July 4, 2015


 Mother Rebecca

Vs 50:  “Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom.  Amen.”


This last verse of the Prologue brings us exactly where we want to be – with Christ!  We are reminded that sharing in God’s kingdom is not a matter of our personal achievements but of the closeness in our relationship to Christ.  And in this relationship we can be assured that we will enter into the sufferings of Christ.  Yet this is not to be feared but to be treasured!  We have all experienced that when we suffer something together a unique and deep intimacy can emerge.  In suffering together a special bonding occurs.   When we unite our sufferings with Christ not only does a deep intimacy emerge, but it also becomes redemptive.  To follow this precept there must be patience.           

Patience first occurs in the Rule as an attribute of God.  Vs 37 says “the patience of God is leading you to repent”.   Now, in this verse, ‘patience’ refers to us…taking on this attribute of God.  Our patience also leads us to conversion and an opportunity to be like Christ.  But how are we invited to share in Christ’s sufferings?

                One way is expressed in Ch 72:5 - “by supporting with greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body and behavior”.   Michael Casey writes, “Patience means we break the causal chain of evil.”  If I am treated unkindly it takes effort not to be unkind in return or to throw it on to someone else who innocently passes by!  Or as Casey asks: if I am in a bad mood do I make everyone around me miserable?  “In this way suffering is passed from one to another…but patience calls a halt to this {craziness}”.  What I hear him saying is that patience involves self-transcendence - the ability to transcend our emotions and thoughts in order to stand firm in love.  Casey said patience is “the foundation of all contemplative experience”…I would assume that it is because of this self-transcendent quality.  An example that comes to mind is St Therese who spoke of her irritation in prayer when the sister behind her would rattle her rosary beads in choir.  But instead of remaining annoyed, St Therese learned to turn the clatter into a musical rhythm of her prayer.  When something annoys me, can I hear the music of our daily life?  We have many opportunities to transform, through patience, our irritations into prayer!

                Casey goes on to say, we are called as monks to recognize that weaknesses exist in members of the community.  Instead of being scandalized, a true monk continues to tolerate the weaknesses which remain in their sisters.  A genuine monk does not complain or campaign for their amendment, but remains steadfast and unshaken in their affection for them.  It calls us to accept the painful consequences of another’s sin rather than to abandon love.

                 Cassian says patience does not depend on the absence of provocation.  Withdrawing from social interaction may reduce the level of conflict, but it does not heal the inner disorder which is its source.  Solitude and isolation can trick us into thinking we are patient but eventually the turmoil within us will surface.  It reminds me of a desert father story:  A monk goes to his abba and says that he wants to live in solitude because the other monk’s behaviors are making him angry and hampering his contemplation.  So the abba tells him to go off to live alone in quiet and peaceful prayer.  All seems good for a while but then one day he is drawing water in a bucket and it tips over.  He gets upset.  He draws another bucket of water and it too flips over.  He is now angry.  He does it a third time and it falls over and he is furious and in a rage.  He then came to his senses and realized that no one created his anger – he carried it within.  But he also learned that his community was an essential tool in which he could learn the necessary virtue of patience.  He learned that his brothers were not the cause of his sin but the doctors who would help in his healing.  Through patience he was led to repent and returned to the rubs of community life.

                Perseverance doesn’t mean never stumbling or falling but that we get up again and persevere.  Fr Brendan once told us that a monk is one who falls and gets up, falls and gets up, and falls and gets up again…all this can happen even before the bell rings for Lauds!!  This entails not focusing on our failings and weakness but on God’s love and fidelity.   But patience is not simply the ability to wait - it's how we behave while we're waiting.  In order to be patient and persevere we need single-hearted devotion, a desire to be like Christ, to love as Christ loves.

                And what better way to end the Prologue than to talk about love – a love that suffers through hardships and a love that runs with inexpressible delights.  The purpose of our life and our monastic vocation is simply to Love.  And we cannot love like Christ without Christ.   Love is both a suffering and a sweetness.   In Jesus’ Incarnation, in His hidden life, in his public ministry, and even on the cross, He both suffered and delighted because of love.  Christ never postponed love – never hesitated - it was always abundantly present.  How are you doing in your perseverance of love?  How are you doing with patience?  If the answer is less than you would desire, unite your sufferings to Christ so that it can be redeeming and healing.

                I close with a quote but I don’t know where it comes from.  (It reminds me of that Proverb about how we are to learn from the ant.)…“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”  So let us learn from the ants, the trees, and the grasses…but most of all, let us learn through each of our sisters how to love in perseverance and persistence.  For by this “patience we share in the sufferings of Christ so that we may also deserve to share in in His kingdom.  Amen.”


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