Monday, January 11, 2010

January 14 - The Divine Office

The new postulant, having knocked upon the abbey door and been admitted by the Mother Abbess and a number of her counselors, is taken through the corridors and directly into the life of the monastery.

Her arrival will often be scheduled to coincide with a period of recreation, when the Sisters are permitted to speak for an hour’s time, so that she can be made welcome by all, and because the superiors of the house must not be absent from the Divine Office, except in cases of emergency.

The new postulant will be led through seemingly endless corridors in some houses, and through the parlor and down the hall in others, trying to take in every detail that her eyes can cover. She finds herself at last in the midst of the entire community and participates in the remainder of the hour, and then she is led to the cell that has been made ready for her. There she will change into her postulant’s habit. This used to be a blouse and skirt, a very long skirt until at least the middle of the last century, and a short veil, and when she reappears before the community, she is as “arrived” as ever she needs to be, if she will stay and take the rule of the house as her own, for love’s sake.

When recreation comes to a close, the Sisters file into the chapel to offer to God the praises and prayers of the next Office. The newcomer is with them. She will certainly be lost among the page turnings, the kneeling and rising, the bows, the proclamations and the chant, but THIS is that for which she came. She can look around her and see that what is to be learned can be learned, but what is to be given can be received. To the newest little sister, no matter her age, she has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.

For all of us in Cor Unum Abbey, nothing that we lavish on our Savior will ever be stripped from us. The devotion of five minutes - of three minutes! - of prayer, given and not rescinded, will enclose us in His faith over time. Our gifts of daily thanksgiving on the way to work or a song of worship with the children before they leave for school or quiet meditation on the Lord Himself before the computer turns on in the morning . . . as we learn to do what we can, we will take our designated places among those who do more, and it will be enough.

The robust love of God will become our practice where we have failed in purpose, for we will advance by inches of unseen, unheralded conversion, rather than halting on the miles of good intentions. What has worked wherever others would not turn back, will not fail to be for us, too, a “change of habit.”

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