Monday, May 12, 2008

Emerging from Retreat

This little family, mother fox and four kits, made their first home under a garage in an urban area of split ranch homes in southern Waterbury, Connecticut. It is in the backyard of my son's property, a property made that much more attractive to a mother fox about to give birth by the fencing my son installed for the safety of his children. He wanted the children to be kept in but mother fox probably saw this a means of keeping nasty dogs and other disturbing creatures out! When first spotted, the babies were tentatively venturing out in the dim light of dusk for a bit of rough housing in the grass then they would retreat to the cool protective darkness of the hole beneath the garage. But a few days ago mother led the whole crew on their way, their first outward journey into the big world and, presumably, to bigger new digs. (Pardon the pun.) Their independent departure was a great relief to my son who had been shuffled from one governmental agency to another is his effort to find a humane way to dispose of these uninvited guests. It seems no one could or would take responsibility and trapping is outlawed. How good it is that nature took its own course. Now to fill in the inviting hole.

Just as these creatures came out of a deep, hidden and protected space, our community of contemplative nuns has emerged from a hidden space for greater withdrawal, silence and solitude and more time to just "be" with God. It is hard to leave that place, but the Rule for our daily life does indicate that these times apart are just that. While days apart are necessary and valuable for spiritual enrichment, it is not our charism to stay in the "hermitage" for ever. Rather, especially as Redemptoristines, we are to be fully involved in the prayer, work, and play of communal life, a life that our Rule describes as being "primarily a life in relationship." It is this life of relationship, lived as Jesus and with Jesus, that is the place of our formation and conversion.

Our retreat director, a Trappist monk, provided theological reflection on the nature of the ultimate model for that "life in relationship," which is the dynamic life of the Blessed Trinity. He also has a great gift for distilling the core teachings contained in documents by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Here are just a few snippets I found memorable and valuable for personal reflection:

* At the Ascension Jesus went into God and brought humanity with him.

* According to Pope Benedict, salvation has already happened.

* All humanity is united with God through Jesus. The contemplative cultivates an awareness of this union - and it is worth "selling the field" to experience one moment of this union. We were created for true happiness through union with God.

* The Trinity is a cycle of total self-giving. God had to create because goodness is diffusive of the self.

* Two potent metaphors of Trinitarian self-giving are the ecstatic union of bride and bridegroom which eventual produces a child AND that of the nursing mother which illustrates the whole gamut of love from eros to agape. We are called to such self-giving.

* The reality of this kind of love proceeds from the union of the contemplative with Jesus in prayer. This is our gift of service to all of creation.

* The first Greek words used to describe the Trinity were procession and relationship.

* Pope Benedict has said, "Jesus is the face of God."

* The three most important gardens in the history of the world are Eden, Gethsemani and the garden of the tomb.

* A monastery is a true Gethsemani. Our suffering is part of the totality of human suffering. Through faith we find the meaning of human suffering. Suffering and redemption have not stopped. They continue to going on in each moment in the sacrifice of the Mass but also in human experience...The ultimate suffering of human kind is in one way or another a loss of control - a loss of self. Jesus lost himself in the Father.

* Jesus invites us into the garden of Gethsemani. This is the invitation to the surrender and the letting go that lead to freedom... All the losses are God telling me he is everything... You can ruin your day by dwelling in your inordinate desire. You can be imprisoned by clinging to desire.

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