YOU HAVE NOT CHOSEN ME, BUT RATHER I HAVE CHOSEN YOU. On this occasion when we commemorate the 50 years of monastic life that have transpired in this place these words of Jesus have a particular pertinence for our assembly. For the primary purpose of this celebration is to give glory and thanksgiving to God for what he has brought about in initiating, sustaining and preserving this monastery, with all that has meant for us who are present here as well as for those who through the years have served and worshiped him in this place. This includes not only the monks who lived and died here, and our present community, but also the many friends, associates and workers all of whom have contributed to the life and purposes of this house of God. It is the grace of God, bestowed so freely and generously under many varieties of forms, that accounts for the years of persevering fidelity that makes possible this anniversary celebration. His grace is given by his free choice, precisely when we are aware of acting most freely in responding to his call. For we are so made in his image and likeness that we are never more truly our self, never more free than when we receive the gift of his grace.
What is it to make choice of another but to love acting freely, in keeping with the spontaneous tendency of the heart? If the Lord has first chosen us it is because he loves us, and loves us gratuitously, that is to say, because of the spontaneous impulse of his heart. Thus his choice of us does not depend on any merit of our own. How can we respond adequately to his choosing us to be his own? St John has told us clearly: "As many as received him he gave the power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name (1: 12)." "By the obedience of faith", St. Paul writes, the mystery of Christ is made known to all the nations (Romans 16: 26).
When we put our faith in our Lord, we are, in fact, making an act of trust in response to his choice of us to share knowledge of his name. By faith we freely choose to entrust our self to his person, his revelation and his fidelity. This decision is the fruit of a love that moves us to surrender to the light received through his Word in our intellect. The love that invests faith with divine life is itself a reflection of his love, already present within us at the deepest level of our being, in the place where God alone has entry. Every act that proceeds from such faith has multiple effects, extending to the whole of our life. For, being the result of our own human nature as well as of the grace of the glorified Christ, it is operative at all the levels of our being. Such living faith, manifested by the choice to respond to God's call to dedicate our life and energy to his service, witnesses to God's truth and fidelity and thereby gives him glory.
Today then we do well to advert to the fact that the presence of a monastic community adds a dimension to the Church's presence among the people of God and creates possibilities for the spiritual life of many that otherwise are lacking to them. A monastery is not founded only for the sake of its own members, but for the benefit of the whole diocese and even the whole State and country in which it is situated. This community has served the function of providing such a presence for many of the faithful in our area as well as for members of other Churches. At the same time the community receives much under various forms from its friends and associates. On this occasion, we acknowledge as well all that we owe to them. Without their support and assistance over the years this monastery would not have established itself or continued its mission to the Church fruitfully. The bonds of charity that unite us with them are a further witness to God's mercy and grace.
At this Eucharist today we acknowledge gratefully these and all the many other gifts of divine favor and grace, bestowed with love on so many persons during these past fifty years. We recall with particular gratitude those who spent their lives as monks here and persevered faithfully in their vowed life to the end. For our part, we in turn rededicate ourselves to continue this life of witness to God and of service to his name in this place by fidelity in the vocation to which the Lord has called us. May he who has chosen us to belong to him accompany us to the end and complete the work he has inspired and sustained throughout these fifty years to the glory of his holy name. Amen.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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