Rowan Williams: ‘Let God Dissolve Our Fantasies’

Retiring Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams gave a thoughtful lecture on “monastic virtues and ecumencial hopes” this week at the Monasticism and Ecumenism conference at San Gregorio Magno al Celio in Rome.

The gathering was to celebrate the millennium of the monastic community of Camaldoli. Williams was followed by Robert Hale, prior of the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. The Camaldolese (Benedictine) monastic community invited Archbishop Williams to join their millennial celebrations in Rome in recognition of the close connection of San Gregorio Magno with the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. The ancient Roman monastery on the Caelian Hill which bears the name of Pope St Gregory the Great was the place from which Gregory (himself a monk) sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and a party of fellow Benedictine monks to Britain in the late 590s. The Camaldolese have occupied the monastery buildings at San Gregorio since 1573.

Here’s an excerpt for Lenten reflection:

“This search to hold together what seem like opposites is of course grounded in a deeply traditional Christian anthropology. Christian solitude is the way in which we allow God to challenge and overcome our individualism; in solitude, we are led to recognize the strength and resilience of our selfishness, and the need to let God dissolve the fantasies with which we protect ourselves. In the desert there is no-one to impress or persuade; there it is necessary to confront your own emptiness or be consumed by it. But such solitude is framed by the common life in which we have begun to learn the basic habits of selflessness through mutual service, and in which we are enabled to serve more radically and completely, to be more profoundly in the heart of common life in Christ’s Body, because we have had our private myths and defensive strategies stripped away by God in silence.”–Rowan Williams, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury

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