Monastic Fundamentals

Monastery Crucifix
Monastery Crucifix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing anyone sees when they come to the monastery is this large and beautiful crucifix facing them as they step through the door. In every room of the monastery they will find another, smaller crucifix. They act as a reminder that this is God’s house, and whether one lives here permanently as we do, or stays only a few hours as a guest, God’s loving gaze is upon us at all times. We live every hour in the presence of God and his angels (cf RB 7.28) and that simple fact is at the heart of everything we say or do (or should be!), both as individuals and as a community. It is, quite literally, fundamental.

Monastic life is a ‘slow living, slow growth’ kind of existence. Unless one is unusually saintly, one can’t become a monk or nun in just a year or two or without the intention of lifelong commitment. The whole of the Rule of St Benedict is concerned with maturation in Christ, of being gradually transformed by the practices of monastic living into someone who reflects the holiness of God (cf RB 73). It takes time to do that, so we have to stick at it, living out the vow of conversatio morum in quiet, unspectacular ways. Perseverance, going on and not giving up, no matter how many mistakes we make or wrong turns we take, that is what matters. Community living, subject to a rule and superior, scrapes away at selfishness and pride, revealing what we are really made of. The faces of old monks and nuns sometimes have a beauty and serenity born of much struggle, and if one is fortunate enough to talk with them, one goes away blessed with a sense of great wisdom expressed in a few lapidary phrases.

Once a year we make an eight day retreat when we take stock of our lives and try to deepen our commitment to what I call monastic fundamentals. This year we have decided to go offline completely; so from 5 to 13 September inclusive, I won’t be blogging and the daily prayer intentions on our Facebook page and Twitter will be automated scheduled posts. If anyone needs to contact us REALLY urgently, we’d ask you to use our mobile number as we are also switching off the house telephone (it has a maddening tendency to ring in the middle of the night!). Please pray for us as we pray for you.

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The Last Day of the Year

It may be perverse of me, but I think the last day of the year is just as important as the first. It is a time for giving thanks for blessings received, asking forgiveness for wrongs committed, forgiving those who have wronged us, and asking grace for the future. Already, even before January, the month that looks both ways, begins, we are aware of needing to make decisions about both past and future. We cannot reject the past, but we can allow it to be redeemed. We cannot determine the future, but we can allow it to be permeated with the love and mercy of God.

In the monastery on the last day of the calendar year, we read chapter 73 of the Rule of St Benedict and are reminded that the Rule itself is only a beginning of holiness, a first step towards the loftier heights of wisdom and virtue described by St Benedict. For me, it will be the 96th time I have heard that chapter read in community. I can look back and see how often I have failed to live up to its demands. I can look forward in hope to trying to live it better in 2014; but most of all, I can decide, here and now, to try to live today as it should be lived because ‘today’ is all we ever really know. So, for me, no New Year resolutions as such, only a renewed sense of purpose about what I am called to be and do. I think (hope?) that is probably enough. It is certainly the best I can do.

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