She walks to the enclosure door and steps inside.
If I am to be cloistered in heart, I must step as well. Not just once, but many times. I must step toward the cloister, then over the threshold, then ever more deeply into the cloister of God's will. I am to do this in every circumstance of my life.
Each step is a step away from self-will and toward the will of God.
Perhaps I can look at some of the steps I have seen so far. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that what I'm sharing here is an adaptation of the 'steps' outlined in the book The Cloistered Heart (yes, there is a book; it can be found by clicking this line). The 'steps' were originally written in my journal, and at that time there were thirteen of them. Because I like to keep blog posts as short as possible, and because what I've 'seen so far' extends (now) twenty-two years beyond that first seeing, I am condensing and adapting this content.
Let's look at what eight 'condensed' steps might look like today; now that they've seen a bit more wear.....
1. Attraction. My attraction is to God. I am drawn to God as a Person, to the one true God Who has revealed Himself to us in Scripture and in 2,000 years of authentic Church teaching. I am drawn to the Person of Jesus Christ. I want to know Him, love Him, serve Him. I want to live for Him, entirely.
2. Recognition. I recognize the truth that I'm a sinner, that I fail. I recognize the fact that I cannot take one step toward God without His help. I recognize my need for His grace every day of my life.
3. Realization. I realize that living entirely for God, and thinking of myself as 'cloistered' in Him, is more than simply picturing myself enclosed with Jesus. It is making a specific decision to live within God's will. It is in this step that I realize that heart cloister carries a real price. Cloistered life is a life of real surrender, real death to self, allowing oneself to be made into a total yes to God. Am I willing to accept God's grace that I may pay such a price?
5. Asking. Having admitted that I do not, by nature, want to live 'enclosed' in the will of God, I ask for grace to say yes anyway.
6. Choosing. By an act of my will and and with the grace of God, I choose to surrender totally to Him and to live enclosed in His will. With this choice, I am 'stepping into the enclosure.'
7. Living. I live for Jesus in the midst of the world. I learn what it means to view every circumstance through the 'grillwork' of God's will. I do not do this in my own power, but with the grace of God. This step is a kind of 'natural novitiate,' in which I learn to live more and more for God. I cannot do this without spending time, each day, with Jesus in prayer.
8. Shining. Because my life is being lived in God's love, I find myself 'carrying the fire' of His love and truth into the lives I touch. I spread love by my actions, my words, my continued choices to live in God's will. These choices will be seen by others, and at times they may not be popular. But I have made my decision, and through the grace of God I want nothing other than to stick with it. I now wear the habit of a cloistered heart.
'Fear not and do not stand in awe of what this people fears. Venerate the Lord, that is, Christ, in your hearts. Should anyone ask you the reason for this hope of yours, be ever ready to reply, but speak gently and respectfully.' (1 Peter 3:14-16)
Paintings: Caspar David Friedrich (woman on stairs)
Kovács, Stairs at Subiaco.1844
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