Monday, March 10, 2008

Christian monasticism: giving witness to Jesus

I found a really convincing rationale today for the success of the film Into Great Silence, about life at La Grande Chartreuse (the great charterhouse) of the Carthusian monastic order. Sharon, over on Clarity Daily has a wonderful recent post on the inherent power of this film. The rationale comes from a Protestant theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, whose book Matthew, which is one volume in the BrazosPress series Theological Commentary on the Bible, is accompanying me through my most recent reading of The Gospel According to St. Matthew. In his theological commentary on Matthew chapter ten, about Jesus' sending of the twelve to preach the gospel, Hauerwas writes: "We should not be surprised, therefore, that monasticism has always remained one of the most effective forms of Christian witness, for monks and nuns must learn to travel light, to offer and receive hospitality, to trust one another for their very ability to live" (107).

He goes on to point out that the driving force behind Christian monasticism was not, at least in the first instance, "a form of witness to those not Christian" (107). Nonetheless, he continues, "the attractive character of monastic life makes monks and nuns witnesses to strangers almost in spite of themselves, for the joy that radiates from truthful worship of God proves to be an irresistible witness to those who have not yet been confronted by Jesus's summons" (107). He concludes by explaining why monasticism has this attraction: "All people are created for such joy" (107).

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