Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermons for Easter 2016 - Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday - Easter has a Heart, the Heart of God


Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, March 27, 2016)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

Christ is risen, He is truly risen. He Who was dead, is now living. Darkness was unable to detain its prey. The Prince of life has triumphed. This is the Passover of the Lord, His passing from death unto life.

During this holy Year of Mercy, when we are invited to discover anew God’s mercy towards us and to put mercy in practice among our neighbours, let us ponder on the unique gift that the Lord has granted to mankind on this day: out of sheer mercy, His Passover becomes our Passover.

The singing of the Exsultet that opens the Paschal solemn celebration will be our guide: joy in  heaven, but also let the earth also rejoice, made radiant by such splendour; and, enlightened with the brightness of the eternal King, let it know that the darkness of the whole world is scattered.

This joy should kindle in our hearts praise and thanksgivings to “the invisible God, the Father almighty, and His onlybegotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

In keeping with the nature of liturgical actions and the ritual traditions of the churches, the celebration “makes a remembrance” of the marvellous works of God in an anamnesis which may be more or less developed. The Holy Spirit who thus awakens the memory of the Church then inspires thanksgiving and praise (doxology). (CCC, n. 1103)
The most beautiful of all thanksgivings that has ever come forth from a human heart can be heard in Mary’s canticle, the Magnificat: “For He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name.” (Lk 1:49)

The reason for tonight’s joy, is that Christ has done great things to us. Through the Paschal mystery, He has repaid for us to His eternal Father the debt of Adam, and by the merciful shedding of His Blood, has cancelled the debt that we had incurred by original sin.

Adam’s fault was an offence against God, our Maker. Transgression of the divine will was an injustice before the great mercy that God had showed when He created. He had given being and life to that which was not, and that which was not, took advantage of this freely given being to rebel against its Maker.

When it did this deed of injustice, the creature incurred the divine sentence, while it maimed itself in its innermost depths. 

And being but a puny and powerless creature, it knew that it was unable to make up for the injustice, as well as for the damage that it has wrought. The Exsultet sings: This, therefore, is the night which dissipated the darkness of sinners by the light of the pillar. This is the night which at this time throughout the world restores to grace and unites in sanctity those that believe in Christ, and are separated from the vices of the world and the darkness of sinners. Therefore the hallowing of this night puts to flight all wickedness, cleanses sins, and restores innocence to the fallen, and gladness to the sorrowful. It drives forth hatreds, it prepares concord,
and brings down haughtiness.

Why such a joy? It stems from an irrefutable assertion: For it would have profited us nothing to have been born, unless redemption had also been bestowed upon us.

The author shows therefore his gratitude to God: O wondrous condescension of Thy mercy towards us! O inestimable affection of love: that Thou mightest redeem a slave, Thou didst deliver up Thy Son!

And he concludes in a paradoxical way: O truly needful sin of Adam, which was blotted out by the death of Christ! O happy fault, that merited to possess such and so great a Redeemer!

By His death and resurrection, Christ, true God and true man, not only exercises His ability to repair the affront to God and restore justice, but what is more, by sheer mercy, and without our having any right to that, He turns towards guilty mankind and restores in its members the dignity of children of God.

Let us finally make ours the wish for a universal peace that concludes the singing of this chant: We beseech Thee therefore, O Lord, that Thou wouldst grant peaceful times during this Paschal Festival, and vouchsafe to rule, govern, and keep with Thy constant protection us, Thy servants… Have regard, also, for those who reign over us, and grant them Thine ineffable kindness and mercy, direct their thoughts in justice and peace, that from their earthy toil, they may come to their heavenly reward with all Thy people.

During these holy days, may the Lord grant a special blessing to those who, in all places of the world, work in a disinterested way to regain an authentic peace. Let the angelic choirs of Heaven now rejoice; let the divine Mysteries rejoice; and let the trumpet of salvation sound forth the victory of so great a King.

Amen, Alleluia.



Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, March 27, 2016)

Quis revolvet nobis lapidem?
Who shall roll us back the stone?
(Mk 16:3)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

Saint Benedict, after he had forsaken the world, and before he founded his monastery on Monte Cassino, lived for a few years as a hermit, unknown of men, in his solitude of Subiaco.

On one Easter day, our Lord appeared to a priest living in the neighbourhood of Benedict’s cave: “Thou hast prepared good cheer for thyself, and My servant in such a place is famished for hunger.” The priest left immediately and found the cave where Benedict was hiding. Then after prayers, and blessing the Almighty Lord, they sat down, and after some spiritual discourse on Life, the priest said:
“Rise, and let us take our refection, for this is Easter Day.” To whom the man of God answered: “I know it is Easter, because I have found so much favour as to see thee.” (For not having a long time conversed with men, he did not know it was Easter day.) The good priest did therefore again affirm it, saying: “Truly this is the day of our Lord’s Resurrection, and therefore it is not fit that thou shouldst keep abstinence, and for this cause I am sent that we may eat together that which Almighty God hath bestowed on us.” Whereupon blessing God, they fell to their meat. (St. Gregory, Life of St. Benedict, Dialogues, Bk. II, ch. 1)

Wouldn’t the quotation of this passage of St. Benedict’s life come somewhat amiss, when our fascinated eyes are this morning compelled to gaze on our risen Lord? Yet, there are two reasons that justify this reminder. The feast-day of the Patron of our Order, March 21st, took place this year on Good Monday. It has therefore effaced itself before the liturgy of the Holy Week, and has been postponed until after Low Sunday. It was fitting to remember this today. What is more, this evocation of Our Blessed Father’s life reveals how God takes care that the joyful proclamation of the Alleluia
should reach all men and women, including those who live in the most out-of-the-way places, so that they too may rejoice in the gifts of the Lord.

St. Augustine has evoked the feelings that seized the Heart of our Lord at the hour of His death: For He had said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” He saw some who were His own among many who were aliens; for these He sought pardon, from whom at the time He was still receiving injury. He regarded not that He was being put to death by them, but only that He was dying for them. (St. Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John, Tr. 31, 9)

The Church amends the Bishop of Hippo’s somewhat pessimistic view, when she asserts that the Holy Spirit, in a manner known only to God, offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery. (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, n. 22)

The singing of the Alleluia resounds for all as a token of mercy. God offers to every man a path of reconciliation. This solace springs from the Heart of Christ on the Cross, and it is especially aimed at those who, due to man’s heartlessness, are in great solitude and dire need. It is aimed at children in their mothers’ wombs, defenceless beings who are so often sacrificed on the altars of pleasure or population control; at elderly persons, whom the world deems to be useless, and whose fault is to cost money or to be a hindrance; at sick persons, whose ailing body and life seem to have no longer reasons for existence; at refugees, who have fled from countries devastated by wars that have silently fomented by promoters of a world-wide order enslaved by money -  Cf. Marc Fromager, Guerres, pétrole et radicalisme — Les chrétiens d’Orient pris en étau [Wars, Oil, and Radicalism—Eastern Christians Caught Between the Hammer and the Anvil] (Salvator, Paris, 2015). 

It is not without reason that St. Benedict gives this warning: Above all things, let the Abbot take heed not to slight or make little account of the souls committed to his keeping, and have more care for fleeting, worldly things than for them. (St. Benedict, Rule, ch. 2) Whereas society has lost the sense of human life and its sacred character, God remains its only Saviour. 

The Paschal message of mercy offers a Heart, a Heart that wishes well, the Heart of God.

The Lord has entrusted this proclamation to the Church, to poor and feeble men, who have received through their baptism the duty to announce it, to be witnesses of God’s resurrection and love. The voice of these apostles is clamouring in the desert, while another clamour drowns it, “Neither mercy nor justice!”

Global totalitarianism spurns the Christian message and the ancient dialogue between the Church and nations; it casts away the fundamental principles of natural law that are written on the heart of every man, and have served as cornerstones to build up so many civilisations; it conceals and falsifies the noble history of nations and traditions; it disparages the work of Saints, who have been the milestones and builders of nations; this totalitarianism thus enforces a heartless world, whose gods are money and pleasure.

What will a body become, once its heart has been removed? A mere skeleton, which will soon turn into dust.Our risen Lord Jesus Christ has vanquished death, and He gives a new heart to man and mankind. He rises the exceedingly dry bones, provided that they consent to listen to His words (cf. Ez 37).

The words of the Introit then resound like a banner of hope: “I am risen, and I am still with Thee.”

He Who will be with us forever, He Who will roll us back the stone, He is Christ, the face of the Father’s mercy and the cornerstone of the Kingdom that comes, a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of sanctification and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love, and peace. (Preface of the Feast of Christ the King)

Amen, Alleluia.

Note: A CD filled with Gregorian Chants for Easter sung by the monks of Fontgombault Abbey is available for sale at Clear Creek Abbey here. Please support these abbeys and their monks as often as you can, they are doing the work of God on earth more than almost any other foundation we can imagine.