First Initiation into Carthusian Life

If you have been a regular here for a while, or poked around this site a bit, you will know of my love for Carthusians.

We have started discussion on this site about the issue of sourcing Christian spirituality from the monastic more than the domestic. I think that is an important discussion, one that I want to continue. But Just on this post I want to offer a filter, a lens, which I realise I use implicitly as I read monastic treasures.

I have a good collection of Carthusian writings, and when I began collecting them they were not so readily available. Now, as you can see by my link at the start, you can get them from Amazon (One text is even only available for Kindle! Carthusians do not put their name to their books, so you can search for them by “Carthusian”). My original copy of this book was run off and stapled at St Hugh’s Charterhouse, Parkminster, UK. In this later, properly-published version there are a few pages added at the end with some practical details for those begin to try the life in the Carthusian monastery. This particular book is simply guide written to help someone during his first months in the Charterhouse.

The lens

1) Some things in Carthusian (and other monastic) literature can be directly applied and used in our own daily, domestic, outside-monastic-walls, life.

An example from this book (page 81):

The gestures which we make during the Liturgy are the prayers of our bodies. Like everything else in the Liturgy, they should be beautiful and evocative of the sublime mystery of God. They can be very helpful both in developing and expressing profound attitudes of humility, adoration, etc.

Let us therefore acquire the habit of making them with respect, attention and an awareness of their deeper meaning. A gesture made in a slovenly way is like a word badly pronounced – it loses its meaning.

A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa has the principle that actions and gestures are done in silence …… and only after that are words said – if any.

Realising that we are enfleshed I can really learn to make my actions and gestures physical language. It is not limited to monks.

What is the deepest truth for monks is the deepest truth for all Christians.

2) Some things in Carthusian (and other monastic) literature can be translated and used in our own daily, domestic, outside-monastic-walls, life.

A Carthusian takes a vow of stability. Stability can be translated to commitment in marriage, in a denomination, in a community, work… Even Carthusians translate stability into their context (more to the order than say a Cistercian’s stability to the particular monastery).

3) Some things in Carthusian (and other monastic) literature is inappropriate to apply to our own daily, domestic, outside-monastic-walls, life.

An example? In a busy family life, where one works in an important job requiring significant concentration, it would be inappropriate to daily rise at midnight and pray for 2-3 hours.

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