Yesterday two recipes arrived in my email inbox. They had been sent to me by one of our Sisters who is not one of our usual “Sister chefs.” I was so startled to receive the recipes from her that I wrote back humorously questioning what had happened. Knowing she had been on the road for part of the day, I asked “Did you crash into a cookbook?” Of course, part of my surprise was that I am not a good cook so I was startled to be on the receiving end of recipes – as if I would know what to do with them! She wrote back something along the lines of “One never knows…”
And it’s true, we never know. No matter how well we may know someone and know their usual habits of thought or patterns of behavior, we all have the capacity to surprise each other as we grow and change and develop new interests and skills and even new aspects of our personhood over the course of a lifetime.
Encountering unexpected aspects of others or watching them grow in new ways can serve to remind us that the other is a mystery that we cannot grasp. We cannot hold onto the ‘being-ness’ of someone else as if they are something static, forever confined to our image of who we think them to be, no matter how well we may know them.
We can also become confined to our own image of ourselves and refuse to grow beyond who we think ourselves to be. Yet each of us is a living, growing being who, in the words of St. Paul, is called to “grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ.” (Eph. 4:15)
Here in monastic community, even though we lead a common life, God still guides each one of us along our own unique path as we daily give ourselves to our monastic practices and to the common monastic endeavor. An “un-grasping” attitude – toward both ourselves and others – is vital in order to give God’s transforming grace full freedom to flower and flourish within the life of each Sister as she experiences conversion of heart, the fruit of a well-lived monastic commitment.
Experiencing the gradual transformation of my own heart and witnessing the work of God in others is one of the graces of monastic life. Even such a simple event as a recipe in my inbox can shine with the glory of God when I un-graspingly see in it the gracious gifts of those who are traveling with me on the road to eternal life. When I witness in the lives of my Sisters the mystery and reflected glory of the Lord, then I can exclaim with the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration – “It is good that we are here.”
From the Gospel reading for the Feast of the Transfiguration: “Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning.” Luke 9:28-29