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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Sunday, 2 February 2014

February 2nd: A CLOTHING AND A FIRST PROFESSION


Conference for the Clothing of Br. Augustine Primavesi
and Preliminary Rites for the Temporary Profession
of Brs. Dunstan Nelson and Alistair Findley.

            Dear brothers in Christ, what an eventful evening this is: the clothing of a novice, while two novices make final preparations for their First Profession tomorrow. This is a moment of grace in which to thank God for his love and mercy, revealed to us in his generosity in calling all three of you to serve him in the monastic life as members of the Belmont Community. A sign of a true monastic vocation is that we give thanks to God for that vocation every day of our life. The loss of a spirit of gratitude is a sure sign that a vocation is slipping away, and we can, through our own neglect, easily lose the precious gift that God has given us. So I invite you to begin each day with a prayer of thanksgiving, the very moment you wake up and before you do anything else. Then everything will fall into place as it should.

            The Rite of Clothing says, “the Abbot, if it seems appropriate, exhorts the new novice to humility and obedience.” So, Br. Augustine, these words are for you. In the world we are taught to put ourselves forward and to work at self-promotion, which leads to dominance over others and success in life. We have to push others aside or trample on them as we make our way to the top. We have to show that we are independent and have a mind of our own, that we know better than our peers and are superior to everyone else. I don’t think that’s an exaggerated picture of the cut and thrust of modern society. Life in a monastic community has to be the exact opposite. We follow the example of the first Christians in Jerusalem, where everything was held in common and no one thought himself to be better than anyone else. We practise “koinonia”, where all things are held in common, from what we believe to what we do, with no exceptions. We seek to listen to the voice of God and we do our best to follow Jesus, our Master, wherever he may lead us. We care about others and put our brethren first, aiming to help and serve them in the love of Christ. Our minds are focussed not on ourselves and our own needs and successes, but on God and on the needs of our brethren. We aim to love one other as Christ loved us and gave up his life for us.

To practice humility and obedience is to live in Christ and as Christ. It is that sacrifice of praise whereby we can say with St Paul, “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” In the words of Jesus himself, “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will,” or “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” There can be no competition in a monastery other than, to paraphrase St Paul, to outdo one another in obedience and charity. The whole of Christian and monastic spirituality is encapsulated in humility and obedience. So it is our prayer for you tonight that you will grow to excel in those two fundamental virtues that mark a Benedictine vocation. Of course, it won’t be easy and there will be times, perhaps many times, when you will feel the spirit of rebellion rising within and you will want to exert your power and energy against the common good, against the brethren and their unity of life and purpose. Ask the Lord constantly to help you resist this temptation. You will only find happiness and fulfilment in the monastic life if you give yourself wholly to God and to the brethren. Do not look beyond the enclosure of the monastery, because, if you cannot love your brethren sincerely and with fraternal charity, then any other relationship will be pure fantasy and not of God. Any genuine love and service to the Church and to the world must overflow from the intensity and integrity of your monastic life. Pray to become a living sacrifice of praise, a living stone that makes up the Body of Christ. May St Benedict and your patron saints help you daily in this endeavour.

Br. Dunstan and Br. Alistair, you are on the threshold of making your first act of total dedication to God in the monastic life through the vows of stability, conversatio morum and obedience. Humility and conversatio morum are, essentially, the same thing and you can only live out humility and obedience within a framework of stability, being anchored in the heart of God and anchored to a specific community. God, as a Trinity of Persons, gives us the model for community living. We are many yet we are one. Likewise, the Body of Christ, the Church, though made up of many members is but one bread. If we begin to move away from each other, we tear at the fabric of the Church and we wound the Body of Christ. That is why faithful community living, the coenobitic way, is so important to the Benedictine vocation. You will pledge stability in this Community and you will give your all in order to conform your lives to the monastic ideal found in the Gospel and in the life of the Early Church, the ideal that lies at the heart of the Holy Rule and of our Constitutions. To complete your vows you will promise obedience to the Abbot who holds the place of Christ in the Community and represents all its members. We show obedience to Christ in our obedience to the Abbot and to one another.

At the heart of the word community lies the Latin word munus, gift in English, a gift that is given rather than received, a gift that we pledge to give as a religious duty. Community comes into being when we give what we have, when we give ourselves fully, sharing all we have and all we are. Community is created and grows when, all together, we fulfil what we have vowed to God and to this monastery, made up as it is of men who have made a similar promise. Look on it as a pooling of resources, both spiritual and material, where the pool created is kept fresh and pure by the constant outpouring of our gift of self. Community is made, it doesn’t just happen, so you will vow tomorrow to give your all, that this small corner of God’s Kingdom will continue to grow, mature and develop as, together, we all strive to seek God and serve him in justice and love, that the peace of Christ will reign in our hearts and overflow to our arid world from the oasis of our monastic community.

Tonight we thank God for the presence of all three of you among us. May our life together be truly an act of thanksgiving for God’s gift to us of Belmont and the monastic life. May your perseverance and ours be the fruit of that thanksgiving and of our total self-offering to God as gift of love. Amen.


Candlemas 2014 
First Profession of Br. Dunstan Nelson and Br. Alistair Findley

            Today, dear Br Dunstan and Br Alistair, the homily is addressed to you, as, on this Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, you make your First Profession as monks of Belmont. For you both, this will be a very special meeting with Christ. In proclaiming the three traditional monastic vows, you will promise to live in his presence and in his temple by your fidelity to stability, conversatio morum and obedience. The bright shining candles we carried at the beginning of Mass are a sign of the divine splendour of Christ who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. We joined in the procession with lighted candles to show both that the light has shone upon us and to signify the glory that is yet to come to us through Jesus Christ. Like Simeon and Anna, not only do we welcome Christ, the Light of the world, but we also recognise and confess that, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we too have become, in Christ, a light for the world.

            Today, Mary, the Mother of God and most pure Virgin, carries the true Light in her arms, for she comes to the Temple to be purified after the birth of her divine Son, while he, God made man, comes in human flesh to be presented to the Father. Mother and Child are received by Simeon, an upright and devout man, who looks forward to the comforting of Israel and on whom the Holy Spirit rests. He exclaims, “My eyes have seen the salvation, which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.” With Simeon, you too, Dunstan and Alistair, see in the Word made flesh the salvation, the life and the light for which you long and for which you have been waiting. You have responded to Christ’s coming by coming yourselves to him and offering him your lives. Today is your Presentation. Through the faithful living out of your monastic vocation, you will present yourselves each day to God as, with your brethren in this church, you sing the Divine Office and celebrate the Eucharist and as you go about your daily tasks of work and prayer in the monastery.

            By the vow of stability, you declare your hope and intention of dedicating your lives to God in this community with this particular band of brothers. It is like the marriage vow in which a man promises to give himself to one woman and, with God’s grace and blessing, form with her a Christian family. By the vow of conversatio morum, you promise to live by the precepts of the Gospel, the Rule of St Benedict and the Constitutions of the English Benedictine Congregation. In other words, to live the life of a monk in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving, simplicity and moderation, silence and humility and to dedicate yourselves to a life of work and prayer in community, seeking God with a sincere heart and striving to grow in love of the brethren as you grow in the love of Christ. Finally, the vow of obedience. which doesn’t simply mean doing what you’re told, though at times we have no choice. Rather it is that prayerful, contemplative listening to the voice of God, as he speaks to us through his Son, through the Scriptures and the Magisterium of the Church, through our brethren and superiors, and through a conscience informed by the Holy Spirit.

All three vows mean laying aside our own will by conforming to the will of God and taking on the mind of Christ. From this day, St Benedict tells us, not even our bodies are our own, for we belong to God. Your life will become a sacrifice of praise, a sacrifice, which, as the word implies, will make you holy and at peace with God, your brethren and the whole of creation. Remember that the Benedictine motto is “Pax”, peace, the peace of Christ that passes all understanding and that keeps our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The community will always be here to support you and nurture your vocation. May you be truly blessed and find fulfilment and happiness as monks of Belmont and may the light of Christ ever shine in your hearts. Amen.
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