“So then, as you received Jesus as Lord and Christ, now live your lives in Him, be rooted in Him and built up on Him, held firm by the faith you have been taught, and overflowing with thanksgiving. Make sure that no one captivates you with the empty lure of mere human understanding which are based on the thinking of this world and not on Christ. In Him, in bodily form, lives divinity in all its fullness and in Him, you will find your own fulfillment…” – Colossians 2:6-10a
An old monastic bit of wisdom … “Walk among the aged oaks and among the ancient elms.”
“Walk among the aged oaks and among the ancient elms.” It is a reminder to look to the writings and lives of the old saints, the ones whose words have been proved by the test of time. It is a call to rootedness. It is the counsel that as we acquaint ourselves with the newest understanding of the faith, we are wise to always place it in the context of the enduring understandings, for we as Christians are instructed by Jesus to draw upon treasures both old and new. “Walk among the aged oaks and among the ancient elms.” So as Christian disciples who follow the Benedictine approach, we daily read the Scripture, both Old Testament and New. We also seek the divine inspiration that is taking place in the writings of present day authors, while also seeking the divine inspiration found in the “classic” writings of the Christian tradition. We believe that we are to be growing new green with each coming year while been deeply rooted in the wood of the history of Christian faith.
A popular walk here at Greyfriars’ Abbey is the walk to the river, a straight stretch of country road that is lined by towering, majestic trees. The monks like to pray their rosary or prayer rope as they slowly stroll along those natural pillars; the guests tend to have quiet conversations as they make that walk in groups of two and three. There is something noble and mysterious about those old trees that sets a more reflective tone to one’s thoughts or conversation. The older monks often refer to those trees as “The Old Ones”. (I suppose we all need some soul older than our own!)
“Walk among the aged oaks and among the ancient elms.”
The Christian Way is a way of living in which the Forever is the fabric out of which each new day is crafted. Each new day is the coming together of both the Beginning and the Ending, the Alpha and the Omega, all-that-has-been and all-that-will-come-to-be. Each new day is the new green on a deeply rooted oak. I call it the Christ-Moment, when the Christ of Yesterday and the Christ of Tomorrow comes lives this day in the flow and fulfillment of Forever. Thus we are never to understand the Christian faith as the way things were, nor are we to understand that the Christian faith is the latest fad or fashion. No, we are always living in the place where the old and the new come together in the weaving of the Forever in Christ.
Our Christian faith, whether we live in a historic monastery or in a modern-day mega-church, must never be dusty or trendy, but an expression of the living Christ, the Christ who was teaching way back when and is teaching in this very moment, we are both very old and very new. But alas, through the centuries the old and the new have tended to reject each other, isolating themselves in their own portion of time. This is tempting, but it is not authentic Christianity.
So, my Loved Ones, be both innovative and traditional, be both up-to-date and timeless, be both reading the latest best-sellers and the old classics, be both very old and very new. Sometimes dance and sing with the children … and sometimes walk among the aged oaks and among the ancient elms. You and I need to experience them both.
The other night, some of the Brothers went to a Christian rock concert held over at the University. And when we returned for midnight prayers in the Abbey, the old words seem to be spoken with a bit more zest.
Brother Anthony of the Cross