Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermons for Easter Vigil and Easter Day - "May this epidemic make men return to God." | "Dear Brothers and Sisters, you are not here, but we are together in the risen Christ."

Sermon for Easter Vigil (followed by the Sermon for Easter Day)

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, April 11, 2020

Si consurrexistis cum Christo...
If you be risen with Christ....
(Col 3:1)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

Among the texts of the Easter Vigil, the Genesis narrative holds the first place. With simple words, this narrative evokes the origin of the earth and heavens, of all they contain, and especially man, in a word, of all creatures, namely, of everything that is, and that is not God.

The scene is breathtaking. Amidst the primeval chaos, a Word is heard. God speaks. He says, and things are. They are exactly what He says, and what they are. Each being thus receives a place, and remains in its place.

Man’s creation is told in a different way. God proclaims His intention, “Let us make man to our image and likeness” (Gn 1:26). And the author of the Book of Genesis notes:
And God created man to His own image: to the image of God He created him: male and female He created them. (Gn 1:27)

The parallel between these two verses incites some exegetes to draw from this text “a two-fold teaching: the creation of the human being, and his uncreation”.[1] Man is called, according to the divine plan, to be image and likeness of God. Indeed, God creates him in His own image. But the likeness remains to be achieved. As opposed to the other creatures, man is therefore responsible for part of his path, through the exercise of his freedom, towards a likeness that is to be acquired.

In its bareness, the sacred text is of a very different craftsmanship as compared to the ancient mythologies, where the world is born from a war waged among the gods, and the sacred text bears witness to the gift God has given to the universe. What harmony, what peace! Each particular creation ends up with a judgment of God: this is good, and even very good.

But what is left of the mission God has entrusted us with? What of our likeness? 

The epistle to the Colossians invites us to scrutinize the consistency of our lives:

Therefore if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth. For you are dead: and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, Who is your life, then you also shall appear with Him in glory. (Col 3:1-4)

The recent events, especially the fact that the churches are no longer open for Sunday Mass or for the offices of the Holy Week, have led the faithful, supported by the dioceses and parishes, to rediscover that the fact of being a Christian wasn’t limited to devoting one hour in a week to Sunday Mass. Prayer in family and common meditation are revived, as in the times of the first Christians.

Beyond the renewal of the look we take at our neighbor, whoever he may be -- an opening to compassion -- the present epidemic might have a welcome consequence, the return of men to God.

Many among you watched the moment of prayer with the Holy Father, on Friday, March 27. The celebration opened with a liturgy of the word, with the reading of the gospel of the stilled storm, and the meditation of the Holy Father.

A time of Eucharistic adoration followed, with a long litany of supplication, concluded by the Eucharistic benediction and the plenary indulgence.

Two very different acts. On an empty St. Peter’s Square, the Pope addressed mankind... and no one was present before him. Then, turning back towards the illuminated nave of the basilica, the Pope remained in the narthex for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Before him, Christ... He was present,  for He is always present.

The worldwide trial mankind is currently undergoing calls for such a conversion. The invocations of the litanies were clear:

From the power of Satan and the seductions of the world,  Deliver us, O Lord.
From the pride and presumption of being able to do anything without you, Deliver us, O Lord.
From devastating madness, from ruthless interests and from violence, Save us, O Lord.
From being deceived, from false information and the manipulation of consciences, Save us, O Lord.

These words are not meant for the other ones. They are aimed at each of us, and at our actions, at all times and everywhere. They also resound as an urgent appeal for conversion, an appeal to restore from now on an authentic face to face with the Lord: a face to face during Mass attendance or celebration, a face to face during prayer, a face to face with Christ when we meet and serve our neighbor. It is urgent to give back to our lives an authentic meaning, to reorient them towards our Pole Star, towards God. “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” (1 Sam. 3:9)

During the first days of the creation, the creating word of God was heard. Tonight, the Paschal mystery is resounding with His re-creating word. But what have we done with the divine mission received on the first days? What became of the image imprinted by the Maker, and of the likeness at which we were supposed to work?

Alone in the silence of the tomb, Christ is risen. Already, according to a noble tradition, He is visiting His Mother, she who remained close to Him at the foot of the Cross.

The news has not yet crossed the walls of the Holy Sepulchre, and yet, tonight, each of us is alone with Him; alone for a visitation, the Paschal grace of His resurrection. Jesus is here, having overcome death. His light of glory radiates and comes softly to light up the twists and turns in our lives. 
Everything that is illuminated, is made alive, is sanctified.

Death, our sins, which are the graves of our lives, call for a resurrection. Through Christ, they surrender those whom they held captive. The evil we made doesn’t have the last word, but it becomes the opportunity for a greater good. The death sentence is commuted: in Christ, man is sentenced to charity. He has received mercy, he will show mercy. To the folly of pride answers the folly of Love.

Let us allow the mark of the Risen One to be imprinted in our hearts. Don’t let us smother His light. “Nolite timere vos —Do not fear!” Christ is light and salvation. He is our true peace. In Him, creation is completed with our own re-creation. And God, in His Son, achieves His work: this is good, and even very good.

Amen, Alleluia.
1. Dominique Janthial, Devenir enfin soi-même [At Last Becoming Oneself] (Éditions de l’Emmanuel, 2016), p. 29, quoting Marie Balmary, La Divine Origine [The Divine Origin] (Grasset, 1993), p. 102.


Easter Day

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, April 12, 2020

Go, tell His disciples... Proclaim the Gospel to all creation.
(Mk 16:7.15)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

Indeed, Dear Brothers and Sisters. Are these words -- whereas you, who are close to the abbey and habitually come for the Easter feasts, are absent -- are these words devoid of sense? I pronounce them, as I did on the last occasions, on behalf of the monks who are here. I pronounce them above all because it is in the risen Christ that our fraternity takes its roots. It is appropriate to remember that on this Easter morning. You therefore remain in our prayer, just as we are certain to remain in yours. 

This Easter day is then the most beautiful of the days the Lord has made, the day of the Lord, the day on which everything which belongs to Christ is reconciled in Christ.

Yet, remember: even when you were present, there already were empty pews, those of the men and women who, although they are also concerned by the mystery we celebrate, live without paying any attention to it, as if God didn’t exist. What can we say to them? Happiness is not to be found where you are seeking it. It is not there... It is somewhere else. You are seeking a dead body. Christ is risen, and alive. This day is for you a day of joy. This morning’s gospel tells us the narrative of the holy women going to the tomb. Whoever will be able to roll back the stone for us?

Their very human worry then meets with God’s plan. From humble handmaids, they are turned into apostles. “Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee.”
(Mk 16:7)

God turns upside down human lives. Peter was fishing fish, he becomes a fisherman of men. The women wanted to embalm the body of Jesus, the angel invites them to edify the mystical body of Christ. The apostles’ turn will soon be coming, then ours: “Go ye into the whole world and preach the
Gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15)

Christ’s resurrection, the foundation of our faith, makes the whole Gospel trustworthy, especially the announcement that salvation is from now in our midst. In Jesus Christ, God visits His people. He casts on every man a glance of mercy. The child of wrath becomes again a friend of God, his Maker: he passes from death to life. With St. Paul, he may assert, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Ph 1:21). And this new life will last as long as Christ’s flame will not be smothered in his heart.

Every morning, during the chapter of Prime, the announcement of the following day’s Saints ends up with this verse, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Indeed, man restored by Christ is beautiful and precious in the sight of the Lord, his soul is luminous. This soul is in a state of beauty, in a state of grace.

Is that all? It may be worthwhile remembering, whereas in these days the members of the families are brought together by force of circumstances, that the union of a family in Christ has in the sight of God a particular beauty, which attracts grace: “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20)

For several weeks now, healthcare personnel and priests have been dedicating themselves, with a complete disregard for their own lives, to serve mankind in the person of the sick. Let us imitate them, if we are convinced that the worst of all diseases is sin, separation from God, hatred of the neighbor.

The feast of Easter incites us to spread and share the light coming forth from the tomb. From death, life has leapt up. God has shown mercy on His people. He leans over us, and has mercy on our miseries, those of the societies, the communities, the families...

If life is present in those, thanks be to God, places of death are also present there, which many pretend not to see, but the existence of which is persistent. Christ wants to visit them. He wants to bring His light there. It depends on us to receive Him. Didn’t He say to His disciples, “I am come to cast fire on the earth. And what will I, but that it be kindled?” (Lk 12:49)

In the framework of his catecheses on the Beatitudes, the Holy Father Francis has recently commented the fifth beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). All his teaching should be read again. [1] Mercy, he said, “is the air that we breathe.”

For a long time now, the atmosphere of our societies, enslaved to the idols of money and an unbridled quest for pleasure, has become a death factor, and is stifling. Death of creation in an unrestrained exploitation and squandering of its resources; death of mankind in abortion and euthanasia, in the slavery of money and pornography; death of mankind also in the withering of hearts; death of thought in its submission to political correctness.

The terrible epidemic that is spreading today in an ineluctable way, puts mankind back in front of what it is, and calls for what it is needing. Even the air has become a death factor.

Yet, if we receive it in humility, this trial may orient us towards the essentials. Let us make acts of light, acts of eternity, while there is still time.

On this Easter morning, the dictatorship of death, the kingdom of the prince of darkness, are annihilated by the sole Victor, the Prince of life. “To them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.” (Is 9:2) Will the world make this light welcome?

Let us open the windows of the world, those of our countries, our societies, let us open the windows of our families, our communities, of the hearts of all men and women, let us open the windows of our own hearts, to the life-bringing air given by the risen Christ. Let us dispel the darkness of evil and lies, and let us no longer be afraid to give ourselves up to the reign of
life, of His life.

Two weeks ago, on an empty St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father presided a vigil of prayer. Nature was in unison. The sky was dark and overcast. It was raining. “Teacher, dost Thou not care if we perish? ... Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (cf. Mk 4:38-40)

The light of the Paschal candle illuminates a bleak world.

Few can see this light. May the world, the societies, the families, the communities, ourselves, allow this light to illuminate our beings and our acts. Let us allow God to turn upside down the stones obstructing the hearts’ entrances. Then the world will don its true beauty. Then it will truly be the day the Lord has made.

On this blessed day, O Mary, Queen of Heaven and earth, rejoice, and pray for us.

Amen, Alleluia.