A reflection from Sr. Iliana about her tonsure as a rasophore nun, Sept. 7, 2015
One of the most pivotal moments of my discernment occurred almost two years ago, while I was on retreat here at the monastery. To be completely honest, I had almost cancelled the retreat because I was afraid of what God might be doing in my life. I had heard Him call to me, “you are mine” over a decade earlier – which in my heart was very clearly a call to religious life – but I did not really understand where He wanted me to live out His calling and was a little tired of asking. As I prayed on the first morning of the retreat, I found myself sitting in a tree with Zacchaeus, waiting for a glimpse of Jesus in the crowd below. As Jesus walked by my hiding place, He looked up at me and said, “Moki, come down” (Moki was my name before I became a nun). It was in response to these words that I immediately quit my job and left everything behind to follow Him. The prophet Isaiah says, “I have called you by your name, you are mine” (Is 43:1). Jesus had called me by my name, and as Zacchaeus, I “made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully”(Lk 19:6).
All words seem inadequate in expressing the joy that I felt on the day of my tonsure. This joy came from being called by Jesus, who had stooped down to his lowly servant saying, “You, follow me” (Jn 21:22). What joy it is to be called by Jesus – called by name – and to dwell in His heart in the heart of the Church. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Gal 5:22), and this particular fruit is very apparent in those who respond to His call. The tonsure was on the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, and what a beautiful example Mary is of the joy of responding to God’s call. After her “yes,” Mary cries out, “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1:47). The Gospels tell us that after Jesus calls the rich young man to follow him, he goes away “sad” (Lk 18:23). Just as the fruit of not answering Jesus’ call is sadness, conversely the fruit of responding to His call is infinite joy.
During my retreat before tonsure, the Lord asked me again if I would follow Him, and I was repeatedly able to join in Mary’s “yes.” These many “yeses” brought an incredible joy to my heart: the joy of knowing that He had called me, and most importantly, the joy of knowing that I was loved. After retreat, I kept being led to scriptures such as: “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps 100:2), “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Neh 8:10), “I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy” (Ps 27:6), and “Let the faithful rejoice in their glory, shout for joy and take their rest” (Ps 149:5). I wondered, how could souls be shouting for joy and resting at the same time? Then I understood that they are resting in the knowledge of His love. They are resting because they know that they are His own, His chosen ones. It is when they rest in His heart of love, in His loving gaze, that they can do nothing other than “shout for joy” and dance as God Himself is dancing “with shouts of joy,” for they know that God has “renewed them with His love” and this joy is too great to keep contained in their hearts (Zeph 3:17).
On the evening of the tonsure, I exclaimed to a priest-friend, “I don’t know what to do with all this joy!” But deep in my heart I do know what to do with it: I must share it with you.