On Wednesday i joined others at the Moot base for another conversation about monasticism. I was glad to be invited to this, partly because it gave opportunity to meet up with people, other practitioners, I have not seen in a while and to hear from various traditional monastics which was the main aim for this particular gathering.
I like the format of these conversations, which are held within a eucharist service that rolls out slowly across the day. Three speakers delivered for 10 mins each before we chatted about what was said around tables. We would then break for coffee before encountering the next part of the Eucharistic liturgy.
For me this is quite key and gives a certain grounding and rootedness to the day, reminding me that whoever we are this is all about Christ.
I was challenged a number of times during the conversation. As I think I am involved with a group of people that seem to be going down a new monastic route, I heard a lot of gems from traditional monastics on this day which have caused me to pause and think. Two conversations grabbed me in particular:
Brother Colin spoke about enclosure and living in enclosure. He went on to say that ‘enclosure is a place where we are trained to be attentive to God so that our hearts become attentive to God when we go out.’ he then blew my mind with ‘I then become an enclosure for God’. That is a comment worth thinking through. As someone interested in new monasticism with a growing dispersed community, I started to wonder how we can give time to the minet of enclosure where we are. If Brother Colin is correct in his definition, then as a community we need to eb able to develop this practice.
Later in the day Sister margaret Theresa spoke about Solitude and Communion. Again I was struck by the amazing wisdom which only comes from those that are dedicatedly following this lifestyle. She quoted the following after saying that humans can be individuals or persons:
individuals are those who live and survive by asserting themselves against others, creatures who must either devour or be devoured. THose who can only become themselves by separating themselves from others; they can only become themselves at the cost of others.
persons: those who live and survive not by asserting themselves against others, but by finding themselves in and through others. In freely giving themselves to others, they are not lost but renewed. They can only become themselves in relationship to others; and far from the process of ‘becoming themselves’ being at the expense of others, it is most profoundly with and for others’.
This holds, of course, with our doctrine of the Trinity where we see the three persons of the one God living as community, freely giving themselves to each other as well as to us.
In a world that seems to worship the free choice of the individual, I guess we need to be asking how do we live as persons? What would this really look like in my community … and what would ‘being renewed’ really be like?
I left Wednesday inspired, challenged and deeply thoughtful.
And finally …. if you live near me in the wonderful county fo Kent and you like the sound of this new monasticism thing … get in touch … lets keep the conversation going … lets see God working through as we freely give ourselves.