I can imagine the twins (Benedict and Scholastica), soul-mates since before their birth when they grew together in their mother’s womb, spending hours talking about Benedict’s life in the big city of Rome, sharing their dreams for a better, more peaceful world. How many times as they traveled the sandy, hilly road between their family home in Norcia, past their grandparent’s home to their summer home on the outskirts of the city. Did they stop in to visit with the hermits that lived in the caves in the mountains above the roadway? Did Scholastica share her brother’s desire to live as a hermit? Women did, you know. Did the twins challenge each other’s wisdom and curiosity about the spiritual life? Was it Scholastica’s influence that made Benedict’s Rule for Monks have a softer tone than the Rule of the Master? Together they dialogued – we know at least annually – about how to form communities of trust, love and moderation. As Benedictines we have chosen to make their style of living our own. We must be willing to die to self and live for Christ, according to the precepts of the Rule they fashioned. For us as vowed monastics, it is an all or nothing proposition. Benedictine Oblates challenge themselves to instill into their daily lives a balance that exemplifies the Benedictine core values.
Each day the Scriptures link us to God and give us insight into the person and mind of God. That’s where we get our philosophy of life. The Holy Rule fleshes out portions of Scripture and helps us to develop personal and communal goals. Scripture says: “Whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction.” But that can only happen if we constantly engage the texts in the dialogue of our lives. We must make it our own whether it is Sacred Scripture, the Holy Rule or a favorite spiritual writing. How else can any text reach full meaning in our lives? We must savor it – not inhale it like lunch on the job; not look at it on the run or listen to it on a background CD – but savor it … patient absorption with every possible sense. Looking at it from all angles, taking the slow approach, the step back for better perspective, relaxing to let it sink in.
Recall a time or two when you experienced the anticipation of taste figuratively signaled by licking of lips and spontaneous flow of saliva. Mmmm, that smells so good I can almost taste it! The slow intake of a pungent essence that seems to go all the way to our toes.
Thus it should it be with the Word of God. In lectio we make a conscious effort to imprint the Word on our memories. It is ambrosia with a capital A: truly the food of God! In this way God leads us, like Benedict and Scholastica, and speaks to our hearts. God it is who espouses us in right and truth and justice; in love and mercy and fidelity.
Dare we, then, do any less for each other? What does it mean to be in covenant with each other in justice and truth and right; in love, and mercy, and in fidelity? WISDOM tell us: love with a love that is powerful as death; with a passion as strong as death itself? What does it mean to love each other with a love so powerful it bursts into flame and burns like a raging fire. You can’t buy that kind of love. And once you have it and know it, you can’t quench it with water nor drown it with a flood.
The reading from Sirach tells us: “I directed my whole being toward her, (Wisdom) and in purity I found her. I had a heart for her from the beginning. For this reason I will never be abandoned. My guts (my very being), my guts were stirred to seek her; for this reason I gained a desired possession.”
In tomorrow’s Gospel story, Jesus seems to have to go out of His way to visit Martha and Mary in their home. We each need to know where our “Bethany” is – our home spot where Jesus comes. The place where we minister to the weary Christ and feed our hungry Guest…. where we are fed daily by the Word at Eucharist, lectio and time spent at the feet of Jesus … when we savor the Word in the light – and that’s contemplation!
We don’t have to stop cooking and sewing; teaching, gardening or doing the data entries or bookkeeping. We seek to take on a contemplative stance which extends into the time we are involved in the activities that fill our days in service to others. This contemplative attitude becomes ME. Contemplation is not something we DO; it is what we ARE. Wisdom says: “I will lead you into the desert and I will espouse you.”
In the desert, two very different kinds of birds thrive. The vulture sees nothing but dead and stinking carcasses. The hummingbird seeks the lovely blossoms of the cactus plant. The vultures live on the dead past. The hummingbird lives on the fragrant present. Each bird finds what it is looking for. So, too, do we. It’s a choice we make.
Which do you choose to be: a vulture or a hummingbird?
February 10th, Benedictine Communities of Women had the privilege of celebrating the Solemnity of St. Scholastica – twin sister to St. Benedict … we are thankful for this relaxing of the church’s regulation that no feast will take the place of a Sunday liturgy … And, we are grateful for our monastic vocations … pray that more women will be open to the voice of the Spirit and consider a call to the religious life … yes, all orders not only Benedictines … pray for our postulant and novice …