“The story concerns a monastery that had fallen upon hard times. Once a great order, as a result of waves of antimonastic persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the rise of secularism in the nineteenth, all its branch houses were lost and it had become decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the decaying mother house: the abbot and four others, all over seventy in age. Clearly it was a dying order. In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little hut that a rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. Through their many years of prayer and contemplation the old monks had become a bit psychic, so they could always sense when the rabbi was in his hermitage. "The rabbi is in the woods, the rabbi is in the woods again" they would whisper to each other. As he agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to the abbot at one such time to visit the hermitage and ask the rabbi if by some possible chance he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.
I’m not a rabbi, but I offer you this wonderful story as a gift.
No one of us has the golden answer as to how to save a dying world, or the environment, or people divided because of their religious beliefs, or their sexual orientation, or their race. None of us has the secret solution on how to cope with the challenges of our own personal issues, family problems, parish challenges.
Perhaps the most you and I can do is what we are doing on this special night of Christmas Eve, whether in real time in a church, a family gathering, etc., or online reading this blog: we can come together over Torah or Scripture or Koran or Gita, and we can weep together -- over what pains us as well as over what gives delight and joy to our hearts. For those of us who are Christians, we remind ourselves that “the Messiah is one of you”, that Jesus of Nazareth, whom we believe to be the Anointed One of God, calls you and me to share his unique teaching about love with all who will listen. For all of us, Christian or not, we remind ourselves of the need to treat each other and ourselves with extraordinary respect. Imagine how people around us might respond!
My Christian prayer this night is one written by George White: