Every night at Compline, we reflect on a short passage from the Rule to remind us of what we are striving to live, and to listen to what the Lord may have to say to us. We offer here our own personal and anonymous reflections, contributed to by the whole community. We hope that, by sharing in our spiritual life, you will be able to explore further your own.
It is common enough for a person to be active and busy in all sorts of ways while still being spiritually unaware, as if sleeping. Daylight, or someone calling up the stairs, are normal ways for anyone to wake up, and Benedict says we are awakened spiritually by similar things. ‘The light that comes from God’ is Truth, which stirs us to ask some big questions about ourselves, about life’s purpose. And ‘the voice from heaven’, is the word of God in scripture, which gives us answers to those same questions. What is essential at this point is that we start to listen, to pay attention to these spiritual promptings. It is so easy to harden our hearts, to roll over and go back to sleep, as it were, because listening inevitably leads to making some changes to how we live, and most of us resist change. There is a sense of urgency here, as if Benedict is saying: ‘Run, don’t walk!’ because this kind of opportunity is a special moment of grace, and there is no guarantee it will ever be repeated. There is, after all, a darkness coming from which no-one wakes up.
Of course, the Truth is always out there, and the scriptures are always available, but there is a big difference between the voice calling out to us ‘every day’, and the ‘Today’, the big moment when we open our hearts and take it in. ‘Every day’ sounds routine and repetitious, but ‘Today’ is about being alive and real, right here, right now. This is being awake in another sense: ‘wide awake’, no longer numb from the tediousness of things.
But the problem was never out there; it was always inside us, in our numbness, which scripture calls ‘hardness of heart’, though we might also call it, ‘coarseness of heart’. As William Blake wrote: ‘The tree which moves some to tears of joy is, in the eyes of others, only a green thing that stands in the way.’ A spiritual awakening comes with a new sensitivity to beauty and wonder and a heightened sense of compassion and peace. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, replacing our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.
And yet this is still only a starting point. ‘Come!’ and ‘Listen!’ are the twin invitations here. In the Old Testament the personification of Wisdom calls out to the simple man: ‘Come! Eat my bread and drink my wine and leave your foolishness behind.’ Jesus also invites everyone who is (spiritually) thirsty to come and drink the living water he provides, and in another place he says: ‘Come to me all you who labour and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest for your souls.’ To take in what God is offering for free is to begin to be educated by him, to allow ourselves to be guided by him along the path of life. ‘Come, listen to me, sons, and I will teach you…’
The important and comforting thing to pick up on, in all this, is that we are not abandoned. The Lord, when we seem to be content with superficial living, does not just shrug his shoulders and leave us to it, but gently pursues us, inviting and calling in order to awaken us and get our attention. ‘Look, I stand here at the door knocking and if anyone will get up and open the door I will come in and sit and eat with him.’ It is the Lord, not Benedict, who calls, who invites, who teaches. Benedict presents himself simply as someone just like us who has experienced this himself, and wants for us all the good things he himself has found in Christ.
Read last week's reflection here