Friday, January 4, 2008
The Great Silence
I've just been watching, in installments, Into Great Silence, the 2006 film portraying a monastery of Carthusian monks. It is not a documentary--there's no Discovery Channel-style narration or score; it is a painting. It's a sort of total-immersion program in the language of contemplation. The filmmaker strikes a remarkable--and entirely positive--balance between individual and community, prayer and work, penance and rejoicing. All-in-all beautiful.
I particularly wonder--after hours of monks sitting, kneeling, standing, working in silence--what they think about. How does one pray when there is little time-constraint and no noise? I'm not how sure I would even begin to assimilate.
I marvel, too, at the power of habit in our lives. The monkish life seems so foreign to me; but after even a year of living in the habit of silence, how normal or ordinary that pattern of life might become. In choosing the monastic life, the monk chooses to learn a habit and language of grace. In choosing marriage, I have chosen another language of grace. But it is one God, one love, one mercy. The danger, of course, is that we all become numb and unreflective in our habits. Fidelity must not become automation.
The eternal adventure is finding greater and greater oceans of mystery and mercy in the patterns of our lives. Fidelity becomes an ever-deepening love affair.
The pattern of the monk's life holds me back from becoming numb to the grace in my own life. That's why I love the Church's wisdom--God's peace seeks us in every possible state of life.