Cloister of the Heart  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Carl McColman of Anamchara has a great post on the relationship of contemplative spirituality to the everyday lives of ordinary people. Carl is a lay associate of a Cistercian monastery near Atlanta and his observations grew out of a conversation with another associate.


To non-monks, a cloister may seem to be nothing more than a barrier: a wall or fence that divides the abode of monks from the rest of the world...But..the real beauty of the cloister is not its periphery, but its center. The cloister is the place where community happens. It is the anchor of stability, the crucible where penance and humility are forged, the home where lovers of Christ--and of the brothers and the place--reside, hopefully joyfully, usually imperfectly, always with the help of God's grace...

"We are not called to live in the cloister",my friend mused, "but we are called to embrace the charisms of the cloistered life. To me, this means we must find a 'cloister of the heart', a place within ourselves where we can cultivate stability and silence and simplicity and all the other Cistercian charisms".

...This does not mean that we simply withdraw into some sort of navel-gazing introversion. Far from it. Like the cloister itself, the heart is a center, not a boundary. The heart's lifelong job is to receive blood, and then send the blood out again. If the blood stops moving through the heart, the heart--and the body it serves--quickly dies...For a person who has embraced the cloister of the heart as a lay contemplative, this means we continually draw within ourselves the refreshing silence and solitude of contemplative prayer, only then to give it away, bringing the gifts of a life immersed in the love of God to all those whom we love and whom we meet in the course of our busy lives. God comes into us through prayer and meditation and silence and solitude, and we give God away through love and service and acts of mercy and charity and justice. We pray and we work: ora et labora, which happens to be the motto of Benedictine monasticism.

This entry was posted on Saturday, October 3, 2009 at Saturday, October 03, 2009 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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