Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Abbey - Trappistines of Rogersville.
View through frosted chapel window.

Let us now consider a spiritual method called immersion. Immersion is a way of living monastic life that helps us have access to that deeper life which is ultimately the meaning of all existence. Actually, calling immersion a "method" might be a bit pretentious for it is really a way of perceiving the monastic dynamic; more a consciousness than a technique - a way of being rather than a way of doing.

View through frosted chapel window.

Cistercian monastic life is an immersion in the Mystery of Christ. It is an immersion of the substance of the person in the substance of the Mystery. It is an inter-penetration. One can be penetrated by the Mystery of Christ; one can be transformed and divinized by it. Of course, all life, and not just monastic life, is an immersion in this Mystery. In Christ all things were created and all things exist. Monastic life, nonetheless, is deeply and consciously rooted in and filled with the Mystery: this is its raison d'être.

In Cistercian life immersion takes place on several levels. There is what one might call a physical immersion. This would be the immersion of the person in the concrete realities of the monastic milieu: the Rule, the community, the vows, asceticism, solitude, silence, manual labor, and so forth. On the intellectual level, it is an immersion in Scripture and in monastic doctrine, this ranging from the early desert tradition through the Benedictine Rule, the twelvth century Cistercian reform, right up to contemporary theologians and authors who echo the essence of monastic thought. Spiritual immersion is the life of the heart, discovered and enriched through prayer, lectio divina and the liturgical /sacramental life. Finally, there is a still deeper level of immersion which is in fact the goal of all three other levels: it is the actual participation in the Mystery of Christ, immersion in Christ. This level, this dimension of the spiritual life, is pure gift, pure mystery.

Let us briefly consider the Rule of Saint Benedict in the light of immersion. First of all, and most importantly, the Rule is for us an entry into the Mystery of Christ and since this Mystery is a Person, the Rule is an entry into the life of that Person, the life of Christ. Through the Rule, we enter into and live out, in union with Christ, the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection. Thus, to live our life according to the Rule of Saint Benedict is, in and of itself, an immersion in the Mystery of Christ.

This idea of being immersed in the Mystery of Christ through a lived experience of the Rule suggests that the Rule has levels, that it can be lived at different depths. For example: monastic poverty can be envisioned as a materialistic, legalistic concept or as a radical kenosis of the whole person; silence can become a question of the quantity or quality of speech, or of a deep attention to the presence of the Word; charity can be a moralistic code of behavior or it can be the burning love of the Spirit; obedience can be formalistic and calculated or it can be a union of wills with God. The Rule has depths, it has levels. It can thus be lived on different levels but its deepest level, its truest level, is an actual participation in the Mystery of Christ - in his poverty, his charity, his obedience; in his total oblation of self in love.

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