I am helping the Missionaries of Charity, popular known as Mother Teresa‘s nuns, with a triduum at the moment. A triduum is three days of prayer or retreat, often before a particular feast or special day. Here in Edinburgh, as with many of their communities, the Sisters do very important work with homeless and the poor. Their life is also very impressive, in its simplicity and its commitment. They don’t even have the privacy of their own room – I’m sure if you asked Jesuits to share rooms they would have a heart attack! The Superior identified three themes for the triduum – a) Loving Trust, b) Total Surrender and c) Cheerfulness. She has also loaned me a copy of their constitutions to look at the passages on these themes. Part III of the Constitutions, begins with a section called ‘Our Spirit’ which covers these three themes. So some of the things we have been sharing and praying about -
Trust – Is a key ‘disposition’ for those who aspire to hear the voice of God in the world. Erik Erikson developed a theory of Psychological Development where he claims that all humans confront a set of ‘crises’ in their life. Our personalities are formed depending on how we resolve these crises. The earliest crisis is one of basic trust or basic mistrust in the world. According to Erikson’s model (it’s just a model!) – this crisis often takes place at the first year of our life. Trust opens us out to the world – mistrust makes us suspicious and cynical. Radical Trust in God is embodied in people like Abraham, which is why he is so important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam – the ‘Abrahamic Faith‘. And trust is two-way – the forgiving trust that Jesus shows Peter, who is reinstated as the leader of the apostles, even after his multiple denial of Jesus, is an important touchstone for all of us who are honestly struggling with our weaknesses.
Surrender – The paradox of surrender is that the total surrender to infinite love is one of the most empowering things that we can do with our life. Crises and tragedies in our life can become moments of transforming grace because God speaks clearly to the broken-hearted. For Catholics the unconditional ‘fiat’ of Mary at the Annunciation is one of the turning points of human history. The emptying of self involved, on reflection, is awe-inspiring. In our culture which prizes the individual and a celebrity subculture that inflates the ego – to empty one self in loving service is truly counter-cultural and hugely difficult in a time of unparalleled self-promotion. It is interesting how the desert becomes a place of encounter for God in the Bible – because in the desert we are stripped of luxuries and distractions. The desert becomes a special place of purification and preparation – and in Jesus’ case temptation. His 40 days in the desert are portrayed in a fascinating way in Jim Crace‘s novel Quarantine.
Joy … tomorrow!