THE MONASTIC VOCATION
.Fr Timothy Radcliffe, when he was the Master General of the Dominicans, gave a talk to the Benedictine Abbots' Congress (2000), in which he spoke of the monastic life in these terms:
"I wish to claim that your monasteries disclose God not because of what you do or say, but perhaps because the monastic life has, at its centre, a space, a void in which God may show Himself. I wish to suggest that the rule of St Benedict offers a sort of hollow centre to your lives, in which God may live and be glimpsed. The glory of God always shows itself in an empty space. When the Israelites came out of the desert, God came with them seated in the space between the wings of the cherubim, above the seat of mercy. . . . [The cross] is a throne of glory which is also a void, an absence, as a man dies crying out for the God who seems to have deserted him. The ultimate throne of glory is an empty tomb, where there is no body.
.I will suggest three aspects of the monastic life which open [a void, an empty space in your lives,] a space for God. First of all, your lives are for no particular purpose. Secondly, . . . they lead nowhere, and finally . . . they are lives of humility."
A monastery, he says is a space in which God can dwell among men. All of us have an empty space inside, waiting to be filled, at our invitation, by God. But we do not like voids, and we cannot wait for God to fill it. We fill it ourselves with all kinds of nonsense. Monks and nuns face the void and wait on God. They seek the "one thing necessary". Those who seek find, and thus the void is filled with God and our emptynness becomes the place where we can meet God. . The tangible result is that monasteriess are places where you can experience something of the peace that the world cannot give. Hence, in an increasingly secular world, more and more people are coming to stay in monasteries.
This is a place where people are invited to think the unthinkable. Is God calling me to be a monk? Can I make room for God in this secular age simply by humbly seeking him? Can I, by God's grace, live the vocation of St John the Baptist by diminishing and becoming less and less so that I can make room for Christ and he can fill my empty space, becoming more and more present in a world that needs him so badly? Further, can I be so forgetful of self that I am willing and happy to do this as a member of a community that has "one heart and one soul", so that people will see Christ's presence in the community and only in the individual monks in so far as they are members of that community. That is the vocation of the cenobitic monk.
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