the heart and the temple


Posted By on Jun 17, 2015

I fell in love with this reading from the prophet Hosea was I was 18, back right after my big conversion experience: ‘When Israel was a child, I loved him. Out of Egypt I called him my son…’ (As a matter of fact I wrote a song based on this reading back then that I still sing.) It’s almost as if you can feel the whole Old Testament image of God turning around right here, from the angry scolding father to the nurturing mother. Actually, this is one of the few places­­––mentioned also in the catechism––where God is imaged as a mother rather than a father: ‘I nurtured you like infants, I raised you to my cheek.’ First of all we learn that God’s anger is really the sadness of a wounded lover. Now here’s an emotion of God’s that we can relate to: “I did all this for you and you still reject me? You still go after false gods? You still go after shallow things that cannot satisfy?” I’ve heard it said that what we think of and experience as God’s wrath is really just the fire of God’s love; it hurts, it burns, while it is consuming us. That’s one way to look at it. But here God says––and here is where the images turn around, pointing to the image of God that Jesus will offer instead––‘I will not give vent to my raging anger; I will not destroy, Ephraim. I am God; I not like you. I will not let the flames consume you!’ There’s an old saying that I saw on a bumper sticker on the back of a pickup truck once: “If you love someone set them free. If they don’t come back to you, hunt them down and kill them.” We’re like that. God’s not like that. God will not consume us until come freely. The one thing we believe and preach over and over is this free will. But why wouldn’t we come? Earlier in the book of the Hosea (Hos 2:16) God has said, ‘I will lead her into the desert, and there I will speak to her heart.’ And Jesus says, in the Gospel of Matthew (11:29), ‘Come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.’ Why wouldn’t we come to such a tender loving God? I will come back to the second reading in a moment, but first this gospel, Jn 19:31-37: The soldiers stuck a lance into his side and immediately blood and water flowed out. What we’re supposed to be remembering here is the beginning of the Gospel...

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brother james’ simple vows


Posted By on Jun 17, 2015

June 7th, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, we celebrated the monastic simple profession of our Brother James. (He had gone by the name Cassian throughout his novitiate year, but opted to return to his baptismal name.) Several of James’ family members were here in addition to many oblates and friends.  (You can also find the prior’s homily on the blog.) Here is the community gathered in the sacristy before Mass, joined by Fr. Daniel from San Luis Obispo and Fr. Andrew from Berkeley. After the gospel is read, the novice formally requests vows from the prior. After the homily, the novice proceeds to the altar and reads his hand written vows out loud from the book in which all the monks before him have written their vows. He then signs the book… and his two witnesses sign after him. The prior then ties his cincture on the outside of the scapular… and clothes him in the cowl (choir robe). Then the newly professed novice receives the sign of peace and welcome from the community. Here he is with his new junior master, Fr. Raniero. Br. James with Joe Kordsmeier, one of the many friends that gathered with us for lunch in the cloister...

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oblation: vows and eucharist


Posted By on Jun 7, 2015

(fr Cyprian) I have had two liturgical, homiletic challenges recently. Last week we had a first communion on the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. Actually it wasn’t too difficult to find a thread between those two things. And this week we are celebrating one of our brother’s simple vows, his monastic profession, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. But again, I was only perplexed for a moment before I found the thread between the two of them. James has gone by the name Cassian throughout his novice year but now as he makes his simple vows he has chosen to go back to his birth name, his baptismal name. That is fitting, too, since all these things––first communion, vows, our vocations in general––are all a deepening of our baptismal commitment. The first thing I thought of to tie monastic profession in with the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ was Chapter 59 in the Rule of Saint Benedict. If I understand it correctly, it’s from that chapter that we get the tradition of having oblates, of which we Camaldolese in America now have hundreds. It may sound strange to us now, but in Saint Benedict’s time nobles would offer their sons to the monastery as an oblation. We might think of the word “oblation” as having too much connotation with bloody sacrifice, but it is usually translated as an “offering,” something more like a yajna in the Indian tradition. The young man would then be trained and formed by the monks. And there is a poignant ceremony that accompanies this oblation. If the boy is too young, the parents write up a document with the vows on it, just like the one that James wrote that’s on the altar now; and then at the presentation of the gifts––cum oblatione, they wrap the document and the boy’s hands in the altar cloth. That is how they offer him, Benedict says. At the preparation of the gifts! With his hands wrapped in the altar cloth! And a similar thing happens with poor families who have nothing to offer by way of a donation to the monastery. They simply write up the document, but they still offer their son with the gifts––cum oblatione.[i] This strikes me especially strongly for two reasons. First, the only other time I can think of that we offer something besides the bread and the wine at the presentation of the gifts is on Holy Thursday when we bring up the newly blessed and consecrated sacred oils. And second, we rarely put anything else on the altar except the bread and the...

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