On being Possessed by God’s Presence

Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Feast of the Purification of S. Mary (Candlemas) 2021

All of the episodes of our Lord Jesus Christ recorded in the New Testament are memories. This is especially the case for the four accounts of the one Gospel of Jesus Christ recorded by S. Matthew, S. Mark, S. Luke, and S. John. Their accounts were not written down until several years, even several decades, after Our Lord’s Ascension and the Coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. How the episodes got to be in such a place as to be written down, is that the accounts of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s life was proclaimed and preached in worship by the apostles of the Church. The stories and episodes we have of Jesus come down to us as the apostolic preaching of the young Church. It perhaps is characteristic of our modern mindset to downgrade memories, to regard memories as inferior to, what, documentary evidence—today, it seems something did not happen unless it is captured on a cellphone camera and distributed virally on Twitter.

Yet this really is a modern attitude—among the first voices of the young Church to refer to the four Gospel accounts is Saint Justin Martyr, one of the apostolic voices who entered into greater glory in the year of Our Lord 165. Justin Martyr referred to the four gospel accounts as “memoirs.” This is important for us to always keep in mind—the episodes of Our Lord captured authoritatively in Scripture are not equivalent to documentary footage captured by a camera; but rather, they are superior in that these are the definitive accounts of what the Church remembers of Jesus insofar as the episodes recounted have the power to transform our hearts from a heart of sin to a heart of obedience to Christ.

The term a contemporary theologian today uses to describe the Gospel accounts is that the four accounts reflect “scripturally mediated memory.” The episodes of Jesus, including His Presentation in the Temple with the meeting of Simeon and Anna of their, and our, Lord and Saviour, detail how the Church remembered Jesus in a living way as revealed in and through the opening of Scripture as Jesus did on the road to Emmaus on the first Easter Day. To the two disciples on that road, and to more of the disciples that evening in the Upper Room, Jesus gave the key to interpreting what we call the Old Testament, Himself being the key because the Scriptures at all points speak of Him, and are spoken by Him. Jesus shows us that it is He who said, “Let there be light,” it was Jesus Who asked Adam, “Where are you?”, it is Jesus of whom Isaiah prophesied would be born of a Virgin, and so on and so forth.

And it was Jesus of Whom the prophet Haggai spoke—indeed, Jesus Whom Haggai heard speak. It was Jesus who told Haggai that He would fill the House of the Father with glory—a glory greater than the former glory that filled the Temple, that filled the Tent of Meeting to Moses. It was in this new Temple, Jesus told Haggai, that peace would be given. The peace, indeed, that passes all understanding; the peace that keeps our hearts and mind in the knowledge and love of God; the peace pronounced and truly given to the ten disciples in the Upper Room which were among the first words spoken by Christ as He appeared in His glorious Resurrection, saying “Peace be with you,” and breathing upon them “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

And it was this peace, told to Haggai, the peace Who is Christ, Who was held in the arms of old man Simeon who had been waiting for the redemption of Israel, and longing for the fulfillment of hopes only on this day did he rightly understand. “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word,” said Simeon as he held in his arms the Eternal Word of God. Just as a lesser glory filled the Temple of Solomon, Jesus when presented by Blessed Mother Mary is seen as the fullness of the holy uncreated Light of the Father Who would be the Light to give light to the Gentiles, and the Light to be the glory of Israel.

Simeon, Anna, and us are given possession of this Light presented by Blessed Mary—given in our Baptism whereby our body becomes the Temple of the Holy Ghost—a Temple truly fit for His Presence. Brothers and sisters, let us continue to receive the heavenly Light through our religion: that is, through our daily prayer, our assisting at the eucharistic Mass, and in our devotion to the sacred Humanity of Christ in our relationships and activities day by day. Our religion is to mean to us nothing less than what it meant to old Simeon: salvation by being possessed by the Presence of God.

On Being Peace for the World

Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, 2020.

Well, our world has turned upside down. And despite our present difficulties and uncertainties, we will get through this. I am not saying that to minimize any of the hardship, suffering, and anxiety many if not all of us feel in our own ways. I have no crystal ball. But we will get through this, because  Our Lord Jesus Christ has destroyed death by His death, and has redeemed us through His Holy Cross. He has beaten down Satan under His feet and forever opened eternal life to those who believe in Him.

Brothers and sisters, our Lord Jesus loves us. He gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God—He did this so that in walking in His footsteps and following His ways, would who once were in darkness would be able to walk in the Light. In these days of darkness around us, the Light of Christ shines through. It shines through in our ability to continue to pray, which we must do, daily and unceasingly. It shines through in our loving of one another, our taking care of ourselves and one another during this difficult time—which we must do, and that is why I am calling on each and every one of us to take it upon ourselves to call other members of our parish, and to call them regularly—and not only those whom we might already regularly call, but to reach out to members of our parish you might have never reached out to before over the phone. A simple message of “I was thinking of you and wanted to make sure you are hanging in there,” goes a very long way during a time of social distancing. Our simple message becomes a message of light that lightens the hearts of the person we are calling. So let us take it upon ourselves, each and every one of us, to love one another, and Christ Himself loves us.

God has chosen us to be ambassadors for Him, like God chose and anointed David, to be an icon of Him, to be a living Sacrament of His love—an icon for others to behold, and when they behold, they behold not us, but Christ through us; and a living Sacrament of His love, that when they receive the love, they receive not us, but the peace of Christ through us.

And let us also during this time take advantage of as much as possible the encounters we do have with others, I mean outside our parish membership. Surely let us keep our social distancing, but we can still reach hearts from a distance of six feet or more. Knowing firmly that Christ Jesus is our rock, the temple from Whom living waters flows—and this is why daily prayer is so important, to daily remind us of God, daily renew our offering of ourselves to Him, and daily be replenished by the living Word of His daily Bread—and being so renewed and replenished, and with an open heart, let us with joy and love speak with whomever we see, speak with them even if the conversation lasts but a few seconds or a minute. Having an open heart of love offered to everyone in their time and need, however they may need it, opens people’s eyes. As Christ made clay and anointed the eyes of a blind man, let us meet people where they are, and with our “good morning, hanging in there?”; our “crazy times, eh?”; our “anything I can help you with?” we spread Christ’s anointing and healing love through our attention, openness, and genuine concern for others.

Brothers and sisters, this love which Christ has chosen us to spread to others is heavenly. When Christ comes down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world, He bestows upon us through Word and Sacrament His heavenly peace which is available to all those we choose to make it available to in our lives. The world may not always receive this peace, the world may reject this peace offered by us to the world; but our Lord taught us to offer it anyway. He taught us to always offer to others the peace which passes all understanding—the peace that keeps our hearts and mind in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ. Peace He gives us freely, that we offer it freely to all.

On Purification, Baptism, and Peace

Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Feast of The Purification of S. Mary the Virgin (Candlemas), 2020.

There is no normal reason why Saint Luke should use the personal pronoun “their” to describe who’s purification is taking place. Mosaic law within Jewish custom specifies that the purification is only for the mother. And while in Jewish tradition, this ritual normally was understood to remove ritual uncleanness so as to allow a return to active worship within the community, for Mary the opposite pertained: she had experienced contact with an unfathomable holiness in the birth of God her Son, and so her purification was not to make clean what was dirty, but rather to make normal what was mystical. The same patterns applies to why the priest purifies the chalice after administration of Communion: the chalice is not dirty, for it was filled by the Precious Blood of Christ, filled with heaven. It is purified so as to return it to normal use, until which point it is taken again into the heights of heaven as a vessel for the Sacrament.

So why did Saint Luke use the word “their” instead of “her” purification? He understood what Jewish practice was, how purification was for the mother only. Luke wrote “their” because he always wrote with the eyes of his heart enlightened and transformed by Christ Crucified and Risen: for in such a view, in offering Christ to God she is offering His Body: and His Body is the Church; His Body is the members of the Church through baptism, because in baptism we are taken up into the heavenly reality permanently and engrafted into the divine Body of Christ. And so “their purification” is a moment of cryptic teaching by Luke, to be found by the people of God meditating upon the Gospel according to Saint Luke that through baptism we are purified: Mary’s return to normalcy after her contact with the ineffable allows us to be offered by her in the Temple because she knows in her Son’s body is all Israel, all the People of God. It is an extraordinary detail, Luke’s use of “their.”

Moreover, it is an extraordinary way that the old man Simeon responds to taking up Our Jesus into his arms and blessing God. I mean it is his words that are extraordinary, for his response is a petition to God, a request made to the maker of all things visible and invisible. This is Simeon’s petition: “Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Thy people Israel.” It is Simeon who is having a moment of transformation: an experience where the eyes of his heart have been enlightened. And having been transformed, Simeon petitions God to let him depart in peace, according to the Word of God. Here he echoes Mary’s response to God at the Annunciation: she said, “Let it be unto me according to Thy Word”; Simeon repeats those very last words, “according to Thy Word.” An immediate experience of God that we recognize throws us into such humility that we become so obedient, so attentive to God that all we can say is “Let it be unto me according to His Word.” And of course, “His Word” is Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God. And so Simeon’s petition really is: “Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Jesus Christ, Thy Son and Thy Word.”

Brothers and sisters, see how this fully accords with the end of the Mass, the Dismissal. The priest says, “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.” It is as if those words of dismissal are a direct response to Simeon speaking for the congregation gathered at the Altar having been fed by the eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ. Just as Simeon, we have beheld Christ, and we have received Christ, holding Him in our hearts because we are filled with Him. And because we are filled with Him, we are filled with His peace. Of course we depart in peace: Christ’s peace is in our bodies through the Eucharist—“Go in peace” more fully expressed is “You are full of Christ in your bodies: now go into the world and carry the fullness of peace with you everywhere you go”—for our eyes have seen God’s salvation which He has prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to the true Israel, the people of God.

On the Peace of Christ

Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the First Sunday after Christmas, 2019.

It was the theme of my sermon for Christmas Eve to focus on the gift of peace God has given us with the birth of Christ. But to properly receive the gift—which means, ultimately, to order our lives around the gift that has been given, which is the Peace of Christ—and furthermore, in a real sense, embody the gift of peace so much so that we can in our lives—our words and deeds, our relationships with close friends as well as passing acquaintances, and with the countless many more with whom we exchange little more than hello and a smile—that we can in our lives that are embodying the Peace of Christ pass the same Peace on to others; that we can to a lonely world exchange the Peace of Christ and warm the hearts of the lonely—because when the Peace of Christ is present, a person (even if alone) is no longer lonely; to properly receive the Gift of Peace, we have to understand what the Christian faith means by Peace. Then we can share it.

When the Peace of Christ is present, in their hearts the previously person sings along with the prophet Isaiah, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” I do not mean actually says those words, but expresses their meaning in whatever sense their heart is warmed by the presence of Christ’s Peace. The documentary footage, for example, that captured people dying on the streets of Calcutta in India yet who were loved by Saint Teresa—we see in their faces and hear in their voices, despite their dying, sickly bodies, them proclaiming the good news of a great joy: the same good news of a great joy proclaimed by the Angel Gabriel to the shepherds keeping watch over their fields on the night of Christ’s birth. Those persons, the poorest of the poor, exude the peace of Christ, because they have received the peace of Christ through the Outreach ministry of Saint Teresa and her sisters. Saint Teresa and her sisters embody the peace of Christ, and because of that, and only because of that, are they able to pass the gift of Christ’s peace on to those they meet and serve.

But still, what is the Christian meaning of Peace? Some say, it is not the absence of war and strife, but the presence of love. And there is truth to that. But what is this presence of love for Christians? The presence of love for Christian is the presence of love that we read in the Scriptures and in the Gospels that Christ Himself demonstrates. The word “love” for us is better understood as “caritas,” from which our word “charity” derives. It is selfless love of a person, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, voluntarily going to His death for the sins of the whole world. Peace is the presence of this selfless giving of oneself for the world. It is this presence of selflessness that we must have in our hearts if we are to so embody Peace as to give it to others.

And the Nativity of Christ radically illustrates this. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” we hear in Saint John. Let us lift up our hearts to this, brothers and sisters! This Son given to the world is He through Whom all things have been made, this holy Child. This Son given to the world is He Who is the Light that enlightens every man coming into the world, this holy Child. This Son given to the world is He who creates equality of honour between heaven and earth, a way up for all those below to things above. Nothing done by God from the beginning of time was more beneficial to all or more divine than Christ’s nativity.

And the benefits are found when we meditate upon the festival of Christmas. The benefits are found when we quietly sit in contemplation of God’s mighty acts, beginning with the fact that the Eternal Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Let us meditate on this mystery of the Nativity of Christ, that we may imitate what it contains and obtain what the Angels promise: Peace, good will among men.

On the Nativity of Christ

Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2019.

It is glorious to be with you all to celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, born of His Mother, Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin. He was conceived by Mary in her heart by the message and invitation of the Angel Gabriel—and thereby after conceiving Him first in her heart, she conceived Him in her spotless womb. And the Angel Gabriel greeted the newborn Babe and announced to the shepherds keeping watch by night the very words, Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to His people on earth. He conceived through an angel, and welcomed into the world through an Angel, who then was surrounded by the whole heavenly host of angels just as our Altar when we celebrate the Eucharist is surrounded by angels, archangels, and furthermore all the company of heaven—the Saints who live in glory and pray for us that we may continue to walk in the ways of Christ along the holy highway prophecied by Isaiah. The whole world, I chanted at the beginning of our Mass—the whole world being at peace. The Lord has given us a sign: As promised in time of old, a Virgin has conceived and has born a Son, and all call His name Emmanuel: which means, God with us. Our prayer can only lift us to heaven when surrounded as we are by such glory.

This is my fourth Christmas as your priest. I look forward as I am sure you all do as well to this holy night, when the stars are brightly shining. A new spirit is in the air, a gentleness enters into our everyday conversations in a noticeable way, does it not? Many of us gather with family during this holy season—a holy season my family, before I was ordained, had to learn as a matter of necessity was twelve days long, because we quickly realized there was no way we could possibly share Christmas with all of our family if “Christmas” meant roughly a 24-hour period. I believe one year we actually tried—we tried visiting four different households on Christmas Eve and Day. Perhaps the whole world was full of peace, but our hearts were not quite sharing in that peace that year.

And so Christmas is not only religiously twelve days long, ending with the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord on January 6, when we celebrate that the whole world, represented by the Magi, the Wise Men who followed the Star and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh both to Jesus the King and to His Mother Mary—but let it be practically twelve days long, as well, as best as we are able to make it so. God is at work in the world, and His power abounds everywhere we go, and everywhere we might travel during this season to see friends and family. Recognize that this power is best experience as peace not only in the season of Christmas, but everywhere and in all places and times. The peace of Christ we exchange with each other during the Liturgy of the Eucharist—that peace of the Eucharist, when all of us, each a member of the Body of Christ, by the grace of the precious Body of Christ on the Altar, seeking unity with the Body of Christ, that is, with the person with whom we exchange the peace.

And how do we really exchange peace in that moment? We can shake hands, or hug, or kiss, or greet a friend anytime. And certainly each time we do those things can be a moment that shares in the peace of Christ. But what is the specifically Christian understanding of what it means to exchange the peace? It is this: we look into the eyes of another person, and in a moment of quiet—whether it is half of a second or a whole minute does not matter—in a moment of quiet, a moment of stillness, we recognize something utterly amazing: that Christ is in that person in whose eyes you are looking, and that they can perceive Christ in you.

This is the peace of Christ. This is the same peace of Christ that passes all understanding. And this is the peace of Christ that the whole world shared with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, a peace we are sharing in this evening, the peace Christ proclaimed to the apostles on the first Easter evening: Christ, crucified and resurrected proclaiming the Upper Room, “Peace be with you.” All the same peace that shines off the Child Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger—the whole world being at peace.

At the Foot of the Cross

Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Last Sunday after Trinity (Christ the King), 2019.

We ask in our Collect today that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under Christ’s most gracious rule. Rightly understood, this Collect expresses concisely the Christian understanding of the fallen world and why we Christians are in the world with an apostolic mission. To a sinful world we are to bring a way of life centered on the glory of the Cross; a way of life empowered by our knowledge of Christ both crucified and resurrected. The knowledge of Truth—that is to say the knowledge of Christ Crucified and Resurrected—is knowledge that is lived out; is knowledge that is embodied and enacted; is knowledge that must, if it is true knowledge of Truth Himself, be expressed through a general attitude or disposition toward all the world, and as the premise of all our relationships in the world with God’s creatures, especially our relationships with the human ones. It is this ennobled way of life that is the true meaning of “Christ’s most gracious rule”—Christ’s most gracious way of life; Christ’s most sacred humanity.

The world is full of disorder and disharmony, our Collect rightly declares. The image of God that remains in all people is obscured because their likeness of Him is defaced by sin, by evil doings in the phrase from Jeremiah. The flock has been scattered. Instead of surrender to the way of life anchored in Truth Himself, separation from that way of life—and this separation is sin properly understood—is what causes a life of darkness: a life of spiritual darkness that cannot see the uncreated Light Who reconciles all creatures to Himself and Who leads us not into temptation but out of the darkness of evil and toward salvation.

And so God became Man in order to attend to the world full of evil doings. And the way He attended to it was to die on a Cross. Heaven was no longer far away or unreachable. With God on a Cross, dying for our sins, to remove our sins, to remove our separation from the true way of life, heaven was no longer far away or unreachable: heaven is found by being at the foot of the Cross. Our King is found when we are at the foot of the Cross and behold Him, when we look up and behold His kingly power. Our kind is found when we are at the foot of the Cross and look up and behold that the righteous branch of David loves us from the Cross and loves us to the end. Being at the foot of the Cross demands our stillness—of mind, of thought. There is no other way to be at the foot of the Cross but to be still, for in being still, then and only then can we truly behold the loving Jesus on the Cross out of His inestimable love for us—only when we are still can we know God.

This is why all of the epistles of Saint Paul are really about being at the foot of the Cross beholding Christ suffering for us—all of his letters are about Christ’s free choice to suffer for us, and the glory that comes of this unfathomable action. The image of the invisible God, in whom all things are created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, all things being created through Him and for Him—He Who is before all things and in Whom all things hold together: He who is the head of the Body, the Church; the beginning, and in Whom is the fullness of God—the image of the invisible God is Christ in extreme humility. The image of the invisible God is our Lord treated like a criminal. The image of the invisible God—Whose Name is “The Lord is our righteousness”—meaning, “The Lord is our right relationship with God”—is Jesus scoffed at, spat upon, and mocked Who said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” From His extreme humility comes His extraordinary forgiveness, that this is what Saint Paul and all the apostles teach as the source of strength, endurance, and joyful patience.

Brothers and sisters, let us in all this be stirred up. God’s thoughts are always thoughts of peace and not affliction, despite the sinful ways of the world, sinful ways that killed our Lord. Only the heavenly peace of Christ overcomes death, and overcomes sin. And in our King, this is accomplished.

Homily: “On the Saturday Sabbath”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Second Sunday after Pentecost (First Sunday after Trinity), 2018. We have asked in our Collect this week that our loving triune God put away from us all hurtful things and give us those things which are profitable for us. It is a fitting petition for us at this time, being as we are on the heels of Whitsunday and the Coming of the Holy Spirit, because it is precisely profitable things that we asked for in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit—both in the traditional expression of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and in our local expression, where we asked for gifts that include 3-5 new families at both churches, a vocation to the diaconate, and a game plan to meet the homebound and lonely outside of our church membership but within our geographic parish. In other words, this is a season for asking for profitable things from God. And we should never hold back from the Maker of all that is, seen and unseen, our desire for profitable things. For as Saint Luke records of Our Lord Jesus, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” The reason why it is not only permissible but advisable for us to ask God for 3-5 new families at both churches, a vocation to the diaconate, the game plan to meet the lonely, and the rest of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is also captured by our Collect. For He who hears our prayers and know the secrets of our heart set in order all things both in heaven and earth by His never-failing providence. Our lives are always in His loving hands. Just as God has designed the laws of music so that beautiful and infinite harmonic combinations are possible, God has set the laws of creation so that the things of creation—“creatures” whether animate or inanimate—can participate in the activity of God (and this is really what the Ten Commandments are: laws of creation, laws of of creation in relationship with itself and with God) but even more so, be the means by which God’s will is known. God makes Himself known through creatures. This is the principle of “mediation,” that creatures mediate, or are a medium for, God’s salvific grace. We do not worship creatures, of course—we only worship God, and we shall have no other gods before Him. But we do, and we should, not worship creatures, but venerate creatures. To venerate is to recognize the holiness of God’s presence in things. We do not worship Mary and the Saints, we venerate them because God is present in them in remarkable and even outrageous ways. In venerating Mary and the Saints, we worship God Who was present in their lives, their words and deeds, and present in their sorrows and challenges. Despite what seems often advertised, Christianity is not an intellectual religion, but an incarnational religion, meaning in a body, in a creature. Christianity has rightly been called the most materialistic of religions because of the high value it places on the body and on all creatures. It is this fact that undergirds the entire sacramental system, whereby through ordinary means—bread, wine, water, oil, the laying-on of hands, vows exchanged—become saturated with extraordinary grace. And the general principle of sacramentality is derived from the Seven Sacraments: it is in God’s power to use anything created as a medium for His grace. And because God speaks through creatures, our relationship with the created world—our relationship with creation, in short—takes on theological significance. If God’s voice seems silent or barely a whisper, if His presence seems obscured or even gone, the likely cause is disharmony with the local community, disharmony with the local society of people, animals, and land. It is not that their ideals must drive ours. Far from it! It is God’s ideals that we must follow, but we must be the agents for God’s ideals wherever we are. Holy and upright in trying to follow in the footsteps of God, we are also called to love our neighbor, which means meeting them where they are, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. The task of meeting people around us where they are—particularly where they are emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually—is the hard labor of God’s harvest. This is where the rubber meets the rad. How true are the words of Our loving Lord Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Meeting people around us where they are is filled with ebbs and flows, missteps, miscalculations, and above all it can simply be draining. And it is for this reason that we not only have the Eucharist every Sunday for spiritual replenishment through the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacred Scriptures, and our fellowship, but also the Saturday Sabbath. The Saturday Sabbath is a tradition that has been obscured, weathered over, and even utterly forgotten in our day. Why it has been obscured or forgotten might have something to do with our general attitude towards creation itself—an attitude that too often seems to emphasize exploitation of creation rather than stewardship of creation. Yet for the Church today, a Church that finds itself still in the hands of our Loving Lord, and indeed challenged by Him to make stronger commitments to local mission, to local evangelization, the old tradition of the Saturday Sabbath is long due for a return. Why do I say so? For two reasons. The first is that the Sabbath is the weekly occasion to remember and meditate upon God’s creation. It was on the seventh day that God rested from His work. And He blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it. On this day, God venerated His creation, venerated His creatures, saw in them their profound goodness. All creatures are very good in the eyes of God. And this is what it means for Jesus to teach, “The sabbath was made for man.” God made the Sabbath—to use contemporary parlance, he “modeled” the Sabbath—so that in being a model, His children would follow in His behavior. It is God’s will that we find some meaningful time on Saturday to emulate Him: to meditate on God’s wondrous creation, to give thanks to God for His wondrous creation, to simply witness His mighty acts of creation. This is perhaps the simplest way to receive the gift of Holy Fear: to marvel at what God has made, and to do so on any way that inspires you: His acts mighty and broad, His acts small and local. The little flower that opens, each little bird that sings. The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun. He gave us eyes to see them, and it is most fitting to do so on the seventh day of creation each week: Saturday recapitulates all of creation, and God made Saturday for man: that we might revere Him and His actions. Because—and this is the second reason for recovering Saturday Sabbath— doing so cultivates peace; the peace that springs from thankful recognition for what God has done for us, for His people, for all of creation; the peace that flows from the Eucharist into our hearts; the peace we need for right relationship with God; the peace we need for mission, because we are God’s agents of peace in Tazewell County—indeed, the peace of God that passes all understanding, that our hearts and mind might be kept in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ. God, ever grant us this peace. Amen. Icon of the hand of Monica Thornton.

Homily: “On the Coming of the Holy Ghost”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on The Day of Pentecost, 2018.

In terms of centrality to the Christian experience, everything we do, indeed everything we are, revolves around Easter and the resurrection of Christ crucified. For if Christ is not raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins, and all who have fallen asleep are truly perished out of existence. Without Easter, much of what we do would be better characterized not by “Let us pray,” but “Let us play.” The rite of baptism would be an ineffectual ceremony of water, the Eucharist would be an empty symbol of bread and water, and on and on. Read more “Homily: “On the Coming of the Holy Ghost””

Homily: “On the Holiness of Eternal Light”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the First Sunday after Christmas, 2017.

In our Collect, we have acknowledged to God and affirmed it to be true that our loving Lord, the God of all creation, the maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen, has poured upon us the new light of His incarnate Word. And this incarnate Word is Jesus Christ, the newborn King. Upon the announcement of His birth by the archangel Gabriel, the Angels sang triumphantly. Upon the announcement of His birth, the Light of Heaven came into our world of darkness and confusion. Upon the announcement of His birth, all of the world is at peace: the conditions of our time and space are transcended, forever giving us a window to heaven in the embrace of Blessed Mary, Blessed Joseph her most chaste spouse, and the Christ child.

For in the embrace of this Holy Family we see love itself dynamic, love itself embodied, love itself pure and holy. It is in this holiness of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we share each Christmastide—the holiness of this eternal Light—as so how fitting our Collect is, that we ask God to grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives. For we are taught by our loving Lord Jesus not to hide our light under a bushel, but to put the light on a stand, that it gives light to all in the house. Read more “Homily: “On the Holiness of Eternal Light””

Homily: “On the Peace of Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Second Sunday Easter, Year A, 2017.

Our Gospel passage this morning begins where the Gospel left off last Sunday. There, Jesus appeared first to Saint Mary Magdalene, who being weepy and lost, heard her Lord say only a word, and her soul was healed. By hearing, by listening, by obedience in the pure sense, she was able to see, and indeed see so as to run and say to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” And so in our moments of feeling lost, our moments of feeling disoriented, our moments when our tears flood the room, we must let God speak to us, we must keep our ears open to His voice, that He might say our name like He said Mary’s, that He might only say a word, that we will be healed, as well.

Our Lord then keeps His promise, as recorded by other Evangelists as well, to come to the eleven disciples later that evening of the Easter day, that first Easter. He comes to them so that they can know that He is resurrected from the tomb, and that they can begin to grapple with what it means for Him to be resurrected, for it is a great mystery that two-thousand years later the Church is still trying to understand. Jesus has spent the last three years working with these disciples, the eleven particularly. He has been training them, giving them intense spiritual direction, guidance in prayer, guidance in life, answering their questions, challenging them and stretching their minds and hearts—a three-year-long course not altogether different than what we today call Adult Study or Adult Formation, “catechesis” being the formal name. Read more “Homily: “On the Peace of Christ””