19 February 2010

The Carthusian Example for Lent

In the book, “Saint Bruno the Carthusian” by André Ravier, S. J., there is much revealed about the customs of the Carthusian Order which are useful for the journey during Lent.

In the book is mentioned a formula of vows which was used by the early Carthusians. As the author explains, “There were four or five formulas for blessing the new professiant, and from those the first Carthusians kept the one that was the most scriptural, the most spiritual, showing… their special attachment to the Bible.” In a liturgical season that encourages detachments, the Carthusians, by their example teach us that Sacred Scripture is an attachment to protect and keep ever in our hearts and minds. Here is that formula:

“Lord Jesus Christ, the only Way for anyone to come to the Father, we ask You in Your unfailing love to lead this servant of yours, detached from desires of the flesh, by the way of regular discipline; and, since You were willing to call sinners, saying, ‘Come to Me, all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest,’ grant that Your invitation will become so strong the he will put down the burden of his sins, taste how good You are, and deserve to receive You as His nourishment. Number him among Your sheep so that he will know You and follow no stranger, that he will not even hear the voice of other shepherds but only Yours, saying, ‘If anyone would serve Me, let Him follow Me.’”

The season of Lent strongly encourages us to detach ourselves from the desires of the flesh, to discipline ourselves, to recognize the burden that weighs heavy upon us because of sin. Arriving at an acknowledgement of that burden, finds us in need of one Sacrament in order that we may deserve to be nourished by another Sacrament. And when one Sacrament lifts the burden, then in the silence of our hearts can be heard the only Voice necessary, saying, “Come to Me.” The author explains that Saint Bruno himself and the first generation of Carthusians desired “absolute purity.” All the saints were loyal to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a sacrament of purity. And since their names are preceded by the word “Saint,” should speak volumes about the reward for such loyalty.

On 9 December 1086, something wonderful occurred for Saint Bruno and his companions: “At Grenoble, Bishop Hugh officially ratified the grant that the landowners of Chartreuse had made two years earlier. Not only did the Carthusians become lawful masters of the land, but the document solemnly reaffirmed the purpose of the hermitage.” Here is partly what is contained in that document, and notice how Lenten it sounds -- the call to come to Christ, to seek the treasures of heaven:

“The grace and mercy of the holy and undivided Trinity has made us aware of the conditions of our salvation. Recalling our human condition and how inevitable sin is in this fragile life, we have judged it good to redeem ourselves from the hands of death, to exchange the goods of this world for those of heaven, to acquire an eternal heritage instead of possessions that will not last.”

Saint Bruno, in a letter to his friend Raoul le Verd, teaches the value of solitude, certainly something that should be sought during Lent in order to grow closer to God. Saint Bruno explains that in solitude we abide within ourselves, “carefully cultivating the seeds of virtue,” and are “nourished happily by the fruits of paradise.” He continues: “Is there anyone who cannot see how beautiful and useful and pleasant it is to dwell in His school under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there to learn divine philosophy, which alone can confer true happiness?” This incredible letter continues in a tone which intimates an examination of conscience: “What is more sound and more beneficial, more innate, more in accord with human nature than to love the good? And what is as good as God? Still more, is there anything else good besides God? So, the holy soul who has any comprehension of this Good, of His incomparable brilliance, splendor, and beauty, burns with the flame of heavenly love and cries out: ‘I thirst for God, the living God. When will I come and see the Face of God?’” (Psalm 41 [42]:3).

During this season of Lent and forevermore, may we thirst for God and experience the burns of heavenly love!