Monday, 31 March 2008

Nunraw Annunciation

Annunciation of the Lord

Solemnity transferred to Mon. 31 March 2008.

Chapter Sermon by Fr. Mark.

It is a happy coincidence that the feast of the Annunciation sometimes occurs in Easter Time. It serves to remind us that no feast can be separated from the saving deeds of Jesus that we have just celebrated in Holy Week. Each feast of the year truly contains the whole dying and rising mystery of Christ.

During the eight octave days of Easter the gospels continually present us with encounters of the risen Christ with his disciples. The transposed solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary can also fruitfully be interpreted within similar parallel meetings between the divine and the human. What an encounter with God Mary had through the intervention of the angel Gabriel: “The power of the Most High will overshadow you”, Gabriel tells her and she becomes pregnant with Jesus! Her womb is opened and the Son of the Most High, the Saviour, is conceived within her body. This life, nurtured in darkness, bursts forth to be the Light of the world. This life, entombed in Mary’s womb, becomes the risen Lord.

But even so, Mary, the first of the disciples and the mother of God, at first receives the angel’s message as one “greatly troubled” and questions the angel, “How can this be?” – These are surely typical human responses. The gospel account shows us how our ways can be completely changed into the ways of God. What transformed Mary from the frightened and questioning young woman we saw at the encounter with Gabriel into the confident though still reticent but firm believer that we have come to see and treasure in the life of the Church and its tradition? This is the same type of question we have seen being asked of the disciples in the face of the death and then of the resurrection of Jesus. What transformed them from doubting followers to believing disciples? And the ultimate question for us in all of these events is, what transforms us?

The first reading in the Mass of the Annunciation relates to a similar dilemma. God offered Ahaz a sign; Ahaz refuses to ask for one and thereby clutches to his own way of thinking. Mary, in spite of being troubled and with questions in her heart, comes to submit to “the power of the Most High.” Her answer (“I am the handmaid of the Lord”), transforms her. Jesus ends his earthly life by doing his Father’s will, and by offering himself as a sacrifice on the cross for our salvation. This act of self-giving allowed the Father to raise him up. Mary in her acceptance of God’s will anticipated Jesus’ own response to the Father. But it was he who, when he had accepted the Father’s plan of salvation for mankind, gave her earlier response its full significance and purpose.

When our Lady replied to Gabriel’s message from on high: “May it be done to me according to your word,” she begot Jesus in the flesh. When Jesus said to his Father in his final hours, “Let your will be done, not mine.” we were raised us up with him to the heights of heaven.

The dimension of the resurrection, therefore, comes into play when we celebrate Gabriel’s greeting to Mary in this Easter Season. His words, “The Lord is with you” become pregnant with the added and fuller meaning that it is the risen Lord who is with us.

By accepting God’s will in our own lives as both Jesus and Mary did in theirs we will truly encounter the risen Christ. And our Easter Alleluias become our way of saying, with Mary, “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Monday, 24 March 2008

Holy Saturday - POSTSCRIPT

Post Script.

Holy Saturday is not Easter Sunday

Hippolytus, (C4), was as clear as the women, NOT going to the tomb before the end of the Sabbath, when he continued the tradition, “Many of the just, proclaiming the Good News and prophesying were awaiting him who was to become by his resurrection the first born from the dead. And so, to save all members of the human race, whether they lived before the law, under the law, or after his own coming, Christ DWELT THREE DAYS BENEATH THE EARTH.

I was not surprised in the pastoral log jam of Saturday/Sunday Masses to find an excellent Homily on Holy Saturday was to be found NOT on the Saturday but on the SUNDAY Easter Vigil.

A Holy Saturday Homily from the Dominican Website, Dublin, although miscued to the Sunday Easter Vigil, seems to express very well some of the Holy Saturday experience.
This is another example of the progressive foreshortening of Holy Saturday and the precipitating of the Easter-Vigil. Monasteries and religious house seem to better attuned to the Blessing of the Easter Fire to coincide with the Sunday Dawn

Our thanks to the Dominican Fathers for this Homily. (Their Website, “Today’s Good News” has been consistently Biblical and theological in its commentary on the Lectern Gospel of the day).

22 March [Easter Vigil Mass] Mt 28:1-10
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

There is no Eucharist of Holy Saturday. It is the only day of the year when Mass is not celebrated. The altars are stripped bare, tabernacles lie open and empty – an extraordinarily powerful symbol for Catholics. The whole Church is one with Christ in his death. It is necessary to experience this. We have to allow ourselves experience sadness and loss. The Liturgy is a wise teacher.

However, piety immediately negates the power of the empty tabernacle by setting up an altar of repose, much more elaborately decorated with flowers and candles than the high altar ever was. We find it hard to live even for a day with anything that seems like emptiness.

George Steiner, among others, remarked that our world around us today is a kind of prolonged Holy Saturday: the age between Friday and Sunday, between defeat and hope. Today, of all days, the Christian heart feels the darkness of the world, and allows itself to look at the darkness in itself.

The emptiness and darkness that we have allowed ourselves to feel will show us the light of Easter all the more brightly. In the darkness we rise for the Easter Vigil. Against a black sky we light the Easter fire. But this would be a forlorn gesture if Christ were not risen from the dead! Suddenly the Paschal candle is alight. Lumen Christi! – the light of Christ lightens our darkness. Exultet! – “Exult, all creation...! Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of your King.... Darkness vanishes forever...! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God's people!”


Who links to me?

Who links to me?

Sunday, 23 March 2008


Easter Vigil - Abbot’s Homily


As with all the great events of the life of Christ, His Resurrection has many facets. There is an element of Triumph in it; an element of hope; an element of encouragement; but there is also an element of challenge. The element of Triumph is obvious. Christ has triumphed over death. The element of hope is what makes us look forward to our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. The element of encouragement is what gives us strength to fight our own battles during this life. But the element of challenge is another thing. Perhaps, even the main thing.

Let’s look then at the way the doctrine of the Resurrection challenges our faith. I dont mean that it challenges our faith by being something that is hard to believe in. If we believe in the Divinity of Christ there is no problem in believing that he could rise from the dead. Perhaps some of us might find it difficult to believe in our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. That might be a bit of a challenge to some of us. But that is not the main and most pressing challenge of the Doctrine of the Resurrection. One can ignore the doctrine of our own bodily resurrection if one finds it awkward. But there is a challenge in the doctrine of the resurrection which no one can ignore. Whether we like it or not we have to learn to face it. And if we do take it on board we will find it the answer to, and the support for, all the pains and problems of life.

To understand this challenge we must first consider that the Doctrine of the Resurrection is that Christ has triumphed over death and sin on our behalf. Now we can easily see how Christ has triumphed over death and sin personally but how does that triumph affect us? What does it do for us in our own daily struggle with sin and sickness and disease? What triumph can we claim over sickness and death and sin? We who have to live in the middle of it all, while Christ sits in glory on high! What triumph can we claim over the evils of war and plague and famine when they still stalk the earth so powerfully? Indeed, did Jesus himself not warn us that there will always be wars and rumours of war, and sickness and famine? Where is the triumph of the Resurrection then?

The triumph of the resurrection lies precisely in this: That our triumph will be of exactly the same nature as that of Christ. He attained his resurrection only by passing through death. This is not an understanding of the resurrection that we like to ponder on. But it is the only one which makes the resurrection the answer to all our ills. We will rise with Him, only if we are prepared to pass through death with him. And sufferings of this life are, in fact, that “death” through which we must all pass. We must learn to lift up our minds and hearts to where Christ is, seated in his glory, and realise that it is only when we too have passed through all the sufferings and sadnesses of this life, and eventually death itself will we be delivered from them. The ultimate answer to all our ills is this understanding of the meaning of the triumph of resurrection. But the world, of course, wants all its ills healed here and now, and therefore it is bound to find a terrible frustration and disappointed with life. The soul of faith on the other hand, looks to the resurrection as its real hope, the real deliverance from the evils that so beset us in our life in this world. The resurrection is the ultimate answer and the only complete answer And if one does not believe in the resurrection then there is no answer.

Easter blessings from Fr Raymond, Nunraw

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Saturday, 22 March 2008

Holy Saturday 2008

Holy Saturday is not Easter Sunday.

The Liturgical and personal celebration of Holy Saturday conveys more clearly the starkness, the vacancy, the void ness of any kind of assurance of consolation in the dying of Jesus. Even the Cross of Good Friday is stripped away, images are veiled, the Tabernacle lies empty, bells are mute, monks’ make none of the usual choir salutations.
Hans Urs von Balthaser, drawing inspiration from the mystical theologian, Adrienne von Speyr, in whose spirituality plays the Descent into Hell plays a massive part, wrote that he aimed not to leave this neglected article of the Old Roman Creed out of account.
In the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre (Church of the Resurrection) in Jerusalem the Pilgrim’s first ‘welcome is at the marble slab, the Stone of Unction, where in the Orthodox tradition elderly people bring the shroud they hope will be used in their dying hours.
On the facing wall is a mural painting depicting of the scenes of (1) the Descent into Hell, (2) the Anointing of Jesus’ Body, (3) the Entombment.
As the most central basilica of Christendom it is known most popularly and most aptly as the HOLY SEPULCHRE. The silence of Holy Saturday, the ominous emptiness of the tomb, pervades the hours of bereft mourning and a sense of expectation of the unknown. It is not anticipation. Anticipation of Easter Sunday is premature. Holy Saturday is not to be ushered a side Chapel.
It is difficult to accept the full reality of Jesus’ death and descent into hell, even for those few hour of prayer. Not many concentrate on the experience of such a one as Adrienne von Speyr in her union with Christ in his Passion and especially in the mystical entering into the Holy Saturday abyss of god-forsakenness.
Not being able to accept too much reality, it is easier to veer quickly into the more visual and audio perception we create in representations of the more comforting glories of the Resurrection.
Hasty anticipation expresses not Jesus’ utter abandonment in death but the instant anticipation of a triumphant awaking of the dead in a victorious release, rescue and recovery. Even St. John takes a leap forward, “after his resurrection, these came out of the tombs”,
(“Mat 27:51 And suddenly, the veil of the Sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, the rocks were split,
Mat 27:52 the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy people rose from the dead,
Mat 27:53 and these, after his resurrection, came out of the tombs, entered the holy city and appeared to a number of people”).
Our understanding of the question is helped by Joseph Ratzinger who wrote a book called Eschatology:
“God himself suffered and died . . . He himself entered into the distinctive freedom of sinners, but he went beyond it in that freedom of his own love which descended willingly into the Abyss. Here the real quality of evil and its consequences become quite palpable, provoking the question . . . whether in this event we are not in touch with a divine response able to draw freedom, precisely as freedom, to itself. The answer lies hidden in Jesus' descent into Sheol, in the night of the soul which he suffered, a night no one can observe except by entering this darkness in suffering faith . . . It is a challenge to suffer in the dark night of faith, to experience communion with Christ in solidarity with his descent into the Night. One draws near to the Lord's radiance by sharing his darkness”.

Stone of Unction upon which the body of Jesus was anointed.
To the rear a mural, (modern iconography), depicts 3 scenes, the Descent into Hell, far right, the Anointing of Jesus’ Body, the Entombment.

BBelow picture of the Adam Chapel situated farther to the right, under which lies Golgotha.
This mural forms a link from the Adam Chapel to Christ’s Tomb further left.
Note the tradition of the Adam Chapel commemorates the burial site of our common father, Adam, and that on the day of the Crucifixion the blood of the Redeemer fell upon that first guilty head. This has given rise to the custom, mainly in the Greek Church, of representing at the foor of the Crucifies a skull and cross-bones.
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
He summons Adam and his generation,
brings light where darkness endless seemed;
He frees and claims his own, so long held captive
who, with the living, are redeemed.
Hymn Divine Office

Friday, 21 March 2008

Good Friday

It is Easter Sunday that makes Good Friday good.

“The Church invites us to take on the Paschal Fast; the Easter Fast. Our fast is not of penance but of anticipation. We are like a bride or bridegroom fasting before the wedding celebration.
. . .This is a fast of excitement, of anticipation.
. . . Today we are invited to enter the mystery of Christ’s dying on the cross and rising, the mystery of
our baptism”. (Bible Today).

The actor, Jim Caviezel, played Jesus in the film The Passion of the Christ. He described his experience, “I felt like a great presence came within me at times when we were filimg. This prayer that came from me was, ‘I don’t want people to see me. I just want them to see Jesus. And that conversion will happen’. That’s what I wanted more than anything, that people would have a visceral effect to finally make a decision whether to follow him or not”.

Blessed Guerric of Igny Cistercian abbot 4th sermon for Palm Sunday.

"Happy are all who take refuge in him!" (Ps 2,12)

Blessed may he be who let his hands, his feet and side be pierced that I might make my nest “in the clefts of the rock” (Sg 2,14)
may he be who has fully opened himself up to me so that I might go in to the sanctuary of God (cf Ps 42[41],5) and “conceal myself in the shelter of his tent” (Ps 27[26],5). This rock is our refuge… the doves’ sweet place of rest, since the sanctifying holes of those wounds covering his body hold out forgiveness to sinners and grant grace to the just. It is a sure abode, my brethren, “a tower of strength against the enemy” (Ps 61[60],4), when we dwell within the wounds of Christ our Saviour by means of loving and constant meditation, when we seek a sure shelter for our souls in faith and love for the Crucified: a shelter against the rebellion of the flesh, the tempests of the world, the attacks of the devil

The protection of this sanctuary lifts it above all worldly esteem… So enter into this rock, hide yourself…, take refuge in the Crucified… What is the wound in Christ’s side if not the door of the ark, open to all who will be rescued from the flood?
Noah’s ark, however, was only a symbol; here is the reality In this case it is no longer a question of restoring mortal life but of receiving the immortal. Thus it is wholly right that today Christ’s dove, his beautiful one (Sg 2,13-14),… should joyfully sing his praise

From the remembrance or the imitation of the Passion, from meditation on the holy wounds as from the clefts of the rock, his sweetest voice resounds in the Bridegroom’s ears (Sg 2,14).

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Thursday, 20 March 2008

Holy Thursday 2008

Holy Thursday

Jn 13,1-2. - Knowing his time had come . . . . Jesus loved them to the end.

In John’s Gospel there is no account of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

In the first half of this gospel the words ‘life’ and ‘live’ occur 50 times, but not once in Jesus' conversation at the Last Supper. Death is hovering near; there is a tremendously significant mention of darkness: “Judas left...and it was night” (13:30).

In the Last Supper discourse: “Jesus disregards himself and his suffering, and shows only love for his own and compassion for their future trials.

Saint Catherine of Siena, (Letter 129) wrote;

“He does not refuse to take up the burden of suffering laid on him by
his Father; to the contrary, he throws himself into it, spurred on by his
great desire. Isn’t this what he reveals during the Last Supper on Holy
Thursday, when he says: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with
you before I suffer” (Lk 22,15)? By “eat this Passover” he means the
accomplishment of the Father’s will and his desire. Seeing that scarcely
any time lies before him (he was already looking ahead to the end when he
would sacrifice his body for our sake), he rejoices, he is glad and
joyfully says: “I have greatly desired”. Here is the Passover he is

speaking about: that which consists in giving his own self as food, in
laying down his own body in obedience to the Father.

“He does not refuse to take up the burden of suffering laid on him by
his Father; to the contrary, he throws himself into it, spurred on by his
great desire. Isn’t this what he reveals during the Last Supper on Holy
Thursday, when he says: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with
you before I suffer” (Lk 22,15)? By “eat this Passover” he means the
accomplishment of the Father’s will and his desire. Seeing that scarcely
any time lies before him (he was already looking ahead to the end when he
would sacrifice his body for our sake), he rejoices, he is glad and
joyfully says: “I have greatly desired”. Here is the Passover he is
speaking about: that which consists in giving his own self as food, in
laying down his own body in obedience to the Father”.

“. . . you also ought to wash one another's feet”. Again Jesus is saying, “Do this in memory of me.” He is present. It is a “real presence” in even the humblest service. In this too; it is a kind of Eucharist when our least service is given to each other. Jesus' words are the all time model of humble service [washing their feet] and of prayer (ch. 17), - real presence of grace.

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Saturday, 15 March 2008

Good Thief on the Cross

Eve of PASSION Sunday
Hi, William,

On this eve of PASSION (Palm) Sunday, thank you for your Poem on Jesus’ 3rd Word from the Cross, “This day you will be with me in Paradise”, Lk. 23:39-43.

You gently assume the place of the ‘Good Thief’ in your prayerful reflection, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.

It is the Son of Man who plumbs the Dream of Paradise. He Himself is your guide.

Jesus sees the Good Thief, the Jews and each one of those witnessing the Passion from his awareness of their limited understanding, “they do not know”.

In his response to the Good Thief he carries us into the untold depths of his heart – the perception f divine love sparked off by the simple unknowing Dismas.

May your Poem bring blessings to those who pray their way through the Great Week.


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __

The Dream of Paradise
In the Passion we discover ourselves in Christ Jesus in his unguarded humanity exposed to the power of evil. If we may be one with him in his utter poverty1 we must surrender our self-will and abandon ourselves to divine love, journeying through the darkness of our own estrangement to the centre of our being, that we may discover our divine essence in God’s immanent Word in the light of the Resurrection. Transcending ourselves, we are to become as the Good Thief in his moment of confession that we may awaken in the presence of Uncreated Love, the Dream of Paradise.

1Philippians 2:6-8
Luke 23:43 “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”

I love to dream the Dream of Paradise
As I journey with You along the path to Calvary
By ways unknown leading to the centre of my being,
To the discovery of the divine essence of my soul.

I cannot see beyond the cruel image of the Cross,
The tree that was destined to bear fruit for the living, 1
For all descends into darkness as evil eclipses the sun
At the hour when You contend with Adam’s desolation. 2

As the sun emerges from behind the arc of evil,
Shadows at the core of my being surrendering
I remain, transfixed before the silhouette of the lifeless Cross
No longer bearing the broken figure of my crucified Lord.

Beside the hallowed tree I hear Your Voice upon the evening air 3
Calling to me from far beyond the misery of my nakedness4
To share in the eternal perfection of the Divine Unity of All Being,
To awaken in the presence of Uncreated Love, the Dream of Paradise.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Genesis 3: 22 [1], 23 [2], 8 [3], 10 [4]
Hosea 6:2 “After two days He will revive us, on the third day
He will raise us up and we shall live in His presence”

William W.

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Anam Cara

John O’Donohue (1956-2008)
Rest in Peace

Hi, Christina,
I remember that you had the good fortune, not many years ago, of being in Glendalough, for a seminar on Celtic Spirituality. The resounding voice in this re-discovery and renewal of interest was, of course, John O’Donohue in his classic “Anam Cara”.
We are saddened to learn that John O’Donohue (1956-2008) has died.

You will be interested with the Links to be found with the News of John’s death. The Anam Cara Website and the Blog of Carl McColman. See below.

Today, since he is the Patron Saint of Scotland, we are celebrating the transferred Solemnity of St. Joseph.

Palm Sunday has almost begun for you in Australia. I wish you all the graces of the Great Week and the joy of the Resurrection at Easter,


John O’Donohue (1956-2008)

(From Carl McColman) “I am saddened to have learned of the passing of John O’Donohue, author of Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, this past Thursday. He died peacefully in his sleep while on holiday in France. Read the announcement on his website.

In 1999 I had the privilege to interview him for a book industry trade publication; you can read the interview here.

He was not only one of the most articulate voices of living Celtic Christianity and Celtic wisdom, but he also had a clear grasp of the beauty of Christian mysticism as well. He was a trained philosopher with a prodigious intellect. He was the only person I’ve ever met who could effortlessly and lyrically weave together allusions to Martin Heidegger, Meister Eckhart, and the Tuatha Dé Danann in a single sentence.

Rest in peace, John O’Donohue. Walk gladly in the light of Tir na n’Og”.


Great Source of Celttic Spirituality.

Usual http Web at: -

Blogger Carl McColman (that's me) is the author of several books including The Aspiring Mystic and 366 Celt.

See Link with Cistercian Abbey of Holy Spirit, Conyers, Atlanta, US.

There are at least six books of John O’Donohue list on Amazon.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Annual Way of the Cross

Annual Parish Pilgrimage for Lent.

9th March 2008 Parishioners from Roswell, Bonnyrigg and Gorebridge made their Annual Way of the Cross for Lent at Nunraw. They came well clad for the open air procession trek on the south avenue from the Guest-house to the abbey. As they passed the farm animals seemed as much interested in the people as much as the people were interested in them – distraction from devotion or love of the Lord’s creatures? We credit the establishment of the outdoor Stations of the Cross to the members of these parishes. They began this Lenten practice at first by simple choosing their own locations along the route. Later the asked to make the Stations more permanent. They commissioned a local blacksmith, different families sponsored each of iron-wrought Crosses, The crosses are simply numbered, 1st to 14th without any figures attached. (A 15th is added painted in gold, looking to the Resurrection). Now Retreatants can also avail of this prayer in motion going up the avenue and on through the farmyard.

The 12th Station

After some years, one of these visitors noticed a strange sight at the 12th Station. Beside this Station of the Crucifixion she notice, on the bulky trunk of the overhanging beech tree some marking on the bark. From the small cross on the road edge, looking at the bowl of the tree there is the distinctive outline of the cross and figure of the Crucified Saviour. It is as if nature has added its own etching to the contribution of the people who set the Crosses.

The procession then continues on the Abbey for monks regular Office of Vespers. It is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Finally the Abbot gives a Lenten talk for reflection.

This year his theme took up the Raising of Lazarus and a moving reflection on the contrast of the role of Martha and Mary. In a surprising way he also followed a Lent journey by seeing a correspondence of this story with the EIGHTH WORD of the Cross, as he called it.

Talk by Abbot Raymond

He Wants to See You.

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is perhaps the climax of all Jesus’ healing miracles. It comes at the climax of his public life; it is the most dramatically performed of them all – we might even call it the most theatrical, with all the crowds gathered round and the sisters in tears and even Jesus himself weeping and groaning. Then the command to remove the stone; then the loud cry: “Lazarus, come forth” and so on. But for me there has always been one little detail in that story, a detail I have never understood, yet it always strikes me as very strange and very significant. Why did Mary stay at home when Martha ran to meet Jesus? Why did Jesus have to send Martha back to tell her that he wanted to see her?

When he did arrive, eventually, four days after Lazarus had been laid in the tomb, it was Martha, as we have been considering, who ran to meet him. Mary stayed on at home. Why? We might have thought that Mary, being the personification of the contemplative soul, the one whose love prompted her to anoint the Lord’s feet with precious ointment and wipe his feet with her hair; surely she would be the most eager to run to meet him. But no, it was Martha who ran first. Not that Martha’s first words to Jesus were any different from those of Mary when she did come: “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” So we are left with the puzzle: Why did Mary stay at home?

We might understand Mary’s behaviour if we consider her as being the more contemplative and introvert of the two sisters. Perhaps therefore, although she might feel the grief more keenly, yet she was more able to support it and bear it with her own inner strength. Martha, on the other hand was more extrovert; she wore hear heart on her sleeve. If she was angry she just had to show it: “Tell my sister to help me instead of just sitting there!” If she was heartbroken and uncomprehending she just had to run and tell the Lord. “If only you had been here my brother would not have died!”

Surely there is a deep meaning in all this. Surely God has something important to teach us in this. In the first Martha-Mary story it is Mary who comes out tops. She is the one who chose the better part, but in this story it is Martha who shines, she knows what to do. The lesson Jesus wants to convey is seen best in Martha and, as in the first story, it is precisely the contrast between the behaviour of the two which brings out the lesson.

From this point of view the climax of the story, the punch line of the lesson, is contained in the words of Jesus to Martha when he tells her to call Mary because he wants to see her. “Jesus is here and He wants to see you!” Martha told her. From these words Mary learns that no matter how heroic and accepting she is of Lazarus death, Jesus wants her to understand that it is better for her to give full human expression to her grief. She is not an angel, but a human being of flesh and blood. There are times when we must wear our hearts on our sleeves and give full expression to our grief before the Lord. He doesn’t mind if we let him know how hurt we are. It brings us closer to him. He doesn’t mind if we complain and ask him why this has to be.

This lovely little story is Jesus’ way of saying to Mary and to us all: “There are times when you mustn’t hide your feelings from me; no more than you would hide them from your dearest friend on earth. In the first Martha-Mary story it was Mary who chose the better part, but in this story it is obviously Martha who chose the better part. In the first story it was Mary who best understood the heart of the Master; in the second story it was Martha who best understood the heart of the Master.

Let us wear our hearts on our sleeves. This wearing of our heart in our sleeve also comes into our Lent as we come near Holy week. It can be seen in another story. It is one of the last words of Jesus corresponding to telling Mary ‘COME’. We know of the SEVEN Words on the Cross but there was another saying, just before he went to the Cross. He turned to the women of Jerusalem and he said, “Weep not for me, weep for yourselves and your children”. Did he mean that? Don’t week for me. There is a tremendous lesson in that.

Compassion in the Passion.
Eighth Last Words

We often speak of the Seven Last words of Jesus; the last words he spoke while hanging on the Cross:

1. “Woman, behold your Son” “Behold your Mother”
2 Father, forgive them. They know not what they do”
3 “This day you will be with me in Paradise
4 “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
5 “I thirst!”
6 “It is accomplished”
7 “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.”

However we might add an eighth last saying; one pronounced, not while hanging from the cross, but while on his way to the Cross. The words he spoke to the women of Jerusalem: “Weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children.”

These words say so much about the mystery of the cross and, in their own way are a complete description of the mind and heart of Christ in his passion.

As we look on him hanging on the Cross we should see, not just the sufferings of Christ alone, but, in him, the sufferings of the whole human race from Adam to Eternity. The nails are not just in the hands and feet of the Saviour, but in the hands and feet of all suffering humanity.

Don’t weep for me but for yourselves and for your children, he said. There must be some tremendous lesson in that. I think it is this that is the lesson, and it is very closely related to the story we have of Mary and Martha.
He is saying, “I am going to hang on the cross for you and yet the nails in my hands and feet are not really in MY hands and feet. The nails are in your hands and feet, in the hands and feet of your children. It is not my cross. It is your cross, down all the centuries. So he sees the suffering of all his children. And he had to take in that. So his Passion and the suffering was not so much FOR us as WITH us. And he wants us to weep for each other, not so much for Christ as for all those who suffering. It is their cross. Jesus could have loosened himself from the cross and come down.. But you and I can’t. --- and that of the children and the sons of men. We cannot escape it. We might struggle against it, may fight against it but the nails will only tear us the more.

Jesus knows this. Because he wants our compassion to reach out through all our brothers and sisters. And in the past, and in the future and in the resent.

“Weep not for me but for yourselves and your children”, and let me see that weeping, that it be a weeping of compassion, as my Passion was the suffering of compassion.

Our Faith is a Faith of joy indeed, but as long as this world is so full of sadness and suffering, then a sense of compassion can never be far from our minds. And this is not a compassion that dampens our joy, but one which keeps it peacefully in due proportion.

When Jesus said: “Weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children”, he really meant it. Let us learn to respect the sincerity of his words and take them really at their face value.


Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Fr Hugh's Golden Jubilee at St. Mary's

Fr. Hugh, who celebrated his Golden Jubilee with Abbot Raymond, was invited to mark the happy occasion at St. Mary's, Haddington, where he helped when our local PP, Canon J. Friel, was on vacation. In his Homily (below) he speaks of his first leanings to the monastic life when he was an Anglican. His strong preaching voice still resonates with Anglican the clergyman delivery that was familiar to him from boyhood. A good Military Chaplain helped him and other young soldiers aspiring to the ministry during his National Service. While posted in Singapore he happened to visit the Catholic Cathedral. Nothing impressed him so much as the very poor people coming in and spending time in prayer in the Church. It led eventually his becoming a Catholic, and later, his being directed to the monastic life at Prinknash Abbey and subsequently entering Nunraw. Early on among his tasks in the monastery, he acquired considerable skill as the monastic tailor and continues to make the monastic garments. This very practical accomplishment was to be very helpful in the new Foundation when he spent several stints in Nigeria, 2001-2006.

Fr. Hugh Randolph – Golden Jubilee of Priesthood
Anniversary Mass in Haddington.

In thinking of the priesthood we should think first of all of Christ's Priesthood. There is only one priest, one mediator in the Christian Faith as Pastor Glass of happy memory reminded us once at the Haddington Pilgrimage. He was quite correct but he failed to see that it is the whole Christ who is involved; Christ the head and the entire Mystical Body in a secondary and dependent way – the Royal Priesthood. The good news about the Gospel is that Christ came not just to give his life for us but to give his life to us. ‘I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly’. A priest is a bridge-maker, a mediator and it is only Christ who could achieve this since he alone is truly God and truly man. God the Father loves the Son with an infinite love and ourselves as members of the Son. Jesus returns this love in eternally representing but never repeating the sacrifice of Calvary. We are joined to that. Every prayer in the liturgy concludes with the words ‘Through Jesus Christ Our Lord’. The fullest expression of this is to be found in the doxology of every Eucharistic Prayer: ‘Through Him, in Him , with Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours Almighty Father for ever and ever’.

Every Christian is called to the highest holiness; all of us are called to share in Christ priesthood by virtue of our baptism and confirmation: 'You are a priestly people a people set apart', - all of us by our prayers, especially at Holy Mass. We proclaim the good news, usually in a quiet but very effective way by the quality of our lives. The faith and the whole Christian life-style is a gift of God's love.

Most of us experience love in the bosom of our family homes. We experience love from our parents and this is our first encounter with a God who is love. We are first told about Jesus from our parents and shown how to pray. This is surely something to be thankful for on this Mothers' Sunday.

The ordained Priesthood - no need to stress the great need to stress the, shortage at .the present time -exists to serve the priesthood of all believers, the royal priesthood.

I have been asked to say what it means to be a priest in a contemplative community. I was prepared for Anglican Confirmation when I was about 14 years of age. I was a bit of a rebel in those days and I disliked the High Church’s rather Romish ideas the Anglican Clergyman was putting across, but there was one point he made which impressed me very much at the time and for which I have always been profoundly grateful. 'A Monastery is a house of prayer, we may not be able to understand this but its efficacy is very great' That was the beginning of my monastic vocation. It is within this context that a monk priest exercises his ministry. To provide the sacraments for his brethren, to give pastoral help to guests and visitors and in, a very limited way to do supply in a local parish. Our doing this here in Haddington has surely been a boon for both of us. Our very happy relationship and mutual support is something which I give thanks for today.

Over the years I have formed certain convictions about pastoral service as a result of one to one contact which I might be allowed to share with you.

The first is that the demands and challenges of the vocation to Christian marriage is very frequently more difficult than the monastic life.
Secondly, people who go seriously off the rails and then come back often end up very close to God. You cannot serve other people unless you love them and God loves them however much they have transgressed. It can be very stimulating to have contact with such people because you see how the grace of God works in peoples lives,

Finally, the role of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord said 'When you stand before Kings and Governors do not plan your defence beforehand, because in that day what you should say will be told you’. We don’t stand before Kings and Governors but have to try and help people in all sorts of difficult cases. It is hopeless to think you know all the answers. One knows the principles but how to express them in different circumstances, this is a delicate matter. A Priest is called to be an instrument of Christ's love, his truth and his joy. It is good to pray to the Holy Spirit before pastoral activity, confession etc: this is something which is available to us


Monday, 10 March 2008

David Gemmell R.I.P.

Mgr. David GEMMELL (54),
Administrator of the St. Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, has died, (6 March 2008).

A school friend of his Emailed me to look at the Cathedral Website of Tributes.
I was grateful to her for letting me know and impressed at the wide spontanious response already made. An amazing number of Tributes to this much loved friend and priest can be read and personal pictures viewed. To date there are some 70 heart rending messages of condolence. The Cardinal's Personal Tribute expresses how closely he worked and served the Church together with David.
We are immediately aware of just how indispensable Mgr. Gemmell had become to the his people. Thought of the needs of the Archdiocese, of the burdens of the Cardinal, may seem to outweigh the memory of the one who has gone to the Lord.
There is the story of the elderly Abbot showing special guests around the monastery. At some point he would come to the monastic cemetery and he would point to the graves saying, "This place is full of indispensable people". It is a reminder that the Lord calls in God's time. One is never more indispensable than to the Lord when he calls us to Himself.

Abbot Raymond and the community at Nunraw were greatly saddened by the news of David’s sudden death.
At the Archdiocesan Justice & Peace Lent Retreat at Nunraw on Saturday 8th March, our sorrow at David's passing was shared by those present, and prayers were offered for his soul. We remenbered his sorrowing mother and extend our sympathy to her and his brothers and sisters.
May he rest in peace.

J&P at Nunraw

Fr. Chris S.J.

Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh
8-Mar-08 Lent Day Retreat
Archdiocesan “Justice and Peace”

directed by Fr. Chris Boles S.J.

Lenten Day of Recollection, Nunraw Abbey, 8 March 2008.

Over 100 persons gathered for this annual event of J&P. Nunraw was the chosen venue this year. Shortage of floor space was resolved by opening the doors of the adjoining Chapel.
11.00 - Welcome, Fr. Donald, Guest-master - Main Lounge
Opening Prayer & First Reflection Session - Fr Boles
Options for the times and places of meeting and prayer made for a varied and rich day of Retreat.
Walking in the grounds
Taize Room
Presentation by Elizabeth Rimmer on the Luchair project in the Abbey Tea Room

1.30 Second Reflection Session - Fr Donald

Options etc
Outdoor Stations of the Cross from Nuraw House to the Abbey – lead by Sr. Jeanette
2.50 Gather in the Abbey Church
3.00 Mass – Fr. Chris. Boles, S.J.
4.00 Departures.

2nd Talk – Fr. Donald, Nunraw Guesthouse.

1. Way of the Cross - Nunraw

Thank you for the joy you bring by entering into this Lent Justice and Peace Day of Retreat. Your successors here tomorrow will actually be the parishioners from the combined Rosewell, Bonnyrigg & Gorebridge Parishes. So if you see the black iron-wrought crosses for the Stations of the Cross, these were first initiated by those people way back. After some years making their annual Way of the Cross on the avenue, they wanted to make it more permanent and so the families sponsored each Cross and commissioned their local blacksmith to forge the Crosses as you see them on your own Pilgrimage today.

The 12th STATION. The sun is now shining so it will be dry. So, for the brave hearted making the Stations, I would like to point out something interesting. The Crosses are very simple, with any figures on them. But on the 12th Station, which of course is the Crucifixion, above the little cross is a large beech tree. If you look closely up at the trunk of the tree there is a natural etching in the bark - appearing like the figure of Christ on the Cross, and over it a kind of canopy – quite remarkable! That is just something in passing. But coming to our journey for Lent, I could even bring you on a mini-pilgrimage to Mt. Sinai.

2. Icon of Christ of Mount Sinai

On one wall of this room here is one of the treasures that I brought back with me from the monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mt. Sinai. And it is the picture of the CHRIST OF MT. SINAI.

The figure and the detail is quite striking. I have made some reproduction for later. Apart from the numerous commentaries on the details, (e.g. On His right hand. Three fingers touch representing His Divinity, and two fingers are up to symbolize that He is fully God and fully Man, the forefinger bent for His Incarnation. His face is not symmetrical but has a look of dignity and calmness on one side and a different look of arching of the eyebrows causing enlivenment on the other. These dissimilar but complimentary impressions strike a harmony between the Divine and Human Natures of Christ), the commentary that interests me most, if you can look towards the picture, is the Icon of Christ, the Pantocrator, holding out the Word, the Gospel Book. But the most interesting feature for me is the face showing one side in light with the eye open and bright and joyful, whereas the other side of the face is in shadow and, if you look closely, there is actually a tear in Jesus eye. The Icon is expressing suffering and the Passion on the one hand and joy and the Resurrection on the other. Wonderful! And to think how this 6th century Icon has been preserved by the ideal climate and in the lack of the 8th and 9th century’s iconoclastic persecution in that area.

It was something special to bring with me from Mt. Sinai. That was part of the good fortune which brought me to the Holy Land on a Sabbatical. I joined the Scripture Formation Course at the Ecce Homo centre run by the Sisters of Sion in the Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem. The site of the trial by Pontius Pilate, “Behold the Man”. (The 3rd Station at the "Ecce Homo" Arch).

We were taken to Mt. Sinai as a group from the Course and I can remember vividly the climb at Mt. Sinai in the Arabian Desert, elevation some 5500 ft. When we got there we had prepared to rise at 3 o’clock in the morning to begin the climb. Everything that could go wrong will go wrong on these ascents. I was feeling dreadful. If I had not been chivied to keep going by another Abbot who was with us there is no knowing what would have happened to my expedition of a life-time. So we got out at 3 o’clock in the dark. The pilgrims who had gone before us had taken all the camels. Our Guides, on foot, set off at a great pace. Before long I was left with a good Sister from Canada. We were quickly so exhausted that we sat down. And, lo and behold, two camels arrived back from an earlier trip. Undaunted we mounted the camels. That was another hair-raising experience with every bone being shaken and feeling dizzy on the cliff edge path up as the camels seemed to turn up their noses in distain at the shear distance below us. At the destination, other fit members were there before us, giving the final help over the rocks of the summit. Then we watched for the Dawning of the Sun over Mt. Sinai. It was a moving moment. I was privileged to concelebrate and give the Homily at the Mass which followed. (I’ll have to look up the script of that historic Mass).

After a mountain top early breakfast opposite Elijah’s Chapel, the brave ones, including the Sister in Charge, Australian, wanted to tackle the complete summit. The rest of us headed downhill. Before many minutes the whole cavalcade came after us carrying Sister Rosalie. She had broken her leg. The camel drivers were equipped with splints for such eventualities. So that was a sample of the Mt. Sinai experience.

3. Jerusalem

Talking of Justice and Peace, and returning to Jerusalem, I was later traveling to our monastery of Latroun. I just got on a public bus, against which we had been warned because of so many bombings. I got on this bus going to Latroun near Emmaus, the place which commemorates Jesus encountered the two companions on Easter Day. There was an empty seat beside me. This young Israeli stood and looked at me, I was wearing a glorious beard at the time, and he said, “You must be Moses come down from Sinai”. Well I said, “You are not far wrong because I have just come back from Mt. Sinai and we should all be bringing peace”. He sat down and was pleasantly loquacious. His parents had come from Tunisia and chatting away there, he said he was a Jew but not very observant but he could not agree with all the killing. He though everyone, Israeli or Palestinian should live in peace. I thought to myself, well there speaks the voice of the average young person in the street. The same would apply listening to young Palestinians.

And of course the situation in Israel keeps evolving day by day very painfully. It is as we pray for Justice and Peace that the situation in the Middle East becomes very vivid.

4. Camboni Calendar. Thinking of the Christ of Sinai, there is a whole Website on the Expressions on the Face of Christ. There are various images and icons of the face of Christ. A very striking one is a painting used in the Camboni Missionary Calendar for this March.

It is not so grand and symbolic as the Christ of Mt. Sinai or as mystical as the Cross of John of the Cross by Salvador Salve. This one is very different. It portrays Christ draped in a garment of the Resurrection with the marks of the wounds very clear on his hands and feet. Before him are two crosses against a map of South America.

Christ arms are raised out NOT on the Cross, He is now Risen, but He moves to a figure nailed to a large Cross in the guise of plantation worker. Jesus lifts up his arms towards to him as if to embrace and take him down. On the second Cross is a young labouring woman, her hands likewise pierced on the Cross, her face full of suffering.
There is lettering in the background of the painting expressing every aspect of Justice and Peace.

On the one side; Justice, Life, Witness, on the other; Hope, Dignity, Solidarity.

It is a simple theme and its message speaks to our hearts of the countless situations of oppression, exploitation and suffering and of the compassion of Christ’s that we endeavour to share in this time of Lent.

4. Paradise Island or Poverty Island

We can hardly open a Newspaper today without encountering these situations in all their agonizing detail. Just to take a random example. One of my sisters is a Missionary Sister in Australia. She is assigned to a place called Palm Island, an offshore island off Queensland. Good for her you might say, this place of lush vegetation, a stunning tropical paradise. In fact the story is heart rending. In 1918 the Australian Government set up a Aboriginal settlement on the island , uprooting people from their native places and creating a social disaster situation. Paradise Island has become Poverty Island in terms of levels of income, security, quality of life, rates of suicide and alcoholism, and the most telling barometer; 95% unemployment. In 2004 violent riots erupted when a young aboriginal man died in custody of the Australian police.

But at last there is light on the horizon. On the 13 February 2008, following elections in Australia, the new Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd (he of note in the Kyoto agreement) has apologise on behalf of the Goverrnment and the nation to the Aborigine people for the horrors of the Stolen Generations.

One could go on with reference to tragedy in another beautiful country, Kenya. We can thank God that wiser council has prevailed there and another mass pogrom avoided.

5. J&P and Prayer

So as we come together to celebrate a Lent Day of Retreat under the banner of Justice and Peace we cannot BUT feel the overlapping of our thoughts on the Cross
and on the sufferings of our Brothers and sisters in so many situations and places of war, violence and strife.

The fact that you are here in such a large response to the Notice for of the Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Members is an indication of the sense of aptness of entering into the Lent spirit in this active practical way.

It is a meeting point of spirit and body – in both of which, love of God and love of neighbour, we grow in the spirituality, the truth of our Faith on the one hand, and grow in the dept of our understanding of the suffering of our brothers and sisters.

Lent gives us a sense of urgency, not to say enthusiasm, for sharing in the Cross of Christ as it presents itself in every guise.

But to pause there for a moment, let us reflect that we are not going to departmentalize our thoughts or our lives today, not going to pigeonhole the Cross of Jesus in an attic for theology, and our activity for Peace and Justice in some specialised workshop.

Jesus does not know any such division of labour. Facing his critics he states, “Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working and I also am working”.
And the fierce reaction to those simple words, “For this reason they were seeking to KILL him, because he was calling God his Father”.
That really set his critics in a rage, calling ‘God his own Father’.
Now to give them their due, his critics DID UNDERSTAND the point, taking the full significance of saying God was his Father. They got the point so powerfully that they wanted to KILL him. I ask you – does it mean all that to each of us – having either to KILL or to Die for the truth of Jesus revelation of Himself, of the Father to me? It is much easier just to meander around the point. Do I feel deeply what Jesus is saying?

But the challenge, the MYSTERY is there. As we proclaim each day at the Consecration of the Mass, MYSTERIUM FIDEI (Let us proclaim the mystery faith).

The word for ‘god’ of the Gospels is not expressed by such words as Prime Mover, or Emanation or Life Force. The language that Jesus uses is that of human relationships lifting our poor minds to the language of divine relationships. Jesus spoke of God as his Father.. And the Father called him his Son: “a voice from heaven said “This is my beloved Son”. (Mt 3:17; 17:5). In World Religions, aspirations to supreme deities, were hard to maintain and tended to evaporate into thin air. They were too remote. More proximate versions of gods filled pantheons of idols.

But for the Christian; God does not evaporate into total generality but become, IN CHRIST, one of ourselves.

Here the Mystery of the Incarnation really TOUCHES us in every sense. “It is what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands” (1Jn 1;1) The utter physicality of it is tangible. And even emotionally ‘it plucks our heart-strings’. Even the word Incarnation is incomplete and best uttered in the Biblical language, “Word made flesh”. It is hard if not impossible to keep it all in focus. It would be easy if the Holy Spirit were to come up with some kind of Digital Camera. Instead of Faith we would have some supernatural automatic view finding, automatic depth of focus, and simply point and shoot. It is only by prayer that we can keep our full sense of our spiritual inheritance.

But to go back to the swing of the pendulum in Jesus words. He speaks both of God his Father and of his Father still working as He also is working. It was put very aptly by John Ruskin,“God is a kind Father. He sets us all in the places where he wishes us to be employed, and that employment is truly “Our Father’s Business”. The words of that Victorian Art and Social critic could almost serve as a neat formula, to do our Father’s business. And it suggests the right idea. But how do we fully integrate our understanding of the relationship of the Father with our performance and our working life in practice? Of course we pray every morning and constantly at every level, mostly unconscious I would guess, “Thy will be done”. How do we integrate our prayer and our work.

6. Public Ministry – Inner Ministry

Maybe at this point in Lent we might begin to feel a self conscious anxiety urges us on to additional activities. I was hearing of the very fervent sisters of a Congregation of Sisters in Korea. Vocations and charitable activities are thriving.

Their Mother General, at the end of a Visitation to the Province had a word of warning to them about so many good works and advised them not to become work-alcoholics. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta had something to say on the same topic. Sometimes it takes a Saint or Mystic to make it simple for us.

On the Third Sunday of Lent the Gospel Reading was of that beautiful picture of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well and telling her that he is thirsty. Those words early in his Public Ministry will be echoed at the end with His words on the Cross, “I thirst”. What we call ‘the Public Ministry’ is equally ‘the Inner Ministry’. That Inner Ministry was well understood by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta when she wrote the letter, her “Spiritual Testament” which she addressed to all her Community.

"Give me a drink"

Jesus’ words “I thirst” (Jn 19,28), written on the wall of all our chapels, are not something from the past but are alive, here and now; they are spoken for you. Do you believe this? If you do, you will understand and feel his presence. Let him be as intimately within you as he is in me; that is the greatest joy you could give me. I will try and help you to understand this but Jesus himself is the only one who can say to you “I thirst!”
Listen to your own name.
And not just once. Every day. If you listen with your heart, you will hear, you will understand. Why did Jesus say: “I thirst”? What is its meaning? It is very difficult to explain it in words… Nevertheless, if you could grasp one, single thing from this letter,
let it be this: “I thirst” is an even more profound word than if Jesus had simply said “I love you”.

So long as you fail to realise, and in a deeply intimate way, that Jesus thirsts for you, you cannot possibly know what it is he wants to be for you, nor what he wants you to be for him.

The heart and soul of the Missionaries of Charity consists entirely in this: the thirst of Jesus’ heart, hidden in the poor.

This alone is at the origin of all that makes up our life. It sets before us both the goal … and the spirit of our Congregation.

To quench the thirst of Jesus living among us is the entire justification for our existence and our exclusive goal. Is there anything more than this we could say about ourselves, namely, that this is our sole motive for living.

I think that is a wonderful Testament of living integration of prayer and works of charity. If prayer is conversation with God then we are also going to talk to him about our activities. Catherine of Genoa had a great saying. It was quoted in our Annual Retreat given by Fr. Gerry Hughes, S.J. Catherine of Genoa said, “God has nothing else to do with God’s time but to look after me”.

7. Conclusion

If I can bring what I have been saying in this half hour full circle, it is as if the script for this Lent Day of Justice and Peace was laid out in the Vatican II’s “The Church in the Modern World”. This morning I came on these words from the Office of Readings under the heading, ‘All human activity will be purified by the Paschal Mystery’.

The Word of God … assures those who trust in the charity of God that the way of love is open to all men and that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood will not be in vain. This love is not something reserved for important matters, but must be exercised above all in the ordinary circumstances of daily life.

Christ's example in dying for us sinners teaches us that we must carry the cross, which the flesh and the world in conflict on the shoulders of all who seek after justice and peace

Constituted Lord by his resurrection and possessing all authority in heaven and on earth, Christ is now at work in the hearts of men by the power of his Spirit”.