November 21, 2016

Christ Our King


Happy Feast to all, and particularly to Chris! Such a wonderful feast, especially in the place it’s been given in the liturgical year since Vatican II. The liturgical year culminates in a celebration of that which is beyond time, the reign of God which endures forever.

So, if we are celebrating Jesus Christ as king, we need to have some conception of what a king is. Obviously, we’re talking in the language of analogy here: it’s not as if we’re to picture Christ as just an earthly king but raised to a higher power, doing the job perfectly. In fact, in 2 of the 3 years of the liturgical cycle the Gospel for the feast is taken from one of the Passion narratives – Luke this year, Cycle C, and John in Cycle B.

This year Christ the King concludes the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. We end this special year in company with the Good Thief on the cross, receiving the ultimate mercy at the very moment when the divine mercy is most threatened, about to be utterly vanquished by the forces of darkness and hate. This is one clear aspect of Christ’s kingship that is prominent in all four Gospels: whatever this kingship means, it’s not about earthly power; it doesn’t depend on display; and it’s so strong that no hate or darkness can overcome it.

So on the one hand we have this image of the divine king as utterly meek and lowly, not resisting power with power, showing his majesty in his willingness to suffer cruelty and dishonor out of love for God.

Yet on the other hand, much of the New Testament shows another side to Christ’s kingship, the side that emerges in the triumph over death and evil. One of the Old Testament verses that early Christians found very helpful in both expressing and exploring their experience of the Risen Lord was from Ps 8, “God has put all things under his feet.” This verse suggests that Christ’s kingship carries resonances of earthly kingship: exercising sovereignty over all, fulfilling the royal functions of governing, judging, protecting.

This analogy came naturally and easily to people in the first century. But it’s not so easy for us today. As wealth, education, and social complexity have increased, monarchy seems to be something enlightened societies leave behind. What does this do to our image of Christ as king? Do we believe that the kingdoms of the past are the best earthly approximation of what heaven will be like? Maybe this democracy stuff – very messy at times, after all – will get left behind? After all, there are no traces in the New Testament of heaven as a democracy.

Or is that true? I’ll come clean here: a few years ago I started collecting Scripture texts that show heaven as something other than an absolute monarchy; to put it another way, that show us sharing in Jesus’ reign and kingship. Not just as happy, docile subjects, but active participants. To give one of the most obvious examples 2 Tm 2,12 says, “If we endure, we shall also reign with him.” Most of the other texts (and I’ll leave a few copies of the collection) are along this line – we inherit the kingdom along with Jesus; he makes us his co-workers. In other words, it is the whole Christ who reigns, head and members. Jesus wants to share everything with us – his glory, his majesty, his love for the Father.

In C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair, Eustace and Jill, along with their friend Puddleglum, set out to rescue the prince of Narnia who had disappeared 10 years earlier. Prince Rilian’s father, Caspian, was a good friend of Eustace when Caspian was a young king in the health of early manhood. Now he is quite aged, and sadly, by the time the prince returns to his father, Caspian is on his deathbed, and dies only minutes later. As the two children stand on the sidelines with aching hearts, Aslan comes to take them home. But their trip home is very strange. The funeral music continues and the king’s dead body comes along too as the children float back to the in-between world they had entered en route to Narnia. When they get there, Caspian is restored to life – but to new life, his resurrected life. As Aslan prepares to take the children to their own world, Caspian says “I’ve always wanted to have just one glimpse of their world. Is that wrong?”
            “You cannot want wrong things any more” Aslan tells him.

This is the prerequisite for our reigning with Jesus. In the kingdom of God, all our creativity and freedom will be set free, because we will have lost that miserable ability to choose and to want in opposition to God. Now all our wants and abilities will be permeated by the love and designs of God. This is to reign with Christ. We cannot want wrong things any more.

The majesty and glory and immensity of Jesus Christ, risen and reigning, are unique and incomparable, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Augustine says that in heaven we will rest and see, see and love, love and praise – and this will be our activity forever. Charles Wesley similarly speaks of our being “lost in wonder, awe and praise.” Adoration is our joy.

But this doesn’t mean that we are just marionettes in the hands of a divine puppeteer, devoid of all real agency. No, we will reign with Christ. Think of the billions of people who we hope will all be in heaven, each of us with our own unique contribution to make, our own unique ideas and plans and wants, but all in total harmony with God’s and with one another’s.

Jesus is the unique divine Son – but the Father has given him the amazing gift of being Savior, that is, of being allowed to share everything that is his, with all his brothers and sisters. And what joy it must give him to do so! Our King is the king of love, never so happy as when honoring us, allowing our sanctified desires and dreams to reign along with his.

We inherit the kingdom along with Jesus, because our God had this wild and crazy idea to create beings with real freedom, a freedom that will be eternal, enfolded forever in the safety of genuine love and self-giving.

Today is Jesus’ feast; but it is also our feast. Our life is a school where we start to learn what true kingship is. Our joy today is to praise and love our king, to be filled with hope for the coming of his kingdom.

Rev 22,5   And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.

And God will be all in all.

August 31, 2016

Archbishop Jackels

Archbishop Jackels and M. Rebecca
Last Sunday Archbishop Michael Jackels was celebrant at our Sunday Eucharist.  In his sermon the Archbishop described and stressed the importance of realizing God's love for us in our lives.
After Mass we had brunch in our refectory and caught up on the news of the diocese.  It is always a pleasure to see him and share our news with him.

August 29, 2016

Visiting Professor

Last week we had classes with our favorite scripture scholar, Dr. Lynn Osiek,RSCJ  We spent our first four days studying the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.  We gained many insights into who were Paul's recipients and meaning into the text of the letter.  We spent the last day looking at woman rivals in scripture.  We looked at Sarah and Hagar, Leah and Rachel, and others in scripture.  Over the years we have had many classes with Sr. Lynn and are calways glad to have her back.  She is a wonderful teacher.

August 24, 2016

Sr Anna's Solemn Profession

Sr Anna and M.Rebecca
Sr. Anna made her solemn profession on August 19th, the feast of Blessed Guerric of Igny.  She made her promise of obedience on August 18th at Chapter.  Dom Mark Scott presided at Mass and Fr. Bill Joensen was concelebrant.  Mother Rebecca and Dom Mark read the Solemn prayer of monastic consecration.  After Mass the community, several of our brothers from New Melleray, family and friends, including Sr. Ginny, a lifelong friend of Sr. Anna's processed to the refectory for a festive meal together.
To view more photos see The Solemn Profession of Sr Anna on our website.

July 25, 2016

Stormy Weather!

Last week we had our share of Midwest heat,humidity and storms.  On Wednesday morning when most of the sisters were working at candy a fierce storm blew in.  A torrential rain was falling accompanied  by lots of lightning and thunder.  There was also a big bang that was much louder than the thunder.  We found that lightening struck the white pine tree outside of the front of the abbey.  The tree literally exploded splitting the tree and sending branches scattered all over the lawn.  We found out later that the lightening burned the roots allowing water to flow into the garage and causing damage to the electrical system.  We were out of water for a few hours and the phone and computers were out for a few days.
Thursday night we had another storm that dumped 3 inches of rain in a few houses causing flooding in the cloister and senior wing.
On Saturday evening we had a tornado warning.  In fact, 2 tornadoes touched down south of us.  The high winds caused a tree to fall on the utility lines causing a power outage at the cabin.
Today it is blissfully sunny and dry and warm.  A relief from all that happened last week!

The magnolia tree behind the white pine tree protected the roof from the force of the fall.

The brand new roof was not damaged!

What it looks like now.

June 11, 2016

Golden Jubilee of Ordination!

Fr. Dick and Mother Rebecca
One of our chaplains, Fr. Dick Ament celebrates his 50th year of Ordination this year.  Since we couldn't join him at the official celebration at St. Lawrence in Otter Creek, Iowa we decided to have a celebration of our own.  After Mass last Thursday we had a special brunch and visited with Fr. Dick.  He shared with us on his past ministries and about the celebration last Sunday at St. Lawrence.  At present Fr. Dick is an active retiree helping out at various churches in the area and our community a few day a week.  Congratulations Fr. Dick!

June 2, 2016

Return of the chickens

We have a new batch of chickens!  There are brown ones, black ones, white ones and yellow.  Presently they are living in the farm manager's office.  They are very small and have to live with a constant temperature until they are bigger and can move into the goat barn.  They grow pretty quickly so we are looking forward to eating there eggs soon!

May 6, 2016

Liturgy Classes

We have spent this past week having classes with Sr. Genevieve Glen,OSB from St. Walburga's  Abbey in Northern Colorado.  Sr. Genevieve is a trained liturgist and a wonderful teacher.  She talked about time, the Eucharist, the Divine Office and monastic life in the context of the Paschal Mystery.  It was all very rich input.

April 26, 2016

Lovely Spring!

One of the prettiest times at the abbey is spring.  Colors and flowers are abundant with every shade of green imaginable!  We were lucky this year as spring came early and we are still enjoying it to the full.

Volunteer/Employee Celebration

Fr. Ephraim
We used to have our party for our employees and volunteers during the Christmas season.  A few years ago we changed the time to right after Easter because inevitably there would be a snow storm and very few people made it out to the abbey for the party.  This year we had over 50 guests.  We started with the celebration of Eucharist.  After Mass we moved into the refectory for a bruncheon.  It was wonderful seeing volunteers that we haven't seen since candy season and to visit with our employees and their families.

April 12, 2016

Community Retreat

We had our yearly community retreat last week.  It was a very blessed time.  Sr. Mary Ellen from our mother house of Mount St. Mary's Abbey in Wrentham, MA gave the conferences.  She focused on the treasures we have along the path of our life.  These are Mystical Moments, Ordinariness, Community, Forgiveness, Loneliness, Falling and Present Moment and Surrender.  These talks helped us to focus on our lives and see the gifts that our life offers us.  Sr. Mary Ellen is an Aussie and it was delightful to listen to her Australian accent.

February 8, 2016

A Life of Hope

Recently we published A Life of Hope, a book about our 50 year history here at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey.  It is filled with beautiful pictures of the abbey and the abbey property.  It is available for sale at our gift shop and on our candy website www.monasterycandy.comProduct_List?c=32