In early times, the daily Chapter was a traditional feature of the monastic timetable. The monks left church at the end of the office of Prime and processed to a room near by, where a portion, or "chapter," of the Rule was read and the abbot commented upon it. It was also the natural occasion for announcements to be made affecting the life of the community and for a blessing to be given upon the day's work. Soon the room itself came to be called "the Chapter Room, or House" or simply "Chapter." Even today some form of this practice exists in many monasteries, including our own. Each month this page will feature a chapter talk given to the Community, as well as news and features. We hope you will visit us regularly.

 

Ascension
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 faithful love.

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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