Gen 28:11–18, 1Peter 2:4–9, John 15:9–17
My brothers – this a graced day for Mepkin. We celebrate our 71st anniversary of our founding from Gethsemani Abbey in 1949.
And we have blessed the graves and recalled the memory of all the men who have lived here and died here, who have lived a life of praising God. We remember also all the others who have been part of Mepkin over the years. All, in their way, have made holy this place because we all have come to know that we are called to live for God alone.
Our faith and our experience of God concretizes our identity as Church, the very Church of Mepkin. Church means the people of God who seek to live the truth, who as Church bring us to unity and peace and to the fullness of life promised by Christ. We are that people. We stand in the long line of all those who are believers and seekers, who have followed the call of God and left everything to seek this will of God. There’s Jacob who gave us the great image of the ladder to heaven; Benedict who gave us the sacred rule that shapes our life; and Bernard who proclaimed the Cistercian way all through Europe and stabilized the Order of Citeaux into future generations. We remember all who have gone before us especially the hosts of Cistercian saints who adorn our history.
So the Church is this sacrament, a sign of God’s very life and love in the world. Here all of humanity can come to know and experience and share in God’s divine life by touching the very life of Christ Jesus. Our Cistercian life seeks to embody Christ’s word and works so his presence is revealed through us and the kingdom of God is proclaimed.
What a calling we have, this is what we celebrate today – the Church of Mepkin and the house for this Church – dedicated on this day in 1993. This church building has become the sign of all we are and seek to be in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what our churches are meant to be.
Our life here at Mepkin Abbey invites us to live the mind and heart of Christ. Keeping our vows of Conversatio, obedience and stability while living in community, embodying the very spirit of the living God while we sing his praises. This monastic life is our stairway to heaven. Just like that stairway of Jacobs dream, which has become a symbol of our Cistercian journey to the fullness of life.
This is manifested by our service to one another in love, which makes visible the mystical body of Christ – the church among us. This blessed community life energizes each brother and all those who share in our life by our hospitality. Each of us seeks to touch the very center of our being. Thomas Merton sought to name this center as a point of nothingness, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is the pure glory of God in us.
We yearn to touch this point of light within, because it reveals the light we are as the body of Christ on earth – the Church – the very spouse of Christ- now living in hiddenness until Christ appears in Glory.
So, our anniversary is a time to renew our desire because life is shaped by the end you lived for. We are made into the image of what we desire. We know we are made in the image and likeness of God. Everyone seeks meaning in their life and we have the great advantage of our faith in Christ who gives us meaning and purpose and the way forward. So, we connect the dots and live our monastic life fully in our desire for God our Center.
Because of this grace given us, we live in joy as disciples, indeed as friends of Christ who invites us to go and bear fruit, fruit that will endure into eternal life. This is the very life we live. Just on Friday we celebrated the Benedictine saints – all those whose lives have endured by the way they bore fruit, the fruit of holiness. That life that inspires, that forms the Body of Christ and energizes the Church to continue to live Christ in the World.
As St. Peter tells us today, we are chosen, we are the people of God, a royal priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ, proclaiming his glorious works.
So my brothers, let us today and everyday, rejoice in all we are and all we are called to be.