READ: Psalm 27
“I truly believe I will live to see the Lord’s goodness. Wait for the Lord’s help. Be strong and brave, and wait for the Lord’s help.” – Psalm 27:13-14
Brother Matthias finished kneading the dough and then instructed me to divide the dough into portions and place them in their baking pans. We then covered them all with flour-dusted white cloths. And then Brother Matthias, our Abbey baker, said to me, “Now we wait for the Lord to work.” I had heard that phrase before, different times, different settings. After we had planted the garden seeds, Brother Timothy and me, he had also said, “Now we wait for the Lord to work.” My instruction in the spiritual practice of lectio divina, the method of slowly and prayerfully reading Scripture used in the Abbey, had said that after reading a passage and highlighting the essence of that passage, then you are to sit in quiet contemplation while “you wait for the Lord to work.”
In the process of the rising of the bread and in the baking of the bread, in the process of seed growing into seedling, in the process of making Scripture part of one’s own soul, there is the holy practice of “Waiting“.
“Waiting” is not something lazy in the Benedictine understanding of spiritual formation, but rather an active, self-discipline to give matters … their necessary time. “Waiting” is not helplessness, hoping that something MIGHT happen, but rather giving acts of faith, love and hope their necessary time to take hold and mature. “Waiting” is not procrastination, putting off today’s chores to another day, but rather allowing the work of this day to have its growing time, its seasoning, its coming-to-its-fullness time. “Waiting” is not surrendering to fate, but rather having faith in the processes of God through Time, to do today what tomorrow will require of it.
In Christian discipleship done the Benedictine way you are taught how to look at a Moment in Creation with depth, lingering long in the glimpse of what is either within us or around us so that you can remember it in full dimension, including its Time and Spiritual dimension. For example, the dandelions arose during the night, spattering the fields with drops of lemon yellow. I had seen dandelions before, all my life … but this morning, I took the time .. to “behold” the wonder of a dandelion created by God. Now, I can close my eyes … at this moment … here in my hermitage, my writer’s cabin, … and I can bring that dandelion back to life, in ways even more vivid than could ever be done with the latest 3-D holographic technology.
In Christian discipleship done the Benedictine way you are taught how to listen to a Moment in Time with depth, lingering long in the echo of what was spoken or what was read or even that which was communicated with little more than a sigh or a smile, so that the meanings are thoroughly digested by your soul and they become part of your very Being. For example, I have always struggled with memorization, either lines in a play or verses in my Bible. Memorizing them has always been an exhaustive and frustrating chore. But here at the Abbey, a well-experienced and wise Brother, Brother Jean-Paul, taught me a most beautiful secret. [I so wished I had learned it earlier in my life.] As I tried and tried to memorize a certain Psalm, observing my struggle, Brother Jean-Paul looked over and said to me, “Brother Anthony, make the page you are reading a picture, a picture in your mind. Not one word after another, but the page as a whole. Look at it long as if you were memorizing every aspect of a beautiful scene. Allow the page to soak into your eyes … for a long, long time. then let it to settle deep into your soul.” And so I did. Then he said to me, “Now close your eyes and PICTURE that page and then describe it to me.” What a glorious gift, Brother Jean-Paul gave to me that day… Oh, it took some practice to perfect the process … but it works. But the key … is allowing the words or the music or the moment or the glimpse or the conversation… to soak deep and then even deeper into one’s soul … giving the process its time, its necessary time.
In our ministry to others, we must be willing to plants seeds of loving grace in the lives of others, and then … to wait for the Lord to work. In our ministry to others, we must be willing to share the word of peace and the act of reconciliation, and then … to wait for the Lord to work, to give it its necessary time. In our ministry to others, we must be willing to plant acorns of hope in the world about us and then … to be willing to wait for the Lord to work … knowing that oak trees take their necessary time to grow and to mature.
Our Christian life is set in the context of Eternal Time … and so we are able to live with the spirit of the Psalmist who writes …“I truly believe I will live to see the Lord’s goodness. Wait for the Lord’s help. Be strong and brave, and wait for the Lord’s help.”
Brother Anthony of the Cross