It seems that history – both of the world and of individuals – can be seen as the history of arrivals and departures. We turn a knob, step through a doorway, unpack our bags and say that we’re home, only to eventually depart toward another arrival. We are drawn to thresholds as to a magnet. We cross town, or cross seas. We go ‘round the bend, or ‘round the world. Whether near or far, we spend our lives hoisting sails even as we drop anchors. Arrival and departure are part of our story.
Today, on All Souls Day, we commemorated the faithful departed, those who sought the Lord in the midst of the many comings and goings of life. Here at the monastery, we had our traditional procession to the cemetery for Vespers. We read aloud the names of our departed Sisters whose fidelity to monastic life led them to drop an anchor for a lifetime here at Sacred Heart. Yet within the anchor of monastic fidelity, there is a continual crossing of thresholds. Our call to conversion of heart leads us ever onward, hoisting inner sails and crossing inward seas, always en route, even as we remain anchored in monastic fidelity and love of Christ. The Sisters in our cemetery are revered examples to us of both stability and conversion, of courageous departure and faithful arrival.
At the close of Vespers, we sang the Ultima, the traditional funeral hymn of monastics and many other religious. The Ultima speaks to both departure and arrival, of turning a knob, stepping inside, unpacking our bags, and knowing that we are home.
Ultima in mortis hora,
Filium pro nobis ora,
Bonam mortem impetra,
Virgo, Mater, Domina.
(At our life’s last moment fleeting,
Thine own Son for us entreating,
May we Christ with thee embrace,
Virgin Mother, grant this grace!)