The Readings for Thursday in the 14th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Gratis accepistis, gratis date. Nolite possidere aurum, neque argentum, neque pecuniam in zonis vestris : non peram in via, neque duas tunicas, neque calceamenta, neque virgam : dignus enim est operarius cibo suo.
You received without paying, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food.
This passage has affected a lot of folks most famously, perhaps, St Francis of Assisi who used it as the basis for his rule. But all the mendicant orders bear some of the nature of this verse: the absolute reliance on God in the performance of God’s work. And even today, wrapping up my first year with the Dominican Tertiaries, I find this total reliance to be (nearly erotically) attractive. Not that being a Dominican Tertiary means I can’t be a mendicant: the Dominicans and the Franciscans are together in this eight century long party! (Francis was my confirmation name when I was Episcopalian… this is a tight circle.)
At Mary of Egypt, herself a patroness for other reasons, found herself on this path, abandoning all not to preach the Gospel, but rather to live it. And she was set up for it in her way of life: for she had placed such an emphasis on satisfying fleshly concupiscence that she was already seriously uprooted from the norms of society. One might say that her caving in to sin had set her into a “pre-monastic” way of life: rootless, homeless, penniless, ready to run at a moment’s notice to a distant land just to keep have sex with the hottest guys. Ironic, is it not, to think of this as one step away from her monasticism?
But I wonder what mendicancy means today. Yes, nearly everything I own is within an arm’s reach of me as I type. I have no pension, no savings, not many more possessions than I had in the monastery. I have no debt nor, save for my cat and my parents, any legit obligation or ties. But I still feel weighed down, trapped. The thing I feel that is holding all this together is fear: fear that God will not hold up his part of this bargain. Fear that I will be homeless and dead or in jail – at least if I do this in the city. But if I did this in the country where would I go? A friar needs to be with people. (When I first became Orthodox I created a bit of controversy by suggesting an Orthodox monastery in the city… even though St Basil and others had done the same thing.) Service is a mendicant’s middle name.
And finding someone to go with me in next to impossible. The whole point of this adventure is at least two by two, if not a whole host of brothers. But most folks like the idea of more things, more stuff.
So… fear and alone…
But it shouldn’t be that way, right? If there was ever a chance, a time… why not now?
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