Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Our Lady’s Assumption

A Reflection by one of our Sisters, for the Solemnity of the Assumption
Daughters of Sion - Come and see the maiden of Nazareth as she is borne to Heaven, to receive the crown prepared for her on the day of her heart’s desire. (cf Song of Songs throughout).

Mary, dear one, see where your Son stands behind our wall, he peers through the lattice, your Beloved lifts up his voice and says to you:
‘Come then my love,
my lovely one, come,
For see winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth –
the wheat fields are all golden for the harvest.
The season of reaping has come.
Ag Criost an Siol
Ag Chriost an Fowhar
in iothalin Dé.
Go dtugtar sinn –
into God’s garnering,
may you, Mary, be drawn,
and he, your Son, repeats his invitation
with growing urgency.
We can sense how God too, is yearning to have his Bride come home.

Come, then my love, my lovely one, come,

my dove hiding in the cleft of the rock

in the home of John the Beloved.

For your voice is sweet and your face comely.

Mary you are indeed wholly beautiful, my love,

and without blemish.

‘Because he that is mighty has done great things in you’. (Lk.1)
“Oh, to be with you Mary in this place where you are. To say nothing, to gaze at your face. To let the heart sing its own language. To say nothing, but only sing because one’s heart is full. Like the blackbird which follows its own idea in sudden bursts of song. Because you are beautiful, because you are immaculate. The woman full of grace at length restored, the creature in her first honour and full bloom. Just as she came forth from God at the dawn of original splendour”. (The Virgin at Noon by Paul Claudel.)
Draw us after you Mater Misericordiae and after this our exile show us too, the Blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Novena to St Dominic - Day 9

At the beginning of the Libellus - Blessed Jordan’s account of the beginnings of the Order, we read: “God’s Providence raised up the Order of Preachers as a remedy for the perils of these latter days.”   Other early biographical documents describe the world into which Dominic was born as a “world wrapped in darkness where the light was sinking” - where Dominic “shone like a new star” and as a “light that would illuminate with its beams the whole world”  - a light not just for his own time but has continued to shine, through the members of his Order, down to our own day when the darkness and confusion seem to grow even more intense and widespread. We are all part of that darkness through our own sinfulness, blindness and stubbornness.  Yet as Christians and followers of Dominic we are also called to be light in the midst of the darkness of our time.

We notice that the darkness grows more intense as God seems to be increasingly forgotten and excluded from our society.  The remedy then is for us to become more aware of the all-encompassing Presence of God and to live our lives bathed in the light of that Presence – to radiate that presence to those around us as Dominic did.  Dominic we are told spoke only to God or about God – yet he was a wonderful companion to his brothers and sisters – always radiating compassion, gentleness and kindness.  

In his recent letter to the Order fr Bruno reminded us that “the Divine Office, the sanctification of the hours, is an act of faith for us that, despite our failings, brings us always into the Presence of God.”  And he continues: “By singing the story of the people of God (as we do in the psalms) in the midst of the world we can open a breach in our contemporary history – we sing of the promise of a Presence and a coming that projects the light of a promise of eternity into ordinary situations” – a promise glimpsed in the Book of Revelation where the heavenly “city is lit by the radiant glory of God and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it.”

This morning’s Mass readings (Jer 30; Mt 14) provide us with such examples of God’s gracious Presence in the midst of chaos.  The prophet Jeremiah addresses a people whose ‘wound is incurable and whose injury was past healing’ because of their infidelity to the covenant – yet in the midst of their brokenness God promises that their community will be set in His Presence.  In the Gospel Jesus comes in the midst of the storm – “if it is you” cries Peter “bid me come to you across the water.”  Jesus says “come.”  Peter takes the risk and walks on the water for a while but then sinks as soon as he takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to focus on himself – how familiar we all are with this experience!  Yet as soon as he cries for help Jesus stretches out His hand and holds him.  We open every hour of the Divine Office with a similar cry: ‘O God come to our aid! O Lord make haste to help us!’  Do we believe that Jesus is stretching out His hand to save us and those others for whom we offer our lives and carry in our hearts day by day, hour by hour?   To quote fr Bruno again: “To sing the liturgy hour after hour calls us to be convinced that the world is saved and heard even in the midst of its own noise.”  And he continues: “if we celebrate the liturgy of the Hours day after day and throughout the course of each day, it is so that our time is really, strongly, seized by the Presence and becomes a place to recall the mystery”.  No wonder that Dominic placed so much emphasis on the common celebration of the liturgy.  As nuns of the Order of Preachers the celebration of the liturgy is our primary means of preaching.  As we celebrate this feast of our holy Father Dominic we pray that through the worthy celebration of the daily liturgy we may open a breach to allow the radiant light of God’s presence to shine in the darkness of our world.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Novena to St Dominic - Day 8

Today’s liturgy leads us into the great mystery of the Transfiguration of our Lord, Jesus Christ. At Mass, we heard in the Gospel: “this is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him”. (Mk 9:8)

Each line in the Scripture is an expression of the Eternal Father’s Word, calling us to LISTEN to that Word so that we might have “life in abundance” (Jn 10:10).

Our entire existence is really a call to be a hearer and keeper of the Word of God. When we speak of hearing, it is FAITH first of all of which we speak. Thus ‘faith is the organ of hearing,’ and ‘believing and hearing the Word of God’ is one and the same.

For me, St. Dominic is the best teacher of listening and obeying the Living Word.

In the Legenda of St. Cecilia we are told “in the evening time, Dominic used to come to the sisters and give them a conference in his brethren’s presence, and he used to instruct them in the duties of the Order, for they had no other master than himself”.
This one sentence from the first generation of the Order is rich in meaning, it tells us that Dominic took pains to make sure that the nuns received a good formation in the Order, it is also significant that Dominic preached to the nuns in the brethren’s presence, for it tells us that the brethren and the nuns are formed together to be of one mind and heart. The brethren and the nuns were to share the same vocation, striving for the goal of Preaching for the salvation of souls, yet each according to their particular expression.

Dominic himself was formed by constant listening and reflection on the Scriptures. He was a man of freedom because he possessed a listening heart. Because he was totally united to Jesus, he was a man for others.
The Word of God is a living Being. We are called to be God’s presence in the world and we can fulfil that mission through our obedient listening and openness in being formed by the Gospel.

The Bible has been given to us, not for information but for transformation into Christ. It brings us into his own relationship with the Father. Listening is the time for being! It is the way of making full contact with Truth.

Preaching doesn’t so much raise the question “what am I to say? rather it asks “who am I? “Are we friends of God”? A friend refers to who I am, not what I am doing. A Preacher is first and foremost a friend of God.
The desire to know God is also a manifestation of the desire to be known by God, to be known fully, to be embraced and loved totally.
Preaching begins and ends in contemplation and silence. The search for God is at the heart of authentic preaching. Preaching is actually God searching for us. This is the spirituality of the Preacher. (Fr. Simon Tugwell O.P.) In the homily on the feast of the Transfiguration, Origen said: “The garments of Jesus are the expression and letters of the Gospels with which He has clothed Himself, these become white to those who go up into the high mountain along with Jesus”.
If you love Jesus, and do what he said, then you will become the same colour as Jesus!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Novena to St Dominic - Day 7

Guy Bedouelle o.p. provided me with a starting point for my reflection on St Dominic. In his book ‘The grace of the Word’ he has this to say:

When Dante called St Dominic “the passionate lover of the Christian Faith” he referred to the entire life of the Father of Preachers, to his unflagging eagerness to bear witness to this faith, to defend it and to transmit it. If St Dominic yearned to penetrate Catholic teaching through study, to be able to expound it in persuasive terms, if he aspired to affirm it in every way in order to “strengthen his brethren”, it was because his own faith was flawless and intense.”

He goes on to say that

Christ is the centre of faith and its source. It is through Him that we embrace all that the Church believes. The theology of St. Dominic, if we may speak of the theology of one who left no written works, seems based entirely on Redemption through Christ, from which everything else in Christian teaching radiates.

The Christ who had saved Dominic, this Jesus whom he contemplated, followed and preached was the Son of God, the Redeemer. When Dominic exhorted his brethren to prayer he said only this “Let us think of our Saviour” (Bolognia, 41)

“Let us think of our Saviour.” Through this little phrase we see into the heart of Dominic and get an insight into the source from which all his apostolic zeal and activity flowed.
Dominic’s eyes are ever on Jesus. “He spoke only to God or of God” we are told. Dominic always turns us towards Jesus; to make Jesus known and loved is his sole preoccupation. He spent his nights with Jesus in prayer and his days in graced filled preaching; a preaching supported by the witness of his life.
Through their encounters with Dominic people were able to meet Jesus and come to know him as their Saviour only because Dominic had met Jesus and knew him intimately as his Saviour.

Fast knit to Christ Crucified Dominic’s heart was at one with Christ’s own longing for everyone to know the Father’s love for them in a personal and intimate way through the experience of faith. It was this ardent desire that motivated him to spend himself in being all things to all people in the hope that he might lead some of them to Christ. His constant prayer was for that true charity capable of labouring for and procuring the salvation of souls. That charity which was so in evidence in his life, he learned at the foot of the Cross where with Mary he lingered long and lovingly contemplating the love of God made visible in Jesus. The crucified Christ was for him the model of total self giving. As Jesus was so Dominic became, totally divested of self. His prayer was always to God and for others. “O God, what will become of sinners” became for him the cry of a heart completely configured the heart of Jesus. It was here at the foot of the Cross that Dominic experienced for himself the mercy and compassion that nourished his spirit and served as the focal point for his preaching. His own encounter with Christ directed all his interactions. As he was himself loved by Jesus so he loved others and in so doing won numerous people to God.

Dominic we pray to you in the words of Bl. Jordan:

“You having once begun the way of perfection left all in order to follow naked the naked Christ, preferring to pile up treasure in Heaven. But with even greater strength did you renounce yourself and manfully bearing the Cross, you chose to follow the footsteps of the sole true guide- the redeemer.

You who sought the salvation of the human race with so much zeal come to our aid. ‘Be for us “Dominicanus” that is a careful watchdog of the lord’s flock.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Novena to St Dominic - Day 6

In reflecting on the life of St Dominic, in preparation for his Feast-day, I was struck once again by his passion for preaching, for the proclamation of the Gospel. For most of his adult life he longed to go and bring Christ to those pagans who had never heard the gospel. Although this was not possible, he founded his order in response to the Albigensian heresy, working tirelessly to proclaim the Truth, who is Christ, to those who had been deceived by falsehoods and half-truths. As Jordan of Saxony, Dominic’s successor, wrote, it was for “these innumerable souls who were deceived that they felt moved by deep compassion”.

This is in marked contrast to an attitude sometimes encountered today: the idea that what matters is the sincerity of one’s beliefs not what is believed. At times this can go so far as thinking that people would be ‘better off’ not knowing, because once they are given the Gospel they will be obliged to ‘keep all the requirements’, and will fail and sin whereas at the moment they are not sinning because they don’t know. Thinking about this presented me with something of a jolt – to what extent are my own thoughts and actions influenced by this attitude? Do I see my faith as a collection of ‘requirements’, of “hard sayings” (Jn 6:60) and not what it truly is, what St Dominic lived and proclaimed: the Good News! The greatest news I could possibly bring to another person – our redemption; the invitation to share, even now, in the inner life of the Trinity; the chance to know Christ, to live in and with Him, most especially in that most intimate communion when we receive Him in the Eucharist. This is why St Dominic founded the Order of Preachers; to bring this Great News to those who were being deprived of the fullness of this relationship with Christ by the half-truths of the Albigensians.

May our Father Dominic intercede for us, that we his children may have the same passion to bring Christ to those who, in our time, are being denied Him by ignorance and falsehoods and half-truths.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Novena to St Dominic - Day 5

A Reflection on St Dominic and Prayer, given by one of our sisters, for the fifth day of our Novena to St Dominic

Taken from the book, "St Dominic" by Alain Quilici, O.P.

It is said that saints are most in tune with their sinfulness and the sinfulness of the world. They are, like Dominic, so close to the Lord that they feel his great pain at this sinful world, and are pained to the deepest parts of their being as well. Dominic suffered with the Lord because he united himself with the one who united God and mankind. Jesus Christ, in his passion, gave himself totally to the Father for love of us; Dominic follows this path, seeking the suffering of the passion as a path to deeper union to and an expression of love for Jesus Christ.

Dominic contemplated the crucifix with an incomparable penetration – his prayer tends to be united with Christ’s prayer. It becomes identified with the passion of the Lord Jesus: his passion for his Father, his passion for the salvation of mankind, his loving passion and his painful passion. The summit of Jesus’ prayer is his prayer on the cross, this prayer about which we know only a few fragments, a few cries, but about which we presume is filled with immeasurable love. Dominic had the grace to perceive something from Jesus’ prayer of agony. His sons and daughters are invited to participate in the grace of communion with Jesus’ sacrifice. For this sacrifice does not come freely. It is the price that is paid for the salvation of souls. Not the price that God requires, but the price that each of us should pay in order to show what part one is willing to play in God’s concern to save all mankind.
Jesus took the best part. It will not be taken away from him. The martyrs who received the grace to shed their blood like their Lord come next. That is why Brother Dominic wanted to be a martyr. He did not want it for himself. He was not concerned with that. But he wanted to go all the way to the gift of his own life. He wanted the love within him to bring fruit worthy of the love that God himself, manifested for the poor creatures that we are. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.2:5)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Novena to St Dominic -Day 4

As we draw nearer to the feast of St Dominic, I have been thinking again about how he is in a sense a ‘mysterious’ and ‘obscure’ kind of saint: so much has been written in an attempt to make him known, while he wrote so very little himself – his ‘words’ are the sisters and brothers he gathered together into the Order of Preachers; the souls he won for the Lord Who was his most intimate friend.

I considered what a great legacy he left, in leaving so ‘little,’ because he thus can be a saint everyone can truly know and have as a close friend; and when we see the diversity within the Order: how he founded an Order that has room for every one – we can be moved to a wonderful sense of gratitude to our eternal Father, for blessing St Dominic with that certainty and confidence in Him, that He can and does make us one, who are so very different and distinct.

I wondered where would be a good place to come to know St Dominic, and in reading his ‘fourth way of prayer,’ it seemed that here is the answer.

In this way of prayer, Dominic ‘either before the altar or in the Chapter Room, with his eyes fixed on the crucifix, would contemplate it with indescribable intensity.  He would make numerous genuflections before it. ... After such prayers he was filled with great trust in the mercy of God for himself, for all sinners and for the preservation of the younger brethren whom he was sending out into the world to preach the Gospel to souls.  He was sometimes unable to refrain from breaking into speech, repeating words of the psalms or other words of Holy Scripture.

But sometimes he spoke within himself, and no sound became audible; and he would prolong his genuflections, his soul lost in ecstasy.  While he remained praying thus, he would sometimes look as if his mind had pierced the sky; and soon he would be seen to be thrilled with joy, and to wipe away the tears that flowed from his eyes.

And more by his example than by word, he taught his brethren that way of praying.

Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.

In imitating Dominic’s example, I wondered what it is we might learn in our contemplation; what it was that he learned and that he came to know in gazing upon the cross.  Two things, maybe.

The overwhelming wonder of divine love: that no human words could ever describe, causing us to fall into silence, that silence where we find true peace: awe that leaves us speechless.

“For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.” (cf Eph 2: 13-18)  For there, at the foot of the cross, there is no place for discord or enmity – nothing but the love of God matters, and that that love be known by and alive in every one.  For that look with which Christ our God gazes on us with such longing, is the same look, the same longing He has for the brother with whom I am at odds; and in that peace that only God gives, I must understand that the faith and the love and the desire my sister has for the Lord, is no less valid or sincere than is my own.  With the pure heart that Dominic had, we too will know that the cross is a place of glory and of gladness – ‘it is wonderful for us to be here!’ (cf Mk 9:5)

“How blessed are those who love you,” Lord Jesus!  “They will rejoice in your peace.  Blessed are those who grieved over all your afflictions, for they will rejoice for you upon seeing all your glory, and they will be made glad for ever.” (Tobit 13:13-15)

And it is in contemplating the crucifix that with open and pure hearts, lovers of God know how infinitely dear they are to Him – they know who they are.  I think that it was there that Dominic realised who he was in God’s sight, and he couldn’t but fall into an ecstasy at realising that even he, a mere creature, was so valuable to his Lord, so precious.  There, he allowed his mind to be remade, his whole nature trasnformed (cf Rom 12:1-2) – and the return he got: the gift of discernment of the will of God: that will which destined Dominic from the first, to be moulded into the image of Jesus. (cf Rom 8:28-30)  It is in our contemplation of Christ on the cross that we too, will realise how God has called even us to partake in the fulfillment of His plan, that in His wisdom, by giving us life – He has made us to be necessary somehow to Him; we are not here by accident.  Dominic knew in faith what the Lord was calling him to do; if we make a friend of him, he can obtain for us also the courage to discern the Lord’s will for us and to do it.

May the Lord enkindle in us the gift of wonder in Him and in who we are in His sight; and may He, through the intercession of Mary and Dominic grant us that purity of heart which will enable us to see Him for all eternity.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Novena to St Dominic - Day 3

Pondering on the various virtues attributed to St. Dominic in the Hymn ‘O Lumen’ sung each evening in his honour by all his children throughout the world, I was drawn to the title ‘Rose of Patience’, this is a virtue in which most of us need encouragement from time to time, if not all the time! There are so many facets associated with this vibrant virtue. Making the effort with God’s ever present help, to be patient in our daily dealings with one another and in the various situations that occur each day, is already an important beginning – but there is of course, a much deeper level to this beautiful virtue to which God calls us, of which St. Dominic gave such ample evidence in his own humble life.

Witnesses at his canonisation mention repeatedly in one way or another – that he was a man of patience, of humility, compassion, encouragement, cheerfulness, obedience, to name but a few, all so closely linked with patience. But, we may ask why ‘Rose of Patience?’ – what is the connection? Roses symbolise ‘love’. Love and patience are two words closely associated – St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians: ‘Love is patient’ – we cannot have true patience without love and we cannot have true love without patience. Patience is also linked to obedience – ‘the sign that thou hast this virtue of obedience’ said the eternal Father to St. Catherine, ‘is patience’. All these virtues shine forth so brightly in the life of our father, Dominic, and invite or rather, urge us to imitation.

So how does one learn to cultivate this most necessary virtue? It cannot be achieved by sheer will-power alone – no, we must ask for it in humble prayer. How well St Dominic knew this as he spent long hours by day and by night communing with God in prayer. Alongside prayer, we turn for help and enlightenment to the holy Scriptures, we know St. Dominic constantly carried the holy Scriptures with him on his long journeys, and he would have been very familiar with the text in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans – ‘everything written in the Scriptures is written that we might have hope through the patience and encouragement which the Scriptures give’ – the letter goes on to say ‘God is the source of patience and encouragement’.

Blessed Jordan, St. Dominic’s successor, set himself the task of training the first nuns of the Order, in patience, which he rightly believed to be of utmost importance to the cloistered contemplative life as well as to every walk of life. He reminds us that it is the virtue of patience that will be subject to vigorous attacks by the Devil as the soul progresses.

The virtue of patience is so all embracing, not just patience with one another, but patience with God: ‘wait for the Lord, keep to his way’ the Psalmist tells us. and of course the need for patience with ourselves cannot be over estimated – it is a journey of a lifetime for most of us. Asking Jesus in humble prayer for his help as he told us to, is the only way: ‘Learn of me for I am gentle and humble of heart - true gentleness and humility are as we all realise, closely intertwined with patience.

So each evening, as we sing the Antiphon ‘O Lumen’ to St. Dominic and invoke his title ‘Rose of Patience’, let us make it our plea with him to foster continually in his sons and daughters, this pearl of great price.