Evocation – All Saints – Solemn Profession of Sr. Gertrude Feick – November 1, 2021
Let us run to learn
How to love and run;
Let us run to Love.
(WH Auden, A Christmas Oratorio)
You have been ‘running’, not running away but running towards. ‘Running’, a striking symbol for the monastic journey and for the spiritual pilgrimage in general: running to learn…running to love…running to learn how to love. There are four passages just in the Prologue of the Rule alone where St. Benedict uses the image of ‘running’, for St. Benedict knows that God delights in the one who ‘runs’, in the one who responds not with sluggishness of spirit, not with resistance, but with desire and longing, desire and longing to be God’s incarnate vessel of love and mercy.
Here are the four texts from the Prologue of the Rule:
“Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death seize hold of you” (#13).
“If we wish to dwell in the tent of his kingdom we shall not arrive unless we run there by good deeds” (#22).
“We must run and do now what will profit us for all eternity” (#44).
“Truly as we advance in this way of life and faith, our hearts open wide, and we run with unspeakable sweetness of love on the path of God’s commandments…” (#49).
No apathy, no lethargy, no hemming and hawing, no thinking something to ‘death’, no we are to ‘run’…for love draws the heart and the heart can only respond with a ‘yes’ and with hurrying, hurrying like Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10), to see the Lord, to encounter the Lord, for this is life, this is salvation, this is how love grows.
Recently, I was looking over an issue of Cistercian Studies Quarterly and there was a newly translated sermon by Rancé, the Abbot of La Trappe, speaking to his community in the 17th century. This sermon is on the importance of ‘running’ while we are given the light of life, the light to see the way of truth and love. Dr. David Bell who translated this sermon writes in his introduction: “It is not just the actions themselves that constitute running, but the disposition and frame of mind in which they are carried out” (CSQ, vol. 56.1, 2021, p.7). Attitude, the interior posture, the disposition of a wide open heart, this prompts us to run with the delight of love because we have tasted the goal…To run because we have experienced love, God’s love…To run with the grace given so that our heart may be converted, yes converted to God’s ways of seeing and loving.
Dear Gertrude, we are here because you are taking this step of pronouncing your solemn vows…You know what you are doing, you know what you are surrendering…you are aware that this step is a leap of faith (as every vocation is a leap of faith)….And it is a step you discerned and are ready to take. There is no way you could say ‘yes’ without God silently and, with love, bidding you forth. You have heard, you have experienced, and you are running with the grace given, not without struggle and suffering…but the grace is stronger and the love, the transforming love cannot be quenched.
My dear Gertrude, I conclude with these words of Abbot Rancé. He is exhorting his brothers to ‘run since God commands them to do so’ and God desires all of us ‘to strive unceasingly’ for love’s sake. And God, the Abbot writes, “will tolerate no mediocrity, no listlessness, no slothfulness, and no negligence” (p.21).
And, Abbot Rancé continues: “Run, lest night come upon you before you have finished your course. Run, then, with so much speed, so fleet of foot, and with so much perseverance that you may receive the crown that God never refuses to obedient and faithful souls” (p.21).
We all are part of the ‘communion of saints’, these faithful and hopeful men and women who go before us, they have run the race having offered their lives for the sake of the gospel, in the end, for the sake of love. They, dear Gert, along with your community, everyone gathered here, and the many present in spirit, are with you each step of the way as we run together ‘with the unspeakable sweetness of love’ towards the goal of seeing God, and face to face (Prologue, #4). Amen!
Sr. Kathy DeVico, OCSO, Abbess