Of all the monks who struggled with the decision whether to remain in or to leave Tibhirine, in the film “Of Gods And Men,” Brother Christophe wrestled the most.

But, following the final unanimous vote to remain, Brother Christophe appears to have made a breakthrough. For Christophe the community decision has not just been a battle to discern the right path, it has been a deep internal struggle with God.

Earlier in the film, Brother Christophe expressed to Christian his deep crisis of faith, saying,

I don’t know if it’s true anymore. I pray and I hear nothing. I don’t get it.

Now, having cast his vote with his brothers in favour of staying, Christophe prays alone in his cell, saying to God,

You.
You envelope me, hold me, surround me.
You embrace me.
And I love you.

It is a moment of tenderness, abandon, and vulnerability. Christophe has found a place within himself that is deeper than the surface turmoil of circumstance. His external vow of stability has opened him to an internal stability of heart. Beneath the unpredictability of his life situation, he finds a reliable core that does not change or fluctuate. This steady state is not the victim of emotional upheaval or circumstantial instability.

Christophe has glimpsed the land the Psalmist found when he cried out to God,

From the end of the earth I call to you,
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I;
for you are my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
(Psalm 61:2,3)

This state exists independent of circumstance. It transcends turmoil, confusion and chaos. The Psalmist proclaims,

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
(Psalm 46:1-3)

Christmas travels through dark and troubled territory. But it points to the possibility of making this journey with equanimity and peace.

Faced with violence and possible death, Brother Christophe knew the limits of his control over the forces shaping his life. Rather than continuing to resist this reality, Brother Christophe surrendered and discovered an inner peace that external uncertainty could not diminish. This is the true promise of this season.

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