On Christ’s Ascension

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

In John 15 and 16, Jesus tells his apostles that He is about to return to His Father – I can imagine there was a great heaviness in His voice due to His imminent passion and death, but then it seems that a light breaks through the darkness when He speaks of the coming of the Paraclete.  He tells his apostles to actually get excited, because He is about to send them the Holy Spirit.  And we should be excited, too.  We should feel the excitement of this time leading up to Pentecost.  Jesus has died for you.  Jesus has risen for you.  Heaven has been opened for you.  And Jesus continues to pour out His Holy Spirit on you.  What a glory.  What a joy!

Some lovely “Ascension clouds” over the Abbey of St. Walburga

Luke tells us of Jesus’ Ascension in his Gospel: “Then he led them [out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them.  As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.  They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24:50-53).  Let us do the same as the apostles – let us go to church, full of excitement for what’s coming, a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Let us imitate the zeal of the apostles in the early Church, who lived as though Jesus would return any minute.

We also hear a description of the Ascension in the Acts of the Apostles: “When they had gathered together they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’  He answered them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’  When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven’” (Acts 1:6-11).  So, I encourage you, every once in a while, remember to look up at the sky.  Is He there?  One day, He really will come, whether it is in our lifetime or not.  The fact that it’s going to happen is glorious –  And we will be taken up to meet Him in the clouds (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:17).  Think about this!  We should be excited to hear about these things and ponder them, and respond by living full of expectation for His coming.  I hope we can all live with the spark of joy that this news brings, because the world needs the joy of God.

“The departing Jesus does not make his way to some distant star.  He enters into communion of power and life with the living God, into God’s dominion over space… Because Jesus is with the Father, he has not gone away but remains close to us.  Now he is no longer in one particular place in the world as he had been before the ‘Ascension’: now, through his power over space, he is present and accessible to all—throughout history and in every place… ‘We have come to know a threefold coming of the Lord.  The third coming takes place between the other two…his first coming was in the flesh and in weakness, this intermediary coming is in the spirit and in power, the last coming will be in glory and majesty’ (In Adventu Domini [by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux]).”

Pope Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week”

Monastic Poverty Regarding Food

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

The idol of body image is very common in the world today.  If people cared half as much about what their souls looked like as what their bodies looked like, we would be one holy people!  But the monastic diet is different—we receive whatever we are given, and with gratitude.  It is one of the ways in which we express monastic poverty.  Monastic poverty regarding food is to accept what you are given with thanksgiving (except if you have a serious allergy!).  According to St. Benedict, there should be balance and moderation in all things, and that means there is a time for fasting, and a time for feasting.  Haven’t you heard that the acronym BMW stands for “Benedictine Moderation Works”?  For we know from St. Gregory’s writings that the Lord sent a priest to St. Benedict on Easter Sunday with prepared delicacies, in order that His servant (St. Benedict) got a share in the feast day meal.  So it isn’t that God doesn’t want us to have feast days, but rather that He doesn’t want our bellies to be our gods.  Let us be aware of this temptation, so that we can fight the idolatry of body image in our world.  It is a great witness today that we are just grateful for everything we get, and in this way we not only feed our bodies, but our souls as well.

A feast day specialty — a berry tart in honor of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart


Lamentations Audio

Our community hold the tradition of anticipating Easter by praying Jeremiah’s Lamentations during the Divine Office on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday every year. Our custom is to appoint a different Sister to sing these in Latin during Matins. Beginning with the most junior nun assigned to sing, and ending with our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael, this video highlights a short segment from each of the nine Lamentations passages we use.

Below is the full text of these moving scriptures:

Lamentations 1:1-5

How solitary sits the city,
once filled with people.
She who was great among the nations
is now like a widow.
Once a princess among the provinces,
now a toiling slave.

She weeps incessantly in the night,
her cheeks damp with tears.
She has no one to comfort her
from all her lovers;
Her friends have all betrayed her,
and become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile,
after oppression and harsh labor;
She dwells among the nations,
yet finds no rest:
All her pursuers overtake her
in the narrow straits.

The roads to Zion mourn,
empty of pilgrims to her feasts.
All her gateways are desolate,
her priests groan,
Her young women grieve;
her lot is bitter.

Her foes have come out on top,
her enemies are secure;
Because the LORD has afflicted her
for her many rebellions.
Her children have gone away,
captive before the foe.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 1:6-9

From daughter Zion has gone
all her glory:
Her princes have become like rams
that find no pasture.
They have gone off exhausted
before their pursuers.

Jerusalem remembers
in days of wretched homelessness,
All the precious things she once had
in days gone by.
But when her people fell into the hands of the foe,
and she had no help,
Her foes looked on and laughed
at her collapse.

Jerusalem has sinned grievously,
therefore she has become a mockery;
Those who honored her now demean her,
for they saw her nakedness;
She herself groans out loud,
and turns away.

Her uncleanness is on her skirt;
she has no thought of her future.
Her downfall is astonishing,
with no one to comfort her.
“Look, O LORD, at my misery;
how the enemy triumphs!”

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 1:10-14

The foe stretched out his hands
to all her precious things;
She has seen the nations
enter her sanctuary,
Those you forbade to come
into your assembly.

All her people groan,
searching for bread;
They give their precious things for food,
to retain the breath of life.
“Look, O LORD, and pay attention
to how I have been demeaned!

Come, all who pass by the way,
pay attention and see:
Is there any pain like my pain,
which has been ruthlessly inflicted upon me,
With which the LORD has tormented me
on the day of his blazing wrath?

From on high he hurled fire down
into my very bones;
He spread out a net for my feet,
and turned me back.
He has left me desolate,
in misery all day long.

The yoke of my rebellions is bound together,
fastened by his hand.
His yoke is upon my neck;
he has made my strength fail.
The Lord has delivered me into the grip
of those I cannot resist.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 2:8-11

The LORD was bent on destroying
the wall of daughter Zion:
He stretched out the measuring line;
did not hesitate to devour,
Brought grief on rampart and wall
till both succumbed.

Her gates sank into the ground;
he smashed her bars to bits.
Her king and her princes are among the nations;
instruction is wanting,
Even her prophets do not obtain
any vision from the LORD.

The elders of daughter Zion
sit silently on the ground;
They cast dust on their heads
and dress in sackcloth;
The young women of Jerusalem
bow their heads to the ground.

My eyes are spent with tears,
my stomach churns;
My bile is poured out on the ground
at the brokenness of the daughter of my people,
As children and infants collapse
in the streets of the town.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 2:12-15

They cry out to their mothers,
“Where is bread and wine?”
As they faint away like the wounded
in the streets of the city,
As their life is poured out
in their mothers’ arms.

To what can I compare you—to what can I liken you—
O daughter Jerusalem?
What example can I give in order to comfort you,
virgin daughter Zion?
For your breach is vast as the sea;
who could heal you?

Your prophets provided you visions
of whitewashed illusion;
They did not lay bare your guilt,
in order to restore your fortunes;
They saw for you only oracles
of empty deceit.

All who pass by on the road,
clap their hands at you;
They hiss and wag their heads
over daughter Jerusalem:
“Is this the city they used to call
perfect in beauty and joy of all the earth?”

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 3:1-9

I am one who has known affliction
under the rod of God’s anger,
One whom he has driven and forced to walk
in darkness, not in light;
Against me alone he turns his hand—
again and again all day long.
He has worn away my flesh and my skin,
he has broken my bones;
He has besieged me all around
with poverty and hardship;
He has left me to dwell in dark places
like those long dead.
He has hemmed me in with no escape,
weighed me down with chains;
Even when I cry for help,
he stops my prayer;
He has hemmed in my ways with fitted stones,
and made my paths crooked.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 3:22-30

The LORD’s acts of mercy are not exhausted,
his compassion is not spent;
They are renewed each morning—
great is your faithfulness!
The LORD is my portion, I tell myself,
therefore I will hope in him.
The LORD is good to those who trust in him,
to the one that seeks him;
It is good to hope in silence
for the LORD’s deliverance.
It is good for a person, when young,
to bear the yoke,
To sit alone and in silence,
when its weight lies heavy,
To put one’s mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope—
To offer one’s cheek to be struck,
to be filled with disgrace.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 4:1-6

How the gold has lost its luster,
the noble metal changed;
Jewels lie scattered
at the corner of every street.

And Zion’s precious children,
worth their weight in gold—
How they are treated like clay jugs,
the work of any potter!

Even jackals offer their breasts
to nurse their young;
But the daughter of my people is as cruel
as the ostrich in the wilderness.

The tongue of the infant cleaves
to the roof of its mouth in thirst;
Children beg for bread,
but no one gives them a piece.

Those who feasted on delicacies
are abandoned in the streets;
Those who reclined on crimson
now embrace dung heaps.

The punishment of the daughter of my people
surpassed the penalty of Sodom,
Which was overthrown in an instant
with no hand laid on it.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 5:1-11

Remember, LORD, what has happened to us,
pay attention, and see our disgrace:
Our heritage is turned over to strangers,
our homes, to foreigners.
We have become orphans, without fathers;
our mothers are like widows.
We pay money to drink our own water,
our own wood comes at a price.
With a yoke on our necks, we are driven;
we are worn out, but allowed no rest.
We extended a hand to Egypt and Assyria,
to satisfy our need of bread.
Our ancestors, who sinned, are no more;
but now we bear their guilt.
Servants rule over us,
with no one to tear us from their hands.
We risk our lives just to get bread,
exposed to the desert heat;
Our skin heats up like an oven,
from the searing blasts of famine.
Women are raped in Zion,
young women in the cities of Judah…

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)


St. Walburga’s Oil

Every year on October 12 the holy oil from Saint Walburga’s tomb in Germany begins to flow, and it continues until her Feast Day on February 25. Due to the testimonies of many people who have experienced God’s healing power after anointing themselves with the oil and asking Saint Walburga to pray for them, it seems that this quote from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux may also be applied to our patroness:

“I wish to spend my heaven in doing good upon the earth.”

Photo of Saint Walburga’s crypt at the Abtei St. Walburg in Eichstätt, taken by one of our Sisters who travelled to Germany for the Abbatial Blessing of Mother Hildegard, OSB. The images on the walls are memorial plaques depicting miracles attributed to Saint Walburga, donated by patrons in gratitude for her intercession.

The Holy Rule Leads to Love

A reflection on the purpose of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

The Rule of St. Benedict outlines for us how to live a righteous life, and most importantly, it leads us to love.  At the end of our lives, we will be judged by love.  Just as the law isn’t going to save us so the Rule isn’t going to save us.  But if we do what it says, it leads us to love.

In the Prologue, St. Benedicts says that his Rule is from “a father who loves you” (RB Prologue:1).  His bottom line is that he’s writing it out of love.  According to the dialogues of St. Gregory, at the end of Benedict’s life, his love needed to be perfected.  So St. Scholastica, who was more perfect in love, was there to show him this last mark of his life that was needed—that love triumphs.  The law was good and necessary, but it leads to love, and that’s its only purpose. (Click here for Gregory the Great’s account of this meeting).

Again, we hear in the Rule that “as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God’s commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love” (RB Prologue:49).  That’s what we’re all supposed to become.  That’s what St. Benedict so desires for us.  It is nothing more than the gospel message to love God and love our neighbor, and he shows us clearly a way to do this in his Rule.  I challenge everyone to read Chapter 4 of the Holy Rule and pick one thing to work on for the good of the Body of Christ, for the better of another, for love.  Do this seriously, that Christ may look upon you and say, “What a light in this world, which is so needed.  I see clearly that my death meant something.”  And in this way we will comfort the heart of Christ.

One of our Sisters reading the Holy Rule of St. Benedict and enjoying the beautiful Spring weather.

Embracing the Cross

A reflection on the triumph of Love by Mother Maria Michael Newe, OSB

I was thinking about the incredible words we sing during the Divine Office on the Feast of St. Andrew: “Seeing the cross [of his own martyrdom], Andrew cried out with joy, ‘O precious cross! Truly I have always loved you, and I have desired to embrace you.’”

This is a disciple who ran away in the garden of Gethsemane—he didn’t stand by Jesus on the cross—so the greatest gift that could be given to him was another chance to stand by the cross. What did he do with it? He embraced it. He longed for that moment to tell Christ, “I love you, and I want to be with you, wherever that leads.” This is the power of the triumph of the cross. Love is the triumph of the cross. When we love enough that we no longer fear the crosses in our lives but we embrace them and we long for them because they unite us with him who has loved us beyond all love, that is the triumph of the cross. So today we celebrate that we no longer fear the cross; it is truly the exaltation. Of course we cannot do this of ourselves. St. Andrew, St. Peter, none of them, could have embraced the cross on their own, but with divine strength they could embrace and kiss it. And their suffering turned into gratitude. Yes, when we can thank God for the crosses in our life, God has triumphed. When we can see that it is Love that has given us once again the chance to prove our love, we will rejoice and say, “Amen!” and run toward it, because we have a chance to prove our love. Let us pray today that the cross may triumph in our own lives, because it will not happen on our own. It is completely divine strength.

May this Easter season bring you much joy in the resurrection of Our Lord, who suffered his cross for the love of us, that we might have a sense of the depths of his love and desire to return our love for his.

Artwork by Sr. Ancilla Armijo, OSB