The Divine Child and Spiritual Motherhood
As I look back over the series of Ordo’s* that marked this Advent and Christmas Season, I am amazed at the wealth and depth of the liturgical seasons. This is a unique grace of living in a monastery and one that is not as readily available in the busy world outside the monastery. In the monastery, we live the life of Christ in the liturgy. We long for his presence in Advent, we celebrate his birth with the Holy Family, Shepherds and Maji during the Christmas Season, and now we experience His Baptism and the coming of salvation for all human kind. The daily liturgical hours bath us in the holy remembrance of Christ’s life and Spirit. It is the primary way monastics fulfill the precept of St Paul to “put on the Mind of Christ.” Through this constant contact, we hope to be transformed into His Presence and Light for our world.
This past Advent and Christmas our liturgy was filled with references to the Divine Birth and Spiritual Motherhood. According to ancient monastic tradition, we are mothers not because of our gender, but because of our vocation. We, like the Mother of God, are Christ Bearers. Every Cistercian monastery is dedicated to Our Lady. She is the model of the ideal monk because she is the Mother of God and spent her life contemplating these things in her heart. And while she birthed Christ once in the flesh, Mary continually gave birth to Him in the spirit through her prayer and contemplation. Blessed Geurric of Igny (12th century Cistercian Abbot) has this to say, “For she who conceived God by faith promises you the same if you have faith; if you will faithfully received the Word from the mouth of the heavenly messenger you too may conceive the God whom the whole world cannot contain, conceive him however in your heart, not in your body. And yet even in you body, although not by any bodily action or outward form, nonetheless truly in your body, since the Apostle bids us glorify and bear God in our body.” (2nd Sermon for the Annunciation 27:4)
Guerric further instructs his monks, “Keep watch then, holy mother, keep watch in your care for the new-born child until Christ is formed in you who was born for you...” (3rd Sermon for Christmas, 8:5)
As we enter Ordinary Time, let us not loose touch of this great Mystery. Let us nurture the Divine Child in our hearts and our world.
*an Ordo is a list of the day's monastic prayer services, listing readings, hymns, proclamations and antiphons.