Saturday, February 24, 2018

Tonsure photos, and Sr. Petra shares about St. Peter

Sr. Petra was tonsured as a rasophore nun on Feb. 1. Enjoy these photos from her tonsure.

Before a dokimos is tonsured, she asks the Lord to place in her heart three names that she will submit to the Hegumena (superior of the monastery). The Hegumena then asks the Holy Spirit for guidance and clarity in choosing one of these names (or another) which the dokimos will receive at her tonsure as a sign of her new life consecrated to Christ the Bridegroom. In our monastery, the dokimos submits to the Hegumena not only the three names, but also a written explanation about each of them. Below are the thoughts that Sr. Petra submitted about St. Peter.  

During the past few months, St. Peter has been very present with me in prayer, teaching me Christ's faithfulness in the face of my human weaknesses and failures.  As I've touched my own poverty more deeply, I could easily recoil at my unworthiness, could be tempted to flee the One Whom I love so poorly.  But Peter gives me courage to remain under the merciful gaze of Jesus, confident of His love for me in the midst of my fear and failure.

I understand Peter's fear of the Cross, his initial rejection of the Lord's revelation of the cost of obedience to the will of the Father.  When Jesus revealed to His Apostles that He must suffer and die in Jerusalem (Mt. 16), Peter burst out, "God forbid, Lord!  This shall never happen to you!"  He wanted to make Jesus avoid suffering, to escape the Cross!  How logical this seems.  Yet Jesus rebuked Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!  You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men."  In other words, the urge to escape suffering is not of God.  The Christian life is not about avoiding suffering; rather, it is about the reality that Love transforms suffering so that it becomes both redemptive and a  means of union.  Thus, Jesus continued, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."  On a natural level, I respond to suffering, to the Cross, the same way as Peter.  Yet something—perhaps witnessing the Resurrection of Jesus, perhaps being embraced by His gaze of love after his denial and abandonment of Him, perhaps receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (or, likely, all of the above)—converted Peter's heart so that he would later have the courage to climb up on his own cross and pour out his blood, in imitation of His Beloved.  Here, in between the experience of my own fear and weakness, and my desire to respond to Jesus' love in kind, Peter comes alongside me and intercedes that my heart, too, would be changed, infused with supernatural love and trust.

After the Resurrection, after he had denied and abandoned his Friend and Master, Jesus met His disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and called Peter apart, asking him three times if he loved Him.  Keenly aware of his unfaithful denial, Peter neither tried to defensively excuse himself, nor did he count himself out of Christ's merciful Love in a spirit of self-condemnation (as had Judas).  Rather, he referred his love to Jesus' knowledge, laying open his poor heart to Christ's omniscient gaze:  "Lord,  You know everything—You know  I love You."  He also knows everything about me:  He knows my sins, my past, my secret selfishness, the shabbiness of my love, my weakness, my wandering heart that is always looking for a resting place among mere creatures.  He knows my fear, my reluctance to suffer, the ways I've tried to avoid His Cross.  And yet, He also knows that I love Him, so He continually renews His call on my life to follow Him.  "I know whom I have chosen," Jesus said at the Last Supper, fully cognizant of what would follow (Jn 13:18).  Jesus knows me, too, the woman He has chosen.  I can trust that I can't disillusion Him so that He removes His love from me.  He knows me, loves me, calls me—calls me by name!

Peter's faith in the Resurrection taught him to embrace suffering, especially the suffering of violence and persecution, even unto martyrdom.  The man who ran from the Cross would later run to the Cross!  He writes of this hope in his first epistle:  "We have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials...For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly...For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps...By His wounds you have been healed...Do not return evil for evil."

This fisherman from Galilee was chosen to be the chief shepherd of Christ's Church on earth; his successors continue to guard the Faith built on the rock of Peter.  He is a tremendous intercessor for the unity of the Body of Christ, having heard Jesus' high priestly prayer "that they may be one, even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You" (Jn 17:21). 

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