Awakening to Beauty

September 12, 2015 | Monastic Musings

Reflections from some of the nuns

“We believe the presence of God is everywhere…” (RB 19:1)  This amazing and surprising first line of Chapter 19 of the Rule of St Benedict calls me daily and hourly to awaken to the life within and the life around me  –  shot through with the presence of God.  It is an invitation to awaken to the miracle of God’s presence as the creative life gift which is nowhere absent because it is the very essence of life.  Monastic life in particular, with its daily rhythm of prayer, holy reading and work provides an ideal setting in which the awakening to this ‘everywhere’  presence of God is known more and more from the core of my being – and is known experientially.  Of course it is not necessary to become a monk in order to experience this. Rather it is a path available to every Christian who becomes open to the presence of God through the practice of prayer.

It is a simple way. It is not new. Most of the great mystics and many of the great Church theologians have taught of this. Artists and poets and musicians and lovers know this. It is the stuff of Holy Scripture and of the Benedictine practice of Lectio Divina or holy reading. What then is this aspect of prayer? It is simply coming into the present moment, this moment. Letting go of past moments and of future moments. Breathing the breath of God in this moment. It is coming to stillness in the presence of God within and awakening to the reality that God is indeed present everywhere.

Most people have had some experience of awakening to beauty, and of feeling an upsurge of response from deep within of thanksgiving or praise, of wonder or of joy. The glorious miracle of a sunset or sunrise seen as if for the first time, can take the breath away. The miracle of a new born child or the deep lined craggy eyes that shine with life lived wisdom and compassion somehow reminding us that both at the beginning and at the end of our life we are very close to the God from whom we have come, to whom we will return and in each and every moment between – in whom we live and move and have our being. In prayer we can practice returning to those breath taking moments when we are alive to the presence of God in the beauty and in the mystery of the life in and around us. In this kind of prayer we are enabled to awaken to the unique beauty of each moment, of each encounter, of each thing, of each person – gracefully and gratefully accepting the miracle of the presence of God implanted deep within its heart. We grow in the life of Christ within, by experiencing the Christ within as Andre Louf says in Teach us to Pray:

It is no longer we who pray, but the prayer prays itself in us. The divine life of the risen Christ ripples softly in our heart…For the veil has fallen from our heart, and with unveiled faces we reflect like mirrors the glory and brightness of Jesus, as we ourselves are being recreated in His image’.

Andre Louf; Teach us to Pray. (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd:London)

Abbey Scenery

Sr Magdalen Mather osb