When Thomas Merton writes of “the spring and the stream” he uses an effective image to illustrate this [the desert and the market place]. Unless the waters of the spring are living and flow outward, the spring becomes only a stagnant pool. If the stream loses contact with the spring which is its course, it dries up. Contemplation is the spring of living water; action is the stream that flows out from it to others. But the water is of course the same in both. This is equally true for us. If action is out of touch with an interior source of prayer it eventually become arid and barren, and we find ourselves the victims of busyness, frenetic over-activity. But conversely, if our prayer becomes cut off form action it is cut off from life. Here is the equilibrium of contemplation and action. (Esther de Waal. Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality. p.106).
The quote above from Esther de Waal’s book is from one of many she wrote about Benedictine Spirituality. Whether one wishes to enter a monastic community for vowed life or oblation, one of the authors you will be directed to is Esther de Waal. The imagery she uses to explain things is outstanding. The quote above is only one of many that I could chose to write about.
The world in which we live is so full of division and separation. Us vs. them. Rich or poor. Win or lose. Work or play. It is a world of either or. Esther de Waal introduces the reader to St. Benedict’s Spirituality of contradictions working in harmony with one another. Benedictine Spirituality is about both/and. Just as the spring needs the stream, so the stream needs the spring. The earth needs both water and dry land.
Our spiritual lives are made more simple when we accept contradictions as a means towards a holier life. What is on the surface lives because of what is below. Our life as Christians who follow Jesus are made more transparent as we allow Him to speak to our interior life. What we listen to in the silence of our hearts as the Holy Spirit speaks, finds its meaning in what we do. The two are not separate. They work in concert with each other. Just like the spring and the stream.
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB