About Sr. Nun Other

May 16, 2012, completed my 30th year as a Sister. It was both a milestone and just another day in an interesting journey. Some of those thirty years included singing with Gloriae Dei Cantores, marching in Spirit of America band, and serving on our Sisters Council. As a monastic, I live surrounded by beauty and within a frame work of opportunity and possibility. I'm sixty-four (much to my surprise) and extremely grateful for my life as a sister - past, present, and future.

Saints Cyril and Methodius Day – February 14th

Ss Cyril & Methodius, University of Skopje

Celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox Church on May 11th, the Catholic and Anglican churches chose a February feast day for the two brothers, Cyril and Methodius. Born in Thessalonica, Greece, both men spent the majority of their missionary years in Eastern Europe and were instrumental in the translation of the Gospels into Slavic languages.

Cyril (825-869) was primarily a philosopher and later an ordained priest. Methodius (826-884) served five years as governor of a Slavic region in the Greek empire and eventually became a monk. In 861, both men traveled as missionaries to Russia.

Cyril developed the Cyrillic alphabet, which enabled the Slavic translation of the Psalms and the New Testament and gave the brothers’ the ability to preach and celebrate Mass. They wrote a Slavic Civil Code as well to improve the lives of the common people. The Cyrillic alphabet is still used in modern Russia and other Slavic nations. For their dedication and work, Cyril and Methodius earned respect and the title “Apostles to the Slavs.”

Both men suffered for their faith and came under the scrutiny of the church hierarchy with much of the controversy instigated by German clergy. A contributing factor was that Saints Cyril and Methodius served the people as one of them. Called to Rome and forced to defend their actions, the papacy declared emphatically for the two brothers and not only exonerated them but sought their consecration as bishops.

Cyril died before his consecration and Methodius, though consecrated, was deposed by a German synod and imprisoned for two years. They lived, as Christian Saints often do, misunderstood for their zeal and venerated after death for that very same unquenchable love for God.

Star Struck

A sleepless night. Thoughts invade, sore muscles rebel, and I’m cold. Time to relocate. I quietly grab pillow and blankets and head downstairs to the couch, hoping a change of venue will help.

I sit for a while, looking out the window.  The wind ruffles leafless branches creating a layer of graceful movement beneath the clouds.  The stars shine particularly bright doused as they are with moonlight.

A memory taps me on the shoulder. The stars. My brother, when four years old, called them “tars.” He became the star of family folklore while toasting marshmallows over a campfire one night. With a clear voice, he announced, “The parks look like the tars up in the ky.”

We found the missing letters cute and funny, and they were. But now I recognize the profound observation of a sensitive four-year-old. God brought the stars down to earth for him that night for a closer look. The sparks looked like the stars up in the sky.  How beautiful and wise and straightforward.

It reminds me to listen carefully and take my time, from one heart to another.

Confession of St. Peter – January 18th

Christ Giving the Keys to St Peter (Giovanni Battista Castello, 1598)

Jesus asked, “But what about you?” And Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”  Matthew 16:15-17

Peter listened, heard, and reacted, just as he had when first called to discipleship. His legacy is that of a man of flesh, capable of a bold declaration of belief and equally capable of losing faith in a moment of fear and weakness.  Luke 22:54-62 describes Peter’s denial of the Lord he loved and followed: “Woman, I do not know him.” And he denied not once, but three times.  Still he is the rock upon which Christ built His church and to whom He gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

Today we love and honor Peter for his humanness, his weakness made strong through faith, and his life restored by forgiveness.

Epiphany of Joy

Epiphany is a Greek word meaning phenomenon, appearance, making clear, or the dawning of an unexpected light. For an interlude between Christ’s birth and baptism, we celebrate the visit of the Magi, three wise men from the East. We call them wise because they recognized that a star led to an Infant King, one worthier than any earthly monarch. By instinct and a dream, they refuted a dark ruler of evil design and protected the new born and His family. They brought gifts, valuable and symbolic: gold to honor His Kingship, frankincense as a sign that He is God, and myrrh foreshadowing His death and subsequent resurrection. We add them to our crèche, opulent in dress and royal in manner, somehow at home in the lowly manger with shepherds and sheep, and a child asleep on a bed of hay. Epiphany – a day when God opened his arms to all mankind and graciously invited us to belong to Him.

Feast of St. John the Apostle – December 27th

 

 

John, the Beloved Disciple, the youngest and perhaps the most vulnerable was born c. AD 6 in Bethsaida, Galilee, Roman Empire. His parents were Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman and Salome (or Joanna), a holy woman who cared for the circle of disciples. John was the younger brother of James the Greater, also among the first disciples called by Jesus.  The two young fishermen, though generally calm and gentle by nature, were called Boanerges (sons of thunder) by Jesus. A gospel story tells of their demand to call down fire on an unbelieving Samaritan town, but Jesus rebuked them for their anger.  Mark 9:38, Luke 9:54   James was the first Apostle martyred, and John lived over half a century beyond his brother’s death.

The Bible records several significant incidents that John personally witnessed, among them the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration of Christ, and his presence in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Peter and John were sent by Jesus to prepare for the final Passover meal, the Last Supper, at which John sat next to Jesus. Of the group of close Apostles, only John chose to remain at the foot of the cross. And from that cross, Jesus placed the care of His mother, Mary in his hands.

The Apostle Paul referred to John, along with Peter and James the Great, as the “pillars of the church.”  John was a prolific writer, and traditionally, the Biblical author of the Gospel of John, the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation.

He was the only one of the original Twelve to die a natural death, although legends of near death by poisoning and a miraculous escape from a vat of boiling oil exist. Roman authorities banished John to the Greek Island of Patmos, where according to tradition, he wrote the Book of Revelation.  Saint John died c. AD 100, aged 93-94, place unknown. In our hearts, he remains the young and beloved disciple who never left His Savior’s side.

Advent II

With whom do you identify this Advent? Perhaps it’s Mary or Joseph, misunderstood and fearful of the unknown. Or one of the angels, lending your voice in adoration and gratitude. How about a shepherd, watching his flock by night, wishing for a more lucrative occupation?

You could be a traveler from a distant land, bringing your gift of a wounded heart or a preoccupied innkeeper, too busy for kindness.  I must confess I identify with the sheep that strayed, who wandered off, just before the action started.  And even as I wander, I wish I were the Christmas star, guided by instinct to the One who offers hope and joy.

We’re all these things –and more and less- but Jesus came to all of us. For each of us. And such a Love as His remains forever.

 

Feast of St. Ambrose – December 7

Today we honor Saint Ambrose and his many contributions to our faith. Known as the Father of Western Hymnody, he left a prolific number of song texts, many of them familiar to modern worshipers. He also promoted Antiphonal chant, a style in which one side of the choir answers in response to the other.

He was born c. 340 AD in Augusta Treverorum, in the Roman province of Gaul. A beautiful legend surrounds his infancy, here described: While asleep in his cradle, a swarm of bees settled on his face. Without harming the child, they deposited a single drop of honey, then flew away. His father, standing nearby, declared this a sign of Ambrose’s future eloquence, a man with a “honeyed tongue.”

Ambrose followed his father’s example of public service. After studying literature, law, and rhetoric in Rome, he became the governor of Liguria and Emilia, which had headquarters in Milan. Saint Ambrose served as governor until 374 AD, at which time he was named Bishop of Milan. Neither baptized nor a theologian, Ambrose vehemently refused the office. He hid in the house of a colleague, but a letter from the Emperor Gratian convinced the friend to release Ambrose from his protection. Within a week, Ambrose was baptized, ordained, and consecrated as Bishop of Milan. A Nicene Christian, Ambrose as Bishop was at odds with the then-popular Arian heresy. Arians did not submit to the tenants of the Nicene Creed and therefore undermined the official church.

Ambrose, however, was not rigid in smaller matters and felt that liturgy was the servant of the people and the enhancer of worship. He believed in following local liturgical custom, which prompted him to say, “When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not.” Sound familiar? We introduced this doctrine into everyday life with the phrase, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

The life of Saint Ambrose influenced and supported our faith. He was generous, a consoler and instrument of hope, eloquent in word and manner, and a defender of truth. He died on April 4th, 397 at the age of 57, in the city of Milan.

Among his beautiful texts we sing today are, At the Lamb’s High Feast, Before the Ending of the Day, Holy God, Thy Name We Bless and Hark! A Thrilling Voice Proclaiming.

Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra – December 6th

Nicholas was born March 15th, 270, in the city of Patara, Asia Minor, then part of the Roman Empire.  He died on December 6th, 343, at the age of 73 in Myra, Roman Empire. His family was Greek Christian and reportedly quite wealthy.  Because he lived during a turbulent time in Roman history, written records of St. Nicholas’ life are few and writings of his own were not preserved. However, the essence of this exemplary man survived, and he remains greatly loved throughout the world.

Even as a child, Nicholas was drawn to scripture and prayer. His uncle, also named Nicholas, was Bishop of Patara. He recognized the spiritual maturity and piety of his nephew, and ordained him first a reader and then priest while still a young man. He made a pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine, and upon his return was appointed Bishop of Myra.

When his parents died, Saint Nicholas distributed his inheritance to the poor and afflicted. Many legends surround his anonymous giving, and here is one example:  A man had three daughters, and insufficient money to provide dowries, so the sisters remained unmarried.  Their father, feeling he had no choice, considered selling them into servitude.  St. Nicholas, learning of their plight, made three secret visits to their home, each time tossing a bag of gold coins through a window opening, one for each daughter’s dowry.

Other such stories exist, evidence that Saint Nicholas was both gentle and kind, a generous man with a heart for the poor. He is Patron Saint of children, sailors, fishermen, merchants, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, and nations such as Russia and Greece.

 

Feast of St. Andrew – November 30

Saint Andrew, Community of JesusSaint Andrew was a fisherman by trade, called to be an Apostle of Christ and martyred upon a cross form called crux decussate (X-shaped cross or “saltire.”)  His crucifixion took place mid to late 1st century at Patras, Achaia, Roman Empire.  The saltire, also known as Saint Andrew’s Cross, is the central figure on the flag of Scotland, of which Andrew is Patron Saint.

Andrew, whose name in Greek means manly and brave, was born in 6 BC in the village of Bethsaida along the Sea of Galilee.  A faithful and uncomplicated man, he led an extraordinary life of missionary work.  Some scholars believe that he preached along the Black Sea, as far as Kiev and on to Novgorod. Saint Andrew became Patron Saint of the Ukraine, Romania, and Russia.

In the Orthodox tradition, Believers refer to Andrew as protokletos, or First Called.  This claim is substantiated in scripture, specifically John: 40-42: Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John (The Baptist) said. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” Then he brought Simon to Jesus.

Matthew’s scriptural account tells a slightly different story. We read in Matthew 4:18-20 the following:  As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” And at once they left their nets and followed him.

Whether called first or simultaneously first with his brother Peter, Saint Andrew is an example of humility.  There is little record of his interactions with Jesus and the other disciples; however, we know that it was he who told Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes. Andrew was also one of four disciples who approached Jesus on The Mount of Olives to inquire about signs of Jesus’ return. Neither gregarious nor impetuous like his more famous brother, Peter, he served Jesus with a quiet and sincere heart. Tradition, rooted in ancient writings praise Saint Andrew for his great love of the Cross and his Savior.

To Be a Pilgrim

I’m grateful for the first Thanksgiving. The harvest feast prepared by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony in 1621 is a testimony to our ability to set aside differences. Surviving documents that reference the meal speak of wildfowl, corn for bread or porridge, venison, wild turkeys, eels, lobster and other dried or smoked fish.  And vegetables! Turnips, carrots, onions, squash, and pumpkins for any early vegetarians. Working together, they plucked chestnuts, walnuts, and beechnuts from the forest.

I’m convinced the key to the holiday’s longevity is gratitude. It shines through our hearts in a moment of unity. We sit down and enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, Grandma’s green bean recipe, Mom’s candied sweet potatoes, and Aunt Nancy’s gravy from a can that fools us all with its deliciousness. Whatever traditions, including small deceptions, stories, and family photo albums that appear on this unique celebration call us together. Not every day, not every hour but for a while, we dwell in love, harmony, and safety.

We’re all pilgrims, really, searching for a sacred place of joy, on a metaphorical journey of moral and spiritual significance. We don’t always exemplify the miracle of fellowship found at the First Thanksgiving, but neither have we forgotten it.