14th May 2015
Homily for the First Profession of Sr Mechtilde Hansen
Fr Xavier Perrin, OSB of Quarr Abbey
“The Lord Jesus, after
he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand
of the Father” (Mk 16:19).
We have just heard
this sentence in the Gospel. On the one hand, it is very simple. It sounds like
something familiar, like, say: “Once he had finished his job, Jack went back
home and had a good rest”. But, on the other hand, all this is quite
extraordinary, indeed full of mystery: “the Lord Jesus” is no ordinary man, but
the Risen one who has received “the name which is above every name”, a name
nobody is able to pronounce; he did not fly back, but he “was taken up”,
whatever means of transport this verb may suggest; and the “right hand of the
Father”, where he is now seated, is no common armchair, and neither Mother
Abbess’s throne nor even St Edward’s in Westminster Abbey can give an accurate
idea of it.
In fact, we are not
allowed to choose between simplicity and mystery. It is the style of the Holy Spirit to work and to
speak in a way which is both very simple and deeply mysterious, at the same
time very human and fully divine. We could call it the style of the Incarnation – the main opus the main work of the Spirit of God, in Mary and with Mary.
According to this style, the divine
reality is expressed in the most human manner, whilst the simplest human facts
are pregnant with the fulness of God’s mysteries.
Such is Christ’s
kingdom. It is full of the deepest mysteries of love and at the same time it is
utterly simple. It is simple among us, in the Church, hidden as it is in the
simple daily lives of men and women, who believe, hope and love, who work and
pray, who rejoice and suffer, who will die and enter eternal life. The Kingdom
is as simple as charity, the signature of the Spirit, which no one can measure
except the One who gives it according to the measure of His loving wisdom.
It is simple in
heaven, too, and I guess even simpler. Heaven is only charity, heaven is only
love. Heaven is the perfect simplicity of pure love which gives life, absorbs
death, and bestows resurrection. Heaven is as simple as Father and Son together
again and, with them and in them, the whole creation of God recapitulated in
love: “I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving
the world and going to the Father” (Jn 16:28). Isn’t it perfectly simple?
A school of love, be
it a family or a monastic community, is a place to learn the style of the Spirit, which you could
describe as the simplicity of the children of God. In one sense, it is true
that monks and nuns are surrounded by signs of mystery. Enclosure and grilles,
habits and veils, rituals and rules, and so many other details seem to put them
in a very separated, mysterious and, for an external observer, at times pretty
enigmatic world. But from inside, we know that monastic life is quite simple,
utterly human, and not spectacular at all. There is not much to be seen amid
our communities of men or women who eat and sleep, work and recreate, except
probably that their members seem to have a strange tendency to pray quite often.
Though, with some sensitivity to the Spirit, some experience of his style, you would probably recognise, in
a very discrete fashion, certain signs of His presence such as “charity, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”
(Ga 5:22); Saint Benedict would say: “good zeal”.
Dear Sister Mechtilde,
by ways known to God and yourself, you have been drawn to this place and you
have been recognised as called to and able to partake of the life of this
Community. Already you have learned much from your Mother Abbess and your
Sisters. They have taught you by their words and deeds the good zeal of love
which combines in a unique way the ever more profound adoration of the Father
“in Spirit and Truth” and the humblest obedient service of the sisters in
It is a life which is
not always easy, as you have certainly experienced. But as one perseveres in
it, it becomes always simpler. In a very simple way, the contemplative nun
feels she is really more and more dwelling in heaven with her Beloved, and at
the same time more and more rooted in earth together with her sisters and with
all mankind for whom she intercedes faithfully. In love, life becomes one. What
could appear at first as two divergent directions is more and more felt as
deeply one and the same in Christ. Just as Jesus in all circumstances of his
mission did not cease to abide in His Father’s love, so the nun lets her heart
be widened by the Spirit so that it may embrace in a simple and strong love heaven
and earth, God and man, the present moment and eternity, death and life.
With all the Church
how could we do other than implore for you from Christ in glory the gift of the
Holy Spirit? The Spirit will be for you, as he was for Mary and all the saints,
the faithful guide within your heart, teaching you his inimitable style, leading you day after day,
opening and widening your heart so that your life may be a simple praise of
love to the Beloved, a melody soaring heavenwards and bringing to the earth the Peace of the Heart of Jesus.
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