Rising to the challenge

We have a sturdy, comprehensive rule of life that contains, guides, and guards our aspirations to give ourselves to God and to God’s people in the common life of the monastery. That aspiration, in order to be healthy—to remain healthy—must be frequently tested: is it live, or is it tending to a stagnancy of form and ideals without substance?

What tests us is the quality of our availability to the Holy Spirit of God. It is this that keeps our obedience agile and expectant, even joyful; our simplicity rich and generous, and our chastity relational. It is what keeps our attentiveness in the present and not enthralled to anger about the past or fear of the future.

There is a story of a seminarian who set out to write a sermon for every Sunday and occasion covered by the lectionary—all these sermons would go into a book and in the future, this incipient priest would never need to write a homily again.

One could take it as apocryphal, one of those cautionary tales told by our elders. But one can see without even looking too far from our own front porch that perhaps it isn’t. This is because availability is costly. Real growth and real hospitality always involve risk—most of all the risk of being present. As someone said, “that which is to give light must endure burning”—not once, but continuously, like the sanctuary lamp, for each day of our life.

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