Today’s celebration of Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are but dust. The ashes upon our foreheads are called to be provocative and to call to mind what lies ahead for each of us. As we strive to grow closer to Christ through our vocation as Benedictine oblates we must meditate upon the great wisdom St. Benedict has provided us.
“The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.” (RB, 49)
As Christians we celebrate these 40 days with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving but as oblates we are reminded that each day of the year is to be a time for these most holy practices. The extra practices the Church calls us to take up during this season should become common in the life of any Benedictine, each in his own way.
“During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” (RB, 49)
Prayer is the foundation of our lives. As oblates we express this the most through the Divine Office. Fasting calls us to give up those things which are not in conformity with our calling as oblates or which hold us back from fully living out our vocation. Almsgiving asks us to give of ourselves to the community we find ourselves in, whether family life, work life or the monastic community we are attached to.
These activities are not ends to themselves but means in which we strive to live out our lives as Benedictine oblates. They are nothing extraordinary but take the ordinary measures we practice in Lent and make them a part of our daily lives. We do this in the hope of sharing in the joy which comes with the Easter Season both on earth and in the life to come.
“Everyone should, however, make known to the abbot what he intends to do, since it ought to be done with his prayer and approval.” (RB, 49)
Our prayer and sacrifices count as nothing and can even be counted as “presumption and vainglory” if we take them upon ourselves without the approval of the one placed over us with Christs authority, found in the Abbot. Too often we want to do more then what our strength allows us to and through imprudence we might find ourselves taking on more then we can handle. This is not sacrifice and conversion but the sin of pride. St. Benedict does not allow us to fall in to this trap by reminding us to place all things at the feet of obedience. It is through our obedience that we can be assured of Christs blessings on whatever we may do.
Our lives as Benedictine oblates should remind us and others that God has taken us from the earth and created us into something beautiful for Himself. Lent is simply the path we must trod which leads us to the eternal celebration of Easter in the beatific vision. Ash Wednesday lets us begin this path by first reminding us the by ourselves we are but dust.
May the prayers, fasting and almsgiving of all Benedictine oblates give praise to Him who has seen fit to love us, these simple piles of dust.