It is this element of the Monk in each of us that resonates with the silence, austerity, prayer, poverty, simplicity and obedience somehow tasted in even a brief visit to a monastery.
NE EVENING, Fr. Theophane (1930-2003) met with a group from the Aspen Institute. They seemed to be interested in every aspect of monastic living, and the questions were coming fast and furious long after the time allotted had expired. Taking advantage of a brief pause in the barrage of questions, Fr. Theophane remarked: “See how interested you all are in the monastic life. There is a reason for this. Something of the monk exists in every one of us.”
This is a statement of profound truth. According to Carl Jung, there exist in all of us myths or archetypes that are the forms whereby our collective unconscious represents for itself the fundamental meanings of our basic relationships. Thus there exists in each one of us something of the Man, the Woman, the King, the Evil One, the Monk, etc. It is this element of the Monk in each of us that resonates with the silence, austerity, prayer, poverty, simplicity and obedience somehow tasted in even a brief visit to a monastery.
Yet there is something of the Word that is Jesus that is spoken in the center of our beings and that reaches a recognizable expression in the monastic life. This is why monasticism is a viable witness and why encountering this witness elicits such a resonating response in the hearts of so many men and women.
For some the words “monastic” and “contemplative” are almost synonymous. To be a monk is to be a contemplative, to bear witness to the value of contemplation and to share this value with those who resonate with it and wish to support and strengthen it in themselves. This sharing is indeed a viable part of monastic spirituality, and is the reason why Trappist monks write books and even occasionally leave monasteries to give conferences, workshops and retreats. But above all, monastic witness is in the living, in the abiding communal expression of the contemplative attitude. ✜