Today, 11 July 2015, Mr Jon David Kabel (Brother Melchisedech) and Dr Cathal Laurence Steele (Brother Luke) made their Oblation, under the Rule of Saint Benedict, for Silverstream Priory. Both men are husbands and fathers, living their Benedictine vocation in the stability, enclosure, and obedience of family life. Here, then, is the homily preached at today’s Holy Mass:
I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name; and thou shalt be blessed (Genesis 12:2). V. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless his holy name (Psalm 102:1)
The Freedom of the Liturgy
In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Does it shock us that the liturgy today, with its customary freedom, should apply to our father Saint Benedict the very words of God to Abram? The Church, authorised and, indeed, prompted by the Holy Ghost, does such things and, by such things, stretches our minds and opens our hearts to perceive and to receive something of “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33)!
The Bold and Terrible Commerce of the Saints with God
By means the Introit of this Mass of Saint Benedict the Church allows us to penetrate the secret of a conversation between the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and one man, a man called Benedict, that is blessed, for he was, as the Apostle says, “blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly things, in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). The liturgy often introduces into the bold and terrible commerce of the saints with God. Not infrequently do we find ourselves listening to, and even participating in, a mysterious conversation between the Father and His Christ, or between Christ and His saints, and this by means of an antiphon, a responsory, a versicle, a well–chosen fragment of a psalm. There is in the liturgy not a single utterance that does not, in some way, unlock the mysteries of heaven, and open us to what “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
The Spiritual Progeny of Saint Benedict
And so, today, we hear God the Father addressing, and blessing, and making glorious promises to a mere mortal: one Benedict of Nursia, and of Subiaco, and of Monte Cassino, and (why not?) of Silverstream. “I will make of thee a great nation and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name; and thou shalt be blessed” (Genesis 12:2). A great nation? Assuredly. The sons and daughters of Saint Benedict are a multitude past counting. “There are no speeches nor languages, where their voices are not heard. Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the world” (Psalm 18:4–5). “I will bless thee, says the Lord, bless thee, Benedict, not only in thyself and for thyself, but in the whole Church, and for the sake of the children whom I shall give thee until the end of time. And these shall be, even as I promised to Abraham, multiplied as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea shore” (Genesis 22:17). God speaks here not of a progeny according to the flesh, but of a progeny generated by the power of the Holy Ghost for whom nothing is impossible. Thus, did He give words to Benedict the silent, companions to Benedict the solitary, sons to Benedict the chaste, and rivers of joy to Benedict the man of many tears.
Hearts Irrigated by a Silver Stream
Saint Benedict’s words were given him for you, dear Brother Melchisedech, and for you, dear Brother Luke. In you Saint Benedict has found new companions. In you, Saint Benedict has been given new sons. You are, no less than your Fathers and Brothers in the cloister, the fruit of Saint Benedict’s tears. Open your hearts, then, that Saint Benedict might irrigate them today with rivers of joy. “The stream (the silverstream?) of the river maketh the city of God joyful: the most High hath sanctified his own tabernacle” (Psalm 45:5).
The Blessing of the Father Upon the Sons
Your participation, dear sons, in the grace of Saint Benedict, authorizes you to enter into his mysterious dialogue with the Father, into the exchange between heaven and earth made audible in the Introit of this Mass. The words of blessing addressed by God to our glorious Patriarch are, in some way, addressed to you, even as they are addressed to us. The blessing of the Father rests upon the sons, and this from generation to generation.
Benedictines: Called to Bless
Yours it is, then, to enter into the second part of the conversation, to make Saint Benedict’s words to God your own. Find in his words the expression of your hearts’ deepest sentiments on this day of blessing. And what are these words? Are they not given you in the verse of the Introit? “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless his holy name” (Psalm 102:1) We Benedictines are called, before all else, to bless God. Silverstream is called, no less than any other Benedictine monastery in the Church, to perpetuate the radiant image of the Church given us by Saint Luke in the very last verse of his Gospel: “And they were always in the temple, praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:53).
Made Over to God: Oblation
This goes to the heart of your Oblation today: “Let all that is within me bless his holy name”. Your Oblation makes you, by reason of a new title and by the conferral of a new grace, part of the Great Thanksgiving by which the Son, Priest and Victim, offering Himself, glorifies the Father in the ineffable sweetness of the Holy Ghost. Your Oblation places you upon the altar where, by the hands of the priest acting — Oh wonder! — in persona Christi capitis, you are made over irrevocably to God, and this, as the Apostle says, “unto the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6).
Abide in the Temple
You will, Brother Melchisedech return to Lancaster County, and you, Brother Luke will return to Belfast — because, as husbands and fathers, your stability and your enclosure are in family life, together with Tricia,William, and Timothy; with Clare, Joseph, Isabel, and Robert; but you will remain always in the temple by remaining in Christ. Is he not the temple, true and indestructible? Was he not, in truth, speaking of the temple of his Body when he said, “Abide in me” (John 15:4).
With Christ Blessing the Father
Be Benedictine then, dear sons, in every fibre of your being: men blessed by God in Christ; men assumed into Christ’s blessing of the Father in this Holy Sacrifice; men upon whose lips will flower, again and again, in omni tempore, the blessing by which Jesus Christ blesses the Father, on earth in these most holy mysteries and, beyond the veil, in the glorious liturgy of heaven. And, as Saint Benedict says in conclusion of the Holy Rule, “May He bring us all alike to life everlasting”. Amen.