Monday, February 9, 2009

A Belated Introduction

Come to Me,
all of you who are weary
and find life burdensome;
I will refresh you.
Take My yoke on your shoulders
and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble of Heart.
You shall find rest
because My yoke is easy
and My burden light.

-- Matthew 11:28-30

When I began this blog a couple months back, I had intended to properly introduce it as well as myself. But, Advent and then Christmas were soon upon us, so it seemed best to wait.

Better late than never, as the saying goes.

First, as to the blog’s title — The Yoke of Christ — and why I chose it. Those who are familiar with me know that nearly six years ago I experienced an intense spiritual reawakening or conversion. I reached a point in my life where I knew I must give myself to God, without knowing why or what for. So I did. Now, I’m a Benedictine monk, and as St. Anthony of the Desert famously said, “Each day I begin again.”

Anyway, when I sincerely called out for God’s help for the very first time at the age of 37, my heart began whispering to me in ways I had never heard before. “Come to Me” is what I kept hearing within, over and over. Accompanying this strange beckoning was a sudden and intense desire to read Scripture, which I had never done before. The words sang to me, and when I first read the passage above, my heart began to burn with an indescribable love of God. So, step by step, at times striding and at others stumbling, I began to follow and heed those words: “Come to Me.”

Several more years of transformation and discernment followed before I entered the monastery. Then, in January 2008, as I prepared to make my first vows of obedience, stability, and fidelity to the monastic way of life at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, my retreat director pointed something out to me. His observation provided new depth, meaning, and purpose to those words echoing in my heart.

Take a look at the illustration above. Where do you see Christ? My problem was — and still is sometimes — that I was viewing Christ as the driver of the oxen under the yoke. That’s a terribly distorted view of obedience. True obedience to God is freedom.

My retreat director asked me to reconsider how a yoke is used in the agricultural tradition. Vaguely, my idea was a burdensome harness thrown over the shoulders of one poor beast. Wrong. Rather, as The American Heritage Dictionary defines it, a yoke is a crossbar with TWO U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a PAIR of oxen, mules, or other draft animals working in a TEAM (emphasis added).

This altered my image of obedience as I prepared to make my vows. Now, I picture God the Father gently guiding his team, plowing and sowing the Spirit’s seed-ground of the Church so all in the world may reap the harvest of Life. And working with me (us) under the yoke (or cross) is Christ Himself. He works with us all, encourages us, and promises us joy beyond all knowing for those who “Take My yoke on your shoulders and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. You shall find rest because My yoke is easy and My burden light.”

I invite you to reflect on that image further and meditate on the Gospel passage above as you consider your own call as fellow laborers for the harvest.

That, as the story goes, is why I have titled this blog as I have.

Finally, as to the blog’s purpose. There are no grand designs, and I will post as my monastic prayer, work, and schedule allow. However, I do not intend to simply record my comings and goings. How boring! Rather, I simply hope to share a little spiritual food for thought now and then — as the Master of the Harvest provides.

Time to plow …


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