East and West at Silverstream

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Abba Yohannes at Silverstream

Our community was blessed by the visit of Abba Yohannes, an Ethiopian Orthodox monk, who is now caring for the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Dublin and also studying at Maynooth.  Abba Yohannes shared fully in our life, feeling completely at home among us.  Life at Silverstream, he said, is 99% like monastic life in Ethiopia. There are over 2000 monks in Abba Yohannes’ monastery; it is, in fact, a vast monastic village situated in a remote desert place where tigers, hyenas, and exotic snakes live in peace alongside the monks.

The Life and Teaching of the Fathers

Abba Yohannes recognized in our humble Benedictine life the life of Saint Antony of Egypt, Saint Pachomius, and the other Fathers. I explained to Abba Yohannes that Saint Benedict summed up the teachings of the Fathers and adapted them to the culture of southern Italy in his day. Still, after more than a thousand years, the Rule of Saint Benedict transmits to those who live under it the pure teaching of the Fathers.

The Ground of True Ecumenism

Abba Yohannes’ visit to Silverstream was a moment of grace and real connection with the ancient monastic tradition that is the ground of true ecumenism. While theologians argue, monks pray. In that prayer, unity in Christ is already realised by the Holy Ghost. That is not to say that monks are not theologians, for Evagrius Ponticus says: “He who prays is a theologian and a theologian is he who prays”. Abba Yohannes particularly appreciated our Divine Office in Latin, comparing liturgical Latin to Ge’ez, the liturgical language of the Ethiopians.

Primary Theology

The Church’s primary theology is done in one’s choir stall and at the altar. All else derives from this, for the sacred liturgy is, according to the Second Vatican Council. “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.” A theology that does not emerge from liturgical experience will be dry, and cold, brittle, and lifeless. It is the sacred liturgy that quickens all orthodox theology, that confers upon it a kind of sacred unction, and that allows the veritatis splendor to shine forth.