Feast of Christ the King – Year A
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. This is the feast which is the culmination of the whole liturgical year. Christ is presented to us as the Good Shepherd, who cares for as His sheep, as the one who is Himself the culmination of all creation being drawn into oneness with God – “that God may be all in all”. But we celebrate this year by bringing the remembrance of our two brothers – Fr Carlos and Br Gaetan – the gold and the silver which we bring to the King , in order that God may be truly all in all, as we heard in the second reading. We celebrate their fifty years and twenty-five years of service to the Lord. But in doing so, we call to mind our own lives and that relationship with the Lord and with all humanity that we have.
At Baptism we were each anointed with chrism, indicating the three-fold nature of what is taking place. By that fact we are recognized by God Himself as priest, prophet and king. But we are called to exercise those ministries in various ways and forms.
Baptism makes us conformed to Christ – the primal Priest, Prophet and King. But such conformity calls us to allow Christ Himself to exercise these ministries in His own way. This is the way that we grow in conformity to Christ Himself. We are to discover at the depths of ourselves that grace, peace, unity that God is – not the God that I have venerated as an object, but the God that is one with the very source of my being and ALL being.
This God exercises His priestly office, his prophetic and His royal kingly office. He does this by our recognizing that same Christ present in the hearts and lives of every person we encounter. It is on this basis that we will be judged at the end of time, as we hear in the gospel: Christ in me responding to Christ in you – the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner and every other way that He presents Himself to us. At the end He presents all this to the Father – that God may be all in all.
Today we give thanks to God for our Fr. Carlos and Br. Gaetan who have withstood the trials and hardships of fifty and twenty-five years. But their years are intertwined with our years – yours and mine – for we are ultimately called to be the one Christ offering ourselves and all creation to the Father. This feast and this Eucharist serves as a reminder to each of us of that Eucharist when we gave ourselves to God as His priests and prophets and kings , as His monk . This renewal of their commitment calls each of us to renew our own commitment to God as His monk, His priest, His sheep. He shares His royal duties with each one in order that we may truly take our place in building His kingdom and rejoicing in the work that God has done in our brothers and in ourselves.
Jesus Christ is to be the summit of all creation and all peoples. But He can be this only to the extent that we each allow Him to truly rule within our hearts and our lives. Then we will all be that gold and that silver that is offered to the Father with love and joy, knowing that we have each striven to allow Christ to shine forth in each and in all.
DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH OF GETHEMANI
The Lord did not intend to abide in Solomon’s Temple forever!
Dear “Living Stones”, it seems the older we get the more often our favorite
celebrations or Solemnities come around! I guess that’s a good example of the –
getting a bonus with an onus! A prime example of that is – today’s
Anniversary of the” Dedication (or Conscration) of the Church of Gethsemani”.
In today’s Gospel (The Samaritan Woman) a new Temple is promised that
has been fulfilled!
The word ‘church’ (like synagogue) can mean a physical building, or
spiritual community. The
word ‘temple’ can have similar meanings. The ‘church’, or spiritual
community of Gethsemani, began when the first monks arrived here in 1848.
Today we are celebrating the ‘official’ beginning of the Church building when
it was dedicated in 1866, and re-dedicated after its extensive renovation in
the late 1980’s. As St Bernard put it to his monks centuries ago- regarding
this particular Feast -. “If we don’t celebrate it, nobody else will!” Actually, if
today there was someone who would like to celebrate this Feast with us, we
could not invite them – for obvious reasons.!
Some time ago on this Feast, our Fr James now over 70 years as a monk of
Gethsemani, shared the following with us. “Actually the consecration of this
church is based on our original consecration in Baptism. There, we also were
consecrated ,we were anointed with chrism, just as the walls of this church
were; we were given a candle just as the walls of this church are illumined by
twelve candle, symbolizing the light of Christ which is given to us through the
twelve apostles. We are told by St Paul that “the temple of God is holy, which
you are”! Consequently this feast is a feast of ourselves as a people of God,
dedicated to Him.”
Our dedication, our consecration is an affirmation of the SACRED – of the
true character of the Church’s mission to our secular (post-Christian)
culture. We bear witness to the standards of moral life which are founded in
the sacred word of God. As a practical application of our dedication we are
called to continually build up within ourselves, as temples of the Holy Spirit, a
.a spirit of penitential adoration, through that same Holy Spirit won for us –
by Christ’s Passion and death.
. This church building stands here today as a sign, a reminder, a call to
remembrancer, a call to recognition of a sacred reality, a remembrance of the
holiness of God! In today’s very secular culture, with its secularized
institutions, this church is to be a continual reminder!: This building and all that
belongs to it, and all that goes in it, is to reaffirm the SACRED! All that takes
place here, day after day, the continuous recitation of common prayer, the
solemn celebration of the Eucharist, all the word and music of our liturgies,
should be reminders of the holiness of God That must be our dedication.
One final word…
Some years ago I met a man named “Livingston”. As we talked, I mentioned
the “Living stones”
St Paul said we all are. It turned out this person was an unbeliever and would
have none of that! But, thanks be to God – We are believers; grateful for it,
for being continually built up, a sacred work in progress!. AMEN! ( 2 Chron
5:6-10, 13:-6:2, Eph 2:19-22, John 4:19-24 ) Fr Alan
Dear Brothers – November is a month for us to particularly remember the dead. Death is, for many, one of the more unfortunate side effects of life. Everything that lives will at some point die. Sequoias may live for thousands of years, but they do eventually die. Certain single-celled life forms may live indefinitely, but when their environment vanishes, they will perish. And no matter how long-lived anything is, it will certainly die in our sun’s supernova far in the future. Death is universal.
COVID-19 is plowing relentlessly through the United States, leaving nearly 240 thousand people dead in its wake. And the death toll is rising every day. Death has become all too common. But each death is a personal one, in which each unique dying person must confront the loss of their autonomy, the loss of control, and the emptiness that will swallow their very selves.
For the first generation of Christians, it must have been startling to have to deal with death in their communities. They likely expected Christ to return very soon, so hadn’t thought about the possibility of dying before that time. Perhaps this delay in Jesus’ coming was beginning to shake the faith of some members of their communities. They had been promised eternal life, and now good people were dying in front of them. What evidence did they have that what they had been promised could be true? The world looked a lot like it had before they converted, and death was just darkness.
Paul writes to the Thessalonians to calm their fears and to remind them of the basis of their faith. He reassures them that Christ is indeed coming, and will raise up all the dead who are part of the body of Christ and, along with those left alive, join them to himself. Paul defines life for us as extending beyond the life we know on earth. Unlike those who only see what is material, he talks about a life beyond the material, beyond the merely physical. Death is not the end, but a transition to something else. We might have some trouble envisioning being caught up in the clouds, since we don’t really think of heaven as “up” anymore, knowing as we do that the earth is round and hanging in space, with no real “up” or “down” to it. But the idea remains. Life continues after physical death. This is the basis for the faith of the Thessalonian community, and Paul reminds them of this.
Paul’s message is startling. We no longer assume that death is the ultimate evil. Death is no longer opposed to life. Death has been overcome by the resurrection of Christ. Physical death is still universal, yes, but physical death no longer means the end of life. Certainly there is still darkness and mystery to death, but the darkness is no longer to be feared.
In our first reading, wisdom exhorts us to seek her. But she doesn’t make finding her too tough. “She is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.” This reminds us of Christ’s words, “Seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you.” But wisdom goes even further, “She hastens to make herself know in anticipation of their desire.” She actually goes out of her way to make herself available to anyone who wants her, even before they are aware that they want her. The only effort necessary on our part is desire. But we must have desire. “Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed.” It takes some doing to get up before dawn, as we know. “Whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care.” We watch and wait in the darkness.
In today’s Gospel, Christ tells us to “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” The parable to which this saying is attached doesn’t quite illustrate this point—all ten virgins fall asleep, after all, but in a roundabout way it does. Why are the five foolish virgins foolish? Because they didn’t bring enough oil for their lamps. But the reason they didn’t have enough oil is because the bridegroom was so late. How could they have anticipated this? Isn’t it the bridegroom’s fault rather than theirs? Perhaps the point is that they were acting from their expectation. They had an idea when the bridegroom would appear, and they weren’t prepared for anything else. They weren’t ready to wait, to “watch . . . at dawn.” We have just gone through a few days in this country where events didn’t move according to our expectations or our desire. The count went on for days and days with no end in sight. I’m sure most people in the country, on both sides of the political fence, were on pins and needles, waiting for the result. If events can be so contrary to expectation in mere human affairs, think of how contrary the kingdom of God can be, which in so many of Jesus’ parables, is contrariness in its very essence. We must wait in patience, in silence, in the darkness, with only our little oil lamps to give us light.
And what do we have for our flasks of oil, to sustain us as we wait for the bridegroom here at Gethsemani? Our flasks of oil are our monastic practices. Silence, lectio, our liturgy, our daily work, our love and compassion for our brothers, these are the oil that keeps our lamps lit during our long wait for the bridegroom. The psalms we sing each day remind of this. “My soul is waiting for the Lord, I count on his word,” says psalm 129. “My soul is longing for the Lord, more than watchmen for daybreak.” “In the morning I offer you my prayer / watching and waiting,” says psalm 5 and psalm 32 reminds us that “my soul is waiting for the Lord, the Lord is our help and our shield.” And of course today’s psalm says, “For you my soul is thirsting, my body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water.” Such a powerful image of yearning. Our need for God is as adamant and necessary for life as our body’s need for water.
This waiting and watching, this yearning has a function. Yearning reveals that there is something missing in us, a darkness, an empty space. Many people know about this empty space inside them and try to fill it with distractions, with ambition, with activity. Or they may try to numb their awareness of it with routine, or addiction. But this emptiness is not really empty. It is God. Our yearning opens up a space inside us which seems to us to be empty, but is really God, the deep well of God which we only perceive as emptiness and darkness. The bridegroom is already here, in our hearts, but as darkness. Our job, and it’s a difficult one for sure, is to learn to value this emptiness, to nourish our yearning, to nourish our love, to nourish this life-giving darkness, and resist the temptation to cover it over or fill it with something else. One day, whether we want it to or not, this emptiness will overflow from the center of our hearts to engulf us in its love, and this is how we will meet death. If we are afraid of this emptiness, we will be afraid of death, we will try to run from it, to deny it, but if we have nourished and grown this emptiness, have learned to value its silence and profound depth, we will welcome it like an old friend.
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+BEING TRULY ALIVE by Living the Rule of Benedict as a Lay Cistercian
Irrepressible Light by a Patricia Sharbaugh (selection from book that Fr. Michael quotes)
First of all let me welcome you all on behalf of the Gethsemani community. I think it especially significant that we have a retreat this weekend with all that is happening in this Nation with the election and in our world with the pandemic and climate change. This is a new way of connecting with one another and I trust it will be a graced day for each and all of us. It is a unique way of being together but space and time put no limits on the working of the Holy Spirit who is with us all as we gather for this Virtual Retreat.
It was suggested that I say a few words about St Benedict in a Secular world. As I began to think of sharing with you a story I recently came across in my spiritual reading, a true story and one I feel to be close to your own experience so I thought to share it as a way of getting into the spirit of our time together. It is from a book called Irrepressible Light by a Patricia Sharbaugh, it is subtitled The Women of the New Testament.In her chapter on Luke 2:36-38, the story of the prophet Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, Patricia tells the story about asceticism in her life and ours. As you are well aware the pandemic has imposed a certain kind of asceticism on all of us, very real limits on where we can go or gatherings we normally enjoy. Patricial highlights the fact of how these restrictions can be a wonderful way of growing in love that is at the very heart of our Christian and Lay Cistercian way of living it. So here is what she writes:
“Perhaps the best way to understand asceticism…his asceticism had made for love.”
These few paragraphs sum up what I think ‘becoming fully alive’ means for many of us. Wherever we may be, whatever we may be doing, if it is being done in the service of God and neighbor, will manifest a love that is in our heart and overflow onto all those around us. As happens in my own life of making fudge, praying the Divine Office each day, serving in our refectory that means putting out food for the community and washing dishes afterward, being faithful to my lectio divina etc when carried out in love is like a leaven in my community. I think this is true of each one of your lives as you seek to be faithful to divine grace that is at work in you. May you realize how gifted each of you is and give yourself over to it anew each day.