Friday, April 18, 2014

O Cruor Sanguinis

Listen to this beautiful chant by our own Br. John Mark:

 

O cruor sanguinis, qui in alto sonuisti,
cum omnia elementa se implicuerunt
in lamentabilem vocem cum tremor,
quia sanguis cratoris sui illa tetiget.
Unge nos de languoribus nostris.

O earth stained by his blood,
you cried out to heaven
as all your elements turned in upon themselves
and with a voice so sad and with fear shaking,
because the blood of their creator did fall
and touch them all.
O comfort us.
O comfort us in our sorrows.
 ----------------------
St. Hildegard von Bingen
English translation by Fr. Harry Hagan, O.S.B.
Chant by Br. John Mark Falkenhain, O.S.B.
Saint Meinrad Archabbey ©2014

An invitation to the feast

"Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and I shall be healed."
 

A few thoughts as we keep vigil outside the tomb for the glorious dawn of Resurrection. …

As I have read and pondered the Passion narratives and Gospel texts this Holy Week, one sentence uttered by Jesus has struck me in particular fashion:

My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples” (Matthew 26:18, with Jesus instructing his disciples about what to say to the owner of the building in which they will prepare the Passover meal).
This is an invitation by Jesus not only to his disciples 2,000 years ago, but to each one of us today. He personally calls each of us to the messianic banquet of heaven, the perpetual feast which he instituted on earth, and which we celebrate here and now with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). As the Book of Revelation concludes near the end of the Bible: “Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the lamb” (Revelation 19:9).

This is a great mystery, the likes of which cannot be entered into without humility and awareness of our fallen but redeemed human nature. By God’s grace, the ancient Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt as the hand of death “passed over” the homes of those whose doorposts were smeared with the blood of a sacrificed lamb (cf. Exodus 12). This, as God himself decreed, became the annual Jewish feast of Passover, a memorial of thanksgiving and praise for divine deliverance from all that slavery represents (evil, darkness, and death), as well as petition for future salvation.

In the Christian tradition, Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) fulfills what Passover prefigured. His passion, death, and resurrection took place in Jerusalem during the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. His blood shed on the cross--like that of the first Passover lamb--delivers us from the slavery of sin and leads us to goodness, light, and life. For this reason, at the Last Supper, “Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1340).

This is why, as Catholics, we celebrate the Eucharist. For “on the night he was handed over, [Jesus] took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; cf. Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20).

In the final analysis, as one Body in Christ—the Lamb of God—we “pass over” from sin to redemption, from the darkness of the tomb on Holy Saturday to the light of Resurrection on Easter Sunday, from death to eternal life. Our participation in the Eucharist perpetuates the messianic banquet of heaven which Christ initiated on earth and which will be fully, finally, and forever realized in the life to come.

So, as the passage above from Matthew 26 illustrates, Jesus invites us as he did the first disciples:

My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.

Jesus wants to enter the house of your heart, each and every day of your life. He says to you the words he directed to the tax collector Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree: “I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). In fact, he insists: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

Like Zacchaeus, then, let us quickly receive Jesus with joy (Luke 19:6). Let us “come to the feast” (cf. Matthew 22:2-10; Luke 14:15-24). And as the Body of Christ, who gave himself up for us out of love, let us live in sincerity and truth—always keeping in mind that Jesus loves his own in the world and loves them to the end” (cf. John 13:1).

And let us become what we receive.

Ecce homo


Friday, April 11, 2014

Lectio for Lent: Palm Sunday

Salvador Dali's Sacrament of the Last Supper
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

NOTE: Each week during Lent, I am posting a set of reflection questions based on the Sunday Gospel. There are no "answers." The questions are simply meant to help the reader (or group of readers) engage the Scripture for the corresponding week in the context of the Church's observance of Lent. Ultimately, the goal is to help one meditate on the following questions: What does this text mean for me? What is God saying to me through his Word--here and now? How ought I respond to it? I encourage you to spend some time reading and thinking about the Gospel passages indicated before turning to the reflection questions here. In the process, if you discern the "still, small voice" of God speaking to your heart and leading you into prayer, then go with it! -- Br. Francis
 
PALM SUNDAY (YEAR A)
The Passion of Jesus Christ
(Matthew 26:14--27:66)
 
As you read/listen to the Passion on this Palm Sunday, what is it about the phrases "this is my body" (spoken at the Last Supper) and "[Jesus] gave up his spirit (on the cross) that has meaning for you?
 
How do you live it out?
 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Life, death, and eternity

"Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.
Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die."

Rule of St. Benedict 4:46-47


Lent is a reminder that the world as we know it is not the be-all and end-all. Something—or, more precisely, Someone—infinitely better awaits us. The joy of this knowledge, derived through faith, fills us with that holy desire needed to live radically here and now.

This is the hope that fills our days with joy without denying our deep sorrow. It is what makes us Christian. When things go terribly wrong, when failure and hardship seem to frame our days, and when people age and die, what we are really lamenting is the brokenness of Creation. We should feel sorrow, because the life for which God created us was not meant to be that way. However, we should also embrace the joy of knowing that in Christ, God has restored all things, and rightly ordered them as they are meant to be.

It is true that from our limited perspective, we cannot fully perceive that right-ordering. In Christ, however, the act has been completed, but is still growing to fulfillment. Similarly, when we plant a flower bulb in the earth during the lengthening shadows of autumn, we know that it will be months before it springs forth from the ground with life and color and fragrance—but its work has begun. The Incarnation continues to this very moment as the Body of Christ grows to maturity in each one of us. The moment has been redeemed, and eternity calls out to us from the dark moments just before the dawn.

As Christians, it is fitting us--particularly during this Lenten season--to meditate on such things. With that in mind, here are some further thoughts on life, death, and eternity:

***
"Why should I worry about losing a bodily life that I must inevitably lose anyway, as long as I possess a spiritual life and identity that cannot be lost against my own desire? ... Solitude is not death, it is life. It aims not at living death but at a certain fullness of life. But a fullness that comes from honestly and authentically facing death and accepting it without care, i.e., with faith and trust in God. ... The child in the womb does not know what will come after birth. He must be born in order to live. I am here [in the monastery] to learn to face death as my birth."
-- Trappist monk Thomas Merton
***
"What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? ... No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
-- Romans 8:35, 37-39
***
"Let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life."
-- Rule of St. Benedict 72:11-12

Friday, April 4, 2014

High water

 
We have had a bit of rain here lately. It finally stopped this morning; during the previous 36 hours, I'd estimate we had somewhere between 6 and 7 inches of rainfall. Needless to say, many low-lying areas have flooded, including much of the valley directly below Saint Meinrad Archabbey, in and around the town of St. Meinrad. Several roads around the Hill are covered. Earlier today, nearby Interstate 64 was reportedly closed due to high water in a few locations. Above is the view from near the Abbey Press (Plant 1) downhill toward the St. Meinrad community center and park just across the road. Below are a few more shots I took this afternoon.
 
 
The appropriately named baseball field in the park.
I'd say today's game is a rainout.
The nearby community park.
Looking toward the other end of the valley, toward the gift shop.
Looking toward the St. Joseph Shrine, barely visible in the center of the
photograph. Somewhere beneath the water is a state highway.
The parking lot of the Archabbey Gift Shop.
 
Looking up toward the Hill from the gift shop.
The lake in the foreground should not be there.
 

Lectio for Lent: Week Five


NOTE: Each week during Lent, I am posting a set of reflection questions based on the Sunday Gospel. There are no "answers." The questions are simply meant to help the reader (or group of readers) engage the Scripture for the corresponding week in the context of the Church's observance of Lent. Ultimately, the goal is to help one meditate on the following questions: What does this text mean for me? What is God saying to me through his Word--here and now? How ought I respond to it? I encourage you to spend some time reading and thinking about the Gospel passages indicated before turning to the reflection questions here. In the process, if you discern the "still, small voice" of God speaking to your heart and leading you into prayer, then go with it! -- Br. Francis
 
FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A)
The Raising of Lazarus
(John 11:1-45)
 
In John 5:28-29, Jesus says, "The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out."
 
In today's Gospel passage, Jesus provides a foretaste of what he means by raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus is the source of life, and has power over death and all spiritual darkness--in the life to come, yes, but also in this life here and now.
 
Consider for a moment your darkest moments in life, your deepest disappointments, failures, and fears. Place yourself in the tomb as Lazarus, and listen for Jesus' life-giving words: "Come out! Untie him and let him go."
 
How will you respond?