Reading Joan Chittister can sometimes feel like someone has had access to your personal journal and decided to read it back to you sentence by sentence, with her own comments and asides. She is a Benedictine no nonsense nun, and is both shrewd and sensible, writing with candour and compassion. Her insights into what makes community healthy, organic and fruitful are constant gifts scattered throughout her books. Discussing how stability is an essential of Benedictine life, and how that is rooted in community, she recognises that a community never stays still, unless it has become paralysed by the anxiety that clings to where and who it is. Relationships are central and essential to Christian discipleship, and to Benedictine obedience, which is one ancient and distinctive style of Christian discipleship. Here is her take on how all that works:
"That's how relationships sanctify me. They show me where holiness is for me. That's how relationships develop me. They show me where growth is for me. If I'm the passive-victim type, then assertiveness may have something to do with coming to wholeness. If I'm the domineering character in every group, then a willingness to listen and be led may be my call to life. Alone, I am what I am, but in community I have the chance to become everything that I can be." (page 49)
Those words come from Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, is Chittister's take on what it means to commit to Living the Rule of St Benedict Today (the sub title). Bob and Becky, my friends from Henniker New Hampshire, won't be surprised I bought this book while with them on holiday years ago. The Dartmouth Bookstore was where I discovered several writers and books that have stayed with me after making the point they were 'meant' to make! The photo is Becky's church.
The Rule of Benedict has been a constant source of thought and redirection for me over a long time. The emphases on stability, contemplation, community, hospitality, study, prayer and scripture have been necessary if quiet correctives to a life that often enough has been restless, activist, self-absorbed, too busy to have enough time for others, including God.
As Advent comes, such correctives are important. Waiting, longing, being open to others, sharing generously the gift that is our life, looking attentively at the wounds of the world, finding ways of showing mercy, listening for the sounds of hope, allowing our minds and our lives to be enlarged.
Come Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.