Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 29 – The Well-Loved Servant

We have been investigating the “conversatio” aspect of our monastic year, the part of our devotion that is devoted to change, for Jesus’ sake. How long does it take for a human soul to begin to bear His image? Just as long as it takes that we should no longer live as “mere men” (1 Corintians 3:3) and women, but as sons and daughters of the Most High, dead to sin but alive to God. For most of us, that takes a little time, and quite a few challenges to our pride, apathy, and fear. Here in Cor Unum, our joy is to keep to the path.

Meanwhile, the monastery has everything else set in order to make sure we continue to grow and to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our salvation (Hebrews 12:2,) day by day.

One of the great benefits of cloistered life is that, if we were spending the new year in a traditional monastery, we would have the incalculable joy of not having to tweak our diet after the Christmas holy days. Just think of it!

While there might have been a special Christmas pudding to share or the gift of Panettoni for Christmas Eve, the strict daily diet would whisk those calories away within days.

The Poor Clares have a charming dietary rule. A fixed portion of vegetables and fruits, breads and proteins, must be consumed daily. In her book, A Right to Be Merry, Mother Mary Francis tells how, when potatoes were in short supply, the announcement would be made, “Dear Sisters, the turnips are for potatoes tonight,” and at times, “the carrots are the vegetable.” They eat no meat, but they must have proper amounts of fish and eggs in the course of each week.

As we have observed, monastics are uncommonly long-lived. In the monastery, the data is particularly pure: all eating the same food at the same hours, all getting the same amount of sleep and exercise and enjoying the same pursuits at the same time of day. At times, meals are restricted to one per day, and the fasting is thought to be particularly cleansing and healthful.

Throughout part of the year, usually during Lent, a modified diet, lovingly referred to as the Black Fast, is observed. Some orders abstain from butter, cheese, milk, eggs, and flesh meat during those weeks. That would lower cholesterol considerably!

The monastic purpose is twofold: first, that Jesus Christ would be honored in simplicity and gratitude, and secondly, that the monastic residents would be strong and alert always, because seven or eight hours of prayer each day can really take it out of you!

Let’s consider today, here in Cor Unum: while Scripture refers to us as both servants and kings, which should we be feeding, for the sake of the Kingdom of God?

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