Every other January I take 18-20 persons with me to Conception Abbey for an immersion course in Benedictine Spirituality. We go early in January so that we might celebrate the liturgical season of Epiphany in the rich tradition of the larger church. It is the season of light, recognizing the “true light coming into the world.” As you may know, Christmas is not over on December 25th , but stretches for nearly two more weeks. Other events fill out the story of the birth of Jesus: the coming of the Magi (which represents Christ as a gift to the Gentiles, as well as the Jews); the presentation of the infant in the temple; and, the baptism of Jesus.
The basilica at the Abbey is wonderfully decorated, festooned with red banners and extra lights, a visual expression that the coming of Christ exchanges waiting for presence, sadness for joy, and longing for fulfillment. Five times each day our class gathered with the monks to chant the psalms, hear the reading of Scripture, practice attentive silence, and listen for the guidance of the Spirit.
Something good always happens when we spend this focused time in seeking God together. We begin to listen to one another more deeply; we find ways to “receive one another as Christ,” as the Rule of St. Benedict instructs; and we learn new ways of hospitality. The two vows particular to the Benedictine tradition are also instructive, the vows of stability and conversatio morum (the daily conversion of all ways of life.) Stability means that we continue to say yes to our community, living faithfully in loving relationship of mutual submission and obedience. Conversatio morum means that we know that we are unfinished as followers of Jesus; hence we renew our commitment to be transformed daily. Baptists, and other Christians, can learn much from Benedictine spirituality if we would listen—which, by the way, is the first word of the Rule.