Just as I was preparing to write this post, someone wrote me something which so struck me that I'm beginning our next monastic day with it.
"While I know the cloister itself is not calling me," writes our friend, "how I can better
serve our Lord does."
Ah ha. Isn't that the very core of it? Isn't that why we're looking into the idea of monasticism? Isn't that why we're here on earth? To serve Our Lord?
We have seen how the day begins in a monastery. If the Community is one that gathered to sing praise at the call of the Night Bells, the Monks or Nuns have gone back to bed for a few hours before rising again. They wake to another time of prayer. Sometimes a monastic community has a period of individual, silent, mental prayer (in chapel) before they chant the Morning Office.
In my own private prayer today, I've been (again) considering reasons for monastic life, and why it calls to me so deeply even as I live "out here" in the midst of the world.
I am drawn by monasticism's absolute totality. As I've written before, the person coming into the cloister doesn't stick her head inside the enclosure and leave her arms and legs dangling outside. It just won't work.
Yet how often do I (maybe without even knowing it) give God "only so much," holding little corners of my life in reserve for, well... me? Obeying some of His commandments, but ignoring the ones I don't particularly like. Trusting Him to take care of this thing and that thing... but managing this other one myself, because I'm not sure what He will do if I put THAT into His hands.
Absolute totality. It is a process. It's a process even for those in the physical monastery, for while they've pulled their bodies inside, parts of their hearts (surely must) linger for awhile outside the walls.
But even though the totality is a process, for the cloistered individual a decision has been made. "I do not want to settle for anything less than a total gift of self": that is the heart cry of a monastic.
I do not want to settle for anything less than a total gift of self: that is my heart cry.
And so, as we proceed through the rhythms of our next monastic day, I want to keep in mind the reason for monasticism, for it applies to us as well: To better serve Our Lord.
"One cannot give Christ a limited place in one's life." (Louis Bouyer, The Meaning of the Monastic Life, PJ Kenedy and Sons, NY, 1950, p. x)
"Monastic life is nothing else, no more and no less, than a Christian life whose Christianity has penetrated every part of it. (Bouyer, p. 13)
"The monk is precisely the Christian who has recognized in Christ 'the way, the truth, the life' and who intends to act logically over this discovery, a discovery of such a nature that it should not leave any of those who have made it tepid or indifferent." (Bouyer p. 68)
Text not in quotes
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