Tue 7 Dec, 2010
Tags: Advent, Profession
Sister Sean, prioress of the Clyde community, shared this Advent reflection during Saturday’s Vespers. It was timely to share because earlier that day we welcomed Sister Maria Victoria into our Congregation.
The message that comes to us through Sacred Scriptures is timeless, and in its proclamation, there is always something new to be learned. There is a “newness” about Advent. It begins the new liturgical year. Throughout Advent we look forward to our celebration of the birth of Christ. Our hope is renewed. And in a few days, at 1st Vespers of Christmas, we will once again chant the words that express this renewed hope — [Mt 4:16] “… the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned.”
The Gospel for this Sunday begins with the appearance of John the Baptist – “preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’”
And in the next chapter of Mt’s Gospel, as Jesus begins his Galilean ministry, we again hear the words: “From that time, Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” [Mt 4:17] And even now, today, as we hear those words proclaimed again, each of us is invited to a new beginning.
This Advent, this season of beginnings, is a very special time for a first monastic profession. We often refer to our way of life as the monastic “path.” On one level it’s more visible – how we dress, what we do, how our day is scheduled, and so on, and the reasons for all of that. It’s a very visible path. On another level, it involves what is seen only by God. It involves a path in the depths of the heart. Here each of us has our own unique, personal desert/wilderness to deal with. It’s here, in the deepest recesses of our own heart, that we are called to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight His paths. It’s here that we struggle at each fork in the road, where the tree that tries to bear good fruit is sometimes confronted by a brood of vipers. Even when we manage to do or say what is good and just and true, we are sometimes limited to just going through the motions. Our heart just isn’t in it.
It’s within our very human heart, that we most need to prepare the way, make straight the path, for the One who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Here, in this earthly life, with His winnowing fan He will begin clearing this threshing floor, sweeping away all that is not of God. Gradually, our actions and words will become that good fruit which John the Baptist called for, which gives evidence of the goodness within. At 1st Vespers of Profession, we chanted the words from the Gospel: “It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you, to go forth and bear fruit. Your fruit must endure.”
And our faith will be lived out in sincerity.
I have a very special bookmark, which was given to me. There is a quotation on it which says, “Jesus is both gift and demand.” It seems one of the greatest demands of our faith is sincerity.
We are blessed with beginnings. It is a gift to be able to begin anew. Again and again. Until some day there are no more forks in the road, no more broods of vipers.
When that path of the Lord is prepared, then we can also become forerunners of Christ. Then can we also stand on that high mountain, as a herald of glad tidings, and cry out at the top of our voice, as a herald of good news, proclaiming the Lord who will come again in glory.
This season of Advent, this season of beginnings, is a very special time for a first monastic profession. And as we walk this path together, for each of us, it marks a new beginning — in a life-long change of heart.
“You take delight, O God, in upright hearts. Your people here give freely and with joy. Uphold this purpose always in our thoughts, and guide our hearts forever toward Yourself.” (from Lauds of Profession, 1Chron. 29)