Welcome to Part 4 of a blog series ‘DC Abbey’, reflections on my 3 days at a Benedictine monastery in DC NE, St. Anselm’s Abbey. I share to hopefully inspire others to a monastic retreat. I value critical feedback, so please comment below.
Drawing to the end, it’s time to get more personal.
I went to the monastery to tackle a problem: I don’t live with enough vigor, and often feel prone to weakness. Not sure if you can relate, but it’s my struggle. Many times I’ve started on the way of righteousness and slowed down, not taken it seriously, even taken detours and at times, nearly derailed my faith. I wanted to learn to live vigorously. I felt in danger of living cowardly, and I knew this was not the Way.
In not so many words as in spiritual groans, I made my request known. And he is so faithful; he answered quickly. During my first night in prayer, the Holy Spirit made a wonderful play on words. We often talk as Christians of “falling”, or “falling short” as it says in Romans 3, to mean we sinned.
The Spirit reminded me that Jesus ‘fell’ too.
Jesus was fully divine, and fully human, meaning, all that we are capable of, Jesus was. So Jesus, fully capable of sinning yet was without sin, knew what it was like to “fall”.
The image up top? It captures a moment recorded in tradition, that Jesus fell three times on his march to Calvary. Bruised, bloody, weakened, he carried his cross from a place of mockery and injustice to one of victory in death. He intimately understood humiliation; he felt the crowd’s eyes upon him and their scorn; Jesus understands the pressuring desire to fall down, to fall short, to see a way out – and be tempted to give in.
Consider Jesus in the Garden, the Spirit continued, three times he fell to his knees in prayer, pleading that God “let the cup pass from him”. He knew what was coming, and prayed to be released from his responsibility. Jesus understands our desires to disobey God.
I will continue this thought in Part 5, but it’s good to linger on the phrase ‘Jesus understands’.
In our weaknesses, our moment of temptation, the muck of sin, we think we’re alone. We think God has shunned us, couldn’t care less, wants us to come groveling back to him before he forgives and accepts. We think, “Well we’re in it now, forget it, might as well go all the way.” – or maybe that’s just me, but I doubt it. Jesus understands. He knows what it’s like to want to give up, to be so damn afraid you just want to run the other direction, to find yourself alone and have no one else to talk to about your struggle.
The wilderness made Jesus understand. Gethsemane and the Via Dolorosa made Jesus understand. And because he understands, Jesus can meet us at our breaking point, eyes brimming full of compassion. We needn’t be afraid to meet his outstretched hand in that moment. We have hope in the darkness, knowing someone like Jesus has experienced what we do. We have a great and wonderful Savior, who is like us in every way.
Jesus understands, because Jesus fell too. The difference is… Jesus got up again. And that’s what I’ll take up in Part 5.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God,let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16