Why Christian?

The monks of Pluscarden Abbey are Christian. They have chosen their particular way of life as an expression of their desire to follow Jesus Christ: to belong to him, to serve him, to love him, to grow in friendship and union with him, to bear witness to him.
Some might ask whether this is not too exclusive a choice in a pluralistic world, where every and any religion is available to the spiritual seeker. Would a more agnostic attitude not be more appropriate today; more open to truth wherever it is to be found; more tolerant of the differing views of others?

Actually very many people who are not Christian come to Pluscarden, and they are welcome to do so. Some come as casual visitors; others come, even repeatedly, to spend some days of retreat in the guest quarters of the monastery. We find the same comments written time and again in our Visitor’s Books. Whether people share our faith or not, they find Pluscarden to be a place of peace; they value the prayer of the monks; they leave feeling the better for their visit.

When asked to justify our faith in Jesus Christ, we reply that this is a gift we have received from God through the Holy Spirit, not simply a choice we have made. We assert also that such faith is more than an opinion, or ideal, or world view. Coming to faith in Christ is coming to a new birth; becoming a new creation. In Christ we die to sin, and to self, and acquire an entirely new life, in him; a life that is turned towards God.

Jesus claimed to have a completely unique relationship with God his Father. He claimed to know and to reveal God in a way no other religious teacher in history has done. During the course of the Last Supper, according to St. John, Jesus said: “Whoever sees me, sees the Father”. And again: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. We believe then that Jesus was no ordinary man, however gifted; no mere prophet, or spiritual leader. He was himself God. We believe that, in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God took on our human form, in order to give us a share in his own relationship with his Father.

Image by Martin Gardner

Image by Martin Gardner

Many reasons lead people to accept the claims of Jesus as true. Central among them all is the fact of his death on the Cross, followed three days later by his resurrection from the dead. The implications of Christ’s death and resurrection are vast indeed. They are unfolded in Holy Scripture, the Christian Bible; perhaps above all in the letters of St. Paul. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we believe that our sins can be and are forgiven. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, our life now has meaning and purpose. Death is not its end. On the contrary, for those who are in Christ, our natural human death leads to eternal life with God in heaven.

Christ’s death and resurrection also teaches us something about God that unaided human reasoning could never attain. God is not only One but also Three: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And by sending the Son and the Holy Spirit into the world, God has proved that he loves us. In the wonderful expression of St. John, God has shown that he “is love”.

When assessing the suitability of a novice for monastic life, the question to be asked, according to the criterion of St. Benedict, is whether or not he “truly seeks God”. So although monks believe that faith provides a sure light for our path, they are well aware that it does not answer all life’s questions, nor does it spare us the trouble of a laborious journey towards God. With all others of good will, then, Christians, and Christian monks, share the pilgrim nature of our journey through life. At Pluscarden we are happy to provide a place where people seeking the truth can come; happy also, where appropriate, to engage in respectful dialogue with those of other religions, or of no religion. There is no question, though, of a vague “spiritual seeker” being accepted as a novice in the Pluscarden community, in hopes of eventually finding a Christian or other faith. No, faith is our starting point. Our hope is only to live and to die in union with Jesus, to grow continually in knowledge and love of him, and to begin, even now, an eternity of communion with the Triune God.