I love to be in our monastic chapel in the early morning hours when it is still dark. I watch the saints in our stained-glass windows as they slowly return to us with the first rays of morning light. This appearance and disappearance of the saints has intrigued me since my days as a novice. At dusk they melt into the night. When dawn arrives, slowly they reappear: this wonderful cloud of witnesses that surround us through the hours of our prayer day!
Unfortunately, their faces are somewhat saccharine and entirely too Caucasian for my taste. Even so I have chosen to allow these saints to anoint me through the hours of the day. It is their HANDS that bless me. There are times I pray the windows much like I would journey through the stations of the cross. I fix my gaze upon their hands and reflect upon the potential of my own hands.
I see hands raised in blessing, clasped in prayer, hands holding sacred books, writing quills, olive branches and lilies, hands holding musical instruments, lamps and flasks of oil, hands held out in petition or raised in joy. HERE IS MY CLOUD OF WITNESSES WHOSE HANDS HELD OUT IN BLESSING ANOINT ME THROUGH THE HOURS OF THE DAY!
However, I have another Cloud of Witnesses that bless me throughout the day. These are my Sisters, my praying community, who meet me in chapel, in the dining room, in the recreation room, in the garden, in various places of work, Ora et Labora -- work and pray! (and PLAY) Our hands are sacramental; they are extensions of our hearts.
I have begun to watch the hands of my Sisters and sometimes I imagine their faces and hands in the stained-glass windows. Here is my flesh and blood CLOUD OF WITNESSES whose fidelity to the monastic way of life inspire me, as together we listen with the ear of the heart. We listen each day to the call that won't go away: the call to seek God in ordinary life.
You may wish to go back to my last week's post and bless your own hands as you continue this day of service to your family and to humankind. Remember: your hands are an extension of your heart. Everything you touch can blossom with love.