Once upon a time, in a small Alabama town, a historic monastery building was nearing an era of renovation. As the time for construction drew nigh, hardhats began to appear upon the land, worn by those who were readying the building and environs for the lengthy process of restoration.
Following the arrival of these craftsmen, notices began to appear, directing Sisters and guests to go THIS way, not THAT way. A door or stairwell or patch of earth would suddenly become bedecked in yellow ribbon that bade one NOT to enter. These messages told a tale, a cautionary tale, advising protection from the dust and dangers of the deconstruction that precedes reconstruction, and protection of the newly-exposed and now vulnerable workspaces from missteps by those inexperienced in the construction crafts…
Indeed, the signs and yellow tape have been multiplying around the monastery this past week. As I’ve watched the signs and ribbon go up, I’ve been reminded that for those who dwell here the monastery is always a place of renovation. Our monastic profession calls us to a lifetime of conversion of heart, which means that on a personal level we are always undergoing interior renovation and restoration as we seek to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ.
Although it is the grace of God that effects our conversion, the giving of ourselves to this process is often hard work – arduous, even – as our old self is swept away, unnecessary burdens unearthed, and all is made new.
We who have committed ourselves to monastic community continually dwell amongst each other’s spiritual construction zones. This can be true for those beyond the monastery as well. It is the work of love to treat one another with reverence, with respect, with a certain deference – or caution, if you will – knowing that for each of us, in one way or another, our heart is engaged in the spiritual labor of growth and conversion.
Today’s 2nd reading from Romans 13 begins: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Spiritually speaking, the caution sign, or “law,” is not the caution of a barricade or of avoidance. It is the caution of reverence for the hard work required for genuine spiritual growth and the vulnerability of those who have opened their hearts fully to and for the love for Christ. It is a call to approach one another with tenderness, with gentleness, with reverence. It is a call to the work of love.
Postscript: We are growing more excited by the day as renovation draws nigh. Please keep us in your prayers as we continue the capital campaign and complete the final preparations to begin the first two phases of the renovation project. If you’re not yet familiar with what we are up to, here are the details.