I was working at my desk trying to finish up something when the bell rang. That is nothing special in a monastery; the bell rings five times a day to call us monks to prayer. This time, though, as sometimes happens, I caught myself having a little inner discussion: should I go instantly to Midday Prayer, or should I rather continue working for two or three minutes? I would still make it to church in time. What didn’t seem to be a big deal at all, and certainly not a question of life and death, is still of interest for Saint Benedict:
“On hearing the signal for an hour of the divine office, the monk will immediately set aside what he has in hand and go with utmost speed, yet with gravity and without giving occasion for frivolity. Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.” RB 43:1-3
My father used to say: “Obedience means: do it immediately”. I didn’t like to hear that because he always said it when I was not following right away. This very moment, when I hear the call of the bell, holds a great opportunity. It invites my soul to decide: Do I follow God’s call or not? Whom do I follow? Christ, or my own to-do-list? “The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all”, St. Benedict says in his chapter on obedience (RB 5:1-2), and he points to this holy moment:
“Almost at the same moment, as the master gives the instruction the disciple quickly puts it into practice in the fear of God; and both actions together are swiftly completed as one”. RB 5:9
In the midst of my day-to-day activities I am offered to let my ego die and become ONE with God. The readiness with which I follow is an expression of my surrendering to God. No excuses; nothing more important than Him; everything to be left behind. What if I miss the opportunity of this moment? In the monastery, we are not practicing compulsiveness. Not much later the bell will ring again for another prayer time. Another chance to follow the inner voice, the conscience. Another chance to surrender.
Lord, you praised the Roman officer because of the swiftness of his following. Give me the freedom to trust deeply that nothing is more important NOW than YOU. It is so freeing to follow you. Thank you for the bell. It tolls for me.
4 thoughts on “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
Do you pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the monastery? Can’t you give glory to God in other tasks of the day, such as working, serving others, your own private communion with God time? I’m awed by the faith of many religious, and wonder the source of such immediate and unwavering obedience.
Yes, we pray the Liturgy of the Hours. And you are so right, there are so many ways to give glory to God and to follow Jesus. God is calling us constantly in many different ways.
Sunday morning. Plan was to attend church this morning. While I turned around in my bed again I heard a voice remembering me that I actually don’t feel so very well, because I was still curing a cold. Well, let’s have breakfast first and then talk about it. Softly and understanding the voice suggested to stay at home, reading my daily devotional book, use the silent morning to meditate or even listen to a mass on the radio. The voice was clever, because it didn’t come up with “You could do the laundry.” e.g. , but all it’s suggestions meant precious ‘me-time’. In the end I decided to dress myself and go to church. On the drive, like out of nowhere, sparks of joy were popping up in my heart. And I knew it was the right decision. I was wondering, whether this was a case of obedience. I believe it was, because there were two choices and ‘someone’ who wanted to discuss it. We all know Who wants to discuss such choices and Who wants to draw us from what is nourishing our divine spark inside of ourselves!
Immediate obedience prevents us from such discussions with ‘Who’.
Thank you, Father Mauritius, your articles are always very inspiring.
Have a beautiful Sunday!
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Thank Father Mauritius, I often wonder about myself how I miss the sound of bells in my home town of San Luis de la Paz GTO MX. As we are so busy with our Daly routine I often ask did I forget to pry for my family or for peace in the world, how can I make a difference in any place the I been in contact or with the people That I been around. Many times I ask my myself did a forgot to put all my intention to my Lord…. Thank you Father Mauritius for the great reflections…
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