When we begin to examine a monastic template for our devotional lives, we cannot help but ask, “Why must they close themselves in, if we trust that we can have the same results where we are?” Apart from the obvious, that their seclusion from distractions might speed things up a little, what benefit could there be “on the inside”?
There are many secular men and women who have fashioned their days and evenings to allow them to pray an at-home facsimile of the Divine Office. Beginning each day with Matins and Lauds in the morning, Vespers in the afternoon or early evening, and Compline before bed, they have established borders and boundaries that protect their devotional lives. Some know and use those terms and use a book of common prayer, others don’t have fancy titles, they just make sure they have opportunity to pray at least two or three times daily.
So then, what is the cloistered quotient? Are there any great advantages from which we may glean a better understanding and gain a stronger devotion?
Here is the best, by far: “they” set out to have all of God they can have, and they arrange their lives accordingly. “We” . . . sometimes have other plans.
Really . . . wait!
The template of which we speak is the idea of “waiting on God,” with a plan to make sure it happens. We can have that!
Read Isaiah’s words, in chapter eight of that book:
“I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him.” (verse 17, NIV)
One day soon we will better understand why it is that the Lord, Who so wants to be found, hides Himself the way He does! This we know now: it is to our glory that we seek Him out (Proverbs 25:2,) that we don’t spend our time on earth pouring the treasure of our lives into a deep hole that will be covered up even before we die.
We in Cor Unum share a common desire. We want “more of God.” We want all of God that each can have. The essential difference between most fervent-hearted Christians and their monastic counterparts is the determination to have the seed of the Word fall on good soil. “Real” monasticism, whether cloistered in convents or condos, is the decision to make sure of it.
We will most assuredly take a look at the ADVANTAGES to being cloistered right where we are, but the monastic template we use is valuable and can teach us great things. “They” have made unalterable plans to tend the soil of their hearts.
Just as we can love all we want, so can we pursue until we find.
The Lord does seem to delight in making sure we don’t miss out on the honor of our redemption. His salvation comes to us, and then we get to make Him the King and the glory of our souls. Some don’t. Some do. The walls and the rigors of cloistered life are like an academy where men go to learn to train Lippizaners or where women study to be nurses or even to win beauty pageants. Just as budding gymnasts will, at a certain level, leave home in order to train and condition themselves toward one end, there is a point at which the goal becomes central to one’s desire. There are many natural athletes on earth, and of them there are those that will work hard to achieve success. Among those there are the very few who will work hours every day to shave tenths of seconds off their time in the pool or on the slopes. These are monastic athletes.
When athletes give their all to obtain the prize, it stirs us, but our crown is the promise that we may abide in Christ Jesus and bear His image. (Colossians 3:1-4) The marvel and wonder is that every one of us may prevail and attain what we seek, and the search itself is a triumph and re-invigorating. He is our Prize, and though He hides Himself, His eyes are upon us.
There is more. We will look a little deeper tomorrow . . .