Tuesday, May 02, 2006

nobody... no body

I had so many selfish reasons for entering the convent. I wasn't aware (at the time) they were selfish, but am discovering it now. For one, I was sure I needed structure in my prayer life. I could not pray the daily office by myself once, let alone four times a day; my internal discipline was nonexistent. I had plenty of quiet already. I had friends and faith and beauty. Why did I think those were not enough? Or at least not what I needed? They just weren't. I needed a new way to express what God intended me to be, or so I told myself. I needed a better venue and the community looked like a fit.

I have since learned that people often visit several communities before deciding to submit an application. It never occurred to me. I never even checked out other orders. I had been welcomed here, why would I shop around? And there was that belief that God had pointed me toward this community anyway. I had taken writing classes with Madeleine L'Engle here. I had been offered (and accepted) a one-woman art exhibition. I was drawn to the wild and whacky earthiness some of the younger sisters exhibited. The older sisters scared me a little... so stern. In living among them, that's been turned upside down. The older sisters are living examples of compassionate humility. They have their priorities in vertical alignment with God. All else is secondary. And as they have aged right before my eyes, I've been given glimpses of their wry humor and gracious acceptance of this difficult transition. The younger sisters (like me) are still getting their acts together, and that's been a necessary disillusionment. I would not have traded this experience for the world.

Another thing that's been turned upside down is my reliance on the daily office (or in monastic parlance the Divine Office.) The only thing divine about it is the community of other sisters. Jesus said: "when two or three are gathered together in my name, I will be present." Sometimes it is only two or three of us, as we struggle with the language of war, of exclusively masculine divinity. The liturgy does not always feed us spiritually, and so we struggle. The ancient music, the chanting, is haunting and beautiful... but is it enough? Cross that with psalms that insist upon heaping high the corpses and it gets confusing, annoying, distracting.

So it's beginning to come down to the simplest formula of all: that the Christian life to be lived, understood, worked... has to be in some community. It's where the rubber meets the road. The body of Christ is nobody when it's only a body of one.


kpjara said...

Powerful post!

The "Body" requiring community became crystal clear to me when the "God and Me" show was a bit too comfortable. The community can be overwhelming but it's definitely what God desires and what Jesus taught.

What a journey you've had and continue to have.

Pilot Mom said...

Thank you so much, Claire Joy, for opening up and posting about yourself. It has really helped me to see you in a far different light.

I understand what you mean about community but it does bring me comfort to know that if I was the only person on the face of the earth, He would still have died for me.

Thank you again, I am seeing more and more of you! Blessings....

Anonymous said...

I sometimes read your blog and wonder at who this person is.. Certainly not the woman who raised me (I mean I am a complete f%*&-up) and I don't blame that on anyone at all. But its not who I know. As you write about Grammie, I wonder who you are. I certainly never picked up on any of the emotions you were dealing with, not that I was around as it were. I find myself tearing up(literally) cause I wonder how much I miss you, and how much I actually missed as I wandered off into my own little areas. Ah well. I can't write anymore since I am unable to properly convey how I feel. You are a wonder to me always, and I love you so much. Love Me.. (no the one who has his shit togethter)

Claire Joy said...

No, the woman who raised you was in many ways a complete f%£-up herself. But... just like you, she was doing the best she could with what she had to work with. The woman who writes these blogs is sixty years old. (Wisdom sometimes comes with aging.) I love you... all of you... down to the last DNA molecule.

HeyJules said...

"The body of Christ is nobody when it's only a body of one.:

This was the hardest thing I've ever had to learn. Why do I need church? Why CAN'T I just love and discover God on my own?

Now that I'm in church and involved in lots of different parts of it I see why. They constantly inspire me to see Him more clearly and to live my life more in line with his teachings.

It's that way at the bookclub, too. You all push me to see things I never would have and to challenge my thinking about God and how my life fits into His plan in so many ways. It's been a wonderful experience for me and I hope it has for you, as well.