The Meaning and Value of the Contemplative Life
Excerpts from "Verbi Sponsa"
("The Spouse of the Word")
(Excerpts from the Church's Instruction on the Contemplative Life
and the Enclosure of Nuns)
The life of a contemplative nun is. . . .
A Christocentric Life
their gaze upon Christ Jesus,
...they wholly cleave to the Lord.
In their undivided attention to the Father's word: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" Mt 3:17, and in their loving acceptance of that word, cloistered nuns are always "with Him on the holy mountain" 2 Pt 1:17-18. #1
The solitary cell, the closed cloister,
are the place where the nun,
Bride of the Incarnate Word,
lives wholly concentrated with Christ in God.
The ancient spiritual tradition of the Church, taken up by the Second Vatican Council, explicitly connects the contemplative life to the prayer of Jesus "on the mountain," or a solitary place not accessible to all but only to those whom He calls to be with Him, apart from the others. #3
Separation from the world...gives a Eucharistic quality to the whole of cloistered life, since besides it elements of sacrifice and expiation, it assumes the aspect of thanksgiving to the Father, by sharing in the thanksgiving of the Son. #3
A Marian Life
Cloistered nuns see themselves especially in
the Virgin Mary, Bride and Mother, figure of the Church...#1
Nuns relive and perpetuate in the Church the presence and the work of Mary. Welcoming the Word in faith and adoring silence, they put themselves at the service of the mystery of the Incarnation, and united to Jesus Christ in His offering of Himself to the Father, they become co-workers in the mystery of Redemption. Just as in the Upper Room, Mary in her heart, with her prayerful presence, watched over the origins of the Church, so too now the Church's journey is entrusted to the loving heart and praying hands of the cloistered nuns. #4
The contemplative nun fulfills to the highest
degree the First Commandment of the Lord...#5
It is charity, poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit, which makes nuns co-workers of the truth, participants in Christ's work of Redemption, and through their vital union with other members of the Mystical Body makes their lives fruitful, wholly directed to the pursuit of charity, for the good of all. #7
Their life is entirely dedicated to God, loved above all else, in a ceaseless straining towards the heavenly Jerusalem... Their life is a foreshadowing of the goal towards which the entire community of the Church journeys, in order to live forever as the Bride of the Lamb. #4
A Life of Prayer
A Life of Prayer
Through prayer, especially the celebration of the liturgy, and their daily self-offering, they intercede for the whole people of God and unite themselves to Jesus Christ's thanksgiving to the Father. #6
...Cloistered nuns are
fully within the communion of the Church,
becoming a unique sign of the entire Christian
community's intimate union with God.
The contemplative life is the nun's particular way of being the Church, of building the communion of the Church, of fulfilling a mission for the good of the whole Church. Cloistered contemplatives therefore are not asked to be involved in the new forms of active presence, but to remain at the wellspring of Trinitarian communion, dwelling at the very heart of the Church. #6
In a spirit of freedom and hospitality, with the tenderness of Christ, nuns bear in their hearts the sufferings and anxieties of all those who seek their help, and indeed of all men and women. Deeply attuned to the experiences of the Church and of people today, they cooperate spiritually in building the Kingdom of Christ so that "God may be everything to everyone." 1 Cor 15:28 #8
The pilgrim Church is by her very nature
missionary; therefore mission is also
essential to institutes of contemplative life.
Cloistered nuns fulfill that mission by dwelling at the missionary heart of the Church, by means of constant prayer, the oblation of self and the offering of the sacrifice of praise. Their life thus becomes a mysterious source of apostolic fruitfulness and blessing for the Christian community and for the whole world. #7
Their life is a reminder to all Christian people of the fundamental vocation of everyone to come to God. #4