On Being a Bucolic Benedictine

A smattering of Greek and an Anglo-Saxon weakness for apt alliteration determined the title for today’s post. I have spent much of the last few days in delicious idleness, watching the calves over the way. They are Herefords, all legs and eyes and bumbling charm. Seen through the drifts of plum blossom, they are enchanting. If I were more religious (!), I’d probably quote the psalms and their references to stall-fed cattle, bulls of Bashan and the like; but we are in rural England in springtime, and the dust and heat of ancient Israel seem very far away. All that will change in an instant on Palm Sunday, when we become one with those following Jesus into Jerusalem and trace, step by step, the events of that momentous week. Today, however, it is life, new life, that surrounds us here at the monastery and reminds us of the everlasting creativity of God.

One of the biggest temptations we face is to believe that everything has been done: that from here on, everything goes downhill, gets worse, ends in dissolution and decay. It is a fundamentally pessimistic view of life, one that cramps both mind and spirit. Many physicists of the nineteenth century believed, by and large, that their subject had been exhausted. There were just a few loose ends to tie up. No physicist today would say that. We are on the brink of discovering so much more. Every day seems to reveal more and more wonders, opens up vistas we had never dreamed of, invites us to go further, deeper.

The calves over the way may strike the casual observer as a symbol of all that is unchanging in the countryside, but anyone with an eye for cattle or even the most cursory knowledge of the breed will tell you that the size of the Hereford has changed enormously over the past century. At one time they were bred very small, so that being shipped out to South America they fitted the cargo pens to which they were consigned. Today’s Hereford stands taller, stockier, a much more substantial beast than his 1950s counterpart. I wonder what they will look like a century hence. Of one thing, I’m sure: they will have changed; and as my vow of conversatio morum daily reminds me, I too must change. Being a bucolic Benedictine is not an opting-out but an opting-in to living by grace and being transformed by it.

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8 thoughts on “On Being a Bucolic Benedictine”

  1. Lovely reflection that change is all around us, but we only notice those things such as technology that are quite obvious to us – having the latest gadget seems to be everyone’s aspiration.

    I like the changes of season, just now, our Apple tree has burst into blossom, virtually overnight, while it’s leaves are still forming. I cut it back hard in the autumn and how surprising to see blossom sprouting from virtual twigs on the branches left behind. I fancy another bumper crop this year, if the weather remains kind.

    I believe that you are quite right – age is in fact a state of mind, and if we live in faith and hope, God’s grace will be alongside us, not in a preservative mode, but one which allows the ageing process to be gentle, steady and even bearable.

    I for one am quite happy as I am. The NHS is providing all of the treatment for any ailments that have or might develop, and accepting them and living with them is much easier than for those in places where a visit to a doctor or hospital is miles and several days trek on foot.

    I was talking to someone this morning at our parish coffee call, who has lost his spouse and his eye sight (he was formerly a musician) and is suffering from other ailments, but is full of life and happiness -it shone out from him – there’s God’s grace working and being spread around liberally as well. God be praised.

    Prayers for you continue. 🙂

  2. Putting conversatio morum into a search engine – I thought blackberry wasn’t it, from mos moris – nature, practice…? I found a lovely explanatory site called “Oblate Spring”. Glad you are home again and resting.

  3. You paint a beautiful pastoral scene with words. I can almost smell the plum blossom and I now feel quite relaxed in spirit 🙂

  4. Yes, the Herefordshire countryside is a place of great beauty just now. Today it feels easy to praise and thank the good Lord. Not so easy during grey painful days but your message always lifts my spirits. Thank you.

  5. I still wish you had a “Like” button on your blog posts. Truth be told there are some that speak to me more than others. I so often feel guilty about not having a perfect house, or having been a magazine perfect mom but there is more to come and each day is an opportunity to begin again.

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