Sunday, May 29, 2016

O Sacred Banquet!

You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. (Ps.23)

O Sacred Banquet, in which Christ is received,
the memory of His passion is renewed
the mind is filled with grace
and a pledge of future glory is given to us!
Many times during the day we pray this beautiful prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas when we come into the Presence of our Eucharistic Lord.  The Holy Eucharist is not fast food!  It is a banquet, lovingly and laboriously prepared for us by a most solicitous Host.  It is indeed what the ancient Christians called, “A Love-feast”.  When human beings eat, they do not merely devour plants like a herd of cattle or flesh like a pack of wolves.  Or they ought not.  Men and women “do not live on bread alone”, but on loving relationships.  In the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, food has a sacramental value.  Meals are prepared not only for the sake of physical nourishment, but as a means of self-giving love to the beloved.  The Eucharist is this in an eminent way.  The Bread from Heaven was baked in the fire of the Passion and the Wine of the New Covenant flowed from the wine press of the Cross.

Not only cooks have to work to prepare a feast, but also gardeners labor  by the sweat of their brow”, particularly in Virginia!  Our cool and rainy spring has given way to welcome sunshine and warmer weather.  The gardens are flourishing, flowers and vegetables as well as opportunistic weeds!  A bumper crop of beets as well as mustard and Swiss Chard are currently a major part of the Poor Clare cuisine these days.  Summer plants are up and coming!  The fight is on to rescue them from bugs, fungi and other pests eager to share the wealth and the space.  Such is life after the Garden of Eden.  In this fallen world, all self-giving love involves suffering and every labor done through love is blessed.  Since God has loved us so in Christ, we are privileged to show this same kind of love to one another.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Holy Trinity Sunday

“Charitas Dei diffusa est in cordibus nostris”:  The Love of God has been diffused in our hearts we sang in our entrance chant this morning on this beautiful feast of the Most Holy Trinity and our own Golden Jubilarian’s nameday.  How lovely to be named for love!
Each Sister who has a jubilee is given the opportunity to design her remembrance card.  Most need some help from their more artistic Sisters.  But since Sister Charitas is numbered among the artistic, she was able to do the designing herself.  Yet, a remembrance card, like most other aspects of Poor Clare life, is a community affair.  There is paper to cut, computer graphic programs to be run, printing to be done and finally stuffing envelopes for the unskilled but generous Sisters willing to help.

Pictured above is Sister Charitas’ card.  The triangle represents the Most Holy Trinity.  In the center is the Sacred Heart her Bridegroom of fifty years, who is also the center of her own heart and life.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Spirit of the Lord Fills the Whole World

Sister Charitas
 in front of her decorated cell door
on her Jubilee Day
We are still in the afterglow of Sister Charitas' Golden Jubilee.  This picture seems Pentecostal to me and so seems appropriate to head this post on the Solemnity of Holy Pentecost.  One of the gifts we have received in our Indian Sisters is their talent for decorating on great feast days.

Today we celebrate the coming of the "Sweet Guest of the Soul", the Holy Spirit who embraces us in His Love and brings us into the intimate life of the Holy Trinity.  Not only on the Church as a whole, but to each individual soul does He come.  Here is one Sister's experience expressed poetically:

Spiritus Domini Replevit

The subtle Spirit of the Lord
Forms and fills the ephemeral world,
The fragile bubble nothing,
But for His tender holding.

How easy His flow, both out and in
Across the membranes, micro-thin,
Dividing each substantial thing
From all and every other thing,
Excepting Him.

But the microcosm of the heart,
Hard and heavy from the start,
Gently He holds, but waits to fill.

Attentively He stays until
The fretful fears arise, then stilled
In His Divine embrace,
Surrender a tremulous space
For the free-willed cry
Accepting Him.

Then He, rushing wind,
Down blows the stone divide,
Twining her, His chosen Bride.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Newness for Young and Old

We have good news to share on this Mother’s Day.  Our Postulant Cecilia will receive the habit of our Mother St. Clare on June 22nd, the day Poor Clares call “Covenant Day”.  The story goes that when enemy soldiers were climbing the walls of St. Clare’s cloister, she appealed to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament who responded with the voice of a child, “I will always take care of you”.  The soldiers immediately fled.  Not only for St. Clare, but for all her daughters, the Lord has fulfilled His promise throughout the ages.

As Cecilia takes another step on her Poor Clare journey, our elders are now aided in taking their steps outside with a newly constructed handicap ramp.  Here they are shown trying it out for the first time with even able bodied Sisters taking part.

Sister Mary Christine leads the way

Coming back.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hope Deferred

Frost devastated fig tree
(our dog Honey at lower left)

Did you ever notice that salvation history seem to be a series of false starts?  Right from the very beginning, in Genesis we see God creating a wonderful universe, and placing Adam and Eve there.  But soon comes the dreadful fall.  Then God sends them out into the world and there is a fresh start.  New life happens in the birth of Cain and Abel.  Next, Cain kills Abel.  New hope comes in the form of Seth who seems to get off to a really good start.  He and the family he engenders walk with God, calling upon His name.  Enoch, a descendent of Seth is so good that he is taken up to heaven.  However, the family of Cain intermarries with Seth’s family and corrupts it.  Things become so bad that God regrets He made the world and determines to destroy it with a flood.  But Noah finds favor with Him.  And on it goes.
The New Testament is no different from the Old in this respect.  Jesus begins His ministry with great success but then is crucified.  The resurrection vindicates Him and Pentecost sees the coming of the Holy Spirit in power upon the Apostles.  Persecution, spread of the Gospel to the gentiles, worse persecution by Nero follow in swift succession.  The Church finally wins out and becomes the religion of the empire.  But nothing fails like success, and soon heresies and corruption set in.  Councils, reforms, schisms more reforms, persecution, restitution again follow throughout the centuries and millennia.  Since it has always been this way, it looks like it will continue to be this way until the Lord comes in glory at the end of time.  What is the good of it all?
I began to ponder this question when a few weeks ago, our very warm Spring was suddenly arrested by a killing frost.  Oh, it was so sad to see our fig tree!  It had just sent out its delicate, iridescent green leaves, when the frost hit, turning them into black hanging rags.  But being a seasoned nature lover, and Virginian resident of over 30 years, I knew that nothing stops the Spring for long.  I am still not sure why the frost has to happen in nature or in the life of the spirit, but it must be an intricate part of God’s plan as He is rather consistent about permitting it. The “Exultet” that the Church sings at the Easter Vigil gives us a clue, calling Adam’s sin a “necessary fault” which brought us such a Redeemer. The Paschal Mystery is the “Mystery of Faith”.
Here is a poetic meditation on this theme:

Hope Deferred

The late spring frost horrifies the heart.
O grieve for the daring leaves unfurled,
The new shoots blighted in the starry night,
The cold dawn sparkling on the crystal doom
Of death decreed for the upstart bloom.

But the strains of spring will not be halted.
Its melody will rise undaunted.
Account the frost, not a senseless wrong-
Score it as a measured pause
In song.

New leaves coming!
Spring will not be halted!