Basilian Anniversary and Feast of the Presentation of Mary- Reflection for Mass of November 21, 2008

21 Nov

Vincent Duret, Joseph Lapierre, Augustin Payan, François Polly, Pierre Tourvieille, Julien Tracol, André Fayolle, Henri Martinesche, Jean-François Pagès, Jean-Antoine Vallon…

One hundred eighty-six years ago today, these ten men gathered in Annonay, France, to elect Jean Lapierre as the first Superior General of the Association of Priests of St. Basil. We celebrate the anniversary of our foundation as a religious community on this day, and we also commemorate the Presentation of Mary, Mother of God and Patroness of our Order.

No Biblical record exists of the Presentation of Mary, but the Book of Leviticus and the Gospel of Luke contain details about Jewish rituals surrounding the presentation of a newborn child to the religious leaders. This was an occasion of great joy, of peace, and of hope. When Jesus was presented by Mary and Joseph in the Jerusalem temple, the Divine Child gave lasting hope to the aged widow and prophetess Anna and to Simeon, whose beautiful Nunc Dimittis hymn has become a part of the Church’s tradition during Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours: “Lord, now you have let your servant go in peace.” (Lk.  2:29) One can imagine a similar sentiment expressed at the Presentation of Our Lady by her parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim. Little did Anne and Joachim know that their daughter would be God’s ideal instrument to bring Jesus Christ, humankind’s saving hope, into the world.

Yet this is precisely what each of us is called to do as Christians, as religious, and as Basilians. Christ dwells in each one of us; it is up to us to bear witness to His presence within us and therefore to present Him to the world. We are the temple within which the Child is shown, much to the hope and wonderment of others.

I can think of many instances when I have derived hope from Basilians and from the people we encounter. One experience stands out, though: that of my first Sunday Mass after my arrival in Cali, Colombia, last January. I attended this Mass with Fr. Wally Platt, CSB. It was held outdoors on a hot day in a very poor part of Cali in the hills overlooking the city. That Mass included the final professions of a small group of Franciscans. Unfortunately, I knew very little Spanish, having just arrived in Colombia, but a children’s choir opened with a resounding hymn to faith and hope: “La fe y la esperanza.” This is the only part of the song that I understood, but it was all I needed. The  small children had little to give- they had come from such poverty- except for their voices and their smiles. But faith and hope are their own language.

Jesus impels us to speak and to act in that language. For most of us, that can be a great challenge. Similarly, the angel in Revelation tells John in his vision to eat a scroll that will be sweet as honey in his mouth but will be bitter in his stomach after he has swallowed it. (cf. Rv. 8:9) Prophets withstood persecution while they proclaimed the sweet message that God planned to send His people a Messiah. The message itself was often received with bitterness. Not long after Jesus had entered Jerusalem, He was in the temple angrily overturning the tables of those selling worldly objects there. This was not a message the people who were desecrating the temple wanted to hear, but those who sought to kill Jesus could not find a reason to do so. Jesus was acting as a messenger, as a prophet, and as a witness to hope, therefore St. Luke wrote that the people who listened to Jesus teach were “spellbound by what they heard.” (Lk. 19:48)

We must carry on as Christian messengers of faith and hope. Our testimony begins with fidelity to prayer: Are we making our interior temple, thus the whole Church as the Body of Christ, a house of prayer, or do we make of ourselves “a den of robbers?” The message of hope that our Basilian forerunners enkindled at our foundation starts in each of us and radiates outward into the world. As St. Anne and St. Joachim presented their daughter Mary to the world- so much bright but unknown promise to behold- so we as Christians, as religious, and as Basilians are to present ourselves as carriers of a prophecy: Faith and hope, la foi et l’espérance, la fe y la esperanza. Amen.

On the Feast of your Presentation, Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. St. Basil, pray for us. All our deceased Basilian brothers who await us in Heaven, pray for us.



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