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Christmas Vigil Opening — 2015

O holy night. Fall on your knees. God has come to us. The face of God appears in the face of a tiny babe. Jesus is the face of God and the face of God is Mercy. God is love. God is Mercy. As we enter into the Jubilee Year of Mercy, as we enter into this holy night where God-Mercy, where Jesus-Mercy pitches his tent among us and dwells with us, let us be mindful of the words of our own Trappist brother, Father Louis, Thomas Merton. I have always overshadowed Jonas with my mercy. Have you had sight of me, Jonas my child? Mercy within mercy within mercy.

Let us hear the echo of that mercy throughout the fourteen readings we will hear and the songs we will sing. Let us embrace the mercy who comes to us to save us and to lead us to the fulness of life.

Let us pray.

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Christmas Vigil — 2015 Given by Abbot Stan

Blessed Christmas, my brothers and sisters. Blessed Christmas from the monks of Mepkin to each one of you and to all your families. There are hardly any sweeter words we can say to one another than these: Blessed Christmas! Merry Christmas! And so, let us turn to each other and say it!

What a journey we have been on this evening. What a journey. And it all ends in the magnificent cadences of the Prologue to John’s Gospel. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. How often have we heard those words? How often have we meditated on them? Some Christmases that is all I have said as I sat before the crèche, sat or knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God has become human. God has pitched his tent in our midst. God has become one of us. God is not only “out there,” or “over there” or transcendently other. God is my brother, flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. Like me in all my vulnerability and in all my weakness and in all my frailty. Reflection on this phrase often led me to ponder that God did not just appear as an adult in majestic and manly power, but rather as a tiny, helpless infant; that God didn’t come to the palaces of the rich, but chose to be born of people who were poor; that God didn’t come to Rome, the center of power of the world at that time, but to an out-of-the-way place like Bethlehem and among the peripheries of society.

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Joy Never Ending

Genesis 28:11-18; I Peter 2:4-9; John 15:9-17

How can we celebrate the feast of Joy Never Ending this year without thinking of the two brothers we buried this year after over a century of monastic living at Mepkin? Joy captures and defines Brother Robert and Father Christian more than any other virtue or characteristic could. The two of them have given us an example of what monastic life is all about. It is about Joy. Not the surface, peripheral, ha-ha type of joy. No, the deep down freshness kind of joy. The joy that permeates us to the core, that says: Life is good, because God is good and God is here. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you: abide in my love…. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. Our two brothers lived this reality to the full. When did we ever see Robert without his infectious smile? I lived with him for over 50 years and I can remember him angry or sad only once. He kept perspective in his life and would not allow the little daily annoyances to swerve him from the deeper reality of Joy Never Ending. And Father Christian’s constant mantra was: “Where there is more truth there is more joy.” His companion mantra built on this: “Joy is the main characteristic of the Christian…. There is no such thing as a sad Christian.” A Christian who may be sad, yes, but a sad Christian? No. Didn’t the new pieces to the monk crèche, crafted by our friends who are here with us, Karen and Michael, capture this so well? Robert’s smile and exuding happiness as he drove his mowing tractor, and Father Christian zipping around pushing his walker with the big smile on his face. With such examples before us, how can we not be inspired to make such joy our own?

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