ST. BENEDICT — The world looks small from here as I stand in the garden of my monastery’s cloister. Across the ancient valley beneath us, the mystery of being human is unfolding rhythmically in all manner of activity: now labor, then rest; now family, then conflict; now grief, then joy; now celebration, then silence; now birth, then death. But from this little hill on which I stand, that mystery seems distant, small.

Then the bells ring — perhaps you’ve heard them? We call them the vox Dei, the voice of God, and this because they beat out the rhythm of our lives, of our every day: now labor, then rest; now prayer, then recreation; now singing, then silence. Those bells announced my entrance into monastic life. Joy, but also renunciation. Those same bells will one day announce my death. Grief, but full of hope. Suddenly, the world “out there” in the valley seems incredibly close to the world of the monastery. Here too the mystery of being human is unfolding rhythmically, under the direction of the bells. Right now, they are announcing dinnertime. The voice of God — God himself! — is taking the time to announce that dinner is ready. What a thought! The voice of God, which wrought such mighty and magnificent deeds, is now directing the lowly, simple moments of my life. Dinner is served, my son, he says, taste and see! Take! Eat!

Every once in a while I marvel at this act of faith. This bell tower: it is a beautifully arranged mass of brick, cement, tile, brass, nuts and bolts, all playing with and against gravity. We know this. And herein lies the act of faith: in calling it the vox Dei, entrusting ourselves and the movement of our life to it, we proclaim the gospel of God’s love. Of God who is love, a love that is waiting for us to welcome him into every moment of our lives. The bells permeate the air when they ring, filling the world, our ears, drawing our minds. You can feel the ringing in your body. That’s how close, how present he longs to be with you. He wants to transform every movement, every moment in the drama of being human into an encounter with him. Even our dinnertime, our rest, our times of anxiety. This is why St. Benedict asks us to turn our eyes to God in prayer, even if briefly, every time we begin a new task. And this is of primary importance. “First of all,” he says in the prologue to the Holy Rule, “every time you begin doing a good work, pray most earnestly, with a quick prayer, that it be brought to completion by him.” Welcome God at every new moment as a coworker, receive him each hour as companion. Not despite, but through the business of your day.

I make my way back into the monastery, with one last look at the world going to and fro, with evening light filling the valley. I say a little prayer, May the LORD bless your going and your coming, from now until eternity (cf. Ps. 121:8). For a moment I can almost see Jesus standing there in the valley, amid the trees and hills, the farms, the homes and greenhouses, the traffic of cars and tractors. Moving everything, present to everyone. Loving the world, waiting for our love.

Brother Israel is a Benedictine monk of Mount Angel Abbey. He professed solemn vows in 2019.