Well, it’s that time again…time to examine our health, consider what we will do differently in our relationships, think about this year being a year of change etc. etc. …ah, the New Year.
The secular world asks us to consider these things and usually asks us to buy something to implement the changes. Maybe it’s a new diet plan or a self-help book or maybe a series of cd’s on career change. Funny how our new year musings often result in our violating the new year commitment to economize and simplify.
Here at the monastery we too look at the new year and consider change but it is always considered within the framework of stability and a lack of change. And it seldom results in us spending any money.
The monks, however, are no less worried about their health than those of us outside the cloister. They too have relationships, right here in the monastery, that take time and attention. And they even look at new work they may have in the coming year (just ask Br. Efrain who prepares for men to come and explore life as monks).
But as they do they have the advantage of being centered in the guidance and direction of St. Benedict and his rule. And that center revolves around prayer and study and work that changes very little.
Here the Divine Office always goes on, every day, 365 days a year and change comes only with a change in the liturgical calendar.
Here lectio divina is expected, every day, by every monk with change coming only in the scripture read or the book used.
Here the beautiful tradition of a full half hour of mental prayer (at a minimum) after Vigils continues with each monk finding his place for this time of silence with God.
Here the bakery churns out its fruitcakes with change only coming from efficiencies or increasing (hopefully) the quantity needed. And here our work itself is seen as prayer and exists only to provide what is needed to house and cloth and care for the monks. Here work sustains, doesn’t make us rich, supports our life, doesn’t provide resources to change that life.
As laypeople we can–as is so often the case–learn much from our monastic brothers. We too can make new resolutions and think about how we might do things differently this year. And we can follow their-and St. Benedict’s–advice and example by making sure prayer is a constant, an every day constant, and lectio and mental/silent prayer are a part of our spiritual life and our work is life enhancing, holy work.
If you are reading this post you are a regular on our web site and I would guess a regular at the monastery (in person or in spirit). That makes you part of the family-I would even say part of the monastic family. You aren’t taking vows; you aren’t living here; you aren’t commiting your life to a cloistered existence. But you are, nonethless, part of the family because this house means something to you; the prayer of the monks matters to you; the fact that this contemplative monastery of Cistercian monks is here and will always be here, comforts you and gives you hope. And more importantly, this house sustains you in your prayer and spiritual life.
So maybe it’s time that you look at the new year as an opportunity to take even more from this community as one of your resolutions. Maybe it’s time you make the Divine Office a more regular part of your life…or lectio a more regular occurence in your prayer life…perhaps its time to stop putting off that new year resolution to pray more, pray more in silence, listening to what God has to say to us. Maybe it’s time to look at our work and question just what it is doing to strengthen our walk with Christ, our commitment to the life Jesus called us to.
You see we really aren’t that different from our monastic friends. After all what they are doing is simply living the Gospel life in a more extreme fashion than those of us outside the cloister. But it doesn’t let us off the hook does it? Jesus still calls to us very directly and requires us (requires, not requests) to see our life as just as dedicated to prayer and service as our friends who live here at Our Lady of the Holy Cross.
Why not make this new year, 2013, the year of prayer for you? Why not see your prayer life mirror more the prayer life of a monk or nun with a regular schedule, with time every day for God, with time every day for study? And why not work to guarantee that what you do for a living is prayer and life enhancing?
As you do this know Our Lady of the Holy Cross is here for you. We’re YOUR monastery, YOUR contemplative community, YOUR spiritual home just as we are for the monks who live here.
Maybe its time to take seriously the commitment to live the Gospel life we made when we committed to Jesus and see change that we are to make in light of what it does for and to our spiritual life.
What a different approach to new year resolutions…