On making choices

The sentence in the Rule of St Benedict (RB 7:32), “he shall imitate by his actions that saying of the Lord, ‘I have come not to do my own will’” etc, has a certain weight for us not only in general but also particularly at this time of much turmoil.

There is a direct relationship between what we do—how we choose to move about and act in the world, (or do not choose) and the degree to which we are available for comment to the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit by means of the monastic life. When in the beginning of our life in the monastery we learn to close doors quietly—turn knob, shut door, turn knob—or to handle objects quietly and so on, what we are doing is putting deliberate distance between ourselves and our automatic, habitual persona. We are making mindful space by these tiny attempts at awareness. And by these countless little practices that can seem to have no real bearing on the spiritual life, we are breaching the vacuum seal that seeks, above all, to prevent self-knowledge and real transformation at any cost.

But as soon as that seal begins to become the least bit loose, something like “oh, wait, I am doing ‘x’ again,” the possibility for the entrance of more intensive self-knowledge now exists.

That is the humble and necessary beginning (and beginning and beginning again) of becoming not just a monk or nun, but a Christian in the fullest sense of the word. That is one way by which we imitate by our actions, by our presence of mind, the desire to live Jesus in our world.

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