Next August, Saint Benedict's Abbey will celebrate it's twenty-fifth anniversary. Our Abbot refers to it as our "three month" anniversary. You see, when the Abbey was founded, people told the monks it would not last for three months. Yet twenty-five years later the Abbey's bells still call the community to the hours of prayer. Those bells have become so vital to the Abbey's neighbors that they call to check if everything is OK if the bells do not sound on time.
The continuing presence of the Abbey in the community is a visible, and audible, witness to Christ, to prayer, and to service to God's people. It is also a visible call to work and prayer for those who live within the cloister. Benedict insisted that his monks be rooted to one place. He said the only real monks were those "who belong to a monastery, where they serve under a rule and an abbot." - Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 1.
Before monks take their final vows, they talk to the community to tell them of their journey to this place. They also talk of their future. During this talk they invariably say, "this is the place where I will die." This decision is emphasized during the vows themselves when the monks find themselves prostrated before the altar, covered with a funeral pall. Their old ways are dead. They fully commit the rest of their lives to the monastic community.
For those of us who follow Benedict's Rule in the world, how do we show our stability to the world and ourselves? How do our Oblation promises enable us to hold fast to Christ during life's storms? Mostly the Rule itself, and it's call to Christian life is the way we hold stable. The rule calls us to prayer, bids us to study, reminds us of our call to radical hospitality, and instructs us to treat everyone we encounter as if they were Jesus. We do not have the benefit of the Abbey's visible presence with us for most of our life. But we do have the Rule as a constant reminder to be stable in our walk with Christ.