Sister Ainzane Juanicotena, OCSO
Monastery of Quilvo (Chile)
What is most life-giving in the Order today
‘We have received the spirit of sonship
and we cry out Abba, Father!’
(cf. Rom 8:15)
Everything that is life-giving is an undeserved gift, and the greatest gift I have received from the Order, the most life-giving, is the gift of Filiation.
Like every gift that comes from the hands of God, we savor it, through the awareness of being sinners, poor, forgiven and redeemed. Welcomed back to the Father, like the prodigal son (cf. Lk 15:11-32), or, like the girl to whom he said: talita cumi (Mk 5:41) or like Lazarus taken from the tomb (Jn 11:44); the Father welcomes us through the Son, who in his mortal days exclaimed: no one takes my life from me, I give it freely, and who in suffering learned to obey (cf. Jn 10:18. Heb 5:8).
Now we live in the midst of a global crisis in which life has been turning in an almost unsuspected way towards a chilling bleakness: a world of war, pandemics, hunger, death, hatred, a world of extreme selfishness, disintegrated and disintegrating.
The world of technological communications has also spread its wings and instant attractions and the information offered is fast, flimsy, abundant and diverse. We do not manage to process all that is offered; then, new offers come along, and we begin to mimic the pre-established way of behaving in society. We stop thinking! We stop wondering about the supernatural and the reason for things. We become numb, we get confused, we are always missing something and we become exhausted. We become the society of tiredness, we become indifferent, we lose the taste of life, we prefer not to have problems, we do not take chances, and we close ourselves to the idea that life is received. Yet, at the same time, there is a yearning desire in the human heart that cries out for an encounter with God. That recognizes that we have received life and therefore we can transmit it, because no one gives what he does not have... and only if we transmit it, life remains in us and expands towards others. Because we are the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). We carry a seal within us that cries out yearningly for this encounter with its Creator, a continuous movement dwells in us that goes towards the meeting point, between God and me, through a relationship between a You and an I, therefore, our life is made for others and only through others can we find ourselves.
Concretely we are called to look, to fight for the life of God and to serve it in others, in each brother of Community with that Cistercian anthropological optimism that affirms with its vitality that the last word on man will never be sin but the gift of God, his being the image and likeness of Him.
Whether we are aware of it or not, every human being bears this seal because God created us and we are his children. This is the deepest desire of the human heart, to be fully before God, to cling to Him with all our freedom.
The life begun by a piercing desire, situated in a concrete space and time –today– begins to take shape through the awakening of our close relationship with God, of the gift of filiation that we have with Him. Filiation received through the Son, Jesus Christ who left his seal imprinted in each one of us, in each atom of our being and in all Creation. A seal that cries out for its Creator and makes us children forever.
We are children of God, that is the indelible seal, but the relationship I have with God, the gift of being a child of God is formed through a relationship with specific people, in a particular place.
The contemplation of Christ, the direct relationship with Him, in LISTENING, as an encounter with the Living Word, is the basis for living the relationship with the community, the Abbot and the Order with FAITH and OBEDIENCE. Supported by the tradition of the Order, by the customs of the House, by the continuity of life, by the concrete witnesses who have given their lives for us and those who are giving their lives today, we live the gift of giving our lives to God in our relationship with others. My life given to God is given through love for my sisters and my gift received from God is received from their hands, my relationship with others reflects my relationship with God and vice versa.
The gratuity of the gift received, the knowledge that I am loved by God, is my guarantee; nothing is lost when everything is offered. It is only through this thanksgiving that my life becomes tasty or colorful. Recognize me beloved daughter: free, poor, sinner, in need of forgiveness and of love.
The common life with a view towards a single goal, Christ, is a school of wisdom, it is a powerful energy and it is the novel response to the individualism that so much concerns us today. It is the most authentic expression of our being made for relationship; only through others can I truly see who I am and thus walk towards Christ. The mirror of all others allows me to recognize myself, to situate myself in a reality, to illuminate my path to know where I am, and it gives me the light I need to live the conversion that God asks of me and that I can only develop through others.
The strength for this impulse of conversion is to recognize that I am miserable and to know that I am mercified and sustained by Christ through my sisters in Community. Recognizing this, in the concrete instances of life, acts as a springboard that impels me to live the gift of OBEDIENCE as a response to a love received.
This path of obedience Christifies me, because it is the way of being of the Son Jesus Christ, it is our ‘way’ of loving, the condition of our full realization. Obedience is our prayer, and for this to be possible, it is necessary to kneel before the mystery of Christ made Flesh, whether it is by living it in the divine office, by listening to it inlectio, by gazing at him in silence, or by responding to the work that is asked of me every day. This is the Way, the support, the source of our faith in the Son of God made Flesh.
And for this to be possible, it is necessary that obedience be accompanied by a joy, a joy that is neither plastic, nor false, nor of show, where I appear to be happy, but inside I rot, not exempt from suffering, but a joy that is always paschal, made of the cross and glory of each day. If obedience is not lived in a joyful way, it is not true obedience. It must start from the root of being children, heirs and loved; and as children, we are free, happy and willing to respond to this love in the fullest way as Christ did and taught us, through obedience.
The confidence, the certainty of being a daughter of God, living in a concrete time and space, where every second is a new rebirth to full life with Christ, it is the breathing of our organism, the beating of our heart. To live in his presence, to enjoy the day-by-day of the journey and the Community that God gave me, cultivating joy in us and in those who come; to help them to recognize their personal and communal desire for happiness and truth, which does not stop at good norms, nor at the greatest number of sisters. Rather, it goes beyond that, seeking the quality and depth of the relationship with Christ, the fruit of a common feeling and will, to walk the path of the present fullness, and thus be able to go together to eternal life (RB 72,12).
It is not a question of success, or of slavery to the ‘spiritual fruits’ of the path of the Community, nor of death, or of the life of this Community, but of a perfect conformation to the Will of God. Without this awareness of the joy of living towards God, we become arid, tasteless, listless. We lose the spark! Of the desire for life and for living as true Christians, and we become filled with bitterness, which is the enemy of life. Because he who truly lives is ready to die. How often do we cling to our securities and schemes, so as not to die, and we forget to want to live? We must live desirous of accompanying Christ in his passion until the resurrection.
There must be an imminent joy in our hearts to live life with an openness to newness, recognizing ourselves as free and thus open to receiving and granting forgiveness. To open myself to new ways, new approaches, self-evaluate and see that those things that once gave life may no longer give life. Eliminate prejudices, take risks, dare, innovate, never limit myself, to see myself in others, to be young with the young, children with the children, venerate the elderly. Always look for life... Let yourself be made by others!
How many times do we cling to our own criteria and are unable to let in the new grace that God gives us in every event? How many times do we cling to ourselves and are unable to see the good behind the actions of others? How often do we cling to structures and forget that the structure must serve the new life that the Holy Spirit infuses into our walk? How much pain is there in the world and I... how many times do I not sympathize with the sister next to me?
We need to learn (as the Son learned) (cf. Heb. 5.8-9) from every event and from others, with all that is new and different that it brings, to recognize that the other is a contribution to my life. I must be a source available to all, to be receptive and a receptacle, living open to others, loving them at every moment. Yet, without romantic fantasies of good that canonize our evil hiding our need for conversion, but with reality. Without criticism, without complaints or resistance, but with lucid mercy, valuing ourselves and not allowing ourselves to be carried away by the evil they have done. But believing in the good will and desire of good that there is in each brother that God has placed at my side, accepting them and loving them wholly and happily as they are.
And thus, letting myself be made and formed by others. Only through concrete people, with concrete names and faces, can I let myself be formed by God. Only through the human mediation of others can I let God act in me and become incarnate in me. The other is the sacrament of God’s will in my life.
To live in filial obedience, concretely and according to the charism of our Order, in a community, under a rule and an abbot (RB1,2), with an eye to eternal life and with the savory seasoning of faith as a rule of life in our monasteries. Divine filiation becomes flesh thanks to these 3 fundamental pillars.
- Community: it is the place where I can let myself be made by the Lord through others. It is the Body-Church where the ENCOUNTER with God takes place, where we are all members and Christ is the head. Our own Community is the Body of Christ, it is the monastic Church that lives in communion with the universal Church.
It is the place where I receive forgiveness and daily life, it is the place where my misery comes to light, where I experience my weaknesses, my limitations, my sins, and where I know that I am supported; I recognize that I am loved in spite of my poverty. It is the place where I can spread my wings towards Christ through service to others, through work and self-giving.
- Abbot (Abbess): This is the person who takes the place of Christ in the monastery (RB2,1), it is the Abbot (Abbess) of the Community who lives to serve them and the community forms its Abbot (Abbess). Purity of heart is essential in my relationship with my Abbot (Abbess), the truth with myself in order to live this relationship, to recognize my bitterness, my darkness, my inconsistencies, my lights, my achievements and to be able to be transparent with it and to know that I am a child of this concrete person as a Representative of Christ.
- The Rule: It is the vital structure of our life; its form is Christocentric and gives us the concrete means to live the Gospel. To live, not to comply!
Because all our actions radiate for the whole world. A shining that does not depend on our merit or counter-merit, but on the Encounter with Christ, as Psalm 33.5 says: ‘look to him and you will be radiant...’
The radicality of our life to live in the encounter with Christ, from a human point of view, in a concrete time and world, places us in an encounter with our brothers and sisters of the present. In the here and now that looks towards eternity. All the elements of our life converge in this reality of today. Doing what I have to do and to be where I have to be, that is our offering, that is our prayer.
In our Order we can feel these aspects. Spiritual Paternity and Motherhood are lived by supporting and engendering each other, but they are also always a challenge.
The filiation that we must render to Christ at every moment is a living witness within the Order, the relationship with the Abbot General, the Mother House, the Father Immediate, the Daughter and Sister Houses, the interdependence of one with the other, where the breathing of one’s own and of the common heart is always Christ. We are children of a specific community, which belongs to a concrete Order, which is governed by a solid structure, where what always predominates is this filial and loving union that we have among us. This expresses the reality of being begotten, of receiving the identity, the face from the hands of Another. Who takes the place of Christ.
This filiation is not sentimental, but evangelical, therefore, it is a path of faith, much deeper than appearances.
The love of Christ for each one of us, recognizing that we are loved by God and recognizing God’s love in others, living it in the eternal present of the daily reality, is the most precious gift we can enjoy, life itself. Living rooted in the present reality with the clarity of being immersed in a transitory life, whose final destination is God.
We came to live with Christ, and death to self is the condition for living, life is always renewed, life is bubbling and new, always a gift to be thankful for, because the greatest gift God gave us is life and our capacity to enjoy it gives us the peace to assume consciously and happily the meaning of our freely chosen destiny, as a response to a love that loved us and chose us first (1 Jn 4.19).
Only by growing in ourselves can we help others to grow in Christ and develop a spiritual fatherhood and motherhood, as a response to being daughters and sons of God.
We must truly live in a world beyond, where dreams become reality, to see already in the present glimpses of God’s love which will be complete in the life to come. That is to live united to Christ, with our gaze on Him, facing with that light the everyday, looking towards a total Christification with Him, with everything and with everyone.
To be grateful for what we do not deserve, to forgive what we have already been forgiven and above all to love always and at every moment with the love that only a child of God can understand, the love of Christ.
May the Virgin Mary guide us with her motherly love to an intimate, audacious, lively and grateful union with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.