No wonder monastics founded monasteries! However sharp the pang might be upon entering and hearing the door closed and bolted behind you, it would be a vapor compared with the attempt to live monastically in the marketplace. It is superhuman, the effort involved in trying to pigeon-hole minutes and culling hours each day, herding and coralling them away from simple pleasures, so greatly coveted, that yield no benefit and bear no fruit.
The measure of our Recreation would be a simple thing if we could but measure honestly. There’s the rub. We say we watch too much television or shop more than we should, but how much is too much? Did we watch ten minutes more than we had planned, or three hours more? Did we spent five dollars frivolously, or fifty? Or five hundred? In traditional monasteries, these things were never an issue: no television and no trips to the mall. No money. No possessions.
For us as for them, we want to be here in Cor Unum, but there is another life at hand, full of delights. Professional nuns will tell you that the bolting of the door does not at all lock out distractions and diversions of mind and heart, but there are two handrails that do help the postulants and novices over the bridge:
- there is a divine work to be done, and
- there is a sparsity of time allotted to anything else.
We revolt at the idea of workaday devotion, but Jesus frequently referred to the task at hand. Laborers in the field, the Father’s business, the husbandman, the vinedresser, the faithful and unfaithful servants. Is it all just “Get the job done!” After the large carpet in the main hall, the windows upstairs and down, and the tapestries and the draperies, you can go to the ball.
No! We are at the palace and the musicians are tuning up. Working, resting, alone and in company, we are with the Lord, and He wants it no other way. Our goal in this monastery is the abiding life of Christ, not a spiritual to-do list.
Yet we must trust that there is a work to be done. In His nature, as He inscribes it in us, there is purpose. How does our Recreation fit in? We may have met one or two who are all spiritual work and no play in this kingdom, and the witness of their lives does not necessarily ring true. Still, our leisure must not keep us from the eternal importance of the finished work of Christ, accomplished in us and through us, over time and with effort.
We begin from the perspective that our lives are not our own, but the One to Whom we belong has given us many good things to enjoy. What can compare with reading a book, something funny or poignant or revelatory, and suddenly discovering that the Lord is reading along, sharing our delight when we laugh at Mrs. Pringle of Fairacre, lamenting that the new young Doctor doesn’t believe she is following her diet, just because she gained a few pounds.
And when Fanny Dashwood talks her husband down from every possible financial assistance to his widowed stepmother and stepsisters, from the gift of a small stipend and a home which he could afford to give, to the occasional behest of a few pounds on special occasions, to Fanny’s penultimate remedy of looking in on them from time to time, and all this while the opening credits to roll, we cringe and shake our heads in derision, and we aren’t alone.
That is part of the secret. We are not alone, not in work or at play, not when we read or rest or rake the yard. If we could master this one thing, that what we do, we do with the Lord, and for His pleasure’s sake, we would enjoy the best Recreation to be had. We would know Him as seldom He is known, for all art and music, all laughter and every appreciation of beauty and good fun, come from Him. When we rejoice in pleasures, our enjoyment is His gift to us. If we can enjoy a thing with Him, delighting in His creation and creativity, even through the brush or the pen of another, we know Him better than we did before. If we think there are no boundaries, no limits as long as we are having a good time or relaxing, we don’t know Him as we should, and we will never enjoy the most exquisite pleasures of His company. Our Recreation in and with the Lord is lived out rather the way that your grandparents lived in retirement, never separated long if they could help it, doing what had to be done, working and praying, in the house, in the garden, in the community, taking little honeymoon moments for themselves every day, on the porch, over coffee, watching Jeopardy, and then padding off to bed, together.
Once again we say here in Cor Unum, these things are personal. We are the Abbesses of our own monasteries. They, monks and nuns enclosed, have prescribed hours for everything, and they like it like that. We have days and years stretching before us, hundreds of thousands of minutes to reclaim, some for work, some in devotion, some in Recreation … all for the Lord.
John 6:20 … The work of God is this, to believe on the One Whom He has sent.
by permission, Wikipedia