[ now playing? ] matt redman – shine | chris tomlin & israel houghton – friend of god | taize – “sing to god” | derek webb – “mockingbird”
If you all didn’t know, today was Pentecost Sunday. To all my readers, may the Spirit continue to ignite your hearts, inspiring you to godly service within your local church.
Our house is awash with activity and noise on this Sunday night. My rellies have come over from Malaysia (aunt, cousin and cousin’s two kids; my cousin’s husband arrives this coming Friday night so I’m picking him up from the airport then, sorry Bui, looks like I won’t be able to make it for your 21st party this coming Friday night).
The last time they were over here, the two little ones (my two adorable, but at times annoying, nieces) were really quiet. Fast forward two years and both of them make enough noise for Mom, Dad and I and then some.
As for other stuff, read more below (lest this post become too big on the main page!).
I finally managed to find some time to send an email to Dom (Fr.) Michael King O.S.B., Abbot of St. Mark’s Benedictine Abbey in Camperdown, Victoria this evening. Been meaning to find some time to send a quick email off to him over the past few months (my last contact with him was back in February, on or around St. Scholastica’s feast/memorial day).
After all the madness is now over and I have some time available (before the second round begins), I thought it appropriate to see how they were going and to give him a quick update on the goings on in my life thus far as a Benedictine layperson.
Hope to make it down there within the next year so Fr. Michael and I can have a frank discussion over oblation within the community there as well as to celebrate the monastic horarium too; something that I am definitely looking forward to, as praying the horarium alone (and usually in silence unless I am able to sing/chant it) feels a bit awkward however once I begin, the awkwardness lifts and the presence of God draws near. If oblation doesn’t come to pass, my vocational calling as a Benedictine layperson will still remain. The vows I made last July on stabilitas, conversatio morum, et oboedientia (stability, conversion of life and obedience) as a layperson will still continue to bind me to the Lord in His service.
Today’s sermon by Rev. Lui was on that familiar passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel:
“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30, KJV)
He was preaching about how we at times, Christians may use this as an excuse to not do anything. After all, we cast our labours onto Christ and we will get rest. Oh yeah.
Wrong! What I got out from his message was that:
The duties and responsibilities that we have and are entrusted with must be executed and done. To do less than this would mean that we do not give to God our very best. For the other things that muck us about mentally and spiritually, we need to entrust them to God and find rest in Him and not worry about these things. These things are in our Heavenly Father’s hands.
As Rev. Lui preached, I couldn’t help but recall two words that are mentioned above in relation to my vows to God. That namely of stabilitas (stability) and oboedientia (obedience). From my lectio journal during his sermon today (it’s unfinished, I can only laugh at my last line):
This is something that I have yet to master and that I probably won’t master for a long time coming (I’ll get there eventually with God’s help). It comes back to the Rule about stability and obedience. Christ calls me to obey Him, to come to Him and receive rest and to unload my burdens upon Him who cares for me and loves me. This kind of obedience is easier said than done. It is easy to say that I will cast my burdens onto Christ but do I really do so? If I have a perpetual problem that keeps re-appearing in my life, do I try to do anything with God’s help to overcome it, or do I acquiesce and let my self flounder?
In fact my casting of my burdens on Christ may mean that obedience to Him involves me facing up to my burdens and to discharge what ever burdens that I have and am responsible for. For some burdens, God calls me to cast them upon Him, that is Christ; the mental instabilities and depression that constantly dogs me day by day. But other things, like my duties and responsibilities at work, at home or at church must be faced up to. My self must learn to depend on God for the intangibles, but for the tangibles, God calls my self to execute and deal with them properly.
This comes back to stability now. St. Benedict asks his monks to take a vow of stability. As a layperson in a church, my stability is found in two aspects. My stability in one sense, is found in Christ and Christ alone. The other aspect is stability in service to God.
Oh damn. I will write more on this later. Now I must stack & move chairs.
Stability in relation to this passage from the Gospel also calls me to center myself in God. To cast my burdens onto Christ. But stability also comes in serving God. Too often, we as Christians (to use a metaphor that Rev. Lui uses often) enter into the gate when we accept Christ, but then are merely content to play around in the long grass that is just inside the gate and fence. We often fail to realize that we have a long way ahead of us before we reach our heavenly home and that once Christ calls us into His kingdom, He wants us to move forward in faith.
To come to know him more but yet retain a child-like wonder when we encounter Him. To build up ourselves through study of His Word, union and communion with Him in prayer (liturgical or extempore prayer), to be in fellowship and community with our fellow believers and lastly to go out and make disciples of Christ (not just mere converts). When we serve God in whatever vocation He has called us to, we must remain stable in that service. Of course, there may be times when God is calling us out of one area of service to be moved into another, but our service to God still remains (it’s just re-deployed, using business language).
There’s also a third aspect to stability that has only just come to me. Chapter 1 of the Rule is where St. Benedict talks about the four kinds of monks in the world: cenobites, anchorites/hermits, sarabaites and finally, gyrovagues. Sarabaites and gyrovagues are the worst kinds in Benedict’s eyes because they do not find stability anywhere; instead, they wander around thinking they are religious but they aren’t at all because they do not want to listen to anyone else apart from themselves (a warning for all of us who think Christianity is simply a private matter between “me and God”, it’s happened to me before and it isn’t a healthy way to approach the Christian faith at all). Anchorites and cenobites are left.
While anchorites are by themselves (alone), these are those who have lived in a monastery for quite a while and have been trained (the underlying meaning of ascetism) with the help of others within the community before they go out to face the Devil himself alone only with God’s help. When I read this, the early desert fathers and mothers come to mind where even though each was alone, they still had the backing of a community there to call upon (St. Anthony the Great and Abba Pachomius come to mind). Cenobites are left and are those that live in community on their Christian walk. Benedict praises cenobites particularly and to my reading, anchorites also, but lesser than cenobites. The common thread in cenobites and anchorites is the issue of community unlike sarabaites and gyrovagues.
This is that third aspect of stability. Sometimes burdens I have come from those that I am in contact with. I get angry, pissed off, annoyed at some of those around me. I also get happiness, joy, fun and laughter out of those same people. Being stable within a community of faith is necessary for formation of faith. Too often, we want to be like sarabaites and gyrovagues, moving around from community to community thinking that we know best.
I know this because of late, a part of me wants to leave Eight Mile Plains CMCA (‘EMP-CMCA’) for “greener pastures” (like the Old Catholic Church here in Beenleigh, St. Mark’s Anglican Church at Daisy Hill or St. Philip’s Anglican Church at Annerley) mainly because I want to worship in a church that is far more liturgical (other would call it ritualistic) than EMP-CMCA but also because doctrinally and theologically, there has been a shift of late.
But, until God clearly signals to me that my season is over at EMP-CMCA, the base for my ecclesial stability to serve is found within this particular church. The inner lay-monastic in me may have stability within a particular congregation of monastics (such as St. Mark’s Benedictine Abbey), but as Fr. Michael has told me, my stability in service is rooted in my local parish (i.e. my local church). Meaning that all my burdens, frustrations (there have been a few of late), joys, sadness (to the point where some nights I just cry myself to sleep) and happiness (one such example is coming up this weekend =) are here in this church and God calls me to observe my vow of stability as a layperson in this manner without shirking away from it (like I want to at times).
Hope I haven’t lost you all in this.
My Benedictine walk through the Christian faith never fails to surprise me. Now back to finishing off typing up these Youth Camp Committee minutes from our last meeting on April 29.
+ bf 2126hrs