Home > Episcopal Church, sabbatical, St. Patrick's, Theology > Gethsemani Post 6 (last one)

Gethsemani Post 6 (last one)

***Written last week on my silent retreat***

The retreat is almost over. It is late Thursday night and I have to check out after breakfast. My flight home is not until Friday evening, so I will stay here through lunch I think.

Tonight at Vespers and again at Compline I had an overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude towards the brothers. They have given up so much to follow this special calling. This Abbey is a Cistercian Order of Special Obligation (OSCO), they follow a very strict rule of life that includes giving up all worldly possessions, commitment to silence most of the time, of course their daily prayer, hard labor, celibacy and the like. Thomas Merton is the most famous of those monks who have lived in this Abbey, but it is a world wide order with numerous monasteries.

As previously noted we listen to taped presentations by Merton during lunch and dinner. It is a series of lectures he gave to men interested in joining the order and shines a lot of insight into the way of life, the commitment to change, silence, prayer, etc. At one time over 200 monks resided here at Gethsemani, there are about 40 now I believe. Religious orders have seen a large decline in numbers the last couple of  decades and that’s a shame. We need them. We need folks whose special calling is such a commitment to prayer, silence, work as theirs. I love them for it, for this place of respite and retreat they open up to the world, for their witness to faith and prayer. it is a charism – a gift – from God through the Holy Spirit and I am grateful they realized that gift and answered the call.

Watching them and thinking about their calling has marched in tune with my reflection on my ordination vows and the prayer of a new Rector. Coupled with Father Damien’s talks on learning to live God’s will, I have been praying over two passages from the Gospel of John that I hope will help shape the years of ministry I have left (which I hope are many!).

John 3:29-30 – John the Baptist is talking about Jesus. His disciples are arguing about Jesus’ baptizing others. John reminds them that he is but the one sent before the Messiah, he is the best man to the bridegroom Christ. “So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase;  I must decrease.”

John 15:1-17 Again those words “joy is complete” are used, this time spoken by Jesus who tells us that He is the vine, we are the branches. We must remain in him in order to bear fruit, because “without me you can do nothing”….” I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete”.

John and Jesus, both saying that we have to GET OUT OF THE WAY and let Jesus be Jesus, let God be God, and if we can do so, if we, our ego, our pride, can decrease and let Jesus increase, then our joy will be complete! That’s a pretty big deal I think. Don’t you want your joy to be complete? Father Damien’s talks were similar, living in God’s will starts with removing our own will – he even says “doing” the will of God is wrong, it’s another thing to check off the list, another thing I can do myself, vs. living in God’s will where we have a very different way of seeing things and allow God to be in charge. Merton described how important and difficult the process was in becoming a true monk because you have to have a strong ego to even attempt it, and it is that strong ego that must be defeated to have the “conversion of manners” he speaks about as the goal for all monastics.

All these things have come to a head for me this week. I must decrease so He can increase. It means spending much more time in prayer and study vs. administrative tasks, it means adopting a much more humble nature, it means being so attuned to the Holy Spirit as to recognize Christ in everyone and everything. And it means beginning each day in prayer that asks Christ to be in charge, for without Jesus I can do nothing. I know I want my joy to be complete.

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