“Triune Life in the Charterhouse”
by Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer
On July 19, 2014 the Carthusians celebrated the 4th centenary of St. Bruno’s canonization. As a way to celebrate the occasion, we decided to have a sharing during recreation of any creative work of art or writing about St. Bruno or Carthusian life. Gathering some supplies in my cell (especially a red Christmas card from good old Sister Rita), this is what came together.
Many days at the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, amidst the mountains of Vermont, I discovered that the gray granite walls of the monastery were exactly the same color as the gray sky! This is captured in the image. And this bare and empty background allows the red of the Triune God to shine out all the more. The gray open space in the center of the image is meant to draw the viewer’s eye beyond every-thing, as it gives a sense of the austere emptiness of the desert of Chartreuse.
The Trinity overshadows each cell, encloses each monk, and abides in his soul through the holy Cross of Jesus. Under the monk, we glimpse something of the monk’s new name while immersed in the life of the Trinity: “loved.” Faces are covered with hoods in hiddenness and blessed anonymity while their true individuality shines out: “so loved!” The Trinity runs off the top of the page into invisibility because the mystery of God is never captured. At first glance, the words on the red triangle appear up-side-down…but that’s only from below, from the human perspective. From above, from God’s perspective, all is as it should be. This is just like God’s plan for our lives and the working out of Divine Providence.
The Carthusians like to speak of their life as a communion of solitaries. So in this image are three monks, each dwelling alone in their individual cells while still being in communion. The communio of monks reflects the communio of the Trinity. It’s like how the three hermits prayed in Leo Tolstoy’s short story, “The Three Hermits.” They would simply cry out continually, “Ye are Three, we are three, have mercy on us!”
At the bottom we find the color blue. Mary, our Blessed Mother, is built into the foundation of Carthusian life especially through their recitation of all the offices of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That Marian blue creates the border (and the womb) for my prayer to St. Bruno: “Bruno, plunge me into God’s silent plenitude!” Silence in prayer is not a silence of lack but a silence of excess, a silence of plenitude. The Lord of glory is too much for words so we are left in silent adoration and silent love.