I’m down in San Luis Obispo where we celebrated the funeral for Fr. Ray Roh, OSB Cam. yesterday––as a matter of fact, stranded here due to yet another rock slide on the PCH! This was my homily for the Mass. I came pretty late to know Fr. Ray, really just only in the last three and a half years after he came and asked if he and the community could transfer their stability to our Camaldolese Congregation from the Olivetan Congregation. I mention that because I am really not in a position to eulogize Ray. In any case, I always feel the need to start out a homily at a funeral Mass––or in this case especially I should say a Mass of the Resurrection––by reminding the assembly that a homily at a Mass for the Dead is not supposed to be about the deceased anyway. It’s supposed to be about Jesus, the Gospel, and even more specifically, it is supposed to be about the Risen Christ. Or maybe even better to say it’s about the relation of the one who has died to the Risen Christ.   And that’s what makes this one easy, or at least gives me an easy entry point. The first thing I thought of when I was considering this homily was the fact that Ray was the founder of a place called the Monastery of the Risen Christ. It was Ray who came early to this area, found that property, established the non-profit corporation and, more importantly, named it the Monastery of the Risen Christ. This is not a typical name for a monastery. As a matter of fact I could not find one other monastery anywhere named the Monastery of the Risen Christ, and it is all the more poignant for that reason. I’ve been re-reading N. T. Wright’s marvelous book Surprised by Hope recently, the subtitle of which is also important: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. Bishop Wright’s central thesis is that the “…early Christian future hope centered firmly on resurrection” but most of us tend not to understand its centrality. The folks who deny the resurrection (or dismiss it off as a pious myth) tend to rely too much on the social gospel and think that everything is about building God’s kingdom on earth––without God’s help! On the other hand, those who think that resurrection is only about our bodies dying and our souls going to heaven are also missing the point. What may be kind of surprising is that the first Christians “virtually never spoke simply of going to heaven when they died”; they did...

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I was honored to offer three conferences and preach for the Liturgical Composers Forum in St. Louis January 24-25. This was my homily for the Eucharist on the Feast of the Conversion of Paul. David Haas sent us a marvelous modern image for this feast that in the midst of cleaning up a hack job on my email account I lost. If someone could re-send it to me I would add it here. I’ll put this one in for now. At least it doesn’t have that darned horse.  I was raised in the ambience of all kinds of suspicion of Saint Paul: that he was the one who “invented” Christianity, that he was a misogynist and an enabler of slavery, that he was sexually frustrated, that there is a little too much Paul there and not enough Jesus. But I have always tended to support the underdog; I wrote my very first paper “defending” Paul when I was18 years old. (It was against the charge of misogyny and being a slavery sympathizer, by the way; which is not to say that he wasn’t either of them but just that that is not what was being conveyed in his kerygma.) What that has been replaced with over the past couple of decades is recognizing St. Paul as a genuine mystic. Mind you, I know enough about mysticism to know that someone can have a genuine enlightenment experience––an immediate/unmediated experience of God, a mystical experience––and still be unenlightened on social issues, and still not get the facts right. But that doesn’t take away the fact that he or she could also be a mystic. And for me the main focus of St. Paul’s mysticism is his sense of the Body of Christ, and it stems back to this experience on the road to Damascus. I recently stumbled upon this poem by Malcolm Gutie who is described on the back cover of his book as a poet, priest and singer-songwriter from Cambridge. (I realized that, outside of the Cambridge location, “poet, priest and singer-songwriter” applied to several of the people in that particular assembly.) This poem is called “St. Stephen”; it’s addressed to Stephen but this part is about Saul/Paul: When Saul departed breathing threats and slaughter, He had to pass through that Damascus gate Where he had held the coats and heard the laughter As Christ, alive in you, forgot his hate, And showed him the same light you saw from heaven And taught him, through his blindness, how to see; Christ did not ask, ‘Why are you stoning Stephen?’ But, ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me?’[1] (Since I was in...

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  This is my homily from January 27, the feast of the Abbots of Citeaux. As you can see, I’ve really been on a roll with this fortress vs. ecosystem image, but this goes right along with the homily for Scholastica.  In the late 11th century a restless spirit was sweeping Europe. As C. H. Lawrence puts it, folks were “seeking an outlet in new forms of religious organization. Eremitical movements appeared … some of which originated new monastic orders. All of them displayed a common desire to break away from existing forms of monastic and clerical life … In some cases the aspiration was for a simpler kind of claustral life based upon a literal observance of the Rule, a desire to reinstate manual labor and private meditation, and recover seclusion from the outside world.” These were the ideals that prompted a man named Robert “and a group of hermits in the Burgundian forest to found the abbey of Molesme, and later, in 1098, to secede from it [too] in search of a wilder and more remote spot in Citeaux.” Indeed Robert and 21 companions relocated to this remote place near Dijon, France. In that place there was a small stream of water that overflowed its banks and formed a marsh––which may be a nice way of putting it. Some would say it was a swamp! This swampy marshland was covered with rushes and course grasses that in the regional dialect were known as cistels. That word cistels later morphed into proper French as Citeaux, and thus was born these “lovers of the place,” as one of their abbots, Stephen Harding, was known. Maybe better to call them “lovers of the swamp”! That place was described as “a place unknown to men and hitherto inhabited only by wild beasts.” And thus also, on the Feast of St. Benedict 1098, began a strict observance of the Rule of St. Benedict in what they themselves called the novum monasterium, the “new monastery,” to distinguish them from the abbey Molesme from which they had all come. Robert was eventually called back to Molesme, and he was replaced by Alberic, who gave the monks their distinctive white habit. Then came Stephen Harding, during whose term as abbot Bernard arrived with his thirty companions before heading off to head his own Cistercian foundation at Clairvaux. And from then on the Cistercians became a huge congregation, producing 23 abbots who were counted as either saints or blesseds. Citeaux itself stayed open for nearly 700 years, and spawned not only its own congregation but also the strict observance of the strict observance, the so-called Trappists. This...

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(cyprian) I’m sorry for the lack of posted homilies for a while now. Our website was under construction for a while, I had to do some traveling, and we have gone through a pretty trying time here at New Camaldoli between sickness, a death (our Fr. Ray passed away Wednesday morning after a very serious illness) and natural phenomenon (heavy rains causing massive rock and mud slides causing closed roads, see on the left, called Paul’s Slide, just to the south of us). I’ll try to catch up. The last time I preached on St. Scholastica, three years ago, I used one of my favorite metaphors––the energy and the vessel. Benedict, the masculine, represents the vessel––the institution, the Rule (and the rules); whereas Scholastica, the feminine, represents the energy––relationship, love, and warmth, as well as the body and the earth. We obviously need both: without the energy the vessel is an empty shell; but without the vessel the energy is simply chaos. We of course have spoken about that for ourselves in our Camaldolese context: Saint Romuald’s example as the charismatic energy, but an energy that he left us in the vessel of the Benedictine monastic tradition, to nurture the energy and safeguard it. This time I used another one of my favorite metaphors (yet again): the fortress and the ecosystem. I so love the reading from the Book of the Prophet Hosea that we use today,[i] just two short little verses: I will lure her into the wilderness and there I will speak tenderly to her. Though, I must admit, I do like the old NAB translation better: I will lead her into the desert and there I will speak to her heart. Of course they are pretty much synonymous, the desert and the wilderness, in scriptural language. I will lead you into the wild untamed places, into the place of total dependency, into the place where your self-reliance doesn’t work anymore, the place where you need to depend on a power greater than yourself, a place where you have no cell phone service or WiFi. (I bring that up because the last young man that was here for the Ora et Labora program specifically wrote in a card that he left, “Being in a pace with no WiFi/cell service really makes me reflect deep about what I want in life and who is important to me. It also makes me go deeper into my relationship with God.”) I think it’s worth noting that God leads Moses and Elijah, the men, up to the top of a mountain and disappears either into in a cloud of thick darkness...

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(We celebrated the Solemnity of the Epiphany today, January 6, and also chose this day to officially welcome Frs Ray Roh and Stephen Coffey as full members of the Camaldolese Congregation, after the three year trial period. Our brothers from Incarnation in Berkeley were also in attendance. What joy!) There are two aspects of this feast of the Epiphany. The first is the most obvious perhaps and gets highlighted in both of the first two readings. The fire of Judaism is breaking out of its container; the energy of Judaism is spilling over the sides of its vessel. There is that unique revelation, the specific intuition of the Hebrew tribe: the intuition of monotheism––that God is one; the revelation of covenant––that the Divine wants to be in relationship with us, a relationship like a marriage, Lover to Beloved; along with (as Fr. Scott mentioned the other day) the strong ethical sense of the Hebrew Scriptures. Now, however, we followers of Jesus believe that in the teaching of the gospel that intuition has grown to its universal appeal and universal application, articulated in a way that everyone can understand and everyone can belong, not depending on blood line or outward rituals, but depending only on enough poverty of Spirit to allow the love of God to be poured into one’s heart and pour back out like a stream of living water. Besides the prophecy of Isaiah which we hear today––Nation shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn…(Is 60:3)––I remember that verse that Bruno loved so much from Isaiah 49: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel. I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation shall reach to the ends of the earth’! The prophets, especially Isaiah, have been hinting at this universality, and now in Jesus that intuition becomes a reality. And the wild thing is that (as Scott has again pointed out this week), not only that kernel of revelation and intuition, ironically it is really under Christianity that the Hebrew Scriptures themselves too become so widely universally known because the followers of Jesus retained the entire Jewish Bible––more books than even Jews recognize––as the foundation for our own. But there’s another side to it. The strongest image of this feast is of these three wise men coming to visit this child bearing their gifts. Not only are these men symbols of the Jewish revelation breaking out of its container, and the rest of the world, spiritual seekers outside...

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giving birth to God (part II)


Posted By on Jan 1, 2017

(cyprian) The Church does something a little strange on this day. Liturgically speaking, some years ago we changed this feast from the Circumcision of Jesus to the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. But officially in the Catholic Church New Year’s Day is also the World Day of Peace, and it’s advertised as such on the Vatican website as well as the USCCB one. It’s almost as if we pick something for sacred was well as the secular calendar. As a matter of fact, this is actually the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace; it was declared first by Pope Paul VI in 1967, inspired by John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris. And just as in Gaudium et Spes the Church resolutely addressed “not only… all who call upon the name of Christ, but the whole of humanity as well,” so Paul VI addressed his first World Day of Peace message not simply to Catholics but to all people. And his words are just as timely now. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress,” he wrote, “and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms,” not the “conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order.” Peace is the only true direction of human progress. (You might also say, peace is the only direction of truly human progress.) Pope Paul also warned about the danger of believing “that international controversies could only be resolved “by means of deterrent and murderous forces” instead of by the ways of reason and “negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity.” In the intervening fifty years, every pope since has done the same thing that Paul VI did, used this as an occasion to issue a letter to the whole world, making declarations and giving teachings based on Catholic social doctrine, addressing over the years, for example, support for the United Nations, human rights, women’s rights, labor unions, economic development, the right to life, international diplomacy, peace in the Holy Land, globalization, terrorism, and even the environment, as Pope Benedict did in his message of 2009 (“If You Want Peace Protect the Environment”). It’s almost as if you could read through these fifty messages for the World Day of Peace and get a summary of Catholic social thought. The odd thing about it is that the way the Church has laid out the liturgical calendar we don’t actually celebrate the World Day of Peace liturgically. We celebrate Mary the Mother of God instead. (As a matter of fact, the Ordo, without a hint of irony, says that we are expressly forbidden from using the Mass for the...

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