One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

January 05, 2008

For the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

[The abbot presides and preaches on Epiphany in the monastery. Here is a homily I wrote a few years ago for a parish.]

Matthew 2:1-12

Next Sunday is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
That is officially the last day of the Church’s Christmas season.
Today through next Sunday are the days of “Epiphany Week”— or “Epiphany Octave”— within the season of Christmas.
The word “Epiphany” means literally “great revelation” or “great showing.”
All of “Epiphany Week” is a GREAT SHOWING of the nature and identity of the Child born in Bethlehem.
It is a GREAT SHOWING of his work, his mission— his purpose in the world.
Today we see astrologers arrive in Bethlehem from some far country east of Israel.
These “wise men” throw themselves on the ground to worship the Child.
They offer him gifts that suggest what future has now been born in a stable.
They give him the bitter and intoxicating myrrh-spice of prophetic ecstasy.
They present him the sweet frankincense of priestly sacrifice.
They offer him the gleaming gold of kingly wealth and glory.
With these three gifts, the Magi are paying homage to Him who is a prophet, a priest and a king.
The daily Mass on the other days of “Epiphany Week” also give us other GREAT SHOWINGS of the power, mystery and glory of this Child born of Mary.
Two of the Epiphany Week Gospels show him curing those suffering disease and pain, the possessed, the lunatics, the paralyzed.
He heals them all.
In another Epiphany Week Gospel he turns five loaves of bread and two fish into enough to feed more than five thousand persons.
Yet another Epiphany Week Gospel shows him to us in the darkest hours before dawn, as he walks upon the waters of a storm-tossed lake, steps into the boat of his terrified disciples, and causes the storm to die away.
The forces of nature fall down in obedience to the Man-child born of Mary.
Another Epiphany Week Gospel shows him in his home town daring to claim the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy that begins with the words, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me.”
Later in Epiphany Week, John the Baptist comes forward in the Gospel to testify that the GREAT SHOWING, the EPIPHANY, is complete.
That is the last time we ever hear John the Baptist in the Gospel, speaking as his last words: “That is my joy, and it is complete.”
Epiphany Week and the Lord’s Baptism are a GREAT SHOWING of the Good News that the Christ Child has divine power and divine glory.
A Messiah of power, glory and divinity naturally draws us to bow down and worship him with the Magi.
However, another kind of “epiphany” awaits us— the epiphany of Holy Week: an epiphany, a SHOWING not of divine power and glory, but of human weakness, suffering, humiliation and death.
We know that beyond his cross there is a further epiphany of our Lord in his Resurrection, and that the Epiphany of the Resurrection is again one of divine power, glory and life.
Nonetheless, most of his own contemporaries saw his tortured agony and death as an epiphany that finally proved Jesus was not the Messiah.
The paradox of a divine Messiah who is shown not only in power and glory, but also in humiliation and death is also the paradox of Christmas: the Child born of Mary is BOTH GOD AND MAN.
Next Sunday’s feast of the Lord’s Baptism— the last day of the Christmas season— continues the paradox.
The Sinless Christ submits himself to the baptism of repentance preached by John.
In the context of that submission, another epiphany, another GREAT SHOWING takes place.
The Divine Spirit is shown in the descent of a dove above the head of the Anointed One.
Finally, a voice from heaven confirms everything that we celebrate in Christmas and Epiphany: this is God’s beloved Son in whom he is well pleased.
We are witnesses of that— witnesses commissioned by God in the sacraments of our faith in Christ.
We are witnesses of all that the Gospel shows us.
So we now flock to Christ, here at his altar.
We are members of the Church, a collective bride coming to meet Christ the groom.
We are here to offer him, not only gold, incense and myrrh, but to offer him ourselves.
We are here to be completed by him, but also to offer our own sufferings together with his.
We are here to offer him our humanity, but also to receive a share in his divinity.
Here, in the sacrament of his Flesh and Blood, he takes the guilt of our sins upon himself.
In return he gives us his own innocence to drink and eat.
Here, also, following the example of John the Baptist, we come to decrease so that the Epiphany, the GREAT SHOWING of Christ, might increase in us and throughout the world.

That God Be Glorified in All

January 03, 2008

For January 3 in the Christmas Season before Epiphany

1 John 2:29 to 3:6
John 1:29-34

The Word of the Lord in the first reading today is about us, while the Gospel today has St. John the Baptist telling about Jesus.
The Word of the Lord in the first reading says we are the children of God, that one day we shall see him as he is, and seeing him will change us in a way yet to be revealed.
The first reading spells out in black and white that we are to leave behind sin and lawlessness, to act in righteousness, and to make ourselves pure in hope of seeing God as he is.
To make ourselves black-and-white pure seems to us impossible, but the first reading says Christ “was revealed to take away sins.”
The Gospel repeats that, saying Christ is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
How was Christ revealed, and how does he take away sins?
St. John the Baptist tells us.
The reason John came baptizing with water was so that Christ might be made known.
Were it not for John’s baptizing, it seems Christ would not have been made known.
Baptizing with water, John made it possible for the people to know the Lamb of God.
John baptized them in their own repentance.
Repentance made them ready for knowledge of Christ.
That is still the true way to know Christ.
As the first reading puts it today, “no one who sins has seen him or known him.”
Repentance opens, clears, straightens, smoothes, prepares the way of the Lord.
Once he arrives, Christ, the Lamb of God, baptizes with the Holy Spirit, burning away sin with the power of God, burning up sin in the sacrificial fire of the Cross.
By the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ takes away the sin of the world on his own shoulders and into the fiery sacrifice of the cross.
As the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ is a covenant sacrifice, a communion sacrifice, a whole-burnt offering, and a sin offering.
Take... eat....
This is my body... given up for you.
Take... drink....
This is the cup of my blood...
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant...
shed... so that sins may be forgiven.

As a whole-burnt offering or holocaust, the Lamb of God rises to heaven not in fire and smoke as of old, but in his resurrection and ascension, his flesh and blood glorified with the fiery power of the Holy Spirit.
Because the Holy Spirit in his flesh and blood, Jesus still baptizes with the Holy Spirit all who eat and drink his sacrifice, making them children of the Father, and giving them hope to see God as he is.
The first reading affirms:
Everyone who has this hope based on [God] makes himself pure,
as he is pure.
Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness,
for sin is lawlessness.
You know that he was revealed to take away sins,
and in him there is no sin.
No one who remains in him sins;
no one who sins has seen him or known him.

Those words are black and white, because in the end the truth is black and white: either we shall look on God forever because of our repentance, or we shall not forever because of our sin.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.

Lord, I am not worthy.
Make me ready!
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy!
By the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, your death brought life to the world.
By your holy Body and Blood, free me from all my sins, and from every evil!
Keep me faithful to your teaching, and never let me be parted from you!

That God Be Glorified in All

January 01, 2008



The Solemnity of Christmas is the patronal nameday of Prince of Peace Abbey. The refrains or antiphons at the First Vespers of Christmas repeatedly invoke peace and refer to Christ as Rex Pacificus— meaning “King of Peace” or “Peaceful King.” Depicting a crown over the waves of the Pacific Ocean, the shield in our coat of arms is a pictorial play on the words “Prince of Peace”.

The Church Has Norms for Coats of Arms

A diocese has a right to a diocesan coat of arms that does not change as bishops succeed each other in the diocese. However, every bishop has a right to his own personal coat of arms distinct from the diocesan coat of arms; and an abbot may have a personal coat of arms distinct from his abbey’s coat of arms. There are items that belong in a diocesan coat of arms that are not permitted in a monastery’s coat of arms, and vice versa. Likewise the elements permitted in an abbot’s personal coat of arms are not the same as those of a bishop. Neither our first abbot, Abbot Claude, nor our second and present abbot, Abbot Charles, have had a personal coat of arms.

When the Holy See elevated our monastery to an abbey in 1983, we assembled a coat of arms for our abbey, but without knowledge of correct Church norms. In other words, our coat of arms is incorrect.  It is configured as the coat of arms of a diocese, not an abbey.

A Veiled Crozier

Interestingly, modern Church norms forbid the crozier in the personal arms of cardinals, archbishops, and bishops. Instead, those persons are to use a jeweled processional cross behind their individual shields. A bishop’s cross has one horizontal bar, while that of an archbishop has two. A cardinal’s cross has two bars if he was an archbishop at the time he was made a cardinal, and only one bar if he was a bishop at the time he was made a cardinal. An abbey’s coat of arms and an abbot’s personal coat of arms are not to have a processional cross, but are to have a golden, veiled crozier behind the shield.  At one time in history, the actual crozier of an abbot had a veil hooked to its knob to distinguish the abbot from a bishop. The crozier in an abbatial coat of arms still must have a veil hooked to the knob of the crozier. Therefore our coat of arms as we have had it from the start has been incorrect on this point, since it includes an unveiled crozier. The veiled crozier is the essential sign that a coat of arms belongs to an abbey or an abbot, rather than to a diocese. It is the crozier without a veil that makes our coat of arms incorrect. A final technical note: the bottom of a heraldic crozier is to be pointed, since that is historically how croziers were made.


An abbey itself may include a white miter above the shield in the abbey’s coat of arms, but it is not required. However, an abbot himself is prohibited from including a miter in his personal coat of arms.  In heraldic depiction the miter is always to have a red lining.

The Shield

Our shield is divided vertically down the center. The technical term for this is “partitioning the fields per pale.” A “pale” is a vertical line or post.

The right side as one views the front of a shield is called “sinister,” from the Latin for “left,” since that is the left side for a man holding his shield in battle. Conversely, the left side as one views the front of a shield is called “dexter,” from the Latin for “right.”

Our shield has two ravens in sinister, essentially reproducing the coat of arms of Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland. Ravens figured in the lives of St. Benedict and St. Meinrad. Einsiedeln stands on the site of the ancient hermitage of St. Meinrad, the Benedictine monk who lived the final years of his life as a solitary in the Black Forest above Lake Zurich. The monastery of Einsiedeln is also a pilgrimage shrine housing a centuries’ old image of “Our Lady of Einsiedeln”. Monks from Einsiedeln founded St. Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana, in 1854; and monks from St. Meinrad Archabbey founded Prince of Peace Abbey in 1958. The title and patron of the church at both St. Meinrad Archabbey and Prince of Peace Abbey is Our Lady of Einsiedeln, and a copy of her statue from Switzerland is enshrined in the churches of both monasteries.

In heraldry, the upper left as the viewer sees it is the place of honor. On our shield, this place has a gold crown to represent the Prince of Peace (Rex Pacificus). The blues waves below it signify the Pacific Ocean that is within view from our monastery’s church.


The traditional rules of color in heraldry require strong contrasts with certain colors only against certain backgrounds. For this reason, the gold crown in our shield would appear strongest on a black background. Our shield’s black ravens are on a white background, making for the strongest possible contrast.

The following image constitutes a correct configuration of our coat of arms.

The angled draping of the miter's lappets (or tails) and of the crozier's veil are in keeping with the angled draping of the Lord's tunic in the sanctuary icon of our monastery's church.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Here is the shield of St. Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana, that founded Prince of Peace Abbey in 1958.

This is the shield of the abbey of Einsiedeln, Switzerland, that founded St. Meinrad Archabbey in 1854.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 30, 2007

For the Feast of the Holy Family, Sunday within the Octave of Christmas

[It was not my turn to preside and preach at Mass today in the monastery. Here is a homily I wrote a few years ago.]

Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
Sirach 3:2-6,12-14
Colossians 3:12-21

In the celebration of the Mass, Christ continues his presence and his work in the world: giving worship to the Father and bringing salvation to us.
Today’s Mass celebrates the family of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and their role as a family in our salvation and our worship.
We know well the personal role of our Lord Jesus Christ in our salvation and our worship.
Through baptism we have entered into the perfect worship that he in his person, his life and his death offers to the Father.
In that very worship, he also is our salvation personified, for in him the Father raises us from the dead and seats us at his own right hand.
Today, we also give special attention to the personal role of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the mother of our salvation and the mother of our worship.
The Son of Mary is God himself.
To call Blessed Mary the “Mother of God” is to testify to the real, flesh-and-blood birth of God in person.
Blessed Mary is unique in giving birth as a VIRGIN and in giving HUMAN birth to GOD.
St. Joseph, her husband and the foster father of Jesus, is also unique.
He receives all the messages of God while he is asleep; and when Joseph awakens we see nothing else in his life except obedience to the messages of God.
In fact, we know nothing else about the earthly life of St. Joseph except that he obeyed every single instruction he received from God.
Today the Gospel draws our attention to the role of St. Joseph in our salvation as the foster father of Christ, as the husband of Blessed Mary, and as the protector and head of the Holy Family.
His living obedience is a model for our worship and our lives; but it is also more than that.
Whereas Blessed Mary truly is the mother of God, St. Joseph, in a certain fashion, is the “savior” of God.
Today in the Gospel we witnessed the message St. Joseph received from the Lord in a dream:
take the child and his mother,
flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.

St. Joseph obeyed, and so SAVED the infant life of God our Savior.
Had St. Joseph not acted to save him, the Holy Infant would have died a victim of Herod’s massacre.
The blood of the Infant Jesus could have atoned for the sins of all humanity.
Nonetheless, it was only in the fullness of his manhood that Jesus established the New Covenant:
This is my body.
This is my blood.
These are handed over for you
for the forgiveness of sins.

St. Joseph saved him for that.
It was in the fullness of his manhood that Jesus taught and gave us the new commandment:
As the Father has loved me,
so have I loved you.
Love one another as I have loved you.

St. Joseph saved him for that.
St. Joseph saved the Infant Son of God who later in the fullness of his manhood would choose twelve apostles.
Then, on the night before he was to offer himself on the cross for the glory of the Father and for our salvation, he spoke to the heavenly Father in the presence of those twelve, saying:
As you, Father, sent me into the world,
so I have sent them into the world.

St. Joseph saved him for that.
St. Joseph saved the Infant Son of God, who, thirty years later, in the fullness of his manhood, at the very summit of his saving work, would finally declare on the Cross, “It is complete” [Greek, tetélestai, “the goal is realized”].
St. Joseph saved him for that.
When the heavenly Father raised his Son from the dead, giving divine glory to his human flesh, it was the same flesh that St. Joseph had protected from the blades of Herod the baby-killer.
St. Joseph saved Jesus who would one day be raised from the dead in the fullness of manhood, and speak the first words of the resurrection to his disciples:
Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me,
even so I send you....
Receive the Holy Spirit.

St. Joseph saved him for that.
St. Joseph saved the Infant Son of God who later in the fullness of his manhood became our teacher and prophet, our shepherd and king, our sacrament, our sacrifice and our priest, our atonement and our communion, our salvation and our resurrection.
Saved as an Infant by St. Joseph, the Son of God would declare and prove in the fullness of his manhood:
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life....
No one can come to the Father except through me.

Though we are redeemed and made holy by the Son of God, we can clearly recognize we have a great debt to his foster father, St. Joseph, “Savior of the Savior”.
St. Joseph saved the Holy Infant who later in the fullness of his manhood left us the everlasting memorial of his love in the Eucharist.
What we celebrate in the Eucharist, we owe in no small degree to the intervention of St. Joseph and to the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the Church, we join St. Joseph and Blessed Mary as the family of Christ.
We can be sure that Christ, as a boy in Nazareth, thought of his own relationship to St. Joseph and Blessed Mary when he first learned to read the ancient Scripture that we heard today.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins....
... he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened...
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life,
and he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

That Scripture goes on to say:
My son, perform your tasks in meekness;

“Loved by those whom God accepts!”
Together with Blessed Mary and St. Joseph, let us love and worship Christ our savior, for, in Christ, God has accepted us as his own holy family.

That God Be Glorified in All