October 27, 2010

A Sacrifice to God - Guigo the Carthusian and St. Paul

Almost a thousand years ago, a group of men built a monastery above Grenoble in the Carthusian Mountains and dedicated themselves to following the Lord in the tradition of the early desert fathers of Egypt.   In that dark and cold wilderness, they wanted to live their lives as an offering to the Lord.  They understood that the one who gives his life to God is never outdone in generosity.  The Lord fills such a person with his own life, a life offered for the Glory of the Father and the Salvation of the World. This view of life is not original to the Carthusians.  It is a fundamental truth in all Christian spirituality.   It is why St. Paul wrote the Galatians that it is no longer he who lives, but Christ who lives in him.  The Carthusians knew this same truth, and because of their intimacy with Christ, even though they had very little interaction with the rest of society, they were credited with bringing the warmth and light of the East to France.

For Christians, life is a precious gift, one that should be treasured.  We show how grateful we are for the gift of life when we live it to the full.  And, the paradoxical secret of living life to the full is to offer it as a sacrifice of love.  Both the Apostle and the Hermit were convinced that faith in Christ Jesus makes such a sacrifice possible.


"Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship."
Romans 12:1

"As you are farseeing, careful, learned and most acute, take care to save the little bit of life that remains still unconsumed, snatch it from the world, light under it the fire of love to burn it up as an evening sacrifice to God.  Delay not, but be like Christ both priest and victim, in an odor of sweetness to God and to men."
Guigo the Carthusian to the servants of the Cross (trans. Thomas Merton, Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, 2006)