Transitus of St Benedict – Homily

Fr Abbot Brendan OSB 

This morning the monks at morning prayer listened to a sermon from St Aelred for today’s feast. It began like this, ‘Today is the Transitus of St Benedict and so I have to say a few words to you. This is particularly so, as you are so eager to listen.’ I hope that is also the case here? Today, 21 March, happens to be the traditional date for the spring equinox. As you probably know from your geography lessons, at the spring or vernal equinox, as it is called, the sun is directly over the equator making its way northwards. Astronomically speaking, it is the start of spring and summer. From now on the days will get much longer and the light grow ever brighter.

On this highly significant day of light, St Benedict passed from this life into glory in the year of our salvation 547. That is what we celebrate today. Today then we are remembering the day St Benedict died. Those of us who have lost relatives and friends will know how important it is to remember loved ones on their anniversary day. However, here the emphasis is different and we can learn a lot from it. The story of Benedict’s passing is told by Pope St Gregory the Great in his book, The Dialogues.

As Benedict was dying, his brother monks held him up, they carried him to the Eucharist. This is telling us that we as brothers and sisters are supposed to carry each other through life. At times we are all in need of this.

We are also told that after his death two monks saw a vision of a road leading from the monastery into heaven and this road had a carpet of light and was flanked by lamps. This is the road Benedict took when he went to heaven. The lamps are his good deeds in life and the shining carpet is charity, which covers all things.

It is also important for us to note that this account is told to us in the present tense. This passing into life is not an end, it is another stage on a journey. Both life and death are journeys and that journey is marked by the lamps of our good deeds and the carpet of love we leave as we travel this road.

Anyone who has lost a loved one will have little difficulty identifying with this vision and will also be able to take from this account great consolation that those we have loved and who have loved us, have passed along this road too on their journey. This is the message the Transitus of St Benedict leaves with us today, on this spring equinox, a day of light.

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