Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for the Annunciation: "Who sows the Fiat reaps the Magnificat"

Feast of the Annunciation 

Jubilee of Profession of 
Dom François Convert 
and Br. Louis-Marie Pavageau 

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau 
Father Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, April 8, 2024

Qui seminant in lacrimis, in exsultatione metent. 
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. 
(Ps 125:5) 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 
My dearly beloved Sons, 
and most especially you, who are celebrating your jubilee of profession, 

Why do we head the homily of a Marian feast with this verse, a quotation taken from Psalm 125? We should recall that our two jubilarians are among the few who have had the privilege, according to some, the austere trial, according to others, to pronounce their vows of religion during Lent. They have therefore sown in tears. But God, Who orders all things in measure, and number, and weight, (Cf. Wis 11:2) grants them today to jubilate during Eastertide. 

There were thus four of you who made your simple profession in Father Abbot Dom Jean Roy’s hands. Since then, one of you has been sent to help in Wisques Abbey, another one took part in the foundation of Triors Abbey. However, it is with the same heart that you give thanks today for these fifty years dedicated to seeking God in the school of His service, namely the monastery, and that you ask forgiveness for whatever has not always been according to God’s will. Tears and joys have mingled, as in all human lives.

But should we stop here to justify the presence of this Psalm verse? The key to understanding the Psalter is the Paschal mystery. So many tears, so many drops of blood and sweat have been shed on the way to Golgotha by Christ and His friends, until the spear thrust that set free from the Crucified One’s side rivers of blood and water. On the day of Jesus’ birth, angels had already proclaimed the glory of God, and announced the coming of peace on earth. We may recall that during His life, the lame, the deaf, the blind, the mute had been cured from their ailments. The crowds had received, through His prayer, food in abundance. 

But on Good Friday evening, from the twelve that had followed Him since the very first days and had received His teaching, there was left at the foot of the cross only John, the beloved disciple, along with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, and a few holy women. Humanly speaking, everything seemed lost, and the tears that had been shed, forever gone. Such was not God’s design. 

The Easter feast has led us towards an empty tomb. Death was powerless to retain in its snares Him it thought to hold captive. He who was executed on Golgotha is alive. He is risen, victorious over both death and tomb. The tears, the drops of blood and water that had been shed on the sand and on the rock, have fecundated this earth. At the very moment when a powerless Christ died nailed on a cross was taking place the most fecund act in mankind’s history. 

The Lord’s humanity is the one and only channel leading towards the inexhaustible source of divine love, and it becomes itself an inexhaustible source of life. Christ is the one and only Savior (Cf. Jn 14:6). No one comes to the Father, but by Him:

 I am the door; if any one enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. […] I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (Jn 10:9–11) 

Entering into communion with this source means following the Master’s way by accepting a hidden fecundity. Humanly speaking, such a life may seem to exhaust itself, to be useless. Yet, through it, men enter into communion with divine love, for a time, for eternity. 

More than anyone else, Mary, Jesus’ Mother, has known how to draw from the inexhaustible source of divine love, and has become, and remains, its dispenser. Her secret is summed up in her answer to the angel Gabriel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.” (Lk 1:38) The handmaid is not the source. She draws from the source, and becomes fecund, as we have just sung: 

The rod of Jesse has blossomed: a virgin has brought forth God and man: God has given peace, reconciling the lowest with the highest in Himself. (Alleluia, verse) 

Mary remained present near Jesus. Her witness is her faith. “Blessed is she who believed.” (Lk 1:45) In this great lineage of mediators take place the saints, and especially the martyrs, who have shed their own blood. Tradition has established a parallel between them and monks, who by their profession radically offer their whole lives to God, and intercede with Him day and night. The fecundity of their hidden life depends entirely on their closeness with the Lord and on their faith. 

More than all the others, monks should, through their prayer, the witness of their lives in the laboratory of charity which a monastery is, relentlessly draw from the fount of divine love the strength to carry out the work of God, the Opus Dei, and the the service of their neighbors, both in days of joy and in days of sorrow, in the slightly mad exaltation of the first years, then under the weight of wisdom gleaned throughout passing years, and also through disease. 

This morning, one of us is going to receive the ministry of acolyte, and will thus be more especially deputed to the service of the altar. Whether surrounded with solemnity, or more hidden in material obediences, a same gift is taking place, a Fiat offered as an echo to that of Mary. 

Fifty years ago, you pronounced your Suscipe: “Uphold me according to Thy word, O Lord, and I shall live.” The Lord has heard your call. He who is the faithful God has remembered His word: Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (Jn 4:14) 

The community is wholeheartedly united with your thanksgiving. He who sows the Fiat, reaps the Magnificat.