Chapter Thirty-seven of St Gregory's Dialogues: how venerable Benedict did prophesy to his monks, the time of his own death.
The same year in which he departed this life, he told the day of his holy death to his monks, some of which did live daily with him, and some dwelt far off, willing those that were present to keep it secret, and telling them that were absent by what token they should know that he was dead. Six days before he left this world, he gave order to have his sepulchre opened, and forthwith falling into an ague, he began with burning heat to wax faint, and when as the sickness daily increased, upon the sixth day he commanded his monks to carry him into the oratory, where he did arm himself with receiving the body and blood of our Saviour Christ; and having his weak body holden up betwixt the hands of his disciples, he stood with his own lifted up to heaven, and as he was in that manner praying, he gave up the ghost. Upon which day two monks, one being in his cell, and the other far distant, had concerning him one and the self-same vision: for they saw all the way from the holy man's cell, towards the east even up to heaven, hung and adorned with tapestry, and shining with an infinite |100 number of lamps, at the top whereof a man, reverently attired, stood and demanded if they knew who passed that way, to whom they answered saying, that they knew not. Then he spake thus unto them: "This is the way," quoth he, "by which the beloved servant of God, Benedict, is ascended up to heaven." And by this means, as his monks that were present knew of the death of the holy man, so likewise they which were absent, by the token which he foretold them, had intelligence of the same thing. Buried he was in the oratory of St. John Baptist which himself built, when he overthrew the altar of Apollo; who also in that cave in which he first dwelled, even to this very time, worketh miracles, if the faith of them that pray requireth the same.
20th March Chapter Ceremony in which Brother Jose Luis indicated his intention to renounce worldly customs and to take his first, simple vows tomorrow, the Feast of the Transitus of St Benedict. This simple ceremony took place in the small chapter house.
A Summary of Abbot Paul's Address
|Abbot Paul addressing the community in chapter|
In monastic tradition, these first vows were the main event: solemn vows three years later only confirmed the offering of oneself that a monk makes after the noviciate. Clearly we must follow canon law in which these vows are now only for three years, but we must also bear in mind and strike a balance between monastic life seen as an institution and governed by law, and monastic life as a charismatic life lead by the Spirit to whose call the monk responds. Looking at our vocation from a charismatic point of view, we Benedictine monks are monks who live in cells and monks who live in community; and these two dimensions of our life correspond to the two main typess of monk, the anchorites and the cenobites.
Our cells are not just bedrooms or offices or places to entertain; still less are they internet cafes! They are monk's cells, places of prayer, of lectio divina, of silence, places where we can even more intensely seek God. How we use our cells indicates how mature we are in the monastic life.
We are also cenobites. The Gospel of the solemnity of St Benedict's death, the "Transitus", is taken from Christ's prayer, "that they may be one as you, Father, in me, and I in you etc in chapter 17 of St John." Each of us is called to seek God, but we are to seek God together in community. We are called to be one, as Christ and the Father are one. We no longer belong to ourselves, nor do we possess anything of our own. Making this a reality as well as living responsibly in our cells are our ways of approaching God and form our kind of asceticism.
These photos show Brother Jose Luis taking his vows at the conventual Mass of the community on St Benedict's Day, March 21; Brother Jose Luis signing his vows on the altar, (the paper is places under the corporal during the Mass); and the Pachacamac community after the Mass, plus the abbot and minus the aspirant who took the photo. There is now a resident community of eight, plus an aspirant, which isn't bad. However, two in solemn vows are away, Monday to Friday, studying for the priesthood.