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.

 
 
 

PATER NOSTER   

No man has ever seen God; the only Son Who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known (Jn 1:18) In sinu Patris.

One of his disciples whom Jesus loved was lying close to the breast of Jesus (Jn 13:23) In sinu Jesu.

Two images of nearness: a mutual presence of trust, intimate know­ledge and love, a shared inner life.  The divine relations between the Father and the co-eternal Son are mirrored in those between the Incarnate Son and the disciple.  Jesus lives by the Father, his followers by him.  Jesus is “the Son” in the strict sense, remarks Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth, being of one substance with the Father, yet “he wants to draw all of us into his humanity and so into his Sonship, into his total belonging to God.”  Both Jesus and his followers share, as a result, in the Trinitarian embrace.  In sinu Jesu we are introduced in sinum Patris; but only through the Son, with the Son and in the Son, do we have access to the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

     We know, then, that Jesus’ Sonship is unique, while we are children of God by adoption.  We may say, nonetheless, that God is both the Father of Jesus and our Father.  This hope, this assurance, comes from our faith; yet time and again, St John and St Paul remind us that this state of being may not be taken for granted.  Our salvation requires a work of love.  Love is the commandment; the commandment is love.  As Roman Guardini puts it in his Jesus Christus: Meditations: nearness to God demands a “holy intermingling of commandment and love”.  The closeness of Father and Son, Christ and disciple, then, cannot be separated from works of love.  Put another way, there is an inner necessity which causes works to flow spontaneously from the abiding repose of union.

     Let us look first at Jesus’ awareness of this union: I and the Father are one.  I abide in the Father’s love.  The Father is in me and I am in the Father.  I am not alone because the Father is with me.  It is, as we said, a unique oneness: No one knows the Father except the Son and no one knows the Son except the Father.  Yet even within the Trinity, their fruition of love in infinite peace is an endless mutual self-giving.  When the Son enters the world of time, he continues to commune with the Father in his Heart, whether alone in the hills or on the plain, with the crowds; yet in spite of this unbroken communion, he is the One sent by the Father for the work of man’s redemption.  From the Father’s embrace, he comes to do the Father’s will.  It is his food and drink; it is a fire in his bones.  He is the burning bush which is not consumed, yet he comes to cast fire upon earth, to consume all the sin and dross of humanity and to enter the heart of man as the fire of love, the Holy Spirit.  Only having accomplished his course, does he ascend to the Father’s throne, to the Sabbath rest, there to continue to intercede for us.

     The hunger for the Father’s will presses for fulfilment.  Even when his human will appears to struggle with the divine will, as in Gethsemane, there is a deep and holy unity between them.  In the words of Guardini: “The Father’s will is the Father’s love.  In his will the Father comes to Jesus in person … in accepting his will Jesus receives the Father.”  We sense “a continuing interior dialogue … it is always the Father who says ‘Do this’, and Jesus answers, ‘Yes, I will.’”

     Now the Father and Jesus, as we saw, have not insulated themselves from the world; they stand in readiness to admit anyone who obeys the Son into their fellowship.  The prime example is Mary, the Mother of the Son of God.  She, too, is the burning bush which is not consumed.  Her fiat springs from her interior adherence to God, that is, one might say, from her repose in him, exteriorised in her embracing of his will.  She enjoys closeness of union and dialogue with God; she is enveloped by the Cloud of his presence; she carries God within her womb, “the most concrete expression”, says Benedict XVI, “for the intimate interrelatedness of two lives.”  Then, like her Son, she too is ‘sent’ to bring among men the world’s salvation, to make visible the invisible God, the “living fullness of his being and truth”.  Through her the inexpressible Word, in sinu Matris, becomes a speechless infant.  Her own communion with God is not thereby disturbed.  Scripture tells us that she had a growing knowledge of deep things which she hid in her heart.  She remains, however, open to new demands, new calls within the Call, because her fiat is unlimited, without condition.  It shares in the obedience of her Son; it brings her to his side at Calvary, but also to his seat in heaven at the Father’s right hand.  Here is the familiar trajectory from union of will to fiat, expressed in freedom and fidelity, to fruition in eternity.  The joy and peace of Mother and Son consist in being always near the Father, a nearness which is not only close presence but a unity binding the Father to his eternal Word and to his Mother on earth (cf Guardini).

     Common, again, to both Mother and Son are their thanksgiving to the Father and their “work” of praise, which is the overflow of their loving union with him.  “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to babes,” that is, to those of filial heart; not a matter of dependence, comments Pope Benedict “but rather of standing in the relation of love that sustains man’s existence and gives it meaning and grandeur.”  The Father is praised by the Son for His fatherly love to all.  Likewise, Mary praises him in her Magnificat, not only for performing mighty deeds, but for doing them on behalf of little ones, the poor, the hungry, the lowly, Mary herself.  Cum essem parvula, placui Deo.

     We turn, now, more explicitly, to our own place in the divine scheme.  Bl Columba Marmion writes: “All our sanctity consists in becoming by grace what Jesus Christ is by nature.”  Guardini puts the same truth like this: “The whole life of Christ recapitulates itself ever anew in man.  To live as a Christian means to participate in the re-enactment of Christ’s life.  What is his and what is ours become one.”  Finally, St Elizabeth of the Trinity: “O Consuming Fire, Spirit of love, come upon me and create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word; that I may be another humanity for him in which he can renew his whole mystery.”

     Firstly, in all this, there is God’s initiative.  Without any merit or work of our own, our baptism confers on us divine adoption, a new life and a mysterious admission into the inward life of God.  We are endowed with faith, hope and love, the powers which enable us to lay hold on this life and become what we are; for we are not, in the words of Pope Benedict again, “ready-made children … but are meant to become so increasingly, by growing more and more deeply in communion with Jesus.  Our sonship turns out to be identical with following Christ.”  In sinu Jesu.  Because we are adopted children in Christ, we can lay claim to the spirit of adoption, whereby we call Abba, Father.  This is a spirit of freedom, of holy audacity, which dares to unite itself to the Spirit of Jesus, the source and pattern of our life of grace.  As the authors we quoted point out, our life is taken up into his life through a gradual transformation.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit, the work of a burning love which dwells in us, enabling the Son to relive in us “his whole mystery”.

     Thus we are predestined, chosen and sent.  This is true of every baptised soul, but, in the religious vocation, there is “a rebirth of the rebirth”.  At our Profession, we are bound to him arctius and commissioned, consecrated anew.  We answer volo and following through in our actions, we come into the presence of the Father’s love through the Son.  If the divine life flows down from the Father to Jesus, it flows also into those who are united to the Son by a loving will.  If “in accepting his will Jesus receives the Father”, as we saw, then we, too, by embracing Jesus will receive the Father in him.  He “brings to perfection in our hearts the spirit of adoption as sons” (Collect).

     Our condition has thus become entirely filial; we are hidden in the Heart of God in Christ, from whom our works of love will flow henceforth.  We recognise now, also, that we are in communion with all the other children of God.  Pater noster is the “filial cry” of the whole Church.  It is a cry that God may be hallowed, that his kingdom may come and his will be done.  It reaches out into the world from the heart of the monastery and its sacrifice of praise, in proportion to the intensity of the flame of divine love in our own hearts.  This is not a feeling of warmth but a casting of fire upon earth in union with Jesus, fire which will also consume and melt our own egoism and fear.  His kingdom comes first in us.  If we follow this programme, grace will make our whole being open up to both God and man.  This is the privilege of the child of God.

     To conclude with Bl John Ruysbroeck, who compares the child’s rapid course with the more measured ascents of the so-called grown-up: “The child presses on to lose his own life upon the summits, in that simplicity which does not know itself. …  When we transcend ourselves and become in our ascent towards God so simple that love can lay hold on us, then we and all our selfhood die in God and find a new life within us.”  The soul then finds itself “a little child upon the bosom of the Father.”  In sinu Patris; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven, the “promised inheritance”.