Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sermons in a Monastery by Kelty, OCSO

Fr. Matthew Kelty, OCSO is a gifted homilist at the Abbey of Gethsemani. This 118 page collection of various homilies gives a taste for his ability to elucidate on the Word of God with simple, earthy, and effective images. He is a poet and his poetic style is quite apparent in these short but densely packed homilies. I am particularly pleased to see that this volume includes a few homilies invoking liturgical topics.

A few excerpts:

On being a monk:
Do not tell me this is not madness. I do not care how good the cheese is that they make, how splendid the fruit cakes; they are mad. The people who do these things must be out of their minds. Or else they are in love. That is it, of course. They are in love. They do mad things because people who are in love do mad things. There is no other way that love can speak. This is the language of love. It is not necessary. It is not reasonable. It is not in accord with common sense. All very true. It is simply the way of people who are in love. That is all (16).

On monastic prayer:
Some might kneel in the visitors' gallery of our church and tell me afterwards that the monastic choir was the most impressive thing that they had ever seen. I would agree. They might ask me how long this had been going on in this hidden valley, and I would tell them seven times a day for the last hundred years and more. They might then suggest that it would be good if a lot of people knew about it and came here to see it, that it would edify and inspire. Then I would tell them, "That is not the point. This is not for you. This is not a performance. We are not here to edify. We do not sing only when there is a visitor in the gallery. This is for God and for God alone. If you want to join us in the praise of God you are most welcome, but think of it as something akin to the song of a robin. It has no special use. It is of no great benefit. it is an act of joy. For what point is there to be a robin? And how necessary is he? Or the robin's song in the wood? Or the wood for that matter. And the valley beside the wood. And the river that flows through, what good is it? Or the sea beyond into which it runs? Indeed, thew whole of creation? What is it except a song of God's joy, the outpouring of his love?" And that is the point of being a monk. Monastic song and dance are an expression of joy, the outpouring of hears in love with God.

Oneness with Christ:
In the morning, then, I rise with Christ, and with Christ I go to pray and with Christ I chant the office and with Christ I break my fast with bread and coffee. With Christ I commune in secret prayer in my heart, with Christ I read the Good Book, go to work. With Christ I love my brother and bear the heat and suffer pain and know heartache, endure loneliness, and keep silent, suffer rebuke and quench anger. With Christ I walk the earth and count the stars at night. The same sun as shone on him shines on me. The moon that lighted his Gethsemane lights mine. The same rain that fell on his holy head falls on mine, runs down my neck. I walk the earth he walked, live the life he lived. If these things happen to me in Christ and I do these things in Christ, then I do them with the whole human family. For with every person who ever lied I lie down each night and sleep. I rise in the morning. I work. I pray. I read. I suffer. With all of humanity, past, present and to come. In Christ. That being so, I share in some way with the total life of the whole earth, of the whole universe. I touch eternity and eternal life in God by the trivial things I do every day, in every breath I draw, every time I take a drink of water.


m. k. w. said...


Thanks, mbw.

Anonymous said...

I remember one night where he was giving one of his talks to those on retreat and I went in and sat on the far end of the room, the only twenty-something in a room of folks in their fifties. Commenting on the gospel, I was starting to be lulled by his words when he off-handedly said,

"No one hides a candle under a bushel basket. That's shit."

I blinked, and thought, "Did I just hear what I thought I heard?" I looked up and around, but everyone had clearly just schooled their faces to stillness, and Fr. Matthew went on with his point....

Mark Scott said...

Father Matthew died on February 18, a death as joyful, other-centered, and peaceful as you would have expected from his talks and writings. He was an authentic man and monk. Yes, his writings reward their reading. You can hear his voice and know his heart, which is not his alone.
Fr Mark, ocso, Gethsemani Abbey