Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
(John Donne, Holy Sonnet XIV)
As we remember the Conversion of St. Paul today we are called upon to consider our own. Our conversion is not a one-time event but something that unfolds each day, by the Grace of God. Donne puts it so well… Yet dearly I love you, and would gladly be loved, but I’m engaged with that which fights against you… divorce me from it; break that knot and imprison me…
The Rule of St. Benedict speaks of the “ongoing conversion” of a monk or sister as a vow of fidelity to the monastic life: a conversatio morum. Oblates (either clergy or laypersons) who have committed themselves to a monastic community of their own choosing, such as The Friends of St. Benedict in Washington, DC, – make the same vow.
But each and every one of us – all who with John Donne pray that God untie the knots that bind us to the enemies of goodness and light – are oblates. We “avow” each Sunday during our prayers of The Holy Eucharist (my favorite version is found in The Great Thanksgiving in Holy Eucharist Rite I): “And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee…” We pray for our own conversion, a turning away from those proclivities that keep us from Christ, and we do so daily until we live with “one’s eyes in his (Christ’s) eyes,” avec les yeux dans ses yeux.
The Conversion of St. Paul, John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV and the hope of the Eucharist that our lives become a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice to God…
Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the hour
and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,
a little more time. Love for the earth
and love for you are having such a long
conversation in my heart. Who knows what
will finally happen or where I will be sent,
yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,
except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowly learning.