Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today is a great feast of the Church and of our Order. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the feast of all of our Monasteries as our special Patroness.
Brother Juan, this is the perfect day to make solemn profession. We rejoice with you, we are thrilled for our community and for the Order as we celebrate this special moment in our monastic life together, to welcome you as a solemn professed member of our Mepkin community.
The Assumption of Mary celebrates the impact of the life, death and resurrection of Christ on all believers. Mary is the first disciple who always followed the Will of God and said yes to what God asked of her. As we have all come to know and believe, following Christ as his disciples, we, too, must do whatever the Father asks of us, we, too, must die to our own will and surrender to all that is, with a deep love and willingness to always be for others. Mary is our model and our Patron as well because of her great love of God and her total Yes to God.
You, Brother Juan, have been called to the vowed life of a Cistercian in the Trappist tradition and you to have said Yes to God’s call. You said Yes when you become a novice, you said yes when you asked for simple profession and today, you say yes to live faithfully this wonderful contemplative life as a solemn professed Cistercian monk.
We all know the Yes is not an easy answer. Your life has been a preparation for this surrender.
Years of caring for your parents in their illness. The challenges that come with years of teaching and the desire to be a deacon and a priest and these dreams not being fulfilled. Life can be a struggle and through it all, your faith and devotion kept you going and ultimately was the foundation for the call to monastic life.
Our monastic life calls each of us to empty ourselves through vows of the conversion of life, of obedience, of stability. And these you, Brother Juan, will vow today to God and to the Order to live forever. This is another yes you say to God today. You honor Mary as you honor Christ, who you seek to embody as a monk.
The challenge of this yes has been great. The letting go of a life in Parkridge, Illinois, that had a rhythm of caring, devotion and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that sustained you through your parish and in the other places you gave of your time.
You also have generously given away your retirement funds with an abandonment that is a marvelous sign of your willingness to enter into the surrender God is inviting you to live now.
We see in this a true letting go of the past with an acceptance now of the future to live in God and with God in community life.
All of your experiences to this moment have prepared you for today and for the journey God has in store for you. Which is we pray, the deeper life of intimacy in the mystical vocation that is our Cistercian life. God’s ardent desire for you is this new life, this union with God in Christ.
Our monastic life cannot guarantee that mystical reality because it’s up to you to respond to the invitation you receive. But the promises you make today will give you the grace to say yes over and over. And our monastic life, following the Rule of St. Benedict, provides you the sacred framework for that gift. The vows invite this yes, to conversion, to obedience and to the freedom to have the space to live it out here at Mepkin Abbey.
God wants to be one with each of us and we can’t begin to imagine what that gift is like, but we are invited to find out by our commitment to prayer and contemplation. After all, we are created in the image and likeness of God. So, we want to enter into that mystery, be one with it and to reach, in some way, the very intention God had when we were created.
I want to quote Thomas Merton who says what I am seeking to share, more eloquently.
One of the first essentials of the interior solitude that I speak of, is the actualization of a faith in which a man takes responsibility for his own inner life. He faces its full mystery, in the presence of the invisible God. And he takes upon himself the lonely, barely comprehensible, incommunicable task of working his way through the darkness of his own mystery until he discovers that his and the mystery of God merge into one reality, which is the only reality. That God lives in him and he in God.
It is this mystery, and this call to it, that enthralls each of us to say our Yes to this way of life at the deepest level possible. It is there in the dynamic of mystery and invitation that you, Brother Juan, are responding so whole heartedly this morning.
We know that God will respond to your yes as we pray to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to come into your heart, purify you, strengthen you in your self-giving and ratify your consecration and profession with love and a blessing.
May God continue to bless you brother, as you embark on this life with God in our Mepkin Community.