Sunday, November 15, 2015

I Share in the Evil Which Seems to Prevail in the World

The Monastery of Notre Dame of the Atlas [mountains] in Tibhirine, Algeria (left) and Father Christian, right.

This Last Testament has already been cited in full on several blogs today. It had already been my intention to make it an object of meditation, and I have selected only a few portions for emphasis here.

Though this text is nearly 20 years old, words like these—words of forgiveness and hope—have been expressed repeatedly by many of the loved ones of those who have suffered so greatly from the violence of this past year.

So much violence in 2015, ... and yet there has been forgiveness offered in the face of unimaginable affliction and pain. This is a miracle, and yet it is one that shows us the true face of reality.

I cannot imagine myself looking at my own life and death, my fears, my loved ones, my enemies in such a manner, and yet with the grace of Christ it is possible. My heart tells me that this is the true position in front of life, and the only fully adequate response to violence:

"If it should happen one day—and it could be today—
that I become a victim of the terrorism...
I would like my community, my Church, my family,
to remember that my life was given to God and to this country.
I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life
was not a stranger to this brutal departure.
I ask them to pray for me,
for how could I be found worthy of such an offering?
I ask them to be able to associate such a death
with the many other deaths that were just as violent,
but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.

"My life has no more value than any other.
Nor any less value.
In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood.
I have lived long enough to know
that I share in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world,
even in that which would strike me blindly.
I should like, when the time comes, to have a clear space
which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God
and of all my fellow human beings,
and at the same time to forgive with all my heart
the one who would strike me down....

"For this life given up...I thank God
who seems to have wished it entirely
for the sake of that joy in everything and in spite of everything.
In this 'thank you,'
which is said for everything in my life from now on,
I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today,
and you my friends of this place,
along with my mother and father,
my brothers and sisters and their families:
the hundredfold granted as was promised!

"And you also,
the friend of my final moment,
who would not be aware of what you were doing.
Yes, for you also I wish this 'thank you'—and this adieu
to commend you to the God
whose face I see in yours.

"And may we find each other,
happy 'good thieves,'
in Paradise,
if it pleases God,
the Father of us both.

~Father Christian de Chergé,

Abbot of the Cistercian Monastery of Tibhirine, Algeria. Kidnapped by the Groupe Islamique Arme along with six confreres on March 27, 1996 (this group later reported that the monks were executed on May 21, 1996).

The movie Of Gods and Men (2010) was based on the lives and the sacrifice of these monks.