Sister Marie Therese “MT” Summers, OSB, Prioress
Happy Feast of St Scholastica. I will be using my personal reflection from the words and thoughts from Sister Maria Cimperman, the wisdom of other prioresses and Pope Francis.
While participating in the Prioress conference and retreat, we heard all the concerns around demographics of our 40+ communities. We were inspired by Sister Maria Cimperman who offered hope and affirmation to all of us as we look into the unknown of our communities, which she is convinced will provide all of us potential and possibilities.
In returning from the prioress-retreat, on the Feast of the Presentation, I was deeply moved by the reading about two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, who awaited in the Temple for the fulfilment of the promise that God made to his people: the coming of the Messiah.
Then at first vespers, we will hear the familiar story from the Dialogues of St. Gregory as Benedict and Scholastica met in prayer and contemplative conversation.
There are no passive responses in these stories, they are full of movement.
Let us look at what Simeon and Anna do:
First, Simeon is moved by the Spirit.
then he sees salvation in the Child Jesus.
finally, he takes Jesus into his arms.
Anna recognizes the Messiah because of her inward movement of fidelity through prayer and her faith in the promise of a Messiah.
As for Scholastica, she is about an outward movement as she journeys to her brother’s monastery and an inward movement as she bows her head and prays from the depths of her heart, for she intuitively knew this was going to be the last of their meaningful visit about the God they both so intentionally sought in their lives.
We recognize that all their hearts burn with a deep desire for God. That is what the Holy Spirit does: enables us to discern God’s presence.
First question, what moves us?
We can also ask, who moves us? Is it the Holy Spirit, or the spirit of this world? Does the Spirit move us to see God in the ordinariness and vulnerability of these times or do we risk seeing our movement in terms of results, fulfilled dreams, success, influence, visibility, and numbers? The Spirit asks for none of this; rather for us to cultivate daily fidelity and to be attentive to the little things entrusted to our care.
How touching is the fidelity shown by Simeon and Anna! Each day they keep watch and pray, even though time passes, and nothing seems to happen. Scholastica is on fire to deepen her love of God through her visit with her brother.
Sisters and friends, let us ask, what moves us in our days? What keeps us going during these times of our unknown future, our own diminishment in numbers, our own cognitive and physical decline? Is it enthusiastic openness to the Holy Spirit? Let us today examine our interior motivations and discern our spiritual movements.
A second question: What do our eyes see?
Simeon, sees and recognizes Christ. This is the great miracle of faith: it opens eyes, transforms gazes, changes perspectives. This gaze is not naïve, fleeing reality and refusing to see problems, but one that can “look within” and “see beyond” as we are exploring, as we envision our future, that looks outward in 30 years to a monastic presence to the world even beyond that last living sister.
The eyes of the elderly Simeon and Anna, albeit dimmed by the years, see the Christ. What about us? What do our eyes see? What is our vision of our future? Are our eyes turned only inward, yearning for something that no longer exists, or are we capable of a farsighted gaze of faith, one that looks both within and beyond?
Let us embrace the future. Like Scholastica let us place ourselves into this unknown mystery in praise of God, deep faith and trust. Let us pray for eyes to see goodness and to discern the ways of God now in 2022 and beyond.
Finally, a third question: what do we take into our own arms?
Simeon and Anna took Jesus into their arms. It is a touching scene, full of meaning.
For Scholastica, she rests her head on folded hands, holding her heart’s desire to know the Divine more fully.
Do we hold the Christ in our lives and hearts, embracing the Christ as the most essential person in our lives, the very heart of our faith?
When Simeon and Anna take Jesus into their arms, Benedict and Scholastica into their hearts, they spoke words of blessing, praise, and wonder. If we lack words that bless God and other people, if we lack joy, if our enthusiasm fails, if our communal life is only a chore, it is not the fault of someone or something else.
Could it be that our arms no longer embrace the Christ? Pope Francis says:
“when that happens,
our hearts fall prey to bitterness,
to complaining about things that do not go like clockwork,
to rigidity and inflexibility. If, on the other hand, we embrace Christ with open arms, we will also embrace others with trust and humility. Then conflicts will not escalate, disagreements will not divide, and the temptation to offend the dignity of others will be overcome.” So let us open our arms to Christ and renew in fidelity our promises of obedience, stability, and daily conversion of our lives. Even, if at times, we experience fatigue and weariness, let us remain faithful. Let us proclaim in word and action that God is the center of our lives and let us press forward with joy and complete trust as we build a bridge into the future.