Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ruth - Who am I?

This post is long, but well worth the read. Sister Ruth is a model of faithfulness for the rest of the sisters (a fact which would embarrass her, but is the absolute truth). As her Lenten discipline, she is reading through the books of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, and Ezekiel together with a prison-bound penpal.

Ruth submitted the following in response to a request for autobiographies from sisters.

I am an 85-year-old woman, a long-time life-professed member of the Order of St. Helena. As such, my daily routine is: Rise 5:00. To chapel at 6:30 for silent prayer. Matins 7:30. Eucharist 8:00. Breakfast ca. 8:45. I usually spend a goodly part of the morning writing one or more letters and, when my energy runs out, I return to my bed/sitting room to read or work a Fill-It-In puzzle (to which I am addicted).

Noonday office in chapel. 12:30 dinner. Following dinner, I normally return to my bed/sitting room and spend the time reading (see below re: my reading). 4:30 to the chapel for intercessions and silent prayer. 5:30 Vespers. Following Vespers, I return to my bed/sitting room where I ready myself for my supper which consists of an apple, a granola bar, and an Activia yogurt - that last is like a dessert. I then ready myself for bed and, depending on how I am feeling, I go to bed earlier or somewhat later and read for a time. And so to sleep.

That expresses the exterior aspects of my daily life. How do I feel about all of this? The times of silent prayer in the chapel are very meaningful and important to me and I only miss them if perchance I have a doctor's appointment or am ill.

The time spent reading is also very important, having been an inveterate reader all my life. During the day, I rarely read anything recreational - that comes at bedtime. On the stool next to my desk, I have a CD player and occasionally listen to my not inconsiderable collection of CDS (90% classical - I have, for instance, all nine symphonies of Gustav Mahler, one of my favorite composers). On the front end of that stool is a stack of books - usually nothing but spiritual reading (which may include "study-type" reading of a spiritual or religious nature), arranged so that as I sit in my comfortable chair, I can see all their titles. I am usually engaged in two or more books at the same time.

I have a considerable hearing loss. I wish for more social contact with my sisters than I am able to get. I do fairly well in one-on-one conversations, but in groups I find it frustrating. I do from time to time initiate a lunch out with one or another of my sisters.

In general, as a relatively introverted woman, I find my current lifestyle viable, pleasant, and peaceful.

My spiritual life. I have described the outward aspects of that above. But what is my relationship with God and God's relationship with me? As I think the Community is aware, The Cloud of Unknowing and its "sequel," the Book of Privy Counseling (for spiritual sustenance I use William Johnston's translation) are of ongoing importance to me. I am almost always in process of rereading one, the other, or both. That does not mean that I am a contemplative in the anonymous author's understanding. In fact, quite recently, I have come to realize that I am probably not a contemplative, certainly not in his terms. I wish I were, but that is a grace I believe God has not given me. So be it. Nonetheless, those two writings are important to me. I am uncertain that I can explain their "hold" on me.

What I do know is that my faith in God remains steadfast, may He be praised. Just what the nature of that faith is, is something else I am unable to explain. I am repeatedly amazed at the ineffability of God. The gift of "Jottings" [NOTE: "Jottings" is a series of messages that Ruth received as a "download" from above some years ago] has been a tremendous one. It gives me daily nourishment of my spirit, even after these more than thirty years since the Holy Spirit gave it to me. And having in the course of 2010 been given its memorization has meant that it or portions of it are always available to me at all odd moments and in all kinds of situations. I rarely revert now to the printed copy. While I have several favorite parts of it (which parts are not favorites?), my probably most favorite bit is "Ineffable God, Lover of my soul." Non-favorite parts: the first two lines, which constitute a definition of apophatic prayer, a word with which I do not think I was acquainted at the time the Holy Spirit dictated "Jottings" to me.

I still have not responded to the question I posed two paragraphs ago: what is my relationship with God, and God's with me? It is possible that I must leave that up to God to answer. From my vantage point, I think it is a good relationship, but who knows what He/She thinks? And that is far more important than what I think.
Another aspect of all that I have said.

At the age of 85, I am well aware that I am coming down the home stretch of my life on this earth. How much longer I shall continue here only God knows. I have no known serious illnesses nor other known mortal problems. While my choice would be to wake up one morning to discover that I am no longer here, that again is God's choice. I do not fear death, and am hopefully ready and shall be ready for it when it comes.

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