Friday, December 16, 2016

The Word Becoming Flesh: Consent and Commitment

By Sr. Annie Klapheke

Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours, no feet but yours.
- St. Theresa of Avila

I professed my first vows with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati on December 10th.  

I chose this quote from St Theresa of Avila for the front of the program because it captures the image of the Incarnation – the theme around which I chose the readings and songs for the liturgy.  I have come to understand vocation as each person’s call to participate in the continuation of the Incarnation – that is, making God’s love physically present in the world.  By my vows, I have said ‘yes’ to continuing the Incarnation is a particular way, as a vowed religious with the Sisters of Charity.  Through my vow liturgy, I wanted to draw all those present into the Incarnation story, and hoped that it would lead them to consider how they, themselves, were being called to participate in this great story.  The mass was beautiful.  I am so grateful to the singers, readers, musicians, presider, and all those who participated.  By offering their gifts, they brought the liturgy to life, and God’s love was palpable in that chapel on that cold December morning.  

For the Gospel reading, I chose the Annunciation story from the Gospel of Luke.  Thirteen simple versus which capture the moment when the history of the world was changed; when Mary gave her ‘yes’ to allow God to take on human skin, through her.  S. Louise Lears offered a reflection describing the rawness of Mary’s consent to the angel.  Louise stated, “We don’t know the emotions Mary drew upon in her consent, her ‘may it be done to me according to your word’.  Perhaps she was the peaceful woman portrayed in some artistic representations.  But I wonder if she sang her consent to God through her tears, hands shaking in fear of the unknown future, yet trusting in God.”  Louise continued by pondering the moments following the Annunciation, “And isn’t it notable that, once Mary consented, the angel did not wait around to soothe Mary’s doubts, or go with her to tell her parents and Joseph, or stay behind to silence her critics.  The angel departed, leaving the ongoing work of discernment and discipleship to Mary.”

Mary gave her consent, and now she was committed to the vocation of bearing God to the world.

If I had to choose one word to describe how I felt after my vow mass, it would be ‘committed’.  Yes, of course, there was great joy, excitement and gratitude; but even stronger was a sobering sense of deep commitment to God, to my community, and to continuing the work of the Incarnation.  In the closing of her reflection, S. Louise stated, “[Annie], you are a God bearer, an identity and vocation that brings with it extraordinary privileges and significant burden – all of which are meant to be shared in solidarity and in community.  Your work of bearing God into the world as a woman religious will continue to require ceaseless discovery and ongoing consent.  Each trembling ‘yes’ that you whisper as a Sister of Charity into God’s heart will change you and us and the world.”  

As my consent and commitment to the work of the Incarnation sink deeper into my heart, I listen to the words of the angel Gabriel and gain courage, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.  Do not be afraid.”  

President Sr. Joan Cook receives the vows of Sr. Annie Klapheke. (photo: Romina Sapinoso)

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