Sunday, April 30, 2023

On Monastic Stability

Monastics take three vows when they make profession: conversion of life, obedience, and stability.

When I began to learn about each in greater depth, I had an instinct that stability would be the most challenging for me. The vow of stability means we commit ourselves to a particular monastery and community. Or, another way to say it, from Pema Chödrön:

It's best to stick to one thing and let it put you through your changes.

That's hard for anyone, and it's really hard for perfectionistic/idealistic Val.

In August it will be eight years since I entered the community.  And I have thought about running away at least 800 times. Or, as Joan Chittister writes:

When a monastic makes a vow of stability it is a vow designed to still the wandering heart.

Because it's that 801st moment of grace that gets me every time. And these past few weeks, I have been having a grace-filled experience of stability. I alluded to it in my last post.

Watching spring arrive in the natural world would be a source of joy for me anywhere I planted myself. But now that I have been at the Mount for eight springs, I am starting to notice things. I can tell that the little green leaves popping up will soon be fully blooming irises. I know that the forsythia became its beautiful yellow a little earlier last year than this year. And then, there's this tulip.

When you walk into our old convent where I work, there's a row of green along a fence. In the spring it's daffodils; come summer it will be mint. And right after the daffodils begin to bloom, there's this red tulip. When I saw it a week ago, I realized that it stops me in my tracks each year.

I love this tulip; I think it's just gorgeous. And if I weren't here each spring, I wouldn't have the opportunity to see it, to let it delight me. That's the gift of stability.

The 801st grace always comes. Alleluia!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Pax in Terra: A Meditation from Pema Chödrön

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