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Christmas homily – Abbot Elias

ABBOT ELIAS DIETZ, O.C.S.O.

Homily – Christmas Day Mass, Dec. 25, 2018

[Jn 1:1-14]

In Him it is Always Yes

This wonderful and mysterious Prologue to John’s gospel is the deepest expression of what we celebrate at Christmas: Jesus come among us as the Word made flesh.

But to avoid staying in abstractions, it might be helpful to consider what that Word sounds like. Saint Paul tells us that “the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you, … was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes.  For all the promises of God find their Yes in him (2 Cor 1:19–20). So, the Word with a capital W is a Yes with a capital Y, and it comes through loud and clear from all eternity.

From the moment of creation the Word was spoken: Yes, let there be light; Yes, what I have created is good. And in our case he meant what he said: not only did he affirm that our flesh is good, he became that flesh; God’s ultimate Yes to creation.

To paraphrase John’s Prologue: What came to be through him was life, and this life was his Yes to us, and his Yes drowns out any Nos, and no No can overcome his Yes.

We hear this Word made flesh most concretely in the garden of Gethsemani: not my will, but yours be done—the Son’s Yes to the Father.

All the important Yeses in history are echoes of the eternal Yes. Mary’s fiat, ‘let it be done’, is the key one.

And the Word became flesh

and made his dwelling among us,

and we saw his glory,

the glory as of the Father’s only Son,

full of grace and truth.

No wonder the angel called Mary “full of grace.” It takes a lot of grace and an expansive heart for a small human Yes to echo the eternal Yes of God’s Word, itself full of grace and truth.

And so a good question for you and for me this Christmas Day is how clearly this Yes echoes in your heart and in my heart. Am I saying yes when invited to stretch my willingness to help, to take part, to learn something new? Is my gaze on the world and on those around me like God’s gaze—yes, it is good—or is it a disapproving gaze and succession of nos? Ideally we will follow Mary’s lead and leave plenty of room inside for the eternal Yes to echo, and like her be filled with the grace and truth that come to us through Jesus, the Word made flesh.

Homily for funeral of Br. William Leone by Abbot Elias

ABBOT ELIAS DIETZ, O.C.S.O.

Homily for Funeral Mass of Br. William Leone, OCSO December 18, 2018

[Is 25:6a, 7-9: 1 Jn 3:1-2: Mt 11;11-15]

The Violent Bear It Away

Although it is not a usual choice for funerals, this gospel from Matthew keeps us in the Advent mode. And, since it is an extremely enigmatic passage, it also keeps us in the “William” mode.

As an older translation has it, Jesus says; “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent bear it away.” 

One of the more common interpretations of these words is that there is a sort of holy violence by which some people attain the kingdom of heaven at the cost of hard renunciations. There are many callings in the Church, and, although this one may sound off-putting, it nevertheless deserves respect when it is authentic.

I associate Br. William with this passage, because I always perceived a kind of violence in his fundamental choices. It seems that early on—perhaps even before he entered the monastery—he settled on a rather extreme understanding of religious life and stayed with it. It implied a radical renunciation of self that sometimes came out in odd ways. His stubborn independence was the flip side of his desire not to matter and not to be noticed. It is as if time stopped for him when he became a monk. He showed little interest in current events and did not seem to take into account that people and communities change over time. To the day he died he seemed surprised that he could not do what he did fifty years ago. He did not willingly talk about himself or volunteer memories of the past. Most of us maintain interpersonal connections through shared memories, which we are constantly reinforcing by telling stories and recalling past events. Br. William pretty much opted out of that part of life, with the result that many of us experienced him as unknowable.

Somehow, directly or indirectly, he picked up on some very old monastic advice and ran with it. Here are some of those recommendations from the Mirror of Monks, an anonymous little work now 800 years old;

[The monk] should not accept any kind of gift from anyone. Let him have no one as his intimate friend. In everything he should flee whatever marks him off as exceptional or worthy of admiration. When he speaks let him say nothing that would lead people to think of him as very learned or very religious. […] Let him remember that God is present to him in his every action or thought. And let him regard as squandered every moment when he did not think of him. The monk should be like Melchizedek; without father, without mother, without ancestry. He should call no one upon earth his father. Rather, he should think of himself such that it is as if he and God alone exist. (CSQ 45 [2010]; 439-440)

Eight centuries later, in a day when health, wellness, and connectedness are among our top values, these may seem like questionable spiritual choices. The gospel we just heard can help us suspend that judgement and see in those choices a sort of violence for the sake of the kingdom. And in William’s case, the proof of authenticity would be in the obvious and more attractive virtues we all saw in him; a generally sweet and obliging disposition, unwavering dedication to prayer, and a love of quiet, unnoticed service. 

Jesus’ enigmatic words about the violent bearing away the kingdom invite us to shift our perspective and perhaps even invert our point of view. In the very experience of being nonplused by William, we actually knew him perfectly well; that is who he was. And, whether the kingdom is obtained by patience or taken by force, everyone who perseveres in his or her unique vocation is a sign of hope that the kingdom is there, on the horizon. After all, the sweet and abiding mysteries of Advent and Christmas carry within them the seeds of the violence, suffering, and glory of Holy Week and Easter. 

So, we bury our Br. William with gratitude for the shared opportunity the Lord gives us to keep moving toward his kingdom on the unique path marked out for each of us. 

And, lastly, we might have some thought for the unfortunate angel, whose duty it will be to explain to William that it is now time to relax and enjoy eternity!

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LCG Monthly Compline

LCG MONTHLY SUNDAY COMPLINE

December 16, 2018, at 7:25 pm ET

WORSHIP WITH LCG SISTERS AND BROTHERS
An important element of the Cistercian life is regular participation in the Daily Office.  Come pray with LCG sisters and brothers at our monthly LIVE Compline service this Sunday.  At the same time as 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.

COMPLINE PROGRAM:  You are encouraged to join at 7:25 pm for a brief intro, prayer, and words about contemplation and our lives as lay Cistercians.  Michael Gyulay (LCG Spiritus) moderates our time together to include:
·         Prelude – visit and background chant music, welcome.
·         Prayer
·         Compline – together we pray the Office with the Monks of Gethsemani using the Abbey video
·         Depart to personal “grand silence” for the night

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Reflection at Eucharist 11/28/18 by Fr. Michael

+Being called to be a Christian we will experience at least occasionally misunderstanding and persecution. Our way of living our Christian lives will inevitably run contrary to the values of the world around us. We are faced today, both within the Church and political life a lot of conflict and division but need not be afraid so long as we are being true to our faith. In fact it is a time to realize that Christ is especially near us and need not worry about what we are to say or do for he Himself will give us just what to say so that our adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. Any persecution becomes the very occasion for encounter with the living God. It is perseverance that secures our lives. All of life then becomes the occasion, as Eucharist reminds us, for joy and gratitude




Homily by Fr. Seamus Malvey – Christ the King 11/25/18

CHRIST THE KING – NOV 25, 2018 + RDNGS: Dan 7:13-14; Rev 1:5-8; John 18:33b-37.

“My kingdom does not belong to this world … I came into the world to testify to the truth … Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

The Kingdom of God is found in every home where parents and children love each other. It exists in every country that cares for its weak and vulnerable, that welcomes strangers, “huddled masses yearning to breathe free;” 

 God’s kingdom is in every church, synagogue and mosque that reaches out to the poor and needy regardless of race, color or creed.

Dorothy Day put it well when she wrote, “I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.” Then she quotes Christ the King himself, “Inasmuch as you have not fed the hungry, clothed the naked, sheltered the homeless, visited the prisoner, protested against injustice, comforted the afflicted, etc. you have not done it to Me.” Christ,” continues Dorothy, “identifies Himself with the poor.” (The Catholic Worker, November, 1949, as quoted in CW, Nov, ‘18) Then, in one of his twenty-nine letters to Dorothy Day, our own Trappist monk, Thomas 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)  Both Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton,  in their own way, reflect today’s gospel: As Christ the King within us says to the Pilate within us: “I came into the world to testify to the truth.”

Normally kingship is associated with power, prestige, and wealth. Christ’s presence and kingship are found in his suffering and death for our sakes and in the tension within our own lives as we struggle to align ourselves with the truth of the kingdom of Christ our King.

Today we celebrate Jesus Christ as our King, but St Bernard of Clairvaux reminds us, that … “Just as Jesus is Lord and King, Mary is Lady and Queen because she is the Mother of the Lord, the Mother of the King. This entitles her to be ‘queen of the world’ … Mary is queen because her Son is King. “Our queen’s diadem,” says Bernard, is lit up with twelve stars and Bernard invites us to contemplate the ‘queen wearing the diadem with which her Son crowned her’. Sharing his glory, she is raised upon a royal throne. We are her serfs, and she is our ‘gracious queen.’ “The Virgin,” says Bernard, “is the road which the Saviour came to us, but she is also the means, the path, by which we are to go to Christ”.

 

The whole of the New Testament makes it clear that response to the reign of God and the kingship of Jesus has everything to do with how we live out our earthly citizenship – how we work, pray, pay, buy, sell and vote. In this we honor Jesus (to use the words of today’s reading from Revelation) as “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth.”

In other words, Mary’s Son, Christ the King, who lays down his life for us, will be known only through us, through our lives of self-sacrificing love. Only in this way will the world come to know and believe. This feast of Christ the King, then, is a challenge to all of us: Do we, or do we not, reveal the God who is Love?____________________________________