Tuesday in the First Week of Lent at Mississippi Abbey
One of Archbishop Jackels favorite books is the beautiful allegory “Hinds Feet on High Places.” It reads almost like a child’s fairy tale and in that way skirts around our adult defense mechanisms. It is the story of a young lady named Much-Afraid who lives in the valley of Humiliation in the Village of Much Trembling with her relatives, the Fearing’s. She longs to flee the village and such relatives as Craven Fear, Bitterness, and Self-Pity. She wants to go to the High Places with the Shepherd. The High Places are not heaven; they are a transcendent way of living. So she meets the Shepherd and he gives her two guides to take her on the long, arduous journey to the High Places. The two guides are Sorrow and Suffering. Not what she had anticipated! He begins by planting in her heart the seed of love and promises her that, when it blooms, she will no longer be…Much-Afraid.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think all of us came to the monastery from a world that just didn’t work for us anymore. We were looking for a transcendent way of life. That seed of love planted in each ones heart made us look for three things. We sought a worldview, a story of life that we could commit to (and we wanted it to connect us to a community). Finding it, we wanted to organize our life around it. And we wanted that structure to include practices that would help us learn and live in the truth.
Surprisingly this meant we were looking to live our lives someone else’s way. That will often cause us to bristle. Sorrow and Suffering accompany us, too! Yet that is what required our commitment. And the worldview or story elicited that commitment. And the practices of the way of life, shared in community and structured around the truth helped us keep that commitment.
And the longer we persevere, the more we are sure we are not doing this by our own power. It’s a gift. We’re no longer Much-Afraid.
The seed of love planted in our hearts connected the story we learned to the practices of our way of life. What we care about connects what we know to the will to do it.