Thursday, 1 January 2015

An Attentive Way of Life


It's the opening word of the Rule of St Benedict ("Ausculta!" in the old Latin manuscripts, like the one on the right), and some commentators have suggested that it's the most important word in the whole monastic tradition - that monastic life is, at heart, an attempt to order life together in community in such a way that we are most open and able to hear the Word of the Lord.

"Listen, my son, to you master's precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart.
Receive willingly and carry out effectively
your loving father's advice."
(Rule of St Benedict, Prologue)

It makes sense. The Word, God's self expression in revelation, in scripture, and supremely in Christ, opens the Gospel. "In the beginning was the Word," writes the apostle John, "and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1.1). And if the Gospel begins with the Word, then hearing and attentiveness must lie at the root of our response. It's the fundamental dynamic of grace: God acts, we receive; God initiates, we respond; God speaks and we listen.

Listening, of course, begins in silence. Let me encourage you to embrace a little more silence in your daily life, beginning today. Turn off the radio and the TV. Put down your phone. Practice sitting still and being aware - aware of yourself, of others, of the world around you, and above all of God. Let the magnificent and terrifying silence seep into your noisy, busy, hectic world. Listen!

Image: J. Henry Middleton (public domain)

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