Discernment Retreat Week Five
In Baptism we were each called to a life that is centred on Christ in the fullness of his humanity and divinity. We were called to imitate Christ in all that we do. As the priest anointed us with the Oil of Chrism he said these words:
God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin,given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed PRIEST, PROPHET and KING, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.
The call to enter a monastery is one that makes concrete the call of baptism. Whichever way we choose to live out our baptismal call our aim will be to become more and more like Christ. The monastic path offers us the opportunity to do this with a community of people, a Rule of Life, the guidance of an abbess, communal prayer, personal prayer and manual work. Our task in the monastery is to be open to the ways in which we can imitate Christ as Prophet, Priest and King in the monastic rhythm of each day.
St Benedict is very clear about the discipline which is necessary if we wish to follow this path. In a chapter which is considered to be the spiritual heart of the Rule, St Benedict articulates ideas which could also be considered to be his manifesto:
‘Just as there is an evil and bitter zeal that separates one from God and leads to hell, so too there is a good zeal that separates one from evil and leads to God and eternal life. Thus monks should practice this zeal with the warmest love: ‘Let then strive to be the first to honour one another.’ They should bear each other’s weakness of body and character with the utmost patience. They must compete with one another in obedience. No one should pursue what he considers advantageous to himself, but rather what benefits others. They must show selfless love to the brothers. Let then fear God out of love. They should love their abbot with sincere and humble charity. Let them prefer absolutely nothing to Christ, and may he lead us all together to everlasting life.’Good Zeal, Ch 72
We are to image Christ by putting others first, by considering their good and not our own. The community becomes for us a place where we can learn and practice this art of following Christ. We take up the challenge to live rooted in Christ, with a listening ear, a discerning heart, able to hear and respond to the call of the spirit.
Through our baptism we came to share Christ’s life. We were inserted into the dynamic of the paschal mystery. As St Paul says in his letter to the Romans: ‘when we were baptized in Christ Jesus we joined him in death’.
Through our immersion in the waters of baptism we joined Christ in the tomb and as we were drawn out of the waters so we shared in his resurrection. It is this dynamic of dying and rising which we are invited to live each day in the monastery. We die to our old ways and take on the person of Christ.
Inevitably the path will involve things that are hard and suffering is sure to come our way in some form. The monastic path teaches us to hold fast to Christ and urges us to ‘prefer nothing to Christ’.
Christ in the Scriptures
If you make my word your homeJohn 7:32
you will indeed by my disciples,
you will learn the truth
and the truth will make you free.
His state was divine,Philippians 2:6-11
yet he did not cling to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave,
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
You must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received- Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted in him and built on him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving.Colossians 2:6-7
The Word was made flesh,John 1:14
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that was his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
- Use the quotations from the Rule and the Scripture passages for your reflection during the week.
- Notice in particular the phrases which strike you from Ch 72 of the Rule. How do you understand ‘selfless love’?
- Find a picture or Icon of Christ that you really like. Put it somewhere where you can see it in your room. Spend a short time each day praying with the image.
- Spend some time reflecting on Christ’s qualities as ‘the Word made flesh’. What strikes you about Christ’s human qualities? Can you see these qualities developing in your own life?
- Life in the monastery will involve a commitment to a structured day with fixed times for prayer, meals, work and recreation. Through all of this we live the paschal mystery of death and resurrection. How do you imagine that you would adjust to this form of structure?
Rule of St Benedict: ©1981 by Order of Saint Benedict. Published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota. Used with permission.
Scriptural quotations from THE JERUSALEM BIBLE, ©1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday, a division of Random House/ Penguin, Inc. Reprinted by Permission.