Well, an update…I have given away most of my colored clothes
and shoes which are not black, and am moving into a black and white stage. I
have already passed on all my books, except the few I need for the convent (NO
daily and Sunday missals, Rule of St Benedict, diaries and notebooks), and am
finishing collecting things on the list from Mother General.
Going into a black and white stage is really dying to self.
That is the entire point of a habit. It is not only a “sign of contradiction in
the world” but a denial of self-expression.
I did not think this would be so hard, as I am not
particularly attached to my clothes, but the reality of giving away things and
living by a list complied by someone else is the beginning of purgation.
The commentators on the Rule of Benedict write that it is
sometimes the small things which cause the most anxiety at first. One’s
favourite pen, or one’s special tea cup or coffee mug; one’s hair-dryer or
one’s bubble bath are not BIG things, but part of the rhythm of life about
which one surrounds one’s self for comfort and continuity.
There will be a new continuity, which I have partially
experienced, of the daily hours and daily schedule organized for centuries in
Benedictine convents and monasteries throughout the world.
Prayer, work, study, more work, more prayer. The denial of
free time or coffee breaks again is part of the denial of self in a small way.
One cannot stop and have a cuppa when one feels like it. One cannot sit down in
choir, but kneels or stands.
The denial of self happens in the world as well, such as
when one faces financial ruin, or cancer, or the death of loved ones.
One cannot escape, nor should one run from suffering.
Sometimes God paints us into a corner, so that we cannot run away unless we
want paint all over our shoes and leave a messy, ruined floor behind.
The denial of color allows God to paint the empty canvas of
the soul. Memory, understand and will become purified over time. The advantage
of the monastery is that this process speeds up the three-fold movement towards
perfection, if one cooperates.
Cooperation involve many things: obedience, conformity,
denial of singularities and eccentricities (which are caused by pride and
encourage pride), setting aside one’s own ideas and even ways of working.
Last year, I had to learn how to clean without cleaning
supplies, as the monastery in Cove only uses water on the floors and rarely
uses sprays. The nuns live as if the 20th and 21st
century had never occurred.
The value of all this self-denial must be rooted in the
growing awareness of God’s Love.
One can set aside one’s own ideas and habits and even
expertise for one reason only, and that reason is love, the love of God.
Even that love is sprinkled with pride and self-seeking
until one gives up everything.
Purification is death.
The black and white clothes I am rolling up and packing in
my suitcase remind me of death.
But, the truth is that we all die and face God. Is it not
better to allow Him the freedom to start the process of purification, leading
to illumination and, finally, unity, now?
If one loves someone, one will do anything for that person.
One wants to be with that person, and eventually, one wants to be completely
united with that person.
So, too, with the Brides of Christ in Tyburn. They only want
to love and be loved.
Black and white, life and death, death and life, love
and sacrifice for the Significant Other, who is Christ.
People ask me why I want to do the hard thing. I want to be like Christ.