The White Heat of the Spiritual Life

The Rt. Rev. Craig Loya

The White Heat of the Spiritual Life

Beloved in Christ, 

One of my morning spiritual practices is to read a section of the Rule of Benedict with commentary by Sister Joan Chittister in her book The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the Twenty-First Century. In the reflection for this past Sunday, I was stopped short by this passage, which applies just as much to local congregations and everyday disciples as it does to monastic communities and their abbots or prioresses: 

A monastery does not have to be wealthy, Benedict implies, a monastery does not have to be large, a monastery does not have to be popular. What a monastery must be, without doubt and without fail, is holy . . . the role of the abbot or prioress is to direct their energies to bringing the community to the white heat of the spiritual life, after which no challenge is too great and no effort too much because we know for certain that 'those who reverence the Holy One lack nothing.' (pg. 49)

Our baptism calls us to be living lighthouses in the world, beckoning others to the white heat of the spiritual life, inviting those among whom we live and work back to the source of love, the source of true freedom, and the source of the full, abundant kind of life. We do not have to be wealthy, we do not have to be large, we do not have to be popular. What we must be is holy, and true holiness has nothing to do with clean and blameless living, but with letting the light of love seep so deeply into all the cracks of our considerable brokenness that we reflect that light wherever we may be.

Like many of you, I spent time yesterday reflecting on the life and witness of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. What many remembrances and tributes often under-represent about his life and work is how his powerful speaking and preaching, his courageous stands in the face of brutality and injustice, and his leadership of a massive, unstoppable movement were all possible because he spent his life returning again and again to the brightest and hottest parts of the spiritual life Chittister describes. He had spent so much time dwelling in and deeply studying scripture, he had spent so many hours singing the hymns, reciting the litanies of prayer, that he couldn't help but show up as Jesus' liberating light in the world. His goal was never to be important or popular. He was, above all else, a follower of the way of Jesus, taking the next step that way demands at every turn. He may have turned out to be important, but he was important, and is popular today, primarily because he was holy.

Our lives, and our congregations, may or may not ever be important, popular, or successful. Thanks be to God that's not actually our goal or our job. Our job is to read the scriptures, to soak in prayer, to share life together as Jesus' first followers did, so that we render God's peace and love in every encounter, and that we respond to each situation in front of us as the gospel of perfect love demands. 

Grace and peace,

The Right Reverend Craig Loya
X Bishop