{Praciticing Benedict} The Sacred Vessels of the Altar

“All the utensils of the monastery and in fact everything that belongs to the monastery should be cared for as though they were the sacred vessels of the altar…” (The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 31).

If we aim to live as monks, then what else is our home but the monastery? Full of people encountering Jesus in the sacred places: the hallways, the gathering places, the altar. Home is holy: prayer moving through it all day like monks strolling (their vestments trailing) to the stone chapel.

Last year IĀ posted a ancient Celtic prayer I’d discovered in one of my favorite prayer books: The Celtic Way of Prayer (by Esther de Waal). It’s a prayer women would say over their homes before bed: a prayer of protection and blessing for the woman’s husband and children. She would stir the hearth, the heart (and heat and stove) of the home, and make a prayerful mark of the Trinity in those embers. She would pray:

The sacred Three
To save
To shield,
To surround
The hearth,
The house,
The household,
This eve,
This night,
Oh! this eve
This night,
And every night,
Each single night.
Amen (47-48).

My hearth is the stove, where I stand night after night, stirring whatever fresh thing I have chopped. Where I glance back at the baby crawling in pursuit of more cat food, where I leave the food sizzling while I pull the cat food from my baby’s mouth. It is where my boys will probably remember me when they think back to what our life was in their early years: their mother at the stove, NPR on the radio, all that chopping, all that rhythm and ritual and movement.

The utensils of the monastery should be cared for as if they were vessels on the altar.

That pan I wash every night.
That sharp knife that glides through the garlic.
Those sippy cups. Those plates. Those lovely cloth napkins with the daisies.

All of it on the altar.

There is a sweet holiness in this daily life full of earth-bound needs and earth-bound rituals: the feeding of children, the clothing, the brushing of teeth and hair, the reminders to go potty, the books read and savored under covers, the picking up of toys and the getting out of toys, the hugs and songs and poems whispered in the dark. Sometimes the earthen vessels are the most sacred.

Today, may we gather at the hearth of our homes, in the morning over the scrambled eggs, and may we hold our spatulas with the secret knowledge of their sacred use.

We are priests, my friends.

Let us scramble those eggs. Then may we lift the chalice to the parched lips of those who wait for God’s good gifts.



Filed under the Praying Life

10 responses to “{Praciticing Benedict} The Sacred Vessels of the Altar

  1. Simply beautiful….so often we begrudge the mundane, the tasks that need to get done~feeding them and all…..on the altar….beautiful and convicting

  2. Oh, thank you– I needed this today.
    Thank you.

  3. Alva Lee Harley

    This post is so beautifully written. Thank you, Micha! I remember having my “Brother Lawrence moments” while washing dishes and looking out the window at my children playing in the backyard. But I remember also having so many “earthly moments” of complaining. So, so many. Even though my days with children at home are gone, I still have a home to care for and offer to God. And I still have another day of life to enjoy the goodness of God on Earth. And I have another opportunity to live for Him as I dust and clean and peel and chop. Thank You, Lord, for Micha, her reminder, and a new day.

  4. Lauren O'C

    o micha, thank you. i will be sharing this far and wide today. something just fell in place inside me. if i’m trying to live a peaceful, contemplative, joyful, monkish life, of COURSE my home is a monastery. not ‘should be’ in an aspirational, guilt-inducing way, but IS, already, now, as it is.

    this also dovetails with some thoughts that have been percolating about intentionality and materialism. if all my goods are vessels of the altar, a) they better be goods worthy of the altar and b) i better have few enough that i can care for them properly!!

    and thank you for re-posting that celtic mothers’ prayer. it brought great peace to me last year but had drifted out of my heart. i’ll be memorizing it this time around šŸ™‚

    much to ponder and be blessed by! thank you.

  5. This is so gorgeous and heartfelt. Resonates in so many ways. Thank you for articulating the sacred in the ordinary and earthy!

  6. This is so beautiful. I really enjoy your Benedict posts.

  7. macrackalackin

    I’ve just started reading your blog the last couple months, found it my search/journey toward things liturgical. I am really enjoying these Wed Benedict posts. Thank you – I think I’ll post this prayer in my kitchen both as a reminder to pray but also to not begrudge the dirty dishes so much.

  8. Pingback: 7 Quick Takes Friday ā€“ Jessica McCracken

  9. Pingback: Monday Morning Musings | Old Testament 101

  10. Pingback: {Practicing Benedict} The work of God | mama:monk

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s