Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 17
Monday after 3rd Sunday of Lent
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The First Way of Service – Prayer
We seek to live in an atmosphere of praise and prayer. Our aim is to be constantly aware of God’s presence, so that we may indeed pray without ceasing.
From St Francis:
We Take Our Cell with Us
Wherever we are or wherever we are going, we have our cell with us. For Brother Body is the cell, and the soul is the hermit who dwells in it, meditating there and praying to God. Therefore, if the soul does not preserve quiet and solitude in its own cell, of what profit is a cell made by hands? (Legend of Perugia, 80)
Being of a vaguely Anglo-Catholic persuasion (but not to the extent of having had myself measured for a cotta and biretta ) I have on occasion found myself to be carrying around on my person for most of a day a pyx containing a consecrated communion wafer.
Once I remarked to Fr Andrew Norton CR[i] how, being aware of the ‘Pyx in my pocket’ I had felt it easier to remind myself to be ‘constantly aware of God’s presence’ and now had a new understanding of what it meant to attempt to ‘pray without ceasing’. In a typically acerbic response he wondered why it was that I felt differently because I carried the Body of Christ ‘on’ my person instead of remembering that I had consumed the Body of Christ at the Eucharist and so, in a sense it was ‘in’ my person!
He was right of course. Like Francis we are called to see Brother Body as the ‘cell’ we carry with us and our soul as the hermit who dwells therein. In much the same way as the Orthodox Christian would value the Poustinia as a quiet place to which you can withdraw at any time in the busy-ness of the day. Catherine Doherty, in her book of the same name, reminds us that we are to carry Christ around in our daily life in much the same way as an expectant mother carries the unborn child around in her womb. She goes about her ordinary day to day tasks but, because of the life that is yet to be born, with a renewed hope and an extra-ordinary purpose.
It is not too difficult, if we but open our eyes, to use the ordinary things of life to call us to the prayer which goes on without ceasing. The bread on our table reminds us of God’s bounty, the wind in our faces of the Spirit empowering and comforting us and, if we have no pyx to carry, a simple cross somewhere about our person calls us into the loving arms of the one who stretched out his arms for us. (Perhaps in this time of Covid19 when we can’t go into our churches this is an essential lesson?)
Members of the Third Order have a special opportunity as we are given a cross to wear at our Profession. It is what passes for our habit and perhaps we should be careful to wear it frequently. This is not always easy, some have tasks and duties which make wearing a cross difficult or even dangerous (for physical and political reasons), but most of us can wear them more often than we do.
A long time ago at St Benedict’s House in Johannesburg I remember sharing breakfast with some of the Whitby Nuns. Sister Patricia OHP and I were having problems with our collation since, as we lent forward to eat our bowl of cereal, our Profession crosses kept on dipping into the milk. With a gleam in her eye Patricia smiled at me and said. ‘That’s the problem with the cross; it keeps on getting in the way!’
May you stumble over the cross each day and find yourself falling safely into the presence of God.
How could I ever imagine,
that I would cope without praying?
How could I keep going
unless I knew
that I could return my heart to you
and soak my darkness in your light?
Pour your mercy into my madness
and your Spirit into my will,
and make me know
in my heart as well as my head
that only in you
am I found, forgiven and free.
Has there been a special moment when I have been made aware of God’s presence with me?
What will you keep about your person to call you to ‘pray without ceasing’?
99 Words to Breathe:
In the past stone was used to tell stories, to let people know about Gods and Queens and Princes, athletes and victors, the famous and the glorious, the vanquished and the foes.
Stone was the best material to serve man’s grandest ambitions.
I can’t really do that.
I don’t want to make the stone my servant: a bigger wilder story is told by the stone itself, of the earth, and the universe.
Perhaps I use the human form to let the people see the stone, so it can tell its story, which is part of my story, our story.
Emily Young – sculptor
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged