December 8, 2014
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary
As we celebrate Mary today as the Immaculate Conception, it is good to pause and consider how much of an Advent icon Mary remains for all Christians. Her attitude of openness to the message of the angel and patient and prayerful waiting throughout her pregnancy and indeed throughout her entire life is something we are called to emulate. As those attracted to Benedictine life, we are especially drawn to Mary’s contemplative example, seen most clearly in Luke’s Infancy Narrative where we are told twice of how Mary would “keep all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). At a time of the year when so much of our free time is compromised by the practical demands of worthwhile activities, we should not lose sight of the model of Mary. Whether she was on her way to visit Elizabeth her cousin, on the way to Bethlehem, or in the cave of the Nativity, we see Mary receptive to the Word in a way that excludes all else. There is a wonderful piece of chamber music by the French composer of the last century Olivier Messiaen. He was an extraordinarily devout Catholic and gifted musician who composed a magnificent organ meditation on the Birth of Christ that has its first movement dedicated to Mary looking at her newborn child. To me, it captures the deep intimacy Mary has as a mother with her child, as well as the serenity that she shows in contemplating the mystery being played out in her. May we somehow be able to do the same in the weeks leading up to our Christmas celebration.
I want to remind you that we will have our next Oblate Meeting on Gaudete Sunday, Dec. 14. It will coincide with our annual dinner with the monastic community. We will meet a little bit later than usual, at 4:00 in the Abbey Library. I want to have a business meeting on a number of items that need the input of oblates. They include the possibility of producing a brochure for the oblates program and of improving our website. I also want to go over some liturgical changes we have made in our Divine Office and talk about developments in oblate programs throughout the U.S. and the world. For those of you who are bringing a spouse with you on Sunday, know that we will go down to dinner immediately after Vespers and Benediction (5:00 p.m.) in the Abbey Church. Those of you who are dropping off salads or desserts should take them to the northern entrance to the abbey between 3:30-4:00 and just walk in the door and leave them with the abbey kitchen.
I want to commend to your prayers the sick of the abbey community:
Abbot David who remains at St. Patrick’s Residence in Naperville, Br. Jude (in the hospital today for tests), Fr. Christian, Fr. Mario, who is recovering from a fall and a knee injury, Fr. Bernard (with bronchitis) and Br. Andre with shingles. Let us also join in prayers for healing for our oblates and family members who have serious illnesses to face.
Once again, I want to thank all of you who have contributed to the assistance of Abbey Farms in volunteer capacities such as making wreaths and for those of you who quietly go about work that few people see: chaperoning monks to their parish, doing the altar linen for the school and abbey, providing food items for the monks. Above all, your regular presence at Mass and Divine Office with the monks is deeply appreciated as a sign of your deep spiritual connection with the Marmion monastic community.
Since this will be the last formal communication I have this year, I want to wish all of you a blessed Christmas feast and a new year filled with God’s grace and peace. We will have our first meeting of the new year on Sunday, Jan. 18.
Fr. Joel Rippinger, OSB