05 January 2008

Eve of the Feast of Epiphany, Resolutions for the Year

Well, it seems hardly possible that the twelve days of Christmas have passed and the New (secular) Year is hard upon us. In just another week Christmastime will have passed. I have been spending time looking over the past year (and even decades prior to that) and looking at what has happened to me, all that I have to be grateful for, how it is that God has been so very active in my life all this time much of which culminated and came together in visible ways in this past year (it was also the 40th anniversary of my baptism). While Christmas was an especially significant one for me this year in light of perpetual eremitic profession, I think in some ways Epiphany is even more meaningful to me. After all, how many times in the years leading up to perpetual profession did I fail to see God's hand at work? How often did I question whether things were proceeding according to his will? Let me say frankly that there were a number of them, and while I know for a fact not everything that occured (or failed to occur) was the will of God, Bonhoeffer's observation that ultimately nothing happens outside his will, along with Paul's that our's is a God who brings life out of death, is something I regard as completely true and without doubt. Of course it is also without doubt that his presence is often manifested in smallness, weakness, and the apparently ordinary, and sometimes I missed his quiet and everpresent epiphanies!

So, while we are supposed to come into the New Year with resolutions, because I have been focusing on what I am thankful for, I am only just now getting around to mine. So, what are they? Well, they all have to do with my eremitic life (because everything I am grateful for has to do with this vocation), and especially the unique charism that belongs to the diocesan hermit ---living into and out of that more fully. The diocesan hermit is sort of an interesting reality. She is called to be a solitary, like all hermits. And, like all Christian hermits, she is called to be a solitary-in-community. Except it is the case that her relationship with the local church, and especially with her parish are different than the hermit living in a monastery. This is also different from that of the non-canonical hermit who may or may not be accepted as representing eremitical life and is not representing this vocation (is not being a hermit) in the name of the church. (This acting in the name of the Church is not a matter of status so much as it is a matter of responsibility and others' completely appropriate expectations! The diocesan hermit does NOT belong to herself or even only to God; she belongs in a special way to her parish and diocese.) The Camaldolese describe this part of their own charism as "living together alone." For me I suppose it is more a matter of being together alone since I do not live with parishioners and yet, I am joined in communion with them in several different and profound ways.

The first of my resolutions then: to really come to know my parish, the people, their stories, lives, needs, dreams, hopes, tragedies, etc, that are part and parcel of its reality. No Christian hermit lives an emotionally impoverished life, nor one that is lacking in relationships, but I am very grateful for this community and the way they enrich me and allow me to reciprocate! Still, they are really my "new" parish, and that means I hardly know them as I would like or need to. (Let me say I am not sure HOW I will accomplish this goal AND maintain my hermit's solitude, but it should be interesting to give it a shot, no?)

The second, and related resolution: to continue to grow into my vocation to be a contemplative heart beating silently, strongly, compassionately, continuously, lovingly, and courageously in the center of this reality, in the center of the local diocesan church more generally, and in the heart of the Church universal. I have written about hermits being on the margins of society, but that is only so they may truly exist deep in the heart of God, and in the heart of his people as well, mediating God's presence in whatever ways he wills.

The third resolution then: To be completely faithful to "the discipline of the cell" which will, paradoxically, allow me to be present in and to the parish in even more fruitful ways, writing, teaching, blogging (especially scripture reflections), composing, playing violin, --- and under, with, and through it all, praying always --- contemplatively, intercessorily, and supportively.

Of course there are individual goals within each of these resolutions, goals which will be benchmarks of success or progress and I will not go into those here. When I reflect back on what this last year has been, and what I believe God wills for the new year, everything coalesces into these three related resolutions. I might summarize it as "the call to be a Camaldolese in the specific sense demanded by a vocation to diocesan eremitism".

In the meantime, all good wishes for a wonderful Epiphany, and for the remaining week of the Christmas season! Especially, prayers and good wishes for your own resolutions in this coming year!

From Stillsong I wish you Christ's Peace! May it be a source of strength and revelation to all you meet!