Trust in Him

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Vow of Enclosure

“I will live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life in your presence”
(Psalm 27)

The vow of enclosure is the seal on a woman’s self-gift to God. There are many beautiful books written on this subject, and thousands of ways to describe it, but in this short post I will attempt to explain what this vow actually does for a nun.

In marriage, a man and a woman are joined together with a ring, signifying their lifelong bond. They give themselves to each other, and each possesses the other. When a new couple have been married they go off on their honeymoon… oftentimes it is someplace where they can be alone, and fully realize their love for each other now that they have become one heart and one soul—two halves of a whole joined together. Then, they go to their home where they will live together and raise their children.

When a bride of Christ has been joined to Him, she wears a ring to show this undying bond of love. She gives herself to God, and God gives Himself to her. In a mutual unity she lives in Him, and He lives in her. The self-gift of a cloistered bride is the promise to be the direct servant of Christ, and to serve only Him. The place of her honeymoon is chosen, a place where she and He are completely alone, and where she waits on Him day and night without rest, devoted in her intense love for Him. But unlike the bride and groom in human marriage, she never leaves this place of love and beauty and intimacy. This is her beloved cloister, the house of her Lord, and to her it is the most beautiful place in the world, it is their home. To one with the vocation of a cloistered nun, this is paradise, heaven on earth, for it is a place of love.

In the cloister, the bride of Christ becomes like the tree that falls in the forest and is heard by no one. She is separated completely from all worldly and material bonds, and from all worldly recognition. She is unknown, and she ceases to be “Miss –--“ and becomes simply an insignificant bride of Christ. No one knows her, sees her, or touches her except her Beloved. She empties herself, and within the cloister her emptiness is filled by Christ. She is in a place that fosters humility, precious happiness, gentle beauty, burning love, and limitless virtue. She has given herself to Him and asked Him to form her into whatever He would like her to be.

The bride of Christ takes all persons in the world as her children. Her contemplative heart reaches out to them and she prays and works for them tirelessly. She does penance for them, she beseeches God in their names, and she feels all their struggles strongly. She takes their burdens on herself, she prays for them when they will not pray, and she spends her whole life trying to bring Jesus’ beloved children to eternal happiness. Her work is very real and well accepted by He who loves her. What Bridegroom would not look upon His lovely bride’s sacrifices with love and pity and accept them? From her beloved cloister, the bride united with Christ reaches out to all ends of the world.

An eternal union,
A longing thirst ever unquenched,
A desire to love more than is humanely possible,
A wish to be within Love Personified,
The wish of a perfect bride, a loyal servant,
To live in the house of the Lord,
All the days of her life in His presence,
To bear numberless children,
The longing to give all she has and is,
To be a vine of limitless fruit,
To make the gift of ultimate sacrifice,
A bond with the heavenly Lamb.

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