Thursday, 7 November 2013

Monastic life at Nunraw Abbey 3 - Abbot Mark

Saturday, 2 November 2013FRIDAY NOVEMBER 1 2013

Stay on the right path in your search for God.
In the latest in our series on spirituality, a monk from NUNRAWABBEY speaks about the importance of seeking God in our lives.
Nunraw Abbey - morning sun through the cloister windows
Seeking God
As a salmon makes its way back to where it came from, so we by our nature turn back to God as we seek out our vocation in life.   Unlike the salmon, we might get lost or distracted on the way.  But, when we do get back on stream, our homing instinct draws us onwards to God.  The well-known quotation of St Augustine comes to mind, ‘God has made us for himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in him.’
To seek God is part of every Christian’s vocation.  It’s not surprising therefore that St Benedict in his Rule for monks says that anyone coming to enter the monastery must be tested to see if he is truly seeking God.
Many people feel attracted to different aspects of the monastic life.  Its appeal may be its distance from the hectic rush of everyday life in society, its atmosphere of silence, or perhaps its spirituality which has developed over the centuries.  Obviously not everyone can or will want to spend their lives in the monastery.  But it's’ healthy for us to see and learn from the positive values in other vocations different from our own.  Some laypeople have actually introduced some elements of the Rule of St Benedict into their family practice.  For example, they have set aside specific time for private prayer, or for praying the divine office together with family or friends.
Finding God is a treasure that will only be fully realised in heaven. Here on earth, however, we can keep the search alive by our openness and generosity.  In human friendships and in marriage people keep developing and changing, though that will normally be in slow and in imperceptive ways.  Our personalities keep growing and developing and this need, it will add to our underWe mightstanding of ourselves and of the world around us.  This makes our search for meaning and happiness all the more interesting. 
To Change
When we feel we need to do something more with, or in, our lives, that desire will stimulate growth and change.  We don’t necessarily have to leave home or country to do that.  Cardinal John Henry Newman said that “in a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”.  Now that he has not long ago been declared Blessed by the Church may add more weight to his words.  But, whether we live in a monastery or outside it, we don’t remain static as if we have already found God and need go no further.  
Together with our seeking, we need the humbling awareness that we can never be one hundred per cent sure of what is in us and where we are going.  No matter how much we learn of, or know God; no matter how often we have experienced graces in prayer, we need Sister Humility to keep our two feet on the ground.  Self-awareness will teach us that, no matter how much we increase in knowledge of God, there will always be much more we will have yet to learn.  That may frustrate and even annoy us.  But love is a gift.  We can’t buy or earn it.  Even when it is freely given to us we can’t possess it or keep it safe.  Someone said recently that love only grows when it is given away. 
Real lives are never wrinkle-free or without spots.  There are always some imperfections in them, even in the holiest of lives.  Saintliness lies within, below the outer surface of things.  But the inner workings of the heart and the deep yearnings for God in them can sometimes give a certain tangible beauty in the lives of some holy people.  However, just like a garden, lives are never free of weeds for very long.  They will always reappear and need to be dealt with.  Isn’t it strange that when we do set about digging up the weeds we feel the better for it, even though it’s normally a tiring and tedious job?  Living is just like that.
God seeking us
Seeking God is the ultimate need in our lives.  Scripture tells us that we can love only because God has first loved us.  The same applies to our seeking of God.  In spite of our desire for God, it is so easy to be lured away from our search for him.  The prophets In the Old Testament kept chiding God’s chosen people for their wantonness, for their running after other gods.  This was God’s way of chastening them and bringing them back to him.  He never gave up on them but always sought to show that he still loved them.
The Hound of Heaven’ is a wonderfully atmospheric poem.   In it the author describes God relentlessly chasing after the wayward soul whose fear of being caught was not as bad as he was expecting.  Left to ourselves we can very easily find ourselves doing our ‘our thing’ and not God’s.  We should be all the more grateful then that in our seeking, God is himself very persistent in his seeking of us:
“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
  I fled Him, down the arches of the  years;
  I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
 Of my own mind; . . .
Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest.    
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”
   Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

Nunraw view to Firth of Forth and King of Fife

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