Friday, 15 August 2008

The Assumption BVM

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15. 2008)

Abbot Raymond - Abbey Mass

If we compare Mary’s title as Mother of God with the privilege of her bodily Assumption into heaven then it is obvious that it is a greater thing to be Mother of God than to be bodily assumed into heaven. There can be no comparison. To be Mother of the Word incarnate is, in an absolute way, greater than any of the other graces with which Mary was favoured. All her other privileges were either a preparation for this or a consequence of this.

However, one thing can be greater than another in one way and yet less than another in another way. For instance one thing can be more beautiful than another yet less useful; more flexible than another yet less strong, and so on. So there is a point of view from which Mary’s Assumption has its own pre-eminence in her destiny. Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven was the climax, the rounding off, the completion of her earthly existence; the icing on the cake, as it were.

In saying that we are considering the Assumption as a personal privilege of Mary, but there is another viewpoint of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. We can look on it not just as something personal to Mary but also as something which is intimately connected with the destiny of us all. Not that we can all hope for a bodily assumption into heaven after we die, but Mary’s bodily assumption, like the ascension of Christ himself, is a kind of pledge and guarantee of the ultimate destiny of our own body of flesh and blood. Christ, the New Adam, has entered the New Paradise, of which the Old Paradise was just a foreshadowing, and Mary, the New Eve, has been given to him as his first companion in the fullness of her humanity.

When the doctrine of the Assumption was first defined, our separated brethren asked, “Where is this in Scripture? We can’t believe what is not in Scripture”. But we can answer that this wonderful event in the history of God’s dealings with his children is well prepared for in Holy Scripture. The mind of faith is prepared for it by such events as the lifting up of Elijah from this earth in the fiery chariot. We are prepared for it by the disappearance from this earth of the bodies of Enoch and Moses for example. But by far the most important foreshadowing of Mary’s Assumption takes place in the very first chapters of Genesis where it is said of the first Adam: “It is not good for Man to be alone”. There were plenty of other living creatures around, but none “like unto himself” to share his life with him on a fully human level. So too surely it must be with the New Adam in the new Paradise. There are plenty of angels and spirits of the just there too but, for the fullness and perfection of all that beauty and truth, he needs one by his side who can share his life in the fullness of his human nature, body as well as spirit. Yes even for the New Adam in the New Paradise “It is not good for Man to be alone”.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008



Birthday 13th August

Email from William:
“What a delight sharing Thomas Merton's journal!
At the office my successor is on and off the internet between jobs, . . .and extends his meanderings to me, he looks up anything he can get me to talk about... one being Thomas Merton. He copied down for me the photo (below) of the flyleaf of a first edition of "No Man is an Island", signed by the author and the Abbot of Gethsemane. Can you make out the words on the rubber stamp?
I have printed it as a bookmark for my 'Sign of Jonas'! (William).”

Reply to William:

Your fascinating flyleaf from ‘No Man Is An Island’ and the stamp of Abbot James Fox, "All for Jesus -Thro Mary - With a Smile" reminded me of Abbot Malachy and his Pectoral Cross. I thought he used the same text but I have found Ab. Malachy's Cross and you will see from the photographs that it is a variation of the same theme. “ + Per Jesum ad Mariam.”

There must be a story to the Gethsemani version – my guess is that it originated with Abbot Frederick Dunn from a memorable Annual Retreat given to the community. It is now listed among ‘’.

It was my birthday today, 13the August.

Yesterday I was away for a cousin’s funeral. At 74, one of our helpers wryly commented that I have many cousins’ funerals and have now run out of Grannies. . .!!

A Birthday is a time to make a new resolution. And already to hand was William’s question about the rubber stamp of Abbot James at Gethsemani.

So what better birthday resolution than, "All for Jesus -Thro Mary - With a Smile".

There were five young children and their parents and their Grannie among those at the Mass this morning. So I will try to speak “with a smile” and not with a glum face.

Also a Birthday is a good time for a change of gear, and that was presented to me in the Gospel commentary by Saint Cyprian on Mt.18,15-20
«I am there in the midst of them»
There is a telling little phrase in the Eucharistic Prayer,

"Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church."
St. Cyprian’s words seem to lift the whole perspective from both a mercenary view of answer to prayers and an individualist outlook. If ‘the two or three are united in prayer’, they are the Church. Look not on our sins but on the FAITH, the prayer, the love of the Church.

As St. Bernard believed when he was counselling a monk who said that he had lost his Faith, he said that the Faith of the community, of the Church, makes up for the darkness of the monk tempted to unbelief..

St. Cyprian's are the words of a Saint who had that great perspective of the living Church. Hence my quote below:

"The Lord said: "If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

These words prove that much is given not to the mere number but to the unanimity of those who pray. "If two of you agree on earth," he says, putting unanimity and peaceful concord first, teaching us to agree firmly and loyally. But how can one man agree with another when he disagrees with the body of the Church itself, with the whole brotherhood?... The Lord's words were spoken about his own Church and addressed to members of the Church. If they are agreed, if, as he commanded, but two or three are gathered together and pray with one mind, then, although they are but two or three, they can obtain from the divine majesty what they ask.

"Where two or three are gathered, I (he said) am with them." That means, of course, with the single-hearted and peaceable, with those who fear God and keep his commandments. With these, though but two or three, he declared his presence, as he was present also with the Three Children in the fiery furnace, and, because they continued single-hearted and of one mind, refreshed them with the breath of dew as the flames surrounded them (Dn 3,50); or as he was present with the two apostles in prison, because they were single-hearted and of one mind, and himself opened the prison gates (Acts 25,25)... So when Christ lays down with authority: "Where two or three are gathered, I am with them," he is not separating men from the Church which he founded and created. But he rebukes the faithless for their discord and with his own voice commends peace to the faithful".

Later, Abbot Raymond was commenting on the effects of the annoyances and resentments we project on to the distasteful or objectionable actions of others. Even the suppressed tendency to curse or swear against a situation has its baneful influence. The effects have a BOOMERANG effect on ourselves, he said. It is echoed here again in Mt.18,15-20, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Monday, 11 August 2008

Sign of Jonah Retreat Sunday

The monthly Retreat Sunday found me again, dipping into “The Sign of Jonas”. (10th Aug 2008)

If I am supposed to be keeping a kind of Chronicle of the community, I can hardly find a better template than The sign of Jonas, ‘The Journal of Thomas Merton – day experiences and meditations’, as the blurb of the first Edition has it. The hard-back cover is now a collector’s piece so I have laminated it before it gets any tattier.

The Sign of Jonas.

The monastic life is by its very nature "ordinary." Its ordinariness is one of its greatest blessings. The exterior monotony of regular observance delivers us from useless concern with the details of daily life, absolves us from the tedious necessity of making plans and of coming to many personal decisions. It sets us free to pray all day, and to live alone with God.

But for me, the vow of stability has been the belly of the whale. I have always felt a great attraction to the life of perfect solitude. It is an attraction I shall probably never entirely lose. During my years as a student at Gethsemani, I often wondered if this attraction was not a genuine vocation to some other religious Order. It took me several years to find out that all con­templative Orders have much the same problems. Every man called to contemplation is called to some degree of solitude. God knows well enough how much each one needs. We need faith to let Him decide how much we are to obtain. My own solution of this problem is the main theme of the present book. Like the prophet Jonas, whom God ordered to go to Nineveh, I found myself with an almost uncontrollable desire, to go in the opposite direction. God pointed one way and all my "ideals" pointed in the other. It was when Jonas was travelling as fast as he could away from Nineveh, toward Tharsis, that he was thrown overboard, and swallowed by a whale who took him where God wanted him to go.

A monk can always legitimately and significantly compare himself to a prophet, because the monks are the heirs of the prophets. The prophet is a man whose whole life is a living witness of the providential action of God in the world. Every prophet is a sign and a witness of Christ. Every monk, in whom Christ lives, and in whom all the prophecies are therefore ful­filled, is a witness and a sign of the Kingdom of God. Even our mistakes are eloquent, more than we know.

The sign Jesus promised to the generation that did not understand Him was the "sign of Jonas the prophet" - that is, the sign of His own resurrection. The life of every monk, of every priest, of every Christian is signed with the sign of Jonas, because we all live by the power of Christ's resurrection. But I feel that my own life is especially sealed with this great sign, which baptism and monastic profession and priestly ordination have burned into the roots of my being, because like Jonas himself I find myself travelling toward my destiny in the belly of a paradox. (Prologue - concluding paragraphs)

. . .

The blessings of my Cistercian vocation are poured out on me in Scripture and I live again in the lineage of Bernard and I see that if I had been deeper in Scriptures all my past temptations to rune to some Order would have more quickly lost their meaning, for contemplation is found in faith, not in geography: you can dig for it in Scripture, but you will never find it by crossing the seas. (Aug. 8 1949).

It is a pity that Merton never had the chance of staying in the Holy Land. Bernard’s antipathy to monks going to the Holy Land seems to have rubbed off on Cistercians. Merton shared Bernard’s literary eloquence in the description of the Biblical sites but neither can claim asense of the physicality of the land trod by Chris. Bernard and Pope Eugene were to regret their mobilization of military forces for the Crusades but not the monks to serve in the lands of the Bible. By way of some compensation the monks at Latroun in Israel today preserve a precarious foothold of that Cistercian presence.

. . .

There is no reason why a monk should not have a definite attitude towards the place which, in relation to his monastery, is “town.” I do not think that being a monk means being living on the moon. (Nov 11, 1950)

In ‘Fire Watch’ Epilogue Merton reproaches himself first for failing in silence and then for filling that emptiness with talk about it.

Have men of our age acquired a Midas touch of their own, so that as soon as they succeed, everything they touch becomes crowded with people. (Epilogue ‘Fire Watch’)

Was Merton a monk? Was Merton a hermit? Or was he a full time browser? Very soon he would have become a star Blogger. Or would his Abbot been after him in the manner of a very recent headline, “Priestly Blogging – Has it Got Out of Hand”, (Catholic Herald Auf 1, 2008).

I had never heard of FILLION, nor I am sure had Merton but his ‘POST’ on the subject is a gem from the blogosphere of his day.

. . .

Fillion, a Scripture scholar whom I am appointed to read, encourages young priests to study Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Itala, Arabic, Syriac, Assyrian, Ethiopean, Coptic, Armenian, Persian, Slavonic, Gothic, and the three main Egyptian dialects, namely Salidic (spoken at Thebes), Fayoumic, (spoken in the oasis of Faymoum), and Memphic (spoken at Memphis. Besides being grounded in oriental archaeology and ethnography, the young priest should also possess a smattering of botany, zoology, geology, and have more than a nodding acquaintance with the Talmud. Also he says one ought to read a few Yiddish novels, by way of recreation.

When you have mastered all this you will be able to elucidate the ivy passage in Jonas, for instance, and you will come to the conclusion that Jonas in Nineveh sat down under a castor oil plant (ivy) and became attached to its shade.
On the whole, I think Saint Teresa's interpretation of Jonas's ivy is more interesting, and she didn't know one word of Egyptian either.
Yet on the other hand, at Mass this morning, I was momentarily distracted with a mild fit of compunction over the Little Flower's statement that if she were a priest she would learn Hebrew and Greek in order to read the revealed word of God in the original languages.

From Fillion, The Study of the Bible, p. 220:
"One day Cardinal Fillion, Archbishop of Lyons, said to me: 'Why is the cat, that charming animal, not mentioned in the Bible?' (Is it so charming after all?-Fillion's comment.)

"I answered: 'Your Eminence, it is mentioned in the Book of Baruch or to be more exact in the letter of Jeremias at the end of that book; the prophet shows it walking over the heads and bodies of the Babylonian idols.' "

So I rush to the Book of Baruch (6:20-21) and find:
"Their faces are black with the smoke that is made in the house.
Owls and swallows and other birds fly upon their bodies and upon their heads, and cats in like manner."
It is the first time I have read the sixth chapter of Baruch and it is a wonderful chapter, written by Jeremias to the Jews going to Babylon, into captivity, to preserve them against temptations to idolatry. "For as a scarecrow in a garden of cucumbers keepeth nothing, so are their gods of wood and of silver, laid over with gold. They are not better than a white thorn in a garden upon which every bird sitteth ... ."
.(Aug 19, 1949)

. . .

Daniel delivered Susanna by a judgement inspired by the Holy Spirit and Christ came down to the Temple from the Mount of Olives to deliver the adulteress with the grace of counsel. The Mount of Olives is the mount of chrism, of anointing, of inspiration and counsel and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (March 18 1950).

I walked the Mount of Olives as often as I could and it became my special place in Jerusalem. By paradox, even if Merton never set foot in the Holy Places, his few words on the Mount of Olives seem to resonate beautifully.

Monthly Retreat:
To be continued: Simon bar Jonah - more on the sign of Jonah

Saturday, 9 August 2008

TEMPLE Medieval site of KnightsTemplar

The Muster of KT of the Preceptory of Saint Bernard of Clairvausx

Dear Archie,
It is a week since you were so king to bring me to the KT Lecture of Ian Robertson and then also to visit the site of your own Preceptory site of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

The attached photos make a good Chronicle of the eventful day.

Ian’s talk was a substantive contribution to the myriad faces of the Templar history. The discussion opens up so many other avenues.

The visiting Knights from Newcastle brought another interesting links in the chain of monastic sites like, Brinkburn Priory, Rothbury, Northumberland.

I am sure Ian was drawing on his special research. He could have very well given some promotion to his own publications, “Quest for the Celtic Key”, Rosslyn and the Grail.


Thank you, Archie, for taking me to Balantradock. At last I was able enjoy getting my feet on the ground in the place of your new Preceptory at Temple Village.

The picture I took of Deuchar’s Arch, the entrance arch to the Medieval Preceptory, reminds me of your comments on its history.

May I ask you if you would be good enough to remind again of the details?

Like all the other aspects of this fascinating place, the arch is only another a very small tail wagging a very large dog of as yet uncovered records.

When the archaeological research has progressed, it might become possible to create a VIRTUAL RECONSTRUCTION of the ‘Temple’ at a level under the subsequent Church of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and the still later Old Kirk now in ruins.

The lecture had us immersed in the heraldry and symbolism with which Templar history is seeped. It even brought us into the realms of Liturgy, more familiar to the monks as discussion touched on the Pelican, the Phoenix, the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), the rallying call and banner of the Templars, “Beauseant”.

It is very interesting from, the Cistercian point of view, to hear the explanation of the Black and White flag. ‘Symbolically, the black section is said to have depicted the sins of the secular world that the Templar knights had chosen to leave, while the second section was white - depicting the purity that the order offered them - a sort of transformation from darkness to light’. Another interpretation of the PIEBALD design can only be miles off the mark if the idea of the single mindedness and dedication marks Templars or monks.

Many thanks again for the hospitality,
the interest and the
summer feast laid out for us by your family.

Edith Stein

The Reading for the Night Office of St. Teresa Bendicta of the Cross, Carmelite, was later outclassed by Fr. / Strange writing in The Times.

Edith Stein – St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Carmelite.
Life and death of a German Jewish Christian nun

Edith Stein was a lapsed Jewish atheist who converted to Catholicism on reading the biography of Teresa of Avila

By Fr. Roderick Strange.

On August 9, 1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a Carmelite nun, was among those gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau. A few weeks earlier the Dutch Catholic bishops and other religious leaders in the Netherlands had composed a pastoral letter in which they described themselves as “deeply shaken by the measures taken against the Jews” and their “terror of the latest regulations” to deport men, women, children and whole families to “the territory of the German Reich”. They pleaded that these regulations should not be carried out. To no avail. Rather the contrary. The Nazi authorities who had agreed to defer the deportation of Jews who had converted to Christianity on condition that no public protest was made against their treatment of Jews reacted to this letter without mercy. Sister Benedicta, Jewish by birth, was taken from her convent at Echt on August 2. She arrived at Auschwitz five days later and was put to death two days after that, August 9, 1942.

The loss of every life in such circumstances is heartbreaking. Why draw attention to this one in particular? Because in her person and life many elements are combined and reactions to her death have aroused fierce debate.

Sister Benedicta was known in the world as Edith Stein. She was indeed Jewish by birth, but as a girl abandoned Judaism for atheism. She was German by nationality. She studied philosophy and sought academic posts at universities. She was unsuccessful, not because of any inability, but because of her gender: women were not appointed, victims of discrimination. Her studies also led her to explore Christianity. She turned gradually away from atheism. One night she sat up reading Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. “This,” she declared the next day, “is the truth.” Soon after she was baptised as a Catholic. For some years she continued to teach and hope for a university appointment. Then she came to recognise a vocation to religious life as her true calling.

She joined first the Carmel in Cologne, but Nazi violence made her presence there a danger to her community. She moved to Echt in Holland in 1938, where she was to be arrested. She was joined the following year by her sister, Rosa. They were taken away together. And then they were killed.

These elements in the life of Edith Stein are not like pieces of a jigsaw which can be fitted together neatly to reveal a smoothly coherent picture. There are rough edges. There is, for example, that clash between a Christian sense of Jewish origins, the Jews as our ancestors in the faith, and the Jewish sense that those Jews who embrace another tradition betray what they have left. Again, honouring Stein may seem to some to be a way for Christians to appropriate the Shoah (Holocaust). That must never happen. The Shoah stands out as a defining symbolic moment for Jews. Christians have rather to confess with shame their thousand years of anti-Semitism from the First Crusade to the Holocaust, to echo the Chief Rabbi recently at Lambeth. It is not possible to make all the rough edges smooth. But nor need we stand paralysed.

To honour Edith Stein as a Christian martyr is not to lay Christian claim to the Shoah. We need rather to remember that the essence of martyrdom is not a desire to die, but acceptance of the demands of loving, however extreme they may be, even ultimately to death. Her words to Rosa, as they were arrested, “Come, we are going for our people”, are not to be misunderstood. That “for” is not condescending, still less expiatory; it affirms a bond. Her sense of being Jewish made her identify with her people; her sense of being Christian shaped the way she accepted her death.

The elements in her life that formed her — Jewish, German, a philosopher, a woman, a Christian, a Carmelite — make her stand out. She was one of millions, but she was also outstanding, an exemplar, a witness, a martyr. Each one of us is a mystery. We respect mysteries not by solving them, but by contemplating them. The mystery of Edith Stein should prompt in us neither triumphalism nor resentment. We cannot smooth all the rough edges, but we can ponder with humility.

Monsignor Roderick Strange is the Rector of the Pontifical Beda College, Rome

With acknowledgement to The Times Newspapers Ltd. August 8, 2008

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Summer Chronicle 3

Summer Chronicle 3

SS. Ninian and Triduana Parish, Restalrig, Edinburgh.

There have been Buses coming to Nunraw since the foundation of Nunraw Abbey.
More recently, for 13 years, the visit has been lead by Pat Healey. All the preparations and provisions were provided by the helping group.

Since I have been at the Guest House, five years, I always heard Pat declaring that this would be her last year to organise the event.
After refreshments there was little incentive by the weather to enjoy the grounds, and then it was time to make the drive to the Abbey Church for Vespers and Benediction.
At the end of the afternoon, there was a very lively Raffle of the abundant gifts to satisfy many winners. On the previous day I had a similar experience in a local Masonic Lodge, surprisingly named the Lodge of St. Mary. At the Raffle there,
it so happened that I drew the first ticket and won the first prize.
To cap so much gift giving, we held a presentation for Pat to mark the years of her organizing these happy events. She received an attractive wooden carving of the Virgin and Child.
It was a spontaneous gesture for all that she has done for the St. Ninian and Triduana Pilgrimage - but we were not entirely unmindful of the possibility that she might feel persuaded to continue for next year.
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Summer Chronicle at Guesthouse 2

Summer Chronicle at Guesthouse 2

University of Latvia.

Dr. Alfs Trepes of the University of Latvia has been bringing Pilgrimages by coach for many years. It seems to be as much a Cultural as an Ecumenical experience mostly for persons associated with the University. The focal points of the Tour were IONA, NUNRAW (two nights), Edinburgh, (the Festival featuring the late evening Military Tattoo), Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Stratford-on-Avon (Shakespeare).

At the morning Mass some of the Readings and Prayers were in Latvian. The Catholic pilgrims communicated, others (mainly Lutheran) received a Blessing.

The Abbey Shop was able to provide a good supply of Catholic materials and books not easily available in Latvia - or even in Edinburgh for that matter.

One lady has come on other occasions and says that she finds a special magnetism at Nunraw. A favourite writer for her is A. J. Cronin, the Scottish novelist, dramatist, and non-fiction writer, and author of the best selling works, The Citadel and The Keys of the Kingdom. She teaches Catholic Catechetics to children in Riga.

Travel by coach, - Lativia to Scotland via the
English Channel.
- Latvians at Nunraw
- Leader Dr. Alfs Trepes (R)

Guests add Video

Progress in the technology of Video has received a boost from two Guests on Retreat.
Methodist Deacon, David, brought his Cam-Corder and proceeded to record Interviews with several members of the community.
The filming can produce very large files, too large for "You Tube".
Coming later, Anne Marie, took the Video Clips and showed me how to Edit and compress the footage of one Interview.
Using myself as the Guinea-Pig I will experiment by Posting the following Video.
My thanks to David, and Anne Marie, for their help.
Video, PLAY: Click picture

Monday, 4 August 2008

Summer Chronicle

Summer Chronicle at Guesthouse

The Picture Gallery is the easiest may to record the groups of ‘pilgrims’ who arrived from near and far during these days.

St. Margaret's, Airdrie, is Abbot Raymond’s home parish. There are many other friends and helpers who are well known at Nunraw.

On Thursday, 31st July, we welcomed the Parish Pilgrimage lead by the two priests Fr. Owen Ness and PP., Fr. Daniel Rooney

Fr. Ness produced a surprising ‘Pilgrimage Manuel’ giving a special character to a very prayerful day. For the purpose of the leaflet he used the texts and illustrations from the Nunraw Website and included the meditative text, “PRAYER” According to the Monastic Tradition by Fr. Columban of Mt. Melleray. The more able-bodied walked up hill from the Guesthouse grounds to the Abbey, others availed of the coach. Abbot Raymond, well known in the Parish, introduced the time of silence and prayer.

The Pilgrimage began with the morning Mass before leaving from St. Margaret’s. It came to its climax in the Abbey with the Holy Hour of Adoration, Prayer of the Church and Benediction.

Significantly, the apse of the Church of St. Margaret, is filled with the large mosaic of Emmaus – Jesus meeting with the two disciples after the Resurrection. It is an apt picture of Jesus encountering the Pilgrims on their road on this special day.