Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Feast of All Benedictine Saints

Today at Vigils we prayed:
O God, you promise those who enter the narrow gate, life in abundance.  May we learn from the example of St. Benedict and his disciples to see all things in your grace and to live in this world as your new creation.  This we ask though Christ our Lord.  Amen.
This prayer links two images: the narrow gate or door, and newness of all things in Christ.  What is this narrow gate?  The prayer implies that it is life in the monastery and St Benedict in his rule agrees saying:
But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity
for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity,
do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation,
whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14) (Prologue Rule of St Benedict)
Having lived in the monastery for almost 20 years, I have seen many enter, but few persevere.  Is it because the way is narrow or too restrictive?  Is it really that difficult?  It is easy to look at the monastery and see it as only a place of renunciation.  We give up setting our own schedules. We pray even when we don't feel like it and we try to live under a vow of obedience to a superior.   We keep an enclosure that is not only physical but also spiritual and psychological.  This is the discipline of guarding the heart.  All these things may seem difficult and they are at first, but most enter the monastery with a certain zeal that gives initial energy to accept these hardships.

No, the the real test of a monastic vocation is the long haul.  The "everydayness" of the life - where it becomes tedious, or as the Constitutions of our order states, "ordinary, laborious and obscure."  (Constitution 3.5)  This is the real narrow gate.  We are not special anymore - not even to ourselves.  

Having encountered this point of temptation and testing, one can easily give up: quit the wilderness and return to a life that offers more of a sense of gratification.  And that may be the right decision for that person.  But for others these points of crises can resolve into a new creation.  A new appreciation of who am really am and who God is for me.  
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. (St Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:17)
Let's remember today all those who persevered in Benedictine monastic life and became models and guides for others.  May they help us to live in this world as a new creation in Christ.

Sr Suzanne