7 Jan 2017

Feast of the Epiphany - Homily of Abbot Brendan, Glenstal Abbey (and an Oak Anniversary of monastic profession)

From Glenstal Abbey's website:

Glenstal’s most senior monk, Fr Placid Murray, celebrated his Oak Jubilee – the 80th anniversary of his monastic profession – on Friday 6th January 2017.

Fr Placid made his first profession on the Feast of the Epiphany 1937, in the hands of the then Prior of Glenstal, the Belgian Fr Bede Lebbe. Fr Placid, who is 98 years old, is currently resident at a nursing home in nearby Newport, Co. Tipperary, but he returned to Glenstal on Friday to celebrate his jubilee.

He and the monastic community were joined by many of Fr Placid’s relatives and friends for Mass and lunch. During Mass, Fr Placid renewed his vows:
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Eighty years ago, I, Brother Placid Murray, promised stability, monastic life and obedience in the monastery of Saints Joseph and Columba at Glenstal, in the presence of Dom Bede Lebbe, Prior of Glenstal. With gratitude, and trusting in the mercy of God, I renew my profession, and  promise stability, monastic life and obedience in the aforesaid monastery of Saints Joseph and Columba at Glenstal, in the presence of God and his saints and of you, Brendan, Abbot of this monastery, and of its monks.

He then sang the Suscipe chant, which is sung by all monks on the day of their profession, and which is sung by the brethren at monks’ funerals. Just before the final blessing, Fr Placid addressed the congregation, reflecting on the meaning of the Suscipe.

You can read Abbot Brendan’s homily below.

Today, we celebrate a festival more ancient in its origins than Christmas. This is the feast of the Manifestation of the Lord to the Nations, the Epiphany. Traditionally three great wonders mark this day; the arrival of the Magi from the east with their gifts, the baptism of Christ in the Jordan river and the miracle of the wedding at Cana in Galilee. These events reveal Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, the beloved.

Today’s feast is also a feast of time itself, because Jesus is revealed in time and the liturgy we celebrate continues to reveal him in time, our time. For this reason the Church has traditionally announced on this day the date of Easter and the dates of all the movable feasts for the coming year. For a Christian the year begins and ends with Easter and so does our calculation of time.

Today, in this monastery we mark another event in time. Not only do we celebrate the Manifestation of the Lord to the Nations, but we give thanks for eighty years of monastic life with our confrère Fr Placid. I’m told that this is called an Oak Jubilee, we don’t get to celebrate too many of those! I would have to be one hundred and nine before I could celebrate my oak jubilee of profession, so that’s not too likely to happen.

On the great feast of the Epiphany, in 1937, Fr Placid made his first monastic profession here in Glenstal Priory, before Fr Bede Lebbe, Prior of Glenstal. To get some context around this event; this was the year when J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit, the year Walt Disney produced Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; it was in the 678th Olympiad; the 2,690th year from the foundation of the city of Rome, the year Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into office for the second time, the year San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge was opened to the public. The monastery itself was only ten years old at that stage and the fledgling community had started to grow.

Let me ask you, what do all these things have in common? They happened. In fact our lives as monks are lived in a constant relationship with all the varied events of the world around us, from the sublime to the ridiculous. One unique Spirit, that of the Father and of the Son animates everything. Our multiple charisms are a reflection of the seamless robe of Christ the Saviour who is made manifest this day, in Jordan water, at the miracle of the wedding at Cana and in kingly gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Each one of us is given a fixed span of days to allow the Lord become manifest in our own lives. For a monk that manifestation comes primarily through the Work of God in choir, to which you Fr Placid have been most faithful. It is a tremendous testimony to fidelity, all too seldom seen today in any walk of life, that someone faithfully carries out their work for eighty years. As the psalm puts it – eighty for those who are strong.

The vespers hymn for today’s feast has this beautiful line sung in reference to the Magi, “Lumen requirunt lumine” “following a light they were searching for the light. Fr Placid, for eighty years you have faithfully followed the light of the Holy Rule of St Benedict, but you have been seeking the true light, the Lumen ad Revelationem Gentium, Christ the Saviour. The destiny of every human person can be seen in this journey of the Magi from the East: for our life is a journey, illuminated by the lights which brighten our way, so that we might find the fullness of truth and love in Jesus, the Light of the World. A jubilee is only a marker on the journey, it is the journey itself that is important and the roots we put down at the start support us all the way to the finish. Fr Placid, on this great feast of the Lord’s Epiphany, the day we announce with joy the date of Easter and the day eighty years ago you promised stability, monastic conversion and obedience, my wish for you comes from the letter to the Ephesians “May Christ live in your heart by faith and may you be planted in love and built on love.”

Ad multos annos!

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