Solemnity of the Annunciation at Tautra Mariakloster
[Scripture Readings: Is 7:10-14; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38]
Sometime in the 1100s St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a letter to Henry Murdock in which he says, “Believe me who has experience, you will find more laboring amongst the woods than you ever will amongst books. Woods and stones will teach you what you can never hear from any master.” Yesterday, sitting looking out at the fjord I wondered, could we say the same about it? Does it teach like the woods and stones? What would the fjord tell us if it could speak?
Perhaps it would say to the Sisters: We have been waiting for you. Welcome. We are here to care for you. We will heat your house in the winter and cool it in the summer. We will refresh you when you are thirsty and cleanse you at the end of the day. Nothing grows on the island without us. We are the nurturing springs from deep in the earth bringing healing waters, refreshing waters, cleansing waters. But listen, we go back to the beginning. We watered the garden of Eden. It is not even recorded when we were created. The land itself rose out of us. We covered the earth and receded at the command of the Creator.
We remember the angel gliding over us on the sea of Galilee on his mission to Nazareth. Then we knew why the Psalmist called upon all of us, the waters of the deep, the waters above the heavens, all streams and water courses to praise the Lord. It was the moment he took a body from the Virgin. We loved St. Bernard’s use of the words, “and the Virgin’s name was Mary.” We whisper these words to you as you go by, “and the Virgin’s name was Mary.” Listen to us softly murmur this to you day and night. We never sleep. Just as Mary conceived him on this day, you conceived him in your spirit in baptism.
We were the water poured over you. From that moment your heart never sleeps either. For deep in the core of your being our Savior prays unceasingly like a hidden river within you saying: “Come to the Father.”
We received the body of the Lord in the Jordan and were made holy that very day. The Lord uses us to bless you at the end of each day. We were even used today to bless the walls of your church and in a few minutes a drop of our water will be added to the chalice as a sign of the mingling of the human and divine at the Eucharist. Blood and water flowed from his side on the cross and out of this stream the church was born.
We are so happy you are finally here. The Lord chose you for this place by our side from all creation. We are your elder sisters here to help you live the mystery of Jesus once again. We are “A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning…”. We speak with many voices, listen to us.
Well Sisters, if the creator uses water to come to us in so many ways, how much more will he use your new community, the very body of his Son Jesus? What an historic day for Norway. Your words of prayer will express the deep soul of all Norwegians whether they are aware of it or not. For at the core each persons being is the thirst for God. Your vocation is to represent this thirst by thirsting yourselves. You are to experience the words of Jesus on the cross, “I thirst.” He is thirsting for our love. “If anyone thirst let him come to me, let him drink who believes in me…from within him rivers of water shall flow”. “Whoever drinks the water I give him …shall have a fountain within leaping up to provide eternal life” . St. Bernard used to love to repeat to his monks the words from Proverbs, “be the first to drink from your well.” Sisters you know and have tasted this river of living water within you, this fountain leaping up to eternal life. You have followed it to the source of your very being and there have come face to face with your creator, though it be night. I love the words of St. Anselm: “I have been created to see God but I have yet to do what I have been created to do.” And even more the words of St. Hilary, “I have a firm grasp on something I do not understand.” Your monastic life, your monastery is a mystery. No one fully understands it, but you have drunk deeply at the spring within you. You know the depths of love at the core of your life. You have sacrificed all for this one precious pearl found only in the deepest waters of your soul. In this way you reveal the essence of each ones heart so they may know the love that is in them from the Father. You bear them in your heart. You may never see the fruits of your labor because we live by faith not by sight. But you are a mother and a sister to all humanity. You are the voice for those who do not know their own voice. You are the cry going up from the ends of the earth to the Father.
We call the ceremony about to be enacted a transfer of your vow of stability. Sounds rather distant and abstract, doesn’t it? What it really means is that your are transferring your heart to this place. To this safe island, to this monastery, to the people of Norway. For the last seven years you have known the love of the Norwegian people for you. Their presence here today means they will not let you down. They will care for your heart and support you.
My nephew, who recently became a father, send me an insightful quote that says, “having a child…is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” This community is your child, needing your care. Your heart is in it. Jesus is the heart of the invisible God. His heart is in this community too. Together you form one person. He in you and you in him.
Dear Sisters, all the voices of the island are speaking to you today. The living and the dead. The monks who have gone before you, the good Christians who have lived here for centuries, the birds of the sky, the fishes in the water, the community of all God’s creatures sing the glad song of redemption: “with joy you will draw waters from the wells of salvation.”