Fr. Isaac Slater, OCSO
4th Friday of Ordinary Time
Presentation of the Lord
I have mentioned before and often come back to Corona Bamberg’s description (in The Cost of Being Human) of the monk as “one who is willing to be struck”—one who is willing to be exposed to the truth of the gospel again and again, “struck” with wonder, gratitude and compunction.
There are many kinds of monks but all of them have a kind of susceptibility, a stubborn tendency to keep getting back into the ring like a punch-drunk boxer. Our heart’s desire is to be one with God—the daily monotony of monastic practices, the trials and delights that come to us, purify and concentrate that desire.
The Lord refines us like silver, purifies our desire for “the messenger of the covenant.” The open secret of the monk’s willingness to keep picking himself up off the mat, the source of his courage is Jesus, who has become like us in every way, who submits to being tested with and through his brothers and sisters in every generation.
Jesus above all is the one “willing to be struck”; he learned obedience from what he suffered…as well as compassion. Because he was tested he is able to help those of us whose silver has corroded and needs to be refined. Jesus allowed himself to be struck by the full force of the truth—at once the truth of divine love, which he absorbed and radiated to all, and the truth of human brutality—its envy and scapegoating…which he exposed on the cross.
In his flesh he became the embodied sign of divine love, contradicted by human cruelty…so that the depths of the human heart might be brought into the open, drawn into the light and healed. Just as Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in what was, in a way, the offertory of the first Eucharist, so this morning we bring to the Lord, the dross, the rusty vessels of our lives to be refined and burned away to pure silver. However meager and poor the gifts we bring we can have confidence, because they are offered by the hands of a merciful and faithful high priest who undergoes our testing with us.