4th Thursday of Easter Time
Holy Abbots of Cluny
Today’s liturgy is a kind of history of God. The first reading tells how God chose Israel and took care of them in the desert, and raised up Jesus from among this people. In the Gospel, Jesus humbly washes the disciples’ feet, saying that happiness will be theirs if they behave accordingly. Today’s feast shows us how Jesus lives on in the lives of his disciples, in this case the abbots of Cluny. Perhaps the best known of these is Blessed Peter the Venerable, who had a very busy life, but also an intense interior life.
This Peter was the ninth abbot of Cluny, at a time when his community had about 400 monks and there were about 314 Cluniac houses. As head of this sprawling congregation, he had to make journeys which were too long and too frequent for his liking; he would have preferred a more contemplative style of life. But he was able to accept the sacrifice as the will of God, just as Jesus always did the will of his Father.
In our Order, Peter is best known for the way he handled himself in the famous quarrel between Cluny and Cîteaux. He never allowed himself to descend to personalities, as so often happens in disagreements nowadays. Peter brought everything back to essential principles, and never lost sight of charity as the most important thing. It was a painful struggle, but it says something about his character (as David Brooks calls it in our refectory book), that through it all, he remained a strong and faithful friend of St Bernard, as we can gather from the tone of St Bernard’s letters to him. That controversy was only one incident in his life, but it shows us how much like his Master this servant of God was.
Also like his Master, Peter was compassionate to sinners, whom he treated like a father. He was the one who welcomed Abelard, who would die at peace with the Church. All this external activity was the overflowing of a vigorous interior life. Peter gave himself up wholly to the one true wisdom, guided by Holy Scripture and the Fathers. It was God whom he sought in everything, God whom he loved and wanted to have loved.
Peter became a part of the history of God, and God for his part gave Peter the eternal happiness of those who love him to the end.