When I first began to study Scripture as a young adult, a wise and elderly nun advised me to begin with Revelation, a book which, she told me, had gotten her through a difficult year as a young novice. “Start there. It’s spooky and mysterious, and if you can stand it, it will fill you with consolation.”
Some might rightly be wary of a recommendation that comes with such a potent qualifier—“If you can stand it!”—but amid John’s odd and prophetic book I did indeed find the promised consoling notes, most particularly in the last part of Revelation 2:10: Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
It is an assurance that we can cling to in those difficult times, when we are handed our share of the Cross and find ourselves wilting under its weight. It reminds us that Christ bore it first, and that the crown he wears is the crown he shares—the crown of life that is forged by saying “yes” to God’s plan, and then continually repeating that consent, again and again, even as it leads us down paths we never meant to travel.
That’s what Saint Frances of Rome must have discovered back in the fourteenth century, when the thirteen-year-old told her wealthy father she wished to become a nun, and was informed by him that she was about to become a nobleman’s bride. A quiet, retiring girl by nature, Frances—convinced she was meant for the convent—went to the local priest, begging his intercession for her sake. Instead, he asked her something unsettling: was she seeking his help because she wanted to conform herself to God’s will, or because she wanted to conform God, and the world, to hers?
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