A Nesting Table: Home as Cloister

A longing for home as cloister.....well, its been growing. And as today is the feastday of Our Lady of Carmel, seemed like an especially nice day to explore it a bit. But first.....Blessed Feastday : )

The connection between Carmel and a cloistered life is a deep one. Carmel means "garden of God", and a cloister is likewise a "garden enclosed". So beautiful!

And yet i also find myself looking back at Our Lady's parents, St Anne and St Joachim. I've always loved their legend (those who dismiss the richness of legends may want to consider this wonderful article, and this one). So as the legend goes, Our Blessed Mother's parents were childless, and at a point of deep despair Joachim went out into the wilderness to live and pray that this be healed...and Anne, she prayed at home. An angel appeared to them both seperately, told them that they would have a blessed child indeed (Mary of course, smile). And then the two parents met one another, at the golden gate of Jerusalem...Joachim coming back from his sacred stay in the wilderness, and Anne from her own sacred place of prayer...her HOME.

For awhile now, keep thinking about how home can be a cloister really. And this legend keeps coming to mind becuase that sure sounds like what home was for St Anne....and i long to look to this amazing model we have.

A cloister, its more than what most mean by the domestic monastery today. I love the concept of the domestic monastery so much, yet its been disapointing to find the typical views on this can be so status quo....."Oh the busyness and chaos and noise of "normal" home life is fine really, just find God in the chaos" seems to be a frequent theme. A "this beautiful mess" sort of idea. Very... status qou. Very unlike the ideal of the cloister.

Becuase home as cloister is different i think. It feels to admit that busyness and too much worldliness and stimulus and the like are not simply a given that must be....even in the domestic world. Back to the legend above that draws so much... i can't help but notice that St Anne didnt need to leave her home to pour her heart out to God, she did it at home. And the angel didnt appear to her out in the spartan desert like he did to her husband, but rather at home. It seems to me that this may be becuase she didnt have to leave her home to find deep quiet and peace and openness....she made these things in her home. Her home, to my mind anyway, sounds like a cloister.

A cloister is not meant to be busy, is not part of the hustle and bustle of the world that most just accept as "normal". Instead a cloister is set apart....in a very good way. A home-as-cloister appraoch, i think it understands that God is a God of beauty and order and love....and so our homes should reflect this. That discord and distraction and chaos are not there to justify as beautiful but rather to work towards the healing of it instead. And that it's okay to set some serious boundaries as a path towards that healing, to put prayer and peace and time and calm AS THE PRIORITY. As the actual focus...not as a sidenote in the midst of a busy life.

Now i know every home isnt meant to be a cloister. Some homes have a mission of being much more part of the busyness of the world as their calling, and a valuable calling it is-- it can be a real way of bringing more healing to the world. But i do think some homes are meant more to be cloisters...and that this is just as valuable a way of healing things, that a subtle but very real impact is gifted by creating a peaceful beacon that is a "garden enclosed". After all, in the world of holy orders there are the more active/interactive monastries, as well as the more quietly withdrawn cloistered ones. Well its the same with our humble homes i think, with our "domestic monasteries".

Home, can indeed, be a cloister. Somehow...

Anyway, i get drawn to this more and more, and plan to explore it over time. And i would love so much to know what others think of this if any are willing, and perhaps even sharing how you have made your own home a cloister : )

(Top image from here, and bottom image was a close up)

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