Saints: December 2008 Archives

The Authority of Lovers

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This is a homily I preached thirteen years ago to the Poor Ladies of Bethlehem Monastery in Barhamsville, Virginia. At the time, they were still living in their former monastery in Newport News.

The Logic of the Liturgy

The liturgy has a marvelous logic all its own. On this second day of the Christmas octave, Mother Church gives us an Easter Gospel! While we are yet at the manger, the liturgy compels us to run to the empty tomb! John, the disciple whom Jesus loved is there before us. His virginal love gave wings to his feet. “Draw me in your footsteps," says the bride of the Canticle, "let us run” (Ct 1:4). John is the first of those who “hasten with swift pace and light step and unstumbling feet,” arriving even before Peter, and yet deferring to him.

Peter and John

Hans Urs von Balthasar speaks of a double authority in the Church, a double ministry: the Petrine and Johannine. The Petrine authority is firmly established by Christ on the solid rock of Peter; it continues in the Church through the ministry of Peter’s successors, teaching, reproving, testing, correcting, forgiving and calling together in unity. The Johannine authority speaks with the voice of love, with the inimitable accents of direct experience. It is the authority of the saints and mystics, the authority of holiness, the authority of the greatly loved and of the great lovers. “ I belong to my love, and my love to me” (Ct 6:3).

What We Have Seen and Heard

The Church has need of both voices. She needs the strong, unwavering voice of Peter; she also needs the many-voiced Johannine chorus of those who sing: “Something which has existed since the beginning, that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have contemplated and touched with our own hands: the Word who is life--this is our theme. That life was made visible; we saw it and are giving our testimony. . . . We declare to you what we have seen and heard, so that you too may share our life” (1 Jn 1:1-3).

Love of Things Invisible

The Johannine chorus speaks with the unmistakable authority of those who have gone into the wine-cellar and rested beneath the banner of love (cf. Ct 2:4-5). Their breath is fragrant with honey and with the honeycomb, of wine and of milk: that is with the imperishable sweetness of the Holy Spirit, with the Blood of the Lamb and with the pure milk of the living Word of God. These are the ones who have eaten and drunk, drunk deeply (cf. Ct 5:1) of the streams of living water that flow ever fresh from the pierced Heart of the Bridegroom (cf. Jn 7:37-38). These are the descendants of Saint John the Beloved, those to whom the Father has given the eagle’s vision, those who are little enough and poor enough to be borne aloft and carried away into the “love of things invisible,” as the Christmas Preface puts it.

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A Friend in Heaven

Today, December 16th, is the dies natalis (heavenly birthday) of the Servant of God, Father Lukas Etlin, O.S.B., a monk of Conception Abbey. I made a novena to Father Lukas last month beginning on November 16th. On the evening of December 8th, feast of the Immaculate Conception, I was given a picture of Father Lukas. I slipped it into the pocket of my habit before driving home. Less than fifteen minutes later I was the astonished and grateful surviver of a terrible automobile crash. No bumps, bruises, scratches, aches, or pains.

From Switzerland to Missouri

Father Lukas was born Alfred Etlin, on February 25, 1864 in Sarnen, the capital of Canton Obwalden in the foothills of the Swiss Alps. In 1886 young Alfred left the natural beauty of his homeland for the new monastery founded by Abbot Frowin Conrad in Conception, Missouri. Clothed in the Benedictine habit, Alfred became Frater Lukas. He made monastic profession on November 13, 1887 and was ordained a priest on the feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1891. He offered his First Mass at the Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri on the Feast of Saint Bernard, August 20, 1891.

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

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