I am always drawn to anything that mentions monasteries. I read about them in the writings of Christians throughout the centuries and have a special love and admiration for these mysteriously beautiful places. The beautiful mystery of a monastery, where God divinely gathers a community of people who voluntarily come to live simply and uncelebrated, under religious vows, out of devotion to God.
Maybe that is part of my motivation in joining a mission community in the furthest country from my birthplace, to join my heart with other Christians devoted to the worship and adoration of God day and night.
We haven’t made life-long vows of celibacy (though some may have done so); we are made up of young and old, married couples, families, single adults, many who desire to be married one day and some who may remain single. We have committed to the fasted lifestyle of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitude heart (Matthew 5-7), living simply, living obediently, living with generous hearts, living in chaste purity as marrieds and singles, and daily devoting ourselves to prayer, worship, and the study of the Word of God.
I see the monastery as a place within the heart. Let’s call it “the monastery of the heart”. In the same way, I see that we are all, whether single or married, a “monk of the heart”. Our hearts are devoted, with the first and centre of our heart, to our Beloved Christ. He is the Face we behold; He is the heart to whom we are joined. He is the Eternal Companion of our eternal soul, the one we cling to on this earth in this age, and who we cling to in the heavenly age to come. No matter the human companionship we may be surrounded with in this lifetime, He is the Eternal Companion, to whom we are all monks, set apart in eternity for the One, the Only, the First and Last of all creation, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End. To this One we owe the entirety of our hearts.
This is the monastery of the heart, to which I am irrevocably drawn, day after day. When the noise of this life seems to crowd in on me, and the pounding ache of a Greater Day echoes deep in my soul, I return to this place, this monastery, this mysterious place of beauty. It is here that I find peace; I find ‘shalom’, a place to breathe, to find life again.
In recent times, I have seen a monastery on a green hill in my heart, with its simple, solid buildings set on rolling green fields, cobblestone paths connecting them, with a spattering of shady trees throughout, moving gently to the soft breeze. A deep stillness, yet a powerful energy invisibly flowing through it. There is a sense of dignified solidity to this place. A weight of glory rests here, joined with lilting lightness of heart. The perfect blend of solemnity and sobriety, and exhilarating, delirious intoxication of the Spirit, all secretly contained within the embodied hearts that walk this place.
The other day, though, the match was struck, and the fire came. First, in the main lounge, the very heart of the monastery. It started with the portraits hung on the humble walls. The Faces contained in the intricately carved frames, started to burn, to blaze ferociously. They would not let up. These are the Faces of God; every framed Face throughout each room was burning. Then the entire room burst into flame, with a power that knocked me to my knees. I had to surrender to the fire that overtook this once calm world of mine.
I cannot contain this blazing flame, this consuming fire. I can’t even try. I won’t even try. It has consumed the monastery on a hill. And now all I see is a monastery on fire. A blazing monastery. The portraits won’t stop their constant burning, all the rooms are aflame, with a constant, unrelenting fire. But the place is not burning up. It is just burning.
The monastery is burning.
And somehow I must call this blazing sanctuary my home, my fiery abode.
The burning monastery of my heart, where the consuming love of my Eternal Companion, resides and burns within me.
The monastery is burning.