Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Meditations on Monkhood

 Lately, I've been taken with some of the archetypes associated with religion and spirituality, particularly the monk and the priest.  As I journey through medieval Christian history, I'm struck by the counterpoint between the two--withdrawal from the world into a cloister of quiet contemplation, or diving into the world, working and teaching and preaching what one believes is right, living by example and exhorting others to do the same.

Of course, there is tremendous overlap between the two.  But right now I feel like more of a monk than a priest; not that I plan to sell all I own and live in poverty (although living in the woods like Francis would be quite nice.)  Not literally, anyway.  Monkhood speaks to me right now as the willingness and commitment to let go, to surrender to whatever guidance I might be able to perceive if I truly listen...and, naturally, sharing what I've learned along the way.    

Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of charity as the filling one's own cup, then filling others' with the overflow.  In other words, we must take care of ourselves if we are to take care of others.  He's not suggesting that we put off doing anything for others until we have completely taken care of ourselves, but that we recognize and honor those times in our lives when we need to recharge before we can give our all to our partner, spouse, friends, job or anything that we know in our heart is worth loving and working at.  "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."  

Bernard says, "charity...does not seek what is its own.  And do you know why?  It does not seek what is its own precisely because it has it...Charity never lacks what is her own, all that she needs for her own security...She wants this abundance for herself that she may share it with all; and she reserves enough for herself so that she disappoints nobody.  For charity is perfect only when full." (Sermon 18: 2-4)

I must run, but I wish this for you, with Poor Clare of Assisi:

“What you hold, may you hold, 

What you do, may you do and not stop.
But with swift pace, light step, unswerving feet, 
so that even your steps stir up no dust, 
may you go forward
securely, joyfully, and swiftly, 
on the path of prudent happiness,
believing nothing, 
agreeing with nothing
that would dissuade you from this commitment."

Peace and Love

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