I heard this story in a workshop I did over the weekend and it really resonated with me…
There was once a monastery that had fallen on hard times. It was once part of a great order which, as a result of religious persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, had lost all its branches. It was decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left, the abbot and four others, all of whom were in their seventies.
Deep in the woods surrounding the monastery was a little hut that the rabbi from a nearby town used for a hermitage. One day, it occured to the abbot to visit the hermitage to see if the rabbi could offer any advice that might save the monastery. The rabbi welcomed the abbot and commiserated with him.
“I know how it is,” he said, “the spirit has gone out of the people. Almost no-one comes to the synagogue anymore.”
So the old rabbi and the old abbot wept together. They read parts of the Torah and spoke quietly of deep things. The time came when the abbot had to leave. They embraced.
“It has been wonderful being with you,” said the abbot, “but I have failed in my purpose for coming. Have you no piece of advice that might save the monastery?”
“I am sorry,” the rabbi responded, “I have no advice to give except to tell you that the messiah is one of you.”
When the other monks heard the rabbi’s words, they wondered what possible significance they might have. “The messiah is one of us? One of us here, at the monastery? Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Of course it must be the abbot, he has been our leader for so long. On the other hand, he might have meant brother Thomas, who is certainly a holy man. Or maybe he meant brother Elrod, who is very grumpy, but also very wise. I don’t think that he meant brother Phillip, he’s too passive, but then he always seems to be there when you need him. Of course, he didn’t mean me did he? Perhaps he did.”
As they contemplated the possibilities, the old monks began to treat each other and themselves with extraordinary respect, just in case one of them was the messiah.
Because the forest was so beautiful, people occasionally same to visit the monastery. They would have picnics or just wander along the old paths, most of which led to the dilapidated chapel. They sensed the extraordinary respect that surrounded the five old monks, permeating the atmosphere. The visitors began to come more frequently, bringing their friends with them. Some of the younger men who came to visit, began to engage in conversations with the monks. After a while, one of the men asked if he could join them. Then another, and another.
So, thanks to the rabbi’s gift, within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order and a vibrant centre of light and spirituality in the realm.
We are all children of the Messiah/God/Spirit so why don’t we treat each other as such? What a world it would be if we did.
“Show up, tune in, be real, enjoy the ride”
Photo credit: www.wondermondo.com