Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Abbey - Trappistines of Rogersville.
Cross against red sky.

The supreme goal of monastic life is sanctity. The call to be holy as God is holy constitutes the very marrow of our spiritual journey from image to likeness. The monk is on a journey which transforms his or her being and which can ultimately lead to a quality of spiritual being, deriving from a personal participation in the life of Christ. At this deepest level or dimension (words are so cumbersome when alluding to such intangible notions) of spiritual life, our being, now united with Christ's, becomes a channel of grace which heals and saves the world. Sanctity is nothing less than this: Christ dwelling within us, his love transforming us and flowing out into the world we inhabit.

Sanctity is not to be confused with the "perfecting of self" or the attainment of virtue, conceived of and measured by some ambiguous human standard. In actual fact, the "self" can never attain sanctity - try as it may. Insofar as our human potential for sanctity is concerned, one could rightly say that sanctity is not "of this earth." It is indeed of another order, one that no human means could ever hope to attain or reproduce. Paradoxically, the road leading to this other order is not one characterized by efforts to perfect the self but rather it is a path of self-emptying. As has already been noted, kenosis - that death to self which precedes rebirth - is the sine qua non of spiritual plenitude. Death and resurrection, renunciation and renaissance - realities shrouded in mystery. We cannot sound their depths, yet somehow we intuit that our spiritual being can only be as deep as our kenosis: the two are so intimately interrelated.

A cross stands against a red sky.

Image, capacity, kenosis, immersion, new life, spiritual being - all leading not only to a personal transformation in Christ but also to a universal or cosmic transformation of the entire Body of Christ. The spiritual journey of the monk, as is true of any Christian, is not simply a personal matter. As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, our journey is one of solidarity with all humanity - past, present and future. And yet if, in the realm of God's providence, we can become channels of grace for others, we must never forget that we, too, are recipients.

In the minds of many, the role of the monk has almost automatically been associated with that of "intercession". It should be clarified, however, that the latter is not necessarily concomitant with the former. Monastic life is not about ordained ministry. The priest is in a role of mediation by means of a sacramental consecration and as the minister of the sacramental life. Spiritual priesthood, to which both monk and Christian alike are called, means to be an intermediary between God and humanity not by ordination but by being. The efficacy of intercession in the realm of grace is grounded in an existential union with Christ and thus has more to do with the quality of one's spiritual being than with the state of life one espouses. What characterizes the monastic vocation is not an apostolate of prayer but something much deeper. It is in the measure that the monk immerses him/herself in the totality of the monastic lifestyle, there to participate ever more fully in Christ's mission of sanctification, that he or she could ever hope to serve the Church in an intercessory mode. The efficacy of the monk in the Church as in the world is based on a reality not a role, a spiritual reality founded on Christ.

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