January 4, 2015


 Epiphany Chapter Talk
M. Rebecca

I remember Sr Kathy sharing a card she got for Christmas many years ago.  It stuck with me because it was funny but also because it had a message.   On the card were the 3 kings standing in a general store and the entire shelves were empty except one barrel over by the cashier filled with bags of myrrh on sale!  One king says to the other “I told you you should have shopped for your gift earlier”!!...So one king brought gold, another frankincense, and now we know why the third brought myrrh!   
            We heard repeatedly this past Season that Advent was a time for preparing.  So how and what did I prepare for the Lord this Advent?  This is what we lay before Him today!  Hopefully we were not like that procrastinating king who was left standing in front of a barrel of “discounted” myrrh.  Or like those five foolish virgins in Matthew’s gospel who were out shopping for lamp oil when the Lord came! 
            So back to the question:  what have I prepared or what have I been preparing?  St Benedict says our life should be a continuous Lent but we have also heard that our life should be a continuous Advent.  Our whole monastic life is one of preparing – and the only thing we can prepare is our self.  The only gift we can give our Creator is our life.  As monks, this is our sole preoccupation. 
            According to St Benedict, there are three criteria for cenobitic monks:  we live under a Rule and an abbess and in a community.  As Cistercians, these are the three ways in which we give our self to God.   We give our self to God under a Rule in which we live a life of on-going conversion.  We give our self to God under an abbess, representing Christ, in a life of obedience.   We give our self to God in community in a life of stability - remaining steady in love and service to our sister in this abbey.  These are three gifts each of us bring to Our Savior today…our renewed vows to Him.
            Matthew Kelty said in one of his homilies:  “I find it no problem at all that God Himself is quite capable of something as beautiful as the song of angels and wise men from the east guided by a star…As a monk I’m involved with things like cloister and abbot and a Rule of life…Celibacy and obedience, cowls and candles, refectory and chapter room, bells and incense.  Most of which mean little to many people.  To me it is all very beautiful.  To be involved in it is pure gift.  And it is a witness to the beauty of God and so is a boon to our neighbors and our world…because all of it speaks of God as much, or more, than stars do {or the singing of angels}.  It is all a witness to beauty and a solace to all whom it touches. It is a sharing of the Incarnation - a journey with the Magi.”   
            I think what Matthew Kelty is saying was represented in our Christmas card this year.  That guiding star stopped here…right over our abbey – and Mary and Joseph were coming to give birth to Jesus in our midst and to dwell with us that we might dwell in Him.  Our monastery is where we offer worship, where we prepare for the Lord’s coming, where we live under a Rule and abbess in community, where we offer our vows on the altar.  In other words, it is not only where, but it is how we offer ourselves to God.
            Evelyn Underhill asked “How large of a space is needed to contain the fullness of God?...the fullness of divinity?  The whole cosmos?...rather Christmas Day we are told it can fit into a tiny baby!”  Because the Infinite is contained in this infant, something infinite is contained in me!         Our Creator manifests Himself by fitting into a baby, but He also manifests Himself in a star, a song, a candle’s light, and in each of my sisters.  We worship Him by loving the beauty in all things that surround us and speaks of God.  This is what Matthew Kelty’s litany was for him.
            Evelyn Underhill said in one of her Christmas reflections:  “Adoration widens our horizons – it drowns our limited interest into the Divine Reality and redeems the spiritual life from all pettiness.”  Adoration widens our vision – it gives richness, meaning and depth to every aspect of our nitty-gritty life.  When adoration encompasses our whole life and stance, we can chant psalms or even wash dishes, to the greater glory of God!  Br Lawrence found God closest in the shoe shop and St Teresa found God among the pots and pans.  We too will find Him everywhere...IF our hearts adore!
            Evelyn says this Season – and I would add, our whole life - is one of Adoration, Adherence, and Attraction to God.  This “Adoration” reflects our vow of conversion.  Adoration widens and alters our vision to see things differently and anew - constantly turning back our wandering eyes towards Christ in order to adore God in all things.  “Adherence” reflects our vow of obedience.  By persevering in our monastic life and its demands, we can be assured that we are living God’s will for us as monks.  This brings meaning into all our actions and gives us the capacity to become an epiphany – a revelation of God’s love and mercy in our world.  And then there is “Attraction” which reflects our vow of stability.  We cannot stay connected or devoted in the long run to anyone or anything that does not attract us.  We want to be faithful because of love - to aspire to be what we admire. 
            So the magi remind us to prepare.   But they also challenge us to recognize Christ in our cloister, community, choir - to find Him everywhere.  Let us not, at the end of our journey, come to Him with bare shelves in the market place but let us each day create something beautiful for God with our lives.  Let us renew our vows this day and offer to our King the gift of our lives - in adoration, adherence, and attraction that never ceases.  When we do this, we will not only see God manifested everywhere, but we ourselves will be a manifestation of God in our midst!

No comments:

Post a Comment