Sunday, May 18, 2014

O Blessed Enclosure!

In every monastery, of nuns or of monks, there is an area normally reserved for residents of the monastic community.  This is “the cloister” or “enclosure.”  Some communities observe what is called full (or papal) enclosure.  This means that those residing therein live within their specified enclosure for life.  That’s right:  they go in, and under normal circumstances they do not come out (there are exceptions, of course, like for medical care).  This doesn’t mean they never see the sun again; often enclosures are rather vast places, always including some outdoor areas and occasionally encompassing meadows or streams.  The cloistered person also still sees family and friends, meeting with them in parlors and meeting rooms.

It can be awfully strange, for those of us not called by God to it, to consider a life of full enclosure.  It can seem so terribly..... confining.  

However, to those with a vocation to the cloistered life, it appears to be anything but.  

"Enclosure baffles so many persons.  Even those who love and admire the contemplative life think that the importance of enclosure is exaggerated.  That is why it must be understood, from the beginning.  Love of God alone motivates a girl to remain in the cloister..."

"O most blessed enclosure!  O precious and safe cloister!"

"The liberating gift of enclosure leads those who receive it over that threshold which opens upon a life of profound union with God."

"By your solemn vow of enclosure you stand as a stumbling block against all false freedoms."

"Enclosure rings out that God is enough; and that where He is, there is infinite space.  And where He is not, all the space of the world is constraining and restraining and withering and wizening.  In your own life, love must not flicker out for a moment.  By day and by night it must proclaim "Jesus is here.'  The church bell must keep ringing out from your life: 'Blessings on all men!  God is enough! God is enough!  And everything else is not enough...."

The above quotes are from the booklet "Walls Around the World" by Mother Mary Francis PCC.  It is available for $2.50 from Poor Clares of Roswell NM, and you can get to "books" on their website by clicking on this line.   

Next time, we will look at the enclosure in which we are invited to live.  While not being physical, it is genuine "enclosure," one that goes beyond all of our loftiest mental images.

Painting:  John Singer Sargent

Test not in quotes

For a look at our own enclosure, click this line 

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