My dear Father Benedict, you are being led to the King with a cortège of heavenly companions: not only those saints whom you name in your litany, but also those whose feasts occur in these final days of preparation.
And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God.(Hebrews 12:1)
Shining among "so great a cloud of witnesses" today is the glorious Saint Dominic, the father of the Order of Preachers. Blessed Fra Angelico depicts him seated, with the book of the Word of God open and lying in his lap. His face is wondrously radiant; his features reflect something of the brightness of the Word that holds his attention. Saint Dominic illustrates what we will sing in the opening antiphon of the rite of The Making of a Monk:
Accedite ad eum, et illuminamini, et facies vestrae non confundentur. Come ye to him and be enlightened: and your faces shall not be confounded. (Psalm 33:6)
What is said of Saint John the Forerunner can be said also of Saint Dominic: "He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light" (John 1:8). The lesson we read at Matins describes the lectio divina of Saint Dominic:
He quickly passed upwards from reading to prayer, from prayer to meditation, and from meditation to contemplation. When he read alone in this solitary fashion, Dominic used to venerate the book, bow to it, and kiss it. This was especially true if he was reading the Gospels and when he had been reading the very words which had come from the mouth of Christ. (The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic)
The Introit is well chosen both for Saint Dominic and for you, dear Father Benedict:
The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue shall speak judgment: the law of his God in his heart. (Psalm 36:30-31)
In the five years of your monastic journey, and long before receiving the habit of our father Saint Benedict, you have been assiduous in your meditation of the Word of God. You have, for a long time, lived in familiarity with the utterances of Divine Wisdom. The books that occupy so much space in your cell are, I think, an indication, of the place given to the Word of God in your heart. Let your tongue speak always the judgments of God; let the law of God abide in your heart. "If you abide in me", says Our Lord, "and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7).
My prayer for you, dear Father Benedict — our prayer for you — is that you become, in our community, more and more the man of the Word of God. In every monastery there are, according to the word of Saint Paul, a variety of gifts:
There are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit; And there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord; And there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all. And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit. To one indeed, by the Spirit, is given the word of wisdom: and to another, the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; To another, faith in the same spirit; to another, the grace of healing in one Spirit; To another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits; to another, diverse kinds of tongues; to another, interpretation of speeches. But all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will. (1 Corinthians 12:4–11)
One of the principal tasks of an abbot is to identify the diversity of graces found in his sons, and to foster in each one the particular gifts he has received "for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12). I have long seen in you a special gift for the Word of God in the heart and in the mouth of the Bride of Christ, the Church: the liturgic Word. You will bring this gift, among many others, to your consecration as a monk on Thursday. This gift of yours, a kind of sacred word–craft, is essential to your self–offering. You shall lay it upon the altar, not to be destroyed there, but to be hallowed and rendered divinely fruitful. Receive this gift from the altar, together with your new self, "the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth" (Ephesians 4:24), and, until the end of your life, spend it lavishly in the service of your brethren, ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus (Rule of Saint Benedict, ch. LVII)