Monastic Back to Basics and Holy Week

Re-reading RB 58, On the Procedure for Admitting Brethren, as we are at the moment, is an excellent preparation for Holy Week. The text reminds us why we came to the monastery in the first place and examines our conscience on how we have used (and sadly misused) the opportunities given us. It is not a negative process, or at least, I don’t find it so. Instead, it is an encouragement to focus again on the great simplicities of monastic life, to recover something of our initial fervour. I like to think of it as a back to basics programme enlightened by self-knowledge and practical experience.

Holy Week is also an encouragement to refocus on what really matters. The liturgy of the next few days reverts to a more ancient form, the drama and intensity of which shocks us out of our usual complacency. People sometimes ask how to make the most of Holy Week and think they must do more — more reading, more praying, more fasting, etc. My own advice would be to forget about doing extra: just give yourself as fully as possible to the liturgy and allow it to do its work in you. Yes, of course, prepare by reading through the prayers and readings of the day and, if you can, by spending a few moments in prayer before the great celebrations of Holy Week begin; but there shouldn’t be any strain or sense of compulsion. Holy Week will stretch you, make you plunge depths of thought and feeling you did not know existed, leaving you numb or raw by turns. You can trust the Holy Spirit to do his work in you. Like the novice setting out on the monastic way, all you have to do is eat, sleep and give yourself up to this work of transformation.

May God bless you all.