Oblates: December 2012 Archives

Advent Letter to Our Oblates

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I began writing this on Saturday morning, but found time to complete it only this morning. Although this Advent letter is addressed to my own little community and to our beloved Oblates, readers of Vultus Christi may find in it something helpful for their own entry into the mystery of Advent.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

My dear sons and daughters,

With the holy season of Advent only hours away, I want to share with each one of you a way to enter deeply into its mystery and its grace this year. As I prayed last night before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, it seemed to me that He was inviting me -- and us -- to receive three particular graces this Advent: adoration, peace, and silence. If I use the Latin words to describe these graces -- adoratio, pax, and taciturnitas -- the first letters of the three words form an acrostic: APT. The word apt was understood in ages past to mean ready or prepared. You see, then, that the word has a special significance for this time of Advent.

Our institute will be under the singular protection of the Holy Family, especially of the great Saint Joseph, who, after the Blessed Virgin Mary, was the first adorer of the Son of God on earth; we consider him as the first and principal protector of our institute and as the one who directs and guides it. (Catherine-Mectilde de Bar,1614-1698)

With the Holy Family

I would further associate each of these three graces with one of the persons of the Holy Family. Adoration relates to Jesus; peace to Mary; and silence to Joseph. Spend this Advent in the company of the Holy Family, asking them to make us holy families and, all of us together, one holy family of monks and oblates, a family apt to receive the Lord and welcome Him in His threefold advent.

The Three Advents

The first advent is His descent into the Virgin's womb and His birth at Bethlehem. The second advent is His descent upon the altar in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, His descent into our hearts by Holy Communion, and His presence in the tabernacle where He abides under the lowly appearance of bread: hidden, humble, and silent. The third advent is His return in glory at the end of time, when He will judge the world, and summon all the living members of His Mystical Body into everlasting glory with Himself.

Adoratio: Jesus

Adoration is the homage of love that belongs to God alone. In the old dispensation the one adoring remained at an infinite distance from the thrice-holy God. What a tremendous and fearful thing it was, to adore the Divine Majesty with nothing and no one to bridge the infinite chasm separating the creature from the Creator!

The Bridge of the Incarnation

When the Word, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, His adorable flesh and blood became a two-way bridge linking God to man, and man to God. Thus did God draw near to man, so that man might draw near to God. Even more, God passed over into the family of men so that men might pass over into the family of God, that is, the Most Holy Trinity.

The Friendship of God

To Moses God deigned to grant a mysterious and special friendship. God spoke to Moses face to face as a man is wont to speak to his friend (Exodus 33:11) . God's intimate friendship with Moses was a figure of the divine friendship that, in Jesus Christ, would be offered, and is offered, to all men and women.

Adorers in Spirit and in Truth

God, befriending man in Jesus Christ, remains all-holy, all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present. The Divine Majesty veiled in human flesh remains ineffable, infinite, and incomprehensible. The glory of God reflected on the face of Jesus Christ remains the uncreated light from which the sun, the moon, and the stars receive their pale created brightness. One cannot approach Jesus Christ without adoring Him, and one cannot adore Him without being drawn into the radiance of His Face and the fire of His Heart. Those who adore Jesus Christ become the friends of God; and those who are the friends of Jesus Christ become the adorers whom the Father seeks, adorers in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

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The very same Jesus Christ who was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost; who remained hidden for nine months in the enclosure of the Virgin's womb; who was born of her at Bethlehem; who was suckled at her breast; who found refuge in Egypt; labored in Nazareth; preached in Galilee; suffered bitterly, died nailed to the wood of the cross, and rose from the dead in Jerusalem; ascended from the Mount of Olives; and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead -- this same Jesus Christ -- is present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Jesus Christ, true God, infinitely worthy of our adoration, offers His friendship to those who adore Him, and reveals the glory of His divinity to those who become His friends.

Jesus Waits

Practically speaking, Advent is a time to enter resolutely, generously, and deeply into adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Hidden in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance, Jesus waits for the arrival of His adorers and of His friends. To those who throw themselves into the embrace of His humanity, He communicates the fire of His divinity; and to those who cast themselves into the fire of His divinity, He opens the embrace of His humanity.

Pax: Mary

There was never moment when the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary was not established in peace. Her Immaculate Heart is a haven of peace for poor sinners, a refuge from the attacks of the enemy who seeks to destroy all peace in our souls and on the face of the earth. In the Vespers hymn for feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Ave Maris Stella, we ask Our Blessed Lady to establish us in peace: funda nos in pace. The closer we are to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the closer we are to peace, that is, the absence of sin.

Sin Destroys Peace

Sin is what disturbs true peace; sin is what destroys peace. If you would have peace, avoid sin, and should you fall into sin, confess it without delay, so that peace may be restored to your soul. Mary, being sinless from the first instant of her conception, is, of all creatures, the most peaceful. She is utterly tranquil and perfectly serene.

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The Sanctuary of Our Lady's Heart

God created the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be the single most peaceful place in the universe. Mary is the living temple prepared by God for God; her Heart is a sanctuary untouched by the violence and wickedness of a world seduced by Satan. Even when, as a mother full of pity for her wayward children, Mary presses sinners to her Heart, nothing of sin's contagion taints her. The Immaculate is not soiled by the filth of her fallen children, even as she stoops to lift us out of the mire of our miseries.

If you would be apt for the advent of the Lord, seek peace where it is to be found: in the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God. The closer you are to Mary, the more will you experience a peace that the world cannot give. Mary will teach you to discern the things that make for peace and avoid those that threaten to destroy it.

The peace of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is not diminished by suffering; it flourishes in the midst of thorns. The old Benedictine motif depicting the word PAX surrounded by a crown of thorns -- pax inter spinas -- is a kind of monogram of the Heart of the Mother of God. Did she not appear at Fatima with her Immaculate Heart surrounded by thorns?

The inviolable peace of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was purchased at a great price, that is, with the Precious Blood of her Son, the immolated Lamb. If, in making our way to the sanctuary of the maternal Heart of Mary, we must pass through the thorns that encircle it, it is so that we might be associated with the redeeming Passion of her Son, and so that a few drops of our blood might be mingled with the torrent of that flood so copiously from His head, His hands, His feet, and His side.

The Rosary

Those of you who have come to love the rosary know that it produces peace in the soul of one who perseveres in praying it. The rosary leads one directly into the refuge of Mary's sinless heart, into a sanctuary of peace that cannot be threatened, troubled, or assailed by powers visible or invisible. Peace, being the absence of sin, is rightly in the giving of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. If you pray her rosary, she will give you her peace.

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Taciturnitas: Joseph

It is unfortunate that the English word taciturn is associated with brooding, moody characters. In the Rule of Saint Benedict, taciturnity -- the habit of using words sparingly and of cherishing silence -- is a sign of maturity, humility, and wisdom. These are the very traits that made Saint Joseph so suitable a spouse for the Virgin Mary.

Joseph the Listener

Saint Joseph, being a man of few words, was a great listener. He listened to the sounds around him; he listened intently to those whom he loved. Above all, he listened to God: to the God who spoke to him in the reading of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, but also to the God who spoke to him in events, in circumstances, in dreams, and in the apparent contradictions of life. The ear of Saint Joseph's heart was ever attentive to the gentle whisper of God, who, as the prophet Elijah learned, comes to us not in the earthquake, and not in the fire, but in the whistling of a gentle air.

And [the Angel of the Lord] said to him: Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord: and behold the Lord passeth, and a great and strong wind before the Lord over throwing the mountains, and breaking the rocks in pieces: the Lord is not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake: the Lord is not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire: the Lord is not in the fire, and after the fire a whistling of a gentle air. (3 Kings 19:11-12)

Conversation

Silence makes listening possible. Without silence one risks missing the humble, quiet, and unobtrusive passage of God. How, then, does one arrive at such a silence as to be able to hear the voice of God in all of life? We must begin by eliminating from our conversations all that is strident, critical, and negative. The amount of bitter criticism and negative haranguing that one can hear in pious circles is extraordinary. Such conversation causes the Holy Ghost to fall silent and grieves our Guardian Angels, who know, all too well, the nefarious consequences of it.

The quality of Benedictine taciturnitas is not only the absence of speech; it is the quality of what is spoken. Let our words, then, be unfailingly kind, measured, gentle, and encouraging. In conversation, seek to build up rather than to tear down or, as Saint Paul says:

For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things. The things which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, these do ye, and the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Adoration, Peace, and Silence

These, then, are the good things that we are to seek and to practice during this Advent 2012. If we adore Jesus present in the Sacrament of His Love; if we seek peace in the company of the Virgin Mother, by remaining close to her Heart; if, with Saint Joseph, we practice the virtue of a wholesome and holy silence, we will be apt to welcome the Lord at His coming.

To each one of you, I send my blessing. We are one monastic family or, if you will, a union of families persevering in prayer with the Virgin Mother of Jesus, illumined by the Face of her Son, and warmed by the fire of His Heart.

Father Prior

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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