January 4, 2023
January 1, 2023
The Invasion of the Eucharistic Word
The Eucharistic Word invades
In the solemn mirth
Of this very moment,
Under a multitude of veils,
Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity
Rejected but undaunted,
Resounding with meaning - faith’s secret orientation point
Amidst the rush of change,
Through the profane, Light blazes its trail of glory.
In the beginning, we hear these silent
Magnitudes of majesty,
In hidden untold splendor,
Bursting forth the more
Betrayed, denied, abandoned,
Suffering to be suffered,
By a surrendered heart, that patiently
Bears his love lavished soft on
Before this fulness of life,
a soul can ache with
Such sadness and joy in adoration -
At once enkindled, overflowed, overwhelmed
By those harmonies
As still remain to be heard:
Throw down your crown, fall on your knees - ah those
Hymns, anthems, canticles becoming
That heart, who raises whole creation into
December 24, 2022
Faith comes by hearing, but who are we listening to? On my own first visit to Holy Transfiguration, this question rang through me. After a difficult experience in formation with another community, I was looking for someone I could trust. Abbot Boniface had founded a Byzantine Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, and someone suggested that I meet with him and seek his counsel. I wondered whether this would be a man I could trust and deeply hoped it was.
A true spiritual father, on the other hand, is able to see. Having learned to be a son, he knows how to contemplate, how to behold reality with confidence. He is able to listen in a manner that makes his whole being vulnerable to God - humble trust and obedience to the heavenly Father opens up such contemplation. He lives in gratitude because he knows that such vision has been bought for him at the price of Christ's blood, and the freedom he now has to see is something he refuses to take for granted.
Because Jesus is the Word of the Father, we need men, such as these spiritual fathers, who will help us find the Lord so that we might learn how to live. We need another to help us welcome "the Light" who was "from the beginning." Someone beyond ourselves needs to speak the Word into the whole of our humanity until everything human about us - our entire image and likeness to God - is translucent with the Light of Christ. Such is the role of a spiritual father: this man listens souls into being because he himself "keeps" the Word in his heart. Because he has welcomed the Light that shines in the darkness, he can listen to the suffering ache in this particular son or daughter. He can listen until he enters the aching truth of another - and because he yearns to unveil to them what they cannot see on their own. The light of Christ is mediated through a spiritual father who listens.
When a soul humbly seeks help, a true spiritual father tunes into this particular “end point” in eternity and carefully discerns this soul’s unrepeatable role the great symphony of creation. In order to realize such greatness - a soul needs to be taught to see, needs to be listened to, needs to manifest its pain to someone who will fight for it, protect it, and help it become what it is meant to be. In the order of nature, this is the work of a father - in the order of grace, this is the completely unmerited privilege of a spiritual father. In my case, I was encouraged to study theology in Rome and to become a teacher, but to do it as an act of faith. This was just the word I needed at the time, a spiritual direction even as I felt I was wondering aimlessly. I had a sense for how to serve God and confidence in the goodness of His work in the world.
Confidence, purpose and sense of identity is what Abbot Boniface offered me when I came to first came to Mt. Tabor. It is the very purpose that he founded Mt. Tabor - and when he offered it, the stream of spiritual fatherhood he chose to sanctify this mountain flowed from the caves of Kyiv. Indeed, as is the case of Ukraine, this monastery is at the head waters of the Russian river, looking out over lands once claimed by Russia. Just as faith flowed from those caves of Kyiv into Russia, so too does faith flow into California from this vantage point. The caves of Kyiv received the grace of monastic mysticism from Constantinople - and this heritage drew from the deep dug wells of desert fathers in Egypt. This great heritage found expression in the life of St. Symeon the Studite - who in turn formed St. Symeon the New Theologian. This happened at about the same time that Ukraine was first accepting the Gospel of Christ - and through this acceptance, the Russian people were evangelized by a monastic Church - a Church of spiritual Fathers. California in all its rejection of fatherhood and hatred for actual men needs a new evangelization - one that can only flow from spiritual fathers and the monastic tradition.
The great calling for Mt. Tabor is not simply to be a shelter in the storm of secularism - but, as were the monasteries of Egypt, Constantinople and Kyiv, a school of spiritual fatherhood, a place where one can be a spiritual son, a place where men show one another the Light as brothers. It is not an ideal of "Prayer and work" but of "prayer and family" - of sobernost, solidarity, a union of hearts forged for the glory of God. Glory waits to be revealed by those who will seek the Son of the Father. For St. Symeon the New Theologian, one learns to see the Light of Christ through the mediation of a spiritual father — one needs a spiritual father to see the immaterial light of Trinitarian glory. Since the time of Abbot Boniface, Holy Transfiguration Monastery has helped form such men - and this is true even now.
November 13, 2022
Christ, the Word of the Father, commands those who believe in Him, "Do not be terrified." If we stand in the face of war and insurrection is breaking our society apart, and fires and floods and storms and earthquakes threaten at every side, "Do not be terrified." If false prophets predict utter catastrophe and declare the end of time, "Do not be terrified." To be terrified is to be so seized with fear that you are not able to do anything or think of anything. But Christ commands us not to be terrified. This is because what He reveals is more powerful than natural or manmade disasters. Whatever the catastrophe - He is Lord and nothing can impede his power. With Him there is always a future for each person and for all of humanity - no matter what happens. This is why He declares that "before" any disaster that might befall us is His saving plan. Before the worse catastrophe that we might imagine, we should expect to be imprisoned, mocked, ridiculed, humiliated in all kinds of ways. Why does the Almighty God allow his beloved to suffer in this way? Because before all the threatening circumstances and misfortunes of life - and actually into these very realities - He has sent his beloved to provide a word of hope. He has sent his disciples, his faithful followers to witness to the exceeding love of God and to declare it so that those who might need it the most can find it where and when it seems absent. With the love of God revealed by Christ, even in total disaster and insurmountable hardship, a man can stand firm with hope - because this eternal love opens to horizons the exigencies of the moment cannot hold back. God's love shatters the prison walls of rancor, strife, animosity, bitterness and disappointment. God's love opens possibilities even in the face of grave injustice and horrific evil - a life line to those who are surrounded by death. God's love sanctifies broken wombs and raises up to life those whose lives we have destroyed. God's love pricks the conscience of the hardest heart and brings to repentance those everyone assumes are set in their ways. God's love raises out of the narrow confines of the pressing moment, raises above the social conventions of every historical epoch, and breaks open the dams of human potential - for those who know this love remember what it means to be a human being. It is because of this love that Christ tells us, "Do not be terrified."
September 30, 2022
Even in this time of worry, confusion, and darkness there are tremendous signs of hope, including a renewed devotion to Our Lady and the power of the rosary. We place our trust in her promise at Fatima that “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
In that spirit, I’ll be helping to lead the Rosary online with the team of the Avila Foundation and thousands of other faithful from around the world on October 7, 2022, the feast of Our Lady of Rosary, beginning at 6:30 PM Central.
I’d love to have you join us for this free live event, “The Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” You will need to register in advance to receive the link to join in. Here’s where to sign up: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/avilafoundation/707728/r/cc
Hope to see you there!