+ At the Magnificat at Vespers last evening—celebrated in rose—we sang of Saturday morning’s very ‘purple’ Gospel (as it were): “Nemo te condemnavit mulier? Nemo Domine. Nec ego te condemnabo: iam amplius noli peccare.” Hath no man condemned thee, woman? No one, Lord. Neither do I condemn thee: henceforth sin no more.”
Now this woman was utterly guilty of grave sin: caught in the very act of committing adultery as the Gospel records. Indeed, in some ways this gospel is more ‘scarlet’ than ‘purple’. And yet, for this guilt-ridden adulteress there is mercy and forgiveness—nothing less than the meek and tender love of Christ Himself, as Saint Augustine so beautifully underlined at matins on Saturday morning.
Whether our sins are or were similarly salacious, shameless or even scandalous—or not—the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully taught and proclaimed in the one Church founded by Our Blessed Lord Himself throughout the centuries down to our own day insists that this generous, loving, restorative forgiveness is available to all to seek it with a sincere heart (but, indeed, that it is not forced on those who do not).
It is interesting that the Gospel itself does not record the woman’s penitence: she did not arrive at remorse or regret for what she had done—she had little time for this! She was undoubtedly terrified at her impending ignominious execution. Hers may very well have been quite an imperfect contrition, and yet the Lord’s grace was superabundant.
Nevertheless, it was not ‘cheap grace’. Her unusual and singular encounter with Our Lord brought her not condemnation, but forgiveness—with, however, the injunction: “iam amplius noli peccare.” Henceforth sin no more.
Here is the call to radical conversion which is at the heart of the Gospel, at the very heart of all that the Church has done throughout the centuries and shall ever do whilst this world lasts: the call to accept the mercy and forgiveness won for us by the unique Saviour and Lord of all, Jesus Christ, and henceforth, to resolve to sin no more.
The world, the flesh and the devil don’t make the latter particularly easy for any of us, of course, and that is why some of us (need to) seek the discipline of the monastic life. It is why the whole Church observes this sacred season of Lent as a period of purification and further training in the ascetical life. Please God, as a result of the graces to which our penitential practices have opened our hearts and souls this Lent, we are making at least some progress in fulfilling the Lord’s injunction.
Last evening’s Magnificat antiphon was, of course, the Communion antiphon at Mass also—most appositely, no? For who may worthily approach to eat of the Bread of Life save those to whom the Lord has said: “Nec ego te condemnabo”. And what else do we have to sustain us in our efforts to avoid future sin other than this very Bread, His Flesh, given for the life of the world (cf. Jn 6:51).
In the light of His mercy and of the grace which He offers us to strengthen us in His service we can don rose vestments, we can joyfully sing the “Laetare” of this morning’s Introit. Amidst all that we must face personally, communally and as the Church in the world there is still very much—indeed, ultimately, far more--about which to rejoice.
This morning’s Gospel, too, ought to give us hope and much about which to rejoice. What indeed can one do with but five barley loaves and two fish when faced with a great multitude of hungry people—about five thousand of them?
We can do little except present the meagre resources we have to the Lord. But His blessing can do all. My brothers, we see this miracle in our midst, in our little monastery, where we are few and yet, with the Lord’s blessing good and indeed great things occur when, in faith, we present to Him our all and leave unto Him that which he will do with it.
This reality is so profound that today the Sacred Liturgy almost stammers in its face—the antiphons for Terce and Sext can speak of nothing else. Let us not neglect to ponder its import in respect of ourselves and our vocation, and in respect of the means that are at our disposal in seeking to live it. Let this Truth motivate us to continue to bring what we have, howsoever modest, to the Lord that he might do with it what He will.
What the woman caught in adultery brought to the Lord—when she was literally dragged to Him—was sin and guilt. She received mercy, forgiveness and a clear indication of how to live in the future. The boy in today’s Gospel presented the Lord with a few loaves and fish. He saw them feed thousands of hungry people.
Let us pray today that we, our family, friends and benefactors, that the Church, may come to know and daily live from the realities of God’s mercy and of His Providence, in the words of today’s Collect: “ut, qui ex merito nostræ actiónis afflígimur, tuæ grátiæ consolatióne respirémus;” - that, in spite of the punishment that our sins deserve, we may breathe anew by the consolation of God’s grace.
For this singular privilege and opportunity we may indeed rejoice. +
Thanks to the kindness of the German Association Pro Missa Tridentina,
German taxpayers may receive a tax rebate
from donations for the Monastere St. Benoît sent directly to:
Laienvereinigung Pro Missa Tridentina
IBAN DE71 6005 0101 0002 9314 76
Donors should specify that their donation is intended
for the "Monastere St Benoit - South France"
and include their name and address for the tax receipt.
Pro Missa Tridentina will transfer the donation directly to the monastery
and each January will send a text receipt for the whole previous year.
Personal data of donors will be stored according to the rules of the GDPR.
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Dank der Unterstützung durch die Laienvereinigung Pro Missa Tridentina
können Spender, die in Deutschland leben,
eine Spendenbescheinigung für das Finanzamt erhalten.
Bitte verwenden Sie folgende Bankdaten:
Empfänger: Laienvereinigung Pro Missa Tridentina
IBAN DE71 6005 0101 0002 9314 76
und schreiben Sie im Verwendungszweck „für das Kloster St. Benoit, Südfrankreich“.
Bitte geben Sie außerdem Ihren Namen sowie Ihre vollständige Postadresse an. Sie erhalten dann jeweils im Januar eine Jahresspendenbescheinigung für das Vorjahr.
Die Laienvereinigung leitet diese Spenden direkt weiter an das Kloster St. Benoit.
Personenbezogene Daten (Name, Adresse) der Spender werden gemäß der DSGVO gespeichert.
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Pro Missa Tridentina
Telefon: 0711 / 83 87 877
Vous trouverez ci-joint notre lettre aux amis du Carême 2019.
Our Lent 2019 newsletter is published below.
Vous trouverez également ci-joint une brochure contenant des informations détaillées
sur un appel important que nous lançons dans l’espoir d’obtenir une nouvelle demeure permanente et mieux adaptée au monastère.
Also published below is a brochure giving details of a major appeal we are launching
in the hope of obtaining a new, permanent and more suitable home for the monastery.
Nous vous serons profondément reconnaissants
de toute aide que vous nous pourriez porter, aussi modeste soit-elle,
et même de faire connaître cet appel à d’autres qui pourraient également le faire.
Nous serons heureux de vous fournir des exemplaires de la brochure
ou de les envoyer directement à d’autres personnes.
We shall be profoundly grateful for any help you are able to give, howsoever modest,
and indeed for making this appeal known to others who may be able to do so also.
We will gladly provide copies of the brochure to you or send them directly to others.
N’hésitez pas à nous contacter pour tout renseignement.
Please do not hesitate to contact us as necessary.
Que Dieu vous bénisse et vous recompense pour toute aide
que vous pourriez donner !
May God bless and reward you for any help you can give!
+ It comes as no news to any of the brethren that the spiritual and monastic writings of Downside Abbey’s Dom Hubert Van Zeller (1905-1984) have been something of a new discovery these past months. I doubt therefore, that the brethren will be at all surprised that this year’s Lent books are authored by him. His sobriety and sanity (and his utterly un-self-conscious monastic perspicacity) is profoundly refreshing amidst the tide of spiritual writing that engulfs us – even if much of his work is now more than fifty years old.
Our Lent newsletter contains an excerpt from his book Approach to Penance. At the beginning of our Lenten observance I wish to underline two fundamental principles he states therein.
“The only kind of penitence which is worth anything is conversion. Not only conversion from but conversion to. The penitence which stops short at remorse is not a true conversion, not a complete turn. For remorse to be effective it must be supernatural; it must go on to trust. To turn your back on sin is one thing, and is a good start, but it will not help you for long unless you turn your eyes towards grace.”
Each of us has much from which to turn, to be sure. But let us heed his advice carefully: conversion is a turning to God, to a new reception of His grace, to becoming what He intends me to be thereby. There is much here to ponder.
The second principle:
“The end of penance is God, not more penances. Thus the approach to penance has to be by way of love, not by steeling the will to toughness. Penance must have its roots in charity, not austerity. Austerity may accompany its growth, but it will be a by-product rather than an essential fruit. A certain austerity will even be a sign of true penitence, but it will not be an infallible sign or the only one. The infallible signs are humility and charity.”
This may sound awfully lax, even a little disparaging of corporeal penance, which as we know is writ large on the pages of monastic history. But let us be attentive to Dom Van Zeller: he is not advocating the abandonment of penitential practices; rather, he insisting is that they be planted in the fertile soil of the love of God so that they might bring forth not an outbreak of Jansenism, but a flourishing of humility and charity.
My brothers, your Prior is truly humbled by the penitential practices you have proposed for yourselves this Lent – may God bless and prosper your initiatives! But Almighty God will do so all the more if you heed the counsel of Dom Van Zeller: “the approach to penance has to be by way of love.”
Lent of 2019 sees us launching a major appeal for substantial help in trying to purchase a new, more suitable and permanent home for our growing monastic family. The Providence of Almighty God through the generosity of kind benefactors has never ceased to sustain us throughout these past years, and there is no reason to believe that we shall not continue to receive His blessings through the goodness of others now.
But we too must consciously play our rightful part. Whilst we do not have the means of this world at our disposal, we do have those of the next. For it is our privilege and our vocation to stand daily at the portal of the world to come.
Good people who daily toil in the affairs of this world and who thereby justly come to possess its riches do not give to us because of our own personalities or talents. They do not do so in order to maintain a quaint collection of individuals living a curious life which is interesting to observe from time to time, as one might sponsor an enclosure for an exotic species in a zoo. No: they support us – continually – because we carry them, their intentions, their loved ones, living and dead, to this portal, to the threshold of eternity, seven times a day and once during the night.
Saint Benedict insists that Lent is a time for his monks to “expiate the negligence’s of other times” (Rule, ch. 49). We each have particular matters to which to attend, to be sure, and so we must. But as a monastery I ask that this Lent we pay particular attention to the God given vocation and duty that is ours to pray for our benefactors and indeed for all who ask our prayers. For a monk is not enclosed so as to cut himself off from the Body of Christ. Rather, he enters the enclosure to become a truly vital cell of that Body, at its very heart, supporting by his prayer those whose vocation and mission will falter if the grace necessary is not begged for day and night, and won, by we whose God-given duty it is so to do.
Let us, then, be most attentive that our participation in each Office and Mass is offered for specific intentions, including those of our benefactors, known and unknown, who must daily combat the world, the flesh and the devil in ways in which we most probably could not.
It is too easy to become busy in a monastery and arrive at the Office ‘just in time’ or even late. The casualty of this is the lack of recollection it causes in the individual monk and also amongst his brethren – all the more so when the choir is small, as are we. In such circumstances it is very difficult consciously to form and maintain a particular intention before the hour commences. We are small and we work hard at all the necessary administrative and household tasks, we cook, we clean, we are diligent in our studies, we try to attend to guests as St Benedict would have us do, and the signal for the Divine Office can sometimes catch us mid-task, mid-sentence, as it were. Nevertheless, we are to put nothing before the Work of God (Rule, ch. 43). Let that truly be the case this Lent. And in doing so, let us ensure that we carry to the Work of God all those who ask our prayers and who support us, begging God’s grace that they may be faithful and zealous in the various circumstances in which they live and work and may be granted the grace of perseverance.
The approach to penance most certainly must be by way of love. So too must our work in Choir – or anywhere in the monastery. In heeding our Holy Father Saint Benedict’s injunction to expiate the negligence’s of other times in this sacred season of Lent, let us make this benchmark the matter of an examination of conscience. For Saint Benedict calls us to and offers us not a life of penitential misery – however much of that we deserve and may have to endure at times – no; he calls us to “run with [the] unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God’s commandments” (Rule, Prologue). May all that we undertake this Lent serve that end. +
Download our appeal brochure and reply form. - Téléchargez notre brochure d'appel et formulaire de réponse.
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