Tag Archives: Laurence Freeman

Bonnevaux: The Walls of the Monastery Without Walls

Recently, on his blog, Fr. Laurence Freeman wrote about the “patterns and resonances in life, personal and communal, luring [us] ever deeper into the experience of meaning.” (Not a Nostalgic Reflection). Laurence wrote about the patterns and resonances of The WCCM[1], from its foundations in Montreal (40 years ago), to its growth into the global community that it is today, and the folding into this of Bonnevaux: our new international retreat centre to be, in France.

Bonnevaux is a big part of the growth happening now in The WCCM: our community that is a ‘monastery without walls’. Paradoxically, Bonnevaux has walls – ancient walls. Internationally, Bonnevaux is to be les murs du monastère sans murs (the walls of the monastery without walls).

Paradox cannot be ‘figured out’. It is not something to problem solve, something to be unlocked rationally. Paradox finds a home deeper in us, in the heart; over time it comes to a quiet and mysterious resolution there. And over time, from the heart, a gentle ‘paradoxical wisdom’ is released for us to intuit and live. As we meditate, as we attend into silence, our consciousness is infused with this wisdom of the heart.

In time, Bonnevaux will become the international heart of The WCCM. Its walls will resolve in the wall-less global community of meditators it will serve. In this it will also grow into a global agent and sign for peace. This is the vision. This is what we hope (in faith) that the patterns and resonances happening now are luring us into.

With Bonnevaux we continue on our way as part of the re-emergence of the human reality that Christianity calls the contemplative life. This re-emergence is profoundly needed today. Bonnevaux’s deep Benedictine roots sit well with the Benedictine roots of The WCCM. Benedictine roots are also human and Christian roots: one more paradox.

..I think in a deeper sense we could say that we have become the stewards of this sacred place [Bonnevaux], where the contemplative life has been lived in a spirit of service for hundreds of years. And we are pledging ourselves to continue that vision and that tradition in a contemporary way. (Laurence Freeman)

Some context for us: around 800 years ago, when Bonnevaux was first established, there was a major shift forming in Christianity: the separation of spirituality and theology. This happening has been historically personalised via a 12th century debate that happened between Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Abelard. Bernard, a French Cistercian Monk, wanted spirituality and theology to remain united. Abelard, a French philosopher and theologian, supported the rise of theology as a discipline standing largely apart from monasteries. Bernard won the debate, however the die was cast[2].

In the last 40 years or so this separation has begun to be addressed. I see John Main and The WCCM as part of the resolution of this separation. Christian spirituality divorced from theology risks self-indulgence and a certain vagueness. Meanwhile theology apart from authentic spirituality risks staying a rarefied specialisation of the few.

In the broad context of the history of Christianity, it does seem significant that this separation of spirituality and theology that was happening whilst Bonnevaux was being established, is on its way to resolution as we become Bonnevaux’s stewards.

 

 

 

[1] The World Community for Christian Meditation

[2] David Ranson, Across The Great Divide: Bridging Spirituality and Religion Today, 11.


Meditatio House: Goodbye, Farewell, and Community

After calling London home for the last two years I now find myself back in Australia. My time at Meditatio London House has come to an end.

The last two years have been, for me, an exploration and a deepening in the experience of meditation and community.

Through the years I have experienced community, both formal and informal. I have been a part of seminary and novitiate communities, as well as Christian communities intentionally set up to explore what being human together in Christ might mean. I have grown in the maturity of friendship and discovered that friendship is also community.

In other formal, live-in communities that I have been a part of, meditation was not part of the communal prayer life. As a result my meditation practice, while contained within the communal life, was not really a part of it. It was something that I did as an extra.

Meditatio House was and is different. Because the practice of meditation is placed at the heart of the communal life of prayer, divinity active in the meditator at the time of this prayer is also active in the life of the community as we meditate together. In this we experience our being together and discover that our being, in its very nature, is being-in-relationship. This being-in-relationship, the being that we give attention to at the time of meditation, is the same being expressed for each other during the everyday practicalities of life together.

Meditation done together is a powerful way of forgetting ourselves so that we can leave room for each other in our hearts and in our daily routine. We discover through the experience of meditation and community together that the invitation to leave self behind is just as active in the practice of community as it is in the practice of meditation. Meditation is a part of community; community is a part of meditation. The practice of both together is about losing egoism so that we might mature in the inner and outer life of love. Commitment to this together practice is the most important thing. Success is secondary.

Community was important to John Main. He highlighted for us the reality that community is a fruit of meditation. For John Main meditation without a maturing in community was not yet being practiced at depth; meditation was not yet sharing in the human reality of being-in-relationship.

Meditation creates community. Our true nature revealed in stillness is being in relationship. Stillness together shows that we are members of one body, and that body is Christ. (Monastery Without Walls, 29).

True community happens in the process of drawing each other into the light of true being. (Word Into Silence, 73).

A monastery [or contemplative community] is a centre of prayer only to the degree that it is a community of love. (Community of Love, 96)

There were plenty of times during my stay at Meditatio House when I got caught up in putting too much emphasis on my and others performance as community members. I would forget that community, at its heart, is about growing in the grace of acceptance: of ourselves and others and of God’s offer of Godself (Love) to us. In acceptance there is space for healing and transformation.

I discovered that in a community of love any failure at loving makes our growth in love possible. How? When we fail to love, our fear of being ultimately unlovable can stir. If the people around us can show us the compassion and forgiveness that God has for us (even just a little), this deep lie of our own unlovableness can be exposed (become conscious) to us. In this exposure we have the chance to see and accept this unlovableness as the lie it is. With others around us behaving counter to this lie, we have the opportunity to grow in the experience of love. In time the love already within us and for us can move into our awareness and be consciously experienced. In this experience we are then freed to express love for others. This dynamic of love in human relationship is oftentimes imperceptible. All that is needed, however, is for one or two of us to be open just enough to the reality of this love, a love that is always with us.

Meditation creates community out of the energy of paradox. In the light of the experience of meditation we see ourselves and others as united and no longer as alienated. We are then free to act on the basis of what we really see. (Laurence Freeman, John Main: The Expanding Vision, 126)

Just as there is, at the surface, a paradox in saying a mantra that leads to silence, so there is a paradox in living and meditating with others who are disturbing to us. These paradoxical experiences, in time, lead to the peace of an integrated psyche. This is because integration seems to require an inner and relational tension. In meditation this tension is attention on the mantra. In community this tension is attention on the other and what is happening within me for this person to be experienced as disturbing.

This tension becomes the catalyst for change and growth – if we can stay present to it. This tension, when experienced in the present moment, becomes a part of the process of healing. It becomes a doorway into integration. Consequently it is not a tension that saps energy. It becomes the creative tension of the Holy Spirit – a tension moving within us as we meditate and live together.

Another part of my experience at Meditatio House was the opportunity to be in an environment that openly encouraged gifts and gave space for practice. During the course of the last ten years or so the desire in me to be a writer has grown. This continued at Meditatio House. The house gave me the change to practice writing. The life of the house also provided the opportunity to get back into playing guitar. I was also able to practice teaching meditation. These three things: writing, guitar, and teaching are what I am invited to continue doing after life at Meditatio House. And like the talents gifted to everyone, they are gifts for everyone. Our giftedness comes alive in the Spirit when it is done for others.

My thanks and deep appreciation to Laurence, Henriette, and to all the others I lived with while at Meditatio House. We were gift to each other in ways obvious and mysterious, seen plainly and to be seen in time.

 

 

 

 


Meditatio House: A Hat in the Wind

I once heard God described as a bit like a hat in the wind. Some of us may have chased a hat in the wind. It can fly from our heads, land in front of us and fly off again – just as we were about to grab a hold of it. We can end up playing a game of slow frustration with the wind as we chase our hat down the street.

Perhaps it might be better to say that our ideas of God are a bit like that hat in the wind. The wind is in fact like God, moving our ideas and assumptions on ahead of us before they have a chance to solidify into ‘fact’. There is always the tendency in us towards identifying and objectifying God through our ideas and assumptions about God. God is not an object. It is best to experience God like we experience the wind: swirling with a mind of its own, uncontrolled by us, here then gone then mysteriously here again.

The Christian experience, of course, says that this mind of God (whatever mind might mean) could be described as Agape, Love. And so we risk a word. Love does what it is. It can do nothing else. Prayer is about learning to recognise the movement of this Love as it blows in us and our lives – and to go with it. What a wonderful adventure this is!

Many mystics and contemplatives of the Christian tradition have experienced grace – another word describing the gift of God’s love-life fully given to all Creation – as kind of wind like. It can blow within us and our relating with caresses of love, holding and supporting us in the moment as we allow, and then the wind can die down, disappear just as mysteriously as it came.

The Desert Father Macarius The Egyptian (300-390 AD)*, in one of his homilies, describes the movement of grace as such:

There are moments when grace kindles up and comforts and refreshes more fully; there are moments when it retreats and clouds over, according as grace itself manages for the man’s [sic] advantage (Homily VIII, 79).

In another homily Macarius describes the working of grace in the human soul:

The spiritual influence of God’s grace within the soul works with great patience, wisdom, and mysterious management of the mind, while the man [sic] for long times and seasons contends in much endurance… Homily IX, 81).

The action of grace in our lives moves and ebbs, flows and retreats in ways that reveal a great tenderness, patience, and wisdom that is always there with us as we live the seasons of our lives.

Recently at Meditatio House we held our weekly teaching night. If Laurence is not with us we often play a recording of Laurence or John Main as the meditation teaching for the evening. It was my turn to plan and run the evening. Earlier in the day I had played for myself and picked a recording from John Main to use on the night. However, a couple of minutes before we were to start, I discovered that the iPod’s battery had failed.

It had been a particularly hard day. I was psychologically and physically drained. I had made some basic notes about the talk which I was to give as a way of introduction. I realised then that I might have to speak from these notes about the talk myself.

As I sat there in that moment of realisation, attending to the mantra as best as I could, a movement of grace began in me. It arrived gently in my gut, soothing a tightness that had been there all day. As this was going on my mind fell into quietness of a kind that I did not create. In that moment grace moved like a gentle breeze, calming and loving me for the task at hand.

Afterwards there was a quiet and simple drawing back of this grace. The wind had died down. It was time to pick up the hat and to walk on, renewed, in gratitude and humility.

* Macarius The Egyptian was also known as Macarius of Scete, or Macarius The Great. He was, in the words of Oliver Clement, “a disciple of Anthony and teacher of Evagrius” and “the organiser of the monastic life at Scete.” (The Roots of Christian Mysticism, 357. See the blog post ‘Meditatio House: The WCCM and the Skete’ for more information about the Scete, or Skete.


Meditatio House: Growing in the God-human’s Yes.

We are living in an age when the possibilities for the development of human consciousness have been radically transformed by the resurrection of Christ. Every human consciousness has undergone this transformation because in his risen and universal consciousness we have access to the Father, the source and goal of human life and indeed all creation. We live in an age of the infinite mystery realised in Christ and in us. Meditation is simply openness to that reality. (John Main, Word Made Flesh, 3. Italics added).

In Christ Jesus (the God human) humanity can now be a full human participant in the divine life. This is the startling gift and message of Easter.

Jesus’ full yes to God (in his life, death and resurrection) can be our yes to God happening within God and us now.

The fullness of divine Love as transformative of the human condition resides in our human consciousness waiting for our acceptance of Jesus’ yes to his Father as our yes. This yes of Christ is what the Christian grows into over a lifetime.

All that stands in the way of what God can do in us (and with us) is our unbelief in what God can do. All other impediment is gone, dissolved in the yes of Jesus.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, that is, by me and by Silvanus and Timothy, was never Yes-and-No; his nature is all Yes. For in him is found the Yes to all God’s promises and therefore it is ‘through him’ that we answer ‘Amen’ to give praise to God. It is God who gives us, with you, a sure place in Christ and has both anointed us and marked us with his seal, giving us as pledge the Spirit in our hearts. (2Cor1:19-22).

In the depths of our being we already are what our egos desire to be of themselves. This is what the Reality of Christ consciousness reveals and makes possible in our human lives. Humility and faithfulness (part of any yes of the human creature to its Creator) are the foundations of the realisation of this revelation in human development. Our deepening acceptance of this (as we grow in the yes of Jesus) is perhaps the key to any ongoing human and Christian transformation in this material part of life. With humility and faith Divine Love transforms us into love here and now.

The resurrection appearances of the Gospels are God’s imprimatur on all of this.

In meditation, as we  give attention to the mantra, we grow in openness to what God has done in Jesus and what God wants to do in us through Jesus. And what is this doing of God? It is nothing less than the transcendence of ego consciousness. Ego consciousness is transcended as we grow in this openness. This transcending of the ego is “the hinge that allows us to swing into the Mind of Christ” (Laurence Freeman). In meditation we transcend into the yes of Christ. Our yes to Jesus and the yes of Jesus to God become one. We then experience ourselves in the divine life and discover this life as Home.

This growing openness is a pilgrimage in itself. It is why we are always beginners in meditation. We are always beginning humbly and faithfully from any point on the way.

The Easter season, Eastertide, is a time to reflect on just what the divine life can do in and for human consciousness and human life. We need more than one day (Easter Sunday) for it all to begin to sink in. It is profoundly and radically freeing. Psychologically, it is the integration of our conscious selves (ego) and the unconscious (where the source of Self and God are at our depths).

Internal and external growth in self-forgetting is key to this process of integration. Meditation and community (where ever we find it) can be where the external and the internal work together for integration, for salvation. Our life at Meditatio House is where we are experiencing this working together – often in ‘fear and trembling’.

Eastertide, as the ongoing celebration of the Risen Christ, is also a celebration of what we have become in this Christ and what we are becoming because of this Christ: Beloved Daughters and Sons of God. In one way or another, Love will have its way.

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Meditatio House: Bere Island (Ego) Laid Bare

The house community has just got back from the annual WCCM Easter retreat held on Bere Island, Ireland. Bere Island is located on Bantry Bay about 2 hours south south west of Cork.

Bere Island is a wonderful place to hold a retreat. Its natural pace is slow. Cows have more to say about setting the tone for the island than any traffic. The island is ancient. It holds lightly and faithfully a contemplative spirit.

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We were part of a group of meditators (old and new) who rented three houses located about 15 minutes via bus from the Bere Island Heritage Centre. Fr. Laurence gave his talks at The Heritage Centre. This centre was also where all the retreatants meditated together.

We were on the island for the entire week leading up to Easter. This week is called Holy Week in the Christian tradition. From Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday we lived together, ate together, and prayed together.

As the week went on we all experienced the challenges that new beds, new people, new living space, and communal travel had to offer. Our differing personalities and temperaments began, in their own unique ways, to ‘feel the pinch’ of the conditions we found ourselves in. By the middle of the week I felt thoroughly overwhelmed by it all.

I felt. Who was this I who was overwhelmed by it all? It could be said that this I was my ego, that conscious part of my inner life which was painfully discovering that it could not have the retreat experience on its own terms. The experience became one of rawness. The vulnerability of my ego to too much change too quickly was laid bare, revealed for all to see.

The way my ego wanted to present itself to the world became too hard to maintain. An ‘in control, warm, loving, and quirky’ persona became instead increasingly anxious and rigid. Rather than ‘how can I love these people’, my rationale was fast turning into ‘how can I survive this week?’

As the week went on I could see the people around me start to fray around the edges. Impatience and frustration began to leak into our relating. Psychological subsistence and the cooking roster met head on. The tendency for us all to end up in the kitchen all at once had me exasperated.

Then came a realisation: this was part and parcel of the community experience for the week. Anger and resentment began to rise in me. Ego felt ‘ripped off’, manipulated, ambushed.

By Good Friday I could see a choice before me: participate as practically and as gently as you can or shut down. In a moment of grace, a moment that the practice of meditation quietly prepares us for, I chose to contribute as I could from moment to moment. Inner movements of perfectionism and anxiety (‘You must do more!’ ‘People think you’re lazy!’ ‘You must be liked!’) began to settle somewhat. I began to accept that I could not do everything (and did not need to). As tiredness and impatience increased I began to trust those around me to understand. I began to risk rejection.

Bere Is 2

The art of the spiritual life, of a human life growing in full health, is all about the de-centring of the ego, that is, about our attention being more on loving others than being fixated on ourselves. Sometimes this is just too hard, and that is ok. When it’s too hard we have the opportunity to experience the limitations we have at that moment and to mysteriously grow a little more in the grace of compassion that awaits within all of us.

If this growth in graced compassion is too hard to see and accept, that’s ok as well. Sometimes all we have left is the experience of the ego suffering, experiencing fallibility, failure, and limitation. Easter is here to remind us that Divinity is already in this experience, even if we cannot see or feel it.

Dying to egoism and rising to love does involve psychological pain, or suffering. Good Friday too lives on in us. Good Friday, though, is only part of the story.

The good news is that when ego is experiencing this pain, this disorientation, it can be the very time when the divine life can move powerfully for integration and healing. The illusion of control which ego maintains is exposed as a lie. In this experience we have the chance to let go into Love just a little bit more. It can all be a part of the experience that is the integration of ego with the deeper Self in God.

As a part of the retreat experience there were regular periods of meditation. These periods really helped. Attention on the mantra was attention off the experience of being overwhelmed. It is important to note here that attention off this experience of being overwhelmed was not repression of the experience. It was simply attention on the transformative and integrating consciousness of the Risen Christ within us all. The last three days became easier. The experience of love for myself and others began to return.

Then something else happened. On Sunday, as Fr. Laurence read from John’s account of the first Easter morning, a new, subtle, gentle experience of Christ rose into awareness. This experience was the fruit of both the meditation and the struggle of the week. The words of the Gospel story had new clarity. The experience of Christ risen, mysteriously held within the words themselves, was resonating afresh within. Another veil had fallen.

Bere Is 3

I am learning that any growth in the acceptance of Divine Love, so radically and completely given to us at Easter through the death and resurrection of Jesus, frees us to engage struggle with a growing compassion and a gentle curiosity. Growth can be a painful struggle. Peace, joy, and humility are (just some of) this struggle’s fruits.

So then, now that we have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; it is through him, by faith, that we have been admitted into God’s favour in which we are living, and look forward exultantly to God’s glory. Not only that; let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope, and a hope which will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

 Bere Is 4


Meditatio House: The Heart Ponders and the Ego Grasps

Each Monday evening at Meditatio House is a time reserved for some teaching about Christian meditation. After the teaching we have a time of meditation, then some questions and/or reflections about our meditation practice.

This regular Monday night pattern was something begun by John Main. It is a good night for anyone new to Christian meditation to visit the house, or indeed anyone inquiring about meditation as contemplative prayer.

Often we have a recorded teaching given by one of the teachers of meditation within the WCCM. This week we heard from a conference given by Laurence Freeman in 1992 at Gethsemani Abbey, Kentucky, USA. The conference was released as The Ego On Our Spiritual Journey in 2007. Something that Fr. Laurence said during this conference struck me:

The sayings of the Fathers of the Desert are really a constant commentary upon the dangers of an egotistical spirituality. This is perhaps why St John of the Cross tells us to give up all desire, even the desire for God. Not the love of God, not our innate longing for God which we cannot give up, but our desire for God – the desire to possess, to control, to own, to keep God. In this way of prayer, in the simple ascesis of the single word, we strike at the ‘root of sin’, as The Cloud of Unknowing called it, at the root of our ego. We let go.

There is a distinction going on here between the deep longing of our hearts for God and the ego’s desire to “possess…control…own…” to replace this longing with its own version of longing: desiring. Egoic desiring keeps us attached to the ego, identified with the ego, and focused on it and its needs. If we desire God then we are seeking God on ego’s terms. God becomes just another way to get satisfaction. The longing for God, however, is something ego does not create. As Laurence says, it is innate to us, simply an inherent part of what it is to be human. It is pre-ego. The heart ponders patiently and thoughtlessly in its longing, while the ego can grasp, often with indiscreet calculation.

There is a certain kind of impatience in desiring. Desiring can be the ‘quick fix’ of the human psyche. Often it is all about the satisfaction of the ego’s unmet needs for love, attention, approval – unmet needs that go all the way back into childhood. The desiring around these unmet needs can be powerful, and can at times possess us. In this, desire does not serve love. Desire is all about the satisfaction of these unmet needs in a way that serves ego. This is understandable and part of the human story. There is deep compassion in us for these unmet needs. Life is meant to be so much more than this kind of suffering. Ego wants this suffering gone, but on its terms.

What a contemplative practice such as Christian meditation does is assist in the discovery, through experience, of our deeper “innate longing for God”. To be focused on and attached to ego through desiring is to have little or no attention on the depths of us, where this longing has its source. The fulfilment of this longing deeply heals our unmet needs in ways that ego desiring cannot.

As we meditate attention shifts to the source of longing – our heart. As time passes our desiring shifts as well and becomes more and more a longing for Love. This happens as we encounter at our depths the God of our longing. Our longing is fulfilled quietly and mysteriously by God and in time becomes joy. It is a joy that ego cannot create. It is a joy that rises as God fulfils unmet need with the divine life.

This joy is deep and grows in constancy. It is a joy that finds fulfilment in communal expression (where ever our love life with others is). It is a joy that is not only for us, it is part of the other-centred life of God and our deeper Self. It is not necessarily gregarious; it is however, strong, constant and stable. It is faithful joy. It grows as detachment from ego desiring grows. In this it is a sacrament, an outer sign of the inner reality that our desiring is now more a longing being fulfilled by the divine Love Life.

People and things that were once more the ‘objects of our desire’ instead become the focus and instrument of Love through our own loving. Egocentric desiring, often impatient and needy, becomes the patient, wise, and loving longing of the heart – a longing that is experiencing it’s fulfilment into silence. Silence is the ego-less experience of longing fulfilled. In silence the heart no longer longs.

The root of all sin is ego attachment, ego desiring. As we gracefully detach from ego, ego becomes more and more simply the way our deep Self can relate to others and the world. Awe in the ordinary grows. Compassion flows more easily into action. Other-centredness becomes natural. Unmet needs recede and life takes on a gentle, joyful, grateful, playful way.

So if there is anything that will move you, any incentive in love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any warmth of sympathy – I appeal to you, make my joy complete by being of a single mind, one in love, one in heart and one in mind. Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead, out of humility of mind everyone should give preference to others, everyone pursuing not selfish interests but those of others. Make your own mind the mind of Christ Jesus. (Phil2:1-5).

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Meditatio House: An Evolving Monasticism

There has been some discussion at Meditatio House lately around the questions: what is an oblate, and how does an oblate differ from a monk?

It seems that from the very beginning of the Rule of Benedict the idea of what a monastic is has been open for development and change. In Benedict’s time to be monastic meant following one of four ways:

A cenobite was a monastic living with other monastics, with an abbot as leader and a rule as a guide.

Anchorites or hermits were monastics mature in mind and body that chose to live alone, often in deserts. Formally cenobites, their life in community had left them mature enough to experience, day by day, the challenges of living alone before themselves and God.

Sarabaites did not live with a rule to provide guidance, or with established leadership. They lived together or alone.

Gyrovagues are described by Benedict as rootless wanderers who often moved from monastery to monastery using the hospitality of cenobites as they went.

Benedict wrote his rule for cenobite monastics. Today these monks are known simply as monks.

Across the centuries, as cenobite communities became more established, parents would offer their children to monasteries in the hope of a better life for these children. They would be oblatus (Latin) or ‘offered’. When they reached an appropriate age they would be given the choice to remain in the monastery or to leave. Some would remain and yet, for some reason, not take the vows of a cenobite monastic. Others would leave and still maintain contact with the community they had left. They did this, presumably, because they felt that they were still a part of the monastic community that had reared them. Soon this way of living with cenobite monks (whether physically and/or spiritually) became formalised and named as being an oblate. In time one did not need to be reared in a monastery to become an oblate. A more general resonance and association with a monastery was enough.

Today there are many monastic communities around the world that have oblates. They are men and women who are drawn to a monastic spirituality and the way of being monastic that a particular monastic community may embody. Rather than take the vows of a cenobite monk, they vow the life of a cenobite oblate. They are married or single, with families and careers. Their commitment to community is not of a cloistered nature. Their challenge is to live a monastically real commitment to community and divinity in the day to day of their own lives.

The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) offers the option to all meditators of becoming Benedictine oblates. Laurence Freeman (Benedictine monk and current Director of the WCCM) explains that from the very beginning of the life of the WCCM “equal value” was given

to the forms of commitment made by monks or oblates. Oblates in his [John Main, the WCCM’s founder] vision were not merely “attached” to a monastic family; they were fully participatory and contributing members. This represented both a return to an ancient tradition and an important new development*.

This being the case, it follows that a monk and an oblate monastic – in their own unique ways, through their participation in, and contributions to the WCCM monastic family – both have equal opportunity to pursue a full cenobite monastic maturity in their own lives. If this were not the case, it would mean that either one commitment is being valued more than the other, or that one commitment is somehow superior to the other.

What, exactly, is monastic maturity? Monastic maturity is nothing less than human maturity. This is, simply, the forgetting of self. The ego (self-consciousness) comes to be (more or less) integrated with the whole of one’s consciousness. A transformation of the psyche has happened to the extent that the inner life is at the service of divine Love and not the preservation of ego centredness. This Love resides deep in our spiritual centre. It pours forth into the world, through us, from this centre. A communion of divine Being with our being is at this centre. Monastic maturing is about the whole of the person (not just our centre) coming to be in communion with this divine life.

Each maturing human and monastic is a blooming and unique expression of divine Love, co-creating in the world with the divine life.

Each monastic, like everyone with faith in a loving God, can look to this God to be the One who heals, who integrates this inner life via grace. This looking is a searching in life for the God who is already with us. The human struggle to live in loving ways is often all the motivation needed to seek out our own healing.

To be a monastic is to place first in life this searching: to seek God. With all of one’s heart and mind. The rest of life falls into place around this commitment. A monastic, whether monk or oblate, is simply living out the teaching of the Jewish Jesus made to everyone with ears to hear

This is the first [commandment] listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one, only Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: you must love your neighbour as yourself. (Mark 12:29-30).

A monastic seeks God so that we may love God, ourselves, and neighbour in growing fullness. Only God (who is Love) can bring about this fullness in us. In other words, a monastic lives a committed Christianity.

The challenge of this seeking, for oblate and monk alike, is to live a life that nourishes the contemplative roots of our humanity. Nourish the roots and God will be found. Over the centuries of Christianity, the monk monastic has had the advantage of a dedicated and cloistered life that, at its best, serves this contemplative end. The times, however, are a-changing. As we know, to be a cenobite monastic no longer means just to be a monk. Within the WCCM, the commitment of oblate is a facing into the cutting edge of a new expression of monasticism.

John Main laid groundwork for this facing into as he taught with confident perseverance that the Christian meditator meditate for at least 20 minutes (preferably 30 minutes) every morning and every evening of their lives. The WCCM oblate adds to this commitment a prayer life that includes the Office of the church (used by monk monastics for centuries), as well as a commitment to the teaching of Christian meditation. This prayer life contributes to the contemplative shaping of the human and monastic life of the oblate. And that’s when things can get really interesting because a life growing in contemplation is a life open to the life of God. A life open to the life of God is a life invited to change.

Meditatio House is, at its heart, an experiment in the evolving nature of what a lived monasticism can be. Oblates come together here to live out, in a Benedictine way, the journey into monastic and Christian maturity. We are like a flower spending time in a hot house to promote its growth. After this time we, like the flower, return to our garden – our own communities and families. We return to face the challenge of human and monastic maturing in our own environments.

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Because of our Meditatio House experience we may see that our environment needs some renewing if we are to keep maturing into God. This has always been the challenge for monk and oblate alike. A contemplative life is a human life open to change. This challenge is happening across the globe for WCCM oblates who seek God – meditating and sincerely living out our life vows of stability, conversion, and obedience in our own communities.

Recently Laurence Freeman took a trip to Turkey. While there he visited the (long empty) cave monasteries of Cappadocia. After the visit, in a column for The Tablet Laurence wrote

If you linger back alone [to the caves] you might experience a sense of wonder and great respect for the intensity of their seeking and also a painful feeling of loss. Where did all this well-directed zeal go? Did it peter out here as some of the monasteries became more dependent on rich local patrons? Or was it whisked away to new places whose time it was to manifest the deepest aspiration of the human for union with God? Is spiritual capital re-invested or does it return to its source?

Spiritual capital is being re-invested today in the places where this zeal for union with God is manifesting. The WCCM is one such place and the life of an oblate of the WCCM is a new monastic expression of this zeal. I feel it in me. My whole life is being shaped by it. This “well-directed zeal” is an expression of monastic equality when it is enacted in the lives of monk and oblate.

The same fruits of monastic maturity that drew people to the desert Fathers and Mothers of the early church, such as those in Cappadocia, and to committed monks and nuns for centuries, are also present and growing in the lives of committed oblate monastics today. In time more people will see and come to accept the deep authenticity of the wise and mature oblate monastic.

* This quote is taken from the article Monastics in the World. See recommended links: Oblates of The World Community for Christian Meditation.


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