At our last community-sharing on Experientia, our dear Fr. Maurice spoke of what he termed the risk of pledging obedience to one’s abbot, but then suggested that it was worth the risk for, as he said, it all works out in the end. I’m not sure whether at that time he was aware of just how close his own end was! However, as we know, in recent years he repeatedly expressed his readiness (and, indeed, his eagerness) to complete his earthly pilgrimage and make that final transition to his eternal home. This peaceful non-anxious approach to death suggests that the risk he took so many years ago, when he made that other transition from “the world” into the enclosure of Gethsemani, was more than worth it and that, for him, it did all work out in the end.
In his case, the all working out in the end gives some hint of what might be termed his atypical monastic journey and a monastic life that was lived in several different monastic settings beginning at Gethsemani, and continuing in places like Oxford (NC), here at Berryville, and as Chaplain at Redwoods, California. As we know, many monks who entered at the time Fr. Maurice did, led what would seem to have been a more conventional monastic journey—completing their formation, professing their vows, and then peacefully living out their monastic life at Gethsemani until a divine summons called them from this world. However, this uneventfulness in their lives is really only apparent, and the circuitous route that Fr. Maurice’s monastic life traced out reflects, externally, what usually unfolds spiritually within the heart of any monk or nun who seriously embraces monastic life.
The circuitous forty-year wandering in the desert of God’s Chosen People is yet another symbol of this inner journey that Fr. Maurice remained engaged in until his final breath and the last beat of his heart. During that long journey towards the Promised Land, the people of Israel were gradually transformed from being a loosely-bound band of tribes, into an ever more united single people, able to cross the Jordan as God’s Chosen People. Similarly, the inner journey of the monk is a long and often painful process of purifying, perfecting, and integrating the various and disparate aspects of our divided hearts into that single united whole, capable of fully receiving God’s love, and in that receiving, to be steadily transformed into Christ, in that great mystery of divinization.
And so Fr. Maurice’s deep conviction that it all works out in the end was his way of affirming Saint Paul’s insistence that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. As such his interesting life is a reminder that we need to trust God enough to surrender control over our life and relinquish those cherished expectations and desires that we might have had upon entering the monastery. His life is a reminder that although a circuitous route home to our heavenly kingdom is often a result of our spiritual shortsightedness and lack of trust, God never gives up on us, but patiently accompanies us (as he did the People of Israel) and lovingly shepherds us through the wilderness of our sinful hearts in preparation for that moment when our end approaches and we stand on the banks of the Jordan and prepare to cross over into that kingdom prepared for us before the foundation of the world.
So, as we lay the mortal remains of Fr. Maurice to rest (until that final day when we all shall rise), let us offer thanks for the proofs of God’s loving, patient, and compassionate mercy, manifested so profoundly in the life and person of Fr. Maurice. May his joyous spirit and uncomplaining acceptance of physical limitations and frailty in his final years, inspire us to persevere (like him) to the end, believing that, (for us too) it will all work out in the end. In the meantime, during this time of our exile and our wandering, let us, as Saint Augustine exhorts us, proclaim alleluia to cheer us on our way! At present, alleluia is for us a traveler’s song; but by a toilsome road we are wending our way to home and rest where, with all our busy activities over and done with, the only thing that will remain will be alleluia!