The Spiritual Life

1. The First Steps

It all starts with the little seed of our baptism. From the life that arises as a source. For any Christian it is the beginning of an adventure or, better still, we can say the beginning of a relationship.

For St. Bruno, one day the murmur of this source was heard in an irresistible way: to leave everything for God alone. The invitation was interior, but a choice had to be made. To this call everything had to be entirely subordinate : to turn away from the world to turn totally to God. Detachment from the created, attachment to God. For Bruno this can only be achieved in a life fully devoted to loving Christ, to reproducing His inner life, to prolonging his prayer in the secret of solitude. Solitude allows the nun (as Saint Bruno writes to his friend Ralph) to “stay with himself,” which in reality means: to be present to the Divine Presence in the depths of her heart, in a stable manner.

Then a very personal dialogue was established with the Lord, that of the bride with Christ her Bridegroom. A very intimate mutual belonging in love. But in this “I-You” is actually present the whole Church, for it is she, the whole, who has Christ as the only Bridegroom. At the same time, the Bride is a Mother who gives birth to the new life, nourished by the bread of the Word and the Eucharistic bread.

The nun is therefore engaged in a path that will make her love more and more. All the banalities of her existence are transfigured.

2. The Place of Purification

But this response will be put to the test: sometimes by tough fights, but especially by a small, persistent struggle somewhat wearying. Living an interior life is not easy. It involves a learning process.

The nun, like any human being, carries in her energies that are only waiting to be used. These energies carry her outwards. Her hands need to do something, her eyes to see, her mind to deal with thoughts and readings, her imagination to pursue dreams, her will to stray into the multiplicity of her desires.

In the presence of these aspirations that go in all directions, the temptation can be great to satisfy them by means of compensation of all kinds. In reality, we have to accept this experience of emptiness. This is the decisive test. It will often present itself in the face of humble and concrete renunciations: the daily rhythm of life includes its trials, its annoyances. The cell, which appeared large in the early days, may appear to be shrinking. Desires for space, travel, can awaken. Family loved ones or friends seem far away.

The nun who experiences these voids begins to make the painful discovery of her impotence to love in gratuitousness. She sees in the foreground the feeling of her weakness, her contradictions, her divisions, her slavery with regard to desires.

Yet, despite the falls, the regressions, the temptations of discouragement, she finds support in the initial decision, which God put in her heart: to give everything out of love. In the secret of her heart, God’s desire is always there. She relentlessly seeks divine forgiveness, and the divine Hand, which will take hers and lead her on to the other side, that of being newly born in Christ. In short, she saves herself by patience (Luke 21,19)! The Spirit is there to lead her. The nun learns that she does not produce the grace she so desperately needs. It comes from an another’s life and will always be given to her.

3. The Work of Grace

She is thus gradually reborn to a new existence, essentially marked from the start of life in solitude. On this fundamental basis and under the movement of the Holy Spirit, each finds in freedom “her” own path of prayer, relying on our friends the Saints who have already travelled this path victoriously. All “schools of spirituality” can thus find their place in the Charterhouse.

The nun will therefore, driven not by her own energies but by divine grace, gradually find her centre within herself. She knows, in faith, that she carries in her heart a very great Mystery. The Holy Trinity is there. Christ lives in her heart. She knows that she is called, invited by the Lord, to this: to live from the Inner Source, to let it spring up and to work in it.

The Spirit comes to bring the true “food” to each of her tendencies, in order to unify them, to stabilize them as if by an anchor in the incessant memory of the divine Name. First of all, he gives her to accept, without going back, to be stripped back, to experience her poverty without seeking to bridge the abyss that is being deepened, to give up finding her own value in what she does. When the grain is buried in the ground, first nothing is noticeable, nothing more than the bare earth. The grain, however, bears fruit. Little by little, a unification of the soul occurs, which is resolved in a single simple act: to become all gaze, a gaze fixed on the Beloved.

Then silence prevails: the divine Silence against which she so often stumbled, becomes The Presence of God, union. She is thus receptivity, passivity under divine Love, who is Himself infinitely discreet, respectful of her freedom.

And this life is germinating. As the Lord fed his people in the arid solitude of the desert, he feeds her in the solitude of her cell. She has his Word. The Eternal Word has become flesh to be visible, and its manifestation continues for us. It lets itself be seen crucified on the cross, in the wounds of its disfigured face; it is heard in the inspired Word, which the nun meditates on every day. It is in a vigil, the waiting for the return of the Lord (Lk 12, 35-40), dear to St. Bruno.

In this lies the joy of the nuptials. Life in a cell, a continuous and tireless journey, nevertheless tends towards a rest, that of union with the Beloved. The desired end, without knowing it, is already present in its walk. A deep feeling that she belongs totally to God, which fulfils her desire. Joy to discover that she is not asked first to love God, but first of all to see that God loves her. Like the disciples on the mountain of the Transfiguration, she sees only Jesus alone, introduced by herself into the cloud where he hides.

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