Going into a black and white stage is really dying to self. That is the entire point of a habit. It is not only a “sign of contradiction in the world” but a denial of self-expression.
I did not think this would be so hard, as I am not particularly attached to my clothes, but the reality of giving away things and living by a list complied by someone else is the beginning of purgation.
The commentators on the Rule of Benedict write that it is sometimes the small things which cause the most anxiety at first. One’s favourite pen, or one’s special tea cup or coffee mug; one’s hair-dryer or one’s bubble bath are not BIG things, but part of the rhythm of life about which one surrounds one’s self for comfort and continuity.
There will be a new continuity, which I have partially experienced, of the daily hours and daily schedule organized for centuries in Benedictine convents and monasteries throughout the world.
Prayer, work, study, more work, more prayer. The denial of free time or coffee breaks again is part of the denial of self in a small way. One cannot stop and have a cuppa when one feels like it. One cannot sit down in choir, but kneels or stands.
The denial of self happens in the world as well, such as when one faces financial ruin, or cancer, or the death of loved ones.
One cannot escape, nor should one run from suffering. Sometimes God paints us into a corner, so that we cannot run away unless we want paint all over our shoes and leave a messy, ruined floor behind.
The denial of color allows God to paint the empty canvas of the soul. Memory, understand and will become purified over time. The advantage of the monastery is that this process speeds up the three-fold movement towards perfection, if one cooperates.
Cooperation involve many things: obedience, conformity, denial of singularities and eccentricities (which are caused by pride and encourage pride), setting aside one’s own ideas and even ways of working.
Last year, I had to learn how to clean without cleaning supplies, as the monastery in Cove only uses water on the floors and rarely uses sprays. The nuns live as if the 20th and 21st century had never occurred.
One can set aside one’s own ideas and habits and even expertise for one reason only, and that reason is love, the love of God.
Even that love is sprinkled with pride and self-seeking until one gives up everything.
Purification is death.
The black and white clothes I am rolling up and packing in my suitcase remind me of death.
But, the truth is that we all die and face God. Is it not better to allow Him the freedom to start the process of purification, leading to illumination and, finally, unity, now?
If one loves someone, one will do anything for that person. One wants to be with that person, and eventually, one wants to be completely united with that person.
People ask me why I want to do the hard thing. I want to be like Christ.