Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say: It is high time for us to arise from sleep (Rom 13:11). 9Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge: 10 If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Ps 94:8). 11 And again: You that have ears to hear, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 2:7). 12 And what does he say? Come and listen to me, sons; I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Ps 33:12). 13 Run while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you (John 12: 35).
Commentary by Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert
We listen to only a few verses of the Prologue today, because they are so important in our monastic formation.
It is high time for us to arise from sleep (Rom 13:11). First we must say that monastic formation is a living of the life of the Monastery that we have joined. So many monks and nuns come to the Monastery and begin to want the life of another Monastery. Too often this is an evasion of accepting life as it is in the Monastery we have joined. Part of the task of formation is simply accepting the life of this community, under whoever is the present superior, with these brothers who are here today.
We must arise from sleep. We must be aware that it is this community in which we live. This does not mean that we think that things are perfect in this community. We must be radically honest about this. Our brothers and sisters are not saints. The superior is not a saint. None of us is perfect, none of us follows every direction of the Customary or the traditions of the house perfectly.
Perhaps at times we are tempted to think that formation is teaching everyone how to observe all of the traditions of this Monastery perfectly. We must, of course, work at understanding and following the traditions and customs. Sometimes we must ask how things are done. Sometimes we must ask for certain things to be clarified, for ourselves or for others or for all of us. Our task personally is to learn the life and live it the best we can. That is one aspect of formation. Another aspect is that we must accept each of our brothers or sisters just as they are. This cannot be repeated enough in formation classes or by the superior of the community.
Yet we find that our hearts can become hardened and not listen to the voice of the Lord. We can begin to use our energy to try to make others behave the way we think they ought to behave. Perhaps, in actual fact, they ought to behave the way we want them to behave. Yet it is a waste of our energy to try to bring this about.
Monastic life presumes a group of men or women who are striving to be adults and responsible for their own lives. It presumes that we are old enough to be responsible for our own lives in good and healthy ways and that we can keep our energies focused on living the monastic life and a deep, interior life of prayer.
We see this over and over in the lives of the desert monastics and the lives of many saints. This means in a practical way for my formation that I must look into my own heart and see where my energy is going. If my energy is going into the lives of others, then I am on the wrong track. This cannot be said strongly enough: my energy must go into my life, into my seeking to live the monastic life of this house, into my striving to live a deep and strong inner life of prayer. In order to do this, I must constantly fight myself. It is much easier to spend my life trying to straighten out any problems a community may have; it is easier to spend my time complaining to others about this or that situation in the Monastery; it is easier to be upset with my superiors and their lack of understanding or direction; it is easier to do almost anything than to fight my own self so that I may love my brothers and my community just as it is.
My energy can be used in just idle chatter as well. I can find myself talking with others when there is no need and nothing to be gained. I can spend endless hours just “fiddling” with this or that project, and waste all of my lectio and prayer time.