On the feast of St Matthias, 14 May, our postulant received the Benedictine habit and was given a new name.  Below is Mother Abbess’ talk in Chapter on that occasion.

 

Feast of St. Matthias, 2013

 

In today’s liturgy of the Feast of St. Matthias, we are given clear evidence of God’s elective love, a theme prominent also in the Prologue of Our Holy Father St.Benedict to his Rule:  “What can be sweeter to us, dearest brethren, than this voice of Our Lord inviting us?  Behold, in his loving mercy the Lord shows us the way of life.”  Ecce pietate sua demonstrat nobis Dominus viam vitae.  We also choose, or rather elect to respond to this invitation.  A monastic vocation is, therefore, the meeting of two choices, God’s and ours.  In choosing to follow Christ in the monastic life, a person sets aside other choices, which could have brought natural fulfilment and even the plaudits of the world.  Instead, she seeks to walk carefully in the truth, to study beauty, to practise goodness and engage in self-conquest, to become “communis”.  Why?  Because of the surpassing worth of knowing and loving Christ Jesus, who first knows and loves us, drawing us into “his own relational life of knowledge and love”[1] with the Father and the Holy Spirit. A monastic vocation is the meeting of two loves.

 

Since Christ has drawn her, he intends to give himself to her, in a union which is the normal flowering of the life of prayer and the gift of self. The Opus Dei, lectio divina, the prayer in the secret of the cell, the constant mindfulness of God in reverence and love, all till the earth of the heart, clearing away the thicket of interior thoughts, until it lies clean and quiet, in readiness for the rain of the Holy Spirit, for the harvest yield.  Such is a patristic image for the receptivity of the Blessed Virgin at the Annunciation: the fulfilment of the promise is already present in the expectation.

 

There is, in paradox, an immediacy about this waiting for God.  The sense of urgency springs from a consuming love of Christ that does not refuse to share his suffering.  Translated into a zeal to cast his fire upon the earth by intercession and sacrifice, it flows out into service of the community, in an intelligent understanding of divergent needs, in the communication of the peace and affection of Jesus Christ.

 

There is a saint of the 13th century who embodies and exemplifies this way of being.  “Her whole prayer experience,” writes a biographer, “like the liturgy, was characterised by joy, praise, entry into the mystery of Christ and union with the Trinity in divine indwelling.”[2]  Rooted in the Opus Dei and scripture, she had a profound and mysterious relationship with Christ, whom she called the Cantor cantorum.  Music was, for her, “a bridge between heaven and earth,” a “meeting place for all members of the Mystical Body.”[3]

 

Teacher in the Abbey school, spiritual counsellor with a gift for friendship, she gave cheerful service, too, in ordinary housework and towards the sick. It appears that her conversation was so gentle and kindly that her friend St. Gertrude said : “Everyone loved her and wanted to be with her.” “Blessed be God for giving us such a mediatrix, who shows a mother’s tenderness…by her constant prayers, zealous instructions and consolations.”[4]

 

I am speaking, of course, of ST.MECHTILDE of Hackeborn, who will be your patron in the monastic life.  Her name means “strength in battle”, yet she could also see herself, with the charm of self-deprecation, as “a trusty little dog who always returns to its master, even after frequent rebuffs.”[5]  A chosen confidant of the Heart of Jesus, she hears him tell her: “Your soul is always enclosed in my Heart and mine in thee.”[6]  As you go on in the monastic life, keep in your heart your dear parents, family and friends, along with the needs of the community, the Church and the world, so that we may all share in the grace of your vocation.  St Mechtild prayed: “‘God, be pleased to grant that my heart would always be a vineyard agreeable to your Heart.’  The Lord responded, ‘I am doing all that you desire.’  And immediately she saw herself within his sinless Heart.  There she walked as in a magnificent vineyard which the angels, like a wall, protected.  In the middle of the vineyard was a fountain beside which the Lord was seated. From his Sacred Heart, as from a source, water poured rapidly into this fountain where it seemed to draw her so that he might pour out on mankind desire for spiritual rebirth.”[7]


[1] Sr Maria of the Angels, OP, Lectio divina in a  secular agein Nova et vetera,11, 1, 2013

[2] Sr Ann Marie Caron, RSM, Taste and see the goodness of the Lord: Mechtild of Hackeborn in Hidden Springs, Medieval Religious women, 3. Cistercian Publications, 1995

[3] Sr Jeremy Finnegan, OP, Saint Mechtild of Hackeborn: Nemo CommuniorinPeaceweavers, Medieval Religions women, 2. Cist. Publs, 1987

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Caron, op. cit.

[7] Ibid.

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