Putting everything ‘on the altar’

Jeanne Guillemette

The entire community of Madonna House around the world recently experienced a very unique gathering called a Sobor (from a Russian word meaning ‘gathering’).

Our various mission houses clustered together into groups and joined our main house in Combermere, Ontario, through Zoom, for numerous meetings over a period of two weeks. We in Robin Hood’s Bay travelled to Belgium to join our team there.

It was a great joy to see everyone! In listening intently to one another during the meetings, we strove to hear the voice of God coming through what was expressed by our our brothers and sisters in the community.

One ‘phrase’ that came up several times was that of putting all that we hold dear ‘on the altar’, ready to be sacrificed, if that is what God asks. This expression comes from the Old Testament story of Abraham, our father in faith, who was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac, ‘the son of the promise’, through whom God was to give him ‘descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens’.

Abraham’s faith and trust in God went so far as to believe that God could even raise his son from the dead. In the end, God prevented Abraham from offering Isaac as a holocaust. But ‘in the fullness of time’, God gave up his Only Son, Jesus, who was crucified, died and rose from the dead, for us.

What does this have to do with us in Madonna House? We do not have sons and daughters to place ‘on the altar’, as Abraham did. We don’t have a promise of descendants without number.

Yet, we believe that God has called us. In speaking about the essentials of our life, we spoke of many things that are dear to our way of life: ways of doing things, ways in which our community expresses itself, things that seem to be essential to our spirit (like our Farm in Combermere or having Byzantine Liturgies). Little by little, we began to talk about placing each of these things ‘on the altar’, knowing that even if God asked us to give them up, it would not take away from what was most essential to our way of life.

God may not ask us to give them up, but freedom comes from offering them to him. This also keeps us from taking things for granted and renews our gratitude for what we do have.

How many of us struggle with the prospect of losing something or someone dear? No, it is not always easy. Yet, interior freedom and joy come from putting all that we hold dear into God’s hands, trusting in his abundant goodness. Jesus Christ came to show us just how trustworthy our Heavenly Father is.

He freely offered his life to restore to us our relationship of confident trust with our Father. Lent is a time to renew our desire to follow Christ. This year, let us follow him with renewed confidence and trust in His immense love.

Previous Months Letters from Madonna House

October 2023: Ordinary Miracles By Mathieu Dacquay

November 2023: The Saints Are Alive By Jeanne Guillemette

December 2023: Journeying through Advent with Joseph By Carol Ann Gieske

January 2024: Celebrating Epiphany with the Christian east By Fr. Michael Weitl

February 2024: Finding Peace in Surrender to Christ By Mathieu Dacquay