“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
It took some doing but after several miles on a winding, hilly gravel road past wineries and olive groves Linda and I arrived in the locale pictured above. This is the Abbey of Sant’ Antimo, nestled in a remote valley deep in the hills of southern Tuscany. The current church was commissioned in the 8th century, according to tradition, at the order of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor. The first building for Christian prayer and worship was constructed here on the site of an old Roman villa in the 4th century. Today, the stewards of this place are a small group of monks (the Canons Regular of the Augustinian Order) whose purpose is to engage in a ministry of worship and sacraments for all who visit the church.
We arrived just in time for noon prayers. Only moments after we took our place for the sparcely attended service, a small group of monks silently made their way to the front ot the sanctuary. For the next twelve minutes the ancient tones of Gregorian chant echoed through the stone arches as they have, daily, for centuries. Then, as quickly as they came, the monks left.
As a Lutheran Christian I could not help but think back to Martin Luther’s years as a monk. He was also an Augustinian but of a group called the Order of Hermits. He spent many years in that life, praying, studying, seeking solice and salvation. This was among the prescribed avenues through which holiness could be developed and salvation finally achieved.
You probably know the story. Prescriptions for spiritual advancement and peace eluded him until, finally, he heard the promise of the Gospel; we are made right with God by faith alone, and not through our efforts, works or sincerity. Christ is our righteousness. Our confidence is in Him alone. The new-found freedom that resulted led Luther from the seculsion of monastic life to engagement with the world; marriage, children, community responsibilities, the struggle of reform.
In your baptism, Christ Jesus has called you to the vocation of living. Family life, occupational pursuits and the whole host of life’s obligations and responsibilities are not secondary to what some call “full time Christian service.” There are times in the life of every Christian when pulling back is necessary for prayer, reflection and renewal. But the Christian life is finally not one of retreat from life but engangement with life.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”