Solemn Profession - Sr Anna Maria of the Passion, OCD

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Solemn Profession
Sr Anna Maria of the Passion, OCD

The Gospels record that on a number of occasions the Lord took himself off into the mountains to pray. For example, after the feeding of the five thousand Jesus sent the crowds away and instructed his disciples to get in the boat and he retired into the hills above the Sea of Galilee.

Why did Jesus withdraw to the mountains? Why was it important for him to do this? We can notice in the Gospels that he did it on many occasions. We can only ponder on what may have happened during those hours of darkness and silence. Certainly we believe that the Lord was in a place of deep inner union with his Father. The Father was his constant point of reference: “I have not come to do my own will, but to do the will of the one who sent me”. One senses that these times on the mountains were times of communion of Father and Son, and times where the Lord was able to see more clearly the will of his Father for him.
Mountains are places of solitude and there on the mountains the Lord could devote himself to prayer and this silent communion with his Father.

Mountains are also places of panorama. From the mountains vistas open up. One sees distant things. Mountains enable us to see beyond the immediate recognising a far greater world that what is just before our eyes.

They are places where a person can sense their smallness against the vastness of nature. In the midst of the clatter of daily activity we can loom large in our own estimation. We have things to do, matters to deal with, accomplishments to achieve. We sense our own importance.

On the mountain we can discover our own insignificance. We can sense our fragility. We can see that we have such a minor role in the total picture.

Mountains can give perspective that is not appreciated in the closer engagement with people and things. They stand immense and dominating. They are places of weather extremes. We are brought closer to a consciousness of our own littleness. Mountains humble us.

And mountains encourage the spirit to open and soar. Mountains expand the heart. They become places of silent contemplation, places where the soul is stirred to ponder deeper things. The mountains help our spirit to rise up.

Thus, they are naturally places of solitude, of contemplation, of prayer. On the mountain a person can find communion with the God of Creation. On the mountain one can contemplate the presence of the One who seeks us. On the mountain we can become aware of God who desires to reveal himself to us.

Thus, we read in the first reading today that the Lord commanded Elijah, in the midst of his dejection to go to the mountain, to the holy mountain, the mountain of the visitation of the Lord to Moses, to the mountain where the Lord manifested himself with an awesome display of his power and majesty.

Then on the mountain the prophet was instructed, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

The Lord was about to manifest his presence, but on this occasion he did it not by manifestation of power as with Moses but in the silence of a gentle breeze.

As the Lord withdrew to the mountains to seek his Father, as Elijah was commanded to seek the presence of the Lord on Horeb, so too hermits gathered on another mountain associated with the prophet Elijah, Mount Carmel in Israel. From these hermits has sprung the Carmelite Order.

Sister Anna Maria today you make your solemn profession and embrace the life of a contemplative. You say that you wish to live on the mountain and there seek the Lord. And here on this mountain you will find him.

As the Lord asked Elijah to go and stand on the mountain for He was about to pass by, so the Lord says to you today on this day of final profession, “come then my love, my lovely one, come”. Today, the Lord is your bridegroom.

The Scriptures with extraordinary boldness declare that a nuptial relationship exists between Christ and the Church. A contemplative sister enters this nuptial relationship in a personal way. Christ is the bridegroom of your soul.

There is a spiritual betrothal that your Mother, St Teresa of Avila, knew in a profoundly personal way. It was the culmination of her journey of seeking the One she loved.

Today you give yourself formally and totally to a life which is marked by a singular seeking of the Lord. You join a special cloud of witnesses in the Carmelite tradition. You know many of the Sisters of Carmel have gone to the mountain and there the Lord has revealed himself to them.

Your sister, St Therese of the Child Jesus, said that the Lord was a “Divine Fire which burns without consuming” and she discovered her place in the Church. She wanted to be in the heart of the Church where there is love. She saw her life in Carmel in such simple yet profound terms: “My vocation is love”. “I shall be love”, she said.

You live in enclosure, withdrawn from the world. Yet you are in the heart of the world because you are with the one who loves the world. You seek the One who came to the world, not to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved. This is the One with whom you unite your life and in uniting your life with Him you are uniting your life with his profound love for the world. You are sharing in his mission of the salvation of the world, not by deeds, but by intercession, by interior communion with him.

Let your heart beat with heart of Christ who loves the world so much. Sr Anna Maria you have chosen the designation of the Passion to accompany your name. The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ was the ultimate expression of his love for the world. You stand with your Lord at the cross. You have chosen to embrace Christ in his passion. Let your heart beat with heart of Christ in his passion.

May the Lord bless and keep you as you follow your beloved in the way of Carmel.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Tuesday, November 18, 2014