Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spring cleaning and the Rule of St. Benedict

          “ I put away my winter clothes this morning.  What a chore!” and “I cleaned the ceiling fan today.” These two comments made during lunch last week caused me to reminisce about good old fashion spring cleaning. Without coal furnaces and open windows, the emphasis is no longer so great. But some really old memories gave me cause for enjoyment. Helping my grandmother to put the lace curtains on the curtain stretcher was a treat.(Can you tell I was young?)  She only had two rugs that had to be taken outside, hung on the clothes line and beaten.(Thank God for more powerful vacuums and steam cleaning.)  My favorite was helping my parents to clean the coal dust from the wallpaper with this play-dough-type eraser. ( It was tricky to not leave stripes so I think we children probably got to do the wall behind the couch!)
          And then my brain jumped to the related wisdom as found in the Rule of St. Benedict. Some quotes follow.
  • ·         “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar.” (Chapter 31)
  • ·         “ Whoever fails to keep the things belonging to the monastery clean or treats them carelessly should be reproved.”  (32)
  • ·         “The utensils required for the kitchen service are to be washed and returned intact” (Ch 35)
  • ·         “Idleness is the enemy of the soul.  Therefore the brothers should have specified periods of manual labor” (Ch 48)
  • ·         “additional help should be available when needed” (Ch 53)
  • ·         “a brother may be assigned a burdensome task. . .should he see that the weight of the burden is altogether too much. . .he should explain patiently . . . the reasons why he cannot perform the task” (Ch 68)
And one for the person exchanging clothing:
  • ·         “clothing distributed to the brothers should vary according to local conditions and climate. . . they are to wash it. . .(Ch 55)

Happy transition from winter to summer!

            Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Reading Into the Abyss of Suffering

            The joyful celebration of Christ’s resurrection followed an active and deeply appreciated Lent for me. Having celebrated these sacred ties many times in the past, I feel especially grateful in these my later years for this one! Shortly before Lent began, Rev. Kenneth Overberg, SJ gave us a day on the “Mystery of God and Suffering” which provided me with many new ideas. He also made available to us copies of his book Into  the Abyss of Suffering which became my special Lenten reading.
            This book is fascinating in its explanation of the different gospel representations of events  in the life of Jesus. Details in incidents in the four Gospels differ—more explanation given to some than to others. The basic truth Fr. Overberg emphasizes is that Jesus Christ became totally human in all things except sin. His suffering was part of his humanity. The gospels were written from a “post resurrection perspective” so that the things which the gospel writers witnessed were seen in different ways from different points of view. Our experience also influences the way we see the gospels in a special way. But reading the events of Jesus’ life in the gospels gives an appreciation of that writer’s experience. Mark was first to write, followed by Matthew and Luke and then John whose gospel is quite different.
            The book of Job was good reading to accompany Fr. Overberg’s thought and images and a help to understand the acceptance of suffering. Job is cited and seen as a real “sufferer” but I had a hard time with parts of the book—not the beginning and the end!
            Fr. Overberg’s book has only six chapers but each is full of new ideas to challenge the mind. I found myself doing more and more Scripture reading especially in trying to answer the questions he poses at the end of each chapter. I had to read chapter several times and had to work to get answers.
            Throughout Into the Abyss of Suffering there was much to think about and I shall continue to keep Fr. Overberg’s book at hand, food for heart and mind!

        Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Abandonment of God

          The Scripture readings for Palm Sunday set the tone for the Journey through Holy Week each year.  They are so powerful.   But the Word that struck me this year was the Psalm that was cantered so well by our Sr. Stella Gough. It was Tim Manion’s Ps. 22, “My God, My God,” 1984, OCP edition. 

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
                                           (repeated after each verse)
All who see me laugh at me.
They shake their heads,
they shake their heads.
You trusted in God;
let God deliver you,
deliver you, if God loves you.

Closely, now they press me ‘round,
and pierce me through,
they pierce me through.
You trusted in God;
let God deliver you,
deliver you, if God loves you.

All is taken, all is lost.
Be near, my help.
I trusted in God,
May God deliver me;
O deliver me as you love me.
I long to stand in the midst of your people,
and sing your name.
Give God your laud,
Cry out your praises,
and hold fast,
hold fast to your Lord.

        This is surely a Psalm that Jesus had prayed and sweated with as the time grew closer to his suffering and death. He knew Abba’s presence always. And after realizing his mission following his baptism and trials in the desert, the words of the Prophets and the Psalmists spoke to him more and more directly of what was in store for him.  How did Jesus cope with the feeling of “Abandonment by Abba,” expressed in this Psalm?  It could only be through his great love and trust in Abba, and knowing of Abba’s great love for him.  “May God deliver me, O deliver me as you love me.”  And because of that great love between Father and Son, in the Psalmist’s words, he calls us to “Give God our praises, and hold fast to our God.” 
        When the hard times come, this psalm can be my prayer to put myself in the hands of the one who loves me, loves everyone through the most difficult times - on to the Glory time.

Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB             

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Eyes of Christ

          During this Lenten season at the Monastery in our Liturgy of Hours readings, we have listened to Jeremiah the prophet. One day the reading from Jer. 5:21-23  “Pay attention to this foolish and senseless people who have eyes and see not, have ears and hear not” struck a chord within me sending me to search this farther in Scripture and readings.
          These readings focused on the eyes of Christ which sear into our very being. I have a wooden Icon hanging in my bedroom of Jesus Pantokrator based on the 13th century Serbian Hilander Monastery icon at Mt. Athos in Greece. It has been a stabilizing force in my life for many years .Gazing into these sad and beautiful eyes, especially when in distress, fills me with the depth of his love and intense compassion.
            The face of the Icon expresses the depth of God’s immense compassion in our chaotic world with an ever increasing violence and hatred among the adults and children of His family.
          As  this gaze persists reaching  into my heart and soul, that begging look is gently leading me to look  with a similar gaze into the eyes of each person I meet to see the Christ within this person in order to spread this merciful compassion and mercy.
          Remember also that Jesus said: “ To have seen me is to have seen the Father. Do you not believe that I am one in the Father and the Father in me. “
          Henri Nouwen throughout many of his books stresses that there is no longer any difference between Jesus and those He loves. We are part of the intimacy that Jesus shares within the communion of the Trinity.
          Now we must be ready to share this same love for all.

          Perhaps as we enter into the Holy Week mysteries, through scriptural imaging, we could place one’s self in each event as a participant and gaze into the eyes of Jesus and feel him gazing into yours. Notice that Jesus is not focusing on his suffering but on those around him.
                Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB