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It is 17 years ago today that I made my solemn profession of vows. I promised stability, conversion of my way of life and obedience until death. Like today that day was a Saturday. So many memories fill me of that day and also the feelings of joy and excitement. Previous to that day I was on a week's retreat to prepare for my profession. It was quite an unusual week. The temperatures dipped into minus thirty with wind chill factors double that. It last the first 6 of the 7 days. I walked back and forth from the guest house to Mass each day.
When I woke up this morning at 3:30 it was about -13 degrees below 0 outside. It wasn't easy getting out of the warm bed. After a cup of coffee, vigils and an hour of quiet prayer I went into our reading room off the library to do my lectio divina on the scripture readings for the day. The gospel was from Mark, very short and the gist of it was that Jesus' family thought he was crazy. Now lectio divina is a slow reading process designed to bring one deeper into the text and discover what the text is saying to me at this particular moment. Hmm, what am I to do with that one.
We are back to ordinary time. It is in the ordinary that we can experience the extraordinary. We had a dialogue on our practice of enclosure last week. Our enclosure limits our exits from the monastery to what is necessary, for example going out to the doctor or grocery shopping. Enclosure also limits what comes inside our enclosure — namely the media. I have found that when the senses are not overstimulated, overburdened with a lot of noise and visual distractions, what is naturally around us comes more alive, more extraordinary.
In our constitutions it states that we are to live lives that are poor, obscure and laborious. We are called to live our lives simply, not cluttered with things, or sounds or entertainment. This is all for the purpose of living a deep inner life, finding God within ourselves and acting throughout our day. It hit me the other day how countercultural this is. One of our sisters broke her wrist and being the infirmarian I went to her doctor’s appointment with her to get her cast on. This sister has been living the Cistercian life for almost 50 years.
Today is the feast of Epiphany; one of many feasts during the Christmas season. We have a tradition with our crèches the three kings don’t arrive until the feast of Epiphany. Between Christmas and Epiphany you can see the kings wandering around windowsills, bookshelves, even outdoors; anywhere on the property until they finally arrive at their proper crèche scene. Sometimes the traditions surrounding a feast, and they are legion in a monastery, can seem silly but they serve their purpose. They are reminders, sacramentals, of the reality of what we are celebrating.