Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tale of Three Monks


It was set at the top of a winding dirt road edged with orderly grapevines and mounded plots of vegetables. The province's monastery with over two hundred years of history, solid stone walls, simple design, adjacent pottery shop and hourly exhortation of the steeple bell.

Candidates for this solitary life adjusted after much prayer to the industry, meditation and silence, broken thrice daily by the Morning Prayer, Mid-day Message and Evensong. Contact with the village was limited to market days, relief to the poor and sick and collections for the beautification of the village church.

Only once in every ten-year interval did the monks get to crystallize and express independent thought to the Father Superior. This was on a rotating basis and occurred on the "Day for Speaking Out". Always the Monday following Easter. Two words only to be spoken per candidate, after much deliberation.

The Father in private prayer had been told that the progress over the years of three particular individuals would pretty much reflect the progress in faith of the Brotherhood.

The first monk in his "speaking out" asserted, "Lousy food." The Father nodded and rubbed his chin. Ten years later, from the same monk, "Lumpy bed." And in the thirtieth year, "I quiet".

The Father responded, "Well that figures. All you have ever done around here is complain!" (And so the old groaner joke goes.) But there is more to this story.

A second Brother on the same days gave the following responses. Year ten..."Loathsome humanity." Year twenty..."Loathsome me." Year thirty..."Judgment kills."

And what of the third monk? Year ten..."Jesus wins." Year twenty..."My Jesus." Year thirty.."Enough said."

These were the three men ear-marked in prayer for the Father's consideration. What did it all mean?

The day following "speaking out" annually the Father would give his much anticipated "Reflection". (This time bearing a special significance for him.)

The semi-lit lecture hall settled to a calm in the soothing low-angle shafts of novel spring light. "My dear brothers, again we have experienced the passage of Easter: the courage of Gethsemane, the anguish of Golgotha, the promise of the empty tomb. We have also attended to the "Speaking Out". I see evidence of three predominent attitudes in our community. One, of the appetites. A second of the abstract. A third of the abiding. Where do you find yourself? Where do you wish to be found? May God's grace establish you and keep you. Amen."

Note: This post was inspired in part by a noteworthy sermon heard this morning at Calvary Pentecostal Church in Cambridge, Pastor David attending.

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