August 19, 2014 - BLESSED GUERRIC OF IGNY;

EZECHIEL 28:1-10; MATTHEW 19:23-30

This passage from Saint Matthew's gospel treats of Jesus teaching on wealth and his preference for simplicity and poverty rather than riches.  In doing so he treats of a theme that was frequently taken up in the Hebrew bible from earliest times.  In the book of Genesis already we are presented with the ambivalent account of Jacob's ascendency over his older brother.  His gaining the inheritance rightfully intended for the first born was achieved by deceit and cleverness that set him in the way of becoming a rich man.  On other occasions, the impression is given that Jacob's wealth represents a blessing and has God's approval in the form of his protection.  The prophets have some harsh words for the rich: "For the rich men there (in Jerusalem) are steeped in iniquity."  Jeremiah warns those with wealth against its temptations: "Let not the wealthy . . . boast of their riches.  Rather boast of knowing and understanding me" says the lord.

Saint Paul followed up faithfully on the Lord Jesus' preference for simplicity of life and poverty.  In advising the Corinthians he reminds them in these terms: "You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake, although he was rich, he became poor so that you, poor as you are, might become rich."( 2 Cor. 8:9) No doubt our Lord as a child had already been trained in the way of poverty by his mother.  In her Magnificat, she had already expressed her view of riches, saying "he filled the hungry with good things but sent the rich away empty."

Blessed Guerric, in whose memory and honor we are celebrating this Eucharist, was formed in this same tradition that was so extolled by our Lord and his Blessed mother, and lived out by them in obscurity of life for so many years.  Guerric who was a highly educated at the school of Tournay, after ordination as a priest eventually became a hermit.  Upon visiting Saint Bernard at Clairvaux, he came under his influence and chose to enter there to be formed by this gifted and holy abbot.  After a few years following his profession in Clairvaux he was elected abbot of Igny.  His preaching to the monks there made deep impression on those in other monasteries who gained access to his texts of 54 sermons that have come down to us.  They remain an important portion of our Cistercian heritage today, continuing to be read in various translations and extant still in their original Latin.  He did much to enhance devotion to the person of our Lord as also to our Blessed Mother and along with St Bernard, St Aelred, and Blessed William of St Thierry is considered one of the four Evangelists of Cistercian life.  May he intercede for us as we call upon him at this sacred Eucharistic sacrifice.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger