Saturday, February 26, 2011

February 2011

A Message from Abbot Charles

It is curious how many of our retreatants and guests call our attention to the peace they experience on this hilltop. For some, peace is found in their ability to do what they wish to do in an unhurried manner.

While I was in the seminary I read Josef Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture. His premise is that the great civilizations of the past were able to contribute so much to culture because they had ample leisure time to develop art, architecture, philosophy and even theology. If one is preoccupied with merely earning a living and supplying oneself and one’s family with the base necessities, leisure is rare.

It seems that leisure does not excuse us from all work, because work is necessary and good for us and for building the Kingdom of God. But leisure does liberate us from overwork, from activism, workaholism. Leisure teaches us how to work effortlessly. That is, how to function in a calm, gentle relaxed mode, not a frenzied, driven rushing mode. When we are driven, we are not free. Leisure frees us.

And in our day and age we may have more leisure time but we purposely fill it with activity. So true leisure is not well understood nor easily achieved. We must put an effort into making our lives conducive for achieving leisure if it is to be effective.

For the contemplative the desired result of leisure is a deeper relationship with God by giving God a chance to be heard and then responding to His invitation to be united with Him.

When we experience union with God all other things and activities can be seen in proper perspective. Therefore a degree of lasting happiness is achieved that we had never thought possible and which surpasses all previous happiness which is always short-lived.

Leisure helps us to become ever more human by developing an atmosphere of simplicity and creativity. And leisure in the monastery is not a luxury, a special treat to be enjoyed occasionally, but a necessity. It teaches us that we work to live and not live to work.

However, monks too are being influenced by the world around them and from which they have come. Therefore we, as monks, benefit from those of you who remind us why we are here and what we can achieve.

“Be still and know that I am God!” (Ps. 45:11)

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Brother Mario has been in vows for twenty-five years

On May 3, 1985, Brother Mario professed vows as a monk of our monastery. We delayed the celebration of his jubilee until this past October 23, when most of his family was able to join us here for the occasion.

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Invitatory: “Come You Faithful”

Anonymous Author

O Come, you faithful, heed the call!
Ps. 94:1-2

His Presence enter, faith endowed!
Ps. 94:6

Present yourselves; Come, one and all—
Ps. 99:2

Join Bethlehem’s rejoicing crowd
Mt. 2:1-6

In Home-of-Bread where famished feed
Ruth 1:11; Jn. 6:35

And Gracious Host allays all need.
Is. 55:1-3; Lk. 1:53

Converging invitations ring:
“All ‘thirsty’, ‘burdened’, Come to Me!”
Mt. 11:28; Jn. 4:12-15; Rev. 22:17

“Come, blessed of my Father-King.”
Mt. 25:34

Reversed our ‘Maranatha’ plea—
1Cor 16:22; Rev. 22:20

Now “Come as Bride and Spirit” sing;
1Jn. 3:2; Rev. 22:17

First/Final welcome: Come and see.
Mt. 5:8; Jn. 1:39

“Come”, “Present yourselves” or “Be present”, as in the Latin, “ad sum”, “I am here!”

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Matthew’s Gospel

Fr. Basil Mattingly, O.S.B.

In the “A” cycle of the liturgical readings that we are following this year we are treated to that Catholic Gospel, the Gospel of the Church, the Gospel of the Kingdom, the Gospel according to Matthew.

Unfortunately, the very esteem which St. Matthew’s Gospel has enjoyed in the Church has occasioned devaluation by those with no or low esteem for the Church— especially since it is the only Gospel expressly mentioning “Church”, it is the textual treasury for “Petrine Primacy”, and has Eucharistic allusions, otherwise lacking in the other Synoptics.

But our accepting this sterling Gospel as inspired and by detecting its unique artistic quality, being in the Hebrew tradition of a structured literary composition, we hear the Holy Spirit speaking through Matthew. And Matthew proves himself; if one just lets St. Matthew direct you through St. Matthew he will tell you how to proceed and what to look for. This he does through the traditional (yes, I know) literary techniques with proper prologue and epilogue.

So for starters let us look a little at both prologue and epilogue. The Prologue (Chap. 1:1-18) gives (to the careful student) a subtle directive, a clue for detecting MORE than the surface narrative; the Epilogue (Chap. 28:16-20) summarizes all the preceding content. The Prologue, when carefully attended to, alerts us to the “Heptad” (“7”) as a guiding clue to emphases and more cryptic messages; the Epilogue provides a nuanced summary of Jesus’ final commission to the Church in a sevenfold succinct statement of important elements in the content treated throughout.

But hold on. Here is a practical guide for all readers, even the least academically prepared. Make it your personal experience of the Gospel itself— a guide thereto, by the prayerful practice of the (sevenfold) OUR FATHER— of that digest of the Gospel, “the summary of the whole Gospel”, as Tertullian taught early on. And one really needs no other books or studies for fuller understanding. Don’t forget that we now have The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which ends up with a full treatment of this “Prayer of the Church”— 25 pages and 175 footnotes to explore!

So meditating on the Lord’s Prayer (as well as reciting it) one should view it contextually in its two superimposed contexts: it is a “set-piece” and a centerpiece. This double context offers many fruitful considerations. First, in the historical (ecumenical?) context of a set-piece, it has long been recognized as a variation on the main Jewish prayer, the KADDISH, the yearning for the “coming of the Kingdom”, prayed by all observant Jews in Jesus’ time as now. Secondly, St. Matthew baptizes it, as it were, centering it in the context of his own innovative “Sermon on the Mount” (Chapters 5-7). The first context roots us in our ancestral religion in fellowship with Israel and Jesus’ relatives (Mt. 1:1-18); and the second restarts or continues the ancient covenants with our own rebirth and immersion in the Covenant.

“THY KINGDOM COME” is a common note. But God, hailed familiarly as FATHER, is startlingly innovative. Thus this Gospel (Good News) of Christ as King (for the freely obedient) shows the Shepherd assembling disciples (the kingdom on earth) to present them to the Father, incorporating them in the Kingdom of Heaven, (c.f. Dan. 7: 13-14).

Both this Our Father and St. Matthew’s Gospel are about the Kingdom: the Kingdom of God, “on earth”, the Church, and the Kingdom “as it is in Heaven”.