17 March 2011

Of Gods and Men

In this world of instant everything, of unending torrents of knowledge, of insatiable acquisition and (of late) political crises and nuclear meltdowns, of obvious graspings for power and unconsciousnable violence, the film Of Gods and Men provided me great relief. In this beautiful film eight monks choose not to leave their mission in Algeria and expose thus, them selves to inevitable danger from rebel forces. Indeed, the final scene of the film, shot in a snowstorm, portrays the monks single-file walking up a hill to their deaths led and followed by armed rebels who will behead them. The camera has followed the faces of these monks for almost two hours: the viewer knows them intimately even without the complexity and insight dialogue might have provided. I see them yet, days after I saw the film. I think I know deeply something about each of them and I feel affection for their devotion. 
Inscribed in the faces is the depth of spirituality in which each resides, their joy in their faith and in their God, their care for the peasants they serve, and the love that they hold for each other and that is so great it cannot ever be contained in words. It sounds in the film in their songs which are always communal. The camera has rested delicately on each of their faces as they wrestled with their faith and their fears, only to arrive finally together in a decision not to leave. To stay regardless of the danger. To live and to die in and for their faith. 
I do not know if I have the peacefulness of my faith to live or to die as do these eight monks. No, that is wrong: I know that I do not have within me the strength to realize that peacefulness, nor the faith to confront the injustices I struggle to overcome. The monks’ life of poverty and simplicity throws into sharp relief the ephemeral richness and superficial complexites of my life. But these men have given up all material things to live a life wholly organized by the spiritual—a spirituality that extends even into the ministering of the health and care of the peasants in whose midst they live. Their entire strength derives from the depths of their spirituality, and the entire focus of their lives emanates from their spirituality. It is a love I barely comprehend, cannot realize, and yet deeply admire.


Post a Comment

<< Home