Monasteries in the Clouds
Meteora challenges the heart and mind of all who try to serve God. The very existence of those sanctuaries, built in the clouds, penetrates the shells of our lives, shells that the world and all its pride, tumult and vanity encases us in. Meteora inspire us to at least try harder to break out of our armour plated shells and reach with more determination, our Creator and our Mediator.
Thomas A Kempis, born 1380, educated by the Brethren of the Common Life in the Netherlands joined their community and was ordained a priest. The book attributed to him, ‘The Imitation of Christ’ claims to be the most read book after the Bible. It gives an intimate glimpse into the world of ‘the religious’ one who commits to isolation to build an intimate relationship with his maker.
Although monasticism is usually looked upon as ‘going too far’ in ones spiritual development and we might say it isolates you from your life’s primary mission, to bring others to Christ, perhaps it is our love of the world that really keeps us from the paths these devout men and women took.
Whether they are to be praised or discarded, they achieved much in preserving ancient writings, codices, hand copied without which before printing was invented, we would have lost. Their art and craftsmanship has also been handed down to us and says more about them than words could ever do.
Below are a few quotations from ‘The Imitation of Christ’ regarding monastic life.
'The security of the wicked springs from pride and presumption, and will end in their own deception'
Chapter 17 Monastic Life
If you wish peace and concord with others, you must learn to break your will in many things. To live in monasteries or religious communities, to live there without complaint, and to persevere faithfully till death is no small matter. Blessed is he who there lives a good life and there ends his days in happiness.
If you would persevere in seeking perfection, you must consider yourself a pilgrim, an exile on earth. If you would become a religious, you must be content to seem a fool for the sake of Christ. Habit and tonsure change a man but little; it is the change of life, the complete mortification of passions that endow a true religious.
He who seeks anything but God alone and the salvation of his soul will find only trouble and grief, and he who does not try to become the least, the servant of all, cannot remain at peace for long.
You have come to serve, not to rule. You must understand, too, that you have been called to suffer and to work, not to idle and gossip away your time. Here men are tried as gold in a furnace. Here no man can remain unless he desires with all his heart to humble himself before God.
Quotes from the chapter 20 The Love of Solitude and Silence
Seek a time for leisure and meditate often on the favours of God. Leave curiosities alone. Read such matters as bring sorrow to the heart rather than occupation to the mind. If you withdraw yourself from unnecessary talking and idle running about, from listening to gossip and rumours, you will find enough time that is suitable for holy meditation.
No man appears in safety before the public eye unless he first relishes obscurity. No man is safe in speaking unless he loves to be silent. No man rules safely unless he is willing to be ruled. No man commands safely unless he has learned well how to obey. No man rejoices safely unless he has within him the testimony of a good conscience.
In silence and quiet the devout soul advances in virtue and learns the hidden truths of Scripture. There she finds a flood of tears with which to bathe and cleanse herself nightly, that she may become the more intimate with her Creator the farther she withdraws from all the tumult of the world. For God and His holy angels will draw near to him who withdraws from friends and aquaintances.