“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
These words ring much truer when you are at a silent monastery. I just returned from a visit to the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastery in Cambridge, MA, worshiping and eating with 12 monks for five days.
We are a world of words and that is how I create stories to share, but I am reminded how many times in my life words have turned out to be lies. A lie might start at the beginning of a relationship where a false self communicated a person that didn’t exist. After a period of time, it became obvious that the words and actions didn’t match. In other cases, a broken promise was originally meant in earnest, but later turned into a deafening defeat when the promise was left unfulfilled. I know I used to be guilty of trying to explain away an inconsistency between what I said and what I did, twisting words to make my inadequacies seem less obvious.
But at the monastery last week, there was no talking. We all went about our work, prayer, and play, in silence. During worship we spoke only in unison to glorify God, not in order to impress each other.
On the plane ride home, I thought about the wonderful five days I’d spent in quiet contemplation and prayer. I’d taken all my meals at the monastery and the food was wonderful.
Chapter 44 of the Rule of Life for the Society says, “If a brother shows signs of disorder in his relation to food, alcohol, or any other substance, this becomes the concern of the whole community. The Superior has the responsibility of helping him to set his feet on the path of sobriety, moderation, and
I like the idea that the whole community is responsible for each other’s healthy habits and I realized that we’d had only one dessert all week, with our Sunday noonday supper. Their actions spoke louder than if they’d lectured me, or posted healthy reminders on the wall!
I’ve decided to adopt the same habit: dessert only once per week on Sunday. I’ll view it as a “treat” rather than an expectation. Each Sunday it will serve as a reminder to me how actions really do speak louder than words.
Blessings, my friend,