"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012
The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch
Odo Casel's is hardly a household name, nor is it ever likely to be. He was, after all, a monk and spent the greater part of his monastic life as chaplain to a community of Benedictine nuns - not usually a high-road to celebrity. And yet from this obscure monk issued what Cardinal Ratzinger called "perhaps the most fruitful theological idea of our century" (ie the 20th), while for the eminent French Dominican liturgist, Pierre-Marie Gy, it was Casel who gave the strongest impulse of anyone to the sacramental theology of the 20th century, and in the view of the English Dominican, Aidan Nichols, Casel should be accounted "a giant among theologians of the Liturgy and a figure raised up by Providence to salvage from perils the worship of the Church…one of the great fathers, I would say the great father of the 20th century liturgical movement". The following article is a small attempt to salvage Dom Odo Casel from his (relative) obscurity. Three questions naturally present themselves: Who was he? What did he say? Is it true?
Johannes Casel was born at Koblenz, in the German Rhineland, on the 27 September 1886. His father was a train-driver. His religion - this was the Catholic Rhineland - was Catholic through and through. After a local primary and secondary education, he went up to Bonn in 1905 to read classics. Among the students there was a young Benedictine, Ildefons Herwegen, who persuaded Johannes to put aside his studies and enter his own Benedictine monastery of Maria Laach, St Mary of the Lake. This was originally an 11th century Benedictine monastery, suppressed in 1802 and restored by Benedictines of the Beuronese Congregation as recently as 1892.
A Benedictine vocation
In 1913 the same Ildefons Herwegen was to become abbot of Laach, to remain such until his death in 1946, and to make of the abbey one of the intellectual and liturgical centers of German Catholicism between the two world wars. Entering the monastery in the autumn of 1905, Casel himself went through the usual stages of monastic initiation, receiving the name Odo, making profession in 1907 and being ordained in 1911. A little less usually (but this is Germany!) he gained, first, a theological doctorate from the Benedictine Athenaeum of Sant' Anselmo in Rome (with a thesis on the eucharistic theology of Justin Martyr, an early sign of his passion for the Fathers of the Church) and then, returning to Bonn, a second philosophical doctorate (with a thesis that revealed his parallel interest in Classical Antiquity, and especially its Mystery Religions).
In 1921, Abbot Herwegen asked Casel to become the editor of the projectedJahrbuch fur Liturgiewissenschaft(Yearbook for Liturgical Science), which task he acquitted through 15 imposing volumes until wartime shortage of paper precluded further publication in 1941. The editorship was an immense labour in itself. TheJahrbuchis, in fact, one of the great monuments to the intellectual revival of German Catholicism between the two world wars, and it was principally in its pages that Casel - through articles and reviews - was able to articulate, defend and consolidate his own vision of Christian worship. Casel was himself a quiet man, happiest working in his cell or singing in the monastic choir. His output was to be prodigious: one bibliography counts 309 major and minor works.
The obscure life of a convent chaplain
And it is doubtful if this would have been possible had not Abbot Herwegen, again discerningly, sent Dom Odo in 1922 as chaplain to what was then a small convent of nuns devoted to Perpetual Adoration at Herstelle, Westphalia. There he had the leisure to study and write. There, too, he had the spiritual and intellectual stimulus of a receptive community of women, which by the time of his death was a flourishing Benedictine house of the Beuronese Congregation, living a full liturgical life, as still today.
Here Casel was to remain, praying, celebrating, preaching, editing, writing, never going to conferences, even those devoted to his own thought. And here, in an astonishingly appropriate way, he was to die. On Holy Saturday 1948, he suffered a stroke after singing the Lumen Christi. He died in the early hours of Easter Sunday, 28 March. He was 61. It is a custom among monasteries to exchange notices of brethren who have died, including usually brief biographical details. That devoted to the passing of Odo Casel was a lyrical classic of the genre:
"Having just greeted the light of Christ in a clear voice and while preparing to celebrate the paschal praeconium, our beloved Father in Christ, liturgist of the sacred mystery and mystagogue, Odo Casel, monk of Maria Laach, having accomplished his holocaust and passing over with the Lord during the holy night, entered upon the beatific vision, being himself consummated in perfection by the mysteries of Easter which he had given to initiates. Thanks be to God."
Turbulent times for the pen and the sword
Casel's claim on our attention lies in his thoughts and writings, and above all in his vision of the "Christian thing" and, more specifically, of Christian worship. But before we turn to this, a word must be said about the wider context of his life and thought. This - to repeat - was Germany, the Germany that had lost a world war, an emperor and an empire, was passing through the humiliations of the Weimar Republic and then was to be swept up into the ultimately destructive fantasy-world of National Socialism.
In one sense, Casel lived apart from all this. He was certainly not a political animal; he kept "the even tenor" of his scholarly, monastic ways. Yet he was profoundly aware of the contemporary problematic. He was also aware of so much that was deficient in contemporary Catholicism: the inadequacies of neo-scholasticism, the excessively juridical view of Church and liturgy, and the individualism of so much piety. And his own work may be regarded as parallel to many of the attempts of the time to find a way forward in the world and in the Church.
One thinks of phenomenology and its "turn to the object", of the dialectical theology of Karl Barth reaffirming divine transcendence, of the desire for community and communion with nature in the Youth Movement, and more particularly of the tenderly bourgeoning patristic and liturgical movements within Catholicism and the concomitantly growing sense of the Church as the mystical Body of Christ. In 1922, Romano Guardini wrote his famous words: "A religious process of incalculable importance has begun - the Church is coming to life in souls."
Casel - like his own monastery of Maria Laach - has a distinctive place within this spectrum, one founded on Scripture, the Fathers and the Liturgy, on a deep appreciation for the ancient world and man's natural religiosity, for the objective and traditional and transcendent. For him, as he outlined in the arresting first chapter of hisDas Christliche Kultmysterium[The Mystery of Christian Worship, 1st ed. 1932], it was the "Mystery" that needed to come to life in souls. Now was the providential moment, after the collapse of rationalist individualism, for a "turning to the Mystery". We can now turn ourselves to explore what he meant by this.
What did he say?
Mystery theology or the "doctrine/teaching of the Mystery" (Mysterientheologie, Mysterienlehre) are the names given to Casel's thought in German circles. "My first insight into the doctrine of the Mystery came to me in the course of a conventual Mass", Casel himself wrote. In sources and style, it may be categorized as "neo-patristic", a Catholic cousin to much of the theologizing of Orthodox émigrés of the same period, not to mention some equally adventurous Catholic contemporaries engaged in a similarressourcement. Casel was decidedly not in the Scholastic tradition.
Rather he was a Benedictine monk, steeped body, mind and soul, in the Roman-Benedictine liturgy. It was out of this that his vision came. The "kernel" or content of this "theology" or "doctrine" was "the new appreciation (or restoration of the traditional appreciation) of the liturgical celebration as the concrete reality in which Christ's saving action in death and resurrection becomes present to us" (B. Neunheuser). More simply, one might call it a liturgy-centered vision of Christianity. ‘Ganzheitschau’ was one of Casel's favorite words: a view of the whole. And this is certainly what he bequeathed. What follows attempts to outline his thought under seven headings
Mystery: the core idea of Christianity
What is Christianity? What is its essence? This is the first question. Dom Odo, who was ever a philologist, began by turning to the word mystery (mysterionin Greek,mysteriumin Latin). Hidden here, he saw, was the heart of Christianity. For the 18th century, Christianity might appear to be no more than a system of beliefs and a code of conduct; for the 19th century (as for many at the beginning of the 21st!) it might appear above all as a spirituality, as a way of relating to the Beyond.
For St Paul, however, and for the whole New Testament as well as for the authentic tradition of the Church, Christianity is the revelation of the Mystery. And the Mystery, in the predominantly Pauline sense, "means, first of all, a deed of God's, the working-out of an eternal divine plan through an act which proceeds from His eternity, is realized in time and the world, and returns once more to Him, its goal in eternity."
This Mystery can be expressed by the one word "Christ", meaning by it the Savior's person, together with His mystical body, "the Church". It is - initially - the Incarnation; it is - centrally - the sacred Pasch, the death and resurrection of the Lord; it is - consequently - the entry of the Church, the community of the redeemed, in the wake of the sacrificed and glorified Christ and by the power of His Spirit, into the presence of the Father.
"For Paul, Peter and John, the heart of faith is not the teachings of Christ, not the deeds of his ministry, but the acts by which he saves us". And our salvation, our liberation from sin and union with God, is brought about by participation in the saving acts of Christ. This, then, is Christianity "in its full and original meaning", the "gospel of God". Not a world-view with a religious backdrop, not a theological system or a moral law, "but the mysterium in the Pauline sense, that is God's revelation to mankind through theandric acts, full of life and power" and our saving participation in these.
Three-fold nature of Mystery
More amply, he explained, "mystery" denotes three things at once. It has a theological, a Christological and a sacramental-liturgical meaning, and these three can hardly be separated. First of all, the Mystery is God Himself, the thrice-holy, dwelling in inaccessible light and simultaneously mysteriously revealing Himself to the pure and humble. We can see ancient man's sense of this primal Mystery in his temples and pyramids, in his wisdom and worship, in the natural longing for union with the divine. To Israel, of course, God revealed Himself more fully, but this proved to be by way of preparation. And so we come to the second sense of Mystery, the Pauline and Christological. "Christ is the mysterium in person. He reveals the invisible God in the flesh". And His deeds are "mysteries" too.
"The deeds of His self-abasement, and above all His sacrificial death on the cross, are mysteries, because in them God reveals Himself in a way that goes beyond all human standards of measurement. Above all, though, His resurrection and exaltation are mysteries, because in them divine glory was revealed in the man Jesus, and this in a form that is hidden from the world and only open to believers".
This last is a point Casel insists on: mystery is by definition hidden as well as revealed; only faith can "see" it and only gnosis, Spirit-given knowledge, penetrate it; it is beyond the grasp of the "world"; it is given to the Church.
"The Apostles proclaimed the mysterium Christi to the Church, and the Church in turn hands it on to all generations. But just as the plan of salvation does not involve simply teaching but, above all, the salvific deed of Christ, so the Church leads mankind to salvation not merely through the word but also through holy actions or deeds".
And so we arrive at the third sense of mysterium, closely connected with the first two. "We find the person of Christ, His saving deeds and the working of His grace in the mysteries of worship". Mystery in this sense denotes "a sacred ritual action, in which a past redemptive deed is made present in the form of a specific rite; the worshipping community, by accomplishing this sacred rite, participates in the redemptive act and thus obtains salvation".
The Mystery and the mysteries
Two patristic quotations enter here. The first is from a sermon of St Leo's on the Ascension (Sermon 74:2): "what was visible in our Redeemer has passed over into the mysteries"; the second from St Ambrose (Apology for the Prophet David 58): "I find You in Your mysteries". In both cases, Casel understands "mysteries" not simply as those of the faith publicly proclaimed (though that too, of course, can be a liturgical event) but as the sacramental celebrations of the Church.
It is in these above all that the mystery of God in Christ is present. Therefore the liturgy itself deserves the appellation mystery, the mystery of worship (Kultmysterium) as Casel calls it. It is a mystery because in it "the divine saving act is present under the veil of symbols". It is the mystery of Christ present in a sacramental form, as Christ is the mystery of God present in the form of "flesh".
The essence of liturgy
Here we approach the heart of Casel's vision, his understanding of liturgy, his sense of its essence, his view of its place in the scheme of things. Liturgy is not ritual or pageantry nor, as some of Casel's contemporaries believed, merely a collection of rubrics governing the public worship of the Church. Nor, he might have said today, is it something we construct to express our group-psychology or something in the service of the "feel-good factor". It is the place and presence and power of the mystery of Christ. It is "the carrying out and realization of the new covenant's mystery of Christ in the whole Church through all the centuries, for her sanctification and glorification".
"God who revealed himself in the humanity of Jesus, continues to act after His glorification. Indeed, it is above all after this glorification that He acts through Christ the High Priest", and He acts "through the ordinary way of the economy of salvation", that is, the sacraments of the Church, thereby endowing liturgy with the force of the Mystery. This "mystery of worship" is "nothing other than the God-man continuing to act on earth. Hence this mystery, like that of Christ Himself, bears a twofold character: that of the divine majesty which is at work, and that of the veil of material and earthly symbols which simultaneously hide and disclose… The presence of the Lord in the divine mysteries occupies an intermediate position - a middle stage - between the earthly, historical life of Christ and his glorious life in heaven", between the Ascension and the Parousia.
The Church, the spouse and helpmate of Christ
None of this touches us simply as separate individuals. It is all for the Church and with the Church. The Church is at once the beneficiary of Christ's sacramental presence, and His helpmate. The presence of Christ in the sacramental mysteries is a "bridal gift" for the Church, and the sacraments, in turn, are a means for her to express her love for her Husband. Liturgy is nuptial. In the liturgy, the Church becomes the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. She receives from Him, is conformed to her crucified, glorified, Spirit-filled Lord, and at the same time is enabled to collaborate with Him in the furtherance of man's salvation, con-celebrating the mystery of worship with Him.
Without the mystery of Christ's liturgical presence, especially in the Eucharist, "the Church would be a priest without a sacrifice, an altar without an offering, a wife separated from her husband, unconsecrated, unable to come to the Father". She would not be the Church, in other words. But at the same time, it is through the same mystery of worship that Christ is fully Christ, the One who saves and glorifies His people. No wonder, then, that Casel - who never reduced the life of the Church to liturgy - should call it, nonetheless, "the central and essentially necessary activity of the Christian religion".
The real presence of Christ
At this point, it becomes vital to look more deeply at what it is that gives liturgy its salvific authority and its place in the history of salvation. It is, said Casel, the presence in the liturgical celebration, in the sacramental form, of the saving deed of Christ. This might seem unexceptional, even platitudinous. It is nothing of the sort, and in the theological context of his times it was revolutionary. Here we touch on Casel's dearest and deepest insight. In liturgy, he believed, the saving deed of Christ was objectively re-presented as an efficacious reality, thus enabling believers to enter into salvific contact with it. For him, as the German theologian Theodore Filthaut explained over 50 years ago:
"The saving acts which belong to the historical past are objectively and really re-presented in the liturgical mysteries. It is not a question of a merely "intentional" re-actualization being produced by a celebration; the saving acts are truly posited anew in the present. And these saving acts - the incarnation, death and resurrection, to restrict ourselves to the most important - are the proper content and object of the sacraments; they form the interior reality of the mysteries of worship".
In the Mass, for example, it is not simply the Christ who once suffered and is now in glory (Christus passus) who is sacramentally present, but the actual passion of Christ (passio Christi). It was precisely with such "ontology", such "realism", Casel believed, that the Church had always celebrated the liturgy. Wholly inadequate, therefore, and spiritually impoverishing, was the then current theory of a merely "effective re-presentation". Christ's "mysteries", in this view, belong to the historical past. It is metaphysically impossible for them to be present in liturgical celebrations. What is brought us by the liturgy is their effects.
Here St Thomas' well known Collect for Corpus Christi comes to mind: "May we so venerate the mysteries of your Body and Blood, that we may constantly experience in us the fruit of your redemption". It is this - the fruit, the grace(s), and the saving effects of Christ's once-for-all sacrifice - that, in a variety of ways, the sacraments bring us. Casel, naturally, did not deny what was being positively asserted here. The sacraments do indeed bring us grace! What he denied was the negation, the refusal to allow the presence, not just of the graces, but also of the source of those graces. "By liturgical worship", wrote his disciple Dom Jean Hild, "and especially by the sacraments, Christ becomes present with his saving acts, and not simply by means of the graces that He once merited for us on Calvary", or in Aidan Nichol's words, "the sacramental sign…is the ritual face of the redemptive act of Christ in its plenary reality, and not simply a communication of grace", and therefore, as Sr Theresa F. Koernke has expressed it, "the Christian ... really encounters Christ in his saving activity in and through the liturgical activity of the Church".
The sacramental economy
In Casel's own words, the "main intention" of the Mystery-teaching was "to set out clearly once again the Church's mysteries, above all the Eucharist, but the other sacraments as well, each according to its measure and place, as the "sacrament of the redemption"; that is to say, to show them as the presence of the economy (oikonomia) in the Church; not to reduce the sacraments to mere "means of grace". As a witness to what he regarded as the deeper and more ancient view, Casel invoked the then Prayer over the Gifts of the 9th Sunday after Pentecost:
"Grant us, we beg You Lord, that we may frequent these mysteries in a worthy way, for every time we celebrate the commemoration of this sacrifice, the work of our redemption is accomplished (opus nostrae redemptionis exercetur)".
What this prayer calls "the work of our redemption", Casel called "the saving Act (or Deed)", and the wave of controversy that this view aroused only led him to repeat and refine his conviction, never to renounce it. At the base of it lay an argument not unlike that by which the Fathers had defended the divinity of the Son and the Spirit: if we are deified by these Persons, these Persons must be divine.
So wrote Casel, "this real representation of the saving deed cannot not be, because the saving acts of Christ are so necessary to the Christian that he cannot be a true Christian if he doesn't live them after Him and with Him. It is not the teaching of Christ which makes the Christian. It is not even the simple application of his grace. It is total identification with the person of Christ obtained by re-living His life".
And it is precisely this "total identification", this communion with the life, death and resurrection of the Lord that the liturgy makes possible.
At this point many, like Mary at the Annunciation, were inclined to ask, "how can this be?" or more brutally, "this sounds lovely, but what does it mean?" There was a fear that Casel was maintaining a literal reproduction in the liturgy of historical events, such as the birth and epiphany, baptism and transfiguration, death and resurrection, which, however much they might be an enduring part of the glorified Christ, did belong, as events, to the irretrievable past. Casel and his disciples, however, insisted they were not proposing any such reproduction or repetition of past events. Nor, on the other hand, did they think adequate the view that in the liturgy the heavenly Christ merely distributes the graces of his past meritorious acts. Rather, there is in every one of the saving deeds of the Lord a substantial element transcending time and space and capable of commemoration and re-presentation in a sacramental way (in sacramento, in mysterio). It is a question of a presence in mystery (Mysterien-gegenwart).
What happened in the past under the veil of historical events happens now under the veil of sacramental signs. Celebrations are indeed time-and-space bound, but they bring into time and space something that essentially transcends them. Once again Casel would have asked, if this is not the case, how can we have that necessary contact with the deeds of Christ, how can we - the Church - contact the "mysteries of his flesh", "be brought by his passion and death to the glory of his resurrection"?
The unity in Liturgy
Granting all this - the what and the how - we are brought back to the practical question of where? Or, in other words, does all liturgy involve this sacramental presence of the saving deeds? Are there not distinctions to be drawn between the Eucharist and the other sacraments, between sacraments and sacramentals? Here too Casel, without cavalierly ignoring the necessary differentiations, saw things as a whole.
The mystery of worship is found in the Eucharist supremely, in the other six sacraments, and also in such sacramentals as Christian burial, monastic profession and the consecration of churches, the Divine Office, the feasts and seasons of the liturgical year, especially Easter, and liturgies of the word. All of these, in their different ways, bring us the presence of the Mystery and enable us to enter into it. Casel did some lastingly valuable soundings in several specific liturgical areas.
Here we can only summarize his teaching on the sacraments of initiation. As regards baptism, we have the clear statement of St Paul: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united to the likeness of his death, we shall be also to that of his resurrection" (Rom 6:3-5).
Baptism is the bridal bath in which the Church is washed and there, for the first time, "the Christian meets the mystery of worship". As he enters the water, he meets the dynamic presence of the Paschal Mystery in its sacramental "likeness" and is transformed by it. It is not enough to talk here of the forgiveness of sins and filial adoption; these effects arise from a prior assimilation to Christ.
In confirmation the Bride receives her anointing, and participation in the death and resurrection of the Lord is perfected. Just as the Lord became a life-giving Spirit through his Pasch, so believers are conformed, through the chrism, to the Spirit-filled Christ. "Peter, Paul and John regard the possession of the Spirit as the sign of the Christian".
The one baptized and confirmed, then, "is no longer a mere man, but is transformed into a deified man, newly generated by God into a child of God…Because he is a member of Christ, the High Priest, he is himself a Christ, that is an anointed man and a priest, who is allowed to offer God the Father a sacrifice which is uniquely acceptable and accepted through Christ".
The mystical meaning of ‘participation’
The sacrifice of Christ is made sacramentally present in the Mass, through the ministry of the ordained, and so it is possible for the "initiated" to offer this one true sacrifice and themselves with it. The Church "shares Christ's sacrifice, in a feminine, receptive way, though not less actively for that. She stands under the cross, offers her Bridegroom and herself with Him", and in Holy Communion becomes, ever more, what she receives, is ever more identified with the Lord. "These three mysteries, Casel says, are therefore the most important and the most necessary for the life of the Church and for each individual Christian".
Always it is a matter of participation in the mystery of Christ made sacramentally present for the life of the world. When contemporary liturgists speak, for example, of the Liturgy of the Hours as the Church's participation in the salvific praise and intercession of Christ, or of the liturgical year as a mystagogical induction into the one mystery of Christ annually unfolded, they are, wittingly or not, echoing Odo Casel.
The goal of liturgy
Finally, then, we are reminded again and again of the goal of liturgy. Through the liturgical "whole", through the celebration of its sacraments and sacramentals, the Church becomes what she is, the Body and Bride of Christ, and the individual Christian is conformed, by the Holy Spirit, to the crucified and risen One whom he meets in the liturgy. Out of this objective conformation flows a most demanding subjective imperative. "If the soul wishes to assimilate the content of worship, she must, by her subjective action, co-operate as closely as possible with the objective grace of the liturgy" (A. Gozier), conscious all the time that it is God's sanctifying action which is paramount. Dom Odo understood "participation" as a summons to holiness. In his homilies and conferences, he repeatedly presents the high ideal of a simultaneously crucified, risen and pneumatic life - something he saw the monk and nun called to in anex professoway.
The Mystery naturally tends to mysticism. The mystery of Christian worship is the surest source and location of life lived in the mystery. By means of it, the mysteries of Christ's humanity become the mysteries of our own. By means of it, the Holy Spirit imparts to believers the true gnosis, an experiential knowledge of the mystery of Christ, taking them beyond the merely rational and into a life of God-like agape. The "end" of Casel's Mystery Theology points in the same direction as the end of the Rule of St Benedict by which he lived: to "the heights of wisdom [ie.gnosis] and virtue [ie.agape]".
How right was Casel?
And so to the final questions, how right was Casel? How have theologians and the Church responded to him? From as early as 1926, in fact, Casel's writings provoked controversy. In November 1947, a few months before his death, Pius XII's great liturgical encyclical Mediator Dei was published. Casel saw in it essentially a corroboration of his life's work. He was, at the deepest level, surely right. Others were quick to point out that one passage at least (n.176, on the Church's year) seemed to be an explicit critique of his and Maria Laach's approach. What did become clear was that clarifications were needed.
Casel was neither a philosopher nor a systematic thinker. His biblical and patristic exegesis was far from commanding universal assent, nor his appeal to the Mystery Religions. And yet the quotations with which this article began (Ratzinger, Gy, Nichols) are statements of sober fact, and the truth is that his central insights, after much sifting by theologians and liturgists throughout the 1950s and 1960s, have prevailed, even mightily - even when his authorship of them has been forgotten. Among theologians, for example, Edward Schillebeeckx in his classic Christ the Sacrament (1963) convincingly incorporated into sacramental theology Casel's understanding of the mysterious presence of the redemptive act (ch.2, s2), while the growing understanding of liturgy as the sacramental celebration of the Paschal Mystery has become the common teaching. Here I can only briefly point to the judgment of the Magisterium.
The legacy of Casel and Vatican II
In 1964, shortly after the promulgation of Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Louis Bouyer could write that "the heart of the teaching on the liturgy in the conciliar Constitution is also the heart of Dom Casel's teaching". This would hold particularly for articles 5 to 13, for the focus on the Paschal Mystery (art 5 and frequently elsewhere), the understanding of the apostolic mission in art.6, the teaching on the various modes of Christ's presence in the liturgy in art.7, the resounding affirmation in art.10 that the "liturgy is simultaneously the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed and the source from which all her power flows".
Most symbolic perhaps is the five-fold use by the Council of the Prayer over the Gifts mentioned above and its vital phrase,opus nostrae redemptionis exercetur. Significantly, too, this prayer now features twice in the post-conciliar Missal. Thus has the teaching authority of the Church, without descending to controversies, incorporated the inner truth of Casel's vision.
The legacy of Casel and the new Catechism
A further step, in this writer's view, has been taken by the theology of the liturgy opening Part II of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Even the titles suggest this: "The Celebration of the Christian Mystery", "The Sacramental Economy", "The Paschal Mystery in the Age of the Church", or a sentence such as:
"the gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the 'dispensation of the mystery' - the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, until he comes” (n.1076).
Or, most remarkably, the profound and beautiful reflections of n.1085: "In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present…His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is - all that he did and suffered for all men - participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything towards life". Such a vision is owed to no one so much as Odo Casel.
A vision for the future
As has been well said, Casel's essential bequest is an ontology of the liturgy. In many ways, his death in 1948 marked a turning-point in the history of the 20th century liturgical movement. Practical 'pastoral' concerns came to dominate: questions of language, of active participation, of the re-drafting of rites, and though Casel's prophetic (and patristic) vision of liturgy has found a place in theology and doctrine, its full potential as mystagogy, as guide to celebration, surely remains to be realized.
As the American Benedictine Aidan Kavanagh has well expressed it, "In true celebration of the Mystery there is nothing that is anthropocentric, rationalistic, subjective, or sentimental; rather, it finds expression in a rigorous theocentrism, objective contemplation, and a splendid transcendentalism".
For all that, now, may sound a little dated in his writings, for all the imperfections, for a certain "impracticality" even, a "turning" or returning to Odo Casel can aid in the ever-necessary and certainly liturgically necessary "turn" to the Mystery. No doubt, he never will be a household name, but he was one of the humble glories of 20th century Catholicism and remains a prophet and mystagogue as the new millennium begins,novo milliennio ineunte.
About forty years ago, Patricia Bitzen of St. Cloud, Minnesota, the mother of seven, received very bad news. Doctors told her she had cancer. She underwent a double masectomy, but the cancer was found to have spread to her lungs and lymph gland. She was given three months to live. Her brother, a Benedictine monk at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, suggested she go to the Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium, to pray at the tomb of Dom Columba Marmion. She did.
"She literally staggered into the abbey church on her last legs," said Fr. Mark Tierney, a monk of Glenstal Abbey in Ireland and vice-postulator for Blessed Columba's canonization cause. But when she touched the tomb, she turned to her husband and said, "I feel grand!" Back in the United States, doctors examined her and found no cancer. This was in August 1966.
"Now she is about 78," said Fr. Tierney, "plays golf every day, and has no sign of cancer at all. Rome was very impressed by her case."
Indeed Rome was, for Patricia Bitzen's healing provided the needed miracle for Dom Columba Marmion's beatification on September 3, 2000, 77 years after his death.
Patricia Bitzen is not the only recipient of what Fr. Tierney prefers to call Blessed Columba Marmion's "favors." "People have prayed to Marmion for various reasons," Fr. Tierney said. "For instance, I'm getting letters from as far away as Greece from people who, having been married for ten, fifteen years, could not have children -- and then they prayed to Marmion, and they had a child. Even during his life, he would meet a lady who didn't have a child, and he would say, 'by this time next year, you'll have a child.'" And she did. "That was very embarrassing during his lifetime," said Fr. Tierney, "but now that he's dead, it's still happening.
"Marmion is still alive and well and doing great things for people."
But perhaps Marmion will now grant far greater favors, for English speakers at least, through the publication of a new translation of what some have called his greatest spiritual work,Christ, the Life of the Soul. Blessed Columba Marmion, whomFr. Benedict Groeschelcalls "this great and original spiritual writer," has much to teach Catholics of the 21st century about their true dignity -- their adoption as sons by God the Father through Our Lord Jesus Christ.
A Son of Ireland
Interest in, and knowledge of, Dom Columba Marmion has waned over the past forty years. Who was he?
The son of an Irish father and a French mother, Joseph Aloysius Marmion was born on April 1, 1858 in Dublin, Ireland. In 1874, he entered the Dublin diocesan seminary, and after completing his studies at the College of the Propagation of the Faith in Rome, was ordained a priest on June 16, 1881. As the name of the Roman college indicates, Marmion's ambition was to become a missionary monk, in Australia; but after visiting the Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium, Marmion felt a calling to the cloister. His bishop, however, asked him to wait, and in subsequent years, Fr. Marmion served in Ireland as a curate, a professor at his diocese's major seminary in Clonliffe, and as a chaplain for Redemptorist nuns and at a woman's prison. Finally, in 1886, Marmion's bishop permitted him to enter Maredsous as a monk.
Taking the religious name of Columba, after the great Irish missionary saint of the sixth century, Marmion followed the difficult path of monastic discipline and community life, making his solemn profession on February 10, 1891. As a monk, he joined a group of monks from Maredsous in founding an abbey in Louvain, where he was made Prior and where he served as a professor at the university there and as spiritual director for young monks. In addition to these duties, Marmion preached retreats in Belgium and in the United Kingdom and was spiritual director for many religious communities. On September 28, 1909, Dom Columba was elected third Abbot of Maredsous, where he directed the life of over 100 monks as well as overseeing a humanities college, a trade school, and a farm.
Despite these cares, which would be enough for most men, Dom Columba continued to give retreats and serve as a spiritual director. He even advised Belgium's Queen Elizabeth. Indeed, as Pope John Paul II pointed out in the homily for Marmion's beatification, amid the trials of the First World War, Dom Columba's "sole comfort ... was preaching and giving spiritual direction." Dom Columba died during a flu epidemic on January 30, 1923. He was 65 years old.
A Look at His Books
It was Dom Columba's retreat conferences that formed the basis for the enduring legacy of his published works:Christ the Life of the Soul(1917),Christ in His Mysteries(1919),Christ the Ideal of the Monk(1922), and the posthumously published,Christ the Ideal of the Priest.
For Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Marmion's books provided a unique source of spiritual insight and nourishment in the pre-Vatican II era. "In those days [the 1950s] there was not much interesting Catholic theology around in the United States, anything that would engage you," said Fr. Groeschel. "It was a theological wasteland. It wasn't wrong, but it was utterly uncreative. The soul was looking for something really intelligent and attractive, and a powerfully Christological reading and interpretation of the Catholic faith. And that's where Abbot Marmion comes in. Abbot Marmion was not a particularly philosophical person at all. But he was deeply imbued with the Church Fathers, and particularly St. Augustine. He built everything on the Church Fathers and offered to us a very beautiful foundation."
Though Marmion was not opposed to the more abstract theological mode of St. Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics, he had a different point of departure, said Fr. Groeschel. "Abbot Marmion in some ways was the beginning of a movement that became known, under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as the 'New Evangelization.' That movement begins theological and religious investigation with the self," an approach that "comes directly from the great statement of St. Augustine: 'You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.' It relates to how a person experiences their need for God."
"One of the things about Abbot Marmion," Fr. Groeschel added, "is that he ain't fooling. He's a deadly serious spiritual writer."
This seriousness is reflected in the theme of Divine adoption that forms the great motif of Marmion's works: because God became man, men can become adopted sons of God. The doctrine of Divine adoption is, of course, found in the New Testament, and has always been taught by the Church, but Marmion brought a special depth of insight to its expression. Indeed, some of Marmion's admirers believe he will one day be declared a Doctor of the Church -- the Doctor of Divine Adoption.
According to Fr. Tierney, "A lot of the Eastern fathers wrote about the idea of Divine adoption, but they put it into technical language. Marmion brought it down to the level of the ordinary man. Marmion's definition of grace is that it is nothing more than the life of Christ in the soul. That is why he chose the title,Christ, the Life of the Soul. Grace is the life of Christ in the soul, which we get at baptism and which we build on right on up to the day we die."
A Simple Approach to Prayer and Doctrine
Marmion's understanding of the centrality of Divine adoption in turn influenced his approach to prayer. For Marmion, according to Fr. Tierney, the "definition of prayer is quite simple -- just spending time with God. He didn't go into all the logistics of prayer; he tried to simplify things. He was one of the first to insist that holiness, contemplation, and prayer are open to anyone, whereas in his day, many people thought it was just for monks and nuns and priests. The main contribution of Marmion to modern spirituality is that he opened the door to everyone and anyone. He said God does not limit Himself to the holiest of holy people but [comes] to everybody and that sinners are capable of reaching great heights as well as anyone else. He's got the theology of hope, which he picked up when he was a chaplain in a woman's prison in Dublin as a young priest, when he was dealing with very hardened criminals, people who had no hope. He was able to give them some hope for their future and also for the fact that they were not condemned by God, even though they were condemned by man."
Marmion's gift for simplifying things extended to all aspects of Catholic doctrine. Indeed, much of his popularity as an author arose from his special gift for simplifying complex doctrines, and making them accessible to the average Catholic. "Marmion had this wonderful facility for synthesizingallaspects of God's message -- the liturgical, scriptural, and theological," Fr. Tierney noted. "For example, he was quite a devotee of St. Thomas Aquinas. But he also incorporated much from the greatest writers of devotional spirituality, such as St. Francis De Sales, who was one of his principal heroes."
Alan Bancroft, the translator of the new edition ofChrist, the Life of the Soul, spoke of Marmion's approach in more personal terms. Marmion, he said, "demonstrates to me is that it is possible undeviatingly to follow the words of the Gospels and Epistles and yet at the same time to present them in a way that often makes you blink and say, 'of course!' In speaking of the Holy Spirit's delicate guidance of souls, Marmion gives this description: 'you read a text of Holy Scripture; you may have read and re-read it many a time without its really having struck your mind; but one day, all of a sudden, a light flashes out, so to speak, illuminating to its very depths the truth stated in that text.' Marmion's words have that effect on me. What he had received from his long and deep meditation, he was able to pass on to us."
Reading Marmion Today
Mr. Bancroft, not a theologian (he is a lawyer), thinks one needs "no high level of sophistication to benefit from reading Marmion." He noted that Fr. Tierney asked him "to produce an English translation that, with no sacrifice of completeness and accuracy, would be accessible to modern readers." And Fr. Tierney feels he achieved that. In particular, Marmion's frequent Latin quotations - always a challenge to those not well-versed in that language - have been translated into English for the new edition. Mr. Bancroft is currently working on a translation of Dom Columba'sChrist in His Mysteries.
From Fr. Tierney's perspective, Marmion "is for everyone." But, he cautioned, "it's not something that you would read like a novel. If you've read three or four pages, that's enough. It's something to be dipped into, to be savored or relished. Marmion said his books were written in prayer and can only be understood in a mentality of prayer. I've seen groups in Ireland, Belgium, France, that meet and read only three or four pages of Marmion and discuss it. People get not only to the stage of knowing Marmion, but loving him."
The Relevance of Marmion
It may be that more Catholics should read Marmion. Fr. Groeschel believes that Marmion offers "a marvelous antidote to the appalling Christologies of our moment. Abbot Marmion is rich in the writings on the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Mysteries of Christ. He is a tremendous antidote to the shenanigans in our time."
And the 21st century may prove to be Marmion's time. After the Second Vatican Council, said Fr. Groeschel, "everything that was traditional was kind of overlooked as irrelevant. It was true in society in general. There was a general cultural explosion, and Marmion was one of the casualties." But Fr. Groeschel said he senses a change. "Marmion's a classic, and a classic writer is one who has relevance to any intelligent time. Now, when times are not intelligent, they will not accept any classics -- and that's what happened in the latter part of the 20th century. Now there is a beginning of a rebuilding of the classics. That era in world history, when everything in the past had no significance, that rather silly era is coming to its own silly conclusion.
"We've had the age of barbarism without Attila the Hun; do-it-yourself barbarism," said Fr. Groeschel. "I think we're coming out of the doldrums."
And Blessed Columba Marmion may be part of the recovery.
[This article was published in a slightly different version inThe Wandererin January 2006.]
He presents the monastery as a place where the Kingdom of God has already come, a place wherein every weakness can encounter mercy, wherein the human will is directed into the Will of God through the good that is obedience, and wherein every heart of stone, having become a heart of flesh through the grace of compunction, is freed at last to love and to be loved.
OCTOBER 3 BLESSED COLUMBA MARMION, PRIEST AND ABBOT
A Great Irish Saint
Today is the feast of a great Irish saint! Born and educated in Dublin, Joseph Marmion served as a parish priest and seminary professor before becoming a Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium. Dom Columba Marmion was elected of Abbot of Maredsous in 1909. He chose to receive the Abbatial Blessing on Rosary Sunday. It fell that year on October 3rd. When Pope John Paul II beatified Abbot Columba Marmion in 2000, the liturgical memorial of the new Blessed was fixed on the date of his Abbatial Blessing, rather than on the day of his death, January 30th.
John Paul II
In 1985 Pope John Paul II visited Belgium. When the papal helicopter flew over the Abbey of Maredsous on the way from Brussels to Beauraing, the Holy Father confided to one of his aides: “I owe more to Columba Marmion for initiating me into things spiritual than to any other spiritual writer.” The saints engender saints, and this in every age.
Cardinal Mercier, and Others
Cardinal Mercier, the holy Archbishop of Malines in Belgium and a contemporary of the Abbot wrote, after readingChrist, the Life of the Soul: “The perfume of Holy Scripture, to be breathed in at each page of this volume, gives the impression that it was conceived and prepared during prayer, at the foot of the altar, before being given to the public.” Pope Benedict XV kept the writings of Abbot Marmion close at hand and recommended them to the saintly head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church Metropolitan Andrei Sheptitsky of Lviv, saying: “Read this, it is the pure doctrine of the Church.”
A Lad Reads Marmion
My own introduction to Abbot Marmion came when I was fifteen years old. I was visiting Saint Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. Father Marius Granato, O.C.S.O., charged at that time with helping young men -- even very young men -- seek God, putChrist, the Ideal of the Monkinto my hands. He even let me take the precious green-covered volume home with me. With all the ardour of my fifteen years I devoured it. No book had ever spoken to my heart in quite the same way.
I read and re-readChrist, the Ideal of the Monk. At fifteen one is profoundly marked by what one reads. The impressions made on a soul at that age determine the course of one’s life. As I pursued my desire to seek God, I relied on Abbot Marmion. I chose him not only as my monastic patron, but also as my spiritual father, my intercessor, and my guide.
A Good Spiritual Director
If you are looking for a good spiritual director, choose Blessed Columba Marmion. His books are being re-edited in attractive, revised translations that present his timeless doctrine in all its freshness and beauty. From his place in heaven he remains attentive to souls and ready at every moment to direct them to Christ.
Goodness and Humour
Those who knew Dom Marmion bore witness to the vivacity of his Irish temperament and to his marvelous sense of humour, capable of humanizing even the most solemn occasions. He showed an immense goodness as abbot and priest; he had a special place in his heart for the poor, the little ones, and those wounded by life. He sought always to bring happiness to people, allowing the best human qualities to flourish. “Grace,” he often affirmed, “does not destroy nature, nor does it suppress one’s personality.”
As a novice, Columba suffered under the direction of a Master of Novices who was singularly lacking in human warmth. He never forgot this and, later in his monastic life when he was entrusted with positions of authority, he did everything possible to be jovial, joyful, and full of compassionate sympathy in his relations with others. He did this in spite of long periods of spiritual darkness, even as he struggled through the seasons of depression that marked his whole life.
Devotion to the Way of the Cross
Abbot Marmion tried always to bear his burdens of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering without allowing them to become a weight on others. All his life, he was intensely devoted to the Passion of Christ, making the Way of the Cross every day. His meditations on the Way of the Cross inChrist in His Mysteriesare, to my mind, unequalled.
Participation in Our Lord's Redemptive Passion
Blessed Columba entered deeply into the sentiments of Our Lord's Sacred Heart. Through the writings of Saint John and Saint Paul, he contemplated the Face of Christ set toward the Father's perfect will, the fulfillment of the Father's saving design of love, the Father's promise of glory. Thus did he come to see his own sufferings of body, mind, and spirit as participation in the redemptive sufferings of Christ.
The Word of God
Blessed Abbot Marmion had the gift of teaching souls to relish the Word of God. In his own experience, Sacred Scripture was, first of all, proclaimed, chanted, heard, held in the heart, and prayed, in the context of the liturgy. His astonishing familiarity with the Bible came to him not by way of study but through the Divine Office, the daily round of theOpus Dei, the Work of God celebrated in choir.
A Theology That Adores
Dom Marmion attributed to the words of the Bible the grace of a particular unction: something penetrating, a kind of sacramentality that puts us in communion with Christ himself, the Word before whom every human tongue falls silent. It was recounted that when Dom Marmion taught theology to the young monks, they would leave the classroom after his lectures in a reverent silence and go directly to the choir to adore. This is monastic theology!
The Soul of the Liturgy
As a spiritual father, Blessed Columba insisted on the primacy of the liturgy. Well before the Second Vatican Council, he preached the liturgy as "source and summit" of the life of the Church. He quenched his thirst for God in drinking directly from the liturgy's pure wellsprings and led a great number of Christians to do the same. Dom Lambert Beauduin, another father of the classic Liturgical Movement, wrote concerning Abbot Marmion: "He revealed to us the soul of the liturgy; by this I mean all the elements of doctrine and of life, that the liturgy reserves for us beneath the visible veil of its rites and symbols."
Christ, the Ideal of the Monk
In his book,Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, Blessed Columba generated a movement of return to the Rule of Saint Benedict and offered a re-reading of the text capable of irrigating the monastic life of every generation. His vision of Benedictine life is profoundly human and profoundly supernatural. He presents the monastery as a place where the Kingdom of God has already come, a place wherein every weakness can encounter mercy, wherein the human will is directed into the Will of God through the good that is obedience, and wherein every heart of stone, having become a heart of flesh through the grace of compunction, is freed at last to love and to be loved. He presents the abbot at the service of his brothers as a Father, as a Spirit-bearing Doctor, and as the Pontiff, the one who assembles the community to pass over into Christ's own worship of the Father.
The Most Holy Eucharist
Let us seek the intercession of Blessed Columba Marmion today for ourselves and for each other. He will obtain for us the grace of fixing our gaze on the Face of Christ set toward all that the Father wills, toward the mystery of the Cross through which joy has come into the world. The Most Holy Eucharist is the real presence ofChrist, the Life of the Soul. The Eucharist is the real presence ofChrist in His Mysteries. The Eucharist is the real presence ofChrist, the Ideal of the Monk. How blessed we are to be called, with Abbot Marmion and all the saints, to the Banquet of the Lamb.
On August 21, 2010, Three twentieth century elders of the Glinsk Hermitage were glorified by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Glinsk Monastery has a glorious history as a place where eldership flourished. Now three bright stars of the Glinsk constellation have appeared to us as heavenly intercessors.
He was able to make us feel that earthly life is only the podvig of temporary wandering on the path to eternal life.
The great Glinsk elder, Schema-Archimandrite Seraphim (in the world, Ivan Romanovich Romanstev), was born June 28, 1885 in the village of Voronok, Krupets region of Kursk Province, to a peasant family. In August, 1910, after his parents had died, Ivan entered Glinsk Monastery. In 1914, he was enlisted in the army and fought in the First World War. In 1916 he was wounded and after recovering returned to the monastery. In 1919, Ivan Romanstov received the monastic tonsure with the name Juvenaly.
After Glinsk monastery was closed in 1922, Fr. Juvenaly moved to the Drandsk Monastery of the Dormition (Sukhumi diocese, Abkhazia), where in 1926 he was ordained a hieromonk and tonsured into the great schema with the name Seraphim. However, the Drandsk Monastery was also soon closed. Until 1930, Fr. Seraphim lived near Alma Alta and worked as the guardian of an apiary. The armed forces did not arrest him, and did not send him to build the White Sea Canal. From 1934 to 1946, Fr. Seraphim lived in Kyrgyzstan. He celebrated Divine Service at night, confessing and communing the faithful during those services.
On December 30, 1947 Fr. Seraphim returned to Glinsk Hermitage (which had just reopened), and in 1948 Archimandrite Seraphim (Amelin), seeing his spiritual experience and perfection in monastic labors, appointed Hieroschemamonk Seraphim as father-confessor of the brothers.
The elder had a special spiritual gift for hearing confessions, for calling people to complete openness. He received with particular fatherly love those who were tormented by woes, sorrows, and despondency, and those who did not know what path to take in life. Fr. Seraphim was able to make people perceive that earthly life is only the podvig of temporary wandering on the path to eternal life; he called people to a life that is Christian, perfect, and lofty. People came to him from all ends of the Soviet Union.
The elder's own humility was remarkable. He never ascribed anything to his own gifts, or considered himself a man of special prayer. The elder's day began at 2:00 a.m., when he did his cell rule, and then attended the services from beginning to end, after which he gave himself over to service of his neighbor: he received pilgrims, assigned them places to live, confessed them. At night he answered letters. He copied excerpts from the holy fathers and blessed his spiritual children to do the same, and he would send the copies later to others. Love inspired him to selflessly care for every soul. He was a great God-pleaser and a true pastor. Not only monks and laypeople came to him for advice, but even bishops, who saw that he was not a man of the flesh, but of the spirit. After Glinsk Hermitage was again closed, Fr. Seraphim moved to Sukhumi, where he continued his labors as an elder in the capacity of father confessor of the Cathedral. Multitudes of the faithful came to him there. On January 1, 1976, the grace-filled elder peacefully gave up his spirit to God.
Having endured three arrests, exile, humiliation, and hunger, he was able to fulfill the commandment, "Love thine enemies"
Schema-Archimandrite Andronik (in the world Alexei Andreyevich Lukash), a venerable elder and great man of prayer, was born February 12, 1880 in the village of Lupa, in the Romen region of Poltava province, to a peasant family. In 1895 Alexei came to Glinsk Hermitage with the desire to dedicate his life to God.
In 1915 he was enlisted in the army. First he served in Perm, but was soon transferred to the front, where he was taken prisoner by the Austrians, and remained in Austria for three and a half years. The prisoners were hardly fed, and given the most difficult labor. Many prisoners died of hunger and labors beyond their strength. But Alexei prayed intensely and accepted all these afflictions as from the hand of God. In 1918 he returned to the monastery, where he received the monastic tonsure in 1921 with the name Andronik. After the monastery was closed, he worked at a mill in the town of Putivl. Monk Andronik's strict monastic life and unmurmuring obedience drew the attention of Bishop Pavlin (Kroshechnik), a vicar of Kursk, who received him as his cell attendant. But Fr. Andronik was arrested and exiled. When he was released on amnesty, he again became Bishop Pavlin's cell attendant. In July of 1930, Fr. Andronik was arrested in Kaluga and sentenced to five years of imprisonment. In exile, Fr. Andronik worked as a nursing aide in a prison hospital. He looked after the sick with sincere compassion and love, washing them himself. Everyone loved him; the Uzbek prisoners even called him "mama."
In 1939, Fr. Andronik was again sentenced and sent to Kolyma. First, they detained him for eleven months in the prison, where he was interrogated every night, being pressured to slander Bishop Pavlin, but the elder kept silence. In the prison cell, Fr. Andronik had a vision of a certain Lady, who consoled and encouraged him. At first, he thought that this was his mother, but only later understood that she was the Mother of God.
Having completed his prison term, in 1948 Fr. Andronik returned to Glinsk Hermitage and was appointed dean of the monastery. It was his duty to watch after everyone in the monastery, gather the brothers to cut hay, prepare firewood, and work in the garden; he was always the first to do these labors. Fr. Andronik's soul, purified by many sorrows, was filled with the gifts of grace. This bearing of the spirit attracted people to the elder. Having magnanimously endured all suffering, he fulfilled the commandment to love thine enemies in deed. Humility and meekness reigned inseparably in his soul; the elder even walked bowed in humility.
After the monastery was again closed in 1961, Fr. Andronik moved to Tbilisi under the direct care of the former abbot of Glinsk Monastery, Metropolitan Zenobius (Mazhugi) of Tetritskaroi, who greatly loved and respected the elder. Just as they did to Glinsk, now people came to Fr. Andronik in Georgia from all over the Soviet Union seeking salvation. His whole life was directed at one goal—the salvation of his soul and the souls of his neighbors. On March 21, 1978, having reached deep old age, he gave his spirit to God.
He was able to unite the magnificence of a hierarch with the humility of a monk, and became a wise pastor to the faithful of Armenia, Georgia, Russia, and the Ukraine.
In the person of the great elder, Metropolitan Zenobius of Tetritskaroi (in schema, Seraphim) was wondrously combined the sanctity of his personal life, love for people, and love of enlightenment. The future Metropolitan Seraphim (in the world, Zakharia Joachimovich Mazhuga) was born on September 14, 1896 in the town of Glukhov to a working class family. Having lost his father early in life, he was raised by his mother, and often went to Glinsk Hermitage. The grace-filled atmosphere of the monastery and the example of his God-loving mother instilled the love of God in him.
In 1914, he became a novice of the monastery, and in 1916, Zakharia Mazhuga was called to military duty. In the swamps of Pinsk he developed eczema and thrombophlebitis. But the young man's worst fear was killing someone. It was resolved by a miracle: through his fervent prayers, he was sent to the ranks of armed escorts, and did not participate in the battles.
After demobilization, Zakharia returned to the monastery, where he received the monastic tonsure with the name Zenobius. During the terrible period of civil war, Zinobius was entrusted with the dangerous obedience of gathering wheat from the monastery mill. While other monks who had this obedience where attacked, his loads of wheat were never robbed. In 1922, Glinsk Hermitage was closed. The young monk moved to the Caucasus, to the Drandsk Monastery of the Dormition near Sukhumi. Soon that monastery would also be closed; Fr. Zenobius moved with some other monks to the mountains of Abzhazia and started a small skete of desert dwellers.
The monks had no peace there either. There was one miraculous incident when Fr. Zenobius climbed into a bear's lair to hide from the authorities, and the bear did not touch him.
Fr. Zenobius moved to Rostov-on-the-Don, where he was arrested in 1930, and held for seven months without even receiving an accusation for his arrest. In imprisonment in the Urals, he performed the services and needs from memory. Everyone respected him for his generosity and fearlessness, and always called him "father." One day a miracle happened to him: he was returning to the camp in winter after work when he saw a bunch of grapes lying on the snow—something nearly impossible in January in the Urals. He gave a grape to each man in the brigade, and there was enough for everyone.
Having been in prison for four years and eight months, Fr. Zenobius left for Tbilisi. Later he was the rector of a church in Armenia, and then served in Batumi. After the restoration of ecclesiastical relations between the Georgian and Russian Churches, Fr. Zenobius was appointed dean of all the Russian parishes in Georgia and Armenia. From 1950 until his very death he was the rector of the St. Alexander Nevsky Church in Tbilisi.
Archimandrite Zenobius was consecrated a bishop in 1956, and in 1972 he was raised to the rank of metropolitan. All those around him treated him with great respect and gratefulness, amazed at the harmony in him of hierarchical magnificence with monastic humility. Having become an archpastor, Vladyka always maintained his connection with Glinsk Hermitage, providing shelter to many of its brothers after it was closed in 1961, among whom were elder Seraphim (Romanstov) and Andronik (Lukash). Vladyka departed to the Lord on March 8, 1985.
From the Official Site of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church