In response to the words of the Lord, the people pronounce their side of the covenant, declaring, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us” (Exodus 24:3). Moses then erects twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Sacrifice is offered. Note that it is offered not by Levites but by young men from all the tribes. The whole nation is becoming priestly. Then Moses takes blood from these sacrifices and sprinkles it, first, on the altar, then on all the people. As he sprinkles blood on the people, he solemnly declares, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you” (Exodus 24:8).

Jesus exactly echoes this moment and this language. He says, “This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant.” Jesus calls it a new covenant. He is fulfilling the promise of the Lord delivered through the prophet Jeremiah, who uttered the word of the Lord that said, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:31, 33).

With his words over both the bread and the wine, Jesus identifies himself as the one who is offered. It is his body that is given up. It is his blood that is poured out. With this language Jesus shows himself conscious that he is the “Servant of the Lord” about whom Isaiah prophesied, announcing the Lord’s own words which declared, “Behold my servant… I the Lord formed you and set you as a covenant of the people” (Isaiah 43:6). Or again, “Through his suffering my servant shall justify many and their guilt he shall bear” (Isaiah 53:11). Jesus himself, in his body and blood, is the covenant. He quotes the Isaiah oracle as he says of his blood, “poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Unlike the blood that Moses sprinkled on the altar and on the people, Jesus’ blood of the new and everlasting covenant is given to drink. This is the more interior covenant of the Jeremiah oracles. It is a “covenant within them, a covenant on their hearts.” When we drink the cup of his blood, it effects in us our interior adhesion to the covenant to the point of blending his body and blood with our very own body and blood.

These are the signs of the supper that lead to the cross. At the supper Jesus shows himself in intention already going to the cross. The cross has already begun in the supper. On the cross, in the sacrifice in which the body is offered and blood shed, Jesus fulfills in one single deed the Exodus from Egypt and the Covenant ratified in blood on Sinai. Exodus was liberation from slavery. It was a gift to slaves. On the cross Jesus liberates us from sin, for we were slaves to it. But a covenant is made between friends, between spouses. This is why Jesus’ words “blood of the covenant” are so important. He no longer calls us slaves but friends (John 15:15.

All this is achieved on the cross. And as our liturgical texts say so often, in the wonderful sacrament of the Eucharist Christ has left us a memorial of his Passion.

Jesus gave us two signs: his body and his blood. The two together show the breadth of his love. Not only does he set us free from our sins, but he makes us his very own by the blood of a new and everlasting covenant. As the Letter to the Hebrews exclaimed in our second reading, “Christ is a high priest of the good things that have come to be. He entered once and for all into the heavenly sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12).

In every celebration of the Eucharist we are taken with Christ into this heavenly sanctuary, where together with Christ, made in him a kingdom of priests, we offer with him his unique sacrifice to the Father. With his words “Do this in memory of me,” Christ made the Eucharist a memorial of his Passion for us. This is why in every Eucharistic prayer, immediately after the consecration, the priest starts up his prayer again with the word, “Therefore.” It is as if to say to the Father, “Jesus commanded it; therefore we are doing it.”

And the rest of the prayer says so, always structured on the pattern, “Therefore, remembering… we offer.” Remembering his passion, his resurrection, his glorious ascension, we offer you Father, his body and blood, the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world.”

Tantum ergo sacramentum, veneremur cernui — Therefore, such a great sacrament let us venerate, bowing low!

Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable
Closing the annual Community Retreat
Friday, May 25, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Pentecost Sunday
Sunday, May 20, 2018

+ Transcript:

This is such an effective and suggestive Gospel passage to read on the day of Pentecost because it recounts something that, within the evangelist John’s resurrection narratives, happens on the very day of resurrection itself. Its effect, then, is to help us see that the giving of the Holy Spirit is very tightly connected to the risen Jesus himself. Liturgically the fifty days of the Easter season have spread out and unfolded a mystery and a grace tightly condensed in the resurrection of Jesus. We could refer to this as the resurrection-ascension-pentecost nexus. This nexus is resurrection appearances and instructions that eventually come to an end at Ascension, followed by the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. All that is condensed into the short passage from the Gospel of John just read.

The scene opens with the disciples hiding behind locked doors for fear. Here is a strong image of the crisis the disciples experienced at the death of Jesus. Then, unexpectedly the risen Jesus “came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” This is followed by what may be considered an instructive dimension of the appearance. Instruction is a dimension that characterizes all the appearances. “He showed them his hands and his side,” which teaches them in effect that the one they are seeing is the very one who was crucified and whose side was opened by a soldier’s lance. We are told succinctly that “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” What happens next shows why the passage would be selected for Pentecost. We read, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them on said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

I find that there is something thrilling in all this. First of all, there is Jesus’ repeated greeting of peace. There are no recriminations for their having abandoned him, no reproaches, no scoldings. There is only his peace-filled greeting and their joy. But this is followed immediately by a radical commissioning. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This as and so are enormous. Glorious, divine, powerful, creative, peaceful was the Father’s sending of his Son into the world. And now— as the Gospel’s words converge with our present celebration of the liturgy— we are sent from Jesus in the same way. As Jesus, so the disciples. And for this profound event of being sent from Jesus, he breathes on us the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is marvelous to see the Holy Spirit coming out of the body of the risen Lord, the body marked by wounds in its hands, feet, and side. The risen body bearing the marks of crucifixion displays cross and resurrection in perfect tension. The Holy Spirit delivered by the breath of the body of the risen Lord and effecting a commission shows the gift of the Holy Spirit rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Without the text saying so, Jesus vanishes from their sight as soon as the Spirit is breathed out on the disciples. This is the resurrection-ascension-pentecost nexus, not spread out over fifty days, but condensed into one intense scene of an appearance and a withdrawal on the very day of resurrection, with the Spirit remaining as final gift.

But we see that intense scene unfolded in its various dimensions in the 50 days that Luke describes in the passage from Acts that we heard in the first reading. To understand it, we should recall several phrases from the passage read on Ascension. In the biblical book they are tightly joined to each other, separated only by the scene of the choice of Matthias to replace Judas (Acts 1: 15-26) On Ascension we heard the risen Jesus, just before he was taken from their sight, instructing his apostles with these words: “…wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1: 4-5) Shortly after this he says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” These words are the links in the ascension-pentecost nexus.

Jesus’ words are fulfilled in the scene described next in Acts, today’s first reading. It is perhaps surprising to note that the descent of the Spirit is described in only four short verses (Acts 2: 1-4). Only a few essential details are given.

First, the apostles, with their number brought back to twelve by the addition of Matthias, on the day of Pentecost are “gathered in one place.” What happens takes place “suddenly,” a word suggesting the surprise the event engenders. A “noise” comes from the sky and fills the entire house where they are sitting. The noise is likened to “a strong driving wind.” On the heels of this noise something strange appears to them: “tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them.” What this noise and strange vision mean is explained in the next verse: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” This is what Jesus had said just before the Ascension. This is “the promise of the Father.” This is “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” This is receiving “power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” The effect the Spirit has on them is that “they began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

Dear brothers and sisters, everything proclaimed in this text converges with the present moment of our gathering. It describes the event of this sacred liturgy. Today is Pentecost for us. That apostolic, Spirit-prompted speech continues in the Church today, when, at this very hour, with our own tongues we proclaim the mighty acts of God: the crucified Jesus is risen and God has made him Lord and Messiah! Here and now Jesus breathes out the Holy Spirit on us, for the breath of the risen Lord never ceases its rhythms. The first day and the fiftieth day and today— for us with faith, they are all the same: the new everlasting day of Resurrection, the new everlasting day of Pentecost. The presence of the risen Jesus and his act of breathing on his disciples never ceases in the Church. And in this way resurrection creates mission. Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit and transforms the bread and wine that we bring before him into his Body and Blood. Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on us in the Eucharist we receive and sends us just as he was sent. He has given us everything that he has from the Father. And so this mission has a content; namely, the forgiveness of sins. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he says to those whom he sends. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The forgiveness of sins is the first fruit of the resurrection. “He showed them his hands and his side.” From this crucified now risen body, from his glorious wounds, there is in the Church, his body, an unceasing outpouring of the Holy Spirit for mission and for the forgiveness of sins.

Ascension of the Lord
Sunday, May 13, 2018

(No audio available.)

The tradition of lectio divina assures us that pausing to ponder carefully just one verse of the inspired Scriptures proclaimed in the liturgy can start us pulling on a thread that beautifully leads us from one text to another. Then the experience becomes nothing less than a deep entry into the very stuff of the mystery being celebrated. Today is Ascension. In the first reading from Acts we read, “… as they were looking on, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” (Acts 1: 9) In the liturgical tradition and in theology we refer to this as “Ascension,” even though, strictly speaking, that term is never used in any of the scriptural texts. All the verb forms describing it are in the passive voice. He “was taken,” “was lifted up,” “was carried up.” In the passage from Acts more details are given than can be found in the several other gospel texts that refer to this scene. Notably, words having to do with seeing and not seeing are insistently repeated. This is a clue to understanding the point that Luke, the narrator, wants to make. We have just heard the phrase “as they were looking on.” First mention of seeing. With this, it is said that Jesus is taken “from their sight,” literally, “from their eyes.” Second mention of seeing. After that there is a description that notes further “they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,” a third mention of looking or seeing. (Acts 1: 10) And then “suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?’” This is the fourth mention of looking or seeing. (Acts 1: 11)

Their question— “why are you looking up?”— may strike us as a reproach. But it isn’t actually. Their question in fact is establishing a point, a point that contains a promise, and the promise swirls around the issue of seeing and looking. It is understood by catching allusions deep inside the biblical world. As Elijah was preparing to depart from his disciple Elisha, Elisha asked him for the gift of a double portion of his spirit. Elijah tells him that he if sees him being carried off to heaven, then his request will be granted. This is why looking intently is so much emphasized here. The disciples do indeed see Jesus being taken. The two men confirm that they have indeed seen him. They further add, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” This is the fifth mention of seeing. Now a new and future seeing is promised, a seeing intimately connected to their having seen him taken up. The gift of the Spirit is implied and guaranteed in the fact of their seeing. As Elisha saw Elijah taken up and so was given a share of his spirit, so now the disciples, looking so intently, see Jesus taken up and so are guaranteed a share in his Holy Spirit. As Elijah is expected to return in the same fiery chariot in which he was seen carried to heaven, so Jesus is expected to be seen again “in the same way you have seen him going into heaven.”

The two men speak of Jesus “taken from you into heaven.” Ordinarily, something like this would seem to be an absence of Jesus. But does “being taken from you into heaven” mean he has gone elsewhere, that he is no longer here? No. It is a new form of his presence to us. In his glorified state he has become the One who comes. He “will return in the same way.” Now he is become the one who is always coming. This is seen also in the book of Revelation, where the Lord reveals himself and says, “Behold, I am the one who was and who is and who is to come, the Almighty. Once I was dead, but now I live forever.” (Rev 1:8,18) Ascension is a feast in which we too still experience this new form of his presence, a form forever fresh— the form of his always coming— at once more pervasive and more elusive than a single locatable, talk-to-him, see-him, touch-his-wounds kind of presence.

Just before Jesus was taken up, his disciples had asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom?” Today the Kingdom of God is pressing in on us from every direction and with glory. From the past, from the future, and in the present, up from the ground and down from the sky! Jesus—Lord: crucified, risen, ascended, coming!

The Gospel reading this year is from from the longer ending of the Gospel of Mark. These verses reflect an author different from the rest of the Gospel and with a combined knowledge of resurrection stories separate from each other in the different gospels. The same is true for how he speaks of the Ascension. We hear words of Jesus to his disciples just before he is taken up into heaven not reported in any other text. The words here are a commission to go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel “to every creature,” an expression unique to this longer Marcan ending. Patristic commentators noted this difference and made much of it. Jesus’ resurrection affects the whole creation, and the Good News must be proclaimed not only to other human beings but to the whole creation. As the psalmist prophesied, “Everything that lives and that breathes, praise the Lord!” “All the trees of the wood shout for joy at the presence of the Lord.” “Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.”

In this longer Marcan ending there is mention of baptism, something we hear in Matthew’s text but not in Luke’s. Unique to this Marcan text are the words of Jesus that declare that certain signs will accompany those who believe. The signs are unusual in that no other resurrection text speaks in such terms: driving out demons, speaking new languages, picking up snakes and being unharmed by them or by any deadly drink. Finally, cures of the sick will come about through the laying on of hands.

It is the final verses of this Marcan passage that I find especially moving on Ascension Day. We hear a sentence that is not heard in any of the other gospels: “So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16: 19) “Lord Jesus” is not a title used anywhere else in Mark or in Matthew. That Jesus is taken up to heaven is similar to Luke’s language in the gospel and in Acts, but only here do we have the further image of him “taking his seat at the right hand of God”— a different image for the mystery of the Ascension, showing that Jesus is completely established in the realm where God is. In the last verse we hear of the disciples going forth from here and preaching everywhere. In Matthew and Luke the disciples are commissioned to do the same, but none of their accounts reports that happening in the very next verse. Finally, something striking is said about Jesus’ continued presence with them even though he is at the right hand of God. We read, “But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.” (Mark 16: 20) We note that Jesus is called “the Lord,” and that he is present to them by somehow working with them and confirming their word.

Jesus “confirmed their word through accompanying signs.” Among those signs we can count the signs of this eucharistic liturgy that we are about to celebrate. As we come forward for Communion today, the words of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel will be sung: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:30) The reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood to the accompaniment of these words is their strongest sense fulfilled. Our minds are full of all sorts of images now: the Lord taken from our sight in a cloud, an entrance into a heavenly sanctuary, a being seated at God’s right hand, a decending and an ascending, everything being filled, the Body of Christ being built up to full stature. No matter what and where our senses and faith detect that we are in this movement of prayer, it is his being with us always, even to the end of the age. It is the Lord working with us and confirming the word we preach through accompanying signs, above us through signs of bread and wine transformed into his Body and Blood. In those signs we have in a supreme and preeminent way Jesus—Lord: crucified, risen, ascended, coming!

Abbot Jeremy's name day on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker
Tuesday, May 1, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Easter Vigil
Saturday, March 31, 2018

The most important event of human history, indeed, the most important event that has ever happened anywhere in the created universe, is the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and his being raised from the dead by the one whom he called God and Father.

With such words I try to summarize for you all that we have seen and heard in this last hour of our vigil. The whole history of the cosmos is condensed into God’s deed in our midst in this holy night—because the whole history of the cosmos and the history of humanity within it is ordered toward Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. We are in his presence now. We are gathered to him by the radiant light of his risen presence.

This is the night into which God pronounces again and with greater force than ever his “Let there be light.” This is the night, as the Exultet declares, “worthy alone to know the time and the hour when Christ rose from the underworld.” This declaration shows why we are gathered in prayer now in this holy night. It is because resurrection takes place during the night at an hour and in a manner known only to God. The dawn of Easter morning reveals that something had already happened in the night. Part of the resurrection mystery is that in itself it cannot be seen, just as nothing can be seen in the night. But that it does indeed happen—at an hour and in a manner known only by God and by this night—is what renders this night “truly blessed.”

That something had happened in the night is what the three women of the Gospel discover when they arrive at the tomb at dawn. The stone had been rolled away from the entrance, and—brave women—they dared to enter in to the tomb where they would have expected to find the bloodied body of their beloved rabbi. They see instead a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe. He said to them, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified. He has been raised…” He declares what had happened in the night. He indicates the only thing that can be seen in this tomb. He says, “Behold the place where they laid him.”

I think this young man might later have written the Exultet! In any case, it was some poet close in spirit to what the young man testifies. I hear him exclaim, “This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.” After this line in the Exultet, there is a shift in the poem from declaration of what has happened to what we could call a contemplative assessment and meditation on what all this means for us. A number of paradoxical statements or unexpected contrasts form the structure of the expression.

The first of these is to declare, “Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.” In effect this is a bold declaration saying that it would be better never to have been born unless we can enjoy the new life we are celebrating in this night. Next, the Father is directly addressed as we declare to him that we grasp the immensity of his love. “O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son.” The contrast between slave and Son puts into clear relief how astounding is what has been done for us. The Father has given away for our sake what is most precious to him, his Son; and the Son has willingly let himself be given away for us. This is quite concretely the shape of “love beyond all telling.”

The next phrases are even more theologically daring. The poet— the young man clothed in white sitting in the tomb!—exclaims, “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the death of Christ!” This is like saying something to the effect of “Thank God Adam sinned because it provoked such an enormously generous response from God.” This daring line of theology is insisted upon in the next phrase: “O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” The “logic”—if we can call it that—of these stunning paradoxes is rooted, first, in the need for us to understand the fact that the sin of Adam and his fault could be nothing other than something that we should deeply regret. It is impossible to think that it is something we could be glad about. All this is true. But God’s love and mercy is infinitely bigger than this valid and correct assessment of sin. And so, instead, inside the empty tomb we dare exclaim “O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer.”

This church in which we are gathered is that empty tomb filled with light and with the joy of the young man’s song. This empty tomb is the whole world, created anew by the resurrection of Jesus. In it Abraham receives Isaac back alive, and we are their descendants. This empty tomb in which we are gathered is the other side of the Red Sea where we and all the baptized stand safe from the Satan’s furious chase. This empty tomb is where all God’s promises through the prophets are realized in us in this night, where God pledges, “…I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you…” This empty tomb is where we were buried with Christ in Baptism “so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”

Isn’t it amazing how every element of the Earth speaks! Night! And then fire flaming in darkest night. Beeswax and a candle formed by human hands. Charcoal glowing and incense thrown atop it, smoke rising and a sweet aroma. Then water. Then oil. Then bread. Then wine. Human bodies handling all these things and moving about with them. Every element of the Earth speaks, and all together they cry out, “Jesus, the Crucified, has been raised.” It is indeed as the Apostle declares, “All things were created through him and for him.”

God’s deeds in our midst in this holy night move now into an even greater density. From fire and word we move next to the transforming waters of Baptism and through them to the bread and wine of Eucharist. Bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus, crucified and risen. This is offered to God and then consumed by us. We are made one with the one we consume, and it is we that are offered to God as a new humanity. O love, O charity beyond all telling!

Good Friday
Friday, March 30, 2018

(No audio available.)

In today’s liturgy we carefully remember the death of Jesus, and doing so becomes a magnificent revelation to us of the divine deed in which, yes, death and its horrors are all too real, and in which nonetheless that death is the glorious lifting up of the one who draws all things to himself.

Let us use the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews to help us penetrate the mystery of the death of Jesus that we have just heard recounted by John the Evangelist. In fact, the whole of the Letter to the Hebrews is a profound theological meditation on Jesus’ death and exaltation in glory. The author uses the categories of Jewish theological thought, as expressed in their scriptures, to grasp the significance of Jesus’ dying and exaltation. Today’s reading combines two short portions of a much longer development in which the movement from death to exaltation is considered as a exercise of priesthood on the part of Christ. His shedding of his blood is in fact the priestly offering of a sacrifice. His exaltation at “the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1: 3) is an entry into a heavenly sanctuary where his sacrifice perpetually intercedes before God on our behalf.

We are perhaps at least vaguely accustomed to such language to describe the death of Jesus, but it is worth our pausing to consider how deep is the insight achieved by the author of this letter when he penetrates the event of Jesus’ death by describing it as a priestly act. In Jewish religion, or in fact in any religion, the offering of a sacrifice is a cultic act, a ritual. It is a symbolic enactment of a people’s desire to offer themselves to a god and to establish themselves thereby in some sort of favorable relationship with the god. But Jesus’ death on the cross is certainly no ritual, no symbolic enactment. His death is the cruel execution of a human being. The author of this letter knows all this. So when the categories of priesthood and sacrifice are used to describe the death of Jesus, a tremendous theological insight is achieved. The claim is that what all cultic sacrifices could only weakly point to and symbolically achieve is now in fact definitively achieved by Jesus, not in a cultic act, but quite literally in his dying and his being exalted at the right hand of the Father. This is a new and definitive sacrifice, a new and definitive priesthood.

The passage read in today’s liturgy, selected from a much longer development of these themes, declaims, as it were, this priesthood. These are words that are meant to help us to penetrate the deepest meaning of the cross. “Brothers and sisters,” the announcement begins, “…we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God…” What the eyes of our minds see is Jesus in his agony on the cross; what we understand is that here is a great high priest who is entering the heavenly sanctuary with the sacrifice of his own blood. And this priest is one of us. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” Precisely from what he is suffering in the hour of his dying, Jesus is able to be a priest who sympathizes with us. As we gaze on this scene and discern its sense through the Apostle’s words, we are invited to approach the cross, not described as a place of execution but as ever so much more. “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” The cross: a throne, thethrone of grace!

The next paragraph of the passage uses the category of the characteristic priestly act of intercession. Jesus’ whole life of prayer, but especially his manner of prayer in the hour of his dying is this great priestly intercession. “In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death…” With these words we are meant to grasp the loud cry that Jesus emits before he breathes his last. He is praying to “the one who was able to save him from death…” “And,” the passage continues, “he was heard because of his reverence.” What is the “reverence” with which Jesus prays? It is his obedience to the Father’s will, his “not my will but yours be done” that he prayed during his agony in the garden. “He learned obedience from what he suffered,” the author tells us. As the Father’s inscrutable will has it, Jesus’ suffering will take him all the way through to death, precisely to reveal that his obedience is total, his trust, total. This is why his loud cry “was heard.” Mysteriously, the Father’s saving Jesus from death does not save Jesus from dying. Rather, precisely because of the manner of his dying, God exalts him. This exaltation includes his being rendered a saving source for us. This is how the passage concludes: “… and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

Perhaps it is useful to observe once again that the tone and sense of today’s liturgy is by no means simply a mournful remembering of Jesus’ death. We are not pretending, for the sake of dramatic effect on Easter, that we do not know that Jesus has been raised from the dead. No, we are remembering his death as triumph and glory. We are seeing him “made perfect”; we are encountering in the cross “the source of eternal salvation.” “We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens!”

In the Letter to the Hebrews the death of Jesus is simultaneous with his glorious entrance into the heavenly sanctuary. In the Gospel of John this simultaneity is similarly expressed. Jesus’ breathing his last is his handing over the Spirit. From his dead body, opened by a soldier’s lance, blood and water flow from the side of what is nothing less that a heavenly temple and sanctuary, a temple and sanctuary that converge with Calvary. Blood and water began flowing from Jesus’ side on the day of his death, and they are still flowing now, and we are bathed in that stream. In the adoration of the cross, you approach the throne of grace. From the cross, you receive his holy body and blood as your food and drink.

Strength and protection, may thy passion be,
O blessed Jesus, hear and answer me.
Deep in thy wounds, Lord, hide and shelter me.
So may I never, never part from thee.

Holy Thursday
Thursday, March 29, 2018

+ Transcript: Christ’s heart, as he looks at our assembly, is surely filled with the sentiments he expressed when he said to his disciples at the beginning of the Supper, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22: 15) “To eat this Passover before I suffer”: a meal and a sacrifice.

The meal is that prescribed in the first reading that we heard from the book of Exodus. There a lamb is sacrificed; its flesh is eaten; its blood protects the houses of the Israelites. This is the meal that Jesus eagerly desired to eat with his disciples before he suffered. The words we heard from Exodus were surely heard by Jesus and his disciples at that last supper. They heard, as we hear now, “It is the Passover of the Lord.” They heard, as we hear now, “This day shall be a memorial feast for you… a perpetual institution.”

The food and drink of this meal were the language with which the story of Israel’s Passover was told. Jesus draws on all its images now, and he is conscious that he holds all of Israel and all her history in his hands as he takes up bread and wine, and he identifies that whole history with himself and with the death he will undergo on the next day, saying over it, “This is my body, this is my blood, given up for you. Do this in memory of me.” Ah, now yes indeed, “It is the Passover of the Lord,” a new and definitive Passover. Ah now, yes indeed, “This day shall be a memorial feast for you… a perpetual institution.” “Do this as a memorial of me,” he says.

Also every line of the Gospel we just heard will help us to enter deeply into the meaning of the entire Triduum. The first sentence locates the scene in the context of Passover and then solemnly declares, “Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass [over] from this world to the Father.” The Triduum is, in fact, this hour; and this first line of the gospel is the solemn declaration that that hour has come. It has come for our community, here and now.

Love is the meaning of this hour. The evangelist says so with utter clarity and simplicity: “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” Love is what Jesus expresses in the washing of his disciples’ feet, but what he does here first in symbolic gesture he will later do in actual fact. Jesus’ death will be his ultimate expression of love, here described as his loving them “to the end,” that is, loving them completely, to the end of his life, by the giving of his life. Love and death stand side by side here in the terrible drama that is about to unfold, and the sweet sentence about love is immediately followed by the ominous declaration, “The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.” But then just as quickly the next sentence reveals a Jesus completely in charge of the scene. It begins, “So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God…” What Jesus is about to do here he does with full awareness of the authority and mission entrusted to him by his Father, and he does it with awareness that this is his special Passover, his having come from God and his returning to God. The sovereign calm with which Jesus steps into his hour reminds us of his extremely forceful words during his ministry: “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10: 18) Judas who will betray him, soldiers who will arrest him, his own people who will hand him over to the Romans, those who will be charged with crucifying him— none of these takes Jesus’ life from him. He freely lays it down. And so even though right here and now he finds himself in the dark atmosphere of Judas’ decision to betray him, Jesus rises from the table and takes off his outer garment.

We see how carefully the evangelist has brought us to this moment of Jesus’ unexpected action. It is Passover, it is his hour, it is love to the end, it is the devil’s inducement of Judas’s betrayal, it is Jesus’ full awareness of his going to God. Now what Jesus does is presented as if in slow motion by the evangelist, for there are seven verbs, one after the other; and it is clear that the gospel writer wishes us to contemplate and ponder Jesus’ every gesture. We are told that Jesus rose from the supper, took off his garments, took a towel and tied it round his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to washhis disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. What we contemplate in these carefully delineated moves is a symbolic enactment of the death that Jesus is about to undergo on the morrow. It is another version of the symbolic enactment that we have already seen in his actions around the bread and wine, in which he likewise referred by use of signs to the meaning of his impending death. Every one of the seven verbs can be understood on a first level to describe in a literal way the action that Jesus performs, but they are used in such a way that they simultaneously describe dimensions of the powerful and mysterious hour into which he is entering.

For example, when we read that he pouredwater into a basin— we who know already where this whole story is going—how can we not see here an image of the blood that he will pour out for us on the cross? Then he began to washhis disciples’ feet. And so in this way we have an image of the purpose of the blood he pours out. It means to be a cleansing for us. What by rights we ought to do for ourselves—if we could—is instead done for us by another. Having washed the disciples’ feet, he driesthem. Ah, how thorough is the Master in his service for us! In the same way that the evangelist stretches out these verbs for us to contemplate slowly the action of Jesus, we must imagine the minutes that pass over each of the disciples’ feet as Jesus slowly washes them and dries them. He humbly handles their bodies with his own. He is expressing his love for them “to the end.” They are amazed by his careful touch, and they are struck silent.

At the end of his symbolic action, Jesus reclines again with his disciples and takes the opportunity to develop an instruction on what he has just done. Understanding the symbolic action to indicate his death, we would be right then to understand what he next says as referring to that death for our sake. He says, “If I your master and teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” He is saying much more here than that we should literally wash one another’s feet. As this supper’s conversation unfolds in the chapters of the Gospel that follow, Jesus will say the same directly. He says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” And then immediately he adds, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15: 11-12) The commandment for us is clear, and the Apostle John draws the unmistakable conclusion for us in his first letter: “The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” (1 John 3: 16)

Feast of the Transitus of Saint Benedict
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

(No transcription available.)

A Monastic Proposal for Happiness in Our Troubled Times
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

+ Transcript: St. Benedict, with the monastic rule he crafted in the first half of the sixth century, is considered the father of western monasticism. And Benedict’s monasticism is considered the seedbed and driving force of all that is healthy and wise in the culture of the Middle Ages and beyond. For those who study history, the genealogy of this pedigree is not really in dispute… but, alas, it is not much understood anymore by most people in our times. An awful lot of water has flowed under the bridge between the best of the Middle Ages and our own times. Even so, to deny that an unbroken thread still connects those distant times to our own would be a profession of historical ignorance and, worse, a declaration— however unwitting— of despair. It is a prejudice of our epoch that the Middle Ages have little to offer us, much less something from the 6th century. But that is a prejudice, and at least our epoch is in principle in favor of overcoming prejudices. Let’s see if we can overcome an instinctive prejudice against the past and its lost wisdoms. They may be useful for our present predicament.

I don’t have much time. I’m going to limit myself to 30 or 40 minutes. But I want to speak with you about a complicated question that I have thought about and tried to live for more than four decades. So, I must cut to the chase. I don’t intend to offer a concise history lesson about St. Benedict. Rather, I want to share with you, however briefly, how I think Benedict’s sixth century monasticism offers —gently, as invitation— a critical, fresh, new orientation for how we might confront the big life questions posed to us by the swiftly shifting landscapes of our cultural contexts, shifts that seem to be provoking unprecedentedly aggressive and disoriented responses.

The patient is sick. Let me try to describe him. I am talking about all of us… and no one in particular. If I were to talk about any one of us in particular, well, we may find on a sliding scale from 1 to 10, people that are doing more or less pretty well. No, I’m talking about what we look like as a culture, as a mass of people moving around our cities, our farmsteads, our globe. I’m talking about how we relate to one another, what we think about, how trends move us, what we are afraid of, how we drive our cars, what we eat, how busy we are, what we act like in boarding planes. That mass of people is the sick patient, and every one of us participates in the pathology. Benedict’s vision of monastic life is an antidote to the pathology. It brings health to the individual, and it can also contribute to the health of the culture as a whole.

Very early on in the Prologue of his Holy Rule, Benedict uses the words of a psalm to address the would-be monk, and he places those words in the mouth of God. He describes a scene that very much fits as description of our own times. He says, “Seeking his workman in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out to him and lifts his voice [again] saying…” (RB Prologue 14) Before I tell you what the voice of the Lord says, note the scene where the voice sounds. It is the Lord seeking an individual in the midst of a multitude. I have just outlined the multitude of our own troubled culture, what I described as people moving around our cities, our farmsteads, our globe. This is where the Lord’s voice sounds. What does he say? He says, “Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?” (Ps 33: 13, RB Prologue 15)

Now, isn’t that the question!?! It’s a good question whoever poses it. Who doesn’t perk up in hearing it posed? And yet, for St. Benedict, it is God who poses it. When I ponder on this fact, on this grace, I can’t help but hear sometimes a tone almost of bewilderment in the voice of God as he gazes on the beautiful beings that he created in his own image and likeness. When he says, “Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?” it is almost as if we can hear him continue, “There doesn’t seem to be.” In any case, not in the multitude qua multitude. God’s heart is broken, and God goes seeking among the multitude someone, anyone, who yearns for life.

What makes me think that the multitude is not well? You see it in the faces of so many when we are out and about. Manners, clothing, gait, styles of driving, and hours upon hours spent in virtual worlds where with impunity we can be scathingly ill-mannered or immoral and held unaccountable. And if you don’t see much of that where and how you live, good. But somewhere not far from you, it is happening; and you are only for the moment preserved from having to see it. And also, somewhere not far from you, the weak, the lonely, the unlovely are passed over quickly by the multitude strong enough at present to gather greedily some of fleeting pleasures of this life. And in the midst of this stampede, this rush, this din, the quiet voice and question of God is gently posed: “Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?”

Let’s return to the text of St. Benedict. He continues, “If you hear this [question] and your answer is, ‘I do,’ then God directs these words to you…” We need to pause again before hearing the words of God that St. Benedict offers next. If your answer is “I do.” It seems easy at first. God asks, “Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?” Who wouldn’t say “I do”? Well, I’m suggesting that we live in a multitude, a culture, that doesn’t seem to care. For it is God who is posing the question. Do you really want to listen to God? Do you really want to say “I do” to God? God is about to speak. Duck! Get ready! Hide!… if you can. Do you mean it when you say to God, “I do”? Well, so that we can read on, let’s presume that you do mean it, as best you can. Then let’s listen to the answer that Benedict next formulates, taking his words still from the psalm and placing them still in the mouth of God. “If you hear this and your answer is ‘I do,’ God then directs these words to you: ‘If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim (Ps 33: 14-15).’” The message of God continues, but let’s pause to digest this much.

For life and to see good days, we must do something. It can be simply put even if not simply done. God says, “keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit.” This is not happening in the multitude. Is it happening in you? Don’t let the multitude be the excuse for its not happening in you. God is searching among the multitude for someone, for anyone, who really longs for what we were made for in his image and likeness. And there is more that the individual who responds can do. (I don’t say “must do” as if to say, “you damned well better or you’ll be damned.” No, I say “can do,” because the Lord is inviting, and he will help.) The something else is this. God says, “turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim.”

Maybe you are thinking, “No, I can’t really do that.” But the Lord would not invite if he did not intend to help. Listen to what follows. St. Benedict moves from the psalm to a passage from Isaiah, but still always simply delivering God’s word into this present context. “Once you have done this,” God says, “my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say to you: here I am (Is 58:9. RB Prologue 18).” God saying to me “Here I am.” Even before I ask, God saying to me “Here I am.” Isn’t this what my heart and yours is longing to hear? Isn’t this what every human heart in the troubled multitude longs to hear? St. Benedict himself says as much in what immediately follows in the Rule. He says, “What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.” (RB Prologue 19-20)

We should note in this monastic vision of things how much initiative is attributed to God. It is he who is searching for us, not the other way around. It is he who says “Here I am” even before we ask. For St. Benedict, the deepest sense of life is located in our response to this divine initiative. In other words, the condition for living well our human existence, the condition for fulfilling a particular role or vocation, the condition for “doing something beautiful for God” with our lives is not so much a set of capacities or qualities or right attitudes or stunning talents. It is rather, more simply, a yearning for life and a desire to see good days. It is grasping that this yearning is implanted in the depths of my being by the God who made me. And it is responding in our troubled world to Good News; namely, the Good News that God is seeking for just such people who are yearning for life, and God is longing to say to each one, “Here I am.”

Perhaps all this sounds too easy, too sweet. Unreal. Naïve. Life isn’t at all this easy, and today’s troubled world needs something much more sturdy than a religious pep talk. Well, I’m not giving you a pep talk. I’m announcing Good News. I’m announcing the Gospel. We are not the inventers of the Gospel. We don’t make it happen. God does. But we are entrusted with announcing it, testifying to it, risking to trust in it. So, where is the problem? Why isn’t any of this easy when somehow it should be, when we long for this kind of simplicity?

Let’s dig in a little more deeply into what St. Benedict has said so far. In just a few short lines he has put into clear relief three fundamental elements of the mystery of the human person in relationship to God. These elements are, first, a question posed by God: “Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?” Second, there is the response from some actual person who says, “I do.” And third, there is the response of God to the response of the person. God says to that one, “Here I am.”

Yet we must not think of this “Here I am” of God as some lucky prize or reward for having had the good sense to say “I do” to the question. The mystery is deeper; and we, the multitude, have all somehow lost sight of it. For in fact God’s saying “Here I am” is what lies at the origins of the whole created order and more deeply at the origins of the creation of the human person formed in God’s own image and likeness. God has created beings like ourselves, beings designed originally to see a marvelous world about us and to stand in awe of it, to hear it whispering God’s “Here I am.” God has created beings like ourselves, designed originally to look at one another and to marvel, to fall in love, to connect deeply and in joy and to hear again in that experience the whispering of God who says, “Here I am.” It was all meant to be spontaneous, natural, pure, innocent.

But we have fallen, and we hear God’s voice with difficulty and only sporadically. The multitude qua multitude looks at the created world and exploits it and is destroying it. God is not noticed at all in this use of his creation. The multitude qua multitude looks at one another and sees nobody, only a mass of men and women hurrying about with faces never seen and eyes never meeting. Who can fall in love with a crowd? No one thinks of God when the masterpiece of his creation, the human person, is gathered in mass. This is why St. Benedict, himself testifying to the Good News in his troubled times, announces a new version of God’s “Here I am.” It is not the “Here I am” of the origins, but rather the “Here I am” of a God who is in search among the lost multitude for someone, anyone, who longs for what we were created for. So the question “Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?” is in fact launched by God as an appeal to conversion, as an invitation to recovery and repentance, as a return to innocence which his initiative is offering and makes possible.

So now everything depends on whether or not someone can say “I do” in answer to God’s offer. “I do yearn for life and desire to see good days.” The catch for us now is in saying “I.” For you don’t say “I” to no one. If so, you’re only talking to yourself, and you are left to yourself. Good luck!

No, “I” say “I” to a “you.” And in this case, I am saying “I” because someone has said “you” to me, and I am answering. And here is what is utterly noteworthy, to say the least. Here is what is astonishingly Good News. It is God who is speaking. It is God who says “you” to me. Can I really utter my “I” as my free response to his question? If I do, I live. I find life. I see good days.

God is immense—infinite, which is more than immense. God is all holy. Who can stand in God’s presence? And yet sweet and gentle and courteous is God’s approach to us. He never overwhelms, never imposes, always leaves us free. God even lets it seem to us that our yearning for life and desire to see good days has its origin in ourselves and not in him. But that seeming is not a mistake. It is God’s gift to us. It is our liberty, our free will, our ability to choose. The Book of Deuteronomy reports God as saying, “Behold, I place before you today death and life. Therefore, choose life.” But the drama lies in the fact that we don’t have to choose life. God’s saying “Here I am” is at the origin of the world and the origin of our own existence. But the mechanism of desire and choice is given us by God precisely as a gift that lets us respond yes or no to the God who addresses us. And whatever I respond, it will be I saying “I” to God. Either I say, “I do choose life,” or I say, as Satan did in his own fall, “I will not serve.” This answer to God—this “I” pronounced in response to God—determines every person’s existence, and God defers to our choice because God does not impose. If God were to impose, it would not be love that is offered by God, nor could it be love from us offered in return. It would not be a relationship.

Every person’s answer determines his or her existence, one’s life in the world, who one is. If I say to God who offers, “I yearn for life, and I desire to see good days, and I will follow the way you show me,” then I become the person God designed me to be, that is, a person in relationship with God, a person in love with God because I see that God first loved me and gives me life. I become a person in love with the world God created and in which he placed me as my home. I am careful of it and joyful in its beauties. I become a person in love with other persons, for I recognize them as summoned and challenged by the same kind of dramatic choice that determines my own existence. I love actual people whom I come across in the course of my own life unfolding, but in principle I am disposed to honor and love all persons, for we all share this common dignity. I am talking about what the Bible says we are: the image and likeness of God.

It’s a choice, I’ve said. Life is a choice. “True and eternal life,” as St. Benedict calls it, is a choice. This is St. Benedict’s teaching, based in the Scripture itself. And the monastic practices and way of life that he formulated in his Rule are a program— he calls it a school— where we learn to choose rightly, where we can recover from mistaken choices, and where we live in relationship with the created world and with one another in the way that God designed. It is a way of life patient of human weakness and the legacy of bad choices which we all inherit from the history of our race. Nonetheless, it consistently corrects these with gentle disciplines and admonitions which refuse to let us fool ourselves. Benedict also calls his monastic instructions a process and a way of life. And he promises that in following the instructions, life grows sweeter and ever more precious. He says, “As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.” (RB Prologue 49)

I have described for you some of the deep structures of St. Benedict’s monastic Rule. These deep structures have had their impact on more than the monks who actually lived in monasteries. I said that this monastic life turned out to be the seedbed and driving force of much that is heathy and wise in the culture of the Middle Ages and beyond. In short, it is the driving force of the culture of Christian Europe and, so, derivatively, of much of our own culture. But, of course, everyone knows that these Christians cultures are dying. I spoke of the evidence. I spoke of what we look like as a culture, as a mass of people moving around our globe— the creation slowly destroyed, faces never seen and eyes never meeting, our culture as sick patient with every one of us afflicted by the disease. Our culture lives as if God did not exist and as if he did not address us. I suggested that Benedict’s vision of monastic life is an antidote to the pathology. It brings health to the individual, and it can also contribute to the health of the culture as a whole. Let me finish by summarizing the hopeful message in St. Benedict’s own words, which we have pondered together this morning.

“Seeking his workman in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out to him and lifts his voice [again] saying: ‘Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?’ (Ps 33: 13) If you hear this [question] and your answer is, ‘I do,’ then God directs these words to you: ‘If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim (Ps 33: 14-15).’” Once you have done this,” [God says,] ‘my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say to you: here I am (Is 58:9).’ What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.” (RB Prologue 14-20)

Mass of Christian Burial for Fr. Athanasius Buchholz, O.S.B.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Ash Wednesday
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

(No transcription available.)

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
Sunday, January 7, 2018

+ Transcript: This gospel text we just heard, the inspired story proclaimed in our midst, has strongly marked the Christian imagination from the time it was first set down. Our images somehow go beyond what is in the text itself, but not inappropriately. It is what Gregory the Great said about the Scriptures in general. He said, “They expand with reading.” And so we picture the scene in different ways, sing about it, portray it in painting and sculpture and embody it in traditions and gift giving. One thinks of camels, treasures in handsome coffers, the exotic dress of the magi, the kings, the wise men or whatever we call them. And the art is amazing. Incredible landscapes as backdrop, flamboyant clothing, the magi lined up in various expressions of awe and adoration and satisfaction— the Christ child seated on the throne of his mother’s lap while kings prostrate before him and the child kindly pats one of the old guys on his bald head. There are stars everywhere in the sky and one is brighter than all the rest. Maybe in the background phony Herod is his palace pacing nervously or grinding his teeth. Yes, indeed, the text expands with reading.

But we are not dealing here with entertainment, with a charming and irresistible story. This sacred text reveals the presence here and now of an invisible reality unfolding in our very midst, on this very day, in this very hour. For twelve days now we have heard the Christmas story proclaimed in various ways again and again. The only Begotten Son of God took flesh of the Virgin Mary and has come to dwell among us. Clear enough what the proclamation is and that this is cause for immense joy. But today a further and crucial dimension of that reality is unveiled before us. Let’s use Paul’s words in the second reading to be sure we get it right and to state it with theological precision. Paul says, “the Gentiles are now coheirs [with the Jews], members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” This is a huge turnabout in understanding for the zealous Pharisee Saul, who once believed that scrupulous observance of the Jewish law was the only path of salvation available not only for Jews but for anybody at all. Salvation for Jews alone and not for many of them. But no, now Paul announces a gospel, unexpected good news in Christ Jesus. Yes, Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises God made to the Jewish people; and indeed, Jesus cannot be understood apart from those promises. But now “the Gentiles are coheirs [with the Jews], members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

There’s wonderful content in those words, but maybe it can sound a little technical and abstract. Well, let’s say the same thing with the words of the gospel. “And behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem.” Magi— they represent all the nations other than Israel. They represent the longing of the nations for what God promised Israel. They represent the wisdom of the nations searching for the true God. And if they cannot arrive exactly at their destination, they are zeroing in on it because they are sensitive and open to cosmic signs, and all the earth and all the heavens proclaim the wonderful news of the Only Begotten Son of God come among us in the flesh. How could they not? For the Incarnation touches material being at its very core. “We have seen his star at its rising,” the Magi say. (They call it “his star,” for that is what it is. All the stars are his, and “he calls them each by name.”) “We have seen his star at its rising,” they say, “and have come to do him homage.” The evangelist tells us that not only Herod but also all Jerusalem were greatly troubled at hearing this. Why? Well, who should know better if not God’s chosen people when and where the newborn king of the Jews is, the one to whom homage is due? And yet they have missed the clues that the Magi find in the sky.

I said that we are not dealing here with a charming tale, but with an inspired text that reveals a reality occurring here and now in our midst. What is that reality? The reality is the longing in our own hearts which is nothing less than the longing of all the nations, a longing to encounter the one true God. And it is amazement at learning that such an encounter is possible in an unheard of and unimaginable way; namely, that Jesus Christ, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, is present in our midst here and now in the flesh that he took on for our sake and which he uses as the instrument of his divinity, active in our midst to save us. “And behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem.” We are the magi. Jerusalem is here. But where is the child? Where is Bethlehem?

We follow the star. The text describes ourhearts— what the grace of this day and the feast are meant to cause us to feel. We read, “They were overjoyed at seeing the star.” This is because the star “stopped over the place where the child was.” That place is here and now and all that God is doing in our midst today even as I speak to you. The text continues in its revelation of this present moment. “They saw the child with Mary his mother.” We see the child with Mary his mother. I’m not speaking about a special vision induced by force of imagination. We are not meant to squeeze our eyes real tight and pretend we are in a stable in Bethlehem. The child and his mother are here where we are. Faith lets us see them, for how could the Lord of the Universe not be present here and now under the form that he assumed to make himself so readily and attractively available to us. So we see them by faith, and the text dictates to us our next move. “They prostrated themselves and did him homage.” Ah, who among us does not long to do the same?!

Isaiah the prophet (in the first reading) rouses us to joyful and awestruck adoration. “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!” he says to us. “Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” Let’s get concrete. Our light, the glory of the Lord shining on us— what is it? It is the face of Jesus, the eternal Son come in the flesh. “Radiant beams from thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth! Jesus, Lord at thy birth!” Isaiah says, “Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow.” The joy that begins for us at Jesus’ birth will never cease to grow and expand in us. Every day we strain forward to grasping it somehow the more. We shall tread a path of infinite progress in joy. We will never reach a point where we say, “Yes, I’ve thought all through now for a number of years and well, yes, it’s pretty great. God has sure done a lot for us. But no further thoughts on this would take me any farther.” Ridiculous.

The Eucharist we are about to celebrate is the gateway that opens wide onto the realm of infinite expansion of our joy. We know where this whole story goes. We see “the child” with Mary his mother not only in Bethlehem but also at the cross. And we see that one risen from dead and pouring out his Holy Spirit on Mary and the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. We see the crucified and risen Lord ascended into heaven, and Mary assumed with him into that same place and same condition. Yes indeed, we “see the child with Mary his mother.” And we know that the Eucharist is the memorial of all this, which is to say, that all this becomes present here and now on our altar, and from our altar we offer it as adoration and thanksgiving to the Father for the immense love he pours out on us in his only Begotten Son. Our offering now is not literally gold, frankincense and myrrh, but rather, as the Prayer over the Offerings will proclaim, “he who by them is proclaimed, sacrificed and received, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.”

2017 Talks

Reaction to David W. Fagerberg

Given during the annual Mount Angel Seminary Archbishop Dwyer Theological Symposium, Tuesday, November 21, 2017.

Transcript unavailable

Annual Red Mass

University of Portland, Monday, September 18, 2017

Transcript unavailable

Resurrection: What is it and what does it mean for us?

Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB of Mount Angel Abbey speaks to Jesuit High School Alumni at Old Market Pub in Portland, Oregon, USA regarding the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Transcript unavailable

 

2017 Homilies

Homily of the Nativity of the Lord

Mass during the Night

Monday, December 25, 2017

The gospel text we just heard presents us with two distinct scenes in two different places. In the first, Mary and Joseph come to Bethlehem and, while they are there, Mary gives birth to her firstborn son. In the second, angels appear to shepherds who are out in nearby fields and speak of this birth. Indeed, a crowd of angels appears in the sky singing a heavenly song. The two distinct scenes have a strong linguistic link that binds them. The storyteller, the evangelist, uses a same striking phrase in each different scene. Surely we are meant to take note of it. Of the son to whom Mary gave birth, he tells us, “she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.” In the next scene the angel uses these very same words for the message addressed to the shepherds: “you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” A few verses later— we didn’t hear them tonight; they are heard at the dawn Mass tomorrow— we are told that the shepherds go to see what the angels announced and “found the child lying in a manger.” Why this threefold insistence on the manger? Why the twofold noting of the swaddling clothes?

Manger— it’s not a word you hear very much. It’s seems like nowdays you only hear it at Christmas. Its sense is common enough. It means a feeding trough for animals. It comes from the French, manger, meaning “to eat.” But it seems like the evangelist’s insistence on the word has been drilled into the Christian vocabulary for this scene. So much the better, for something uniquely Christian is being expressed in the birth of this child. Something significant is taking place in that the child’s makeshift crib is a feeding trough. The irony or double entendre in the word manger has been observed by Christian hearers of the story from its first telling to the present. What lies in the manger is food. But what kind of food? For whom? The question is half answered and simultaneously sharpened when we recall that the name Bethlehem, where this child is born, means “house of bread.” Bread is in the manger.

If we come now to “swaddling clothes,” the mystery of the child deepens. The child is wrapped in cloth bands so that it is held still and unable to move. This was common with newborn in the ancient world. It can comfort the child, make it feel snug and secure. But inside this whole story and where it is going, it was quickly taken by Christian hearers to be a mysterious prophecy of this child’s salvific death for us. When Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross, he is wrapped again and laid in the tomb. After Jesus’ resurrection, these wrappings are left behind as suggestive evidence of God’s mighty deed. But that marvelous story of death and resurrection begins here and now tonight as we find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Another whiff of where this whole story is going can be found in the fact that the manger would have been made of wood, so the child already lies on the wood of the cross as food for the whole world.

This is amazing stuff. Deep mysteries are being told. What ought we to do? We are meant in fact to put ourselves in the shepherds’ place. The angels that appeared to them are present to us now as well— present in the Word of God being proclaimed, present in the angels’ song which we have sung as the bells rang joyfully, present now in the Church’s preaching. What the angel said to the shepherds is the same message addressed now to us. “Do not be afraid, for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy. Today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

The reality of that child’s birth invades this building now and makes it holy. That is to say, the reality of that child’s birth invades those of us who are in this building and makes us the holy place. That invasion was already begun as we sang again and again the mysterious words of the Entrance Song: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son; this day have I begotten you.’” Whose voice is this? Who is speaking? Ah, this is voice of the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger! He sings a song that he has sung from all eternity, before time began; for he is “born of the Father before all ages.” But now that one is born in time. This “you are my Son” of the Father is an eternally uttered “You are my Son.” This “today I have begotten you” is said of the one who is eternally begotten of the Father. But today these same words are said in time, in the time of this church, in the hour of this sacred liturgy. These same words describe exactly what is happening in a particular stable (in a particular church) where a certain woman is giving birth to a child. The eternal Father says to this particular child coming forth from her womb, “You are my Son. Today I have begotten you.” And there is a perfect correspondence between the eternal coming forth from the Father and this temporal coming forth from the womb. The eternal Son who has always drunk from the wellspring of the Father and so received his divinity from him, today drinks in real human life in the milk and purity of his mother. He who forever says, “I have life because of the Father” today begins also to say, “I have life because of this mother.”

We remember all this today. We celebrate it today. We remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ today. But strikingly, the climax of the celebration of Christmas comes now in our celebration of the Eucharist, which is a memorial of the Lord’s death. We move swiftly from Bethlehem to Calvary, or perhaps better put: Bethlehem is Calvary. Bethlehem, the house of bread, gives us true bread from heaven on Calvary. From his wooden feeding trough, from the manger, he says, “Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is my Body which will be given up for you.”

See indeed how the Scriptures proclaimed in this night are fulfilled in our hearing. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” That people is us. That great light shines in this night. We come forward tonight to receive his holy body and blood in communion from the manger-cross. In that moment the words are fulfilled which say, “A child is born to us, a son is given us.” And this evening as we come forward to receive the gift of this Son, we will sing repeatedly the words of the Father eternally giving birth to his Son. We will sing, “In holy splendor before the daystar I have begotten you.” These words of the Father accompany the action of our taking his body and blood into our bodies, and they reveal what is happening. We become the place where the child is born. We become the place where the child dwells. We become the place where he dies and rises again. We become completely reborn in the Son and realize with joy and wonder that the Father’s words have drawn us up into himself and that the words addressed to his Son from all eternity are addressed to us as well in this holy night. To us, together with his Son, he says, “In holy splendor before the daystar I have begotten you.” Oh!!— “And now it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!”

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Friday, December 8, 2017

Transcript unavailable

Thanksgiving Day

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Transcript unavailable

Pontifical Mass of the Solemnity of All Saints

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Pontifical Mass of the Solemnity of All Saints, Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Rev 7: 2-4; 9-14. 1 John 3: 1-3. Matt 5: 1-12a.

Today, dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate the festival of the City of God, of the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother, where a great array of saints already sings God’s praises, and where, by means of this holy liturgy, we join our voices to theirs and step already today into the future God has prepared for us in heaven. Let us contemplate the vision of the festive city which today’s liturgy reveals to us. Let us see ourselves within the heavenly choirs and resolve to be faithful— never to sully what we celebrate today so that we may enjoy for all eternity the graces poured out in today’s feast.

This feast is based in visions, visions of one caught up in ecstasy— visions that the Apostle John received and writes down for us. He sees, first, an angel come up from the East who advances to protect with a seal on the forehead a huge throng of people identified as “the servants of our God.” Let’s start taking note of the different groups of those who are gathered. This first group is enormous: one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the children of Israel. Beautiful! There is Israel in heaven!

Then there is another vision, of a different group: “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue.” So not just Israel, but a countless throng from every nation and every kind of people. And all these are gathered around a center, a focus, something on which they gaze. What is it? We read, “They stood before the throne and before the Lamb.” Nothing less than the very vision of God. But at the throne of the one God we see also a more than one. We see God and the Lamb, that is to say, this multitude gazes on the Father and the Son, the crucified Son, now glorified and part of the very throne of God in heaven. And this countless throng gathers before these and cries out in a loud voice the words of a song that is our song as well. They shout: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” [In hushed tone:] the Father and the Son!

Still, the vision is not over. Yet another group is joined to this gathering. This time it’s angels, mixed with human beings, and with other creatures— we don’t know what they are— alive, mysterious and powerful. We read, “All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.” And they too are worshipping and adoring and we hear as well the words of their song.

Finally, yet another group is distinguished within this immense gathering, and the question is asked who they are. We hear, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” The question is answered, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

My dear brothers and sisters, this last description makes it clear that we qualify to be a part of this gathering. For even now we stand in two times: we stand in the time of great distress, and around this altar today we wash our robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. And so we are surviving the time of great distress and enter already into our definitive future where for all eternity we shall prostrate ourselves in adoring wonder before the throne of God and of the Lamb. Together with All Saints in the City of God.

The visions of the Book of Revelation are dizzying and not easily long sustained. They came, as the inspired writer himself says, when he was “caught up in ecstasy on the Lord’s day.” But the same reality is viewed in calmer, less dramatic tones in today’s second reading from the same author in a different genre, writing a simple letter to a community of believers. The Apostle’s words are addressed to us and are about us, this concrete community. They speak more simply, more quietly than the intense language of the visions: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God. Yet so we are.” We are that now. The Apostle insists on this. He says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” This means that the feast of All Saints is our feast too. We are already now among the saints. And although sin and unfaithfulness could still throw us back into the time of great distress, we have been placed squarely within a trajectory that is meant to thrust us into the very heights of heaven. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” This is unbelievable! We shall see God as he is and be assimilated to him. “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is!”

So there is a “now,” and there is a “what we shall be.” And in the today of this feast we are in both times. And the consequences of “what we shall be” make themselves felt already on our present time. In the Apostle’s words, “Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.” This is how we remain in the future festival in which today’s festival already is a part. Put more bluntly and less elegantly than the Apostle says it: “Don’t blow the future in which you are already established. Do not return to sin. Keep yourself pure, as he is pure.”

By the quiet waters of the lake Jesus ascends the peaceful, flowered, grassy mountainside. He sees the vast crowd, and his disciples come to him. He sits down and begins to teach. Jesus’ words that day hold their force still. We are in that crowd. What he declared then unfolded with force and truth and was displayed in very fact and flesh in his death and resurrection. That was the divine deed that assembled together into one single place the countless throngs that we saw as the heavens opened— however briefly— in the visions of the Book of Revelation. “Blessed are… Blessed are… Blessed are…” Jesus said again and again in his sweet teaching on the lakeside mountainside. Makarioi, Makarioi, Makarioi in Greek— an eschatological blessedness, a definitive blessedness, a divine and supernatural blessedness. The blessedness of standing forever before the throne of God and the Lamb and singing their praises. And who stands there? Who is blessed? The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers! All saints! You and I! You and I if we are these poor and meek.

The Eucharist we celebrate now is the pledge and sure seal of this. This altar is the throne of God and of the Lamb. Gathered around this altar is a huge multitude of human beings and angels which cannot be seen and, even if they could be seen, could never be numbered. But here we are— seen and in that number. (“Oh, I want to be in that number!”) What we see here today and however many we number— this concrete assembly writes the icon here and now of the whole heavenly City of God, and the sacrifice we offer is the whole heavenly City— ourselves. “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,” says St. Paul. And that is the sacrifice that our being joined to the Body of Christ enables us to offer now. St. Augustine says exactly this in The City of God: “This is the sacrifice which the Church continually celebrates in the sacrament of the altar, a sacrament well-known to the faithful where it is shown to the Church [in the signs of the sacrament] that she herself is offered in the offering which she presents to God.”

Who are we? Who are we, this monastery? Who are we, this seminary? Who are we, friends and associates of monastery and seminary? Let what we do now in this Eucharist be the answer to this question. “[We] are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; [who] have washed [our] robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Pontifical Mass in Thanksgiving for Mount Angel Abbey & Engelberg Abbey

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Transcript unavailable

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Pontifical Mass of the Profession of Simple Vows

Friday, September 8, 2017

Simple Profession, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Friday, September 8, 2017

Romans 8: 28-30. Matthew 1: 18-23

My dear Novices — not all seven of you, the three about to profess — my dear novices, you have heard the Word of God, and you respond now by professing monastic vows. You were consecrated to God in Baptism. You seek to deepen that consecration now by vowing to live in stability, conversion to the monastic life, and obedience. This is a good response to the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has formed it in you.

And according to our custom here at Mount Angel, you make your profession on the feast of the Nativity of Mary. For different reasons we are not always able to do profession on this day every year, but most years we manage to do it then. And in any case, we count September 8th as a profession anniversary for many members of the community. This is because the monks of Mount Angel have wanted to put their monastic profession under the protection of Mary and to understand their monastic vocation in the light of the Marian mystery.

So, dear Novices about to make vows, and dear confreres who have made your profession on this day in years past… or for that matter on any other day… and dear students and friends who are listening to me speak as an abbot to his monks — let us ponder the monastic vocation and vows in the light of today’s joyful feast.

This liturgy began with an entrance song in which we sang Mary’s words, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum…” Every day of his life a monk sings these words at Vespers, and they are incised in him as the meaning of his life. In the Prologue to the Holy Rule St. Benedict describing who can live in a monastery, it says that those “who fear the Lord and glorify him working in them” can live in a monastery. To perceive the Lord’s grace at work in our life every day, every hour, and to praise him on this account — this is a definition of a monk. Dear Novices, you are promising today before God to do this — to do it every day. And dear confreres, you have already promised this. Freshen your promise inside the graces of today’s liturgy.

The Collect of today’s liturgy was clear in what it asked of God. Let’s be sure we heard that to which we added our Amen. “Impart to your servants, we pray, O Lord, the gift of heavenly grace…” Praying in this way we were, of course, praying for this whole assembly and, indeed, for all the holy People of God across the globe. But how can we not be especially mindful of these three novices on the verge of their profession. They are the Lord’s servants — Mary’s word for what she is — they are the Lord’s servants for whom we all pray the gift of heavenly grace. For us all, and especially for these three about to profess, we went on to pray that this feast “may bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of Mary’s Son was the dawning of salvation.” Deeper peace for you, my dear Novices! The dawn of what you do in full light today was breaking long ago on Mary’s birthday, and she stands watch over what you are doing now. And she will never stop watching.

Two tightly packed verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans are proclaimed in the liturgy today that remember Mary’s birth. Her birth is the preeminent instance of what Paul wants every and all Christians to know. Let’s think of it first for Mary and then apply it to monks who profess vows and then apply it to every Christian. In virtue of the forseen merits of the death of her Son, Mary was immaculately conceived and kept from all stain of sin — a reality celebrated by us on December 8th. Nine months later, on this day, September 8th, we remember the birth of the one who was so conceived. What does all this mean? What is God doing? Paul says it. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” “Foreknew, predestined.” Mary immaculately conceived and born today! But also in her same pattern, every Christian, every monk. Let’s continue with Paul’s text, applying it to these three novices. Paul says “those whom he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.” Predestined, called, justified, glorified — Mary in a preeminent way. But every Christian, every monk. And, Jonathan, Matthew, and Junípero — in these vows you are about to make you are called, justified, and glorified. And what you do shows us with clarity and as a witness what we all are in Jesus Christ.

There are no gospel accounts — naturally enough — of Mary’s birth; and so the liturgy today chooses as a gospel text to focus on the scene which the woman born today was “predestined and called” to fulfill. We hear Matthew’s account, which some scholars accurately enough call the “Annunciation to Joseph.” In Luke’s gospel the annunciation is made by the angel Gabriel to Mary. Here an unnamed angel — perhaps also Gabriel — says to Joseph what Gabriel says to Mary and what I would also say to any novice about to make vows… or to any monk who has made vows. The angel says, and I say, “Do not be afraid.” In the story Mary is described, marvelously and mysteriously, as “with child by the Holy Spirit.” The reader knows this truth, but poor Joseph does not. As such, Joseph also is an image of a monk. Mary’s mystery is there, near him, unfolding, as is the body of her divine Son in her womb. But Joseph’s understanding and ours is short and without details. Trust is required. Enormous trust. “Take Mary into your home,” Joseph is told. Novices, I advise you to do the same: take Mary into your home. And you know how the story goes from there. You know who is born of the one whom you take into your home in taking Mary: Emmanuel, God with us.

“God with us” — this too describes this monastery and its professed monks. God is with us in the human nature the divine Son assumed from Mary. And so, marveling at this in the Prayer over our Offerings of bread and wine placed on the altar, we will pray today, “May the humanity of your Only Begotten Son, O Lord, come to our aid.” How is it we are able to appeal to this humanity? It is because of what dawned today in Mary’s birth. God the Son took his humanity from her and so enables our offering too to be acceptable to the Father.

Well, these are huge mysteries; and I could go on and on. I would kind of like to, but I won’t. Oh, but let me say just one more thing as I think about the humanity of the Only Begotten Son taken from Mary. It affects the whole of humanity, as St. Justin Martyr already said so clearly in the 2nd century. He said, “Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary conceived faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her…” (Dial. 100). Mary is a new Eve of a new humanity, and that new humanity is professed in monastic vows today.

Within the context of all that I have been speaking about, we must move on now very deliberately and invite these novices to make their monastic profession. Chapter 58 of the Holy Rule describes a procedure for receiving brothers into the monastery, a procedure we are following and enacting now. A prolonged period of testing and discernment — this was your postulancy and novitiate — and then the promise, the vow. For the next three years, St. Benedict’s words apply to you: “From this day you are no longer free to leave the monastery, nor to shake from your neck the yoke of the rule, which in the course of so prolonged a period of reflection, you were either free to reject or to accept.”

The ritual within which you make your vows is placed between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. You respond to the Word, and you bring your vows as an offering to be joined to Christ’s own sacrifice. So let us proceed to enact your response to the Word and to bring your gift of self now to the altar for consecration and for transformation.

As you prepare to come before your abbot and profess your vows — and you monks who have already professed the same vows before an abbot of this monastery — I offer for us all this reminder that our monastic profession is a turning away from a former way of life. St. Anselm, one of the greatest of Benedictine monks, prayed to Mary in these words which I recommend we make our own. He said: “Mary, powerful in goodness, and good in power, from whom was born the fount of mercy, I pray you, do not withhold such true mercy where you know there is such true misery. Let the brightness of your holiness confound the darkness of my sins.”

Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit
Beginning of the School Year

School Opening 2017, Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, Monday, August 28, 2017

Ephesians 1: 31, 41, 13-19a. John 14:23–26

We are celebrating a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit today at the opening of the school year, imploring the descent of the Holy Spirit upon our hilltop to impart his wondrous gifts in all that we undertake in this new school year. But today is also the feast of St. Augustine, and how can we not remember him now on his day even if liturgically we are not celebrating his memorial at this Mass? St. Augustine is surely someone whose name will be heard many times in many contexts in the days, weeks, and months to come in this school. He is an absolute giant of the Catholic theological tradition, but it is not only in theology that his name will be invoked and his thought followed and grappled with, but we will hear of him also in our pursuit of philosophy, of the arts, of pastoral practice, of rhetoric, of spiritual growth. It is not a matter today of choosing between paying attention to Augustine or to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces the saints! Age after age and in every epoch the Holy Spirit produces the saints. And today the memory of St. Augustine can help us to see quite concretely what we are hoping for and praying for when we invoke the Holy Spirit to pour out his graces on us now as we begin this school year.

I am happy to think about St. Augustine today in my task of encouraging you all at the start of this school year. Augustine is the Holy Spirit’s “production,” and there are patterns and traits and styles in what the Spirit molds. I mean, thanks to the Holy Spirit, we need not think that between the great St. Augustine and the seminarians who are beginning a school year at Mount Angel Seminary today there is too vast a distance. OK— Augustine was a giant and a pivotal figure in Church history; and, yes, I would be worried if a seminarian told me he conceived of himself as another Augustine. But from a different angle, what the Holy Spirit found and molded in Augustine is the same basic “stuff and material” that exists in every human being— student, faculty, monk, employee, guest. I’m thinking of Augustine, the anxious seeker of truth, Augustine in dramatic conversion, Augustine scrupulously preparing for priesthood and then to be a bishop, Augustine the theologian because he was Augustine the pastor, Augustine the brilliant exegete, Augustine the mystic, Augustine the enthralling preacher. Are we to praise Augustine for all this? Not exactly. We are to praise the Holy Spirit for the gifts he poured out on this man for the sake of the Church, for the sake of the world. We pray to the Holy Spirit today for the same gifts.

Augustine’s Confessions are a model for how we might think about our lives in this monastery and seminary, at whatever level and in whichever tasks and parts of it all we are involved. He knew that Christian theology succeeds only when the believer sees that the story of creation and redemption coincides with the private story of the life of the individual believer. These are not two separate stories. My life makes sense only when I see that my story is the same story as the Bible’s story of creation and redemption. And to be sure that I see this, I use the Bible’s language to understand my life. That’s what Augustine’s Confessions do with his own life, and they are a model and pattern for us all. The Confessions are a massive effort on the part of Augustine to understand the action of God in his own life by means of the biblical language and patterns. And he undertook this effort and worked it through because he saw that he dare not undertake to be a bishop and preach and teach before he had worked it through. What he broke through to there gave him the peace and confidence he needed to be a pastor and to preach with confidence.

Something else that is striking about the Confessions is that from start to finish they are directly addressed to God. He is not addressing a reader. He is addressing God. And this is no literary pose for effect. It is totally authentic. It is not a recording of Augustine’s prayer. It is Augustine praying. This is how you would pray if you were praying by writing. And why did he pray by writing? Because the Bible is written. And he wanted to write the story of his own life with the very language of the Bible so that he could discover that the two stories are ultimately one and the same. Of course, in the end it not the writing that matters, neither in the Bible’s case nor in Augustine’s. What matters is what the writing is about, what the writing testifies to, what the writing reveals. In the Bible it is about the very creation itself, its meaning; and it is about the events of redemption and the rendering of them present still. In Augustine’s life, it is about the meaning of this same creation and redemption in his own life. It is ultimately about the meaning of any Christian’s life.

So, let’s turn to that biblical language for a moment now to understand what we are doing here at Mount Angel at the beginning of this new school year. The Bible’s language tells us what is happening now in our lives. We heard it proclaimed in the first reading and the gospel. I can use St. Paul’s very words in the passage we heard from his letter to the Ephesians to say again what I have just been explaining. He says, “In Christ you also have heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation and believed in him.” I pause to underline the words “you also.” And the same sentence goes on to say, “You also… were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance…” So, our prayer for the Holy Spirit today is about awakening to a gift we have already received and been sealed with. Beautiful the image of the Holy Spirit as a first installment. It means there is more to come, more good stuff to come— ultimately, an infinite progress, an infinite expansion into the mystery of God’s life that can never exhaust itself.

St. Paul’s language applied to us also prays that the Father of Jesus will give to us “a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.” Well, now, there’s a wish for the beginning of a school year. That is a gift that we should expect and receive as a precious treasure: the Spirit that gives us knowledge of the Father of Jesus. (It’s getting Trinitarian!) And here is a further wish that lands effectively on us with biblical language about our own lives. St. Paul prays, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know… what is the surpassing greatness of his power in us who believe.” His power in us! What is it? It is the same power that the Father used in raising Christ from the dead. That power in us! May you be enlightened to know that. That is what this school year is about!

And Jesus, the Lord, the Master, is in our midst now speaking to us in the holy gospel. He says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word.” That’s why we’re all here. We love him. And we’re trying. And he reacts to our trying. He says, “My Father will love whoever loves me, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” This is amazing! This is the promise of this school year. Take it seriously, Everybody! The Bible’s language is directed individually to each of you and reveals the meaning of your life and existence. Jesus says to you, “The Father and I will come to you and make our dwelling with you.”

But there is more. (Of course there is more because this is God.) There is also the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name— he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” These words too describe this school year. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher. The Holy Spirit reminds us of Jesus, the absolute crucial center and object of our contemplation and study: Jesus, known by the Holy Spirit as the Word of the Father, the Word become flesh, crucified and risen and living within us as his dwelling place.

That same Holy Spirit effects and confects all of this now in the Holy Eucharist we are about to celebrate. The bread and wine of our lives are brought forward, prepared by the deacons and then placed by the priest on the altar. The priest’s prayer over the gifts of bread and wine is shaped by the Holy Spirit. The prayer “teaches and reminds” us of Jesus’ actions and words the night before his death. This reminding in the Spirit helps us to connect these words and actions to the body and blood of Jesus broken and poured out on the cross, and the Spirit aides us to believe and perceive that the body crucified has been raised up and we have communion in it here and now by eating this bread and drinking this cup. Here and now for us in this eucharistic mystery is fulfilled at an intensity and with a guarantee beyond all our imagining the words of Jesus reaching us through the biblical text: “My Father and I will come to him and make our dwelling in him.” Each one here. And all of us together. Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary. 2017. The Communion of the Saints and Life Everlasting.

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Audio Unavailable

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary — Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Revelation 11: 19; 12: 1-6.10; 1 Cor 15: 20-27; Luke 1: 39-56

In the Solemnity of the Assumption, the Church celebrates her belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, at her death was assumed body and soul into heaven. But how could we know this? No witnesses saw it happening and so testified to it. Rather, it is knowledge that actually emerged slowly in the life of the Church as the community continued to experience and ponder the consequences of the resurrection of Jesus.

To penetrate this far into the ramifications of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, we have need of a divine revelation and the most intense kind of poetry. And we have these in the scriptures which are proclaimed in our midst this morning. Indeed, the very hearing of these is the feast! In them is revealed the dogma of the Assumption— not as something in addition to scripture but as the scripture’s deepest sense, discerned inside our very celebration. “Behold, God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” This is the definitive ark of the covenant in its definitive condition: it is Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, assumed body and soul into heaven.

This is the same mystery, expressed in a different kind of language, that the apostle Paul announced in the second reading. Christ’s resurrection is concerned not only, and not even primarily, with himself and his own condition after death. His death and resurrection are for our sake. “Christ raised from the dead is the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep… Just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ all will be brought to life.” And, the apostle specifies, there is an order to this resurrection: “each one in proper order,” he says; “Christ the first-fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ.” In Mary we see the next in order of what is to be extended to all those who belong to Christ. She who extended to the eternal divine Word her own body so that he could take flesh from her— she now has extended to her body all the divine glory that filled the dead body of Jesus and raised it from the dead, seating him at the right hand of the Father.

To fix our minds and hearts on such heavenly scenes is the gift of today’s feast, a feast whereby we enter somehow already into the future in which we too are destined to share. This future nourishes our hope with a divine influx whose expectations we could never hope to fashion by our own efforts and of our own imaginings. This hope comes from God. But if through today’s feast we already participate in our future, the inspired scripture nonetheless does not let us forget that we are not yet entirely arrived in that future. Indeed, the present moment is a dramatic crossroads for us. For the visions of revelation likewise disclose to us that this glorious woman is also in labor, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth and that a “huge red dragon” is ready to devour her child. We sense, under the force of the poetry and inside the meaning of this feast, that such a scene somehow describes also the present reality of the Church: Satan hates the Church and would destroy, if he could, all that the Church labors to give birth to, all the ways in which Christ continues to come into the world through the birth pangs of Mother Church, whose image Mary is. Precisely because the present moment is so dreadful and terrifying for the Church do we need this sure instruction of the ultimate outcome of today’s battles. “The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Anointed One.’”

The images from the Book of Revelation are dizzying, and we cannot sustain them for long. They are precisely what the text tells them to be: glimpses into heaven from the vantage point of the earthly liturgy. (Revelation 1: 10) But today’s gospel deals with all the same images in a way that is much easier for us to sustain. Pregnant with the Word, the ark of the covenant, Mary, hurries into the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with the one who will announce the presence of the Word. John the Baptist dances before the ark from his mother’s womb and causes to rise up from Elizabeth’s heart and mouth words which— yes, describe exactly that moment, but words which shall also expand in their meaning from that day forward all the way through to today’s feast. Already on that day of the Visitation it was true that Mary was blessed among women and blessed was the fruit of her womb, Jesus. But how much truer are these words today when we see that the fruit of Mary’s womb is nothing less than her Son crucified, risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven; and that she is blessed among all women because he associates her entirely with himself in the divine glory in which he is definitively established.

In the Liturgy of the Eucharist that we are about to begin now, we give thanks and praise to God for these wonderful mysteries. But not only that. The Eucharist splices us directly into the divine energies that lifted Mary up to share in the glory of her Son, and it causes us to share in the same. The Preface that begins the eucharistic prayer today sings to the Father about Mary’s assumption as “the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people.” And that same Preface sings on in language that helps us to penetrate somewhat the Eucharist as the mystery of the Lord’s Body. It exultantly addresses God saying, “rightly you would not allow Mary to see the corruption of the tomb since from her own body she marvelously Brought forth your incarnate Son, the Author of all life.

In this eucharist, echoing the pattern of his Incarnation in the womb of Mary, Christ wishes to receive from us the gift of our own bodies as a spiritual sacrifice (Romans 12: 1), even as he extends to us the glory of his risen body. He says it quite explicitly, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood shall live forever, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Mary our Mother labors and cries aloud in intercession for us as the image of her Son is brought to completion in the Church. Ah yes, indeed, her song will be the song of us all in heaven: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit exults in God my savior; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name.”

Ascension of the Lord

Transcript unavailable

Mass of Christian Burial for Fr. Cosmas White, O.S.B.

Audio unavailable

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fr. Cosmas  Funeral Mass  Rev 21: 1-5a, 6b-7. Romans 8: 31b-35, 37-39. John 14: 1-6.

Every year on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday, standing outside the church building, everywhere throughout the world, the Church gathers around a blazing fire and blesses it as the paschal fire and prepares the paschal candle to carry and spread its light.  As the candle is decorated with the sign of the cross, with “glorious” nails, with the Lord’s titles of Alpha and Omega, the priest prays, “Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. “ Then he traces the numbers of the present year, this year, into the arms of the cross: 2017.  And he says, “All times belong to him, and all the ages.  To him be glory and power through every age and for ever.”  This year, just two weeks ago Saturday, we entered this building following that flame; and its light and beauty spread throughout the building, and the ritual action of the Church made this building to be again what it is: Church.  The Church is where Jesus Christ, the Crucified, lives as glorious Lord in his body, his body the Church.  So here we are now, [in] that same building— Church, Christ’s body.

Every year many Christians die in the year that is traced on the paschal candle.  They die to sin in Baptism at the Vigil.  Or they confirm again their death to sin by renewing baptismal promises at the same Vigil.   And one year the Vigil which you attend will be the year in which you die in your body, the year of your death.  Two weeks ago Saturday, as I traced 2017 on this candle, it was Fr. Cosmas’ year.  To him apply, as to all who die and live in Christ, the words we prayed, “By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ guard you and protect you…, Fr. Cosmas.”

But surely, to die in these days of Eastertide is an enormous mercy and revelation of grace in Fr. Cosmas’ life.  He had already died with Christ in Baptism.  That death in Christ was strengthened and deepened in his monastic profession.  Deeper still it drilled into him in Christ’s call to him to share in his ministerial priesthood.  And so now this biological death that he offered and that consumed his body is the final revelation of what his entire life was for and was meant to be.  “If we die with Christ, we believe we shall also live with him.”  From this man’s death in Baptism in 1929 to this in 2017: death in Christ and new life in him!  All praise to Christ, who breaks the prison bars of death and rises victorious from the grave!

Last evening at our Vigil service, we heard from Abbot Peter wonderful stories that gave us some sense of the rich, textured, long life that Fr. Cosmas lived.  Now it is our task to proclaim the Christian message on the occasion of Fr. Cosmas’ death and in terms of it.  Jesus, the Lord, is with us now.  He is the cornerstone of this building that we form, the Church.  He is the head of his Body, the Church— his Body, crucified and risen victorious from the grave.  And he speaks to us about the mystery of death, of the mystery of a long life lived and then ended.  He speaks also to Fr. Cosmas himself now, and his powerful words effect the man’s crossing over to him.  He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled… In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places… I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself.”  Here is the pattern, here is the movement of every Christian’s life.  Jesus, by his death, goes somewhere and does something.  And Jesus, in his resurrection, comes back to us to take us to himself.  Indeed, in his resurrection he is established as the One who is always coming, always coming as glorious, saving Lord.  He is the One who was, who is, and who is to come.

But even so, dying is a struggle, a tremendous struggle.  We are like Thomas who says to Jesus, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  Fr. Cosmas had this question, and he also had Jesus’ answer.  Just a few days before Fr. Cosmas died, one of the young monks was sitting beside him as Father moved his legs in a sort of walking movement and shifted restlessly about in his bed.  He kept saying, “I’ve got to get going in the right direction.”  His young brother asked him, “Do you know where you need to go?”  “The right direction!” he said again forcefully, as if in complaint that he hadn’t been heard the first time.  So, the young monk asked, “What is the right direction?”  Perhaps impatient that his young companion had not properly gaged the seriousness of the situation, Father answered quickly and bluntly, saying, “Christ.” Ah, with that answer Father was already moving in the right direction, and less than 24 hours later he had died.

Jesus, the Lord, is with us now. And he speaks to us about the mystery of death, and he says, “I am the way.”  He is the Way to the Father.  No one comes to Father except through him.  But he is not only the way.  He is the way to what he also is; namely, the Truth and the Life.  Truth— not truth understood as correct answers to complicated questions, but Truth as a word for what Jesus is in his very essence; namely, the only Begotten Son of the Father, come in the flesh, crucified and now forever exalted at God’s right hand.  This is truth.  And to know this truth is also Life, life not as just somehow vaguely being here but Life as the Son has life.  Jesus revealed all this to us.  He said, “Indeed, just as the Father possesses life in himself, so has he granted it to the Son to have life in himself… and so the Son grants life to those to whom he wishes.”

Fr. Cosmas has died in Christ.  And now Christ stands in our midst and reveals himself to us all, declaring, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  Jesus never stops saying those words.  Not in the sense that he is always talking and saying that.  Jesus never stops being what he in essence is, and those words say that. And so his sacred words remembered and proclaimed inside the event of Fr. Cosmas’ death in their force and power effect something.  So in our prayer for Fr. Cosmas, we ask Jesus to say those words now to Fr. Cosmas and so save him from death.  We ask Jesus to be the way that leads Fr. Cosmas to a share in the truth and life that Jesus himself is— Jesus, the only Begotten Son, the Crucified, the Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to come.  We ask Jesus to take Fr. Cosmas now ever more deeply and forever into his one glorified Body of which we are all members.

Jesus, the Lord, constantly intercedes for us.  It is not only his powerful words that effect our salvation, but even more so the deed of his dying and rising for our sake.  This is why we offer the sacrifice of the Mass for the dead. The Eucharist effectively makes present the death and resurrection of Jesus; it represents it in signs that totally converge with the reality they signify, and it delivers that reality as communion in it.  It delivers that reality as truth and life.  It is, as we heard St. Paul say in the Letter to the Romans, “the love of God poured out for us in Christ Jesus our Lord” from which nothing can separate us.  Eucharist is the “new heaven and the new earth” announced to us in the first reading from the Book of Revelation.  It is in the Eucharistic assembly that we still hear the loud voice from the throne of God, saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people… and there shall be no more death.” In the sacrifice we offer now for Fr. Cosmas we pray to Jesus, the Lord, the One who comes. And we ask that he directly address his words to Fr. Cosmas, the words where he says, “Behold, I make all things new…To the thirsty I will give a gift from the springs of life-giving water… and I shall be his God, and he will be my son.”

Fr. Cosmas celebrated these mysteries at the altar throughout in his life as a priest and monk.  Now we pray that what he offered so faithfully in mystery he may behold with clarity for ever.

Easter Vigil

Saturday, April 15, 2017

We have finished our long vigil and have arrived at this gospel of the Resurrection. What can we say about our hour of prayer and meditation together? We can say this: the entire creation and the entire action of the living God in all ages have as their goal the Resurrection of the Son. And the Resurrection of the Son has as its goal our share in his divine sonship and our participation in the life of the Holy Trinity. Creation was for Exodus, and Exodus is for Resurrection. And so Creation is addressed in the Exultet, “Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her! Let all corners of the earth be glad.” Exodus is remembered in the Exultet: “This is the night when God made Israel’s children to pass dry-shod through the sea.” Resurrection is proclaimed in the Exultet: “This is the night when Christ broke the prison bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.” And our share in all this is likewise proclaimed: “O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth and divine to the human.”

As we ponder the things of heaven being wed to those of earth, I think it would be legitimate to wonder if angels, individual angels, have the equivalent to what we in human beings would call a personality. I mean the characteristics of a particular angel, the angel’s traits and style. If so, the angel in the gospel passage we just heard could be called the noisy type, even rambunctious and flashy. His arrival is accompanied by an earthquake. He rolls back the stone from the tomb. That wouldn’t have been quiet. One can imagine a rumbling. His appearance is like lightning. He scares the guards and knocks them dead, and they were supposed to be guarding a dead man. Now who’s dead? Then he sits on the stone he rolled back. Really? An incorporeal being bothering to sit! Is he being funny? And after all this he has the cheek to ask the women, “Did I scare you?” And then he calmly tells them not to be afraid. What do all these angelic moves mean? It is certainly a style. It creates its own kind of impression. In part it is certainly about a great good tide of joy we find in many of the gospel stories of resurrection appearances. We are allowed to smile and to enjoy the details.

But let’s be clear about things. None of this noise and commotion is of the resurrection itself. It is all the commotion of an angel designed to reveal an empty tomb— noise and commotion to reveal that there is no one here and nothing to see. Noise and commotion to reveal what made no noise and what took place in deepest night in a manner known to God alone, with a swift, spiritual, silent stroke of transformation: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. “Let there be light” said God into the chaos of the tomb, and there was light.

After the noisy arrival and display, the angel bids the women not to be afraid, and then declares the meaning of the empty tomb he reveals. He refers to Jesus by a beautiful title. He calls him “Jesus the Crucified.” And then he announces that he is not here in the tomb where he had been laid, for he has been raised. He has been raised, but his name will always be “Jesus the Crucified,” for never can we forget the love displayed through the long hours of his dying. And now God the Father confirms that act of love, accepts it, fixes it forever and establishes the Crucified permanently in glory. He is “the Lamb once slain who dies no more and lives forever as Jesus the Crucified, Lord and Messiah.”

The angel asks the women to believe his announcement and to pass it on to the disciples of Jesus. He tells them they will see Jesus in Galilee. Odd, if you think about it. If he is risen, why should he not show himself here and now? And why Galilee? That’s a long way away. Is that where he is? There and not here? If so, what does “risen” mean anyway? What does “he is not here” mean?

Well, let’s watch carefully how the women react. We read “they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful and yet overjoyed.” Two lessons here: (1) move away quickly from the tomb, from the place of death. And (2) believe the angel, even if it frightens and puzzles you, for you will be overjoyed as you put your trust in the announcement. They were running to do what the angel told them to do, “to announce this to the disciples.” But then what happens? Suddenly Jesus himself meets them and greets them with a huge and simple word. “Rejoice,” he says to them. The angel had told them they would see him in Galilee, but he stands before them here and now? Was the angel wrong? How here? Why now? Because they were moving away from the tomb, because they had believed the angel, because they were in mission to announce this to others— for all these reasons he appears to them here and now.

My dear brothers and sisters, this is how we too will meet Jesus the Crucified as the Risen One: by running away from the tomb of sin and death, by believing the angel’s announcement, and in mission to carry this news to others. On the way, in the mission, the women met him. Jesus shows himself suddenly how and where he will. And in his own sovereign way he will reveal himself to each of us and to all. He will come to us as we hurry away from the tomb and run to share the news with others.

The water that we will bless now to remind us of our Baptism, and the bread and wine that we will use to celebrate the Eucharist are the visible signs of this invisible mystery, the mystery of encounter with “Jesus the Crucified, who has been raised up just as he said.” Like the women, when they encountered him, in the Eucharist we approach him, we embrace his feet and we do him homage.

 

Good Friday

The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion (Good Friday)
Friday, April 14, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters, at the beginning of this ceremony the deacons and I lay on the floor, not as a gesture of mourning but to fall down in absolute wonder and fear and submission before the revelation of the glory of God in the mystery of the cross. In the liturgy we do not pretend for awhile that we do not know that Jesus is risen from the dead, thinking only for the next few days of his terrible death and burial. No, we experience in the course of this very liturgy that the Lord’s cross, the Lord’s death, is already victory and life. His death is a triumph, for by his dying he destroys death for us. And we who remember his death today do so precisely because we know him to be risen. The story of Jesus’ death is a constitutive part of the announcement of resurrection. The one who is risen is the Crucified Lord. This is Passover as both passion and passage. Death and resurrection—it is not first one and then the other. They are always inextricably intertwined—in Jesus’ Passover, in our Christian lives, in our lives as monks, and in the liturgies of the Triduum. In today’s liturgy we carefully remember the death of Jesus, and doing so is a magnificent revelation to us of the divine deed in which, yes, death and its horrors are all too real, and in which nonetheless that death is the glorious lifting up of the one who draws all things to himself.

Today’s liturgy consists of three parts: the Liturgy of the Word, the Adoration of the Cross, and Holy Communion. The first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah emerges from the barely broken silence like a trumpet blast. Each year on Good Friday when I hear this text proclaimed, I am amazed at the clarity and precision with which the prophetic words, pronounced some six centuries before the birth of Christ, find their fullest sense in the events surrounding the death of Jesus on the cross. Here we can immediately grasp the sense of that line we proclaim about the Holy Spirit in the Creed, where we say, “He spoke through the prophets.” Fewer texts could indicate this more clearly than the one we read today. The very details of the Passion are present in what the prophet says. We can understand how natural it was for the early Christians to read texts of this kind and understand them completely as a foreshadowing of Christ.

The prophet expresses the amazement of us all before the spectacle of Jesus’ cross. He exclaims, “Who would believe what we have heard?” And then he proceeds with a description whose details lead us into further contemplation of the cross, contemplation of that mysterious interlacing of passion and passage, of suffering and glory. On the one hand, the depth of the suffering of Jesus is further described, but concomitant with that, a glory hidden within. We continue to be struck by how tightly the words fit the life and death of Jesus. We read “There was in him no stately appearance that would attract us to him … He was a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity … spurned, and we held him in no esteem.” Even so, the prophet claims, he is full of significance, a significance that concerns our very salvation. We read “Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured … he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, by his stripes we were healed.”

Jesus’ own interior attitude during the course of the Passion is also foretold by the prophet. “Though he was harshly treated, he submitted … like a lamb led to the slaughter … he was silent and opened not his mouth … ” Even the details of Jesus’ burial are foretold by the farseeing eye of the prophet: “A grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.”

These are startling and amazing things. But in effect, resurrection is obliquely foretold as well in what the prophet pronounces. We read “If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life.” We and all believers are those descendants, and his “long life” is the eternal life the Father gives him in raising him from the dead.

In the letter to the Hebrews we hear something that by now we are used to saying but which originally was a completely radical insight; namely, that what appeared to be only the cruel execution of a human being—Jesus being crucified—is in fact an act of a new priesthood and the offering of a new and definitive sacrifice. The author of this letter is claiming that what all cultic sacrifices could only weakly point to and symbolically achieve is now in fact definitively achieved by Jesus, not in a cultic act, but quite literally in his dying and his being exalted at the right hand of the Father.

And in the Gospel of John, we hear the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion as a story bathed in power and light. Even Jesus’ last breath is nothing less that his delivering the Holy Spirit into all the world. Still more, his very corpse is life-giving, for from his pierced side there spring forth the wondrous sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist in the blood and water that the solider’s lance causes to flow.

The last part of the Liturgy of the Word today will be 10 long prayers for the Church and the whole world. Why all these prayers deep inside the celebration of the Lord’s Passion? It is nothing less than laying the death of Jesus before the eyes of the Father as we enumerate our many needs and hopes. In effect, we are saying to the Father that Jesus is asking this for us “with loud cries and tears” on our behalf. This is what it means to end every prayer, “through Christ our Lord.”

With the adoration of the cross we arrive at that part of the liturgy that is completely unique to this day. There are two basic parts to it. The first is a showing of the cross to all the people, and the second is a procession in which we come forward to venerate it. In this monastery we have a fragment of what is believed to be the true cross. We have placed this fragment within a large wooden reliquary shaped in the form of a cross. The celebrant declares three times: “Behold the wood of the cross,” and then the wood is exposed to our view and for our adoration. The sliver of the true wood touches the other wood and, as it were, renders all the wood to be that holy wood. To see this wood, to touch it, to kiss it, is to see the glory of God revealed in the holy cross. “Behold the wood of the cross!” All wood, any wood, is on this day that wood—“the wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world.”

After this there follows the third part of today’s liturgy: the reception of Holy Communion. We are very near now to the liturgy of yesterday evening, Holy Thursday, where the hosts we receive today were consecrated, and where Jesus gave us in the signs of the meal a means for interpreting the meaning of his death. Whenever I receive the body of the Lord, I receive it in some sense from the cross. There is perhaps no day when this is so clear as on Good Friday. The words of St. Paul in yesterday’s second reading have a new resonance for us today: “For as often as you eat this bread … you proclaim the death of the Lord.” (1 Cor 11:26) I just spoke of how precious indeed is the opportunity to express our devotion by kissing the wood of the cross on which the Lord died. Far more precious than the relic of the cross is that which we receive in Communion. The very body that was crucified and is now risen is given to us as food and life. By eating this food we share in his life-giving death and resurrection. Passover as passion. Passover as passage.

Holy Thursday

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Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Thursday, April 13, 2017

We are gathered together here on the very day and in the very hour when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. We know that we are initiating the three days of liturgy, the Triduum, that begins now with the memorial of the Lord’s Last Supper. We sense that we are every bit as much swept up into this event as were the original historical actors whose stories and words we have just heard.

We receive from Jesus his body and blood under the signs of and wine as a gift with which we are meant to discern the meaning of his death on the next day. So, we seek to connect all the signs of the meal to Jesus’ death on the cross, an event whose force is imminent and which impinges more and more on the mood of the supper and what follows.

Christ’s heart, as he looks at our assembly and invades it, is filled with the sentiments he expressed when he said to his disciples at the beginning of the Supper, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) “to eat this Passover before I suffer”: a meal and a sacrifice.

How did Jesus enter into the Passover of his suffering? He did so by celebrating with his disciples the meal that is prescribed in this evening’s first reading, a passage taken from Exodus 12. The Passover meal, solemnly established by the Lord’s own words to Moses, opens into all the events of the coming days and contains them all in advance under the form of signs.

During the course of the meal Jesus quite consciously began to play some of its most fundamental themes in a new key, in the key of the new Passover that he was about to accomplish. The food and drink of this meal were the language with which the story of Israel’s Passover was told. Jesus draws on all its images now and intentionally summarizes or recapitulates all of Israel’s history in himself. In the signs of the meal which he selects, he is conscious that he holds all of Israel and all her history in his hands as he takes up bread and wine, and he identifies that whole history with himself and with the death he will undergo on the next day, saying over it, “This is my body, this is my blood, given up for you.” It is into his definitive Passover that we enter now by means of his same words and by means of the bread and wine he holds in his venerable hands.

“Every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb,” says the Lord. “If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one.” That is what we have done in this very hour of our celebration. We are many households come together in one place., and we have procured a lamb. According to the Lord›s prescriptions, it must be a special kind of lamb. “The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.” Our unblemished male lamb is none less that Jesus himself, the Lamb of God. Then we read that “with the whole assembly of Israel present, the lamb shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.” We are the whole assembly of the new Israel, and the very hour in which we are gathered is the evening twilight, and in this evening twilight, Jesus the Lamb lets himself be slaughtered as he hands over his body and blood to us. Further prescriptions follow. “They shall take some of the lamb’s blood and apply it to the doorposts and lintels of every house … and that same night they shall eat its roasted flesh.” We fulfill these prescriptions as we take the blood of Jesus in the chalice he gives us, applying it to our house by consuming it. We eat the flesh of the lamb as we receive his body in the transformed bread.

And it is precisely at this point in the reading, when we are told to eat like those in flight, that the Lord solemnly names the feast. He says, “It is the Passover of the Lord! For on this same night I will go through Egypt, and I will strike down every first-born of the land …” and then he adds, “but the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you.” (Exodus 12: 11-13)

The second reading this evening is brief but very strong. St. Paul simply narrates what Jesus did at the supper “on the night he was handed over.” He introduces his account of what he tells by reminding the Corinthian community that their knowledge of this sacred meal is a question of tradition, that is, that Paul received the account of the meal from the Lord himself and he handed it on to them. This faithful handing on of what Jesus did has continued through the generations to the present moment of our own celebration. We feel the presence of Paul in our own assembly. His words are for us still the authoritative apostolic witness of what Jesus did. The words of Jesus over the bread and over the cup are repeated: “This is my body. This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” And with both bread and cup, Paul repeats the Lord’s command: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

On this night we are faithful to the Lord’s command to do this meal in memory of him. St. Paul adds a very important comment of his own which interprets at depth what happens when the community fulfills the Lord’s injunction and celebrates as he commanded. Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes!” These words have guided the Church’s understanding of the Eucharist from Paul’s time to the present. They show us with unmistakable clarity that the Eucharist is a memorial of the Lord’s death, of the Lord’s sacrifice. But Paul uses a very strong verb. He says we proclaim the Lord’s death. That is, his death is announced as something unexpectedly glorious. In this way his resurrection is known and announced—not explicitly, but by proclaiming his glorious death, the death of one whose coming again in glory we await. Indeed, then, that is the “space” where Eucharist is celebrated by the Church: in the space between the proclamation of his death and his coming again in glory. We are moving and acting in that space now.

The solemn announcement of the Passover which we heard in words from the Lord’s own mouth concludes with a final order: “This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution.” Faithfulness to this command kept the Passover alive in every generation down to the time of Jesus and his own celebration of it. But even more so, faithfulness to the command brings every subsequent generation of Christians into communion with Jesus’ new and definitive Passover. Before they sat down to table, Jesus, the Lord and Master, washed the feet of his disciples in humble service and as yet another sign that foreshadowed the death he would undergo in service to us all. We begin this year’s Triduum surrounded and immersed in all these same signs that proclaim his glorious death, his new Passover. These three days are a “memorial feast” established by the Lord. They are a “perpetual institution.” Their meaning is love. Jesus says, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Feast of the Transitus of Saint Benedict

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What striking readings from the Sacred Scriptures we have just heard! They are sharp, succinct descriptions of what we would see in Saint Benedict and thus they are chosen for this liturgy. They are also sharp, succinct descriptions of what we ought to see also in the disciples of Benedict and in those who celebrate his feast.

Let’s be sure that we let that word still echo in our hearts now, for its power is still with us. The Apostle Paul says, “ Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.” How else do you think you’ll ever be a monk? How else do you think you’ll ever be a Christian?

Paul says, “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” Monastic life is spiritual warfare. Against whom? Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the rulers of this present age, with the evil spirits in the heavens. In other words, monastic life is not a self-improvement course or a way of living that will give you a positive self-image. It is a cosmic battle against evil. Therefore, put on the armor of God that you may be able to resist on the evil day and hold your ground.

Monastic life is spiritual warfare. “With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.” That’s the “pray always” that monastic life is meant to be. Paul continues, “To that end be watchful with all perseverance and supplication.” All days. All day long. Every day. Perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones. That is monastic life as undertaken for the whole church. Perseverance and supplication for the whole church.

I like to say that one of the things monastic life is good for, is that it shows clearly the ingredients of the spiritual life. That’s why not just monks can profit from the monastic life. It’s a sign to the whole church. Perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones. That’s the sort of thing that St. Benedict would say today and he learned it from St. Paul. And St. Paul and St. Benedict are with us now in this sacred liturgy, urging us on with these words.

In the Gospel, Peter strongly encounters Jesus. He asked Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” We think of somebody asking that question. Peter? I don’t mind thinking of St. Benedict asking the same question. We monks, consecrated religious, priests, and sometimes seminarians perhaps too readily think we have the right to ask the same question. Have we? Have we given up everything yet to follow Him? Well, let’s say we have. Or, that we are trying. And what does Jesus say to us today? On this feast. He says, “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands or for my sake will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life.”

Certainly, we see that that promise was fulfilled in St. Benedict beyond anything he could ever have imagined. Tens of thousands of monks and nuns have called him father through the whole history of Europe. And millions of lay people influenced by the kind of monasticism through more than 1,500 hundred years that he brought into the world. That’s a lot of hundred times more brothers and sisters. And for us who wish to be his followers and live under his influence, we too can hope for a little influence on others. We too can hope for the good and sweet experience of being a blessing for others.

There’s something that the monks all know, but I don’t know if everyone else does. There are two feasts of Saint Benedict in the liturgical year. Today, March 21, and July 11. Why is that? We know that March 21 was the very day on which St. Benedict passed from this world to the next. That feast was always kept in the church. But in the reform of the Liturgical Calendar, many of the big feasts were taken out of the Lenten season so that Lent could be Lent. And so the Universal Church remembers St. Benedict on July 11.

Benedictines were given the privilege of celebrating both days. That’s good for us here with the Seminary because March 21 can be a day that we especially celebrate the Feast of St. Benedict with our seminarians. We are happy to be able to do that. Whereas we devote the celebration have in July to receiving all kinds of guests. On the Saturday closest to July 11 we invite hundreds of people to come to the hill to celebrate the heritage of St. Benedict.

Both of those opportunities, the opportunity for us today as monks to celebrate with you seminarians and the many guests who are here, both of these days are our way of showing the monastery’s relevance for the whole church. But today is the very day on which St. Benedict died. St. Gregory gives us a beautiful description of the moment of his death and how the other monks experienced it. Let me just recall a little of that for you.

We read at the end of the Life of Benedict that St. Gregory gives us, we read that in the year that was to be his last, the man of God foretold the day of his holy death to a number of his disciples. That’s pretty amazing when you can say that on that day, on March 21, “ I’m going to die.” Well, St. Benedict, we know, enjoined his monks in this way: “Keep death daily before your eyes.” St. Gregory goes on to say, “Six days before he died he gave orders for the tomb to be opened,” as if to say, it is about to happen now.

“Almost immediately he was seized with a violent fever that rapidly wasted his energy. Each day his condition grew worse until finally on the sixth day, he told his disciples to carry him into the chapel.” Let’s think of this image on March 21, carried into the chapel by his fellow monks,” where he received the Body and Blood of the Lord to gain strength for his approaching end. This is how St. Benedict wants to die: Carried by other monks and receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord as Viaticum, as strength for his end.

I continue: “Then, supporting his weakened body on the arms of his brethren, he raised his hands to heaven.” It’s like he puts his body in the shape of a cross, but his monks are holding his hands up so he can pray that way. “And as he prayed he breathed his last.”

So this description we have is from the monks who were present, but something else happened elsewhere. I continue with what Gregory tells us. “That same day two monks — one of them at the monastery and the other some distance away — received this very same revelation. They both saw a magnificent road covered with rich carpeting and glittering with thousands of lights. From his monastery, it stretched eastward in a straight line all the way into heaven.” That’s seeing something. Two monks are in two different places. Meanwhile, the other monks just saw him die.

That’s the scene. And then a man appears to both of those people that are having the visions, and he said, “Do you know what this is? Do you know who passed this way?”

“No,” they said.

“This,” he told them, “is the road taken by blessed Benedict, the beloved of God, when he went to heaven.” This is called the Transitus of Benedict. The passing of Benedict along this road, this carpet, glittering with thousands of lights from the monastery all the way to heaven. And that road is at every monastery. And it’s meant to be traveled by every monk. What is the lesson of the story for us monks? And what is the lesson for anyone who is under the influence of the monks? First of all, it is that Benedict never went to God alone. At the end, he let his brothers carry him. Benedict didn’t keep his relationship with God for himself.

The story that St. Gregory tells just before this is wonderful. It’s Benedict’s biggest vision. He’s alone at night in his tower where he used to go every night and pray. Suddenly he saw the whole world gathered up into a single light, and the light was Christ. And the world was somehow inside Christ.

In the midst of this vision, he calls out to the Deacon Servanes, who was nearby, to come see this thing. He disturbed his ecstasy to bring someone else into it. That’s Benedict or you. Beautiful. So, the first lesson we must take from this is that Benedict doesn’t go to God alone. He goes with his brothers. Others carried Benedict to the Eucharist. The lesson for us is to let ourselves be carried by others to the Eucharist and let us carry one another to the Eucharist. Another lesson is that the Eucharist is called “ strength for the journey,” the journey along the road that extends from the monastery all the way to heaven. The Eucharist will keep us on that road. And this image supporting the weakness of his body he lifts up his hands in prayer.

And so he travels on this magnificent road. My dear brothers in the monastery and seminarians and friends all, today let’s resolve again to take that same road. It’s the road St. Benedict speaks about at length in Chapter 7 of the Holy Rule, on humility. Where he speaks of the vision that Jacob had of a road leading from where Jacob prayed all the way to heaven. And St. Benedict says that you ascend that road by descending in humility. According to the Lord’s own words, “he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So I repeat, dear brothers, let us take that same road that St. Benedict took by humbling ourselves. And how did St. Benedict travel that road? By feeding on the Eucharist. And so let us eat and drink now that same body and blood of the Lord that made St. Benedict a saint. Let us eat and drink now that same Body and Blood of our Lord that brought Benedict to heaven.

Let us seek the things that are above.