Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Easter at Mississippi Abbey

Today Jesus tells us that “we are the branches and he is the vine and His Father is the vine grower. “He takes away branches that do not bear fruit and prunes those that do so they will be even more fruitful. How do we know when He is doing that? Pruning sounds painful. How do we know that things aren’t just going wrong, that someone isn’t just dropping the ball? That we don’t need to get in there and “fix” things?

The Examen[1] is a prayer put into our daily schedule (at noon and at Compline) specifically to help us see where God is pruning us. It is designed to help us hear God and distinguish Him from our own sensitivities. We can hear Him and respond to the “sacrament of the present moment.”  The Examen helps us, as Jesus says, “remain in me as I remain in you,” because we cannot bear much fruit apart from Christ. And we want to bear fruit! So being in conscious awareness of Him in the events of our day is very important.

As monastic’s this remaining in Christ and being alert to pruning experiences is of importance because we live in a school of charity. Michael Casey, in his book on RB Ch. 4 The Tools of Good Works, points out that the first tool is the two great love commandments. We cannot, of our own power, live out those commandments apart from remaining on the vine with Christ and being regularly pruned of all of our resistances to love. Casey writes that the monastic environment is designed to “make discipleship simpler to practice and more difficult to avoid.” He asks, “Why does love have to be commanded;” Probably because it’s important. He cites St. Paul who says the law can mandate external behavior, but it cannot give the power to be interiorly disposed to such wide-ranging love. We find such a disposition impossible. Why would Jesus command the impossible? Because, Casey says, it is not so much a command as an exhortation and to fulfill it we will have to come to Him as needy. This “law of Christ” liberates us from the bondage of self by, as Casey writes, “removing our innate incapacity to do good… the law of Christ gives what it commands…it endows us with the ability to live the life of love for which our natures were created.”

Through the Examen we become receptive to this gift by being receptive to its offering in the daily experiences of our lives. As a gift we become free of self and “for” others. Through the Examen we’ll see why clinging to the vine and the Love Commandments are important because we’ll see the difference!


[1] The Examen of St. Ignatius of Loyola