St. Benedict: “No easy entrance.”

No easy entrance, that is, into the monastic life and community.

“But Matt,” you respond, “You aren’t a monk, and you never will be.” True in one sense, but this is where the wonderful writing of James Finley comes in. In his book Christian Meditation, the most helpful and mind-blowing book I have read on the life of Christian contemplation, he describes the possibility of living in a “monestary without walls.”

Discussing St. Benedict, Finley writes,

St. Benedict knows, better than we, that struggles lie ahead. It is out of this understanding that he says, “Let not an easy entrance be granted to all who seek to enter.” This seemingly less than cordial treatment is actually an act of love on St. Benedict’s part. It is as if he is saying, Look, I owe it to you to give you a small taste of what you are in for. The difficulty you are experiencing in arriving at the gate is but a preview of coming attractions. What lies just inside the gate is not a lifetime of getting what you want when you want it. It is, rather, a lifetime of learning how to wait, with respectful, quiet persistence, in the midst of ongoing delays and difficulties, interspersed with unexpected and sometimes unmanageable graces and blessings.

St. Benedict knows, well, too, that all difficulties, at all stages of the journey, are themselves the very stuff the journey is made of. Patience with one’s slow beginnings and false starts is itself a good beginning in learning to realize that, in the end, everything is right on schedule. Learning to be patient with yourself in your slow and inept efforts has within it the potential of an experiential knowledge of God’s infinite patience with us as we spend our lives fumbling around at the entrance into the depths of the life we are living. It is our growing trust in the loving patience of God that sustains and supports us as we make our way into a meditative way of life.

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