He who loves never struggles…
and if he does struggle, he loves his struggle.
Are we still able to understand this today?
To weaken the body with continual night watches, to mortify the flesh with daily toil, to weaken the vigor of the members by eating the vilest food, this is not only difficult, but it is contrary to the charity that you preach with such ardor…
A sober style of life, night watches to sharpen the mind, frugal nourishment, demanding work, silence… all this can seem heavy and useless. They are, however, signs of a love… or rather signs of a preference! The meaning of the verb “to love” is rather fluid, and each person puts in it what is convenient. On the other hand, to use the verb “to prefer” is to make a commitment to something. How can I express my preference for Christ?
Love can too easily be confused with an illusory sentimentality, transitory and false. Preference is a type of stable choice where faithfulness to a rule of communal life expresses agreement of wills.
So, what about night watches, or vigils?
“God satisfies his beloved while he sleeps . . .” But also “it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers” (Romans 13:11 NRSV NOTE: Corrected citation)
God’s love is freely given, but the one who loves runs toward the Beloved.
So, what about fasting?
“Those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God” (Romans 14:6 NRSV)
But also “one does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3). This bread that is needed is the consolation of the word, a word to desire, to hear, to do. May our bodily hunger whet this desire, deepen this listening and feed this action.
So, what about work?
Sometimes hard and tiring? Is it not written: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 NRSV).
“When work weighs on us or wearies us, grant us, Lord, to consider it as a service to our brothers and to complete it with the momentum of love” (prayer from the office of None). In fact, fundamentally, true rest, Sabbath rest, is to serve with love, service of God in the liturgy (this Greek word means the work of the people), service of the brothers in work.
So, what about consecrated celibacy?
Is it not written “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 NRSV). It is thus in the complementarity that male and female are the image of God. But then why are virgins (and for one time, this word refers to the masculine gender), why can they only sing the new song? (cf. Revelation 14).
And voluntary poverty?
“All is yours,” says the Apostle, so why give up the goods of this world?
For us, all is in common, and in this we experience the hundredfold promised to those who leave all behind.