Candlemas 2014
First Profession of Br. Dunstan Nelson and Br. Alistair Findley

Today, dear Br Dunstan and Br Alistair, the homily is addressed to you, as, on this Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, you make your First Profession as monks of Belmont. For you both, this will be a very special meeting with Christ. In proclaiming the three traditional monastic vows, you will promise to live in his presence and in his temple by your fidelity to stability, conversatio morum and obedience. The bright shining candles we carried at the beginning of Mass are a sign of the divine splendour of Christ who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. We joined in the procession with lighted candles to show both that the light has shone upon us and to signify the glory that is yet to come to us through Jesus Christ. Like Simeon and Anna, not only do we welcome Christ, the Light of the world, but we also recognise and confess that, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we too have become, in Christ, a light for the world.

Today, Mary, the Mother of God and most pure Virgin, carries the true Light in her arms, for she comes to the Temple to be purified after the birth of her divine Son, while he, God made man, comes in human flesh to be presented to the Father. Mother and Child are received by Simeon, an upright and devout man, who looks forward to the comforting of Israel and on whom the Holy Spirit rests. He exclaims, "My eyes have seen the salvation, which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel." With Simeon, you too, Dunstan and Alistair, see in the Word made flesh the salvation, the life and the light for which you long and for which you have been waiting. You have responded to Christ's coming by coming yourselves to him and offering him your lives. Today is your Presentation. Through the faithful living out of your monastic vocation, you will present yourselves each day to God as, with your brethren in this church, you sing the Divine Office and celebrate the Eucharist and as you go about your daily tasks of work and prayer in the monastery.

By the vow of stability, you declare your hope and intention of dedicating your lives to God in this community with this particular band of brothers. It is like the marriage vow in which a man promises to give himself to one woman and, with God's grace and blessing, form with her a Christian family. By the vow of conversatio morum, you promise to live by the precepts of the Gospel, the Rule of St Benedict and the Constitutions of the English Benedictine Congregation. In other words, to live the life of a monk in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving, simplicity and moderation, silence and humility and to dedicate yourselves to a life of work and prayer in community, seeking God with a sincere heart and striving to grow in love of the brethren as you grow in the love of Christ. Finally, the vow of obedience. which doesn't simply mean doing what you're told, though at times we have no choice. Rather it is that prayerful, contemplative listening to the voice of God, as he speaks to us through his Son, through the Scriptures and the Magisterium of the Church, through our brethren and superiors, and through a conscience informed by the Holy Spirit.

All three vows mean laying aside our own will by conforming to the will of God and taking on the mind of Christ. From this day, St Benedict tells us, not even our bodies are our own, for we belong to God. Your life will become a sacrifice of praise, a sacrifice, which, as the word implies, will make you holy and at peace with God, your brethren and the whole of creation. Remember that the Benedictine motto is "Pax", peace, the peace of Christ that passes all understanding and that keeps our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The community will always be here to support you and nurture your vocation. May you be truly blessed and find fulfilment and happiness as monks of Belmont and may the light of Christ ever shine in your hearts. Amen.