“In the community, God speaks too, but only through the others.”
I woke up to the wrong bell this morning! In other words I overslept. The bell that rings during the consecration of bread and wine at the Conventual Mass at 7:00 am woke me up instead of the early morning bell at 5:30 am calling all to Vigils and Laudes. It felt like half of my morning was lost. I quickly went to breakfast in order to go to the 8:00 mass and pray Laudes alone in the little Lady Chapel.
I felt suddenly that I had missed an important part of the beginning of my day; prayer in community. The day starts in the monastery before everything else with prayer in community. The first words that the Monk prays after the Great Silence (the period after Compline until Laudes around 9 hours each night) is ‘Lord open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.’ We begin the day by connecting with God through each other in community. Without this connection the day begins in solitude and alone…. A wandering Aramean, like Abraham was.
J Chittister give gives the perfect example of what community should be both here and in heaven.
“Community is the only antidote we have to an individualism that is fast approaching the heights of the pathological and the sinful in this world. Folk literature gives us a very insightful glimpse of a growing world problem. In the Far East there is a traditional image of the difference between heaven and hell. In hell, the ancients said, people have chopsticks one yard long so they cannot possibly reach their mouths. In heaven, the chopsticks are also one yard long—but, in heaven, the people feed one another.”
We are connected to each other. Even while I am alone here in the Monastery I bring with me all of my “communities”
My primary Community
1. Is…. La Manada (the pack) Which is JJ my spouse and the dog Sebastian and Cat Danka. Day in an day out we are community for each other as we eat, walk, play, and feed each other spiritually and literally throughout the year. Right now while I am in solitude JJ is studying German in Augsburg. But we talk daily and visit on weekends and when possible once during the week since we are a 45 minute train ride between the Monastery and Augsburg.
My Spiritual Communities.
I have various spiritual communities that I am intimately connected to.
b. There is the NBC ( The New Benedictine Community) which is the community that I have made my profession to as a Secular Monastic (OSB). We connect regularly through prayer and ongoing conversation in the year. In a few weeks time we will make our annual retreat together.
c. There is the Benedictine Arch-abbey in Eresing Germany where I have come for my third retreat in three years. I connected with this community over 10 years ago when I was living in Mexico City and studying German. The daily livestream of prayers popped up when I was googling “gregorian chant live”. Since then, this has become my place of regular pilgrimage and spiritual nourishment. Here is the Sacred Cloud like the mountain that Moses visited regularly on Horeb to talk to God. Here we can talk ‘face to face’. Can we talk?
d. There is the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion
When I was made a priest 25 years ago, my first vows were to the Episcopal Church and its authority, and doctrine and liturgy. We are a family, more than an institution on our good days. And on our bad days we are an impersonal and a bureaucratic institution with all of its downfalls and pitfalls. But we are spiritually and very humanly connected and constantly interact amongst ourselves all over the world. Everyone knows someone, who knows someone, and there is little separation between is from the Archbishop of Canterbury down to the local Bishop.
Spiritual communities are important….from small to large. They sustain us, they challenge us, they keep us connected to each other, they encircle us, and support us in good times and in bad.
“The Benedictine spirituality of community is based on life with other persons in the spirit of Christ: to support them, to empower them, and to learn from them. To live totally in God and totally for others can be a counterweight of value to an extremely self-centered world.” JC
Why I choose to live in Community
“In community we work out our connectedness to God, to one another, and to ourselves. It is in community where we find out who we really are.” JC
There are Hermits, there are loners, there are introverts. But even these cannot survive without community. When Thomas Merton decided to live in the Hermitage and separate himself physically from the Monks at Gethsemane, it was only a physical but not a spiritual separation. As a matter of fact even as a hermit, many talks, many picnics, many discussions took place in community around that hermitage. When we dis-connect from community we have only ourselves, and usually not our true selves but the self we have created in our own minds eye.
We all need the Mirror of Community to show us our true reflection. As we really are, before God and before humanity.
Thank God, only today, I woke up too late to pray in community. I will make it up during the rest of the day during midday, vespers and compline. But, I learned a wonderful lesson in the process. I need community, I need others, others need me, and we need each other.
P.S. As I write this more than 43 people have been literally mowed down and run over in Nizza France our neighboring country, including 3 Germans in yet another nearly weekly tragedy of violence and terrorist attacks around the world. This is why we need Community. Even a human community bonded together in ties of mutual respect, compassion, and reconciliation.