“Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire. Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die. Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do, aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be” (RB: 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict. Chapter 4 On the Tools for Good Works, verses 46-49).
The image and quote I have used to introduce this reflection today do not exactly inspire us. At least not in the way we would like. We have grown use to making our lives so comfortable. In addition, the news media over charges our sensations to the point that we have to tune it out. Not without good reason.
St. Benedict gave these tools for good works in The Rule so that his monks would work at holiness through both interior and exterior means. It was not enough to have those sappy moments of contemplation and remain motionless. God was to be found in what we do from the secrets of our hearts to those things we do before others. The search for God was to be an all encompassing venture that God calls us to. Our job as disciples, is to listen and respond.
Lonnie Pratt Collins and Fr. Daniel Homan, OSB in their book, Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monk’s Insights for a Balanced Life suggest that the image of seeing ourselves next to an open grave should help us ponder very deeply what we are doing with our lives in the here and now. One day at a moment in time, we will breath our last. Our bodies will be part of the ground people walk on, or be cremated to stay in a box before someone’s fireplace and/or shrine of memory. Death is inescapable.
St. Benedict admonishes us on God’s behalf to put God first in our lives. He tells us to yearn for eternal life with God with a holy desire that sees in many possibilities the Holy Spirit’s work to purify our souls . St. Benedict tells us to remember that one day we will die; and that God’s gaze is upon us in the here and now. Having written that, it is our responsibility to make good use of what we are given in the here and now. We are admonished to put ourselves and all we do at the service of Jesus Christ who’s return we are all awaiting in this Season of Advent.
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB