Dying And Rising With Christ by Maxie Dunnam
I have a friend who is a Benedictine monk. The way we live out our lives is vastly different, but I feel a real kinship, a oneness of spirit with Brother Sam. One of the most memorable evenings, one to which I return often in my mind, is the time he and I spent together alone in our home, in sharing our Christian pilgrimages.
The vivid highlight of that evening still alive in my mind was his sharing with me the occasion of his solemn vows, the service when he made his life commitment to the Benedictine community and the monastic life. It’s difficult to grasp how serious that is. When a person makes a decision to become a monk, they make the decision to really remove themselves from the world and to be separated from the world for the rest of their life, and they take the vow of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Brother Sam said that on that signal day, he prostrated himself before the altar of the church, face down, prostrate, in the very place where his coffin will sit when he dies. As he was prostrated there, he was covered with a funeral pall and the death bell began to toll, the bell that rings at the earthly parting of a brother, and it sounded the solemn gongs of death. Then there was silence, the deep silence of death.
That silence was broken by the singing of the Colossian word, “for you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3) After that powerful word, there was more silence as Brother Sam reflected upon his solemn vow. Then the community broke into singing Psalms 118, which is always a part of the Easter liturgy in the Benedictine community. One verse of that Psalms says, ‘I shall not die, but live and declare the wonderful works of the Lord.’ Psalm 118:117)
After this resurrection proclamation, the liturgists shouted the word from Ephesians, ‘awake you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you life.’ (5:17) Then the bells of the Abbey begin to ring joyfully and loudly. Brother Sam rose, the funeral pall fell off, the white robe of the Benedictine order was placed upon him, he received the kiss of peace from all of his brothers and was welcomed into that community to live a life hidden with Christ.
It is a great liturgy of death and resurrection. When Brother Sam and I shared, I relived in vivid memory my own baptism, in a rather cold creek in rural Mississippi. Paul gave a powerful witness to it. Over and over again, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me.
This Wednesday, February 14, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, what should be one of the most significant time periods for Christ Followers. This is a 40 day period when we deliberately concentrate on Jesus’ passion, suffering and death, all for our salvation.
The season will climax with Easter, the resurrection of Christ. There is a sense in which the dynamic of the Christian life is dying and rising with Christ. I urge you to join me during this season, seeking to deliberately die to sin and self, that our Hallelujah on Easter will be our most joyful ever.