by Fr. Jonathan Hemmings


Anselm of Canterbury once described himself as someone with faith seeking understanding. As Christians we do not understand in order to believe, we believe in order to understand the truth. With truth comes power.

"The kingdom is like a treasure in a field which a man found and covered up,then in his joy he goes and sells all he has and buys the field." (Matthew 13:44)

Our Lord sets before us the image of a man who suddenly stumbles across a great treasure in a field. When he saw what it was he covers it until he has time to sell all he has in order to buy the field. Our monasteries are spiritual power houses and places of peace and intercession between earth and heaven. Monks are sinners who have stumbled across this greatest of treasures and sell all they have in order to protect and share with others this treasure. Essential to this discovery is faith, hope and a seeking to understand. There is a compulsion to leave behind all that binds and constrains us. The person who discovers this treasure must have humility. This is a Latin word which comes from humus, the soil. This is why we touch the ground in metanoias. We are dust and to dust we shall return. The desert for the early monks became their field. The monks sold all their possessions or renounced the world in order to live the life of prayer. With this work comes power, signs and wonders.

Power is not the preserve of the holy apostles and prophets. God's glory is manifest in the miracles of healing, dreams, visions, foretelling the future and in miracles over nature. John of Lycopolis was able to predict the future and so to be in the line of the prophets as have many monks been able to see into the heart of man.Yet the monks view such power with a lack of interest in the spectacular. A saying ascribed to Pachomius summarises the concerns of monks when he says: "If you see a man pure and humble,that is a great vision. For what is greater than such a vision, to see the invisible God in a visible man." Yet such power is not the preserve of monks alone,when we open our hearts and our eyes to the treasures of the kingdom we can expect the impossible to become possible.


August 1999