As I’m given to understand it, “new monasticism” is the commitment to seeking after a more thought-out, prayerful, contemplative, and peaceful life, with these 12 guidelines:
1. Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.
2. Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.
3. Hospitality to the stranger.
4. Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.
5. Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.
6. Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate.
7. Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.
8. Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.
9. Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.
10. Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.
11. Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.
12. Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.
I haven’t looked into this with any great depth, but it seems to me that this movement is focused on taking the monastic attitude into everyday life. Monasticism, generally, is about the simplicity of living and the commitment to a prayerful and reflective spiritual life, which is a quality every Christian should be endeavouring to follow. It all too often becomes easier to focus on our modern technological conveniences, the abundance of our DVD collections, and the stress of our workload than it is on “being still and knowing that He is Lord.”
It occurs to me lately, as well, that the deeper someone goes into their spirituality, the further removed they become from the power structures of the world. And I’m not talking soley about Christian spirituality, I’m referring to any spirituality (be it in Buddhist, Islamic, Taoist, etc) that does not seek the serving of self through means of wealth and coercive authority. When spirituality meets positions of power, it becomes destructive. Sought of its own ends with a pure and faithful heart, the spiritual attitude becomes more and more separated from the world’s idea of power and more aligned to the true source of power, which is God. A monastically-inclined spirituality, then, is necessarily anarchistic by nature. Jesus Himself evidently knew this from scripture, given the disdain He had for people holding positions of power over the masses. Even the Magnificat, which was prophesied by Mary, set the tone for the Messiah’s socio-spiritual ethic:
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”