HOMILY: 1P 4:7-11; MT 11: 25-30 

I PRAISE YOU FATHER, LORD OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, FOR YOU HAVE HIDDEN THESE THINGS FROM THE LEARNED AND CLEVER AND REVEALED THEM TO MERE CHILDREN. These words of our Lord surely apply to our Father, St. Benedict Few men have exercised so enduring and wide an influence on posterity as he. Unlike such towering figures in the early Church like St. Augustine and St. Ambrose both of whom published numerous volumes of writings dealing with a wide variety of significant topics, Benedict transmitted only one relatively slight tome in the form of a Rule for Monasteries. He made his work and thought so effective, not by virtue of the power and subtlety of his thought, nor because of his learning though he was creditably endowed with intelligence and knowledge. Rather it was the dedication and simplicity of his spirit together with a robust sense of the possible that gave such broad and lasting appeal to his teaching and his life.  

Benedict’s reputation and influence were enhanced by the account of his life which, until rather recently, was thought to come from the pen of Pope Gregory the Great. Opinion is now divided on the authorship of the four books of ‘The Dialogues’, the second of which is devoted in its entirety to the life of Benedict of Nursia. This work depicts its subject as a holy man of God, whose life and deeds flow from a profound and unvarying faith and confidence in God’s care and guidance. These characteristics are displayed in the Rule in from the opening lines of the Prolog to the closing chapter in which the monks living  according to the Rule are exhorted to study the earlier tradition in view of living a fuller, more spiritually advanced way than his little Rule for beginners provides for. Most men and women who have lived as disciples of Benedict, indeed, have found the Rule to provide a most helpful framework and spiritual orientation for living out the more detailed teachings on prayer found in the Fathers and in later mystics.  

Benedict’s Rule certainly includes a spiritual doctrine, but it is only sketched out in broad outlines. He has judiciously selected elements from various earlier writers on spiritual matters and monastic observance so that his Rule itself displays an openness to the broad tradition and a capacity to assimilate elements considered helpful to the author’s purpose. Far from jealously insisting that it contains all of the teaching and practices leading to perfection, the Rule refers the monk to other sources that lead through the heart of the Catholic tradition to end in the vision of God. The Rule opens out into the vast ocean of the Church’s teaching on life in Christ, his mysteries and the ways of mystical prayer and orders all to the final entry into the kingdom of the Father. 

This is the life that you are about to commit yourself to for life, my brother Delfin. You will be joining as a full, permanent member this community of Cistercian monks here on one of the smaller islands of the Philippines. But the spiritual horizons that are to mark your thinking and desires and which are to govern your actions are far vaster than the cloister or even the whole of this country. God himself and the infinite mystery of the Incarnate Son of God in whose name you make your vows today, define the limits of your life and measure the meaning of your life. In making these monastic vows today you are giving yourself definitively the God who made you for himself and who redeemed you to reclaim you entirely by his Son.  

You do more than bind yourself to the way of monastic life followed in this place when you pronounce your solemn vows: you give your very self to the Lord by a free act that so entwines your life and person with that of the Lord Jesus that you belong more to him than to your own self. This is at once the monk’s greatest dignity and consolation and at the same time his most daunting challenge. For such a bond carries with it the grace and strength that accompany the Spirit of God who unites you to the Father in the Son. This union of self with God also entails the responsibility to live in keeping with your dignity. 

These monastic vows which you pronounce according to the Rule and the Constitutions of our Cistercian Order engage you to strive in all things to carry out God’s holy will in all the details of your life. The community you join today as a full member consists of men who share this same responsibility with you. Your vows bind us as well as you. We are committed to assist you day by day and year after year to be faithful to your promises. We owe it to you to stand by you in good times and in times of struggle and suffering. Although we know our limits and fragility, yet we gladly take on this responsibility, confident in the Lord who sustained St. Benedict. We recall his words in today’s Gospel: YOU HAVE HIDDEN THESE THINGS FROM THE LEARNED AND CLEVER AND REVEALED THEM TO MERE CHILDREN.  Confident in the mercy of God may you advance on this way that leads to the Father and persevere in it with joy, all the days of your life.

  Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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