Reflection for July 22nd – Final Vow Retreat

From July 18th through July 24th we will be sharing daily reflections from the Final Vow Retreat in Bungoma, Kenya. We ask that Brothers and Associates join Brothers Moses Wafula Barasa, Serge Lumbala Kachunga, Daniel Ongeso Ohola, Marc Kabwita Mufuka, and René Mambwe Kijiba in reflection, as these brothers prepare for their Final Vows. Please keep these brothers in your prayers, as well as their retreat leaders, Brothers Larry Harvey and Richard Mazza.

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She said to [the angels], “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. 

John 20: 13-16

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. Throughout the gospels, especially in John’s gospel, she is the great lover of the Lord. In many ways she is presented, by Jesus, as the model disciple, the one who “loves much.” Mary holds to the Lord not by thinking, not by working but by loving. Thus, she is the Christian model of contemplation. The experience of Brother Ryken parallels the scriptural understanding of Mary Magdalene’s path: that is, of being put in one’s place through a powerful experience of one’s own sinfulness, of turning to God, falling in love with God, and giving oneself out of that love totally to God’s service.

One of the great Christian texts on contemplative prayer is the late 14th century text The Cloud of Unknowing. The author of that text makes clear that it is love that makes communion with God in prayer possible, the kind of love and vulnerability which Mary shows as she weeps before the empty tomb.

Therefore, it is my wish to leave everything that I can think of and choose for my love the thing that I cannot think. Because he can certainly be loved, but not thought. Therefore, though it is good at times to think of the kindness and worthiness of God in particular, and though this is a light and a part of contemplation, nevertheless, in this exercise, it must be cast down and covered over with a cloud of forgetting. Your are to step above it stalwartly but lovingly, and with a devout, pleasing, impulsive love strive to pierce that darkness above you. You are to smite upon that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love. Do not leave that work for anything that may happen.

The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter VI

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