MONTHLY SUNDAY LCG COMPLINE
April 15, 2018, at 7:25 pm ET/6:25 pm Central
LIVE VIDEOCONFERENCE WORSHIP WITH LCG SISTERS AND BROTHERS
An important element of the Cistercian life is regular participation in the Daily Office and Community. Come pray with LCG sisters and brothers at our monthly LIVE Compline service this Sunday. At the same time our monks are praying Compline at Gethsemani Abbey. Twenty inspiring minutes to help close your day with our monks and LCG members and friends. Haven’t tried videoconference?? Take courage! Give it a try; as many of our members have found: Almost as good as being at Gethsemani Abbey.
You are encouraged to join at 7:25 pm when Mike Gyulay (Spiritus) will lead a time of thanksgiving and prayer leading to the 7:30 Compline service:
- Prelude – visit and background chant music;
- Welcome, Affirmation, and Prayer by Mike Gyulay
- Compline begins at 7:30 – together we pray the Office with the Monks of Gethsemani using the Abbey video
- Depart to personal “grand silence” for the night
ON YOUR COMPUTER (or phone), CLICK THE FOLLOWING MEETING IDENTIFIER: within seconds you will join.
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/468125941
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DON’T HAVE THE ZOOM APP? IT’S FREE! EASILY DOWNLOAD THE ZOOM APP: Click the meeting identifier above; if not already a Zoom user you will be asked to download the Zoom app (takes about two minutes.) You will find what other LCG members have found: a good way of connecting with sisters and brothers to better share our Cistercian life of the spirit. Several of our LCG communities have successfully used Zoom—a videoconference application that you can quickly download on your computer or smartphone.
In our first reading today, the Lord, through the prophet Isaiah asks King Ahaz to name any sign he wants from God, anything he might desire. But Ahaz is sure there is a trick involved. Maybe we can sympathize. If something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true. We are suspicious of free gifts, only too aware that there is usually some catch involved. All we have to do to win a million dollars is subscribe to a magazine. We have already been selected. Sure. Once we have fallen for something like this once or twice, we tend to wise up. Like Ahaz, we simply don’t trust the offer any more. In Ahaz’ case, to avoid the trap he is sure is there, he plays the pious card, and uses the pretense of humility to avoid having to commit to something he doesn’t understand. He refuses God’s gift.
We have spent the last week celebrating what Christians believe to be the greatest free gift ever given to humankind: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And rightly so. The resurrection of Christ is the fulfillment of the promise of salvation history, and the cornerstone on which the Christian faith has been built. When Christ rose from the dead, our human nature was changed forever. We live in a post-resurrection world, in which we have been lifted from our human state to share, however gradually, in the divine, a fact which we reinforce each day in the Eucharist.
Today, though, we celebrate a humbler gift: the conception of a child. It is humbler on the surface because it’s more common. A little more than 4 babies are born on this earth every second, that’s 250 every minute. We may assume that conceptions are occurring at, at least, an equal rate. Meanwhile, since the dawn of human existence, there has been exactly one resurrection from the dead. Jesus. So it is little wonder that the resurrection is given more attention than the conception. Of course we expect things to even out at the end of all time, when we will all be resurrected and sent to our just reward, but until then resurrection remains a rarity.
But of course today isn’t the anniversary of any ordinary conception. It marks the conception of Jesus of Nazareth, God who became human. It marks the conception of a new kind of humanity, fully human and fully divine, the Word made flesh, the meeting of heaven and earth in one person. God comes down to us not just to touch us, or to speak to us, or to perform some miracle of nature, to heal someone or to part the Red Sea, but to rupture the barrier between earth and heaven, not only to affect us but to become one of us. Matter, the stuff of which we are made, from which everything we know is made, the stuff which God made from nothing, now encloses God. As many of our liturgical texts and hymns pronounce, Mary, who is a creature of God, now carries her creator in her womb. She has become the mother of the one who made her.
Heaven has touched earth and neither will ever be the same. Heaven is now part of nature, just as, when Jesus ascends in a few more weeks, his human body, born of nature, will be part of heaven. This means that we, right now, right here, have access to heaven in much the same way Mary did.
Today’s psalm and second reading tell us that we should be ready to do God’s will. We might think that this is not too difficult, if only we knew what God’s will was for us. In fact, it is very difficult, not because we don’t know God’s will, but because, like Ahaz, we don’t know what it will mean for us or what the consequences will be. Doing God’s will opens us up, as it did Mary, to uncertainty, trial and tears. But it also opens us to God’s greatest gift for us – a chance to be truly ourselves, as we were created to be, with Christ at our very center.
The angel in the gospel today speaks not only to Mary, a young woman in first century Nazareth, but to us as well. It asks us if we too will accept God’s will and allow God’s son to be born in us, in our hearts and in our bodies. And it asks us not just once in our lives, but every day, at every moment. The angel stands at the door and knocks, waiting for our answer.
King Ahaz refused God’s gift. Mary accepted it. She accepted it not knowing what it meant or how it would all turn out. Unlike Ahaz, she simply trusted in God. All creation, as we are told somewhere, earth and heaven and the netherworld, waited, holding its breath, for Mary’s answer. And it waits for ours as well. Will we, like Ahaz, hang back, not trusting, fearful of the consequence of any answer? Or will we put aside our own will, our calculating suspicions, and trust entirely in God, and answer, with Mary, “Yes?”
This gospel is an anticipation of the birth of the church, at Pentecost, it is John’s version of it. It lays down the foundation for a group of disciples to be a church. Christ is Risen indeed but his message and cause goes on. Not an idea but Jesús lives on for all human beings and his followers must bring this message to the world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit a community is gathered, an Easter community, a community of the Risen Lord, the body of the Risen Lord. It is not so much a congregation or a company of people who come together…. as a living body of people who are called together to become the body of Christ. This church belongs to men, in a sense, for it consists of human persons. But more so this is a church of God because it comes from God and God is love and God is self-communicating. What one freely receives one freely gives. In the early Christian times, the Church had no buildings. Christians met in any house which had a room large enough to accommodate them. These gatherings were called house churches. The best known was that of Aquila and Prisca. Every home in a real sense should be a church. More importantly this church is an easter community, meaning that the members experience christ as living in their midst. It is not a spectator church. Everyone is involved in this living church and its propagation: through service, kindness and help to the poor and oppressed and most especially in the breaking of the bread. To be a leaven in society.
This ekklesia to use a more technical term is a community of believers that came from doubt and confusion. It is not a community with clear ideas of what life is all about and who Christ is for them. It grows in understanding of itself through the Holy Spirit. There is always the temptation for human beings to reduce the divinity in a category that allows them to understand it. Like Thomas he doubted the resurrection because it is not within the experience of human beings to see another come from the dead. Thomas doubted because he had his own faith to hold on to. He had his own value system, principles to be kept in life, tenets to hold on to which he learned from the temple and religious authorities since he was a young child. It definitely precludes resurrection. It is a big mistake to call those who do not belong to our church unbelievers. Perhaps our big problem is that they are all believers and that we could not convince them that our belief is better than what they have. This is most often our line of approach to those who do not belong to us. Ours is better. Jesús is the message, as Risen Lord not ideas, to be seen effective in the lives of people. And if this risen lord is effective in the lives of his followers it would show: kindness, generosity, non judgmental, total respect for others, humble and so on. but unfortunately many of us could not live what we proclaim by words. Christians must be alive themselves and life giving to others to bring to others the good message. We do not posses Christ as the disciples wished in the first days of his rising from the dead. They want to keep him the way they saw him and knew him. They want to confine Jesús inside the human ambience at their beck and call not realizing that he would be more trully risen in Spirit. Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe. True and not true. We cannot see how we want Jesús to be: modern prophet, revolutionary, defender of the oppressed, ordinary guy just like one of us etc. meaning that he should exist within our grasp. Thomas must understand that from then on Jesús will live in men and women who could say that “It is no longer I that lives but Christ lives in me as St. Paul said. Doubt is a pre-requisite to faith. The real doubt is to doubt how we personally understand ourselves, others, life, and faith: how we understand God and Jesús. It is to doubt our arrogance in insisting that our knowledge is the norm for the other. That is why we are experiencing once more the burnden of new temple authorities of our times: financial temples, church as organization, interest groups, the business temples etc. all opposed to the idea of resurrection; to the reality of another mode of existence – that there is an entire new way of existence beyond the existence human beings ever knew. Thomas must kneel before a personal Lord
+In Pope Francis’ most recent apostolic exhortation titled Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad) He writes that “God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises. We are not the ones to determine when and how we will encounter him; the exact times and places of that encounter are not up to us. Someone who wants everything to be clear and sure presumes to control God’s transcendence.”
It’s this very understanding of God, it seems to me, that Jesus is showing us in his words to Nicodemus we just heard in the gospel: “’You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” We are so often inclined to tie the work of the Holy Spirit to one way of acting when the Spirit is ever showing us how to live in the freedom of the children of God. We see this freedom in the first Christian community where all things we held in common and each was given as he or she was in need.
This time of Easter celebration is a fresh invitation to live in that life that was freely given us at baptism and is ever at work in our daily lives if we are open and responsive.
ABBOT ELIAS DIETZ, O.C.S.O
Homily – Easter Day Mass – April 1, 2018
The Stone Rolled Away
The Sequence we heard just before the gospel—far from being a quaint oddity—is actually one of the treasures of the liturgy. The church has been singing this little poem for nearly a thousand years. Part of it—the lively little dialogue with Mary Magdalene—has a popular character about it, and, in fact, is part of what inspired medieval dramas based on the liturgy. We hear Mary condense into a few lines the whole story of Easter morning: “The tomb of Christ, who is living, the glory of Jesus’ resurrection; the angels there attesting, shroud and folded napkin resting.”
The rest of the poem is quite different. It talks about the Paschal Victim, and takes us into the atmosphere of the Book of Revelation: “A lamb the sheep redeeming, sinless in the sinner’s stead, reconciling sinners to the Father. Death and life have contended in that strange and awesome strife: the Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.”
Here we have side-by-side the two aspects of Easter: a moment in time when the body of Jesus of Nazareth is found missing;and the eternal exaltation of the resurrected Lord; a death and loss as hard as the stone, and the eternal brightness emerging from the empty tomb.
In a way, the stone moved aside is the open door in heaven that led John to see the great revelation. And at the heart of that revelation is the “Lamb, standing as though it had been slain,” or as our Sequence has it, “A lamb the sheep redeeming.” And the poem also sums up well the main message of John’s book about that revelation: “Death and life have contended in that strange and awesome strife: the Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.”
The lamb of the Passover supper, the Supper at which Jesus offered his own body and blood as the true sacrifice, and the victorious Lord presiding for all eternity over the hosts of heaven—all come together in this one, extraordinary figure of the Lamb of God. And we are meant to become members of the multitude that will be presented as the chosen Bride of this mysterious Lamb.
If we allow it to, the Easter Season has in store for each of us a stone rolled away and an open door in heaven. As with Peter and John, we cannot fully grasp what it being offered to us. But with Mary we can keep coming back to it.
Each day at Mass, just before communion, the priest lifts up the consecrated host and says, “Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.” These are the words of the angel to John in the Book of Revelation. And the angel immediately went on to say, “These are the true words of God.”
Indeed, what more need be said. Our happiness is in this Lamb. Our whole life is an invitation to that Supper.
Everything around the life of St Joseph is steeped in silence, something that seems to be an outstanding trait of his personality. We don’t read of Joseph speaking a single word in all of the gospels. It’s not that he is just a quiet sort of guy, withdrawn from the rest of society, but he is one, as one author puts it: “who lets God speak and answers by obeying eagerly without discussion, without asking the least question (even an explanation), without expressing the slightest objection.” After his dream, he simply did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.
We see in Joseph a “righteousness that comes from faith” that St Paul writes about so eloquently in his letter to the Romans that we just heard. Along with Mary, he provides the climate in which the long awaited heir, the promised one by the prophet Nathan, would find a home to live in. The temple that Solomon built was no lasting one. It was only in the person of Jesus that David’s house, David’s kingdom would come to endure forever. This is the Temple of which Jesus was later to speak, that if destroyed, God would raise up in three days.
Joseph’s mission is closely tied up with the early life of Jesus, with his infancy and early years. Joseph carries with him a continual awareness of God’s abiding presence, is so attuned to God’s word that one feels he is ever listening to it in the middle of everyday events. We live in a world that can overwhelm us with words and noises to where we risk losing a taste for silence, to where one wonders if God has much of a chance to get a word in edgewise. Joseph serves as a timely example, of one whose quiet interior arises out of a profound faith that makes us ever attentive to that divine design at work in each of our lives.
This is captured in the middle of our gospel this morning where we heard of Mary who before she and Joseph “lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” Not knowing how this could have happened, Joseph was “unwilling to expose her to shame” and decided to divorce her quietly. What pain must have pierced him, to think that one he so deeply loved and trusted, had betrayed him. His faith intervened, purifying his righteousness so as to live with the mystery of what had happened to her. Only then does an angel appear to him in a dream.
“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” Had Joseph acted not on the righteousness based on the law he would have exposed Mary to possibly being put to death by stoning. By faith he opened himself to divine mystery. Joseph has a beautiful message for each one of our lives as we too find ourselves immersed in divine mystery.
It is the mystery we are about to celebrate at this altar, that of God’s continual love surrounding each of our lives. There becomes present here Christ’s very dying and rising that took place two thousand years ago but which continues to become the very inner movement of our lives as believing Christians. We partake in God’s very own life and love as we let Christ’s life grow within us. As Joseph’s faith allowed him to embrace what was happening in Mary’s womb, so it is this faith that allow God’s life to grow in us.