The messiah lives among you Part II
The monastery in rural France had a rich history. Its fame had spread throughout the surrounding countryside. It was the center for the spiritual growth of the area. Villagers came to attend classes and to seek spiritual advice. The children were schooled by the monks in music and art and they also organized sports activities. The agricultural excellence of the monastery was recognized far and wide. Because of the Brothers skills, the vineyards yearly produced wonderful grapes which resulted in wines that received high acclaim.
It had been that way for a long time. But as time went on, the old Abbot who had been in charge of the Abbey for many years, began to notice changes. The usual upbeat disposition of the Brothers had been declining. Cheerful greetings were no longer heard and occasional arguments became more frequent. Parents had noticed, and were beginning to withdraw their children from the art and music classes. Brother Jac, who was in charge of the friendly, competitive games, seemed to have lost interest. The games were now marked by discord, and the air that at former times had been filled with laughter and good cheer, was now filled with complaints and snippy insults. The vineyards, once the pride of the Abbey and Brother Raphael, now showed signs of neglect. Area parishioners, who in the past willingly gave of their time to help during harvest time, were now absent. Even the wine sales, that once sustained the Abbey, had dropped off to an alarming rate, causing great concern. The Saturday night Mass, that had traditionally drawn parishioners and strangers from far and near, now was sparsely attended. The choir, that once beautifully sang the music of the masters, now was reduced to a few voices who were barely able to sing simple hymns. Brother Henry, who was in charge of the Music and Art classes, seemed to have lost interest; and parents were beginning to withdraw their children from what had been such wonderful programs. The softball field, under Brother Jac’s enthusiastic leadership, where during the summer nights the various local teams competed, now on many nights was almost empty.
The Abbot, deeply disturbed, had tried everything from prayer sessions, individual counseling, humor and even anger. Nothing seemed to make a difference. The monastery that had once been a place of joy and serenity was now becoming a place of discontent and ill will. The decline continued to increase.
Perhaps he should seek outside help; advice from someone not connected with the Abbey. He thought of his long-time friend, the retired Rabbi in the neighboring village. From time to time they would visit each other and spend time in friendly discussions about their individual religious beliefs and the ups and downs of their communities. The abbot had even brought the rabbi to the Abbey to teach a class on Judaism and world religions; his specialty.
He called his old friend, and after the usual pleasantries the Rabbi asked, “And what, my friend, is the reason for your call? The abbot replied, “My friend, I treasure your counsel and your wisdom. May I come and visit with you tomorrow? The Rabbi replied, “Ah my friend, of course, come tomorrow and we will spend the day. We’ll have a nice lunch and we’ll talk”.
All night the abbot wrestled with his coming visit. How should he approach his problem? It was so difficult to ask a Rabbi for advice about a monastery. He asked for divine wisdom. None came. He finally decided to just be open and honest.
The next morning the abbot walked to the neighboring village, to the home of his old friend. They embraced and exchanged pleasantries; they inquired about each other’s’ health and their individual families. The Rabbi then said, “Come my friend, come and sit on the porch. We’ll open a bottle of wine from your vineyard. We’ll talk about the beautiful weather, the Fall that is in the air, and how soon the seasons will change. We’ll talk about our ailments, as old people seem to do, and we’ll enjoy our time together”.
The morning flew by. They drank the wine; and it was followed by a lovely lunch. There was so much to talk about. And then the Rabbi asked, “And so, how are things at the abbey?” The floodgates opened, and the abbot began to tell of all the things that were on his mind. He talked about how the attitude of the brothers had changed, and how it reflected on everything at the abbey. He talked about the music rooms that were now strangely quiet, and the ball fields that were now empty. He told how the loving attitude among the brothers had turned cold. Brothers, who once had been friends, now rarely spoke to each other. The vineyards needed care. Weeds seemed to be the only thing flourishing. The quality of the music at the Saturday night Mass that used to attract parishioners and strangers, had lost its luster and sounded uninspiring.
The abbot talked for a long time and poured out his soul; and his friend, the Rabbi, respectfully and lovingly listened. The two friends sat in silence for a long time, and then the abbot asked his friend, “What should I do? How can I make things better? What should I say to the Brothers?
The Rabbi looked at his friend lovingly, but shook his head in reply. They sat silently for a long time, each deeply in thought. Finally it was time for the abbot to return to his community. They walked to the gate, embraced and then the abbot began to walk down the path to his village. He turned around one more time to wave goodbye. The Rabbi waved in response and then shouted, “Take courage my friend, the Messiah lives among you”. The abbot was stunned. Had he heard correctly? He began to walk back towards his friend. He wanted to ask if he heard correctly, but the Rabbi, nodding his head, waved in response, turned, and re-entered his house.
The abbot stood perplexed, not knowing what to do. Should he go back and ask for a clarification? He had watched the door close. Then the abbot understood. His friend had given him the answer to his problem. He slowly, deep in thought, began to walk back towards his village.
“The Messiah lives among you”. What did it mean? Who could it be? Surely he was not the Messiah; that he knew. He began to think about the Brothers. Was one of them secretly the Messiah? None seemed a logical choice. When he reached the Abbey he talked with Brother Henri, the abbot’s assistant. He too was sure that he was not “The One”. He offered to talk to the other Brothers. Soon all the Brothers knew the abbot’s story and they began to look at each other differently. “Could he be “The One?” they wondered. They saw qualities in each other that they had not seen before. Their daily communications were becoming friendlier, more tolerant. Slowly they reached out to brothers who had been on their “ignore” list. They began to help each other in their daily chores, and at times laughter could even be heard. Smiles replaced scowls, and they seemed to be more purposeful in carrying out their daily duties.
Their change in attitude even began to affect the surrounding villages. As the Abbot’s story was told and retold, children began to return to their Art and Music classes. The vineyard took on a new look, and even the year’s grape crop seemed to be bigger than before. Brother Henri was thrilled. The Chapel Choir, which had been floundering, now had more members than ever before. They again could sing the music of the masters. Brother Jac reported that the stands at the ballpark were filled for every game.
The Abbot just had to call his old friend, the Rabbi, and after exchanging the usual pleasantries the Rabbi asked, “And so, how is it at the Abbey?” The Abbot excitedly began to tell of all the good things that were taking place. The Rabbi listened, and then, when there was a moment of silence, he said, “Ah my friend, I am delighted. You have learned that the Messiah lives among you, Shalom!” The Abbot was silent for a moment and then in a voice that choked back tears he responded, saying, “And Shalom to you too, my friend. I thank you for your teaching and for your wisdom. I had almost forgotten the most important lesson of all.