It is clear to all who dwell in Egypt that
it is through the monks that the world is kept in being
and that through them also human life is preserved….
— Benedicta Ward, on the desert fathers and mothers
This is a time when we are all monks,
each in our way. We are knit
in a web together, strand by strand.
We are invited to act in ways that protect
the village, the all, the wide
surrounding countries which are each
and all of us together on the earth.
How to pray?
How to give?
How to stop and look around us
for the beauty
and the wound
and the ones who sing
or want for what they sharply need.
We are a gifted people, and these
monk’s robes chafe and limit us.
Maybe one prayer, maybe the first
of many, is to learn now
what form of monkhood
suits our gifts. Another prayer
might be to fully feel and sense
the chafing of this day’s robes and
rituals, the new forms of community
bound so close by our own
To be a monk suddenly, each of us
must say yes to this moment,
and these austere times. We are handed
the tablets, the terms
of a new simplicity. We have not trained
for this, though we might have thought
we were. We can bring so little
to the cell of this moment, the cup
that is offered. Our hands and feet,
our eyes and ears, our lungs, our hearts,
our newly gentled tongues.
Let us be equal to what is given,
what is asked. Let us lay down
who we thought we were, and pick up
the undrawn map. In the dark, in the struggle
with fear and loss, there is a saving light.
Each light is different.
Let us find our way together, and together
become a host of fireflies flickering signs
by the narrow, open gate
to the next garden,
the new day,
our future brilliance