A Letter from Sister Geraldine Klein
It usually falls to me to give the reflection at the Good Friday Service in our
chapel, and this year was no exception. I chose to reflect on the cross which certainly is not that surprising – given the day. But what caught my attention was the passage from Luke 9:23: “Jesus said to all: Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his(her) very self, take up his(her) cross each day, and follow in my steps.” This is the condition for being a disciple of Jesus.
Pondering the cross on Good Friday, or on any day, can bring repulsive feelings into our awareness and fill us with anxiety, because of the cruelty, suffering and, ultimately, death that Jesus underwent. That we must take up our cross daily can be hard words to hear. They push us to get to the real meaning of Jesus’ words.
Historically, the cross is a prominent Christian symbol. Symbols are something we use to visibly portray both what we can express and what is inexpressible. The symbol of the cross brings together what we can see and know – the cross – and what we cannot – Love (God). The cross then, is the symbol of God’s love. John Philip Newell in his book The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings does a wonderful job of helping us understand this age old symbol. The cross is composed of two lines set at a 90 degree angle to each other and intersecting in the middle. The horizontal line represents our relationship with each other and all creation. The vertical line represents our relationship with God. If you draw a circle around the lines at the edge, you have the symbol of unity, inclusion, belonging, bringing opposites together at the center. Left and right, up and down, north and south, east and west come together in the center. It is really only love that can bring opposites together.
I have pictured our Congregational Cross here so that we can explore how our cross represents the life of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate. It is indeed a cross, the symbol of God’s love, and the circle is superimposed so that it encompasses the center. At the very bottom of the circle you see inscribed the words from the Song of Songs in the Old Testament: “I to my Beloved and my Beloved to me.” This is the covenant of love between God and each Sister. We belong to God, and we belong to each other as community. There are two small hearts just above the quotation and both are pierced with the same arrow. We are tied to the suffering of Jesus as was his mother Mary. We are called to a life of compassion. Compassion literally means to ‘suffer with’. For us it means to be with those whose place is mostly last, who are on the margins of society, who are the least privileged, whom society most often leaves behind, and who are deprived of their human dignity.
In the very center we see the dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit who is the unfolder of the love enfolded in each of us by the Source of Love. Our title, Sisters of the Holy Spirit, indicates our dedication through this Divine Spirit of Love. In order to help fulfill our call, the Spirit gives us the seven fold gifts which are inscribed above the dove. Those gifts are: Wisdom, Intelligence, Strength, Fear, Science, Piety and Advice. Perhaps they are more familiar to you as: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord. Through the help of these gifts we are enabled to live the compassionate love to which we are called.
At the very bottom of our cross stands Mary, Our Mother. Just as she remained at the foot of the cross of her Son, she stands with us to share in the suffering of the world and to extend the compassion of Jesus, the Compassionate One, to all those in need. This is our life as symbolized through our Congregational Cross.
Yes, it is a challenge, but what a wonderful gift to be called to this life of compassionate love.
Enjoy our Sisters’ Journey – June 2019