Dear friends and family,
For many, August is a time for vacation -- or at least a little leisure. Thus, it easily brings to mind the words of the philosopher Josef Pieper: “The celebration of divine worship is the deepest of springs by which leisure is fed.” And worship, he says, “is either something ‘given’, foreordained -- or it does not exist at all.” In true worship, a spirit of contemplation allows one to completely forget what is merely necessary or useful and allows the soul to soar, “to be rapt in love of the invisible reality through the visibility of that first and ultimate sacrament: the Incarnation.” A vacation without contemplation would come up short.
The traditional Gospel for the Feast of the Assumption could not better express this spirit of leisure and contemplation. “Martha, Martha! Mary (who has been simply listening) has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” What gives true worship -- and true leisure -- its eternal orientation and lasting effect is that it cannot be taken from us. It places the soul at the feet of Christ, like Mary.
The Christian (and monk) is called to be at leisure even when he works, orienting what he does to that ultimate principle which gives it meaning. In applying this principle to our life on the mountainside, we certainly haven’t been left idle! While we don’t all have green thumbs, we’ve studied up on plants and trees, adding cypresses, shrubs and new lawns to the property. Many of the goats have had kids which we are trying to teach (with mixed results) to eat the weeds in the great forest that surrounds us.
July brought with it the summer Feast of St. Benedict and, for the first time in Monte, we received the Benedictine Peace Torch, carried by runners from a great distance. In the flame of the torch one remembers that peace is found through purification. The great patriarch of monks knew that without the personal conversion of his monks, no peace could reign inside the monastery. Hundreds of people came for Vespers, which concluded with a little Birra Nursia to gladden the heart!
Over the past month, many have communicated their support and gratitude for the liturgical life of the monastery. St. Benedict tells the monks they should “Prefer nothing to the work of God,” and that they should “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ”. With this admonition, the monks of ages past always knew that the life of prayer and the life of Faith in Christ are intimately connected. May we follow their example in sharing the light of Christ wherever darkness and doubt still reign.
Dom Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B.