July 21, 2021
I want to think about what this foundation day of our community means to us now in 2021.
The daily readings given for today are so suggestive of our long journey through 231 years: times of being called, made into a people, a community, free and open to the future, times of fear and doubt, complaining and conflict, times of blessing – manna and quail in abundance, times of strength and times of great community weakness, times of wandering in the desert and times on the mountain top. We, and all the sisters who have gone before us, have sometimes, I suspect, scattered seed for the birds, or on the rocks, or among the thorns. But in each generation more than enough seed has been scattered on good ground to bring forth lasting fruit a hundredfold, to sustain and carry on a rich heritage, born on Mt. Carmel, set aflame by Teresa and John, impelled by persecution to the Low Countries, flowering in our newborn country 231 years ago.
This day is always a day of memory for our collective soul, and this memory gives us our strong identity in which we are so firmly rooted, both consciously and unconsciously. We don’t remember in order to idolize our past or be stuck in it; rather we endeavor to inform our present as well as our future, Carmel’s future, humanity’s future; to energize us and give us new creative vision; to understand the importance of continuity, definitely, but also the real necessity and responsibility and inevitability of discontinuity and radically new vision and new paradigms as we strive to set our sights on the horizon, the very edge of the present and continue to commit ourselves to a future together, a future dependent on knowing what to remember and what to forget, personally and collectively.
Accustomed to the critical style of historical thinking and deeply influenced by the evolutionary consciousness we are growing into – a consciousness of quantum entanglement, morphogenetic energy fields and incredible cosmic discoveries, as well as the challenges of transhumanism and ultrahumanism- we know we have to carve out new evolutionary paths for our community, open ourselves to new paradigms. And yet today we also ask ourselves what vulnerabilities do we carry, what ideals have been muted or buried or forgotten, what have we been complicit in, what is in our collective soul? How are we to carry on the exquisite, passionate contemplative tradition we have received from our forebears – a tradition where communion is the core value – in a world awash in unbearable anguish and communal sin, in national corruption, overt racism and white supremacy, hatred and unforgivable treatment of immigrants, disdain of the poor and exploitation and destruction of the environment, the earth, our home?
Edith Stein had deep convictions about communion and community that are apropos today:
“First, she believed that the very essence of community is the union of free persons who are connected on the deep level of their innermost personal lives and, therefore, have a vital influence on each other. Each one feels responsible for herself and for the community. Second, a community like a person can be said to have a spirit, a character, a soul. Third, some community members are ‘carriers’ of the communal life. Their personal being is so totally given to the community that they are its “core” from which its spirit or character or soul is shaped and which guarantees its enduring reality. The further their devotion extends the more secure are the values and outward face of the community. Fourth, some individuals with higher sensitivity, often these carriers of community, function as the open eyes with which their community looks at the world.
Grasping Edith’s prophetic perception concerning the truly faithful person who is a carrier of the communal life and a shaper of its spirit,” I would hope each one of us could be carriers of the communal life of our community (Quoted from Desire, Darkness and Hope, 361).