“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the father through him.”
St. Benedict does not refer explicitly to the above Scripture passage in his Rule for monks, but it succinctly expresses what the Rule embodies. The monastic day is designed to carry with it the word of Christ throughout its hours. In gratitude to God, we pray and we work. We do this as a community that strives to make Christ present to one another and the world in everything we do.
As human beings, we naturally tend to compartmentalize our lives. We have our work life, our family life, our social life, and (if we have it at all) our spiritual life. But how do these areas intersect and affect one another? The Christian life is one of unity. It is about making the whole of life holy. We worship a God who is incarnate—the Word made Flesh. All that we think, say, or do should radiate Christ.
Since monks are not immune to the temptation of living fragmented lives, the Benedictine motto ora et labora—pray and work—expresses the ideal of the Rule of St. Benedict. Faithfully lived within the context of community, it is a sacred rhythm that provides structure and direction for our daily lives and (hopefully) keeps us on the path of life everlasting.
Our common prayer, our personal prayer, our various works, and our day-to-day living with one another are not disparate elements, but strands woven together like those of a rope to give the whole of life strength and sacred purpose. All of this requires commitment, humility, and the love of God.
One concrete symbol of this ideal is the corridor (or slype) that connects the monastery and church. Each day, after praising God in church, the monastic community processes down the slype and directly into the monastery dining room (refectory) at the corridor’s other end for our meals together. It is a reminder that whatever we do, we do for the glory of God, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 10:31; 1Pet. 4:11).
All this, of course, is with the recognition that the Kingdom of God is not yet fully realized. This path toward life everlasting is a journey we make each day.