1987, Serial No. 00916

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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful in the kingdom of the power of your love.
Send forth your spirit and they shall be created.
Let us pray.
In the outpouring of your Holy Spirit, O Lord, cleanse our hearts and make them fruitful by the immense printing of His due through Christ our Lord.
My dear patients, fathers and brothers, a bit of me would like to apologize if for any of you I seem to be talking this morning about too many mysteries at once.
But another bit cannot apologize for trying to say something about developments in our lives which God will not normally let us off if we continue to seek Him and His ways as unreservedly as we originally meant to do when we came to the monastery.
In the working out of this seeking there will certainly be some psychological, if you don't like that word, personal hang-ups on our side and a number of theological certainties on God's.
And this evening I want to try to gain some more help from those simple theological certainties which in my experience are still too seldom being spoken of while some of us flounder more or less helplessly around in personal hang-ups of one kind or another.
To restate the point from which we started this morning in a slightly different way, if monastic profession has often been spoken of as a second baptism, this has been justified because there is a strong theological similarity between the two, though the psychological or personal dimension of this experience may have been very different.
The theological similarity is that monastic profession, like baptism, implies the acceptance of a summons to conversion, to living the fullness of the Christian life as, under the guidance of fine providence, it works itself out in our case.
It's not altogether surprising, in the case of those of us who were baptised as infants, if it took us quite a long time to discover this, especially in times when the sacrament of baptism was a great deal too little talked about as the gateway to a whole distinctive way of life and to the other sacraments associated with our development, whatever turn that might take.
It may perhaps seem a little more surprising that there are even cases of people making monastic profession for whom, as it were, the basic nature of the commitment hasn't hit home, though there are examples of this even among the saints.
St. Gertrude the Great is an obvious one, from a choice that if it wasn't for Sturgeon was certainly under a very heavy Sturgeon influence.
She learned how to live and behave in the monastery much as one learns in any other profession.
Only going up to the dormitory after a conference one night did the nature of the reality dawn on her.
Now this should have happened in some conscious way, at some point, is the necessary condition for anything we were saying this morning and will be saying this evening being meaningful.
In saying this I'm not of course saying that at the time of our profession we can know precisely what it is that we are taking on, except in the most general terms, as is also the case after all for those who enter upon the commitment of marriage.
After is generally the case only a short time of mutual testing.
In either case, no number of years could ever explore all the possibilities of what might happen, life being life.
And again we should note that in either case, as Christians, we commit ourselves not only to behaving as Christians should, however our partners may choose to behave,
but also in relation to whatever may be that God himself clearly sends, sickness or health, and many other things that no one can foresee.
This is naturally why we really need the sacraments through all the phases of our lives.
For there are some things which without the help of God's grace we cannot possibly do.
But to think of the sacraments as though they were simply some kind of limited, incurant policy is to understand only half their nature or less.
For each of them is also a summons to growth and life in and with God through whatever may happen, including of course the sacrament of the sick.
For it's an essential tenet of our faith that in relation to those who believe, God does nothing and permits nothing, that it's simply a meaningless accident.
God, who is himself infinite life, is always acting to promote life.
And Jesus, his only begotten son, explicitly says that we might have life and have it more abundantly.
But naturally, since this is always his way, God will not force us to have it if we don't want it.
I cannot forget being told by an extraordinary Russian I knew when I was in my twenties that we always get what we really want.
I found this almost terrifyingly true both in my own life and in the lives of others I've known, as far as I can see this.
If we think too meanly of God, we limit what he can do for us.
It's really impossible to expect too much from him, provided we don't mind it taking some form we hadn't expected.
But that, my dear brothers and sisters, is exactly what our prayer is all about. Ought to be, isn't it?
Everything is there in the Our Father, and everything is there for us in the sacraments on the same conditions as they are in the Our Father.
Namely, that like the only begotten son of God, we want our Father's will more than we want anything else.
And we want this with confidence because, although we may find it sometimes rather difficult to say,
we're sure that God always intends what he sends to be life-giving and not death-dealing.
As it was even in the case of our Lord's death on the cross.
I suppose it is not too bold to say that but for the resurrection God wouldn't have allowed the cross.
Though going through it made the human nature of our Lord far from death, as the Gospels tell us.
Our Lord went through it all, as the letter of the Hebrews says, for the joy set before him.
And that is now the pattern that God means for us, who believe in him.
He means us to share this pattern.
And of course this is what, as you know, and we keep on hearing it in these days of Lent,
and as we're approaching Easter, our Lord repeatedly has to try to train his own apostles,
this is what's going to happen to them.
And that's why they of course naturally report this in the way they do in the Gospels when those come to be written.
Now this sharing may occur in several rather different ways.
It may do so to some extent through our consciously chosen asceticism,
provided we engage in it in the awareness that without the help and blessing of God it's utterly without value,
and may sometimes only put us further from God,
as indeed Anthony the Great noted about those who lack the virtue of discretion.
But much more securely does this sharing in the pattern of our Lord's life and death
occur in the way we accept by the mercy of God what humbles and tries us
in ways that are often far from what it would have been wise to choose.
Through either of these ways, when God wills it and we choose it,
God liberates us from our limitations,
sheds light on our darkness,
and thereby enables us to grow in intimacy with him
by and with and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
For as Jesus once says in the Gospel of John,
without me you can do nothing.
He says this, as some of you remember, in relation to his image of himself as the vine,
through whose branches the sap of God's life courses.
He uses rather similar language in speaking about himself as bread,
and this naturally brings us to the supreme way in which we share in the pattern
and strength of our Lord's life and death.
If only we recognize all the dimensions that the sacrament of the altar opens before us,
some of which are too seldom spoken of,
and therefore too seldom realized,
though they are a great deal more certain than some of the thoughts
which a certain kind of relatively modern Eucharistic piety,
limiting and limited, has very often tried to foster.
For as our Lord says in the Discourse on the Bread of Life,
in chapter 6 of John's Gospel,
here I'm quoting verses 3 and 4,
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.
What is wrong with all those frequent, if not daily communicants,
of whom almost the last thing that would occur to one to say is that they seem so alive?
Is it the fault of the sacrament itself,
or is it the fault of the way those who receive it think about it?
Gregory the Great has a wonderful little sermon
on the two disciples going to a mass after the resurrection,
of whom he says they saw in their companion exactly what they expected to see.
And Jesus, of course, went along with this for a time.
Should we not ask him to open our eyes to some of the things we do not see about the Eucharist?
Not because there's any doubt about their truth,
but because of the blinkers we've either chosen to wear,
or someone who ought to have known better has put upon us.
Little books of piety can be an awful menace here,
not, of course, the wonderfully austere yet rich prayers of the Roman Missal,
of which, unfortunately, those who cannot read the Latin of the Missal
have often been so wickedly deprived in our own day.
But this is a faction which I'm not going to delay on.
My own brethren have to hear about it every week several times.
It's really very terrible.
This is not the moment to enter into any of the possible intricacies of Eucharistic theology,
but there are two very clear moments of sign in the celebration of every Eucharist.
Whatever rites may be being used.
There is the memorial itself,
which, sustained by the long history of the Hebrew notion of memory,
this makes present the living Christ as shown in the moment of his supreme offering of himself to his Father
in the separation of his body and blood.
And there is the communion,
in which those who partake of the sacrament consume the sacred fetus,
thereby making the sign which is always implied in the natural process of eating,
namely, that the food and the eater become one by assimilation, by likeness,
so as to be ultimately indistinguishable.
In leading us round to chapter 10 in the letter of the Hebrews this morning,
it was my intention to prepare us for considering as many as possible
of the links between these two signs in every Eucharist.
For even in its most desiccated period, the Church has never lost the sense
that both signs should be genuinely present.
By this I do not, of course, mean that those who receive the sacrament
should be already fully-fledged saints,
but that those who make the sign of union in their reception
should be at least united with the one they receive in desire,
even to receive the sacrament.
There are circumstances in which what one feels in receiving the sacrament,
if one feels any very much at all,
is any very sure guide to what's really going on,
any more, of course, than it would be in most other spiritual matters,
as all the saints and masters agree.
In making it understood that no one should approach the Eucharist
in a state of unrepentant grave sin,
the Church clearly recognises the principle to which I am referring here.
The Church wishes to exclude that the sign made by the communicant
of being united to this vision for one who offers himself
should not in fact be a lie,
even if it might sometimes feel so to the communicant.
A sign sometimes, of course, can be the case,
but people may be troubled by a feeling of sinfulness and spiritual confusion
and not be clear enough about it.
So sometimes, of course, the confessor will have to say to his penitent,
whatever you feel like, you go to the sacrament, that's what you need.
Because he knows, perhaps better than they do themselves,
that if their dispositions are good,
that they won't be making a lie in receiving the sacrament.
As everyone knows, the thing that unites us, even as human beings,
is fundamentally the state of our wills.
Granted that, everything else becomes possible.
And if we are to believe what our Lord says in his long discourse
on the Bread of Life, in chapter 6 of the Gospel of John,
it's to people who understand this that our Lord gives himself
in sacramental form.
It's not necessary to be a scriptural scholar
in order to see how the chapter moves
from our Lord speaking about himself as bread in himself
to talking about the form in which he gives himself
to be consumed in the sacrament.
And this is a necessary point to grasp
if we understand what it is,
that it is in fact a question of
what we receive the sacrament for.
It is to lead us to our Lord himself
that our Lord institutes the sacrament at all.
The sacrament is not an end.
If the sacrament produces in us that final fruit
of leading us to our Lord himself,
which it's always designed to foster,
then we shall get to heaven where, as St. Augustine says,
there'll be no more sacraments
because we shall not need some means
by which to be united to God himself.
But in our present situation,
we need to note the distinctive mark
which our Lord gives himself as bread.
For it will give us what is the link
that should exist between our Lord
and the one who receives him.
You'll remember that in answer to his mystifying hints
about some form of bread
that will really satisfy us,
those who hear him saying this for the first time say,
Lord, give us this bread always.
And our Lord replies by saying,
I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me shall not hunger,
and he who believes in me shall never thirst.
If there is a primary obstacle in his hearers,
it's their lack of belief, notice.
For faith, living faith,
is the most fundamental way
in which we do come to our Lord.
And our Lord adds,
he who comes to me I will not cast out.
For I have come down from heaven
not to do my own will,
but the will of him who sent me.
And the will of one who sends him, he says,
is that no one who comes to me should be lost.
There could be no surer ground for feeling confidence
than going to the altar,
if this is what we understand.
There then is the evident link
between the one who gives himself
and the one who receives him.
Different as they may be,
do they want the same thing?
Do we want what our Lord wants for us?
Then we should go with great confidence.
You'll appreciate how this discourse
from the Gospel of John
confirms the argument of the Letter to the Hebrews
about what is most fundamental
to the reason for the Incarnation.
And we realize,
from the way our Lord has taught us
to pray in the Our Father,
that he means us, in our human situation,
to do what he did in his.
Long to do the will of the Father.
Which is to give us eternal life,
as a result of the spirit of faith
in which we live.
And there's much more gift than effort in all this.
So that to live a Eucharistic life
into spiritual maturity
is to grow in love and wisdom
and consequently, of course, also in peace.
Though the quality of that love and wisdom
may not often be apparent to those who reach it.
Christ the way
becomes, truly, more and more
that life which he will be for all eternity.
There will still be lots of mystery about it
for all the greater simplification which occurs.
In so far as the way to this involves
the acceptance of a good deal of what is dark to us.
Both in the initial process of detachment
and in the gradual penetration of the life of faith
into our souls,
which causes God on the cross to speak
of those deep caverns in the spirit.
It involves also accepting a share
in those thoughts and desires of our Lord
which go much further than the acceptance of sacrifice.
For it is affirmed several times in the New Testament
and our Lord particularly confirms it
in several of the discourses in the Gospel of John
that the Easter mystery is for everyone.
Just as we also affirm in the Creed
that from the very beginning
the incarnation of the Son was for us human beings
not of course just men, but humans
for our salvation, for everybody
and that's what we believe by faith.
It cannot be an accident that some of those
who have communicated their thoughts to us
after having evidently led a lifetime of prayer
find themselves filled with longing
for the good absolutely everyone
beyond all known frontiers.
For this is what we should expect to be
the result of genuinely coming to share
and not just approving in our heads
the declared designs of God and his love
as we know it from Revelation.
Heaven forbid that we should set limits
to our love which God has not set.
This is a mystery into which we should not try to pry.
For although the Church has taken upon herself
the responsibility of declaring that certain of her holy ones
are already eternally united with God
she has never dared to tell us with certainty
even a single name of the occupants of hell
which is one of many reasons for treating
with considerable reserve the many graphic descriptions
of certain visionaries which may well contain
all too much doubtful human feeling on that subject.
I've not forgotten a woman saying to me
with a tint in her eyes some years ago
I want to see them punished.
Our communion is ought to encourage
a very different state of mind.
But it is not only these life-giving desires
of our Lord which are communicated to us
in the Eucharist as an important element
in his motive for declaring
designed to do the loving will of the Father.
We should not forget that just as our Lord
in his humanity and his divinity
is truly sacramentally present to us in the Eucharist
so in a certain sense is his whole body.
All those who are alive in him
whether in the world, in this world or the next
we should not forget
how when he appeared to St. Paul
at his conversion our Lord asked him
why do you persecute me?
So close is our Lord's identification
with those who come to him
by whatever roads in faith.
They're all part of the liturgy of the living
and so by the mercy of God are we.
What courage this ought to give us
through all our doubts and stumblings.
It's a very great privilege
to share by these means
in the priestly work of our Lord.
Over depths of the riches and wisdom
and knowledge of God
says the convert Paul
in his great letter to the Romans
how unsearchable are his judgments
and how inscrutable his ways.
I appeal to you therefore brethren
he goes on
by the mercies of God
present your bodies
as a living sacrifice
wholly acceptable to God
which is your spiritual worship.
This is of course the level
at which we are all priests.
As St. Peter Christologus says
in a little sermon
which well summarizes
Baptistic doctrine on this subject.
Listen to it a bit carefully.
As St. Peter says
a human being is now both
the offering and the priest.
They need not look for something
outside themselves
to offer to God.
They carry with them
and in themselves
the very thing that is offered
to God for themselves.
The offering is always the same
and so is the priest.
That offering is sacrificed
yet lives.
This sacrifice my brothers
derives its form
from that of Christ
who offered his body
as a living victim
for the life of the world.
And indeed he made his body
a living offering
for he lives
though slain.
In this kind of sacrifice
death is inflicted
but the victim survives.
This is what the prophet declared
sacrifice is an offering
you did not desire
but you prepared a body for me.
So be the sacrifice
and the priest of God.
You will not lose
what God gave.
Let your heart
be the altar
and thus let your body
be the victim
destined for God.
And then he quotes
Doubts from Memory
because one can't forget it
when one first reads
a phrase of St. Cyprian.
God looks for our faith
and not our death.
Our service
not our blood.
And of course
Cyprian uses that phrase
in explaining
why not all of us
may have the honor
of being literally martyrs.
It's enough
in and through everything
if we share the desire
of the martyr of martyrs
our Lord himself
and every martyr since
to promote
and make possible
for as many as do not reject it
access to the bottomless fountain
of eternal life
welling up from the God
who made us all
who wishes everyone
to be saved.
I hope that isn't now
just as I felt
I was being serious
this morning
I hope that isn't too compressed
but you can see that
if you think about it
there's an intimate connection
our reception of the Eucharist
our living out
of the pattern
of the life of our Lord
and as this continues
into prayer
because it's there
that we share his desires
if we share the desires
of our Lord
then we make the signs
we should
and then
we live the life
of the sign we receive
if we come to our Lord himself
in very great desire
all the time.
Somehow then
we live our Eucharist
as we should.
sometimes we may have
the luxury of knowing this
but lots of the time
we won't.
It's enough
if we long
that it should be
just like that.
Lord Jesus Christ
who lived and died for us
and offered yourself
on the cross
teach us to understand
the mystery of your cross
and your Eucharist
in our lives
so we may live more fully
in you
this night
and all days to come
better and better
in your mercy
and in your love
Come Holy Spirit
to fill the hearts
of your faithful
and kindle in them
the fire of your love
send forth your spirit
and they shall be created
Let us pray
May the outpouring
of your Holy Spirit
O Lord
cleanse our hearts
and make them fruitful
by the inward sprinkling
of his dew
through Christ
our Lord.
If it seemed right yesterday
my dear fathers and brothers
to try to find the principles
and indeed the real sources
of Christian
and therefore monastic maturity
as it were concentrated
in the living memorial of himself
which our Lord and Savior
gives us in the Eucharist
it's perhaps right today
to extend our understanding
of the assimilation
of the Christian soul
to Christ
by turning to the supreme example
known to us
of spiritual communion
between the soul and Christ
in the one
whom in a familiar litany
we greet as the seat of wisdom
It would be quite a special task
to try to compile a history
of this title
for the Old Holy Mother of God
which is said first of all
to be found in St. Augustine
Now I'm not to assert
that it's directly used
by Blessed Gary Covigny
but it's certainly present
to his thought
in all three of his sermons
for the Annunciation
and if we look at some
of these passages
we shall I believe find
something that will help us
this morning
In the first of these sermons
which celebrates the joy
of the news of our redemption
to the Annunciation
by the Annunciation of Mary
Garrick says
A good word it is
and a consoling one
that your almighty word
Lord, today has come
from his royal throne
into the Virgin's womb
where he's also made
a royal seat for himself
In that phrase
Garrick is of course
quoting in the image
of the leap of the word
into the womb
a phrase from the book
of Wisdom
As he develops his thought
at this point
the new royal seat
is, Garrick says
our Lord's own body
made from the ivory
of the Virgin
and he adds
this idea may be applied
in a secondary sense
to the body of Christ
which is the Church
Notice how in all these
earlier writers
the thought of the Church
when intimacy with Christ
is spoken of
is never far away
And in the opening paragraph
of the second sermon
not very well translated
I fear
it's a search and publication series
Garrick says
Today wisdom began
to build itself a house
of our body
in the womb of the Virgin
and to build the unity
of the Church
out of the cornerstone
from the mountain
without the help
of human hands
Here the development
of the thought
is more important for us
I think, for Garrick says
We shall be opened
to the Lord
What shall be opened
to the Lord
is not the integrity
of the virginal body
for Ezekiel adds
this shall be closed
even to the prince
but the ear
and the door
of the heart
For it was through
the ear of the virgin
the word entered
to become incarnate
Through the closed door
of her body
came forth incarnate
And again
If then, O faithful virgin
your ear is open
to hear
and your mind
to believe
listen with your ear
to the angel's word
and with your heart
receive the word
of the Most High
It is in the third
of these enunciation sermons
that Garrick develops
this idea
of the fructification
of the word
in the heart
most beautifully
To you, brothers
to you
the silence
of the word speaks
To you
it cries aloud
To you, indeed
it recommends
the discipline of silence
For in silence
and hope
shall be your strength
as Isaiah promises
Just as that child
conceived in the womb
developed towards birth
in a long
deep silence
so does the discipline
of silence
nourish, form
and strengthen
the spirit of man
Garrick says
that his brethren
have told him
how true this is
and he adds
If you ask
with what business
the mind is to be occupied
I do not give you
anything burdensome
Eat your bread
as the Lord himself
shows you
by the example
of his conception
Of course
you know
Bernard too
will remember that
Bernard has this idea
eating the bread
of the word
of consuming it
in the heart
and of course
Garrick is
telling something
very concentrated here
quite evidently
isn't he
We're going to do it
like the
what is shown us
by the example
of conception
of the word
in the womb
It's there
that the Holy Spirit
the word
that sends
Whether you happen to like
these lovely passages
or not
there's no doubt
that Garrick has
here hit upon something
that's exactly
what the exegesis
of the Annunciation
seen in Luke's Gospel
requires us to think
He gives us
our first meeting
with one
whom the Gospels
as a whole
portray as the ideal
disciple of Christ
a true seat
of the loving wisdom
of God
And it's almost impossible
to miss the resonances
with another scene
which obviously
Luke must have had in mind
in writing this up
right at the beginning
of the Old Testament
where the tempter
the fallen angel
comes to Eve
with the interesting
that there is
after all
no real danger
in eating the forbidden fruit
To Mary
a faithful angel
with a message
of truth
which is hard
to credit
And Mary
shows herself
a faithful virgin
because she believes
that God
will in fact
do what seems
This as Elizabeth
rightly sees
on the day
of her visitation
is the first
blessedness in Mary
which explains
all she becomes
and remains
She has the
incomparable foundation
of blessing
of the one
who believes
She receives
the word of God
that comes from God
and fosters it
in her heart
until it becomes fruitful
And she receives
this word of God
in its two
major different forms
In the form of
what God says
and in the form
of what God does
which of course
in the Hebrew mind
is the same thing
though writing in Greek
knows just enough
Hebrew to make
the shepherds say
to each other
let us go over
to Bethlehem
and see this word
And their very
coming was
Luke tells us
one of the words
that Mary pondered
in her heart
as she pondered
about the occasion
when she and Joseph
found the boy
Jesus in the temple
It is I suppose
correct to see
that particular
moment as marking
an evolution
in Mary's life
of faith
for its beginnings
profound as they
must have been
are not so profound
as its end
In the words
of the boy Jesus
did you not know
that I must be
about my father's
we hear the first
clear indication
of the summons
to Mary
to accept something
beyond the birth
and nurturing
of the boy
namely his coming
It would certainly
be wrong to
in a way
the break with
the family
which the ministry
just as it would be
the break with
the sorrowing mother
under the cross
The sort of separation
which the following
of personal vocation
always involves
naturally has an aspect
in the life
of personal feeling
but to an unusual degree
the acceptance
of our Lord's ministry
by his mother
involved the acceptance
of the theological mystery
That Mary rose
to the stature
by this
is indicated
by her behaviour
at the wedding party
at Cana in Galilee
Having indicated
the shortage of wine
Mary makes no claim
upon her mother
upon her son
precisely as his mother
She doesn't say
I am your mother
nothing like that
She simply says
to the waiters
do whatever
he tells you
If we needed
a background document
to the news
of our Lord
to the answer
of our Lord
to a woman
from the crowd
who says
what a privilege
it must have been
to have been
given birth to this son
it's surely these words
of Mary at Cana
that we should remember
For they are the last thing
we hear her saying
in the New Testament
and not the last thing
we hear of her doing
She really gives out
what she told
the waiters to do
And this
our Lord knew very well
when he said
Blessed rather
are those who hear
the word of God
and keep it
he may have formulated
his words
and something like them
occurs also
in the Gospel of Mark
The essential meaning
must always have been
the same
Whoever does
the will of God
is my brother
and sister
and mother
In her full acceptance
of this exacting role
Mary takes on
a stature
of universal significance
for the Church
A role which is of course
confirmed under the cross
in the words of our Lord
behold your son
The Gospel of John
is too careful
in its choice of words
and images
for it to be an accent
as our Lord
is made to use
the word woman
in addressing his mother
both at Cana
and on the cross
The new Eve
enters into her full stature
as mother of all the living
in her full acceptance
of the implications
of her Christian vocation
to the end
with all its often painful
so much more difficult
than Bethlehem
can ever have been
So the last time
she appears in the New Testament
she is
with the other women
at the heart of the life
of the Church
Thus it is
that in the traditional icons
of Pentecost
it is upon her
sitting in the middle
of the apostles
that the Holy Spirit
pours down
giving her
a new mode
to the presence
of Christ
from that
which she'd known
on the day
of her Annunciation
A presence like that
which we all enjoy
by the gift
of the Holy Spirit
She would hardly be
the unique
and universal
model of all
Christian holiness
which the last
Council of the Church
saw her to be
were it not
for that theme
of faith
running through her life
right through
from the day
to the day
of her Assumption
growing in stature
and in the silence
of loving wisdom
which her silent
presence to the Church
so clearly
So it is
that in the first
of his Assumption
British Gaelic
with a touch of
sure instinct
says in the final
the soul of any
just person
is said to be
the seat of wisdom
For what is now
in this present life
a seat of wisdom
will then in the
other life
be a seat of glory
Thus on the very
day of her
Our Lady
what is promised
to us all
She is indeed
a seat of wisdom
but evidently not
in some exclusive sense
What God does
for her
he wishes
in proportion to
our calling
to do for us all
It might perhaps
surprise you
that I should like
to delay a little
over this third
of these Assumption
sermons of Gaelic
which is
a long look
as it were
over the life
which reaches its
heavenly culmination
on the day of the
This lovely sermon
begins from the text
of the Book of Sirach
In all things
I sought rest
As inevitably
a kind of
mid-harvest sermon
as I read it
it reminds me
of a visit to
the Abbey of Vaux-Tourive
up in the mountains
of Switzerland
almost thirty years ago
and hearing the delightful
harvest sermon
of the abbot Tom Cow
which gave
a kind of zest
to the summer work
when we went out
to do it
The fruit of this work
says Gaelic
in his sermon
will be
that rest
rest from work
rest for work
the very thought
of which renews
the strength
of the faithful soul
in its work
it's shade
for those
in the burning heat
food for the hungry
for when reflection
on eternal rest
gives shade
to the heads
of those who toil
it not only
cools the heat
of temptation
it nears the spirits
for work
happy is he
who in all his works
and ways
seeks that
blessed rest
always hastening
as the apostle
urges us
to enter into
that rest
in longing for this
afflicting his body
in preparing his spirit
and settling it
for this rest
being at peace
with everyone
as far as in him lies
consciously choosing
the rest and leisure
of Mary
for preference
but ready also
to undertake
the occupation of Martha
when it's necessary
in doing this
with as much peace
and tranquility
as he can
and always drawing
himself back
to the one thing necessary
from the many kinds
of distraction
this kind of a man
is at rest
even when he's working
just as on the contrary
the evil man
even when he rests
to speak
of all this
is to speak
as it were
of the cross
of the life of fidelity
its heart
and center
ought to be
life and growth
the gradual coming
to birth
of the new man
destined for the life
of heaven
I remind you that
inciting that phrase
from the letter
to the Hebrews
about hastening
into God's rest
Gerich is obviously
remembering chapter 4
the letter
which is discussing
Psalm 94
in its summons
not to harden
our hearts today
of course in the letter
to the Hebrews
remember chapter 4
Psalm 94
which is so often
used as an invisitory
not to harden
our hearts today
to hear the voice
of God
so that in this way
Gerich's preoccupation
with the fertility
of the word in our heart
is never far below
the surface of his mind
it's always there
in the kind of things
he has to say
thus it is
that the descent
of the word of God
into the womb
of the Virgin Mary
seems to him
to be something
like an image
of the life
of the Christians
and particularly
that of the monk
he was born
in a shelter
for travellers
says Gerich
in the fifth
of his Christmas sermons
so that we should
by his example
we are strangers
and travellers
upon earth
thereto choosing
the lowest place
he was put
in a manger
we might learn
in the concrete
the thought of David
I have chosen
to be nothing
in the house
of my God
rather than live
among the wicked
he was wrapped
in slings
we might be content
to have enough
to cover it
in everything
he was content
with his mother's poverty
in everything
submissive to his mother
so that the very
the form
of monastic life
might seem
to be born
in his birth
I think
we should evidently
be careful
not to over romanticise
this comparison
in relation to
most established monasteries
even the observant ones
even the least
well informed of us
must know
that there are
in the cities of America
and other places
up and down the world
whose real destitution
of human resources
is much greater
than that
which is to be found
in the poorest communities
to have one's brethren
about one
is already a resource
the importance of which
we should never
whatever its limitations
may sometimes seem to be
there are elderly people
all over the world
abandoned by everyone
to say nothing
of the deprivations
of a spiritual kind
which is possible
to suffer
even in the midst
of wealth
and which no one
but their spirit
in the world
is really able to
be quite sure
of reaching
in any case
this is not the level
of Dick Garrick's
deepest thought
about the mystery
of the incarnation
as a model
of the Christian life
it is perhaps
in the third
of the Christmas sermons
that we touch
that most nearly
as it is
with the divine
which the birth
of the Son of God
in the flesh
as though he were
too little
emptied out
if he only
became a man
he so radically
emptied himself
of the glory
of human flesh
made folly
of its wisdom
weakened its power
and cut down
its greatness
that in his birth
and in his passion
he showed himself
to be the last
of men
so they did not
take him
for anything
I must say
this particular point
constantly strikes me
every year
whenever I read
the Passion accounts
in the Gospels
there's absolutely
no heroics
in the way the story
of the Passion is told
in the New Testament
in this way
it makes a strong
contrast to even
some of the earlier
accounts of Christian
to say nothing
of the later ones
which are all
blown up
our Lord
even permits
his own cross
to be carried
by somebody else
some other way
and all his
quiet dignity
is quite hidden
in this way
he ensures that
his Passion is
like many human
Passion stories
very typical
and hardly remarkable
in the loneliness
of the victim
and the incomprehension
of the executioners
pawns in the hands
of superior forces
whose hostility
is ruthless
and stabilised
behind a wall
of self-righteous
common sense
as I pointed out
something I wrote
some years ago
given the appropriate
the argument of
that it is expedient
that one man
should die for the people
never fails to find
its ready supporters
it wouldn't in America
any more than it did
in Jerusalem
when our Lord
died there
this is the true
compassion of the
suffering of our Lord
which comes so near
to that every
simple suffering
soul in the world
it's so close
to the least
of his brethren
that is the
final paragraph
of this same
third Christmas sermon
that Gerek touches
upon the ultimate
of the process
of likening to Christ
in each believing soul
O my brothers
this name of Mother
is not the special
of religious imperiors
although on them
particularly falls
the duty of maternal
care and devotion
it's common
to all of you
who do the will
of the Lord
it is of course
clearly an evangelical
and we should
remember its connection
in Gerek's mind
with the reception
of the word
into the believer's
for all of you
are indeed mothers
of the Son
who is born to you
and in you
in so far as
you have conceived
in the fear of the Lord
and brought forth
the spirit of salvation
take care then
Holy Mother
take care
of this newborn child
until Christ
be formed in you
who is born
to you
for the tinier
he is
the more easily
he can die
to you
who never dies
to himself
if the spirit
which is in you
is extinguished
in you
it returns to God
who gave it
so you brethren
in whom the faith
that works through love
is born
of the Holy Spirit
keep it
feed it
nourish it
like the child
until there is formed
in you the child
who is born
for us
who not only
in his birth
but in his living
and his dying
gave us
the model
on which we are modelled
at the beginning
of the final paragraph
of the second
of his Annunciation Sermon
Skoik says something
in more explicit reference
to the role
of the Holy Spirit
in these developments
I give you
to this spirit
whose breath
will breathe
where you will
I see not one
but countless
faithful souls
pregnant with this
glorious seed
watch over your work
lest it miscarry
and you
happy mothers
of so wonderful child
care for yourselves
until Christ
be formed
in you
it is to the work
of the Holy Spirit
in our lives
that we must turn
this evening
but I cannot close
this morning
without saying
how sad it seems to me
that devotion
to Our Lady
and even to the Holy Spirit
sometimes seems
to work
in a divisive
and negative way
in the Church
and in the world
in our own times
I cannot help
thinking this is due
not only to
a certain want
of the true spirit
of prayer
but to a loss
of those
broad theological
which impart
such firmness
and security
to writers
like Garrick
if we cultivate
not only a sense
of the mysterious
dignity of each
human soul
especially its
hidden depths
where God
desires to work
but also a sense
of our duty
to the faith
of the undivided
which we've inherited
we shall hesitate
I think
to contaminate
our holiest enthusiasm
with thoughts
and words
which do not
further the work
of God
which is both
less limited
than our vision
and often more
than anyone
except the spirit
of God himself
can safely judge
All Holy Mother of God
pray for us
that your Son
Christ our Lord
may be formed
in us
now and always