Sunday, August 6, 2017

Transformed into the image of His Love

By the grace of God, a benefactor sponsored us to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, July 6-18. In the coming months, we will share reflections and photos from this life-changing experience. Here is the first of our reflections, written by Mother Gabriella for the occasion of the Feast of the Transfiguration.

During our recent trip to the Holy Land, I had the privilege of going so many places I never even dreamed of going.  Even though I read the itinerary ahead of time, every moment seemed to be a surprise from God!

Below this icon is the Stone of the Transfiguration
One of the feasts while we were there was for St. Veronica (July 12), who has been part of my journey for many years.  Tradition tells us that she was the woman with the flow of blood for 12 years that Jesus healed, which was a very important image for me during my discernment of monastic life and even now.  On the day of her feast, we began by riding to the top of Mount Tabor to an Orthodox monastery which has a piece of the rock where Christ was transfigured.  I didn’t have a particular excitement about the trip up the mountain – be it the jet lag, lack of sleep, or generally being overwhelmed by all the holy places we had been – but as soon as we got there, many of my sisters were very moved by the experience, so I thought, maybe I should get excited to be here!

Each of the nuns was blessed to receive an icon of the Transfiguration to touch to the stone where Jesus was transfigured and as I touched my icon to the stone, I prayed, “I want to be transfigured, so my life will show the change you have worked in my heart.” And I heard immediately from the Father, “You are transfigured,” in a very knowing voice, so I trusted He would let me know what that meant.

Praying at St. Veronica's Chapel in Jerusalem
Fast forward to the end of the day back in Jerusalem, one of my sisters had expressed interest in going to the sixth station to visit the chapel dedicated to St. Veronica in honor of her feast, so we headed out through the Old City to find it.  We arrived after a several minute walk and were blessed to find the church still open!  So we went in and were able to sing her tropar (hymn) in the chapel.  We also had a deacon friend with us who chanted all three gospels of the woman with the flow of blood and we ended with some quiet time to pray.  As I sat there praying, I meditated on the gospels we had just read and imagined myself as the tassel on Christ’s garment.  I don’t normally do imaginary prayer, but since that is where the Spirit led, that is where I followed.  As the scene played out in my mind, I could feel the power of Christ move through me to St. Veronica as she was healed and I was struck with a connection between Christ and St. Veronica I had not seen before – the importance of cloth and blood.  I saw how St. Veronica came to Jesus confident that He would heal her flow of blood, if she but touch the tassel of His garment.  And I saw Jesus, approaching St. Veronica during His passion, also bleeding and in need of comfort, seeking St. Veronica to wipe His flow of blood away with her veil.

This scene moved me to also desire to comfort Him, but I had no cloth to wipe His face.  I told Jesus this desire and He spoke to my heart that He had already given me something to use – my habit.  I gave Him myself already and He gave me this cloth, which He invisibly imprints His face upon for all to see everywhere I go.  In accepting my dependence and need, in laying down my life and receiving from Him, I had something to offer back to Him – the very clothes on my back, to comfort Him.  In comforting and receiving that imprint, I became transfigured – I became the very image of Him in the world – an icon of His love.  I became an image of heaven on earth – of what our life in heaven will look like, in union with Him forever.  So I prayed that His image would become more present in me, on me, through me, making me a living transfiguration – which was exactly what He said had already happened that very morning!

So as we encounter the Transfiguration anew today, let us all ask Jesus how we can offer ourselves to Him, to be further transformed into the image of His love for the world to see.

Happy Nun Pilgrims!

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