A few weeks ago, I was richly blessed through spending almost a week at a Benedictine community overseas. The solitude and silence of monastic life was healing on its own. I rode on the daily discipline of doing the offices with the monks. They do a daily seven and I was happy to join in for the Anglican duo.
St Benedict (6th century, Italy) and his monastic movement had been influential in English Christianity, of which we are beneficiaries. The three-fold Rule of Prayer (Regula): the daily office (Opus Dei), the private devotion and the community Eucharist was embedded in the life of the Church. It is both monastic and secular (as amongst laymen), found in both the East and West Church, common for all the various orders (Franciscan, Ignatian etc) and heavily shaped our Book of Common Prayer.
The Regula continues to shape the way we do church. Even in our contemporary Services, this three-fold order is found. Much more can be said but there is a lot of superficial or selective understanding of the Church (and Anglicanism), of which one remedy is good systematic education so that our ideas of the Church are properly shaped. Here in the Cathedral, we need to plough the depths of our Church heritage and this is one area which we will continue to give priority to. Orthodoxy is shaped by both our beliefs and our worship. In fact, both are integral: a creedal faith shaped “in Regula.”
Coming back to the monastery, every mealtime was “luxurious.” By that, I am referring to Scripture and other readings being read as we went through simple but delicious soups and mains, served to the table. It was a feast for all the senses.
The cottage I stayed in was right in the middle of a wheat field. It was pitch dark at night accompanied by a deafening silence, broken occasionally by rabbits scurrying around or howling winds. Almost every night, the Southern Cross, Mars and the Orion Belt can be traced if one chooses to.
It is one of those things which I wish I had done earlier. Busy and distracting modern city life can be destructive spiritually and humanly. We do need to pull away occasionally. Even Jesus will go away into the desert or find quiet in the early hours of the morning. I don’t think we can afford to do less.
Though alone, I was accompanied by some saints, mostly "absent brethren” in the likes of Meister Eckhart, Henri Nouwen and St Benedict. I was also blessed by catching up on a book on English Spirituality (from which I drew my above sharing about the regula). It’s Anglicanism from the angle of the development of her ascetically and spiritual beliefs and practices. And of course, I had lots of Bible time: reading, being read to and meditating.
Without a doubt, this break is not something some of you can do easily given your work commitments or the costs of overseas travel. As I shared in the bulletin two weeks ago, we need to imagine a “place” here where this can be our regular experience. Join me in praying for a Church that is digging deep in her heritage.