May 30, 2021
Ana Cloughly, OSB, Sisters of Benet Hill Monastery, Colorado Springs, CO
The Heart of the Matter
Doctrinal development is one of my favorite ways of studying Church history. I read the efforts of Church Fathers and Mothers as they try with a sincere desire to grasp the mystery of the Triune God through reason. In these often-roving confessions and dissertations of our wise predecessors, I find interesting ideas but little real time knowledge to which I can relate.
The Scriptures are my greater love. In them, God is known in fire, cloud, the radiance of Moses’ face and in a small whisper (Elijah at Horeb). In the gospels, God is made flesh in Jesus and dwells among us, sharing with us the love of the Father though is very being. Jesus preaches, teaches, heals, and parties (wedding feast at Cana), cries and dies, is raised from the dead and as we read last week, pours out the Holy Spirit on the believers. Most significant for today is that the risen Christ sends the eleven to baptize in the name of the Most Holy Trinity.
I love the image of the eleven just standing there watching Christ ascend. Matthew has a very interesting little detail that really captures my imagination. He says, “When they saw him, they worshiped him, but they doubted”. They doubted what? Reading the first reading, Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40 and the Epistle, Romans 8:14-17 might offer some insight.
Both readings deal with a like subject, God has chosen the people. Moses tells the Israelites they are chosen to be the people of God. The stipulation is that they keep the commandments and statutes of the Law. Paul has an even more fantastic claim. He tells the Romans and us that God has not chosen us like slaves but as adopted children, as heirs. In other words, those who are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have all the rights and responsibilities of God’s own son, Jesus the Christ. The stipulation is of course, that the eleven teach everything that Jesus taught them. Christians today are also heirs by virtue of our baptism in the name of the Trinity. How do we, I live out a life of baptism in the name of a Triune God? My personal challenge is asking myself “How do I live a life committed to a mystery I can barely grasp?” How do any of us?
I love that the eleven doubted. Even in the very presence of Christ, their humanity seeks something more convincing. I am in great company. Nevertheless, God is not a puzzle to be solved. God chooses us. We call the Trinitarian nature of God a mystery and indeed it is because we do not understand how three persons in One God works. However, God chooses us not to be unknowable but to be known.
In a Benedictine monastery, our primary goal is to seek God in prayer and community. We may study theology, but our true seeking comes in the experience of God, all of God in our day-to-day living and our commitment to our friendship with God. Here is the most beautiful mystery, God wants to be known. Today’s celebration of the Most Holy Trinity gives the Church and the whole world a chance to awaken to their chosen-ness, awaking to a God who wants to be known. I will end this reflection with a section from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Hymn of the Universe.
“Radiant Word, blazing Power, you who mold the manifold so as to breathe your life into it; I pray you, lay on us those your hands — powerful, considerate, omnipresent, those hands which do not (like our human hands) touch now here, now there, but which plunge into the depths and the totality, present and past, of things so as to reach us simultaneously through all that is most immense and most inward within us and around us.”
Sister Ana Cloughly is the Director of the Contemplative Vision Ministry at Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs, CO. She facilitates courses in contemplative prayer practices and Christian mysticism, leads group retreats and is a Spiritual Director. She is a member of the planning committee for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Federation of St. Scholastica.
Sister Ana's reflections begin May 30 and continue through August.