Memorial of Saint Claire
(Deuteronomy 34:1-12, Matthew 18:15-20)
“So there, in the land of Moab, Moses, the servant of the Lord, died as the Lord had said; and he was buried in the ravine opposite Beth-Peor in the land of Moab, but to this day no one knows the place of his burial” (Deut. 34:5-7). This verse has always puzzled me. The Hebrews were always so careful about historical markers, yet, for some reason, they did not erect a monument over the final resting place of their great lawgiver. It is easy to allow our minds to drift to the encounter between the risen Lord and Mary Magdalene in the garden. “Do not cling to me for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (Jn. 20:17). While he had seen his heavenly homeland, Christ had not yet entered into it. Were the people to cling to the burial place of the man who had a vision of the land flowing with milk and honey, they never would have crossed over and taken possession of it. My great uncle owned a farm in Strongsville, Ohio. He had a wonderful plaque hanging over the lintel of his front door: “A resting place for a time, my home is in eternity.”
Like Moses, we are called to ascend the heights and look to our promised homeland. The gaze of faith allows us a glimpse of eternity while our feet are still firmly on earth. Gregory the Great recounted Benedict’s vision while keeping vigil. “Standing there, all of a sudden in the dead of the night, as he looked forth, he saw a light that banished the darkness of the night and glittered with such brightness that the light which shone in the midst of darkness was far more clear than the light of the day. During this vision, a marvelously strange thing followed, for, as he afterward reported, the whole world, gathered together, as it were, under one beam of the sun, was presented before his eyes.”
What I found even more enlightening than the account of this vision was Gregory’s comment on the event. “All creatures are, as it were, nothing to that soul that beholds the Creator. For though it seems but a glimpse of that light, which is in the Creator, yet all things that are created seem very small. By means of that supernatural light, the capacity of the inward soul is enlarged and is so extended in God, that it is far above the world. The soul of one who sees in this manner is also above itself; for being wrapped up in the light of God, it is inwardly enlarged. When it is so exalted and looks downward, it comprehends how little all creation is.” With Moses and with our father Benedict, let us look up from earth to heaven. Let us lift up our eyes to the heights. In the light of the unapproachable Light let us strive to build up His kingdom of goodness, justice, solidarity, and mercy. The love of the Triune God leads us to a loving communion with all the members of the human family. This all-inclusive love is a foretaste of our heavenly homeland.
Fullest joy and perfect knowledge Uttered in one holy Name;
Earth and heaven, light and darkness, In God’s truth are one and same.
One dim flicker hid all power, Every splendor of the day,
Benedict, the single-hearted saw God’s world as a single ray.
(Hymn for the feast of St. Benedict)