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In the Rule of St. Benedict, a fascinating 6th century document that still informs the lives of monastics, Benedict — the founder of Western monasticism — describes what happens when a novice is fully accepted into the monastic community.
…they come before the whole community in the oratory to make solemn promise of stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience. The promise is made before God and his saints…
The novices make this promise in the presence of their abbot or abbess. They write it down on parchment, sign it, and place the document on the altar. Then they recite the following prayer:
Receive me, O Lord, in accordance with your word and I shall live, and do not disappoint me in the hope that you have given me.
These words are a paraphrase of Psalm 119:116, in which the final line, in the New International Version, has been translated “do not let my hopes be dashed.”
But I like how the Benedictines say it. Receive me, O Lord…and I shall live. But do not disappoint me.
I love that they are committing themselves to God in a holy ceremony, promising obedience and asking to be received into the life of the Kingdom, but in the same breath they’re adding an uncertain little disclaimer: Don’t let me down. They are making their vow to a life spent in dedication to the things of God, and the first thing they pray as they make this step is Do not disappoint me.
I’m giving it all up, God. I’m making this giant sacrifice. Please let it be worthwhile.
I love this prayer. I love the tension in it between action and doubt. I love how it covers both sides of the religious conundrum: the certainty of obedience and the uncertainty of faith. I love that it’s so fabulously blunt.
Tomorrow is Good Friday. Sunday is Easter. I am concluding Holy Week with my eyes a month ahead, on the release of my new book. This weekend I’ll join a billion believers around the world as we celebrate the resurrection of the son of God. And in four weeks I’ll be signing my name to a book that opens with this admission: that there are a lot of days when I’m not sure God exists.
I live in the tension between faith and doubt.
I worship in the muddle between fulfilled and dashed hopes.
I obey with the intensity of a Benedictine. I pray with the uncertainty of a Benedictine.
Receive me, O Lord, this Easter weekend, and I shall live. Do not disappoint me.
(H/T to my sister for first alerting me to this prayer.)
I’m going dark tomorrow on the blog and on Twitter. Have a wonderful weekend. Christ is risen indeed.