My dear friends in Christ,
In a few minutes we will witness what is probably our most beautiful and most powerful monastic ritual as Brother Lorenzo and Brother Louis de Montfort make their final and solemn profession of vows as monks of Mount Angel. It’s quite amazing to think that, having begun their lives in distant lands across the ocean—in the Philippines and in Vietnam—they’ve been led by the provident hand of God to this holy mountain, to spend the rest of their days as monks in prayer and work, in the pursuit of the holiness and peace that they desire in Christ Jesus the Lord. It is to set their hearts free for him that they are about to profess their final vows, and he shall be their peace…
The moving rite of their solemn profession will speak for itself—and eloquently so—and so I needn’t comment on it. I only want us to appreciate the happy coincidence that their profession has fallen on today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which provides such a wonderful reflection on monastic profession—as well, of course, as on the Christian life itself. On this feast we honor the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is on the Crucified that the professed monk strives to keep his eyes fixed, finding in the cross of Christ the sign of that endless love that inspires the monk’s own vowed love in return. We might say that the monk finds perched on that cross “the loving Pelican” that we sing of in verse 6 of the Benediction hymn Adoro Te Devote, composed by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century:
Like what tender tales tell of THE PELICAN,
Bathe me, Jesus Lord, in what thy bosom ran—
Blood that but one drop of, has the power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin. (Tr. Gerard Manley Hopkins)
In any case, on the cross was won the victory of our salvation, and so we boast and glory in the cross; we hail the cross and call it wonderful; in the cross we find the power and the wisdom of God. And so today, with profound gratitude, we exalt the cross of Christ, and I know that Brother Lorenzo and Brother Louis de Montfort treasure the beautiful words with which St. Benedict closes the Prologue of the Holy Rule, inviting them to share patiently in the cross of Christ:
49 But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, OUR HEARTS OVERFLOWING WITH THE INEXPRESSIBLE DELIGHT OF LOVE. 50 Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, WE SHALL THROUGH PATIENCE SHARE IN THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST THAT WE MAY DESERVE ALSO TO SHARE IN HIS KINGDOM. Amen. (RB Prol 49-50)
Of course, it is one thing to “GLORY IN THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST,” as the Entrance Antiphon has it, and it’s quite another thing to bear that cross! The trouble with crosses is that they tend to hurt! But even in yesterday’s Gospel for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), Jesus didn’t mince any words about the conditions of discipleship:
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, TAKE UP HIS CROSS, and follow me. (Mk 8:34)
To be sure, on the cross and for its victory there is a price—the price of pain and suffering. Even in the soul of Christ there was horror and resistance at the prospect of the unspeakable cross that lay ahead of him. And in our own experience, too, we shy away from, and complain about, the weight of the cross; so often we’re not ready, as Jesus was, to submit to the Father’s will and to embrace the redeeming cross.
My brothers and sisters, perhaps that reality check about the cross and its nature to be painful brings us to an even greater appreciation for this feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Indeed, the second reading from the Letter to the Philippians is a banner proclamation about THE ATTITUDE OF CHRIST JESUS in meeting his cross, which, says St. Paul, is the attitude that we should have in our union with Jesus. For us to contemplate the HUMILITY and the LOVING OBEDIENCE of the God-Man who was willing—out of love for us—to empty himself of his divinity and, slave-like, to render obedience to his Father’s will for our salvation, even to the point of death on a cross…
…and then for us to contemplate further that
Because of this, God greatly EXALTED him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of JESUS every knee should bend, …, and every tongue confess that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-11)
… is for us to understand why Brother Lorenzo and Brother Louis de Montfort would wish to offer their lives to such a Lord! O the pain? No!! O the LOVE!! O the GLORY of the CROSS of our Lord Jesus Christ!!