I have a few treasures in my box…

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Each year when we celebrate the feast of St Bede I am thrilled by the knowledge that the little boy Bede grew up in my home town,  Sunderland, in Tyne and Wear. Down by the river, now called Monkwearmouth, Bede took his first steps in the monastic life.  Although Bede’s daily life and my daily life are quite different, we share a set of values. We both live with the Scriptures at the heart of our lives. We both desire to grow in knowledge and love of Christ.

In Cuthbert’s account of Bede’s death there are a few lines which have always struck me:

‘I have a few treasures in my box, some pepper, and napkins, and some incense. Run quickly and fetch the priests of the monastery, and I will share among them such little presents as God has given me.’

Each year I wonder what my ‘treasures’ are now, what do I keep in a safe place? I also wonder what I will consider ‘treasure’ when my life nears its end. In monastic culture it’s often the little things that make their mark on us. Monastic writers talk of poverty and simplicity and the importance of non-attachment to ‘things’. The lived reality is far more complex. Each day I have the opportunity to evaluate my choices and to steer that careful path between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. Perhaps the key thing here is not so much how much or how little you have, but how willing you are to share.

 

Come with grace unearned, unsought…

‘Come with grace unearned, unsought’ is the last line of the hymn: Spirit of the Lord, come down… written by the nuns of Stanbrook Abbey. It’s a beautifully written hymn which invokes the Spirit and is used by my community in the liturgy between Ascension and Pentecost. We sang this hymn for the first time on Saturday at Lauds. Just before Lauds I had been gathering my thoughts, preparing to introduce a session of Lectio Divina for a retreat for our Oblates. Several of the lines of the hymn leapt out at me and seemed so appropriate for the experience of Lectio Divina. So much of our lives can involve working through a ‘to do list’ and we are programmed to measure our own success and that of others. When it comes to prayer it is almost impossible not to have our mental ‘to do list’. We often to expect something tangible to happen in prayer. When nothing seems to happen we might begin to wonder about our method. And yet the wisdom of the monastic tradition tells us something different. All that is required is our faithfulness. We are called to open ourselves to God, through his Word and our simple prayer is one of calling on God; ‘Come with grace unearned, unsought.’