"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

Sunday 30 December 2012


MONASTIC CONFERENCE GIVEN BY FR DAVID (in Spanish) AT PACHACAMAC ( Feast of St Thomas a Becket, 29th December), "

This Christmas Octave gives us various themes, all of which reflect on the central theme of the meaning of the Incarnation.

The first that is presented to us is the theme of loving and humble obedience.   It is presented to us as an absolute necessity.   If Mary's response to the angel's message had not been, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord.   May it be done to me according to your Word." the Incarnation would not have taken place.   If St Joseph had denounced Mary, as all the values of his Mediterranean culture would have urged him to do, then Mary would have been stoned, and Jesus would have never been born.  This prompt and responsible obedience continued to be necessary for the life and safety of Jesus.   A loving and humble obedience to the will of God by Mary and Joseph was an integral part of God's plan for the salvation of the world and it was only through it that they  fulfilled their own vocation..     

The second theme is the central one,  that God became man so that man could become God, not by way of egoism, which is the way of Adam, but by way of grace, of God's free grace, offered to us in Christ.   We are invited to share in the very life of the Blessed Trinity because we have been received "in" Christ into the very life of God.   This is called, in  Greek, theosis".   It is what "salvation" is all about, the reason why we have been redeemed by Christ, the reason why our sins have been forgiven.    Everything else in the Christmas story is a means to this end.

The third theme is martyrdom.   We have seen it in the feast of St Stephan, in the feast of the Holy Innocents and, today, in the feast of St Thomas a Becket.  It is the reason for Christ's birth: Christ was born so that he would be obedient unto death.   Mary's vocation involved a sword piercing her heart.  It is only in losing our lives that we can gain them for all eternity.   This is not because God is some kind of sadist, but because only in accepting death can we love to the full, that we can love God and our neighbour as Christ has loved us.

These three themes lie at the heart of the Christian life, and hence of the monastic life.   If any of these three themes are missing from our lives, then we are not living an authentic monastic life, nor even an authentic Christian life.

Our adult Christian life begins when we surrender our lives to God, when we say, with Mary, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your will;" when we say with Our Lord, "Not my will but yours be done."  

  Without our humble obedience, our human nature and the Holy Spirit would never be able to work in harmony to bring about our sanctification; nor would our lives manifest Christ's presence.   Hence, progress in the Christian and monastic life is progress in humble obedience.

We take a vow of obedience which, in its original form in the Rule of St Benedict, was to be a constant and general attitude in every situation, and was not just limited to our relations with our superiors.   It included poverty and chastity because we are no longer our own property but God's.   We do not even own our own bodies. 

  Unfortunately, and in many small ways, we tend to claw back what we have given to God; and we can even implicitly re-dedicate our lives to living as comfortably as possible within a monastic context.   Then, because we are going through the motions, because we are living a monastic life externally, we hide from ourselves the fact that we have ceased to be monastic because we have ceased to be humbly obedient.  Our own comfort and convenience has become our motive for living this kind of life.

At Christmas, great emphasis is given on how utterly dependent the Baby Jesus was on Mary and Joseph for everything.   In contrast to his present condition as the resurrected and ascended Christ, his dominant feature was weakness.  What can we learn from this?   Through the power of the Holy Spirit,   Christ is present in a Christian community and in each member of that community, be it a Christian family or a monastery, and acts in two ways.   He strives to share with us his own divine life, and he strives to manifest his presence to the world through the self-sacrificing love of his disciples which reflects the presence of the Holy Spirit.   These tasks only he can do, but he cannot do them without us.   In this he is as weak as the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem.   Our humble obedience is necessary to allow his eucharistic presence within us to transform us into himself and to make our love for one another a manifestation of his love.   It is so easy to exclude him from our lives, even in a monastery, and hence to frustrate his transforming power.   His presence among us can transform our lives, but only if we serve him in humble obedience.

Why do people come here?   Is it not because they regard it as a holy place, a place where they can sense God's presence?   This is our witness.   This is one way that we serve the Church.   By seeking God in humble obedience through prayer and work in a communal life,  Christ's loving presence will transform us and reach out to others.   In the Desert, monastic life was considered a martyrdom: we bear witness to Christ by the gift of ourselves.   Our main means of evangelization  is not in talking to others but in centring on God.   At the same time, our words to others have extra power because they are the product of our communal search for God.   We owe it to the Church to be authentic monks, seeking God in humble obedience.  We seek him and others find him through us. 

This is the very first sermon, preached by Dom Alex Echeandia who was ordained a deacon at Belmont on December 22nd.   He is Peruvian, a monk of our monastery here in Pachacamac, and studying Theology at Blackfriars, Oxford.  He is also a pupil of Aidan Hart, a well known Orthodox iconographer, and has considerable talent for "writing" icons in the traditional way, with prayer and incense.   You may find a trace of that in his words about the face of Christ.   We look forward to his return to Pachacamac as soon as possible.

 30th December 2012



The feast of the Holy Family has had a special place in popular devotion yet many images show a  family that seems almost impossible to imitate, especially nowadays, given what we experience of the difficulties and stresses of family life. Modern families are presented with many challenges. They are sometimes fragile and unstable and suffer from the selfishness, disloyalties and infidelities of their individual members.  By contrast when we think of the Holy Family we see that Joseph is a saint, Mary is without sin and their child is the incarnate Son of God. Does the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph even seem real? 
There is a story of a novice monk who once called his father, complaining about the difficulties of  life in the monastery and how many duties he had. He complained about the demands of the Divine Office, especially getting up early to pray in choir, to which his father replied:  “Well, son, your mother and I had to get up several times at night when your youngest little brother started crying.” The parents had six children. 
How often, as children, did we take our parents for granted and how little did we think of their efforts for us. Brushing teeth, tying laces, riding bikes, all of them were taught to us by our parents, because nobody was born with any of these abilities. I realise now how bored my mother must have been spending night after night helping me learn to read until I got it right. 
What makes a family are countless acts of generosity and sacrifice. Belonging to a family means giving of oneself so that others can grow and develop. That, in fact is the Holy Family of Nazareth. The Gospel tells us how Mary and Joseph searched for their son for three days, before finally finding him in the Temple. Mary asked the child why he had done this to her and Joseph. Jesus’ reply was that they should have known he must be in his Father’s house. It is obvious that Mary and Joseph did not understand what he meant. As He grows up Mary’s humility allowed her to be schooled by her own son and so to be formed more deeply in His image. Years later, his relatives would try to take charge of Jesus, as it was being said that he was out of his mind. Certainly, this Holy Family was not without its own anxieties and troubles.  
In the first reading we see that Hannah prayed to the Lord for a child. God heard her and gave Samuel to her, who was made over to the Lord for the rest of his life. We see how Hannah gave back what she received from God, but not before having fed her child with her milk, with her love and protection. Samuel was raised on the love of a mother and a father. Here in the Gospel we see Mary who receives a son through the Holy Spirit before she even thought of having one. She and Joseph were the chosen ones to care for the Son of God and offer their love to the one who is the Beloved of the Father. They were an essential part of God’s plan from the very beginning. Like Hannah they had to learn to experience the pains of separation. These three days of anxiety when Jesus was lost prefigured the inner pain at Calvary.
In the Gospel we find a holy family, but not a very normal one. The mother is a virgin and the father is not the biological father of the child. And they are not living in some ideal setting. The birth of Jesus happened while his parents were away from the familiar security of their own home. As we have seen over the last week they struggled to find a safe place because of Herod. The authorities ordered the death of many to guarantee their own stability. This news must have been a cause of anxiety, fear and sadness to Mary and Joseph. Mary from the beginning of her call experienced suffering, and in the end she stood at the foot of the cross, watching the tortured body of her son hanging until he died.
This is the family God had chosen, the one in which the Son would grow and mature.  Mary had already accepted the invitation of the angel to be the mother of God. She had listened to the Word of God, had accepted it and now she is in a sense living out the consequences. Joseph, on the other hand, had been surprised by the news of his wife’s pregnancy and showed himself to be a just man, faithful to the law, respectful of his wife and caring of the child Jesus. Mary and Joseph responded to God’s will by living out the consequences, by accepting the troubles that came their way. The life of the Holy Family was as real as it gets. The goodness of the Holy Family was tried and tested, and proved true and reliable. This family is holy because it responded with love to the Word of God in their everyday lives. 
How did Christ define his own family?  He defined the family by saying: “Whoever does the will of the Father is my brother and my sister and my mother.” Mary and Joseph did so in the most trying of circumstances. So, this feast we celebrate today is not a romantic and sentimental portrait of the Holy Family. It is a picture of obedience to God’s will.  They carried through and bore the consequences that God’s Word implied. This gives us hope and encouragement.  But we may ask, what is the will of God in my life for me to obey it with its implications? What does it mean to do God’s will?
The first letter of John gives us an answer to that question. First, it means to live the kind of life He wants us to live, following his example; and second, it means to keep His commandments which are: to believe in the name of Christ and to love one another. That is only possible by the work of the Holy Spirit in cooperation with us. As Church and individuals we are called “God’s children” and that is what we are. 
What we can learn from the Holy Family is faithfulness in the midst of difficulties, holiness in the ordinary reality of daily life, and strength in the bonds of a loving family. I like to think that as Jesus grew in wisdom and understanding, so did Mary and Joseph as they saw something of heaven in the face of their Son. Contemplating his face may we too grow in love, and truly become his holy family



1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for the post, Father David; and thank you for including Deacon Dom's excellent homily.

I linked to your blog unintentionally recently and have been fascinated with much of its content. I've been attracted to and reading/learning about monasticism ever since I watched Into Great Silence -- my imagination has been captured ever since. Thank you for your time and thoughts. God bless, and keep the faith.

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