Monday, April 6, 2015

Pointing the Way

This Easter I ran across an article online that caught my attention. (you can read the whole article here) It was about Lasse Sprang Olsen, a stunt man and self acknowledged atheist, who because of his near brush with death, set on a course to learn how to truly pray.  This search brought him to the cross - literally.  On Good Friday, 2014, he was one of those who participated in the annual crucifixion event in the Philippines. God answered his deepest desire and become present to Olsen in a way that he could "talk" to God.

Although I would never recommend his path,  Olsen's story intrigues me because I feel that his journey mimics the monastic journey.  Granted the monastic journey takes a life time - not 14 minutes on the cross. (One could also argue that Olsen's experience of God was also the product of his life's journey.) But I believe that the result is the same: with God's grace, one is freed from the fear of death and can become a friend of God - an intimate like Moses and Olsen who talked to God face to face.  This is what the monastery as St. Benedict's School of Love can teach those who have faith and perseverance.

Olsen did not "believe" in the traditional sense of the word.  He was not even "churched." But even in his atheism, he had faith.  This is the true Faith that St Paul speaks of in Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Many people think they must be solid beliefs in God before they really start an effort to find God.  This is blatantly untrue and Olsen's story attests to this.  More important than any adherence to dogma is a heart openly seeking truth.  God who is Truth will answer that search.

I do not know how or why Olsen suddenly was absorbed into the love of God - but the experience happened.  And if it did so once - it can and will happen again.  His painful agony left him and only God remained.  He left his "old self" behind and put on Christ, the crucified.  He was transformed.

The monastery also offers a way to union with  God.  It does so through a life that is ordinary, laborious and obscure.(Constitution of the OCSO, chapter 3:5)  Through this life we seek the grace to leave behind the old self with its well worn ego and put on a new self that is made in God's very likeness.  We do this slowly; in community; and with prayerful attention to our manner of living and the movements of our hearts.  We seek a life in union with God so that we may offer the world a place of continual prayer.

If you are a young woman seeking to find out more about our life of prayer and our contemplative path to God, email  and attend a Monastic Experience Weekend happening this year - May 28th - May 31, 2015 .

Friday, April 3, 2015

Do Not Mourn for Me

A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children... (Luke 23:27-27)

Good Friday, 2015

Today Christians remember the Lord's passion.   Our Lenten journey has reached its climax and the atmosphere becomes drier and more desolate.  Now even the bells at the monastery stop.  There are only clappers summoning us to prayer.  The Lord is no longer in the sanctuary.  There is an emptiness that pervades all the buildings. Our prayer sounds hollow in a church where the tabernacle has been abandoned by the Lord's Holy Presence.  Perhaps nothing so dramatically testifies to the validity of that Real Presence as when It is removed.

Later this afternoon we will participate in the Passion of Christ.  As a community we reenact the betrayal, trial, torture, and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.  Every year, we go through this ritual and rightly attest to and atone for the collective human evil that crucified the Son of God - the Son of Mary - the righteous one who was without sin.  However even in the midst of this, we will venerate the cross with bows, prostrations, and kisses.  Why?  Because it is through this cross that the salvation of the world is secured.  Jesus suffered and died so that we could be united to His Abba, His God and our God.

This year, I hear Jesus say all the more louder, "Do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children..."  So I ask, "Do we weep for ourselves, the world,  and the children?" Even though we as Christians affirm that the victory is already won and Satan has been vanquished, evil still seems to dominates the world and remains in our fears, doubts, prejudices, and hardheartedness.   Daily we are battered with news of atrocities, wars, and poverty - yet it does not penetrate a thick skin of what Pope Francis has termed "global indifference." A collective numbness holds back our tears. Do we want to look the other way and pretend none of this exists or that it only existed in 1st century Palestine.  Perhaps all this messiness is something we can project on certain nations or ethnic groups so as not to impugn our high tech post modern liberal rational society.

But Jesus doesn't let us off the hook.  "No," He says to the professional mourners - "do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and your children." Perhaps he is also saying, "Be converted.  Look to yourself.  There is no gloss that can hide the hypocrisy of the heart. Do not lament my death while refusing to recognize the systemic disease of a society where efficiency trumps love, materialism triumphs over human dignity, and superficiality silences truth.  I die so that you may Live."

Let us try to live this life that Jesus has given us and not cower in fear and indifference, but accept that we can make a difference.  Our deeds do not have to be great: just every day small acts of hope, courage, and self sacrifice that contribute to the building up of what is generous and noble in the human heart.

Sr Suzanne