Fountains Abbey, situated just outside Ripon in North Yorkshire is a marvellous monastic ruin. Now a recognised World Heritage Site, here rose a great abbey from a small valley to the glory of God and a religious community grew, which regarded itself as the centre of community life.
Within the abbey there were two types of monks, the ordinary lay brothers and the choir monks. The choir monks are the ones who would have the tonsure, the shaved head, and their job would be to remain in the abbey and to pray almost twenty four hours a day. From early morning to late night as one followed the other, perhaps a bit like lockdown!
As a choir monk the more you worshipped and the more you prayed the more chance you were believed to have of reaching heaven. As a lay person, the more you were prayed for by the choir monks, then the more chance you had of reaching heaven. Even if you didn’t have time to pray yourself you could pay the choir monks to pray for you and there was always hope, because even if you were dead already and were in purgatory, the choir monks would still pray for your eventual ascent to heaven.
The choir monks were the Holy Men. The whole purpose of their life was to be religious, to pray, to worship and to find a way to heaven.
Today many people you speak to will see Jesus as a Holy Man. One who knew God, one who did good, one whose life was about devotion and prayer, one who would intercede for others and speed their way to God.
Whilst all of this is right, it still doesn’t adequately describe who Jesus is or what he did for us. You see religion and all that it represents can be empty in itself, it only comes alive when we realise that at the centre is Jesus himself.
In his Gospel, St John writes:
“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. You know where I go, and you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him.”
(John 14 verses 1-7, WEB)
This song asks Jesus to be at the centre of all we do:
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.