Dec. 19: O Root of Jesse
"O Root of Jesse, You stand for an ensign of mankind; before You
kings shall keep silence, and to You all nations shall have recourse.
Come and save us and do not delay."
Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Judah and of David's kingdom.
However a stock, a root, a stump, if you will, would remain, the root
of Jesse, David's father. From that stock a sprout would burst forth
which would be more than David, Whose power and esteem would be
greater than that of the former kingdom.
Those of us living in the north can well appreciate this image.
Winter comes, long winter, and nothing visible of a perennial's
splendor remains. Hidden in the earth, the life, the promise waits in
the roots for spring. One clips the ugly remnant to the ground and
awaits the resurgence in the coming Spring. There was a long winter
of centuries for Jesse's Root, but, when its Spring came it flowered
forth Christ, the Messiah.
When Christ appears, He is, like the first sprigs of spring growth,
much smaller than the tree which had been felled, and seemingly
weaker and more vulnerable, yet His power and scope is far, far
greater than that of those who preceded Him. Just as in the
gentleness/strength contrast of ordering all things mightily and
sweetly, here the apparent weakness, smallness and vulnerability of a
new shoot is the embodiment of the greatest power imaginable. Jesus
IS God, but He comes in vesture that hardly brings to mind a power
broker. It is the topsy-turviness of the Gospel paradox.
This tender Sprig is actually an ensign for the nations, a rallying
flag for all peoples and it is so in a way that the mighty tree of a
kingdom which came first could never have hoped to be. Whatever may
have been the temporary influence and prestige of Israel's kings, it
was nothing compared to what is promised here.
What we translate as "nations" and Latin renders as "gentes" had a
very different significance for the Hebrews. By that term, they
really meant "Gentiles" everyone who was not Jewish which, of course,
included every nation- all the nations- other than themselves. Hence,
this term, easily missed as innocuous in English or Latin, is far
from it. It speaks directly to opening the promise of God's salvation
to ALL peoples, to the New Israel which is the Body of Christ, whose
membership is potentially the entire world. The tiny Branch will
break down walls and barriers.
This is the first day we add some special urgency to our daily plea
of "come!" We add: "and do not delay." The most casual glance at the
world's leaders and the state of things today will reveal that the
fullness of the Messiah's role as a rallying point for all, before
Whom all rulers shall be silent, is hardly just around the corner. We
affirm that by our urgency, by begging Him to hurry!
A final Benedictine aside, which I think plays so well with the
imagery of this antiphon may be found in a popular symbol for Monte
Cassino. The great abbey, so often destroyed in its long history, is
depicted as the stump of a huge and mighty tree, with a tender green
shoot growing from its center. The Latin motto which accompanies the
image is "Succisa Virescit" that is, "Cut down, it grows back."
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Prayers for the safe release of Fr. Chito and 13 others held hostage by militants in Marawi, Philippines. Prayers, too, for the eternal rest of the police chief there, who was beheaded, and for his family and all who mourn him. Prayers for the conversion and repentance of his killers and all the attackers. Prayers for all those affected in any way and for peace in this troubled region.
Prayers for our Sr. Christine, whose 20th anniversary of solemn vows was yesterday, graces galore and many more, ad multos annos!
Sue asked prayers for all who suffer hearing loss.
Prayers for the eternal rest of Fr. John Brioux, OMI, and for his family and all who mourn him.
Prayers for the eternal rest of Fr. Peter D’Alesandre, and for his family and all who mourn him, especially Rachel.
Lord, help us all as You know
and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent,
praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
January 25, May 26, September 25
Chapter 7: On Humility
Holy Scripture, brethren, cries out to us, saying,
"Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled,
and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).
In saying this it shows us
that all exaltation is a kind of pride,
against which the Prophet proves himself to be on guard
when he says,
"Lord, my heart is not exalted,
nor are mine eyes lifted up;
neither have I walked in great matters,
nor in wonders above me."
But how has he acted?
"Rather have I been of humble mind
than exalting myself;
as a weaned child on its mother's breast,
so You solace my soul" (Ps. 130:1-2).
if we wish to reach the very highest point of humility
and to arrive speedily at that heavenly exaltation
to which ascent is made through the humility of this present life,
by our ascending actions
erect the ladder Jacob saw in his dream,
on which Angels appeared to him descending and ascending.
By that descent and ascent
we must surely understand nothing else than this,
that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility.
And the ladder thus set up is our life in the world,
which the Lord raises up to heaven if our heart is humbled.
For we call our body and soul the sides of the ladder,
and into these sides our divine vocation has inserted
the different steps of humility and discipline we must climb.
Today we begin St. Benedict's exhaustive treatment of humility.
Humility and obedience are so closely linked that it is virtually
impossible to speak of one without adding the other. Since both are
essential Benedictine virtues, it is easy to say that there is no
such thing as a holy Benedictine who has not climbed or is not
climbing this ladder. I have never known a holy monk who was not
humble, in fact, it was usually their most outstanding trait.
A lot of this chapter will grate on modern ears. I will be the first
to admit that some people need assertiveness training. However, in my
experience, most of us do not. Most of us manage to be assertive on a
daily- even hourly- basis without much difficulty. Remember, too,
that modern psychology is a science which, like all science, is
limited to observable data.
Hence, it is not surprising that the generalities of psychology deal
with relations between people and visible, created things. The catch
here is that the humility St. Benedict speaks of is rooted in
relationship of humans to God, a sphere in which psychology often
finds itself woefully out of its element. It can see some things
amiss, but not all. It lacks the supernatural basis of faith, and
this impedes it in this area. Balance, always balance.
A quickie on the Psalm quote today: "...neither have I walked in
great matters, nor in matters above me." This would appeal to
Brother Patrick Creamer, my late mentor. He learned to do it quite
well and in just 45 years or so!! Say a special prayer for Patrick's
eternal rest with God.
I speak as one who has been all too focused at many times on the
monastic soap opera, its hand-wringing tempests in teacups. About
many things, even most, we must learn simply not to meddle, not to
trouble ourselves with matters too great, even though we may have to
call them "great" with an inner, rueful chuckle.
You will never have peace until you learn to leave all that alone, to
distrust it for the empty and tragic charade that it truly is. And
you will never get anywhere if you don't have peace. The road to that
peace is humility and love, both effective vaccinations against the
fatal disease of power.
Love and prayers,