As we celebrate the holiness of those who have gone before us on this Solemnity of All Saints, we share a recent reflection by one of our candidates. He shares his experience of some aspects of the monastic way to holiness:
I spent mid-semester break with the Trappist monks of Saint Joseph’s Abbey. It was good to "come away and rest awhile" in an atmosphere of silence and contemplation. While looking out into the rolling hills and meadows of the Abbey the Sunday I left, this thought occurred to me:
The sun shines differently on Sundays
I don’t know what it is
but it has been this way since I was a child
maybe even since the beginning...
it casts a graced light on things
as if to see
with the eyes of God
the inner glow of all the things
(no greater meaning than simple presence)
to see as on that first day
that all is indeed very good.
The Sabbath is a gift. God gave this grace for us to partake of the rest which only he gives. It is a time to remember that we are more valuable than what we do and that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. In this rest we find our meaning, our freedom and our place in giving thanks. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux likened contemplation to the Sabbath, when all creation sighs an "Alleluia"and moves into the life of God to rest and enjoy the good things of his Creation.
One of the monks told me that what is "neat" about the life of contemplation is that you get to notice things, things we often overlook and take for granted in our carelessness. He was telling me about one of the hermits in the community who has been a monk for over fifty years and who loves to watch the squirrels. As we were walking he noticed a small shy drape of ivy sneaking up the stone wall. Delighted, he pointed to it and said softly, "Look! a little poem!"
Christ said that we had to become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven. These "noticings" are part of the simple awareness of contemplation that recognizes in the world around us traces of heaven. It is a Eucharistic awareness that the world of which we are a part overflows with the life of God. It is a deep and intimate knowledge that the Incarnation is not just something that happened two thousand years ago, but something that continues. Once Christ took on flesh and his blood was spilled on the earth, he transformed it, just as he transforms the bread and wine into himself every day.
This awareness can make all that we do prayer, it can make all things acts of worship; this is what it means to "pray unceasingly,"as St. Paul says. With this awareness we can read the "Book of Nature" and find in everything the subtle secrets of our Savior, the quiet theology and testimony of critters, trees, wind and leaves.