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Archive for December, 2010

In 1992 Joan Chittister, OSB published commentary on The Rule of Benedict. This rule is an outline for life in monastic community. Chittister’s interpretations bring this ages-old text into modern context, and she challenges her readers to live their faith more intentionally. Her words have taught me much about the discipline of what it means to live a life in service to God and his people.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 35: Kitchen Servers of the Week:

The members should serve one another. Consequently, no members will be excused from kitchen service unless they are sick or engaged in some important business of the monastery, for such service increases reward and fosters love…

Benedict leaves very little to the imagination or fancy of the spiritually pretentious who know everything there is to know about spiritual theory and think that is enough. Benedict says that the spiritual life is not simply what we think about; it is what we do because of what we think. It is possible, in fact, to spend our whole lives thinking about the spiritual life and never develop one. We can study church history forever and never become holier for the doing. There are theology courses all over the world that have nothing whatsoever to do with the spiritual life. In the same way, we may think we are a community or assume we are a family but if we do not serve one another we are, at best, a collection of people who live alone together.

So Benedict chooses the family meal to demonstrate that point of life where the Eucharist becomes alive for us outside of chapel. It is in kitchen service that we prepare good things for the ones we love and sustain them and clean up after them. It was woman’s work and Roman men were told to do it so that they too, with their own hands and over their own hot fires, could know what it takes to spend their own lives to give life to the other.

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Artist Mother

I wish I could capture all of it, that a sort of memory existed where I could save every blasted moment:

The pinkish haze of the colored twinkle lights that illuminate the living room from the scrawny potted cypress leaning under the weight of sentimental ornaments.
The low rumble of the wood stove as embers of pine and pecan radiate ominous, oppressive warmth.
The unbearable anticipation of the greatness of my husband, as he sleeps off this latest illness. Do I have enough faith not to care whether he succeeds or fails?
The way I love him even when he disappoints me, and especially when he surprises me.
The littlest one on the bottom bunk in a nest of blankets, snuggled under a canopy made from monkeys and gauzy scarves dangling from the slats above.
The bigger one with her long legs sprawled over the railings up top, the mystery of what she has yet to know escaping in sleep-drunk proclamations from her dreams.
The way they both seem to grow before my eyes, how every day they seem to know more.

And in the cupboards, in the closets, in drawers and baskets and boxes, all the projects waiting silent and impatient…for this too shall pass.
“Shape me! Sculpt me!” Brushes, paints, paste, paper, metal and fiber beckon from their exile.
“Later,” I murmur. Then I declare more firmly, “Not now!”
But there is only now, I know.
So I force myself towards sleep, disregarding all the nearly forgotten brilliance I embodied just an hour ago as I gazed at the bathroom mirror.
And every day I seem to know less.

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