The Religious life is way of living the Christian life. It is a particular way of living out the call to be a Christian and for a person to live out their baptismal promises. It is not therefore something exotic. At root this life is a call to prayer and service. God has called many people through the centuries to the life of a ‘Religious’. To those who hear such a call, it is demanding yet joyful, a way to find God and relate to the challenges of our 21st-century society.What is a vocation?
Jacob Wrestles at Peniel
22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ 27 So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ 28 Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ 29 Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.Genesis 32
So just some random thoughts:
- Jacob is alone before … Maybe Jacob has to be alone to wrestle with God? Sometimes we need to be alone with God.
- God changes Jacob’s name to Israel to indicate a vocation “for you have striven with God”. In baptism, God gives us a name (and a vocation), we just need to listen for it.
- God blesses Israel after they wrestle.
I really like this passage as an illustration of the solitary life. Being alone for Jesus. Being called by name. Being blessed. (And, maybe, being a blessing.)
I have been thinking about the various words that describe solitary life. So I looked up solitude. And it has this to say about the positive effects of being alone:
Freedom is considered to be one of the benefits of solitude; the constraints of others will not have any effect on a person who is spending time in solitude, therefore giving the person more latitude in their actions. With increased freedom, a person’s choices are less likely to be affected by exchanges with others.
That sounds like a description of the monastic enclosure and of solitude in a religious sense. In the end, it is all about freedom.
This morning I was thinking about silence. In particular, how the modern mind sees silence in terms of what I do. It is easy to see solitude and silence in a mechanical way: the absence of people and noise. But, in the spiritual sense, one can be in solitude and still have contact with people: “less likely to be affected by exchanges with others”.
The end of both solitude and silence is greater freedom to be with Jesus. They are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.
I thought I would answer this prompt. Not because I have any profound ideas or anything. Just because!?
So, do I believe in fate? First I think the question is using “believe” differently than I would. “Believe” is about living with paradox rather than making it something I know. It is a resolution to move ahead even if the end is uncertain. Maybe a little, “Just live as if”!?
Second is the issue of “fate”. The short answer is “no”. Why? Where is freedom if all is set in stone? The long answer? Where is my accountability for my actions if they are from outside? Freedom is radical and scary if it is real. Fate, to me, is an escape from “me”.
So, anyway ….
So I started my day at 4am. I had the most beautiful time of meditation and then said Morning Prayer. I watched the sunrise across the Bay. But now, at 10am, I am ready for lunch!
I really like an early start to the day. By nature, I am an early bird. The great thing about being solitary is that I get to organise my day my way. So lunch at 11am is ok. And, btw, I have a rest after lunch.
So … what are you reading?
I have been reading the history of the SSJE. Most interesting! It is only the English congregation. Fascinating is the idea of a Religious community involved in mission. I think we should bring back preaching missions!
The other book I have been reading is the collection of essays in The Vowed Life. The Religious Life, that is Religious vows, as a form of baptismal living. Very good!
Fr Henry Power Bull was Superior General of the Society of St John the Evangelist and the following is from the First Anglo-Catholic Congress:
The Religious Life is that state, or form, of life in which, obediently to the inspiration or call of God, a soul is consecrated to God in Jesus Christ under perpetual vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. There are many forms of this consecration, as there are also many objects with which is it is undertaken; and the Church has need of all. But strictly for the Religious state, as it exists in the Catholic Church, there is required the entire and permanent surrender of self, according to some fixed and recognised rule based upon the Evangelical Counsels, that is, upon the observance of a real spirit of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.
And about the enclosed life from the Cowley Evangelist:
It is no self-centred idle life, no dream of prayer, or following of self-will. It is a burning desire of love to die to self and to live to God, in great humility, and with an ever increasing intensity of worship and self-oblation.
Well, it is still tea but I have given it up for a little. My stomach needs a break from it. So at the moment, it is “water with bubbles”.
But, once a week, I have a macchiato at my coffee shop. It is pure delight! And my head spins for the rest of the morning.
#InstaLent Ash Wednesday
The hole was a trip. They threw me in a six-foot-by-nine-foot room with just a mattress on the floor and a toilet. During the day they would remove the mattress and make me sleep on the concrete floor because they didn’t want me to be comfortable. It was pretty inhumane to be in a room twenty-three hours a day with the light always on, but you get used to it. You become your own best company. In a weird way, you get your freedom in the hole.Mike Tyson
In antiquity as well as in the Middle Ages there was an awareness of this longing for solitude and a respect for what it means; whereas in the constant sociality of our day we shrink from solitude to the point (what a capital epigram!) that no use for it is known other than as a punishment for criminals. But since it is a crime in our day to have spirit, it is indeed quite in order to classify such people, lovers of solitude, with criminals.Kierkegaard