the one thing necessary

Here we are, in Easter. The whole creation does seem to agree. It’s spring. The magnolia out back of the monastic enclosure is in full, glorious bloom. The daffodils lining the drive have opened their throats to the sky. It’s finally warm enough to sleep with the windows open, letting in the cool air and the birdsong.

Frankly, I feel a bit disoriented. I do love all the flowers, the sunshine, the warmth. I’m happy to have the alleluias back. But my body has been rebelling, or recuperating, or something. Immediately following our Easter sabbath days, I landed in bed with a cold. All this last week it was just this side of bad, never quite enough to keep me laid up, but bad enough that I haven’t felt like myself in a while.

It’s a good opportunity to practice ordinary discernment and self-forgiveness. I want to have the energy to top up the garden beds with compost, but I don’t. Perhaps instead God is inviting me to sit and enjoy the flowers. As often as not, I zone out with YouTube videos, desperately praying that the faucet in my nose will turn itself off. Ah, well.

Then, too, there are the afternoons when the fatigue hits at just the right moment. My mind settles enough to sit quietly in the church waiting in the cool dark for Vespers. I don’t want to call it praying, because that suggests effort and intention. Rather, in those quiet moments, I am simply there, and that is enough.

I am increasingly aware of how needlessly complicated my internal landscape has become. I say “has become,” but it’s really always been that way. In fact, held in perspective, my internal landscape is probably less complicated than it’s ever been. The difference is that now I’m aware of how complicated it is. Before, I took all that flourish and pomp for sophistication.

I wonder, with Mary and Martha, what is the “one thing necessary?” I have a list of twenty or thirty things that seem to rise to the level of necessity. I’d rejoice to get down to ten. I sometimes try to act out this question by stripping my room bare. I take it to the extreme, as is my nature. No pictures on the wall, no furniture, no clothes. And then I add things back until I have just as much as I can stand. For now, at least, I need the pictures on the wall. One day, perhaps the space itself will seem a feast. Or not, and maybe that’s okay, too.

During this week of running noses and fatigue, and of flowers and sunshine, too, I have heard the whisper of the name Jesus echoing in my heart. I feel the need of him more keenly than I have in years. It’s a quiet need. It has little of the torrid longing of the lover or the desperate keening of the sinner, though both of those are in there, too, I’m sure. If I had to put words to it, I would say that I need Jesus like I need my next breath. I need him to hold on to, to give me shape and ground. I need him like an anchor or a still point on the horizon.

Maybe that’s enough for now.

Featured image credit: Illustration of the Christian Sacred Heart Symbol created with strands of polymer clay. 12″ x 12″ : Illustration (

10 Replies to “the one thing necessary”

  1. Thanks for this, brother Aiden. I am reminded of some thoughts from the “online Abbess” at Abbey of the Arts, Christine Valters Paintner. She has written quite a bit about changing seasons, equinoxes, and threshold times. They can be both wonderful and very unsettling.

    As an economist, I think about changes in economic, business and other cycles. Similarly, the data all become very noisy (irregular) at cycle turning points.

    Your approach seems right to me. I hope you feel better!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lists! Curse them! I wrote one a few days ago entitled “Balls in the Air” because I just can’t seem to neatly prioritize and finish one thing at a time.

    May you recover quickly –


    1. I had a friend in seminary who used to say that she had to know which balls were glass and which were rubber. The rubber ones bounce, so it’s okay if you drop them. I’ve tried to remember her wisdom.


  3. “I am increasingly aware of how needlessly complicated my internal landscape has become”…. YES! i’m struggling with the idea of chucking my iPhone and getting a flip phone because it is complicating my internal landscape terribly. I have to think about my internal landscape more to regain my peace.


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