“Be joyful in hope, persevere in hardship; keep praying regularly; share with any of God’s holy people who are in need; look for opportunities to be hospitable. Bless those who persecute you; never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow. Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. Do not congratulate yourself on your own wisdom. … As much as possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be at peace with everyone…” – Romans 12:12-16,18
I arrived at Saint Gregory Palamas, an Orthodox Monastery in Ohio, moments before the sharing in the evening meal. When I arrived, the big heavy bells in the belfry were rung. And out from seemingly every dorr and from every direction, monks came my way. Each and every monk came from wherever they were doing for the sole work of welcoming me with a most hearty and vigorous hug, a pat on the back and a broad smile. Thirty-four hugs is a good measure of hugs! Then Brother Athanasius took me to my guest quarters, settled me in and made sure my novice robes were fitted well (I believe they were somewhat concerned about this for I am guessing that the Abbot of Greyfriars‘ had noted to them that I was of a robust girth!.) But fit they did. With another tolling of the low-pitched bells – much lower in pitch than the ones in Greyfriars’ Abbey, I was escorted to the refectory for dinner. I soon found that though Orthodox and Roman Catholic monks share a history of the Rule of St. Benedict, these Brothers were of a far more talkative and festive nature. Dinner included a chanting of prayers and a singing of songs, some I knew, some I didn’t, and then as the meal was being served … I was formally introduced to the members of this my new community for the next two weeks. Here was the manner by which I was introduced by the Abbot … I quote it, verbatim …
“Brothers, we will have with us for the next fortnight a Benedictine Brother from Notre Dame and a place called Greyfriars’ Abbey. He will be here to share with us his learning and his wisdom about the Benedictine understanding of Christian Discipleship. He is an Oblate from a Protestant tradition and he goes by the name Brother Anthony of the Cross. Brother Anthony, we are honored to have you in our presence and we look forward to your instruction.” With that … I gasped … for I was here to learn from them, not them learn from me (shudder); I was here to study their Orthodox Monastic Spirituality, not to serve as a visiting Professor.
At first, the place felt rather foreign to my soul. The robes are different, the ritual, more exotic, the furnishings, far more elaborate, incense thick in the air, icons on the walls, gold leaf on anything wooden and once bare. But then again … as the hours rolled on, these differences gave way to a profound sense that we shared a common spirit, a common mission, a common way of life. I felt this especially the next morning, when I was assigned my first chore … to help an elderly monk, St. Dominic of Syria, to sweep and dust the chapel. With broom in hand and the sweet spirit of that beloved Christian Brother beside me, I soon felt at home.
I began thinking about what it was about these monks of a such different tradition… that made me feel so at home, so quickly. What was it? My Loved Ones, I believe it to be distilled into these two qualities … first, their devotion to Christ which was so clearly evident and tangible, a love that I surely shared with them … and, second, their authentic humility that sincerely cherished whatever I might bring into their lives, they sincerely wanted me to be there, they sincerely wanted to learn from me.
As I swept that floor with Brother Dominic he once turned to me and said with his English still gilded with a Syrian accent … “It is good that we can sweep together. We must be thankful for this time together that the Lord has given to us.” And as I kept sweeping and dusting, I kept thinking about this old Orthodox monk’s words and the kind smile that came with them,… and each time I brought to mind, I found my soul being gently misted with inner tears of joy.
or as the Orthodox Brothers say, “The Lord blesses Thee.”
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).