Texts, homilies and meditations by the monks of Quarr
Christ’s Baptism Source of Ours
Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
10 January 2021
by Dom Nicholas Spencer
In John 2 we read:“ Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”
On this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord it is good to meditate on the mystery of our own Baptism when by plunging into the waters of rebirth by anointing with the Holy Spirit we were delivered from the Kingdom of Satan and granted entry to the Kingdom of God.
The Baptism of Jesus is celebrated by the Church as one of the three manifestations of the Epiphany. The visit of the wise men to the child was in secret but at the Baptism Christ is manifest to all the people. John the Baptist preached a Baptism of repentance so the people could renounce their sins to prepare for the coming of the Christ who would baptize not with water only but with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
As the sinless Son of God Jesus obviously has no need to be cleansed of sin but by submitting to be baptized by John he begins his Passion. We are taught that when we are baptized we die to sin by immersion in the waters and rise with Christ as we emerge and are then anointed with the Holy Spirit.
As Christ tells us we need to be reborn into the Kingdom of God because by our natural birth we were born into Original Sin and under the curse of Adam could have no place in the Kingdom of God. But we can only be baptized because Our Lord was baptized first. By entering into the waters of the Jordan Christ shows to the whole people that as the Incarnate Son of God he has entered completely into our human condition, except for sin. By his Baptism he sanctifies the waters of rebirth so we too can be reborn. Although most of us do not remember our Baptism it was not just an entry rite to a club. By our Baptism our whole nature is changed and we are reborn.
Christ enters the waters but as he emerges the Almighty Father proclaims him as his beloved Son and the Holy Spirit descends upon him as a dove. Here we have the first public declaration of the Most Holy Trinity. At the Epiphany we are granted entry into the very mystery of the Godhead. As in Genesis the Father speaks the Word and the Spirit moves over the waters to bring Creation into being, so by the theophany at the Jordan we see the Father speaking to acknowledge his Son in the Spirit to bring about a new creation so that all who are washed in these sanctified waters may be recreated in Christ.
But our Baptism is not the end. A newborn baby has to grow; so we who were reborn in Christ have to walk with him, seeking to all the time convert our lives from sin to follow his holy commandments. We need to walk with him through his passion and death so we can rise with him in glory. At Holy Mass we enter as deeply as we can in this life into the mystery of the Paschal Mysteries for now Christ is truly sacrificed for us. Baptism prepares us to receive the most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord so we can be nourished on our way to eternal life.
“Christ is baptized: He comes up out of the waters and with Him He carries up the world. He sees the Heavens opened that Adam closed against himself and his posterity. The Spirit bears witness to His divinity, for He hastens towards His like; and a voice sounds from heaven, for it is from heaven that He has come down to whom this testimony is given, and He is the Saviour of our souls.”
Harmony in the Family
Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family
by Dom Brian Gerard KELLY
Readings: Sir 3: 2-6; 10-14
Col 3: 12-21
We have celebrated the birth of Jesus, Saviour of the world, born as a humble and vulnerable child in our midst. We continue to marvel at this great mystery, the incarnation of God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. This Son, born of the Virgin Mary, is in the words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s infinity dwindled to infancy”. This Holy Child is the source of all love, for God is Love. He is the Prince of Peace and Unity and it is only in His Peace and His love can we hope to share in the perfect harmony spoken to us today by St Paul. Our focus today, the Feast of the Holy Family, is on the harmony that all families are called to exhibit as a model of unity in imitation of the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Harmony is a key concept for us to reflect upon today.
Relationships of love
There are four relationships within a family that St Paul draws our attention to: husband to wife, wife to husband, children to parents and parents to children. And it is only when all four work together in love that the perfect harmony he speaks of is attained. Husbands are given a primary place by St Paul in the order of authority: “wives be subject to your husbands.” A very difficult and controversial statement indeed for today, but it should always be remembered what Our Lord said about His own authority and how he scolded His apostles for seeking the first place: Whoever would be great among you must be your servant … even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Likewise the husband’s authority is one in which he must be willing to lay down his life for his wife and his children – a very high ideal and challenge indeed. No less is the challenge St Paul presents to wives who are to subject themselves to their husbands. But this must be done out of love, not out of fear, and can really only be fulfilled provided the husband is truly loving with his wife and not harsh or domineering over her. She is called to be an example of that Love that Jesus has for His Father, to bear witness to this Love. Jesus came not to do His own will but the will of His Father. Obedience to His Father’s will was always His objective in everything He did. These two relationships can only work in peace together when both husband and wife put on love above all else which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And if St Paul is making the husband first in the order of authority, then he is also making the wife first in the order of love. Children must love and honour their parents, following the fourth of the Ten Commandments. Parents in turn should be careful not to provoke them. In order to preserve a harmony in these relationships families ought to take time to pray together each day, especially the Rosary. In the words of Fr Patrick Peyton, the ‘Rosary Priest’, “The family that prayers together, stays together”. Parents ought to seek practical ways to foster unity in the family, including of course by recreating together. Listening to one another is an important key. I know of a family, husband and wife with 10 children, who each week would gather together to listen to one another: each would take it turn to say how their week had been, what had gone well for them, what had not gone so well for them. As with any form of art or skill, the art of family loving takes time, effort and patience, always with a willingness to forgive one another.
Mary: the Mother at the heart of the family
Being first in the order of love is essentially what we see in the case of Mary today. Up to now, in all our Christmas liturgies, we have shared in the great supernatural joy at the coming of our Saviour, the newborn babe in Bethlehem. We have rejoiced with Mary in God our Saviour who fills the hungry with good things. We have shared in the joy of Elizabeth whose own son in her womb leapt for joy in the presence of the Christ Child in the womb of Mary. Along with the Shepherds we have heard the angels announce news of a great joy and glorified God with them. We have pondered in our hearts, with Mary, the mysteries of this Good News. Along with Simeon and Anna we now see the Light of the World, the Salvation of God in our midst. And now for the first time we learn that, in fact, this Holy Infant is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel and a sign that is spoken against. Our Prince of Peace will cause division. Only by laying down his life can the age-old harmony and unity of Paradise begin to be restored. And this He will do, in the Power of the Holy Sprit, Who is the Fire of God’s Love. In the words of the poem “The Burning Babe” by another Jesuit poet, St Robert Southwell, the Christ Child says:
“For which, as now on fire I am
To work them to their good,
So will I melt them into a bath,
To wash them in my blood.”
But we also notice here that Simeon does not explicitly point directly to the Passion of Jesus. Rather, he does this implicitly through the Mother of Jesus. Turning to Mary, he prophesies: “And a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” She will certainly undergo her greatest sufferings at the passion and death of her Son, standing beneath His Cross, more in union with His Passion than anybody else. But her heart cannot have been altogether dismayed at Simeon’s prophecy. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Repeatedly the disciples during Jesus’ ministry failed to understand that the Son of Man had to suffer and die and be raised on the third day. We read of no such misunderstandings in Mary who surely would have heard this from Jesus Himself and certainly from the disciples. Her thoughts were only to “do whatever He tells you”. And this she would have learned from her insights and understandings of her Son by allowing the sword of the Word of God to pierce though her heart, daily. All fathers perhaps can be mindful of the following – something St Joseph would have known only too well: How often do we see that in families, especially ones that are praying and pondering the Word of God together, that it is especially the heart of the mother wherein the Wisdom of Love especially resides. Recognizing and being open for this allows peace and harmony to unite the family.
Little by Little
Homily for Christmas Night 2020
by Abbot Xavier Perrin
Is 9: 1-6
Tit 2: 11-14
Lc 2: 1-14
The power of little things
I guess that many of us might have been led by the present circumstances to meditate on the transformative power of little things. Does it not take just a little virus to disorganise our complex world and, alas, to shake too many lives with the threat of death? A very little ‘thing’ can indeed be very destructive.
Now, could another little ‘thing’ bring life, healing, mercy, peace, and much more? Can a little baby, in a little manger, in a little village, in a little country on the peripheries of the Roman Empire bring hope to a wounded world and healing to his sisters and brothers in humanity? Can the work of universal salvation rest on His little shoulders?
This is precisely what Christmas is about: “For you is born today in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord”. This little One is Christ the Lord. He is God, beyond measurement, beyond what we call little and big. The same God who created the vast universe and another infinite world within the atom, is now lying in a little manger for us. He is the ‘Always Greater God’, Deus semper maior, revealing Himself in the language of littleness. He shows the way of littleness to those who acknowledge they are little and cannot do great things. How shall we express love? By doing little things. How shall we walk the long way to salvation? By walking little steps. How shall we imitate God and become godlike? Little by little.
The first step of our conversion to Christ consists in welcoming Him in our littleness, our weakness, our powerlessness. God does not want only to provide us with guidance, as it were, from outside and above. He works within us. He needs access to our heart, to our free will, to our good will. That is why He knocks at our door. Shall we welcome Him? He is so little. Who would not have a place in their life for a God so little?
Take the little Babe
Take the little Babe in your arms and recognise who you are: little and weak; totally dependent on others; in need of kind and true love.
Take the little Babe in your heart and recognise your Brother, your Sister: they, too, are in need of your kind and loving care.
Take the little Babe in your soul and recognise your God. Open yourself to the gift of His presence. His presence is healing. His presence is salvation. His presence is the gift that enables you to live to the full.
Prayer to Jesus
In the silence of this blessed night, we welcome You, Jesus, our God.
We dwell with You in our houses. We walk with You on our journeys.
We attune ourselves to Your presence. We learn to see and to love the whole world and each single face, as You see and love them.
We open ourselves to The presence within Your presence. Son, you show us your Father, under whose loving gaze You constantly live. We adore Him. We enter His presence. We join You both in Your eternal, all-encompassing mystery.
Today, with You, we are born of Him. We shall do the little things of today under His gaze. We shall progress little by little, attentive to keep our hand in His, our eyes fixed on His face, our hearts resting in His Heart.
We shall not be afraid. We shall rest, with this little Babe, in the bosom of the Father! We shall trust. We shall hope. We shall love.
OUR IMMACULATE MOTHER
HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY 2020
By Frère Henri Poujol, Deacon, OSB, monk of Saint-Wandrille
Mary, the One who said: Yes
Only Isaiah had sufficient faith to answer “Yes, Lord, send me”. The other prophets and patriarchs, all, answered by a protest of inability when the Lord called them. And this is a great sign for man: when God calls, they are not only puppet or robot. God calls man to be his covenant partner. Therefore, the chosen one has the option to ask a question or even to make an objection to God. In the beginning of St Luke’s Gospel, it is seen to be true. Here we see Zechariah and Mary asking in effect the same question of the Angel. But Zechariah is punished by the Angel for this question whereas Mary is not. Why is there that difference of treatment? Because, in the first case, this question is a lack of faith and of knowledge of the Scriptures. On several occasions, God has already given children to old and infertile couples in Israel’s history. For example: Isaac and Samuel. So Zechariah should have trusted the Angel. But Mary’s question is a sign of innocence and a locus of the affirmation of her everlasting virginity. The sign that God is always young and creates everything anew. Thus Mary is being set apart from general mankind by this very special gift in order to become the Mother of God. Does it mean this parting is a separation? How can Mary be in communion with us sinners, in her estate of absolute purity? I have to admit that, from time to time, this purity is so immaculate that it dazzles my poor eyes those of a sinner. Then I’m tempted to think that Mary is so far from us sinners, like some medieval sculptures which are so beautiful and smiling but with such a hieratical smile and hieratical beauty.
In Communion with Us Sinners by Mercy and Grace
Father Brown, Chesterton’s character, gives us this helpful insight into the detective’s approach to this mystery. After he solved some difficult cases, somebody had asked him how he did it whereas nobody else had been able to, even, maybe especially, the professional inspector. His answer is very simple: I could have been all of those criminals. More precisely he says: I am all those criminals, because I could commit all these crimes; I’m a sinner like them. But it is not his sinfulness which allowed him to understand all those criminals. It is the fact that he is forgiven of his personal sins which allowed him to understand properly others. This experience of mercy which comes from God, is the key, the starting point of the communion with all mankind. And here, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the unsurpassable summit and the model of humankind as one who is being saved. In a common way of thinking, we understand this preservation from original sin like a lack, as if Mary were wonderful but too marvellous to be close to us, and then we put her on a pedestal. But this way of thinking manifests that we forget a very important thing: there is no communion by sinfulness, but only by mercy and grace.
Our Immaculate Mother
Our faith tells us this: as Mary is preserved from the original sin, She has more ability to be in communion with all of us. Because Her lack of original sin is not a lack of humanity but the lack of our tendency to inhumanity, about our tendency to nothingness. By the grace of her Son and Creator, Mary avoids the privation which is sin, and receives the grace of fulfilment of being fully human. As She is full of grace, She is fulfilling her human vocation more than we can ever fulfil ourselves. Mary is more human than us, and therefore She is a better image of God, a more similar one. And then fulfilled with grace, upon her rests the Holy Spirit, the One who is Love in person, the One who is the Gift-person. Therefore, Mary has the gift of giving, and She doesn’t keep this gift to Herself. But by this gift she is mother, She gives life to us, her children. And we are her children. Therefore, Mary is not far from us, and we can paraphrase St Augustine, saying: Mary knows us from inside when we are still outside of ourselves. As our mother, She wants to bring us to the better life we are able to receive: to be in communion with the Father by His Son and their common Spirit.
Today, we are celebrating the feast of this amazing act of God. We are celebrating this communion, and the greatness of Mary’s compassionate presence with us and her intercession for us. She is the Mother of our God and the Mother of each of us.
Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent 2020 by Fr Gregory Corcoran, Prior
Repentance and Faith: Listening to the Voice of St John the Baptist
A New Beginning
Today Mother Church, in the purple of Advent, welcomes us to worship together again: we are conscious of a new beginning. This sense of a new beginning is strengthened as we start to read the Gospel according to St Mark. The beginning of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The good news we are to hear from St Mark through this liturgical year is the teaching of the Son of God, confirmed by his miracles and sealed by his redemptive death and the glory of his resurrection. We respond to the gospel by repentance and by faith, the very same virtues that were preached by all the prophets. The voice we hear in the gospel today is the voice of the greatest of those prophets, John the Baptist. The fact that Mark begins his gospel with the words of the prophets shows clearly that what he has to say is bound up with the old covenant and cannot be separated from it. The one divine revelation which began with the call of Abraham, is carried forward lovingly, patiently, according to God’s plan, so that all may reach repentance.
Repentance and Patience
As we pass from the old to the new covenant, to the time of greater grace in which we live, we too are summoned by the Baptist to respond to his call to repentance, remembering that the Pharisees, in rejecting John’s message, rejected God’s purpose for themselves. The common people, on the other hand, flocked to John and were baptised by him signifying their repentance by confessing their sins. The dynamic of our baptism in the Holy Spirit is a lifelong commitment to repentance, to seek the more perfect way. For each of us the path to perfection of love is a daily labour of patience; lives of holiness and godliness are only achieved through cooperation with God’s forbearance and grace.
Waiting for the Revelation of the Son of God
The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, signifies the presence of the time of greater grace. Whatever secular culture may impose, we are in the years of Our Lord, AD Anno Domini: these are the years of grace, the grace of the gospel. God’s favour is signified in the gospel of Mark firstly by exorcisms: the evil spirits themselves have to be silenced by Jesus as they publicise their knowledge of his divine sonship. It is for the grace of the Holy Spirit to elicit in each of us the response of faith: the evil spirits are no messengers of God. At the Baptism of Our Lord, as at the Transfiguration, the voice of the Father is heard from heaven proclaiming Jesus’ divine sonship: those who are present and able to hear it are the repentant, the sincere, children of Israel. Astonishment, wonder, awe are the reactions of the people to the teaching, the exorcisms and the miracles of Jesus related by Mark. The decisive proclamation of the divine sonship of Jesus is made on Calvary by the centurion. He comes to faith through witnessing Jesus’ patience in suffering and the manner of his death which reveal the victim to be the Son of God. He it is whom we hasten to meet.
Readings: Ezek. 34:11-12,15-17
1 Cor 15: 20-26,28
On September 10 1946, a young Albanian Loreto sister was on a train journey to Darjeeling in India. Suddenly she had a mystical experience, hearing very clearly the words “I thirst”. The world now of course knows this sister as “Mother Teresa of Calcutta”. This was her original inspiration to found a new religious order of sisters, the Missionaries of Charity. She felt a personal call to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls. She was to care for the poorest of the poor and show Divine Love to those whom the world had abandoned. She later described this experience as a “call within a call”. September 10 is the day the Missionaries of Charity celebrate “Inspiration Day”, the Divine Light that brought their order into being. Over the years St Teresa of Calcutta, as she now is, explained this inspiration as not just a call to serve Jesus in the “poorest of the poor”, which is their primary apostolate. “The reason of our existence is to quench the thirst of Jesus Christ”, she said in 1980. “When he asked for water, the soldier gave him vinegar to drink … but his thirst was for love, for souls … we human beings are asked to satiate the thirst of God.” And again, “I quench the thirst of Jesus for love of that person, by my giving God’s love in me to that particular person ….This is how I quench the thirst of Jesus for others, by giving His love in action to them … We also quench the thirst of Jesus for love of me … by that personal meeting with Him face to face” (1977). Her prayer to Our Lady, which she composed for her sisters and which they recite daily, encapsulates her spirituality very simply:
“Mary, my Mother give me your heart so beautiful, so Immaculate, so full of love and humility that I may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life, love Him as you loved Him and serve Him in the distressing disguise of the poor”.
Her prayer is at once Eucharistic, Marian and Ecclesial: Mary is Mother of the Church and through the Church she is Mother of all humanity, as Pope St John Paul II wrote (Redemptoris Mater). All are children of God, despite our divisions and separations, whether these are spiritual, moral or physical. And the Eucharist, the Bread of Life is the great Sacrament of Unity. The call to quench the thirst of Jesus, His thirst for souls, is for everyone. He wants to unite all into Himself, into His Body, into His covenantal bond, and no one is to be excluded.
From the very beginning, the first chapter of Genesis and the creation of Man in the image and likeness of God, we learn that God has wanted to dwell with us in an everlasting covenantal bond of love. Indeed, all of creation is ordered to the covenant, which is simply a familial dwelling of God with His people. We learn from the Book of Exodus 31:16 that the sign of this everlasting covenant is the Sabbath, which is meant to be a “living memorial of the original perfection and intention of God’s creation – His desire to ‘rest’ in communion with creation”, as the Biblical scholar Scott Hahn wrote. According to Cardinal Ratzinger: “if worship, rightly understood, is the soul of the covenant, then it not only saves mankind but is also meant to draw the whole of reality into communion with God” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p.26). The whole of the history of salvation as recorded in the Bible, from the act of creation in Genesis 1 to the Book Revelation where we read of the one who is Faithful and True, the Lord of Lords and King of kings, is the history of one great continuous Divine movement towards a full communion with God to be realized fully in eternity, that He may be “everything to everyone” (1 Cor 15:28). But we are not there yet! There is much work to be done.
A Gospel text used by Mother Teresa in furthering an understanding of her vocation, which is really everyone’s vocation, is the text we have for today. Here Jesus gives us an account of the general judgment at the end of time when all the nations will be gathered together before the King of kings, who will separate them as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. This is the last act of history, the first act of the age to come. And the ones who Jesus particularly draws our attention to are all those who suffer in anyway: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, those in prison – in a word: everyone! All suffer in one way or another. The list, though focusing on the least or the most miserable or pitiful of people, is not exhausted. And by His cross and resurrection, Christ has opened His sufferings to man, because He Himself, as Pope St John Paul II wrote, “in His redemptive suffering has become, in a certain sense, a sharer in all human sufferings” (Salvifici Doloris). This has given a new spiritual depth to the meaning of suffering – “redemptive suffering” because of the Resurrection. We cannot therefore be oblivious to suffering without being oblivious to Christ Himself. The “sheep” are those who are docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their search for God, seeking to do His will in their lives in upbuilding the Church through the bonds of charity.
We can see once again in our present crisis of this pandemic that, in a real sense, straying humanity is being led back again to discover how it is that suffering unites – both to Christ and to one another – and is a key to the meaning of life. May we be able to unite in the Magnificat of Our Lady and receive the abounding mercy of God who puts down the mighty from their thrones and exalts those of low degree, the meek and humble ones. People need to hear of God’s loving mercy for all, and how it is that we may receive His mercy. For this God is thirsting, thirsting to show us His mercy, if we ourselves are merciful to those around us. Be merciful, even as our Heavenly Father is merciful (Cf. Lk. 6:36).