Sr. Emmanuel Cazabonne’s Transfer of Stability
[Scripture Readings: Acts 3:1-10; Lk 24:13-35 ]
To me these words of Ruth are some of the most beautiful and touching in the Bible. They express such a heart felt emotion of friendship and fidelity. They are heart words. They remind me of Cardinal Newman’s motto: “Cor ad cor loquitor“, heart speaks to heart. The words appeal because they express a level of friendship we all long to experience.
When I was reflecting on these words and the feeling behind them and the context in which they were first spoken and are now spoken, I thought to myself, you are never a stranger when you are with someone you love. Sr. Emma sees herself as a Ruth, as the foreigner who returned to thank Jesus and as a daughter of the Patriarchs who set out in search of a homeland. All three of these models had a love burning in their hearts that led them through many difficulties. I am reminded of the words of John of the Cross, “I went without discerning and with no other light except for that which in my heart was burning.” You are never a stranger when you are with someone you love.
Recall the original context of Ruth’s words. They were spoken when her mother in law Naomi, which means “sweetness” wanted to change her name to Mara which means, “bitterness“. Her life was going South, as they say. It was spiraling down. Her other daughter in law after professing her love, decided to leave. Her name was Orpah, which means, surprise, surprise, “she who turns away.” Only dear Ruth, which means, “beloved” said she would stay with her and said it so beautifully. I think in these four people and their symbolic names we have a microcosm of community life. We have days that are sweet and days that are bitter. We have days when people seem to turn away from us and days that are beloved. It seems to me the change of stability is about community life. It is about finding a home, a place where you can express love and receive love. We are reading the Roman document, “Fraternal Life in Community” in the refectory right now. It mentions that living in community means “ …being responsible for each other’s growth,”. This is something we do not think of very much. We are responsible for each other’s growth. No one is going to grow in, I won’t say a hostile environment, but even in an indifferent environment. Care for each other is what it is all about. When you care you are going to suffer. It is easy to be tolerant when you don’t care. You are each shepherds of growth for the other. When our life turns from Naomi to Mara, we need someone to be a Ruth to us. Someone who will reach out a helping hand.
Symbolic names are frequent in the Bible. Of course the greatest is Emmanuel a name which means, “God is with us“. I think we can appropriate Ruth’s words and put them on the lips of Jesus and hear him say to each of us, “wherever you go, I will go, wherever you live, I will live and wherever you die, I will die.” Jesus has embraced our human nature and has lived it to the limits, he has died our death and raised it up. I like the phrase St. Benedict uses when he refers to our life as the humility of this present life. Humility is our ladder to heaven. Jesus has shown us the way. “See how the Lord in his shows us the way of Life,”.
The humility of this present life in the monastery can challenge us. But we have the consolation of the Lord coming to us through the community. And we have the intimate voice of Jesus saying to us. “Wherever you go I will go,” I will never leave you.