Homilies: November 2011 Archives

New Podcasts Available

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Brother Benedict was kind enough to upload five new homilies of mine. See the link to Our Lady of the Cenacle Podcast in the right sidebar or click here.

I preach these homilies at daily Mass (10:00 a.m.) in the Oratory of our little monastery in Tulsa. Sometimes there are a three or four guests present; at others times there are more. Occasionally the Oratory is filled to capacity with an overflow in the entrance hall and sacristy. And there are also days when we find ourselves celebrating very simply as the little embryonic monastic community that we are.

One or two of these homilies were preached in the presence of small children and may be addressed, in a special way, to their level of understanding.

As Brother Benedict finds the time to upload them, more podcasts will be made available. I am grateful for his technological expertise.

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Go to Be an Offering and a Fragrant Incense

Today’s feast is Eastern in origin, Eastern in sensibility. To taste its mystery one has to hear and meditate the poetry with which the Byzantine tradition celebrates it. In one of the texts prescribed for Great Vespers, the Church sings:

When Anne, which means grace, was graced with the pure and ever-virgin Mary, she presented her into the temple of God. She called maidens to carry candles and walk before her as she said: 'O child, go to be an offering and a fragrant incense for the One who sent you to me. Enter into the veiled places and learn the mysteries of God. Prepare yourself to be a delightful dwelling-place for Jesus who will give great mercy to the world.

The First Presentation

The presentation of Mary in the Temple prefigures the presentation of Mary in the Temple of the heavenly Jerusalem, the mystery of her Assumption. In the first presentation, the child Mary, fulfilling the psalmist’s prophecy, is “led to the king with her maiden companions” (Ps 44:15). Sacred legend recounts that the child Mary entered the courtyard of the Temple dancing for joy, continued into the Holy Place, climbed the fifteen steps of the staircase leading to the Holy of Holies and, to the amazement of Zechariah and the other priests, penetrated beyond the veil. No one dared to stop her. All were overcome with a holy fear. Even the Angels looked on with astonishment.

The Second Presentation

In the second presentation, that of her Assumption, Mary enters heaven itself escorted by angels. She penetrates beyond the veil to take her place with Christ “in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord” (Heb 8:2). Mary’s second presentation in the Temple fulfills what was foreshadowed in the first. Mary is the mother of “the hope set before us” (Heb 6:18). She is given us as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters in even within the veil, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedech” (Heb 6:19-20).

Offering ourselves to be set ablaze

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We had the Saturday Mass de Beata today but, following our Benedictine calendar, also commemorated Saint Theodore Studite with the following Collect:

O God, who through the blessed abbot Theodore didst restore the beauty and order of the cenobitic life, grant, we beseech Thee, that by his example and help, we may be configured by the Holy Ghost to the sufferings of Christ through patience, and so be found worthy of a share in His kingdom.
We make our prayer through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, God forever and ever.

Two Saints of the East

The calendar is charged today with a double "weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17), for while the Roman calendar commemorates Saint Josaphat, bishop and martyr, the Benedictine calendar offers us the memorial of Saint Theodore the Studite, abbot. In commemorating the two saints, there is not dissonance, but a profound resonance. Theodore and Josaphat are both Eastern Orthodox saints. Theodore, abbot and reformer of the great Stoudion monastery in Constantinople, belongs to the undivided Church. He died in 826, well before the Great Estrangement of East and West. Josaphat, bishop in Ukraine, suffered the effects of that estrangement. While remaining theologically, culturally, and liturgically Orthodox, he brought his flock into communion with the See of Peter in 1623, and paid with his own blood for the partial unity he achieved.

Blessed John Paul II's Passionate Longing

"The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world" (Wis 1:7) but, for centuries, Roman Catholics acted as if the Spirit was given to them alone. Eastern Orthodox Christians, from their side, were more than reticent to admit of any stirrings of the Holy Spirit in the West. When, on May 2, 1995, Blessed Pope John Paul II promulgated his Apostolic Letter, "The Light of the East," he bared his Slavic soul and, in some way, brought to a new level of fruitfulness the historic embrace of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras on January 6, 1964.

Blessed John Paul II's words are clear:

Since the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ's Church , the first need for Catholics is to be familiar with that tradition. . . . The members of the Catholic Church of the Latin tradition must be fully acquainted with this treasure and thus feel, with the Pope, a passionate longing that the full manifestation of the Church's catholicity be restored to the Church and to the world" (Orientale Lumen 1).

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The Church Hierarchical and Charismatic

Among the riches offered by the Eastern Churches is a level of balance and reciprocity between the hierarchical and the charismatic elements of the Church. Today's saints illustrate both.

Saint Theodore is the prophet, fascinated by the Beauty of God, restoring a desert in the heart of Constantinople.

Saint Josaphat is the servant of visible communion with his brother bishops, and with the bishop of Rome.

For the Eastern Churches, monks and nuns are Spirit-bearing fathers and mothers living on the margin of the institutional Church and yet, paradoxically, speaking wisdom from the heart of the Church. If monastics need to listen to their bishops; bishops need to listen to the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" (Mt 3:3).

Fire from the Altar

If the torch is to be kept burning, and is to burn here in this fledgling monastery, and in other monasteries the world over, we must draw fire daily from the holocaust of charity that is the the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, offering ourselves to be set ablaze, for when the torch entrusted to monks grows dim, the entire Church becomes a darker place.

21st Sunday After Pentecost

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The image is a detail of Bellini's famous altarpiece of Saint Job. It depicts, left to right, Saint Francis of Assisi showing the wound in his side, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Job. All three saints are linked, in some way, to the Passion of Our Lord. In Job, the innocent who suffers, we see a foreshadowing of Christ in His bitter sufferings. Saint John the Baptist, by his passion and death, prefigures the passion and death of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Saint Francis of Assisi, for his part, bears in his own flesh the marks of the wounds of the Crucified, thereby becoming, for all time, an icon of the suffering Christ in the Church.

Introit
Esther 13: 9, 10, 11

All things are in Thy will, O Lord;
and there is none that can resist Thy will:
for Thou hast made all things, heaven and earth,
and all things that are under the cope of heaven:
Thou art Lord of all.
V. Blessed are the undefiled in the way;
who walk in the law of the Lord. (Ps. 118. 1)

The Introit is a prayer of submission to the adorable Will of God. It acknowledges that God alone, the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth, orders the universe. Jesus tells us in Luke 12:6-7 that the very hairs of our head are numbered, and that the Father, who watches over the plight of common sparrows, watches over us and is attentive to every detail of our lives. The secret of holiness is a childlike abandonment to the wisdom and providence of God.

One who lives in loving submission to the Father's Will, walks undefiled in the way of holiness, that is, in the law of the Lord. This is the imitation of Christ: to say with Him, "The Father has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him (John 8:29) and again, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish His work" (John 4:34).

Collect

O Lord, we beseech Thee,
with steady kindness keep Thy household safe:
that, through Thy protection,
it may be free from all adversities,
and devoutly given to good works for the glory of Thy Name.
Through our Lord.

For many Catholics, and even for some of the most devout, the great forgotten truth is the Fatherhood of God. We are the family of God, His household, and He is our Father and our Protector. Protector, derived from the Latin tectum for roof or covering, means the one who provides us with a roof over our heads, the one who shields us from the elements.

Much of the neurosis and scrupulosity of pious souls stems from a lack of confidence in the Fatherhood of God. One can give a notional assent to God's Fatherhood without giving a real assent to it in the concrete circumstances of everyday life. It is one thing to know about the Fatherhood of God; it is quite another to stake one's very life upon it.

Today, more than ever before, in a culture where fatherhood is belittled, mocked, and, often, invisible, it is necessary for priests to preach the Fatherhood of God. This was the message of great saints given to the Church in the first half of the last century: among them are Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Blessed Charles de Foucauld, and Blessed Columba Marmion.

Another apostle of the Fatherhood of God, practically unknown outside of her native French Canada and, even there, forgotten by many, was Soeur Jean-Baptiste, F.C.S.P. (1896-1950), a little soul formed by the writings of Saint Thérèse. Among her books are Dieu est notre père: confiance et abandon; La foi en l'amour de Dieu; L'abandon filial; and L'Apostolat de l'élite cachée selon l'esprit de sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus. I was introduced to the writings of Soeur Jean-Baptiste, over thirty years ago, by Père M-Thomas Nadeau, a little Cistercian monk with mischievous blue eyes and a vast knowedge of 19th and 20th century French Catholic literature.

The Collect also asks God to keep us safe, continua pietate, by His steady lovingkindness. The pietas of God the Father, His utter devotedness to us, is not subject to variations or fluctations, like a bad internet connection. His paternal care for us is, at every moment, fully in operation. The pietas of the Father is inexhaustible, dependable, and always close at hand.

Epistle: Ephesians 6:10-17

The Father sends His children into the world, just as He sent His First-Born into the world: to engage in a stupendous combat with the powers of darkness and the forces of evil. The Son emerged from His combat wounded, but gloriously triumphant. Those who would follow Him must be prepared to engage in combat, "not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places" (Ephesians 6:12). The same God who provides His children with shelter, provides them with a divine armour: breastplate and shoes, shield, helmet, and sword. Thus prepared for battle, one can venture forth without presumption, confident in the strength of the Lord and in the might of His power.

Gradual
Psalm 89:1-2

Lord, Thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation.
V. Before the mountains were made,
or the earth and the world was formed;
from eternity and to eternity Thou art God.

Today's Gradual is a song of confidence and trust. God is the refuge of His children, not intermittently, but always and forever. What joy there is to sing to Him: "From eternity and to eternity Thou art God"!

Alleluia
Psalm 113:1

When Israel went out of Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a barbarous people.

The Alleluia verse is the opening line of the great psalm of the Exodus, sung every Monday at Vespers in the Benedictine rite. When Israel went out of Egypt, it was to conquer the Promised Land by waging war against the idolatrous peoples who stood in their way. The motif of spiritual combat, found in the Epistle, recurs again here.

Gospel: Matthew 18:23-35

The same God who sends His children out to wage war against the devil and his vast network of evil, would have us oppose evil with good, hatred with love, tyranny with gentleness, domination with humility, retribution with forgiveness.

Offertory
Job 1

There was a man in the land of Hus, whose name was Job, simple, upright, and fearing God: whom Satan besought that he might tempt: and power was given him from the Lord over his possessions of his flesh; and he destroyed all his substance and his children; and wounded his flesh also with a grievous ulcer.

The Offertory Antiphon, a summary of the drama that unfolds in the first chapter of the Book of Job, comes as something of a surprise today. The Holy Job, however, a figure of the Suffering Christ, is also a forerunner of those saints who, like Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, practiced abandonment to the merciful love of God to an heroic degree, saying, "Even though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15).

Communion Antiphon
Psalm 118: 81, 84, 86

My soul is in Thy salvation, and in Thy word have I hoped:
when wilt Thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?
the wicked have persecuted me: help me, O Lord my God.

The Communion Antiphon tells us how we are to pray in the fray of spiritual combat. With Christ living in us, we can say to the Father, "My soul is in Thy salvation, and in Thy word have I hoped."

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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