01 January 2009

Happy New Year!!

Of course our new year began with Advent, but this is a good time to reflect on what the year has and has not been for us, and in what ways we have met the goals we set or the resolutions we made last January 1st. What God does in each of our hearts bit by bit is astounding. For the hermit it is always the small faithfulnesses which become the really amazing accomplishments. I suspect it is this way with each of us. Everyday "yesses", apparently minor acquiescences to the Spirit of God when we might as easily say yes to something else which may seem every bit as important. The daily ordering of priorities in a way which shapes our hearts, minds, and bodies over time. These are what make us into true Daughters and Sons of the living God, the One who would be incarnate in us.

My own goals this year are similar to those I wrote about last year. They are a continuation of those. My focus is on eremitical stability, what is sometimes called "custody of the cell" and also stability in my parish. Benedictine stability, as I have written before, is an interpersonal term. While it does mean perservering silently in one's cell (or one's monastery), it also implies a commitment to one's community. More about people than simply place, stability is a commitment to love in the circumstances one finds oneself, whether that involves the more solitary communion of the cell, or the love of sisters and brothers one is called to outside as well as within it. These two poles are not always easily balanced (nor are they completely separable!) and I am finding that faithfulness to the first aids in the accomplishment of the second. A second goal or resolution is to do more writing, not only about eremitism, but a bit more systematic theology and Scripture reflection. This will involve this blog, but also other publications.

May our new year be one of genuine peace and fruitfulness. Like Mary in today's Gospel we spend time pondering things in our hearts. What God does there and through us is, as already noted, truly awesome. Out of the barrenness of lives lived from our own strength and wisdom he brings new life, a new creation even, full of infinite possibilities. Sara, Mary, Elizabeth, all of them are models for us in this. We need merely believe and make those small everyday affirmations the Spirit prompts and empowers us to. At the end of another year we will be surprised at the goodness and bounty that has sprung from and within us.

Please forgive me if I reprise the prayer I made last year at this time. I find it especially "timely" (pun intended) given the events in my parish community during the last weeks:

May the God who brings life out of death, meaning out of the senseless, healing out of brokenness, light out of darkness, hope out of despair, and belonging out of lostness, touch our lives this coming year in the ways we each need. May he love us into fullness of existence and transform us into authentic and truly passionate lovers in (and of) Christ. May he bless the time we each have (by) turning chronos to kairos and bringing everything to fullness and perfection in himself. May we be attentive to him in all the times and ways we need to be, allowing the ordinary moments of everyday life to be recognized for what they are in him ---opportunities for the triumph of grace in our world. And may God bless each of us who journey together and touch one another in such diverse ways, whether within our familes, monasteries and congregations, parishes and dioceses, or via internet connections like blogs and message boards!

Peace and all good wishes for the new year from Stillsong Hermitage!!!
Laurel M O'Neal, erem dio.