Harrowing Of Hell
February 25, 2015

Evening Prayer Homily: Conversatio

Preacher: David Holversen


For the non Latin scholars, that means “conversion of life.” How does that fit into tonight’s reading, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

Back in the day—say, some 40 years ago—I was studying to become a Catholic priest when I took the step to become a Benedictine monk.

Benedictines take 5 vows: the usual three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience with the two unique vows of stability and converstatio. For me, the troubling one was obedience, as both the Abbot then and Rob now could tell you. I like to think that I am pushing the rules, but Rob says—and I think the abbot would agree—that I don’t even acknowledge that there are rules.

During the ceremony to become a novice you may be given a new name to reflect that conversion of life, namely, from the “outside world” to the monastic life. The Abbot had just told the community that we all got our first choice, which was really stretching the truth. I had asked for Chrysostom and was told I was not getting that name, nor any of my other suggestions. You see, Chrysostom means “golden throat” or “golden voice.” I wanted to continue my education into music and liturgy and felt Chrysostom would be a good name since he wrote the Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine Catholic Church. The education was approved, but the Abbot said I was not a golden throat. This short story might explain that.

As I was kneeling before him at the naming part of the ceremony, he said my new name would be Justin. Well, somehow I went from my quiet inside voice to a kind of quiet outside voice without realizing it, that is, until I got slapped up the side of the head. Well, barely a novice for a minute, and I was in trouble already. But, I had made the first step in that conversion of life.

I am currently in the process of making another conversion of my life as I prepare for a dispersed Benedictine Third Order. I recently finished reading a book entitled With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen. It is a book on prayer and how it can change or convert our lives.

Our second reading tonight is taken from Luke 11 which starts off with the disciples asking Jesus how to pray. He then gives them the Lord’s Prayer. From prayer, Jesus is accused of being in league with Satan. From there, we go to a small passage of praise and blessing, which then takes us to our passage tonight, the sign of the prophet Jonah. It then follows with the story of the lamp being on the bushel so that it can be seen.

The prophets of the Old Testament were always asked to give a sign to show that they had been sent from God. Here we have the people asking Christ for a sign so that they would know he was from God.

He tells them the story of Jonah, how he preached to the people of Nineveh after being in the belly of the whale for 3 days. Christ tells them that just as Jonah was a sign to the people, so too will the Son of Man be a sign to this generation. The Ninevites put on sack cloth and sat in ashes and called out to God. While it is not overt in the reading tonight, the additional comparison is that the Son of Man will also be buried for three days and will rise on the third day as the sign that the Jews were asking for in our passage tonight.

Last week we started Lent with Ash Wednesday where we received ashes. As the king ordered the Ninevites to fast, so too we are encouraged to fast or give up something as well during this Lenten season.

The next passage in Luke is the story of the lamp and how that light should be put on top of the bushel. At the Great Easter Vigil we light the Paschal candle, and we raise it up so that its light can be shared with the world.
As Christians we are always converting our lives as we progress on our journey to the Kingdom of God and become witnesses to the light of Christ. Here we say that wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you have a place at Epiphany. During this time of Lent, let us convert our lives to one of more prayer and join hands on our journey to the Kingdom of God, so that we can raise the Paschal Candle in glory to the risen Christ.