“Assuredly, the celebration of Lauds and Vespers must never pass by without the superior’s reciting the entire Lord’s Prayer at the end for all to hear, because thorns of contention are likely to spring up. Thus warned by the pledge they make to one another in the very words of this prayer: Forgive us as we forgive (Matt 6:12)”. (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English and Latin, Chapter 13: The Celebration of Lauds on Ordinary Days. p.209).
One of the more difficult things about beginning to live with a new spouse/partner is getting used to each others habits and routines. Everything from how one wipes their feet before they walk in the door to where they leave their dirty laundry just drives us crazy.
In a Monastery, the number of different personalities is multiplied by more than six. In some of the larger Monasteries there can be over 100 Monastics in one community. The members live on top of each other 24/7. Old, young, new and the long timers are all in one place.
St. Benedict included the chapter about Lauds and more specifically the words in The Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive as we forgive” because of human nature and the unavoidable consequence of conflict within the community. Such conflict has the ability to bring division and harm to the wider community. So, St. Benedict wants to take care of the initial “cut” if you will, before the poison from the wound infects the entire house.
So many things happen in our lives. Things that are not our fault. Other times we may have been a little short with someone. If you are like me, there are times in which I think about no one else but myself.
Among the most important persons we need to forgive is ourselves. Forgiving ourselves is a very important piece of the Contemplative life of prayer and mysticism. Failing to forgive others and ourselves is very toxic to our relationship with God and those around us. If we can’t even forgive ourselves; we become our own worst enemy.
A few years ago when I was contemplating what I wanted to do in terms of a church vocation, I was led into a deep experience of the Holy with the words, “Forgive as we forgive.” As I walked through my mind with God down the list of people I needed to forgive, God began speaking to my heart concerning all the things I was still holding myself guilty of. The Holy Spirit and I went through many instances where I blamed myself for things I was not responsible for; yet, I was still punishing myself with a guilt that was not even mine. It was an experience that set me free from prisons I did not even realize I was keeping myself locked up in.
As we prepare to welcome the Christ Child at the celebration of the Nativity, we recall that Jesus came among us in the midst of our human messes. Through Jesus, God came to tell us, “It is okay. I am here as one like you, to walk with you.” Jesus journeys with us to help us forgive ourselves and others.
What do the words, “Forgive as we forgive” mean for you this Advent and Christmas Seasons?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB
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