Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
(Matthew 26:8-10, NASB)
If you have a heart for the monastic way of life, get ready to contend with this question inside and out.
In this place where spare time is given to watching and praying, and innocent earthly pleasures are redeemed in hours of worship and warfare, we are foolish to think that what we do won’t be misunderstood. We keep most of what we do quiet, we don’t advertise, we go about our lives, pay our bills, buy our groceries just as we’ve always done and just as others to, but when those groceries are put away, it’s time for Vespers – not General Hospital.
What’s more, the barrage will come from both directions. When we do, if we do, settle down to watch a movie at home, the enemy of souls will tell us we’re failing and letting Jesus down. We are learning that there is one way to know that cannot be true … when the Lord invites us to watch television with Him! Don’t think for a moment that can never happen! If by His leading you choose to watch television or read a book or go bowling, that is your Recreation and God bless it. We aren’t under the law, we are under grace, the grace of a monastic life. What’s more we have an answer for each and every contention.
This is a freewill offering! The day that the Lord has made is given to us for our rejoicing. We simply number ourselves among those who wish to find their rejoicing in Nearness of Christ and in the will of the Father. We will learn, and it is as precious as the anointment Mary poured upon the feet of Jesus, we will learn to hear when the Father says, “Take a few minutes and sit outside with your book,” and when He says, “You haven’t yet prayed for the person you’re fasting for today.”
Some of us will cancel our satellite service; let it be by the prompting of the Spirit of God so that we will never regret our decision. Our televisions bring us beautiful footage of miraculous events taking place in the world around us, of Muslim men and women coming to faith in huge numbers and of the underground Church in China, of acts of Christian service and sacrifice, of political events that could be attributed only to the power of God.
Some of the nuns in Cor Unum find nuggets of spiritual wisdom in the books they read, powerful parables that strengthen their souls, and all of us have seen movies that were life-changing in their effect.
We are known in the heavenlies among those who choose worship over worry, prayer over play, stillness over excitements, but we do know, too, how to have a good time in company and alone with the Lord. To us, we aren’t anything special, except to the Lord, but as special as we are to Him, it is our lives we don’t want to waste. We enjoy every minute and morsel of God’s favor and fullness. Sometimes the restrictions we embrace will offend and often they will confound others, but for us, this waste has made us rich, and richer still with every passing day, here in the Abbey of the heart.
Alabaster Jar, courtesy of Harrogate Museums and Arts,
by permission, Wikipedia