An hour and a half into the two-hour movie, “Of Gods And Men” the monks of Tibhirine gather again to wrestle with their fate.

Should they risk remaining among their Algerian peasant neighbours or flee to safety?

To stay in their monastery puts the monks at grave risk. To leave is to betray the vow of love that binds them to the people of Algeria among whom they live and work.

It turns out this is the last time the monks will have this debate. And this time, all eight are determined to remain.

Brother Christian appears relieved. He points out to his brothers that their decision fulfills, not only their commitment to bear witness to the enduring power of love, but is also in line with their monastic vow of stability.

Brother Christian ends the discussion saying,

Wildflowers don’t move to find the sun’s rays. God makes them fecund wherever they are.

In The Rule of St. Benedict that would have guided the community of Our Lady of Atlas, Chapter 58 gives instruction for “The Procedure For Receiving Brothers.” Sections 8 and 9 say,

The novice should be clearly told all the hardships and difficulties that will lead them to God. If he promises perseverance in his stability, then after two months have elapsed let this rule be read straight through to him.

Trappists stay put. They practice the vow of stability even in the face of turmoil and uncertainty. They refuse to run.

A Trappist is a monk, not only when it feels good, not only when he likes his brothers or feels at peace in his situation. The monastic commitment holds the monk in place even when it is hard, even when his fellow monks are awkward, relationships are difficult and the pain of remaining feels almost unbearable.

The adult whose birth we are preparing to celebrate, demonstrates that, like the monks of Tibhirine, Jesus sought to embody the vow of stability even with people who let him down and caused him deep pain. Jesus never walked away from his flawed and failed disciples.

The love we celebrate at Christmas does not stop; it does not run out, does not give up. It perseveres even in the face of peril. I wonder what it might look like for me to embody in community this quality of faithful steady love.

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