By the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz.
Well, dear Sisters and Guests, what a wonderful set of Readings for keeping the anniversary of the Consecration of this Chapel.
On the day of the Dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem Solomon stands before the altar with his hands raised toward heaven praying that the eyes of God be always open toward this house, and that God hear the prayers of his people- hear and forgive, hear and have mercy, hear and heal, hear and bless.
May his prayer be ours this festal day.
The Psalmist expresses his gladness as he enters the Temple in the company of others to praise the name of The Lord and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Upon leaving he pledges to pray for the prosperity of the city and to do good to everyone.
May his joy and pledge be ours this festal day.
In Resurrection Glory Jesus appears to his disciples in an Upper Room. Showing the them his hands and side he speaks a word of peace. Sending them into the world he breathes on them the Holy Spirit.
May his peace and strength be ours this festal day.
Now seasoned as an apostle and elder in The Church, Peter encourages a young congregation in its life in Christ. “Come to him, that living stone, chosen and precious…and be yourselves like living stones, built up into a spiritual house making offerings pleasing to God.”
May his counsel be ours to hear and heed this festal day.
Thinking of the anniversary we keep none of you will be surprised when I tell you that I reached for my copy of ‘A Journey Just Begun’ and re-read the chapter on ‘The Chapel‘ written by Sr. Constance Joanna and Sr. Anne. They describe the chapel as “full of the light of God.”
I love that way if viewing this place…”full of the light of God”.
So much clear glass enables us to enjoy the first light of God’s new day, and then sunlight and cloud light too; and then twilight, moonlight, and the light of all the starry host.
Panels of stained glass colour the floor of the chapel with all the hues of God’s handiwork in earth and water and sky.
And then there is the light of God in Christ…
Advent light and Incarnation light,
Resurrection light and Pentecost light,
Baptismal light and Eucharistic light,
Votive light and Vigil light,
Remembrance light and Requiem light…
The Light of Presence and the Light of Peace kindled at your altar every Thursday
All of them, signs of the one true Light of God, that light which no darkness can overcome, the light of which we gladly sing,
“ O Gracious Light, Lord Jesus Christ,
in you the Father’s glory shone,
immortal, holy and blessed is he,
and blessed are you, his holy Son.
Worthy of you of endless praise,
O Son of God, life giving Lord,
wherefore you are through all the earth,
and in the highest heaven adored.”
Thinking of the anniversary we keep today I also reached for another little book in my study. Titled “Stone and Light”, it is dedicated with deep gratitude to all the friends of the Society of St. John the Evangelist who supported their “Stone and Light” campaign to restore their monastery chapel in the first decade of this millennium. A few quotes seem appropriate to our celebration today.
Brother Curtis Almsquit writes, “This beautiful space of stone and light in which we worship invites and enables silence and deep listening. In its silence this chapel is an outward sign of that inner longing for and meeting God.”
And that is what this chapel means to many.
The Rev. John Runkle, Conservator at the National Cathedral in Washington and long time friend of The Brothers writes, “This chapel is a sign to us that this is holy ground, a place of sanctuary and safety- free from aggression, violence and evil- a place very different from where much life is spent. It is a space that is precious, rare, a place where the restless heart can find peace.”
And that is what this chapel means to us- Sisters, Associate, Oblates, Companions, Alongsiders, and Guests.
Knowing the centrality of the chapel in a monastery or convent, John writes, “worship is the warp about which the weft of daily monastic life is woven. A steady rhythm of praise and prayer is lifted to God day in and day out, year in and year out, on behalf of the entire world. Its rhythm sanctifies the Brothers’ work by constantly interrupting it and reminding them that all they do and all they are comes from God.”
And that is what this chapel means to us, and especially to the Sisters whose first and last work every day is lifting the life of the world heavenward.
Brother Kevin Hackett writes “I like to tell visitors to the Monastery that the walls of the chapel are coated not only with decades of particular matter from the incense we use in our worship but with the spiritual residue of all the prayers that have been offered here as well. The space ’remembers’ the millions of prayers that have been offered by The Brothers of course, but also by thousands of women and men and children who have been our guests, staying with us on retreat or simply dropping in to light a candle.” And all of that can be said of this chapel too.
And just one more quote, a gem. Kristin LeMay who holds two degrees from Harvard University and was baptized at The Great Vigil of Easter in 2004 writes “The Monastery Chapel holds the ages together, as God is said to do.”
And that can be said of this chapel too.
So, dear friends, for all this chapel means to us, for every deep silence and gentle song,
every canticle and joyous refrain, for every experience of water and Word,
every taste of wheat and wine,
for every scent of chrism and
every light of God,
for every coming in and
every going out,
for every grace bestowed for the life and work to which we are vowed and consecrated we lift our hearts and raise our voices in a resounding
“Thanks be to God”.