29th Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Solemnity of the Dedication of the Abbey Church
1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30; 1 Peter 2: 4-9; Luke 19: 1-10
The abbey church stands at the heart of our monastic community. It is within these walls that this local Church dedicated to Christ the King gathers “to offer God a sacrifice of praise, namely the fruit of lips that confess His holy name” (Heb. 13:15). It is here that the Most High has chosen to pitch His tent among us and to cover us with the shadow of His wings. In communion with the angles and the saints, we assemble to worship, praise and adore the One who makes this place holy.
Whenever we gathered around this Table of the Lord, which is modeled after a millstone, we partake of the Banquet of the Lamb who was slain. It is the deepest desire of our hearts that the Lord Who called us into His presence would gather to Himself all His children scattered throughout the world. Surrendering to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we pray that we might become the wheat of Christ that will be transformed into His Living Body. Recall these words St. Ignatius wrote to the Romans as he prepared to die: “I am the wheat of God and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ” (Letter to the Church of Rome). As members of the Body of Christ may we be broken and scattered for the life of the world.
As he stood before the altar of the Lord, Solomon reminded the people that he had built the Temple in response to God’s inspiration and guidance. Following in his footsteps, our monastic forebears built this temple to the honor of our one true King. Each of us entered the monastery in response to God’s call. In His hands, we have become “living stones, being built into a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5). We exist as a church because we have caught a glimpse of the infinite greatness and majesty and holiness and justice and wisdom and power and truth and goodness and mercy and love of God.
We are gathered in this sacred space in order to ponder and ruminate the saving deeds of God. Because the joy of the Lord is our strength, we have gathered here to offer prayer and praise to Almighty God for all He has done for us. Each year as we recall the dedication of this church we are reminded of the sacredness of our calling. Saint Peter put it this way: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Gathered around the sacred table, we partake of the Sacrament of our Lord’s Body and Blood so as to strengthen our grasp of that for which He has grasped us (Cf. Phil.3:12).
Writing to the church in Corinth, Saint Paul wrote: “Do you not know that all of you together are the temple of God and that God’s spirit dwells within you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). With this in mind, we should focus our attention on what it means to be a monastic church, a community that offers a sacrifice of praise to the Divine Majesty. Whenever we come together in this place, we need to keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to the movements of the Spirit in Word and Sacrament. With the ears of our hearts may we always hear the voice of the Master who speaks through the Sacred Texts that are proclaimed at the Ambo. As students of the Revealed Word may we listen and conform our lives to all He says to us.
Today we thank God for the beauty of this house that has been erected to the glory of His Holy Name. This holy place is constructed of rock and cement, of steel and glass. It is a visible sign of the living church, God’s building that is formed of the people themselves. Within these walls we are reminded that the treasure of gospel light is contained in earthen vessels. These walls manifest the majesty and grandeur of the monastic church that gathers to pray within them. The rocks, like the members of this community are large and small, they are of various colors, they are unpolished and they have rough edges. They are fitted together by the Divine architect. They are held in place by the cement of divine love.
I wonder is Saint Benedict had the walls of our church in mind when he wrote chapter seventy-two of his Rule. “This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love: They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else. Let them practice fraternity and show one another the pure love of brothers” (RB 72: 1-8).
May the Spirit of God that makes these walls of stone a temple of God’s Glory make us a spiritual house made of living stones (Cf. 1 Pet. 2:5). May God so pour out His grace upon this church so that all who come here may find comfort and solace for their souls. Resting in the Word, may their faith be strengthened. Fed with the Bread of Life, may their love be refreshed. As recipients of monastic hospitality, may their hope encouraged. May our fidelity to our monastic vows be a witness that draws others to newness of life in Christ. Because God has come to meet us in the temple of our hearts, we should offer our hearts in a spiritual act of worship and dedication to God. We should walk every day of our lives with the assurance of God’s indwelling in us so that when the Lord returns in glory, He would bring all of us together into everlasting life.