Now that we have asked God who will dwell in the holy tent, we have heard the instruction for dwelling in it, but only if we fulfill the obligations of those who live there. We must, then, prepare our hearts and bodies for the battle of holy obedience to God’s instructions. What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Holy One to supply by the help of grace. If we wish to reach eternal life, even as we avoid the torments of hell, then – while there is still time, while we are in this body and have time to accomplish all these things by the light of life – we must run and do now what will profit us forever.
The Rule is a guide for living more and more deeply into the God-life. Christianity at its best is a witness to this God-life as Communal Love. The holy tent is communal love. If we want our human lives, here and now, to be an expression of this Love then we need to listen and respond to this communion of Love within and among us. To listen and to respond is to obey. Obedience to this Love is not coercive; it is the consoling attraction of our hearts to the ultimate meaning of living together and loving truly. True love is always and somehow communal.
Listening and responding to this God-life has become a battle. The Rule accepts this and helps us to engage the battle well. Struggle has become a part of the journey of life. For many struggle is life. We are running a marathon. And like a marathon runner we can become attentive to the experience of running. What made today’s running a challenge? What made it invigorating? While there is still time in this part of life our senses can be developing, helping us to grow in the self-knowledge needed so that we might be better prepared to let go into the grace of Love. Grace helps us to hear what we cannot hear by ourselves.
But as we live we can get stuck running alone, becoming isolated. Life could be about growing into being alone as blessing, but we can forget to ask for help. We forget that grace is ready, active, and waiting in our hearts and our relationships. Being stuck in aloneness can turn into loneliness, and this can be a ‘living hell’. Isolation is a torment, a pattern of life fashioned by circumstance and decisions.
The forgetting of grace, and isolation: these are attention caught in ego and self-consciousness. This is a hard thing to hear and to learn. The learning requires healing. This learning, though, can be a foundation on which gentleness, compassion, and gratitude for the battle can grow.
For all its struggle, Christian community, in all its forms, is about allowing Love to be known on earth. It’s about community being, to the extent that we can be, an image of heaven on earth. This is, of course, the ideal. However, we run, follow, listen, are attentive, and we wake up. We move, bit by bit, in the practicalities of each day and with each other, deeper into grace, further into the tent.
All this teaches us that the reality of eternal life is not just ‘life after death’. Eternal life is now. We can live it now. This is the invitation of the Rule. It is the promise of Jesus to his disciples of all time and place.
“…but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14). “I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b).
This is the sense of being alive in life, of being grounded in and attentive to the divine energy of life in each moment. This is what meditation does: it enables attention to be more readily focused on the eternal of each moment. The more ordinary the moment, the better. Community is full of ordinary moments.
Each moment can be a choice for dying, for living – for fearing, for loving. In whatever choice we make, we are still loved. In all our choosing our hearts can be prepared to embrace the love-life of God – both now and into eternity.
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deut 30:19-20).