It is tempting to imagine that, after their gruelling ordeal on Christmas Eve when their monastery was invaded by armed Algerian freedom fighters, the monks of Tibhrine might have taken special measures to insure their safety in the future, or might have been rendered completely inactive by the trauma they had suffered.

But, recounting the events of that terrifying night, Brother Christian says that, once the rebels left,

all we had left to do was to live.

For monks, “to live” meant to turn their hearts to the power of love in worship, and so,

the first thing we did was… two hours later.
We celebrated the Christmas Vigil and Mass.

It’s what we had to do. It’s what we did.
And we sang the Mass. We welcomed that Child
who was born for us absolutely helpless and…
and already so threatened.

Having opened their hearts in worship to the one who was “born for us absolutely helpless and… and already so threatened,” the monks did the next logical thing.

Afterwards, we found salvation in undertaking our daily tasks.
The kitchen, the garden, the prayers, the bells.
Day after day.

In Zen practice, practitioners are taught simply to

Cut wood.
Carry water.

Wholeness or “salvation” lies in faithfully performing the simple routines of life with mindfulness and attention.  Our lives are shaped by regular practices and daily rituals. These “daily tasks” are not dramatic or spectacular. They make up our lives. And, as Richard Rohr says, “How we do anything is how we do everything.”

When we bring attention and focus to each moment, we sanctify the whole of life. Everything is a pathway to awareness of the presence who permeates all of existence.

The monks’ worship flowed into their work. It shaped their relationships with each other, with their neighbours, and with creation, and informed their private lives. The way they lived all these relationships enabled them to open more fully and deeply in worship. And in worship they were constantly called back to an awareness of the beauty and light they affirmed at the heart of all life.

In Advent, we prepare to celebrate the miracle of Incarnation. All life is sacred. We live in a web of mystery and love that we see embodied in the person of Jesus and to which we seek to open especially at this time of year.

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