Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mother Raphaela on Abundant Life

I am very slowly reading Growing in Christ, Shaped in His Image by Mother Raphaela.  The quote below from the first chapter especially struck me as counter cultural - the antithesis to Oprah and mommy-bloggers who are encouraging me to find my true identity, to not lose myself in the mundane work of motherhood. I am so tempted to look forward to the time when my children are sleeping so that I can have "me-time," or to feel glad when no one else shows up for prayers so I can pray alone. But these times alone are distractions from abundant life of love to which God calls us.

"It is a struggle to have a life of our own, distinct and apart from others around us, whether these others be family members, fellow community members, or fellow workers. Often we may feel that the demands of life are far too great for us; that we cannot fulfill our obligations to others and still have time for ourselves, to 'be' ourselves. Yet if we see our life as our own private affair, that we can only be our true selves when we are doing what we alone want to do without the need to respond to the needs and demands of others, we have created a false sense of identity, far removed from the human ideal taught by our Lord: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' (Mt 22.39) and St. Paul: 'We, though many, are one body in Christ,  and individually members of one another' (Rom 12.5).  
Anna Boganis
When we fall into this mode of thinking, we begin to feel that time spent with our family or community or fellow workers is time taken from our real life...The energy needed to maintain a separate sense of identity while living in a close family or community environment can become phenomenal. In fact, those who enter into marriage or monastic life with such an attitude usually come to find themselves in a living hell. They cannot maintain this approach to their personal life and remain married or persevere as a member of a monastery.  
For some people, there is an easy and quick way out of such a hell. They can withdraw from the demands of community and family, especially on a live-in basis. Such people often try to find a place to live and a means of support that will not take much time or energy from their perceived real lives. A simple job with undemanding hours, where even during their work they can think, dream and look forward to the hours of their lives off the job can bring them a sense of real relief. Sadly however, by trying to save their own lives, they lose them. These people end up at best on the fringes of life, unable to share fully in the abundance of love.  
There is another way for Christians. It is the way of concretely dying - laying down our individual lives out of love for the brethren - and then discovering that there is an abundant life after such a death. Accepted and lived out in one way or another, this death to the old man is definitely at the heart of any vocation or call from Christ our God. There are all sorts of 'christs' being preached these days. The Church preaches Christ crucified, and His words to all, not just to his chosen disciples, were, 'If any one would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me' (Mk 8.34)."
- pg 15, 16