A friend of mine recently became an oblate of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur. The ritual to become an oblate, a layperson affiliated with a monastic community, is called an oblation.
An oblation is an offering to God, so my friend was taking a vow to offer his life to God by following a way of living developed by the Camaldoli monks over many centuries. We really have nothing to offer God other than our lives and no way to offer it other than the way we live.
Every day at morning prayer, the monks chant the Benedictus, which is taken from the Gospel of Luke. In all the years I’ve sung it with them, I had not, until this last time, noticed that God’s covenant boils down to the promise that “we might serve him all the days of our lives, and stand in his presence.”
There’s nothing else coming around the bend. There’s nothing better down the road. God doesn’t guarantee success, health, or wealth. God doesn’t have anything against these, but during sickness, loss, or death the promise remains the same: God’s presence.
The fourteenth century mystic Julian of Norwich gives us a good idea of what that presence is:
Would you know your Lord’s meaning in this thing?
Know it well, love is its
meaning. Who reveals this
to you? Love. What does he
reveal? Love. Why? For Love.
Her next words give us directions for life:
Remain in this and you will
know more of the same.
Remain within love—remain in God—and we will know love—we will serve God.
May our lives be a continuous prayer of love, a true oblation.