Sunday, May 1, 2011

And One More!

Just as you were beginning to think that we had reached the end of the Big Community Events, along comes another celebration to cap off the two we have already had - the Clothing of Br Mark as a Novice and the First Profession of Vows by Br Julian. On Thursday of this week we had the Profession of Life Vows by our Br James.

And what an event it was! The crowd was really something, by the standards of the size of our Church, at least. There were people from all parts of James' life: his family, a number of them, his mother included, from England, where one of this brothers is now working, a nun who taught him in high school in Virginia, people who knew him when he belonged to a religious community in the Roman Catholic Church a good many years ago, people who knew him in his professional life as a Theater and TV Director, and of course those who have come to know him since he has been a member of our community, including the people involved in the ministry of Ecclesia, the Newburgh ministry to street people with which he is deeply involved.

And, of course, all of that was topped off by a good helping of people who were here because they care for the Holy Cross community - local clergy, members of several religious orders, both Episcopalian and Roman Catholic, our Associates, our friends. It was a fine old crowd, and they sang with unusual gusto, and they were so happy that you could almost have weighed the joy on a scale. And did they sing!

At Chapter, just about 2 hours before the service, Jim said to the community: "This is a wonderful day for me. I have wanted to do this for all of my 49 years." Not a one of us doubts that.

The service began with a question with whose nature you are now surely familiar: "James, through Baptism you are dead to sin and risen in the Lord. Are you resolved to pursue this consecration to its fulfillment in your life by undertaking Monastic Profession?" To which he answered simply: "I am."

Then all of us knelt while James prostrated himself before the altar and we sang the Veni Creator - the great hymn to the Holy Spirit - and then he read out his vow of Stability, Conversion of my life to the Monastic way of Life, and Obedience, and took the Vow which he had written out in his own hand ahead of time, laid in on the altar and signed it.
Br. James signs his Life Vow - Picture by Br. Julian
Br. Julian's photographic report of Br. James' Life Profession

He was then given the black cross which marks the Life Professed in our community and a copy of Benedict's Rule and the Rule of Fr Huntington, our Founder. I am always particularly moved by the words that are said when Benedict's Rule is delivered to the newly professed: "Receive the Rule of St Benedict. Many saints have been formed by it. Be faithful to the tradition now passed on to you." That's the point at which I see most clearly the line in which I stand, as it goes back more than a thousand years and stretches ahead of me into the far, far future.

Who knows what monks will be like a thousand years from now? But they will be bearing that rule and that tradition.

The rest was all happiness and celebration. And just before we gathered around the altar for the consecration of the Bread and Wine, we sang:

Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go, Lord,
If you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

It is a perfect expression of what this life is really about: God calls, we answer - as best we can - and we hold the world and all its people in our hearts, and we also respond to them - as best we can. Monasticism is never going to be a majority movement in this society. But there are some people who belong here. I am one of them. And I doubt if there was a person in that crammed Church that morning who didn't know that Br James is also one of them.

So one more time in this Eastertide - Alleluia!

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