Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die. (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p. 28).
I imagine the above quote will rattle some of my readers. What a way to begin the work week. Yet, it is just as important.
The Season of Fall is about death and dying. The grass that was so green during the Summer months has been turning brown. The animals are gathering their food to begin hibernating for the Winter. The leaves are turning into their beautiful colors as they prepare to fall on the ground and die. All of these are reminders that life in this world begins and ends. While we are so fortunate to be here at whatever stage of life we are in, we have work to do. The work includes showing how beautiful the world really is and can be; even though it is all temporary.
All of the things that we hang on to and have to let go of; are passing away and leading us towards a new life beyond the grave. Have you ever noticed that the leaves on the trees turn into their various colors without hardly ever trying to hang onto their leaves? Can you imagine what the world would be like if the trees complained as much as we do about having to let go of what we think is beautiful and worth keeping.
Saint Benedict tells us to keep the fact that we are going to die in the front most part of our minds. He tells us this because the prayer and work we have to do is preparing us for the ultimate act of letting go. It is about letting go so that we can enter more fully into a relationship with God alone. The goal for Saint Benedict is to “prefer Christ above all else.” (Chapter 72).
In centering prayer, we are practicing the acts of accepting things as they are and letting them go. We let go as the Holy Spirit takes us through silence into letting go because “only you, Lord, make (us) dwell in safety”. (Psalm 4:8. The Book of Common Prayer, p.129). As we let things go, we are led into contemplative prayer so that we may view things from God’s perspective. Centering prayer and contemplative prayer open us up to enter into the realm of God with faith and trust so that we can receive God’s gracious presence and loving mercy. We cannot do that, however, unless and until we let everything go (including our own lives) into God’s hands seeking only union with God for God’s sake and not our own. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NRSV).
May we all have the grace to accept things as they are, and let them go so that we may experience the fullness of God’s love in this world and in the next.
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB