Fr Bede Griffiths on St Benedict

This call to be a monk is really universal. We speak of the archetype of the monk. Every human being in their depths has an openness to the Transcendent, to the Infinite, to God, and beyond all human desires and happiness and hopes and fears, is this call to go beyond. It is in everybody but for most people it is submerged – for all of us to some extent, and only occasionally can it break through and change our lives. For those who undergo that conversion, their lives are changed. It can be anyone, any­where; some may be led into a monastery or convent, but I think today more and more people are awakening to this inner life, this inner truth, this inner reality and feel called to give their lives to searching for ways to dedicate themselves as lay people, men and women, wherever they are, married or single – to give themselves totally to God, and that is the monastic calling, not confined to monks or to nuns. It is the universal call to contemplation, to go beyond the present world or the outer senses, the outer world, the outer mind with all its activities, and open to the inner mystery of the heart of reality, which is the heart of each one of us. We speak of this inner eye of love and that is the heart of all. We all have that inner eye only it is not open. But once it is opened, then it controls all our lives.

So we see St. Benedict as one who had this vision as a young man in Rome. He left all his studies behind and went to live in a cave “to be alone with God”, as St. Gregory, the one who wrote his life, tells us. And so he made this total commitment and became the channel through which this monastic calling came fully into the Western Church. It began at first in Jesus, the great Sannyasi. He was the great monk who was totally one with God, one with the Father. So it comes down from him and then it spread. It was in India for centuries before Christ. We have the Seers of the Upanishads, the Buddha, the Bikkhus (Buddhist monks). So that call is everywhere in every people and among the more ancient peoples – the American Indians for instance, who had the shaman. The shaman is that one who has the call to go beyond the present world, to open him/herself to the Transcendent. Everywhere we have this witness, and St. Benedict was called to mediate it, as it were, because it can take many forms and can have many abuses in it, extravagances in asceticism, and so forth.

St. Benedict showed the way to integrate this call of God, this call to renunciation, to a balanced human life. And that is whyhis Order has lasted these hundreds of years – it is a call to contemplation, to go be­yond everybody and everything, to belong to God alone, and yet to do so in the balance and harmony of a normal human life: the daily work of providing one’s necessities, providing one’s food and clothing, and then a community sharing with other people, do­ing the duties of daily life with care for one another, and finally centering it all in prayer and offering all our work, all our companionship, our friendship in communion with one another in Christ to the Father. So we have in our Benedictine tradition a wonderful example of a way of life that is open to all – the married or single, men and women, even children. All are called to open themselves to this inner life and within this balance and harmony of a normal human life to keep open that inner eye of love and allow it to make this transformation

– Taken from a homily delivered on the Feast of St Benedict, 1992

Fr Bede Griffiths OSB (1906-1993) was a Benedictine monk who achieved worldwide recognition for his pioneering efforts to bridge the great traditions of the Christian and Hindu faith. For more information, including the full homily, visit www.bedegriffiths.com