Freedom in the Spirit
Since we understand our vocation to be, in a very conscious way, at the service of the Gospel in its fullness, and in particular of the central mystery of personal intimacy that lies at the heart of the Gospel, we avoid providing any more rules and regulations than are necessary to enfold, protect, and foster our authentic way of life within the Church. This is so that the true “liberty of the children of God” may be manifested and come to flower within our existence, the “love that surpasses the law” through the supreme commandment to love as we have first been loved. This commandment is really the very gift of divine love—the “sap” of the Trinity’s own uncreated life—poured out into us and active within us, transforming us by its own dynamic movement. This is also so that the essential truth of the gift entrusted to us—this mystery that we seek to live and serve with our whole life—may radiate freely for all, and also become a true welcoming space for all who feel themselves drawn to share in it, without being obscured by external structures that often become impersonal. Therefore, unlike in many other religious communities, the structural or “pre-given” elements of our life together are reduced to a minimum, so that the voice of the Spirit may address each one of his children uniquely and guide them along the unrepeatable path that he desires for them, while he knits our hearts together into unity within himself.
This kind of openness and spontaneity of life, however, is not individualism, but rather a persevering emphasis on the personal dimension that alone gives meaning to structure (and even to “community” in the abstract sense), and which structure serves. Therefore, much that could be provided by a Rule into which the individual is invited to “fit” himself or herself, is rather to occur in the sacred space of interpersonal communion, in the very unity that we share and foster within our Home. In particular, the concrete unfolding of a person’s life in the community is brought to flower through the intimate relationship of spiritual direction and accompaniment, in which a sheltered “womb” is created, through the love and tenderness of the spiritual father, for the voice of the Spirit to sound with a particular clarity in the heart of the one who has been called.
In this way, the community may truly manifest a life that springs forth from God’s unique activity in the heart of each individual, and which has drawn them into a common family in which their uniqueness is tenderly sheltered and allowed to blossom. Our life, therefore, manifests in a particular way precisely the freedom and spontaneity of childlike docility to the Spirit who draws us together and unites us in what is essential, namely, in intimate personal love. Everything is enfolded within, and unfolds from, this: knowing ourselves to be sheltered by the love of God, and thus to be able to receive and shelter one another in a single family, and, finally, to shelter all of those, near and far, who are entrusted to us by him.
Playfulness and Repose: The Gift of Intimacy
There is one hesitation that arises in making the deliberate choice to foster this open space within our existence for the Spirit to breathe and for intimate relationships to flower. It is the fear of activism or busyness, which would very quickly choke out the very gift that we seek so ardently to foster. One of the purposes of a schedule to structure daily existence is to safeguard a healthy balance between prayer and activity, and to make sure that those central realities and times of contemplative intimacy are preserved over the years. Indeed, even here the basic structure of this prayer is given (the two hours of daily prayer in silence, the Divine Office—at least Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer—and the Mass). But it is important to note that, even though the other hours of the day are not strictly scheduled, but left up to the discernment of the individual in dialogue, our vocation is not a primarily active vocation, but very explicitly a contemplative one—as indeed all of human and Christian life is meant to be. And especially we hope, in our vocation, to witness in a particular way to childlike playfulness and repose in the midst of the world.
Let us be wary, therefore, of letting ourselves be drawn into a way of living in which our daily life (our “schedule” in the other sense) is always full, passing from one appointment to another, from one task to another, without the space to dwell profoundly in each moment in radical attentiveness to God and to our brothers and sisters. Rather, it is deeply important for us to maintain that sacred and contemplative space for deep, reverent, and vulnerable personal encounter. Let each of us seek above all to foster a depth of relationship, in a profound and intimate heart-to-heart presence to God and to others, rather than many relationships which, because of their number, are in danger of becoming superficial and impersonal.
It is much better to abide in the sacred space of authentic contemplative leisure, in a true rootedness in the mystery of the Trinity whose heartbeat silently pulsates at the heart of the Church—and to welcome others in this space with a radical availability that is wholly, tenderly present—than to be deeply involved in many ministries and many relationships which, because of their sheer number, both distract the mind from God himself in his pure Mystery, and make the person whom we are receiving feel that they are but one among many, who can only receive a portion of our attention and our heart, which has become fractured among so many things.
The greatest gift that we can offer to our world, indeed, is precisely the expansive joy of our own hearts which, dilated by the touch of God’s love, surpass the burdensome constriction of mere busyness as well as the preoccupation with the superficial or inessential, and receive each day in a spirit of playfulness and abiding restfulness of heart. We have been chosen, after all, to anticipate in our lives and our relationships the very beauty of eternity and of the new creation. Here the playful joy, the grateful adoration, and the restful intimacy that were lost in the Garden of Eden are totally restored and surpassed within the very shelter of the Trinity’s own embrace, which is the pure fullness of perfect joy and eternal playfulness in the single dance of love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.