Tuesday 9 October 2012

Modern monasticism - comments on "Finding Sanctuary" by Christopher Jamison OSB


I bought this book secondhand, and I don't much like it. I didn't really expect to, since it was written by the Abbot of a Monastery which featured in a reality TV program.

Of course, there is much said that is not objectionable - but I'll just mention three things that annoyed me greatly: one which will probably puzzle other people, the others are more obvious.


1. [Page 57] The monastic tradition offers two ways to help us in the silent times: the use of a repeated phrase, and the slow reading of sacred texts...

One favourite phrase of the first monks was: O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.

What annoyed me about this was the bathetic, leaden, tin-eared, bureaucratic, anti-rhythmic, translation of the first half of this phrase - 'O God, come to my assistance' - which is intended to be repeated thousands or millions of times.

Yet there is a well-known and wonderful version from the Book of Common Prayer Evensong liturgy which might and should have been used: O God make speed to save us; O Lord make haste to help us - but presumably with the 'us' replaced by 'me'.

Somehow 'O God, come to my assistance' seems to encapsulate everything I hate about the calculatedly evil anti-beauty of so much liberal Christianity.


2. [Page 162, with reference to the Atlas Martyrs of Algeria] ...an ultimatum was issued to the Algerian government: free all GIA prisoners or the monks would have their throats slit. In May that threat was carried out and the seven Atlas martyrs joined the growing number of Christians who had given their lives out of love for their Muslim neighbours.

Much could be said about this - but if that had indeed been the reason why these monks gave their lives, then they would not be Christian martyrs. It disturbs me that an Abbot does not understand this, or misrepresents it. 


[Pages 132-4]  the poor in the developing world also seeking refuge. They seek refuge not from consumerism but from poverty and they do so increasingly by emigrating to wealth countries...

These economic migrants... are people seeking economic sanctuary within a global economic system that also leaves the poor in a state of being too busy... the poor are also too busy, though in the case of the poor they are too busy surviving rather than too busy consuming...

The developed word responds by erecting bigger barriers to prevent the migration of the envious poor, worried that they will upset the consumer/ producer society's economic and social coherence. 

Until the world's economic system evolves to reduce poverty in the Third World, the migration of the poor is going to increase. How to provide enough sanctuary for rich and poor alike is a personal and social challenge on a global scale...

The community we need to build as part of our sanctuary must embrace the poor outsider - such a vital principle for Benedict - both by working to build a global community where poverty is reduced and by welcoming him into our local community in some way. 


Ignorant or dishonest; stupid or evil? It's hard to say.

But it goes to show that secular Leftism and the Antichrist is at least as active within some monastery walls as in the mass media from which it originates.



dearieme said...

"Somehow 'O God, come to my assistance' seems to encapsulate everything I hate about the calculatedly evil anti-beauty of so much liberal Christianity." And on that we can all agree. Translating the Bible into town council English was A Very Bad Idea.

Catherine said...

Reminds me of back when I was still forcing myself to go to Catholic Mass. They had a "Stewardship" prayer card everyone was meant to read out to encourage tithing (leaving aside how weird that is) that contained a line like "Help me prepare a gift that is planned, proportionate, and sacrificial."

I never could explain to anyone why it got under my skin so much, except that the word "proportionate" should not appear in a prayer. For people that kicked out most of the Latin, these guys sure love their Latinates.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Catherine - Replacing great poetic traditional liturgical language with inept, platitudinous or meaningless boilerplate was not an accident; it was a malicious blow at the mystery and nobility of Christianity.

GFC said...

I don't expect you to publish this but for your information that phrase in your first example is translated from the Latin "Deus in adjutorium meum intende/ Domine ad adjuvandum me festina" - note the first person singular and that the phrase is the first lines of Psalm 70 which in the KJV goes thus: "Make haste, o God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord."

It's been in the monasteries since Benedict.

Bruce Charlton said...

@GFC - Yes that's of course very good too; but probably not so applicable to chanting as the BCP Liturgical version.