Our Father, Saint Bernard, compares the monastic community to a family, like the one Jesus visited at Bethany. In the monastic community we find Lazarus, the penitent; Martha, the active servant and Mary, the contemplative. All three are necessary to make the monastery what it ought to be. For Saint Bernard true monastic perfection consists in " the union of all three vocations: that of the penitent, the active worker and the contemplative." (Sermon for the Assumption) Thomas Merton agreed that while the contemplative life was to be preferred to the active life, the "most perfect souls" would combine the vocations of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
Inside or outside a monastery the one who serves can only do so after having listened to and meditated upon the Word of God. The "one thing necessary" is the spiritual nourishment that we receive when we sit like Mary at the feet of Jesus. The Lord wants us to choose the better part. And when we do, it shall not be taken from us.
The Candidate's Cottage at the Abbey. And Reflections excerpted from a homily by Brother Emmanuel, a newly ordained Deacon.