Good Words from the Abbot
Every week I eagerly await the regular letter from Abbot Phillip, the abbot of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert. This weeks letter was particularly helpful to me this morning, especially given the confusing and painful denominational meeting I am presently attending. I pass part of it on to you in hope that you will find it helpful.
The great challenge of monastic life is not the challenge of having a lot
of vocations, but the challenge of forming men so that they can use their
energies to seek the Lord. Very often men come to us with truly good
intentions and want to be formed to seek the Lord with all of their
energies. As the formation goes on, of course, most drop out.
As I look at society today, I wonder if we are teaching that we don\'t
have to change, but the world around us must change. If life is difficult,
then we must change something around us. It is rare to find the person who actually realizes that the greatest changes must be made within us and not outside of us.
A good way to discern how we make our decisions is simply to ask why we
did something. If the answer is generally because of outside factors, we must ask ourselves why that is. If the answer is usually that I did a
certain thing because it seemed the right thing to do, or because I was
trying to do what I thought that God wanted of me, then perhaps we are
getting closer to the maturity that God wants of us.
It is only when our hearts are still, at peace and without strong desire
that we can seek the will of the Lord. Throughout the history of spirituality, there have been many ways to find this inner peace where we can make good decisions. We each must find our own way to get there. There are some signposts that indicate whether we are there or not.
If I have anger in my heart, I am not there. If I have resentment in my
heart, I am not there. If I think that life has been unfair to me, I am
not there. If I think that I am misunderstood, then I am not there. If I think that others do not understand me, then I am not there. And so on.
Think back to Elijah the Prophet, who finally encounters the voice of God
in a soft, gentle breeze. Only when we have finally recognized to be still
and listen will God be able to speak to us. God comes in the silent
stillness of our hearts, God comes in the scent of light, God comes in
silent music. Normally only time can help us arrive at the inner silent
stillness of our hearts where encounter with God is possible. This is why
God invites us every day to spend time in quiet stillness, waiting for Him
to speak. If we never take the time, God can still surprise us because God
is always God.
The general principle, however, is that grace builds on nature. Thus we
must struggle with our own nature so that it is open to the workings of the
Lord. Another general principle is that emotions need to be guided by
reason and reason needs to be guided by faith.
Each of these principles seems straight forward and easy to understand.
But so often we want to be what we are not and strive to be different from
how we are created. Too often our emotions run our lives and we even
pretend that the emotions are not there.
It is always today that we can begin to cooperate more with the Lord. It
is today that we can take a few moments just to be still and listen. It is
surprising how much impact a few moments each day can have on our lives. We don't need to present to be spiritual giants, but rather we can be
ourselves, recognizing that always we are new born children.
Is there any clear result of all of this? No. Giving a small part of
each day to the Lord is not magic. We cannot control the Lord for He is
God. Yes our lives do change, just because we begin to make silent
stillness the inner heart of our daily lives. If we do this for enough
years, we might even see some changes. We have to remember always that it is God who seeks us and we are able to respond to His seeking. It is not we who will do great things for God, but perhaps God will do great things in us.