I spent last night at the Little Portion Friary, an Episcopal monastic house which is a part of the Society of St. Francis, a worldwide monastic order following the rule of St. Francis of Assisi.
The reason for my visit was that a friend of mine--one of my first two mentors in EFM--was received as a novice in the order. The rite is called, I was intrigued to find our, the "clothing" of the novice--that is, the giving of a habit.
It was a very moving, surprisingly brief, ceremony. The order had just marked the passing of a brother, and a candle commemorating his life was burning on the altar. The Gospel reading was John 6, the story of the boy who gave five barley loaves and two fish which the disciples then presented to Jesus, and with which Jesus fed the five thousand. Brother Jude, the Minister Provincial, gave a moving, inspiring sermon, in which he focused on the often unremarked aspect of the story--the boy's generosity in giving what he had as a response to Jesus's generosity of spirit. Brother Jude emphasized that this, and not the "how" of the miracle is the point of the story.
How we respond to God is a part of what theologians sometimes call the economy of salvation; it's the part that is up to us. Jesus represents God's utter identification with his creation--his kenosis, or emptying out of all the aspects of divinity, as Brother Jude (following my hero Charles Gore) called it--and we are called likewise to a gracious, generous response.
A moving, warm, day among friends old and new. And a lesson learned, perhaps, in the way in which we should embrace our callings--not merely dutifully, but joyously.