THIS small book is a treasure house regarding the monastic vocation, by six contemplative Anglican nuns, members of the Sisters of the Love of God, with an introductory chapter by Lord Williams. As I read it, I found some words of the late Dean Sydney Evans ringing in my ears. He wrote: “To be a Christian means that I bring this unknown potentiality which is myself face to face with this unknown reality which is Christ. I expose myself to the depths of my being to this ineffable Other who makes himself known to me by way of disclosure and demand.”
As Williams points out, “Vocation is a dreadful falling into the hands of the living God being bound upon a wheel of fire. God has decided; you may struggle or revolt but here is this clear will, to be done whatever the cost. All I am asked for is compliance: in a real sense I have no rights here. I obey, I bear the crucifying consequences, because I have, however dimly and weakly, chosen to love God and do His will. . .”
The Sisters each write of different aspects of living the monastic life day by day, and of the love that will not let them go. It is a life vowed to God and marked by silence, enclosure, community living, and the cell.
The monastic life, described by St Benedict as “a school of prayer”, is a lifelong journey of knowing God and, at the same time, painfully coming to know oneself. The Sisters write about the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; contemplation and enclosure; the cell and the journey. They write of their human struggles, failings, joys, and astonishments. They provide personal testimonies and moving insights into their vocation, which will resonate with fellow monastics and also with other Christians seeking to deepen their response to God’s demanding love.
The monastic life is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition, but frequently misunderstood; and yet God still calls men and women to this radical and counter-cultural way of discipleship. It has been described as “the Church of England’s best-kept secret”, but this book will, I hope, help to reveal the secret and celebrate this gift and way of loving.
The Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS is a former Bishop of Monmouth.
Rowan Williams and the Sisters of the Love of God
SLG Press £7
Church Times Bookshop £6.30