Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kyrie Eleison...

Last night the Commonwealth of Virginia executed John Allen Muhammad. I remember how he frightened us seven years ago when the media called him, “the sniper.” What he and his young friend did changed lives forever – tore at the very fabric of the human heart. There was death and grief and terror. The pair took ten lives in VA, MD and DC. The closest shooting to our monastery - the crime for which Mr. Muhammad was executed - was 6 miles away in nearby Manassas. Those were terrible days… I remember some sisters would no longer go into town. We parked buses in front of our elementary school to shield the children from the dense woods that surround our property. They were kept inside all day until the madness stopped.

Now, seven years later, the man responsible for these horrors is dead. The local paper has given the front page to the details of the execution. Why do we care what the man was wearing? That his heart stopped at 9:11 PM? I don’t understand why we do it – execute people. There is an old folk song that asks: “Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?” That question has never left me. Our Church has spoken clearly against the death penalty - that it be used only if there is no other way to secure the safety of the people. This stance is a logical extension of the sacredness of all human life “from the womb to the tomb.” It would seem that “you shall not kill” applies to the innocent as well as the guilty. Two-thousand years ago an innocent man was executed by the government. He hung between two criminals – one hard as stone and the other ready to seek forgiveness. He died with them…and for them both. He died so that death would no longer hold us hostage. In the absence of that fear, we are capable of great love. Death is a natural doorway – not a punishment. May GOD forgive John Allen Muhammad for killing those ten precious people and may GOD forgive us for killing him.

Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki

Monday, November 9, 2009

Living stones...

Today the Church celebrates the Dedication of St. John Lateran - the Holy Father's "parish" church in Rome. Though the feast seems to memorialize a specific place, the scriptures for the day are about GOD's dwelling. The prophet Ezekiel describes his vision of the "New Jerusalem" where GOD is enthroned. In the gospel JESUS cleanses the temple of thieves and shopkeepers looking to profit from religious practices. The responsorial psalm - the hinge that holds the whole feast together - returns our gaze to the kingdom in its fullness. "The waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High!"

As usual I am fixated on something in the Pauline letter. Saint Paul suggests that in addition to the temple - the one in Jerusalem and the one to be revealed in glory - there is another dwelling place for the Most High - GOD's people. "Brothers and sisters: you are GOD's building (1 Cor. 3)." GOD dwells in us - in Christ's church - in the people who, by baptism, have claimed the rights and responsibilities of embracing the Paschal Mystery. We are "living stones" - each one of us part of the foundation for the ones who come after us. This is a beautiful idea that feels true - especially in monastic life.

The monastery, Saint Benedict writes, is the domus Dei - literally, "GOD's house" (RB 31:19).We are guests during our lifetime and then past it along to the future generations. Because it belongs to GOD we take good care of EVERYTHING - we polish the chalice that is placed on the altar and are careful to leave a wet mop in the sun to dry. Everything is gift - everything belongs to GOD.

I've been thinking a lot about my sisters this weekend. If something happened to the monastery - a natural disaster or a destruction of human origin - the "monastery" would still exist. My sisters are "living stones." GOD dwells in each one and together we are a unique manifestation of the presence of the risen Christ in the world. Wherever they are, He is. So, if we ever had to start from scratch, it wouldn't matter. Yes, I love our land, our Chapel and the spaces I've called "home" (for quite some time now.) But these faithful women - living, in glory and the ones who have yet to knock on the door - constitute our "monastery." Together, we are "GOD's building" - together, we are made holy.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki