+WORSHIPPERS IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH Dedication
of Gethsemani Church, 2007
There was once a family who brought their youngest child, a girl, to be
baptized. When the time came for the baptism, the family went forward, including
a very happy three-year-old brother. When the baptism was over, the minister
carried the baby into the middle of the congregation, expressing what a delight
it was to welcome this child into the larger family, the Church. The
three-year-old brother had followed the minister, and standing beside the
minister, the little boy noticed a grandpa-aged man sitting and smiling with a
very happy smile. In a voice that all could hear, the little boy said, 'Would
you like to touch our baby?'
'I would,' said the elderly man.
So the minister gently held out the baby for the man to touch. The man seemed so
pleased that the little boy said, 'Maybe someone else would like to touch her.'
The minister walked down the aisle, and hands reached out to touch the baby.
'Now,' said the minister, Ďthose of you who have touched this child should pass
that loving touch to others around you, until all have been touched.í And so it
This Church of Gethsemani, first dedicated on Nov. 15th 1866 is a lot like the
baptism of this girl. In this place the hearts of countless men and women have
been touched, an experience that then has reached out to countless others. For
the monk this is simply the place where he comes to pray, to encounter God and
sing the Divine Offices with his brethren. For the many who join us in these
times of prayer, it is a place of re-connecting with a part of their lives often
buried by the demands of secular life or even lost through lack of contact. For
all this Church of Gethsemani has become the sacrament of encounter with the
Sacred, with the God-life that is both transcendent and yet lies deep within us.
There is an evident progression in the readings today of our whole understanding
of the meaning of Godís temple, the place of worship. We heard of Solomon
standing before the altar of the Lord, in the presence of the whole community
and asking God to watch over the beautiful temple he had build night and day.
Then St Paul tells us that we ourselves have become the temple of God for the
Spirit of God dwells in us and we are to be careful lest we destroy Godís
temple. The Gospel takes us still further in reminding us ďtrue worshipers will
worship the Father in Spirit and truth,Ē that the whole of our lives are to
become the place where God is continually honored.
A careful look at the Rule of St Benedict constantly reminds the monk that the
whole of his life is liturgy, a dance, if you like, before God. Whether at work
in the fields, preparing food in the kitchen, doing his lectio, singing the
Divine praises, he is to live continually in Godís presence. And it is by
fleeing all forgetfulness of this presence that his heart is enlarged and he
begins to run in the way of Godís commands. To die to oneself is to live to God,
to realize that there is nothing so creative as the love that rises up deep from
within the human person who is surrendered to Godís will however this may become
manifest in his or her life.
This Church of Gethsemani has been a place of gathering, of assembly for an
endless stream of monks and lay people over the last 141 years, except for the
brief hiatus of 1966-67 when the Church was renovated. If walls could speak the
world could not hold all the books that would have to written about the love,
the searching and suffering, the discovery, the enlightenment and communion that
have gone on here. For what this nave, these transepts and apse have come to
mean is nothing less than encounter with the Lord Jesus himself, the healer of
every human heart. It is no co-incidence that this Church forms a cross, with
the altar in very place where Christ hung on one with a heart pierced for all of
It is this love we celebrate each day, are even now about to celebrate at this
altar. It is the love that enfolded the little girl as she was baptized and
caused a very happy smile on the elderly manís face. It is the love that touches
us as we gather here, empowering us to reach out with warmth and light to our
world in every place, at any time, until that moment when God becomes all in
1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30; 1 Cor. 3:9c-11, 16-17; John 4:19-24
Michael Casagram, OCSO
Abbey of Gethsemani
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