Salvete, Cedri Libani

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November 13
All Saints Who Militated under
the Rule of Saint Benedict

Isaiah 61:9–11
Psalm 102: 1–2, 3–4, 8–9, 13–14, 17–18a (R. 1a)
John 15:1–8

So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:1–2). Each of the great Orders in the Church celebrates, in addition to All Saints on November 1st and All Souls on November 2nd, special days in honour of their own “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) and in commemoration of all their beloved dead.
— The Augustinians remember all saints of the Order of Saint Augustine on November 13th and all their departed on November 14th.
— The Dominicans remember all saints of the Order of Preachers on November 7th and all their departed on November 8th.
—The Franciscans remember all saints of the Seraphic Order on November 29th and all their departed on November 24th.
— The Carmelites remember all saints of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel on November 14th and all their departed on November 15th.
— The Jesuits remember all saints of the Society of Jesus on November 5th and all their departed on November 6th.
— The Benedictines and Cistercians remember all saints who militated under the Rule of Saint Benedict on November 13th and all their departed on November 14th.

I and My Childen Whom the Lord Hath Given Me

The proper Benedictine Office for today’s festival is taken in great part from that of All Saints Day on November 1st with a few significant adaptations. At Vespers we read from Isaiah, placing the prophets’s words in Saint Benedict’s mouth: “Behold, I and my children whom the Lord hath given me for a sign, and for a wonder in Israel from the Lord of Hosts who dwelleth in Mount Sion” (Is 8:18). Saint Benedict appears as the paterfamilias of a great household. He stands together with his supernatural offspring in the presence of God, illustrating the grace of spiritual fecundity for all the Church.

Cedars Tall of Lebanon

Today’s Vespers hymn calls our holy forefathers and foremothers “cedars of Lebanon.” The Lebanon cedar is mentioned seventy–five times in the Bible; its bark has medicinal properties and its timber was highly prized for the construction of noble houses, temples, and ships.

Hail, cedars tall of Lebanon;
Complete your growth, so well begun,
Ye sturdy slips the Order yields,
Transplanted in celestial fields.

The glory of the Trinity
Enfolds you now eternally;
The Virgin Mother’s favoring air
Breathes over you in zephyrs fair.

The choiring Seraphim advance
To circle you, and sweetly dance
Forever, in your sheltered nooks
Refreshed with pure eternal brooks.

O race renowned, of noblest birth,
Vouchsafe to help your sons on earth,
And strengthen us, your offshoots frail
Within this melancholy vale.

The Father and the Son we laud,
And Thee sweet Spirit, Breath of God;
With Whom our predecessors bright
Live joyous in eternal light. Amen.

Seeds of Holiness

At Mass the First Reading is taken from Isaiah. Again the motif of supernatural fecundity emerges. “For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause rightousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Is 61:11). The monastic Order is an immense garden in which the seeds of holiness are planted from generation to generation. These are the seeds that, springing up, bear the variegated fruits of righteousness and praise.

Always to Bless

The Responsorial Psalm is one of thanksgiving and blessing. Its refrain characterizes the Benedictine vocation: Benedic, anima mea, Domino. “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Ps 102:1a). To be a Benedictine is to bless God and to offer Him thanks, as the Preface of the Mass says, semper et ubique, “always and everywhere.” The spirit of blessing or thanksgiving is what characterizes the Benedictine soul. The vice most opposed to the spirit of blessing is grumbling or murmuring. One who grumbles, murmurs, and complains has not a Benedictine soul. Saint Benedict says that all those who live in the monastery “should bless God and not grumble” (Rb 40:8). In another place he says that, “above all the despicable vice of grumbling must not make its appearance in word or in gesture for any reason whatever” (RB 34:7). Each of the Benedictine saints whom we celebrate today said constantly, “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Ps 102:1a).

The Pruning Knife

With the Gospel we return to the motif of supernatural fecundity. Every monk is called to fatherhood in the Holy Spirit and every nun to motherhood within the Body of Christ. Our Lord has stern words for the sterile branch: “Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away.” (Jn 15:2). One who bears fruit should, however, expect to be pruned. The pruning knife cuts away every impurity and every outgrowth that drains sap from the fruitbearing branch. The wound left by the pruning knife is a portent of life and of fruitfulness.

Stability in the Heart of Jesus

The “great cloud of witnesses” whom we remember today are those wounded ones who fixed their abode in the pierced Heart of Jesus, the only place of true stability. Abide in Christ as they did and you too will be fruitful and your joy, like theirs, will be full (cf. Jn 15:11).

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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