Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord

Waterhouse

Excerpt from "Annunciation"
by Denise Levertov

...The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.
She was free to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
This was the minute no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
Spirit,
suspended,
waiting.
She did not cry, “I cannot, I am unworthy,”
Nor, “I have not the strength.”
She did not submit with gritted teeth, raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

The life of contemplative nuns is replete with opportunities for withdrawal into some sacred time, some sacred place. It is the very abundance of those opportunities which draws some souls into this life, a life in which we live together alone with God. Yesterday provided such an opportunity for me, my monthly day of private retreat. Yes, by my very entrance into a monastic community I have withdrawn from the larger society in significant ways. But life in a monastery is a communal one in which all of the nuns live, work, eat, pray and play together. This intense life in community brings all of the realities of family living into play - joy, celebration, decision-making, conflict, mis-understanding, compromise, unity of purpose, mutual love and support and forgiveness. And, as if that were not enough, it requires all the work of creating and keeping up a home and giving sustenance to body and soul. It is a tall order. Thus these monthly personal days of retreat into solitude and our annual long personal retreat of ten days are a necessity.

My day of retreat was chosen with a strategy in mind. It was to be a meditation on the eve of the anniversary of my first vows taken six years ago. The picture here of the angel's revelation to Mary and Denise Levertov's poems were used on the invitation and program for my solemn vows. Each speaks of total and free surrender to the will of God. As I walked about the landscape yesterday and meditated upon it as I looked out my bedroom window, I observed flora and fauna perfectly surrendered to God's will, bending in the wind without resistance, patiently waiting for God's sun to warm buds into opening without fear and trembling or pregnant deer basking in the sun awaiting their day of delivery.

We have much these days to disconcert us; trials and fears abound. But Mary's trust, her utter surrender -"Let it be done to me according to your word." - remind us of our recourse to the providence of God.

Among Redemptoristines, every 25th of the month is a celebration of the Incarnation, God taking on our human flesh. We will renew our vows as usual and celebrate Sr. Mary Jane's 30th anniversary of her vows, Sr. Moira's anniversary of entrance into the community twenty-one years ago, and my little six year mile marker. May we all celebrate with Mary a renewed surrender to total trust in Divine Providence.

The Avowal

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
free fall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

Denise Levertov
with permission of
New Direction Publishing

3 comments:

Kate said...

Thank you.....

I had not seen this Annunciation image - And the second poem by Denise Levertov....it captures an image that I used to hold [having spent much of my early life near the water]...have not thought of it in a l-o-n-g time. Thank you...a wonderful image to remember/feel even as that embrace involves going through Holy Week passion.

Kate

Anonymous said...

Absolutely scrumptious, Sr Hildegard. Happy anniversary!
Peace --
Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Great to see Levertov