WHERE THE MOUNTAIN HARE HAS LAIN
READ: Ephesians 5:15-20
“So be very careful about the quality of lives you lead, be as intelligent people and not as those without reason. Make the best of these present days, for it is an age with evil. This is the reason for you not to live thoughtlessly but always discerning the wishes and ways of God. Do not get drunk with wine; this is simply dissipation of self; rather be filled with the Spirit. Sing psalms and hymns and holy songs among yourselves, singing and chanting to the Lord in your hearts, always and everywhere giving thanks to God our Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 5:15-20
As Christians we are called to be intelligent and wise, yet also enthusiastic and exuberant. As Christians we are to be of both holy heart and holy mind, of both sanctified passion and sanctified intellect. Yet, there are those, I fear, who make ignorance something holy, demanding of its adherents a sacrifice of the intellect. And as well, there are those, I fear, who make the Christian Way a mere academic, philosophical exercise, trying to engineer a Christian Way that has within it no artistry or poetry, demanding its adherents to abandon the mystical, miraculous and mysterious. As best as we are equipped, Christians are to be both scholars and saints, minstrels and ministers, poets and prophets, disciples who give both thoughtful discourse and dance with delight. We are to be in pursuit of both excellence of thought and excellence of emotion, with God being our helper.
The Benedictine approach to Christian discipleship accentuates both the cultivation of the intellect and the celebration of the human experience. We are all to be scholars and all to be artists, in one way or another, to one degree or another. Some of the Brothers of Greyfriars’ Abbey are scholars of Scripture and theology, while other Brothers are scholars of nature and agriculture, and still others are scholars of technology and engineering. Some of the Brothers are scholars of human nature and others, human institutions. But every Brother – even those who come to Greyfriars’ with little academic background are expected to be in serious pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. On the other hand, all the Brothers of Greyfriars’ Abbey, even those tone-deaf, are expected to sing the hymns and to chant the Psalms – though it is quite obvious that some Brothers are not as adept as others at finding the right note. All the Brothers are expected to be creative souls, even those who claim they have no creative bent, some will create with paint and canvas, some with wood and chisel, some with flour and oven, some with torch and anvil, some with rake and spade. At Greyfriars’ Abbey, all are expected to be in their own way, both minstrels and scholars.
The Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, wrote a short poem that gives poetic voice to the Benedictine approach to Christian witness. We believe that Christian witness is something more than mere words, but rather a way of life. I know at first reading his words might seem obscure … but think long on the image he creates. …
MEMORY by William Butler Yeats
And two or three had charm,
But charm and face were in vain
Because the mountain grass
Cannot but keep the form
Where the mountain hare has lain.
Brother John Michael came to sing and preach here at Greyfriars’ Abbey. He is an old man now, almost my age, in the greying of his years. He is a monk, an abbot, a songwriter, a minstrel, an author, a preacher. He was born into the Methodist Way, then for a time drifted off into the realm of rock and roll, becoming a rock musician of some fame, and then the Lord called him one day to follow Him .. and Brother John Michael took his guitar and began his life-long spiritual pilgrimage. He gave his life to the Lord and eventually entered into the monastic way of life. He has written many hymns and songs, written many books and papers, even started a monastic order, the Brothers of Charity. I was so excited when I heard of his coming. You see,some forty years ago, when I was a young man as was Brother John Michael, I heard a recording of his first Christian album. I played it over and over again, and his witness left an enduring impression upon my soul. This minstrel for the Lord, this noted scholar for the Lord, left with me a beautiful song and a thoughtful word, but even more left upon me a holy impression … that drew me into my life’s holy vocation. Brother John Michael (Talbot) witnessed to me in a most Benedictine Way … by being the minstrel and by being the scholar, and by being both for the Lord.Pax,
Brother Anthony of the Cross