Saturday, January 13, 2024

Mother Cecilia's Institution as our Hegumena


On Sunday, December 31st, 2023, Mother Cecilia was officially instituted as our hegumena. Below are some of her reflections on the day of the institution as well as the meaning behind the design of her staff. 

May God grant Mother Cecilia many blessed years as our shepherdess! 

About the Significance of Today’s Date

I suggested today’s date to Bishop Robert as a possibility for my institution as hegumena because it is both the leave-taking of the feast of the Nativity (the Nativity having a lot of significance to me in my spiritual life) and because today, the Sunday after the Nativity, is the Byzantine feast of St. Joseph, the patron of my home parish. The Lord, however, had even more reasons in mind.

Recently, when I prayed and asked about the significance of the day, what immediately came to mind was that today is not only the feast of St. Joseph, but also of King David and St. James the Brother of the Lord (the day commemorates these important people in the family of Jesus). I asked what their significance is for this day. And I immediately understood: they are all shepherds, just like I am becoming! And they had shepherd’s staffs, just like I am receiving from the hand of the shepherd of our eparchy! David was literally a shepherd, and also became the king and shepherd of Israel. St. Joseph’s staff bloomed as a sign that he was to be chosen as the betrothed of Mary, and he was the shepherd of the Holy Family, protecting them and leading them to Egypt and back. And St. James was the first bishop of Jerusalem, with his bishop’s staff signifying that a bishop is a shepherd of the Church.

About the Design of My Staff

My staff was carved by Kyle Rosser, seminarian for the Diocese of Cleveland. I’m really grateful for his willingness to take on this project, and for his prayerful work. I sketched a design, and he turned it into a carving. I’d like to share with you the meaning behind the design (and the Lord will probably keep showing me His meanings!).

The first line of Psalm 22(23) is carved into the center of the design: “The Lord is my shepherd.” Even though this staff is being handed to me as a symbol of the protection, care and guidance that I must give to this monastic flock, it is really the Lord’s staff—the staff of the Good Shepherd. He is shepherding me as I shepherd, and shepherding through and with me.

This first line of the psalm also signifies for me the entire psalm, one of my favorites. The symbols carved into the staff represent parts of the psalm. The chalice signifies for me the line, “My cup overflows,” or, in the Septuagint, “Your cup inebriates me like the best wine.” I see myself as the cup, and the wine as the love of God (which is really God Himself). I feel called to consent to being empty so that God can fill me with Himself, and to focus most especially in my spiritual life to letting myself be loved. I believe that letting myself be loved is what God truly most desires, because this is why He made us, to love us. And I believe that letting myself be loved is the most important step in loving others, because we need His love with which to love, and in this way, “my cup overflows.” I believe that even as hegumena, my first and most important call is to let myself be loved.

The branch behind the chalice is an olive branch, and the staff is also carved out of olive wood. This symbol signifies oil, and refers to the line, “You anoint my head with oil.” Oil is used in Scripture and the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) in connection with the descent of the Holy Spirit. Kings were anointed with oil, and Christians are also anointed, chosen by God for Himself and for a special mission. Although a hegumena is not anointed with oil in the institution service, she is chosen by the Holy Spirit, and is called to “anoint” others with the other purpose of oil: healing.

Wine and oil…these are the medicines used by the Good Samaritan on the wounds of the man beaten by robbers. Wine to sanitize and oil to heal. I pray that the Lord bring healing to each of us, in the monastery and beyond, beaten by the robbers—the demons, and left half-dead by our passions. I desire to do my part to help Him bring about this healing—healing, which at its deepest level, means communion with the God who is love. This is why we nuns are in the monastery, and why each person was created. By looking at my staff, may I remember.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave us a comment!