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Consecrating Chaos

Several weeks ago, I gave a talk to a gathering of meditators which I belong to called Benedict’s Well.  The title of the talk was ‘Living With Absurdity’, and was a reflection on how the way of Christ was a call to embrace the seemingly contradictory nature of life (you can find the talk here, beginning at around 33 minutes


At the end of the talk, I referred to a phrase that I had recently come across in one of the daily emails from the Centre of Contemplation and Action: ‘consecrating chaos.’  It stems from the writings of an American theologian, Otis Moss, and occurs in his book ‘Dancing in the Darkness’, where he writes:


‘When you take on the confusion and the violence and you refine them, purify them into something new, you are doing what in the vocabulary of faith we call consecrating your chaos. To consecrate is to make holy, to put it into service for good. In consecrating chaos, you engage it, tame it, name it, take what seemed out of control and charge it with a duty.’


This phrase has been haunting me the last few months, and it is like my whole life is becoming a living lectio on its meaning.  What it might mean for me as a human being, a Christian, a Benedictine.  I am repeatedly ruminating on what it might be saying to me, asking of me.  Asking of me as I watch the news and witness the terrible destructive potential that seems to reside in the hearts, potentially, of each one of us.  Asking of me as I daily struggle with the consequences of a legacy of childhood trauma in my body.  Asking of me as I make daily phone calls to my mum in Barnsley and am silenced by the level of physical and psychological pain that she is enduring. 


It seems to me that St. Benedict might have been struggling with a similar call over fifteen hundred years ago as he witnessed the chaos of his own historical situation and wanted to somehow create communities of holiness, places of service for the good.  In the writing of his Rule, in the crafting of the vows of obedience, stability and conversion of heart, we see a spirituality being developed, to paraphrase Otis Moss, that was engaging, naming, and taming what seemed out of control and charging it with a duty – ‘consecrating chaos’.


As we follow in his footsteps, I sense that this, too, is something of the call of the Lay Community of St. Benedict.  That each one of us, in small and large ways, is seeking to be beacons of meaning, of hope, of holiness amid the chaotic, tragic, and often absurd places in life.  How, are we doing this, you might ask?  Well, as we gather to pray several times a day for the world, holding in our hearts with love the concerns of those we know, of the world before God.  In our gatherings, both online and physical, where we seek to discern meaning, and truth as we study and learn together, when so many voices in our world tell us that there are no such things.  In the nurturing of relationships, both within and without the community where we seek to be there for others, offering them the hospitality and welcome that stands at the heart of our Benedictine tradition.


To orientate our lives in this way is no easy feat, though.  It demands courage, faithfulness to keep going when the chaos can look like it is growing stronger and more powerful.  However, we must look to one another, to encourage one another, and to keep reminding ourselves that we stand with a Christ who, according to Christopher Chapman in his book ‘Seeing in the Dark’, shows us that we have ‘a God who chooses human brokenness as a place for his dwelling’.  A God who ‘consecrates chaos’ and calls each one of us to do so alongside him.  There is no higher calling!

Fr Mark Kenny



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2 Kommentare

Liz Brereton
Liz Brereton
12. März

This is so inspiring Mark. I listened to your talk too which was equally inspiring including writers that have also inspired me. Thank you so much.

Liz B

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peter firkin
22. Feb.

Mark. Love it so much to reflect on thank you

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