Mectilde de Bar: October 2011 Archives

So as to cleave wholly to Him

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The Feast of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925. It was, then, completely unknown to Mother Mectilde de Bar in 17th century France. In preparation for the Feast of Christ the King, I translated part of a letter written by Mother Mectilde on the Vigil of the Ascension, 2 June 1666, to the community of Toul, France.

The Ascension -- like the Epiphany earlier in the liturgical year -- is the great festival of Christ, Lord and King that Mother Mectilde would have celebrated in choir, and pondered before the Blessed Sacrament.

This particular letter reveals Mectilde de Bar's affectionate nature. She was quite willing to speak of the deep things of God to her spiritual daughters, and delighted in engaging them in conversation on the mysteries of divine love. The tone of this one letter speaks volumes about the social climate that prevailed in her monasteries. The love of God was the grand passion of these women. They were not afraid to speak, even in recreation, of the things that matter in life and in death.

For Mother Mectilde, the adventure surpassing all adventures was to forsake all things so as to find oneself with no-thing. He who clings to no-thing is ready to be taken up with Christ into the bosom of the Father, and to be hidden with Christ in the Sacrament of His Love. Here is the text:

My God, my dearest one and all, and more than dear to my heart, what tenderness I feel for all of you, and what ardour for your sanctification! Since the end of recreation on Sunday, I have a quantity of thoughts to communicate to you and precious truths to express to you; but I am sending them all back to the place whence they spring, so that Jesus Himself may imprint them in your inmost hearts, given that I can say to you nothing more, and the distance of places deprives me of the sweet consolation of exchanging with you on this mystery of love, of Jesus raised up even to the throne of His glory.

Pray Him, my daughters, that He might raise Himself up in us, and that He might raise us up even to Himself, that we might, once and for all, let go of the things of earth, that is, of ourselves and of creatures, so as to cleave wholly to Him.

Remember that "He took captives with Himself" (cf. Psalm 67:19). This concerns you, my dear ones: you are His victims, and consequently, His slaves, the captives of His divine love. He must then lead you away with Himself, so that henceforth you will be found no longer on earth. Non quae super terram (Colossians 3:2), but altogether hidden in Jesus in the bosom of the Father in the august Sacrament. There I will look for you always, and I don't want to find you anywhere else. I entreat you to make your dwelling there, living separated, by your affections and your sensibility, from all the rest, so as to have nought and possess nothing outside of Him.

Adoration and Reform

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A Benedictine Teresa of Avila

Mother Catherine Mectilde de Bar (Mectilde-du-Saint-Sacrement) (1614-1698) was to Benedictine life in the 17th century what Saint Teresa of Avila was for Carmel in the 16th century.

Eucharistic Hermeneutic of the Rule

The Mectildian reform of Benedictine life sprang from a profoundly Eucharistic re-reading of the Rule of Saint Benedict. Dom Joseph Rabory (1870-1916), a Catalonian Benedictine of the Solesmes Congregation, who studied the writings of Mother Mectilde de Bar, considered her "the most profound interpreter and theologian of the Regula Benedicti".

The Monk as Sacrificial Oblation

Mother Mectilde perceived that (1) Benedictine monastic life; (2) the Most Holy Eucharist; and (3) the kenosis (self-emptying) of Christ are intimately united. She affirms that the Rule of Saint Benedict is, of all monastic texts, the one best suited to a Eucharistic existence in which the monk-victim (hostia, sacrificial oblation) offers himself daily as a holocaust.

Transformation into Christ

Just as the Most Holy Eucharist is the supreme form of the kenosis of Christ utterly humbling Himself under the appearances of bread and wine, so is the monastic life the kenosis of the Christian called to conversio morum, to the self-emptying that gives all the space in oneself to Christ alone.

This is what Mother Mectilde writes in her introduction to the Ceremonial of the Benedictines of the Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament:

Among all the Rules of the Church of God, [the Rule of Saint Benedict] is the one most suited to govern our Holy Institute, because it contains in itself a most lofty perfection and, by means of its austerity, makes you live in death as victims. It makes you sacrificial hosts of peace by means of the simple obedience and the humility that it teaches you, and by means of the divine praises that it enjoins you to sing by day and by night. In this way, and by continual prayer, it will make you become holocausts consumed in the pure flames of Divine Love.

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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