Rorate Caeli

Sermon for the Feast of St. James, 2021: "We will not abandon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated in the traditional form that we have received from our fathers in the faith!"

by a Benedictine Monk
July 25, 2021

“Potestis bibere calicem quem ego bibiturus sum? Dicunt ei: Possumus.”

Mt. 20,20-23

In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

Today for the feast of St. James we read a passage from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew in which the mother of James and John asks Jesus to command that her sons sit with Him in His kingdom. Notice that Jesus does not rebuke her for this request, but instead, addressing himself to both the mother and her sons, only responds: “You know not what you ask.” Neither the mother nor the sons understand the profound suffering and true martyrdom that following Jesus entails, and they don’t even grasp the enormous honor they are asking of Him.  Jesus continues “Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?” as if to say ‘Can you do whatever it takes to follow me in my glory? The only way to glory and my kingdom is my sorrowful passion. Can you remain with me in my suffering?  Or will you abandon me?’ They respond “We can.” This is certainly the right response, and also true, insofar as they both will suffer for Christ, and Saint James will be the first apostle to be martyred, and Jesus affirms this “My chalice indeed you shall drink.”

But why are these brothers so ready, and why do they give such a quick response with enthusiasm and fervor? Something is missing. Isn’t it also true that at the hour of His agony Jesus was abandoned by these two sons of Zebedee? Jesus was right, they really did not understand what they were asking, and along with this lack of awareness, perhaps they leaned too much on their strength, trusting in themselves, saying ‘Yes, of course we can.” There you have it. What is missing is humility, and it is indispensable to one who wants to drink from the chalice of Christ. You can also see this lack of humility in their mother, who after her prostration begins to give orders to our Lord. How will these brothers learn the humility necessary for following Christ? They will learn it in the midst of many trials and sufferings, and especially in their falls and betrayals of trust. All of them, even St. John, abandoned Christ in Gethsemane. But having abandoned Christ in his Passion did not stop the Apostles from becoming saints because they had the courage to repent. These experiences of failure, of emptiness, of not succeeding, taught them not to trust in their own strength. After the Pascal Triduum, these Apostles began to celebrate Holy Mass and deepen their participation in the sacrifice, passion and humiliation of Christ, in obedience to His command: “Do this in memory of me.” All of this prepared them to follow Christ more intimately and to drink from His chalice, especially at the hour of their deaths. 

So often we don’t know, we don’t understand, we don’t realize the trials that await us on our journey. One of the ancient monastic fathers loved to say ‘If one knew all the battles and struggles against the demons that awaited him, he would not become a monk.' Beloved, there will be great trials and difficulties in the near future for those of us who want to remain faithful to Christ and true to the Christian faith. Persecutions from the state, from the tyranny of gender ideology, perhaps from the threat of Islam. But also, even worse, from inside the Church, directed against the faith received from the Apostles, against the traditional liturgy which is both the expression of this apostolic faith and itself a precious gift received from the Apostles and enriched over the centuries. 

We will not abandon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated in the traditional form that we have received from our fathers in the faith; on the contrary, we will find the chalice of Our Lord here. In this chalice, which our Lord calls His chalice, we discover the way to unite ourselves to Him and His sufferings and His sacrifice of Himself for us. Are we able to drink this chalice? Like the sons of Zebedee, we would like to respond ‘Yes we can!’ We aren’t mistaken to respond like this, for we must fight for the kingdom of heaven and the glory of God. But only through humility, a humility learned from our sins and lack of faith, only in this way can we rely on the grace of God, nourished by the Holy Mass and the Holy Eucharist, in order to live and die for Jesus Christ our Lord and follow Him into His glory. 

In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.