Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Parables from a Residential Monk #2

Kopp Disclosure

(John 3:19-21)


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Parables from a Residential Monk 

Parable of Brother Daniel

     Some people are like fireworks.

They burn brightly but briefly.

“Beware of baby Christians,” warned Paul, “because they are passionately puffed-up for Jesus at conversion yet burn out unless their roots grow deeply into Him.”

Deeply rooted Christians live the lyric, “Just like a tree that’s planted by the water, I shall not be moved.”

Brother Daniel had been at Assumption Abbey, a Trappist monastery in the Ozark Mountains near the Arkansas-Missouri border, for about 30 years.

Part of being a Trappist is taking the vow of stability; promising to remain in the monastery for life.

Among the vows supporting stability are silence (only speaking when it’s necessary and never casually, frivolously, incidentally or indiscriminately), celibacy (a lifetime without marital delights), chastity (total abstinence from any sexual activity), poverty (renouncing personal material ownership in favor of communal sharing), and obedience (compliance to the rules of the order).

It takes a lot of prayer and work to be a Trappist monk.

Everything a monk does is fueled by worship punctuated by Psalm-singing that begins with a compulsory liturgy at 3:00 a.m. and concludes with another compulsory liturgy at 6:00 p.m. with several mandatory services in between apart from mitigating circumstances.

Like a tree that’s planted by the water, that’s how Brother Daniel lived for 30 years.

A visitor noticed Brother Daniel’s Bible open to Psalm 91 while working.

“That’s my favorite Psalm,” the visitor said.

Brother Daniel smiled.

The visitor proceeded to tell Brother Daniel what he knew about it.

Brother Daniel smiled.

Noticing the monk appeared underwhelmed by the exposition, the visitor asked what it meant to him.

Because it was necessary, Brother Daniel spoke. 
He explained Psalm 91 in new and refreshing ways to the visitor.

The heavens seemed to open and rain revelation as Brother Daniel explained it to the visitor.

Surprised and humbled, the visitor asked, “How come you know so much more about Psalm 91 than me.  
You have lived in this monastery for most of your life.  You never went beyond 8th grade.  I studied this Psalm in college and seminary and in other graduate studies in Europe under some of the most renowned Biblical scholars that have ever lived; and I even read it in Hebrew at the western wall of the Temple’s remains in Jerusalem.  How did you ever learn so much more about it than me?”

With a smile betraying an intimacy cultivated by long periods of prayer and Bible reading couched in worship, he answered, “I asked God what it means.”

Years passed.

The visitor returned to the monastery.

Indebted to the monk who had taught him how to hear God above the dissonance, he was eager to see Brother Daniel.

Told the monk had left the monastery, he went to the abbot and asked what happened to Brother Daniel.

Father Theodore said, “Daniel went to the dentist, fell in love with the hygienist, left us, married, and has a beautiful family.”

“I don’t understand,” the visitor asked.

Father Theodore smiled; then he spoke because it was necessary.

“Oh,” said the abbot with a calming countenance that brought Brother Daniel even more to mind, “Daniel was only here for thirty years.  Clearly, he was never called to be a monk.”

Some people are like fireworks.

They burn brightly but briefly.

People come and go in monasteries and churches and communities and marriages and families and friendships and in and out of our lives.

Some people are never more than visitors.

Only the seriously committed are stable enough to stay home.


Blessings and Love!

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