Ampleforth Abbey

14 December 2017

Homily for the Solemnity of the Passing of St Benedict

[Readings Acts 4.32-35; Colossians 3.12-17; John 15.1-8]

In his Rule St Benedict famously says that a monk’s life should always be Lenten in character and, perhaps fittingly, the commemoration of his death usually occurs in Lent – but we must not make Lent an end in itself: it is a time of preparation for something greater, a time of preparation for Easter.

Our readings today make it plain that the Resurrection of Christ marked the beginning of a new age in the life of the world. Human beings cannot experience the resurrection and remain unchanged. In the Apostolic age men and women were inspired by the Resurrection of Christ to establish new structures for day to day life and new models of relationship between human beings. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit they ensured that by sharing what they had no one was ever in need and that their relationships were founded in that love which played out in sincere compassion, kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. They were realistic however and knew that the new way of life required mercy and forgiveness for the faults and sins which are a hallmark of our human lives. The ecclesia or congregation of the Apostolic Church which was the fulfilment of the gathering of God’s Chosen People in the desert of the Exodus has been the constant inspiration of the founders of institutes and societies of religious life – among which Pope Benedict XVI placed monastic life as an exemplar.

We monks of today can only be examples of Christian living if we constantly recall our need of Christ and the call which he has extended to us. We are called to be parts of the one vine; called to make Christ visible in this world of today. No one can live that life in a full and life-giving way unless he or she comes to Christ through the words of the Gospel and in the sacraments of the Church. It is for this reason that we have gathered this morning to listen to Christ speaking to us and to commemorate his Passion, Death and Resurrection by which he freed us from the shackles of sin and called us into a new relationship with his Father. And our prayer today is that his Resurrection may call forth new life and abundant fruit in this community.