Genesis 28: 11 -18, 1 Peter 2:4 – 9, John 15: 9 – 17
Anniversary celebrations are a time to reflect and give thanks. A time to name again the values we live out and hold dear as we mark this blessed time.
Our 70 years are a gift to us and I believe a blessing to the Church, especially to the Church of Charleston. These years have been a blessing, even in the midst of the struggles that our community lived through to take hold here in the Low Country. Remembering the early days of Anti-Catholic feeling to this very moment of Joy as we note all that Mepkin Abbey is now, part of the very fabric of life in the Low Country. One fact to note as we begin our Creche Festival, 9000 people have signed up for these two weeks.
This grace grew out of the extraordinary fidelity of the monks of Mepkin these many years, a fidelity to a life of prayer. To a life dedicated to praising God day after day, living in the Word of
God and in fraternal charity. There is such a power, a power of presence and fidelity that truly transforms you. This is what we are celebrating today. As you drive into Mepkin down the Allee of Oaks there is the overwhelming sense of peace that envelops you. Everyone says that, it’s the power of prayer and the seeking of God living in Christ that energizes us and this place.
We are all lovers of this place and it’s peace changes us.
This land is made holy by the men who have lived and died here faithful to their vocations. We blessed the graves of those who have gone before us who modeled the fidelity we seek now. To be Christ for others in a silent way, a loving way that changes the world as it changes us.
Our Constitutions describe our life as hidden, obscure and laborious. Our life is all those things. It is hidden at least it is hidden from much of the world. It is obscure, a life not understood by many, and laborious, early rising, hard work and very intense singing the psalms 7 times a day. But it is a life that fills us with God, with Peace and fills the world with hope because it fills the world with Christ. And Transforms us who live this wonderful life.
St. Peter’s letter this morning names well the life of all believers. Monks share in this mystical life that we are all called to live. He writes, we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s people. These words are true for all of us because of our faith in Christ, lived out right were life finds us. That’s all of us journeying together as Church, the very body of Christ on earth. St. Peter is teaching that in faith we are mediators with Christ, bringing others to God, we seek to be that connection in the world to God, as Christ was for us, our eternal high Priest. Each of us doing what God has called us to do in our life brings us right there.
The contemplative life is Mepkin’s way of being this mediator. Living in the presence of God. Jacobs ladder gives us a powerful image. Jacob had a revelation in his dream and he knew God was in that place for him. That God was with him. Jacobs fidelity to God in his life was his ladder to God.
Thomas Merton gives us another image that perhaps speaks to our day, he said “the gateway to heaven is everywhere.” For us monks, we have our contemplative life, our prayer and community, that is our gateway. We seek to share this reality with the world, especially with all our guests, retreatants, visitors, Monastic guests and all of our Affiliate guests, and our families, so all can have this gateway to God.
I sense the question for all of us is: What is your gateway to God? What brings you into God’s presence? The beginning of the journey.
The other gift we celebrate today is our beloved Church building. Dedicated on this day in 1993. We spend so much of our day here in this sacred space. It shapes our life. This is the home of the Church of Mepkin. So many people come to worship here, to pray the Psalms with us here, to truly meet God here. If only these walls can talk. The sacred stories are endless. Prayers answered, life restored, hurts healed. Relationships celebrated, hope given, peace felt, sorrow touched and God revealed. This is the dynamic of a faith life, a prayer life. And we all are part of this blessing of the Church of Mepkin and in this House of the Mepkin Church. So, in a real way each of us can say, I am Mepkin, so together we can say, We are Mepkin. There’s the grace of today, what we are truly celebrating today. The gift of all that is Mepkin for each of us.
Realistically, Mepkin is our gateway to heaven. Our Cistercian life lived here brings us into God’s presence. So, all of us who seek God in contemplation and in the silence and prayer can be a gateway, modeling the way to God for others.
John’s gospel completes our reflection. Jesus’ great discourse is his prophetic word and prayer for us. Christ gave his life and loved us so completely. We are called to do the same. Ultimately, Christ is our gateway. He is the way the truth and the life.
Jesus tells us to remain in his love, to love one another as He has loved us. Love fulfills our human desire and our spiritual desire. We all want to love and be loved. Jesus shows us how. When we love like Christ then we bear the fruit that will endure. Christ sacrificial love that we celebrate at this altar, we know and experience is life giving to us so, let us be renewed by Christ’s love and then love like him, right into eternal life.