Monday, January 11, 2010

January 12 - "Our Cell"

No matter how confined the monastic space, contemplative nuns do not share dormitories. Sometimes the wing that houses their cells may go by that name, but it isn’t a common room with sleeping arrangements. Each Sister has a place of her own, which she may never call her own, for it belongs to her and her Lord.

When one Carmelite order started a new foundation in Oklahoma, they took up residence in an old Army barracks. A Poor Claire order started a New Mexico foundation in a converted farm house. Everything in the monastery was minuscule! Even so, each Sister had a cell with a small bed and a small table, and for the Carmelites, a small cross on the wall over her bed, not a crucifix.

The nuns of the Carmelite order display the simple, unadorned cross in order to remind themselves that, while on earth, they will accept the crucifixion to which each of us has been called. They regard and give all glory to the atonement of the Only Begotten Son of God, the only propitiation for fallen mankind, but they cherish a healthy respect for the privilege of bearing His cross in life.

That New Mexico farmhouse was subdivided inside to allow each Sister a place apart to be alone with her Savior and King. At that time the dimensions of any Poor Claire cell was already prescribed into tininess, as many may yet be, but these were more tiny, and the Sisters made no complaint!

They did not need square footage to dwell in splendor with our Lord Jesus Christ. For them, He was their spaciousness, and their place of abiding was a mansion in the house of God.

May God grant us, as we move into our next eleven days of “conversatio,*” to find even the smallest opportunities to spend time with Him, to accept even the smallest crucifixions as He recommends them by His Spirit and counsel, and to have faith that His sovereign care over all our choices will bring us more absolutely into His abiding Presence.

* “conversatio” is the Latin term for “conversion.” It is the part of the Benedictine vows which perpetrates an unending devotion to change for the sake of Jesus Christ

The Retreatants' Rooms - No Television, No Internet - Just Jesus
at Little Portion Retreat and Training Center
near Eureka Springs, Arkansas
photo by Kerry

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