"Let the word of Christ dwell in
you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your
hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything
in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father
-- Colossians 3:16-17
St. Benedict does not refer explicitly to the above Scripture
passage in his Rule for monks, but it succinctly expresses what the
Rule embodies. The monastic day is designed to carry with it the
word of Christ throughout its hours. In gratitude to God, we pray
and we work. We do this as a community that strives to make Christ
present to one another and the world in
everything we do.
As human beings, we naturally tend to compartmentalize our
lives. We have our work life, our family life, our social life, and
(if we have it at all) our spiritual life. But how do these areas
intersect and affect one another? The Christian life is one of
unity. It is about making the whole of life holy. We worship a God
who is incarnate-the Word made Flesh. All that we think, say, or do
should radiate Christ.
Since monks are not immune to the temptation of living
fragmented lives, the Benedictine motto ora et labora-pray
and work-expresses the ideal of the Rule of St. Benedict.
Faithfully lived within the context of community, it is a sacred
rhythm that provides structure and direction for our daily lives
and (hopefully) keeps us on the path of life everlasting. Our
common prayer, our personal prayer, our various works, and our
day-to-day living with one another are not disparate elements, but
strands woven together like those of a rope to give the whole of
life strength and sacred purpose. All of this requires commitment,
humility, and the love of God.
One concrete symbol of this ideal is the corridor (or slype)
that connects the monastery and church. Each day, after praising
God in church, the monastic community processes down the slype and
directly into the monastery dining room (refectory) at the
corridor's other end for our meals together. It is a reminder that
whatever we do, we do for the glory of God, so that God may be
glorified in all things through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31;
All this, of course, is with the recognition that the Kingdom of
God is not yet fully realized. This path toward life everlasting is
a journey we make each day.