When asked why I (attempt to) pray the Daily Office, my usual response invokes
Being attentive at prayer helps me become attentive to the movement of God’s grace. But the flip side of prayerful attentiveness is prayerful activity and this is where so many challenges arise. What, exactly, are we being awakened to do through fixed-hour prayer? How can we continue prayer as we work? The time-honored Benedictine creed of ora et labora – prayer and work – emphasizes the necessity and value of both.
In the monastic tradition, even within missionary orders such as the Jesuits, we find guidelines for “life and service” grounded in the labora or praxis of the community. The Motherhouse or Daughter Priory is, of course, the physical space in which the community is maintained and also propelled out into the world. Newer monastic traditions like the Order of Saint Luke or New Day communities also have this praxis side – perhaps reconfigured or strangely structured, but there nonetheless.
So what does this mean for us in The Virtual Abbey? What forms the backbone of our common life? Moving forward, I hope we will pray, discern, and discuss what our labora should and will be. We might begin our exploration by focusing on the Benedictine virtue of hospitality: “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ” (RB ch 53).
What, then, does “hospitality” look like in the life of a Virtual Abbey member? How about in and for the life of the Virtual Abbey as a whole? What does hospitality mean in an online, social media, virtual context? How might we have a guesthouse? What invitations to common prayer might be made? Who is our neighbor? I don’t have any facile answers to these questions. That would be too easy! But I do harbor the conviction that these questions clear the ground for a holy conversation with the potential to terraform the virtual landscape around the Virtual Abbey and the neighborhoods surrounding each of us IRL (in real life). May our common life continue to be enriched by attentive prayer and prayerful activity, in the pattern of our Risen Savior, Christ Jesus.