18th Wednesday in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St Edith Stein
One of my perennial problems as a monk – as Fr Gerard knows very well – is that I am constantly kvetching about how much I have to do, and how little time I have to do it. So I assigned myself to give the homily on the feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). She came through for me in the past, and I thought she might have something to say about this or something else that I might be able to share with others. This is the passage I found:
“The duties and cares of the day ahead crowd about us when we awake in the morning (if they have not already dispelled our night’s rest). Now arises the uneasy question : How can all this be accommodated in one day? When will I do this, when that? How shall I start on this and that? Thus agitated, we would like to run around and rush forth [sound like anybody you know?] We must then take the reins in hand and say, ‘Take it easy! Not any of this may touch me now. My first morning’s hour belongs to the Lord. I will tackle the day’s work which he charges me with, and He will give me the power to accomplish it’” (The Collected Works of Edith Stein, vol. 2, ICS Publications, 1996, p. 143)
In today’s world we live with almost constant stress in our daily lives, and monasteries are no exception. We can go through Vigils and breakfast thinking about the most important job to do right away while the mind is fresh, and then our first morning’s hour is devoted to the job. St Edith reminds us that our first morning’s hour belongs to the Lord. And we may comment, as Jesus did to the Canaanite woman in the Gospel, “O woman, great is your faith!” Because it takes an active faith to believe that our first duty each day is not to begin crossing off items on our mental to-do list. It’s to spend time with God in prayer. St Edith continues:
“So I will go the altar of God. Here it is not a question of my minute, petty affairs, but of the great offering of reconciliation. I may participate in that, purify myself and be made happy, and lay myself with all my doings and troubles along with the sacrifice on the altar. And when the Lord comes to me then in Holy Communion, then I may ask Him, ‘Lord, what do you want of me?’ (St. Teresa). And after quiet dialogue, I will go to that which I see as my next duty.
“I will still be joyful when I enter into my day’s work after this morning’s celebration: my soul will be empty of that which could assail and burden it, but it will be filled with holy joy, courage, and energy.” (Ibid., p. 144)