Adorn your bridal chamber
Well, I’m back to blogging after a Christmas “hiatus,” which is a fancy way to say that, for various reasons, I took a little break. Christmas decorations put out. Christmas decorations packed away. Organ music to brush up on for this feast, then that feast. Business matters which must be attended to in the running a big house such as ours. And, of course, underneath all that outward “stuff,” the more important interior reflection on what all this “busy-ness” is about: the Mass readings, the Christmas cards received, the manger scene in the Chapter Hall, and a beautiful live tree gracing our community room—so many outwards signs drawing one to contemplate the most amazing event in of all human history: God becoming man. Yes, God becoming one of us! God drawing so very close to us, and in such an adorable way—stretching out his arms to us in love and begging to be loved by us in return. How more amazing can you get than that?
So I am back with a question. What do you think is the hardest sacrifice a nun makes? Perhaps the vow of chastity immediately comes to mind—to deny oneself the pleasure of sexual intimacy, or maybe it’s the thought of never having a baby of your own to cradle in your arms. To forego marriage and family life. That indeed is a sacrifice, but it is not the greatest one.
Well, how about the vow of poverty? That doesn’t sound easy, either. To make do with what is provided. What if you are given something of poorer quality than you are used to, or not at all to your taste? What if you feel you really need such and such, and the Prioress says no? Sure, the community is supposed to provide for you, but what if their resources decline? What does the future hold for you? And then there is the limitations imposed by the cloister, another form of deprivation. What if you miss seeing this or that, going here or there, and you are confined to the same place, the same routine, the same people? To trust in God’s providence, and likewise to forego all the enticements of the “world,” is not easy—but the vow of poverty is not the greatest sacrifice.
Well, then, it must be the vow of obedience (a no-brainer there, it’s the only vow left!), which is the one vow we, as Dominican nuns, make and for a good reason: the other two vows are implied in this one overarching vow. Through obedience we sacrifice what is most precious to us—one’s independence, one’s free will—and strive to conquer what is so deeply rooted in our fallen nature: the propensity to put oneself, the ego, in first place, as the center around which all else revolves. My wants. My needs. My way. My whatever.
And so you may have noticed that on the homepage we put a picture of the Blessed Sacrament in the center of all else, instead of all kinds of pictures about us. This life is not about us—it’s all about God!
The amazing thing is that, when we surrender ourselves to God by doing His Will and not our own, we really don’t lose our freedom as is commonly thought. Instead we discover the joy which flows from giving oneself to another in love—a spiritual joy which can bubble up inside when one least expects it, or even when “trials and tribulations,” however big or small, come along. All authentic spousal love is sacrificial. Married people express this in one way, we express it in another way. Likewise, all true love involves a certain purity of intention: choosing friendship with the other, over merely possessing things.
So, yes, “adorn your bridal chamber.” Put Jesus in the middle, and all else will come round! Sincerely pray, “Thy Will be done,” and Jesus will enlighten you, and guide you on your way!
From our Dominican saint, Catherine de’ Ricci, whose feast day is February 4th: So daughter, if you want to be a true bride of Jesus you must do his will in all things—and you will do this if you let go of your own will in everything and love the Divine Bridegroom with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength (Letter 17).