3 monastic commitments we all must make

September 15th, 2010 · by Tom Stuart · Church History, Growth & Development, News & Reflections, Relationships

Yesterday, Susan and I along with several other members of the family made the trek from the Twin Cities up to Saint John’s Abbey located at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.  We went there to attend the first vows monastic profession of my nephew, Michael-Leonard who has become a Benedictine Monk.  I was deeply impressed that the commitments my nephew and three other young men made, are commitments every true follower of Jesus must make if we are to follow Christ whole-heartedly.

 

The liturgical ceremony, which took place in the stunning University Church designed by famed architect Marcel Breuer, was a very moving service.  It was officiated by the abbot who is the spiritual leader of the monastic community and presides over life in the monastery.  The antiphonal singing by all the monks, the reading of scriptures, message by the abbot, professions of three-year vows by the four novices, followed by communion was an impacting testimony to the power of devotion to God and commitment to community.

Christian monastic communities, like the Benedictines of St. Johns, date back to the 3rd and 4th centuries.  The pattern for monastic living was first spelled out in the “Rule of Benedict” written by Benedict of Nursia (Italy) in the early 5th century.  For this reason, St. Benedict is often called the founder of western Christian monasticism. 

The “Rule of St. Benedict” consists of seventy-three short chapters addressing primarily two aspects of the Christian life, how to live a Christ-centered life on earth and how to do life together in a monastery.  As part of the ceremony, each of the men making their profession received a special copy of the “Rule of St. Benedict.”

The abbot’s message centered on an explanation of the three commitments each was about to make: Obedience, Stability, and Conversion.  These commitments are based on the three scripture readings that prefaced his message: Numbers 21:4-9 (an admonition to those living in community not to grumble), Philippians 2:6-11 (about Christ Jesus as our example,, humbling Himself as a servant and becoming obedient to death on the cross.) and John 3:14-17 (about salvation through faith in Jesus, God’s Son.)

The abbot began his message by saying this:  “These commitments, like the paradox of the cross, create space for the Holy Spirit to work.  The good news is that in the free embrace of limits we find true freedom rooted in the grace and call of the Holy Spirit.”

Here are the three commitments the novices made and a brief overview of the abbot’s explanation.

1. Obedience – this is committing oneself to listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, spiritual leaders in our lives and the community of believers of which we are a part.  It is the pathway out of narcissism where we are enabled to put the good of others before our own good.  We are to become obedient as Jesus was obedient. It is a commitment to live in the present moment and to ask “what does this person or situation need of me right now?”

2. Stability – this is a commitment to maintain loving community.  It is pledging to love and forgive the specific people God has placed in my life right now.  We are enabled to do this by trusting in God’s love and promises.  This is not some generic commitment to love all human kind.  Christ’s love, is love expressed first and foremost to the people nearest to us.

3. Conversion – this is a commitment to stay in Christian community.  It is a commitment to stay at the table – to participate at the community table in talking, thinking and deciding together.  It is committing oneself to pray with and for one another.  Conversion is a call to listen to the scriptures and to turn away from sin.  It is a call to stay engaged even when “we brush up against one another and it is hard at times.”  This is often an indication that we need to change and by God’s grace we can change even though we may want to quit or give up.

Commitments like these should not be relegated only to monastic living.   I believe with all my heart that these are key ingredients every church should evidence as followers of Christ.  With Bridgewood Community Church’s fall launch of our new Under Construction sermon series, my hope is that everyone who calls BCC home will make this kind of commitment to a small group and experience true Christian community.

Any thoughts you have about these commitments?

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4 Responses to “3 monastic commitments we all must make”

  1. I was just reminded of my “family” at my work place and how disfunctional it is. We all seem to have our own agenda and march to different drum beats regardless of the fact that we all need to work together as a team with a similar goal. Yesterday, I was accused of being crabby by someone who just came from a 10 day vacation. I wasn’t crabby, I just had a lot on my plate and it was new tasks and I had 3 sets of notes in which they all differed some in which to work from. I was so focussed on making the deadlines and doing it right that unfortunantly my disposition was altered. I like to think that I am a person of integrity and when others are demanding of me, I take it personally because I do have a good track record of getting the work done, whatever and however difficult it is rather than dropping the ball and or doing a poor job. Not once did someone ask if they could lighten my load or help in anyway. I’m afraid that this is the way the “world” is going and as a Christian in a “community of believers” we can make a difference just as this young man is committing himself to in a monastic setting. We should be seen as a “functional” community in a disfunctional world.

  2. This kind of reminds of one time years ago when there was an “alter call” where the Pastor (at another church) talked about being evangelistic and asked people (with eyes closed) to raise their hand if they felt that they wanted to step up their efforts in their outreach of sharing Christ with others, he then went on and said, okay, now….those who raised their hands, I now ask you to come forward since you have said this is something you want to do….well….I of course, had no choice and needed to go forward because I raised my hand as did about 75% of the church. How many times have we done this for one reason or another???? All too often though, we make these kind of comittments, but three weeks after we make them, we are right back on the same old path we were before we made those comittments. I remember doing it for the breakfast of champions….I can tell you I don’t have my “Wheaties” every day, but I should!!!!! I raised my hand…. HELP!!!! How do we live like this every day???? What is the trick????

    Obedience, stability, conversion….man…..those are all super great things and I am raising my hand once again, yes, yes, yes…..I want to live in that manner….but I really do believe that this is a day by day, moment by moment, dying to onself, giving to God thing. We cannot just raise our hand and say yes….yes….I will do it and then 3 weeks later be right back where we were. But I am with you 100%….we need to be authentic 100% fully comitted, engaged, self-sacrificing, truly community caring, giving body of believers. We will then see our awesome God do awesome and truly amazing things!!! I can’t wait. Day by day, moment by moment, trusting in Him to lead me and guide me and give me the strength to do that which I want to do.

  3. I request you to take time & emphasize for our benefit the salient features of Obedience,Stability & Conversion.Permit me to change the order. Basic principle of nature is Cause & Effect. I find the ultimate effect in our life –Our Righteousness must accede that of gentiles (Mt 5:20) is required. The Cause (COS- Conversion, Obedience, Stability) if followed will bring the Effect in our life. Be radically Converted & start the life with Obedience & have the Stability in life.

  4. What about those who have commitment phobia?

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