Wednesday, December 19, 2007

An incarnation story for Christmas - "The Rabbi's gift"

It is a mythical story called “The Rabbi’s gift.” (Author unknown taken from "The different Drum - M.Scott Peck)
The story is about a monastery that had fallen upon hard times. It had once been a great order, but during the persecution in the 17th and 18th centuries all its branches had closed down to such an extent that there were only five monks left in the Main branch. The abbot and four others all over the age of seventy.

In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little hut that a Rabbi from a nearby town would often use as a place away from everyone to meditate and pray. The abbot was agonizing over the imminent death of his order when it occurred to the abbot that it was time to visit the rabbi for the off chance he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.

The rabbi welcomed the abbot into his hut. But when the abbot explained the purpose of his visit, the rabbi could only commiserate with him. “ I know how it is,” he exclaimed. “The spirit has gone out of the people it is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the abbot and the rabbi shared their grief together. After reading parts of the Torah and speaking about some deep things the time had come when the abbot had to leave. After embracing each other the abbot asked if the rabbi had anything else he could tell him, no piece of advice to help save his dying order. “No I am sorry, “ the rabbi responded, “ I have not advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”

When the abbot returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered around him and asked, “Well what did the rabbi say?” “He couldn’t help,” the abbot answered. “The only thing he did say, just as I was leaving - it was something cryptic like – the Messiah is one of us. I don’t know what he meant.”

In the days and week and months that followed, the old monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the rabbi’s words. The Messiah is on of us ? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks, here at the monastery? If that’s the case, which one? Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, it must be him, he has led us for more than a generation now. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly brother Thomas, he is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light. He could not have meant Brother Elred? Elred gets cross at times. But come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in the people’s side, when you look back on it, Elred is virtually always right. But surely not brother Philip. Phillip is so passive, a nobody.. But then, he has the gift for somehow always being there when you need him. He just magically appears by your side.
Of course the rabbi didn’t mean ME? I’m just an ordinary person. But suppose he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? O God not me. I couldn’t be that much for You God , could I?

And as they contemplated this situation, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

It so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the monastery to picnic on its lawns to wander along some of its paths, even now and then go to a chapel to meditate. As the did so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed this aura of extraordinary respect that now began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery more frequently to picnic, to play and to pray. They began to bring friends to show them this special place. And their friends brought their friends….. so within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order and thanks to the rabbi’s gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality.

1 comment:

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Yes, the way we treat each other is powerful. I need to get to be gracious to people even when they don't really reciprocate. Thanks for the story!