Sunday, March 27, 2016

Itroduxit

Our Redbud Tree

The entrance chants for the Easter Octave are some of the most beautiful that the Church offers her children.  One Sister did a poetic study of  "Introduxit", sung on Easter Monday.  The following is the English translation of the Latin text and then Sister's poem inspired by that text.  Blessed Easter celebration to one and all!  Remember, we have 50 days!

The Lord has brought you into a land flowing with milk
and honey, alleluia:  so that
the law of the Lord always may be in your mouth,
alleluia, alleluia.
Ps. Give thanks to the Lord, and invoke his name:
announce among the nations
his deeds.


You have led me into a spacious land
that flows with milk
as from the breast.
Its very rocks, O Lord,
are honey-sweet
Whereon the manna comes to rest.

My lips you bathe
in everlasting love;
Candid law and goodly bread
are on my tongue.
Not enough for me to tell of who
you are and what you do-
these must be sung.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Stations of Mercy Part II


During this year of Mercy, each Sister is taking a turn presenting a particular aspect of mercy to the community.  Below is the first half of one Sister’s presentation, the fruit of her prayer.  She has a special devotion to the Way of the Cross, and so it is not surprising that she would use the stations to illustrate her reflections on God’s mercy and our response.  This is the second half of her meditation.  The first half was posted last week.


Stations of Mercy
And the Life of Penance
(Love’s Reply and Other Sources)

VIII.       The eighth Station follows directly on this thought.  The image of the weeping women compassionating Christ.  From the Gospel of Saint Luke: A great number of people were following Him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for Him.  But Jesus turned to them and said: ‘daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the days are surely coming when they will say: blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.  Then they will begin to say to the mountains: fall on us; and to the hills: cover us.  For if they do this when the wood is green, what will they do when it is dry?  Of course there is a reference here to Isaiah and much can be said about that, but without presuming to give a commentary on these words, one notices a connection with the Vow of Chastity.  Jesus said that when the Bridegroom is taken away the children of the wedding feast will fast.  We are in that time now, a time of fasting and mourning and dry wood, are we not?  A wholesome sorrow and contrition is part and parcel of the Life of Penance.  But it turns out to be a blessing.  The Old Testament is full of images of a barren woman which God blesses with seven sons, and so forth, and the New Testament speaks of the last being first.  In fact, God’s solutions are far better than our own.  So at this Station we can think of how our apparent barrenness is a good sign that we are not being unfaithful to Him, and we can be sure that His merciful blessing of fruitfulness will be far better than anything we could achieve by ourselves, or by creatures.
IX.             The Ninth Station—Jesus’ Third Fall.  At this Station we might imagine that Our Lord was a miserable sight, covered in matted blood and gaping wounds and the dirt of the street… moreover, He was weak, and soon He would die.  Yet something about the Blood of Christ stirs our devotion and desire, almost as if the Blood Itself were love gushing out of Him.  Recall the Second Lesson for Good Friday by St. John Chrysostom: “As a woman feeds her child with her own blood and milk, so too Christ Himself continually feeds those whom He has begotten with His Own Blood.”  It is a beautiful Lesson, and it tells us something about ourselves.  By Chastity and the other vows we are entirely focused, but the desire is not extinguished.  It is a cause of suffering for us, but also a joy, because we know God has promised to satisfy our need for Him.  This Station is like a pause when we can remember how important He is to us, and how Merciful He is in giving Himself to us.
X.                The Tenth Station.  How does God give Himself to us?  There is, of course, a problem, and that problem is human sinfulness and perversity.  As Love’s Reply puts it, there is one thing which must not attract the servant of God, one thing he must thoroughly detest, and that is sin.  By sin he ceases to be the servant of God, and seeks to serve another master; by it the Kingdom of God is destroyed within him, and he is turned away from the ultimate goal of his life…(and later it says) whoever has abandoned the loving designs of God through sin and has strayed from the path of Christ must indeed be punished.  He has cut himself off from union with God and has become a son of the devil, whose works he does…by greed and desire of possessions he becomes the servant of the devil, a slave of self and of the powers of darkness which take possession of him.—The problem is that this is a reality that can’t be shrugged off, and the Crucified Christ testifies to that.  At this Station we can see Christ’s utter misery, nakedness, woundedness, and shame, as He stands before a mocking crowd stripped of everything and about to be nailed to a Cross in that condition.  We can see ourselves as the jeering crowd that has now been given access to Christ.  We have been given access to Him, and we can believe that He intends to continue giving Himself to us until we experience the full possession of Him in eternity.  Is there any greater evidence of Mercy?
XI.             This Station is the kiss where misery meets love.  Christ’s being fastened to a Cross for love, become totally vulnerable, totally given, is for us the dearest treasure and testimony of God’s Mercy.  But, to quote again from Love’s Reply, “The lover seeks to become like to the Beloved.  If she therefore lives with Christ and embraces Him, she will also desire to share His sufferings.  As His Love for us led Him to suffer and die, so does it expect to be answered in like zeal on our part.  To give answer to such a plea, Our Holy Father Saint Francis made his own a prayer which clearly expresses such readiness…Please, O Lord, let the fiery, honeyed force of your love lap up my spirit from everything there is under heaven: so that I may die for love of love for you, who deigned to die for love of love for me.”  Then it says that the Franciscan mysticism of virginity is centered primarily on death to self, the dying of the natural man, that Christ’s Love may live and flower in him: “Temptation overcome is the ring with which the Lord espouses the soul of his servant.” (quoting Celano)  This is difficult of course, but it is consoling to think that Christ did not nail Himself to the Cross, that is, He Himself did not wield the hammer.  In this Station, it seems, we are to have some assistance, channeled by our Holy Vows, Superiors, Rule, etc., in making that complete self-offering which will unite us to Him forever.
XII.          The most striking thing about Christ’s Death on the Cross is that it is the Consummation.  From the moment He came into the world He offered Himself as a living sacrifice to the Father’s Will.  There was no moment in His lifetime that He wasn’t fulfilling His intention of Sacrifice.  But it is interesting to think that, after the Agony in the Garden when He said “not my will, but Thine be done.” He never for a moment went back on His decision.  From that time on He was peaceful and strong, with a constant “yes” in His Heart, even during the worst moments.  He was so entirely composed and given up to the Father’s Will that He ceased to think of Himself, and thought instead of the well-being of those around Him, and of the purpose He had come to fulfill.  Perhaps we do not experience such a firm yes in our hearts, yet the wonderful thing truth is that Christ’s Death and Christ’s Merits are ours.  If we claim Him, we too can offer the Father a perfect “yes” at our death.  So great is Christ’s merciful gift to us, that He has not refused us anything, He even gives us His Own achievement, His Own merit, to present to His Father with Him. 
XIII.       I quote our Holy Father Saint Francis: “Now that we have left the world, we have nothing else to do, save to be solicitous to follow the Will of the Lord and to please Him.”  At this Station Christ’s Body is entirely vulnerable.  It is taken down by comparative strangers to be laid in a tomb.  It would have been possible at this time for anything to be done to it, and it would have protected itself now even less than it had before Christ had sent forth His Spirit, since then at least His Spirit would have been there to give it dignity.  It is the same with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.  He is there for us to tend and care for, or to ignore… yet He has given the Gift permanently, and He keeps His Word: He will always come down at the words of the priest, no matter what will happen to Him then, no matter what kind of evil souls will come to claim Him.  We too can consider that our bodies are given to Christ.  When we die, they won’t be worth much until the Resurrection.  But now, while we live, they are worth very much, because we have the opportunity to use them to serve Him.  God has given us the immense and precious gift of life and time in a mortal body on this earth, and while we’ve got it, we can do like Christ is doing even now: give.
XIV.       Saint Colette speaks very movingly about the cloister being our Sepulcher of Stone, in which we can live forty years either more or less, and in which we will die.  This is consoling because, once Christ’s Body entered the Sepulcher, there was only one thing that happened next.  Saint Colette urged us to praise Him, love Him, serve Him worthily so as to be certain of unending life, as sure as those who are already in its full possession and who see God in the clear vision of His Sweetness and Infinite Goodness with supreme rejoicing and perfect security of the eternal possession of Him.  If by faith we possess the substance of the Beatific Vision even now, then we can see in this Station a monument to hope and confidence.  It is dark in a Sepulcher, and the Light of the Resurrection has not yet dawned, but by God’s Mercy we can have joy, because we have been redeemed.

XV.          As an aside… after reflections on the Stations of Mercy and the Life of Penance, another means of gaining access to Christ’s Mercy is through His Wounds.  By His Wounds we are healed, through His Wounds we dare to approach the Father, by possession of His Wounds, we can attain to the Divine Reality, even in our weak human condition.  If Mercy is defined by God’s Love meeting human misery, then as Fr. Larry Webber so well put it, the Cross is the Instrument of Mercy, and understanding the Passion of Christ is the key to understanding Mercy.  Fr. Tijo took it one step further: we too are called to open the wounds of mercy, to become vulnerable, so healing streams can flow from us to others.       

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Stations of Mercy Part I


During this year of Mercy, each Sister is taking a turn presenting a particular aspect of mercy to the community.  Below is the first half of one Sister’s presentation, the fruit of her prayer.  She has a special devotion to the Way of the Cross, and so it is not surprising that she would use the stations to illustrate her reflections on God’s mercy and our response.  The second half of her meditation will be posted next week.


Stations of Mercy
And the Life of Penance
(Love’s Reply and Other Sources)

Outline

  1. “It is better to fall into the hands of God…”
  2. The Life of Penance—Love’s Reply and a grateful response
  3. Metanoia
  4. Growth in Christ—Sharing the sentiments of Christ
  5. The Life of Penance—a healing solution
  6. The Face of Mercy—how focusing on Christ draws us into a good life
  7. Self-denial in the following of Christ
  8. Spiritual fruitfulness—blessed are the barren who wait for the Lord
  9. Chastity and God’s Promise
  10. Highest Poverty and the Mysteries of God
  11. Consecration and Sacrificial Offering in Christ
  12. Obedience and final perseverance
  13. Service and total dedication
  14. Darkness into darkness—the hope of Mercy.

It was not hatred or sin or the malice of men that Crucified Our Lord—it was love, love for the Will of the Father, and for us.  When confronted by the Prophet Gad after his sin, David said “Better for me to fall into the hands of God, for He is Merciful, than the hands of men.”  (2 Sam. 24:14) God’s Justice is Merciful, and the Cross is the standard of that Mercy.  The Way of the Cross is a precious gift the Mercy of God has given us and an outline of the Divine Remedy for sin.  God does not merely save us, He heals us, and our life of Penance patterned on the Passion of Christ is the context for that healing. 

I.                   At the first Station we see Jesus condemned to a shameful death.  In the Garden of Gethsemane He surrendered to the Will of His Father, and His Father gave His answer.  He teaches us not to fear the judgments of God, no matter how severe these judgments might seem, but to surrender ourselves into the Hands of God, knowing our Father in heaven has a greater good in mind than we or any human reason can fathom.  God knows us fully, entirely (I think here of psalm 139).  He does not excuse our faults, but knowing them He loves us fully for who we are.  Our Holy Father Saint Francis recognizes this Providence of God with a Canticle of Thanks, as Love’s Reply puts it: From the depths of his heart Francis renders thanks for the great Mercy of God, which begins with our creation through Christ, raises us up again after man’s sin through the Incarnation and our Redemption through Christ, and will reach its climax through the second coming of Christ in judgment…(and a bit later) It is not surprising that Francis should begin his compendium of the life of penance in this chapter of the early Rule with a prayer of thanksgiving.  The very-starting point of our life of penance is naught else than overflowing gratitude for the benefits which the mercy of the Father has bestowed on us in His true and holy love through our Lord Jesus Christ.
II.                As we move into the second Station, when Christ acts upon the express Will of His Father, we see a parallel in the response of a heart brimming with gratitude.  This is a quotation from Love’s Reply: ‘That one should undertake a life of penance does not depend on the will of man but on the action of God.  “There is question not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy.” (Rom. 9, 16)  What God in His goodness and mercy has done for us and continues to do is the beginning and starting-point of any obligation on our part.  The Life of Penance, like the whole Christian Life, is thus the grateful answer of man to the call of grace, to God’s saving mercy toward us.  It is from this gratitude, to the degree that it is true and heartfelt, and not primarily from our will or desire, that there arises an obligation to lead a life of penance.’ Thus you can see that it is the Mercy of God which moves our hearts to begin our journey to deepest joy.  As we read in the book of Isaiah “I was found by those who sought me not…”  God is the Author even of our response to His Grace.
III.             The first fall of Christ.  God knows how weak we are, and He understands the confusion and limitations of our minds and perceptions.  We do not always see the whole picture.  Often times we are biased by our fears and personal reservations, and thus blinded to the whole truth.  But God provides an answer: He touches our misery intimately and thus enlarges our vision.  A few passages from Love’s Reply: ‘The Incarnation of the Son of God is an unfathomable gift of Divine Love to us.  This world is no longer the same since God became man in Christ.  No longer can man regard either the world or his fellow-man as though this wonder of love had never happened.  Whether we like it or not our lives must be radically different.  Since Christ came among us His Call to metanoia, to a life of penance, must be answered unreservedly by those who desire to seek God and truly find Him…the redeeming grace that streams to us from the Cross must effect in us a total change of life…It is under the sign of the Cross and by the power of the Cross that the transformation of the new man is to take place in the life of penance…This desire gave Francis an entirely new view of life.  He saw all things and circumstances in a new light that gave a new value and meaning to whatever he had known or loved.’  At this Station we find our first opportunity to begin to think the thoughts of Christ.
IV.             The fourth Station, Jesus meets His mother, is tender in character, but it also opens up vistas for a new kind of discipleship.  Mary understood Jesus and His mission so well, she is His Mother, and she is our Mother.  She can help us to understand and participate in the Mystery of Redemption as she did: that is, as a member of God’s own family.  By allowing her to form us in her own virtues and her unique perspective, we can live and work in this world as children of God and instruments of His Mercy.  At this Station the Life of Penance is already beginning to transform us.
V.                In a book entitled “The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality,” by Paul Murray, Meister Eckhart is quoted as saying that Jesus’ command to take up our cross is not merely a command as is commonly said and thought: it is a promise and Divine Prescription for a man to make all his sufferings, all his deeds, and all his life happy and joyful.  It is more a reward than a commandment.  For to whoever has abandoned self and completely gone forth from self nothing could be a cross or pain or suffering: it would all be joy.  It is not due to God’s Justice , or His severity, that he demands so much of us, rather it comes from His great bounty, for he wants the soul to be capacious so as to hold the largesse He is ready to bestow.  This teaching about the narrow path sounds hard, but when one has got into it no life is easier, more delightful, or lovelier.  The book goes on to quote St. Thomas who speaks of a joy which is nothing less than an expansion of the heart.  Thus at this Station we have an invitation to respond to God’s call to embark on the Life of Penance.  It is a good time to consider specific ways that we can do this, that we may become freer to share our Master’s joy.
VI.             Experience shows that the cross without Christ can be disastrous.   This Station refocuses us on the reason for the Life of Penance.  A quotation from Love’s Reply: “At the heart of the Franciscan Life of penance stands the figure of Jesus Christ.  His Life is to be our life, His Spirit our spirit, His Ways our ways.  The more we die to self in penance to live completely unto God according to the Gospel, the more must we be ready to follow the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ and become like Him in all things.  The life of Christ must penetrate, form and shape us, that we become wholly changed into Him.”  This is the goal of the life of penance: that we may become like the one we love.  At this Station we think of Veronica, whose gaze was fixed upon the Face and Person of Christ.  It is a moment when we can gaze on Him, consider Him, and contemplate Him, desiring to imitate Him.  We can think of what makes Him sweet, the Gospel life that He lived, how Good we know Him to be, and how we are to be like Him. 

VII.          The Seventh Station is the Second Fall of Christ.  The Life of Penance is arduous, it hurts, and sometimes it can seem to be destructive.  But Christ said “He who would save his life, will lose it, and he who loses his life for My Sake will save it.”  This Station is an opportunity to surrender, to let go, to deny self, to yield our will in some way so as to give God the opportunity to heal us.  A quotation from Love’s Reply: “Self-denial and mortification are means of removing whatever might hinder the action of God in us.  Because they make us truly poor, they help us submit unreservedly to the will of God in our regard.”  This is experienced most especially in the Grace of Obedience, which is a great Mercy, and the most sought after capital in the spiritual life.  Our Holy Father Saint Francis says “That man abandons all he possesses and loses his body (that is, himself) who yields his whole self to obedience in the hands of his superior.”  For such a one who is fully centered on God, and God alone, all things work together unto good—men, and things, and circumstances, no matter who or what they may be, help, not hinder him in loving God.  The Spirit of the Lord alone controls and guides his life because he has surrendered himself completely to the holy workings of that Spirit.  Here is a time to make some perhaps very small sacrifice that will enable that process to begin. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nun Run 2016

Nun Run 2016
From Left To Right:
Junior Professed Sister Mary Angelique
Novice Mistress Sister Margaret Mary
Reverend Mother Abbess Mary Therese
Aspirant (Now Postulant) Kathryn
Background: Nun Run Participants

Our Aspirant Kathryn (pictured above in the short white veil) is a veteran organizer of “Nun Runs” for our area.  But this year’s vocation discernment event was a new experience for her as she greeted the young ladies from inside the enclosure grille!  Women came from several local colleges, including Old Dominion University, Kathryn’s alma mater.  Needless to say, her former colleagues were thrilled to see her taking the next step along the vocation journey.  Last week, on the feast of St. Agnes of Prague, a contemporary and correspondent of our Mother St. Clare, Kathryn received the black postulant veil and became an official “Postulant”.  Stay tuned to see her new look!