Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Years Day, 2010 - "Passio Christi, Conforta Me!"

The first words to fall upon the ears of an entrant to a Benedictine monastery are, "Passio Christi, conforta me!" Passion of Christ, comfort me!

How kind and good, how sensible and strengthening is this timeless tradition! Of all the things the professed nuns could have said to the "newbie," of all the words to inspire, words of majesty and secrecy, pomp and ceremony that could be spoken, instead the tender, trembling heart of the new postulant is taken immediately into account. "Passio Christi, conforta me!"

How powerful are these words! Those who stand just inside the door to receive her know what she is facing. They know that no other comfort will suffice, and they know where others cannot, that this comfort will.

Could we not enter the new year comforted in our resolve, comforted through the door, with the same comfort? We are not leaving family and friends, hearth and home, causes and careers behind, but we, as they, are setting out to grow a little closer to our Lord and King over the next 365 days, to walk more closely with Him, to hear His Voice more readily and obey more cheerfully. Perhaps we are more cloistered than we think . . . if only we will progress.

While resolutions are being made for 2010, I think the abbatial (dispensed by the Abbess) advice would be . . . choose for God. Not just "lose ten pounds," but "whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all as unto the Lord." Not just "save money," but "come buy wine and milk without money and without cost!" They have an Abbess and Novice Mistress to help make sure that “truth” becomes more to them than empty platitudes. They are there for the sake of a very real . . . change of habit!

It has been said that within eleven days any new habit can be launched or a bothersome one broken. Within eleven days, our minds will be fixed in a new path or method, and our bodies will be newly able to sustain even a physical deprivation or substitution. We might remember the old practice, but within less than two weeks of redirection, our brains will remind us to choose anew and our bodies will be liberated from addictions, innocent or otherwise.

On this first day of a new year, we can consider what best to choose. As the new postulant has chosen “all things new,” but must progress little by little, we may choose something WE REALLY WILL DO . . . something at which we won't fail . . . something simple and useful and good . . . and close ourselves in with that one, small, very small, change. Since we haven't an Abbess or Mistress of Postulants at hand to help us decide . . . we could ask God to help us choose where best to begin!

"Passio Christi, conforta me!"

Photo of the stained-glass cross that stands outside the chapel, on the crest of the hill at John Michael Talbott's Little Portion Retreat Center.
Photo by Kerry

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