Friday, July 25, 2008

Christmas in July

Saying "YES" ...

The Choice for Obedience
in Vowed Life

Once again our community is celebrating "Little Christmas", marking the feast of the Incarnation of the Son of God on the 25th day of each month. It is our custom to have the Prioress offer a reading and a talk following recitation of the Psalms at Midday Prayer of the Divine Office. Following her talk we renew our vows together and then enjoy a festive meal. I have posted here the talk given today by our Prioress, Sister Paula Schmidt, OSsR, one of the foundresses of this monastery who came to Esopus in 1957 from Canada. She has been a vowed religious for fifty-six years.

July 25th, 2008 Talk at Midday Office by Prioress, Sr. Paula

From our Constitution and Statutes [the Rule]:
Constitution #30. "Having come into this world to do the will of His Father, Jesus conformed Himself totally to it even to dying on the cross in a supreme act of love and filial obedience which was a perfect reparation for the disobedience of humankind.

Our vow of obedience is directly in keeping with this loving obedience of the Son of God, at the very heart of the mystery of Redemption. "

#31. "Our consecrated obedience, like that of Mary the humble servant of the Lord, brings to reality and prolongs the obedience of Jesus for the salvation of the world. Offering our will to God through love, we are all the more in communion with the Mystery of Christ, obedient even to the cross, and in this way we become more disposed to seek the Kingdom of God in all and above all."

Today, as every month on the 25th, we are focused in a special way on the mystery of the Incarnation. Today, as usual, I have struggled to select the special focus for this month’s reflection. The problem, I find, is not that the topic has been exhausted but that it is so vast. And the question for me each month is: what do we need now, as community of contemplative nuns, to “relight our fire”?

Each of us, I am sure, in the past month, has had some moments of those personal ‘darts of fire’, as Alphonsus calls them, that woke us momentarily out of our daily routine. Moments when we knew, and felt deeply, the blessing in which we are involved in our particular call as Redemptoristines.

This month of July, in our tradition, was for centuries devoted to the virtue of obedience. With this in mind I looked at our Constitutions and a quick reading of the above sections can give the impression that the obedience of Jesus is more passive than active—a matter of surrender to the Father’s will.

In the Synoptic Gospel tradition this is the struggle in Gethsemane: “If it is possible, take this cup from me—yet not my will but thine be done.” In John’s Gospel, on the other hand Jesus is shown as “choosing to lay down his life, and choosing to take it up again.”

And that is what we read in the next sections of our Constitutions:

#32. "Our obedience cannot be a simple exterior fidelity to a law but it must be the fruit of a choice, authentic, free, adult and responsible; it must spring from the heart as a witness of love and an expression of deep and living faith.

By our way of living our religious obedience, we bear witness together that this freely chosen obedience lived in love brings true joy, that it contributes to the growth of maturity and that far from being opposed to the dignity of the human person, it liberates and increases it.

So we become—personally and in community—living signs of the liberating and all illuminating power of Jesus Christ."

Do you remember the workshop on The Redemption given us by Fr. Jorge Colon [Redemptorist of Puerto Rico] last year? In these few sentences St. Irenaeus sums up both the Incarnation and the Redemption: "Adam is an infant who tripped. God picked him up and showed him the way to divinization. The Son of God became man so that we might become God. The glory of God is man fully alive.” The important thing is not that man fell but that man was picked up by God.

To be human means to pass from the image of Adam to the image of the Risen Christ. It is a life-long process, a life-long journey. Obedience is that daily ‘listening’ in order to more and more freely choose that way of God, the way of Christ. Ob-audire=to listen to.

In the Gospel chosen for today’s feast we have the two brothers James and John approach Christ through their mother and ask for the best seats at the table of the Kingdom. Jesus asks them: Can you drink the chalice I shall drink? They say, We can! Little do they know what they are saying. But Jesus answers them—You shall indeed drink of the cup that I will drink, the cup of total self-emptying for the salvation of the world. Jesus choose this for himself, and the apostles choose this for themselves, and we too, choose this for ourselves, only realizing little by little, day by day, what this means. In essence the ‘obedience’ God asks of us is the obedience of love, love in ever broadening circles of impact, beginning very near, and spreading out to encompass the whole universe.

Those darts of fire give us a glimpse, now and then, what it is all about, who and what we are called into when we say our “Yes” to God as Redemptoristines.

1 comment:

Dina said...

Thanks you both for this good insight into obedience.
May you be the targets of many darts.