Votive Mass of Saint Benedict
We had the Votive Mass of Saint Benedict today, offering the Holy Sacrifice, in a special way, for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. The Introit of the Mass, taken from Pope Saint Gregory the Great’s Life of Saint Benedict in the Second Book of the Dialogues seemed to say as much about Pope Benedict XVI as about the Patriarch of Monks:
Vir Dei Benedictus
mundi gloriam despexit et reliquit:
quoniam Dei Spiritus erat in eo.
The man of God, Benedict,
looked from above upon the world
and forsook it:
because the Spirit of God was in him.
Hidden, Silent, Present
The Holy Father has freely renounced his place on the Chair of Peter. Being on the Chair of Peter gave him a unique perspective on the world and on its transient glories, and on the Church universal and her sufferings. Obedient to the Spirit of God in him, he has chosen to forsake the public eye in order to live now “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3). This is the very essence of the monastic life: to be, like the Host, hidden, silent and, for all of that, intensely present.
Blessed John Paul II, in the public eye until the end, showed the Church and the world the power of suffering, fraility, and old age, assumed in union with the Cross of Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI, by disappearing from the public eye, will show us the inestimable value of silence, of separation from the world, and of remaining hidden with Christ in God.
The Pope of the Face of God
Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered, I think, as the Pope of the Face of God. He has, from the very beginning of his pontificate until as recently as February 2nd, enjoined the faithful of the Church to fix their gaze upon the Human Face of God, the countenance of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The consecrated life is a pilgrimage of the spirit in quest of a Face that is sometimes revealed and sometimes veiled: Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram (Psalm 26:8). May this be the constant yearning of your heart, the fundamental criterion that guides you on your journey, both in small daily steps and in the most important decisions.
Eight Years Ago at Subiaco
I will never forget the stunning address he gave at Subiaco, the cradle of Benedictine life, on April 1, 2005, the very day before the death of Blessed John Paul II. His words were a powerful affirmation of the monastic vocation. Here is the relevant passage:
We need men who have their gaze directed to God, to understand true humanity. We need men whose intellects are enlightened by the light of God, and whose hearts God opens, so that their intellects can speak to the intellects of others, and so that their hearts are able to open up to the hearts of others.
Only through men who have been touched by God, can God come near to men. We need men like Benedict of Norcia, who at a time of dissipation and decadence, plunged into the most profound solitude, succeeding, after all the purifications he had to suffer, to ascend again to the light, to return and to found Monte Cassino, the city on the mountain that, with so many ruins, gathered together the forces from which a new world was formed.
In this way Benedict, like Abraham, became the father of many nations. The recommendations to his monks presented at the end of his “Rule” are guidelines that show us also the way that leads on high, beyond the crisis and the ruins.
“Just as there is a bitter zeal that removes one from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal that removes one from vices and leads to God and to eternal life. It is in this zeal that monks must exercise themselves with most ardent love: May they outdo one another in rendering each other honor, may they support, in turn, with utmost patience their physical and moral infirmities … May they love one another with fraternal affection … Fear God in love … Put absolutely nothing before Christ who will be able to lead all to eternal life” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 72).