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.
ON YOUR COMPUTER (or phone), CLICK THE BLUE MEETING IDENTIFIER: within seconds you will join.
Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/469985830
One tap mobile +16465588656,,469985830# US (New York) +14086380968,,469985830# US (San Jose) Dial by your location +1 646 558 8656 US (New York) +1 408 638 0968 US (San Jose) Meeting ID: 469 985 830 Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/addyXGcs9l
This document was the synthesis of work done by the English speaking gathering of
International Lay Cistercians at the Abbey of Gethsemani on June 9, 2019
PENTECOST HOMILY + GETHSEMANI + 6/9/19
We have a birthday today! Pentecost is our liturgical celebration of the birthday of the Church: Our Paschal Candle, which we lit at the Easter Vigil, is still here: symbolic of the Light of Christ … Happy Birthday everyone!
Thomas Merton put it well, “Our life is a powerful Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit, ever active in us, seeks to reach through our inspired hands and tongues into the very heart of the world. (Search for Solitude, 86) . According to Merton, “the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit takes place through those in whom the Spirit dwells. Life in the Spirit is a life of hope and freedom and love.” Merton was inspired to see the Spirit active throughout the world, especially in the work of his contemporary, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker.
In fact, in the last nine years of his life, Merton wrote 29 letters to Dorothy Day, a woman he admired very much for her strong commitment to social justice, her deep concern for the poor, and her uncompromising pacifist attitude toward war.
In her book, Houses of Hospitality, Dorothy Day wrote, “Love and ever more love is the solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light the fire of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of others, and it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us … I cannot worry too much about your sins and miseries when I have so many of mine own. I can only love you all, poor fellow travelers, fellow sufferers. I do not want to add one last straw to the burden you already carry. My prayer from day to day is that the Holy Spirit will so enlarge my heart that I will see you all, and live with you all, in his love.”
In a letter of December 29, 1965, Merton wrote, “If there were no Catholic Worker and such forms of witness, I would never have joined the Catholic Church” (Hidden Ground of Love, p. 151).
Through their writings, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, were both “Beatitude Catholics:” i.e. peace-makers. They emphasized that the Christian is not only to witness to the presence of the Spirit to those outside the Church, but also to look for and to find the Spirit already present in other cultures, other religious traditions, and other human beings all of whom are made in the image and likeness of God. “The Holy Spirit,” Merton wrote, “certainly inspires and protects the visible Church, but if we cannot see the Spirit unexpectedly in the stranger and the foreigner, we will not understand the Spirit even within the Church. We must find the Holy Spirit in our enemy, or we may lose him even in our friend. We must find the Spirit in the pagan or we will lose him in our real selves, substituting for his living presence an empty abstraction “(384).
And so, Christians throughout the world believe and celebrate that the risen Lord, who has ascended to his rightful place next to God, the Father, has sent the Holy Spirit to teach us, to inspire us to reach out to the poor, to fill the earth with God’s power, to recognize our oneness with creation, to see everything is creation as subjects rather than objects. There is no Feast called “The Ascension of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit will always be with us. We must never forget that the earth is renewed each time rivalries are resolved, distinctions are recognized as merely expressions of diversity, peace is restored, comfort and solace are offered, and forgiveness is expressed. We have all been baptized into one and the same Spirit … a Spirit who teaches us every day … a Spirit who strengthens us to go forth in the name of the Lord … “to renew the face of the earth.”
This evening, after Vespers, we will extinguish our Paschal Candle … and remove it from the sanctuary … a liturgical reminder for each of us … that we are to be the Light of Christ, the Easter Light, people ready to welcome all with the words, “Peace be with you.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY EVERYONE! 😊
(Chapter Talk by Fr. Michael Casagram to the monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani):
When we began reading and sharing within community on the Experientia Project it was suggested to me that I might talk about it and our sharing on March 9thduring a Chapter talk. I thought to attempt doing this, this morning.
Early on in our discussion on March 9th it was mentioned that major changes have taken place since the mid-sixties, e.g. changes in our practice of silence, the unification of the Lay brother and choir religious, the praying of the Office in the vernacular, as instances. Generally it was felt that these changes were for the better though some aspects of our observance have been lost. I’ve wondered whether we are at a point where we might discuss in greater depth both the gains and losses of this period as a way of refreshing and deepening our experience of monastic life.
One does not want to idealize the past, for as many of us who lived through it know, it is only what the Holy Spirit is calling us to today that will give lasting vitality to our life. There is no doubt in my own mind that God is calling us as a community to live more authentically our way of life but how to discern this divine invitation demands a lot of soul searching if we are going to be really open to the Holy Spirit and not impose our own limited insights onto others. Back before Vatican II with the Spiritual Directory for Religious and The Book of Usagesour life was highly regulated. So much so, there was very little room left for personal initiative or responsibility. Now we are allowed more time for personal prayer, lectio divina, other reading and manual labor that is of service to the community.
As was said during the dialogue on the Experiencia Project, the monastery is to be “a school of charity, a chance to grow, to serve, to evolve—it is a training ground where we get to discover and appreciate diversity.” Another pointed out that: “In a world of fear and friction, we are a community of love and praise.” One does not have to expose oneself much to daily news, to experience just how polarized our country and world are so that to have an oasis of peace and mutual respect is important not only to members of the community but to the many visitors and retreatants who come here. Many of us have heard from them personally just how much this means to them who spend time with us.
This does not mean our community life is without struggle. Hardly a day passes for any of us without challenge for then we are brought to the limits of our own ability and have to rely more completely on the grace of God. I suspect in fact, that this is why we are here in the first place, that we might come to know the limits of our own resources so that in humility, we may experience the wonder of an all loving God. Initially we may have been attracted to this life as a way of truly seeking God, having experienced the movement of grace in our lives. Gradually we have to know what seeking God really means, for when push comes to shove we learn that only divine initiative can overcome what separates us from union with the Divine. The human heart has an unquenchable thirst for the divine, a yearning that only intensifies as the relationship deepens. Faith alone, received as an undeserved gift, overcomes the divide.
Another brother said in our dialogue: “I can’t separate my experience of getting to know monastic life and life with my brothers from getting to know myself.” I don’t think it can be said often enough, just how intertwined all three of these aspects of our life are with one another. I suspect this is why St Benedict speaks of cenobites as being the strongest kind of monks. After all, we are destined to reflect the very Trinitarian of God, the close and fruitful exchange within the three Divine Persons. Should it surprise us then, that we enter into this through our lives with one another and come to know who we truly are in the process of doing so? Our relationships are constantly revealing what the love of God is all about and teach us in a thousand ways how to grow in this love.
Dom Bernardo Bonowitz, drawing on one of the early Cistercians, Baldwin of Forde, tells us of how our community life “leads to an experience of communion with one’s fellow human beings… Beginning as a lowly communion in fallen human nature, this experience of oneness with others, particularly in the context of a monastic community, comes to flower in a communion of grace and finally in a communion of glory.” Self-knowledge is at the heart of it all, for then we see our own humanity in its continual need of grace through which it reaches its true destiny, realizes its full potential. A growing self-knowledge not only exposes us to but guides us through the degrees of humility that St Benedict elaborates so well in his Rule. It grounds us in the true self that becomes more and more made in the very image and likeness of God. It teaches us, as one member of the community has observed “the wisdom of insecurity” that “leads us to ask for help” both from one another and the divine source of all good.
Much more could be said about the exchange that went on in early March and during our last sharing in groups. The Experiencia Project has a great potential for building us up personally and as a community, and for making our life ever more attractive to those seeking religious commitment.
The gospel today, on Jesus making Peter the head of the church is not exclusively for Popes or Bishops who are in such high positions, but it is also meant for us because most of us, in one way or another are placed in authority over others. The Holy Scriptures addresses the hearts of all. Therefore, it would benefit us to know what this requires from us.
It is required of Peter to love the Lord with utmost love (having asked 3 times) – if he is to be in charge. Peter was always the first to assert himself; he suggested that it would be good to build booths when they saw Jesus transfigured before them, that he would lay down his life for Jesus even if all will deny him. He was so sure of himself and appears to be bolder than the other disciples and yet it was he who denied Jesus 3 times. He was distressed when asked by Christ three times if he loves the Lord. That was certainly a lesson in humility by virtue of which qualified him to be head of the church. Jesus knew that in Peter’s betrayal he would not repeat the same mistake.
If it were left to us, we would certainly doubt to put someone in charge, with good reason, because of his dishonesty and fickle mind. Christ did not change His plans. Peter in spite of himself, became head of Christ’s church. The real reason is Peter realized that he could not betray Christ again for Christ loved him even during the betrayal, even when he was still in sin. Sin gets a good hold on us when we focus on it and we are almost obsessed with making it up with God. We constantly feel guilty in front of God. and could not bring ourselves to meet him when we are still in sin. The publican approached God in the temple as a sinner. We are not comfortable with His mercy or we can be presumptuous about it. We would rather face God with a clean slate, as if, it were possible.. Psychologically, Catholics feel better to face God after confession but would hesitate to face God in sin. It IS the love of God that makes us repent not because of our effort to reconcile ourselves with God. It is his grace that makes us go to confession. He loved us while we were still in sin and that is why we go back to him. It’s called grace. Only when we realize the great love another one has for us would we most likely not offend the one who loves us.. We keep on sinning because we have not gotten in touch with the love of God and how much that love cost him to the extent of dying for sinful humanity. But there were some conditions and qualities Christ could not dispense with. That quality is love, Here the demand of Christ of love from Peter could not escape our attention. Christ laid out to Peter what loving the Lord means. If you love me he says feed my sheep. At first glance it sounded like a utilitarian love. It’s like when we were young Mom, it’s usually the Mom, who will say, son if you love me study hard or clean your room or some other task and we of course would obey with a grudge. But with Jesus it is different. It speaks about the nature of his person and mission. Peter must do what Christ must did for all humanity. Christ did only what he saw the Father was doing – the will to save the whole of humanity. It was his mission to call the lost sheep of Israel and by extension the whole world. True love is to behave like the father and the son in their passion to save all of God’s children. It is in the union of wills where true love is found. Peter must love Christ not as if Christ was an object but that he must allow or conform his will to be taken up into the intimacy of love within Father Son and Holy Spirit. When this happens then Peter would behave like God, namely, having a burning passionate desire to save and care for all God’s sheep no matter what it costs.
He must not waver nor be distracted from this mission. He should not ask whether John will not die until Christ comes again. He will have a hint of what would happen to him in his old age. He too will die like Christ but he does not know how he will die.
He is not be curious as to what will happen to others who follow Christ. Nothing matters except to do what Christ asks of him namely, to behave like God – to be passionate in bringing others into the kingdom of heaven. The church has so much woes and agony in our present time. Our shepherds lost the passion for taking care of Christ’s sheep. The sheep served the shepherds. Human love alone can cause us so much sorrow and pain. When our will is not in conformity with God’s will then our will reigns supreme for others and we are the sole judges of what is good for us and for others. Peace and security can only be found in a person whose will is in conformity with God’s wall. True love is found in the union of our will to God. It is here where fear vanishes and the following goes on in our lives. Then that is the time when we can be in charge in order to serve.