The Rabbi's Gift
A Version with a Twist
There was a monastery, which had fallen on hard times. Its many buildings had been filled with young monks and its big church had resounded with the singing of prayers, but it was now nearly deserted. People no longer came to be nourished by the prayers and presence of the monks. Only a handful of old, old monks shuffled through the cloisters and praised God with heavy hearts.
Nearby, on the edge of the monastery woods, an old rabbi built a little hut and came occasionally to walk in the woods. One day, his heart heavy with the burden of the monastery and the failing of the faith, the abbot decided to visit the rabbi. After morning Eucharist, he set out through the woods.
As he approached the hut, the rabbi greeted the abbot warmly. Across their differences, there were similarities. Both knew God; both knew the difficulties of keeping alive the faith in their communities; both were concerned for the welfare of those they served.
The only words spoken were the mysterious words of the rabbi, 'The Messiah is among you' and an instruction, 'you must only repeat this once. After that no one must ever say it aloud again'.
Finally, the abbot and the rabbi exchanged an embrace and the abbot returned to the monastery, pondering the words of the rabbi, 'The Messiah is among you'. Whatever could the rabbi mean? Could Christ be cantankerous Brother William? Could Christ be mean and spiteful Brother Stephen? Could Christ be the one young novice, petulant and withdrawn, and still to be named? Who could Christ be? The abbot pondered this all afternoon and all night.
The next morning, the abbot called the few monks together and shared the teaching from the rabbi. 'You can never repeat this', he said. 'The rabbi who walks in the woods says, "The Messiah is amongst us"'.
The monks were startled by this revelation. 'What could it mean?' each asked himself. 'Is dirty and sloppy Brother John the Messiah?' 'Is moody Father Matthew or crothety Brother Thomas the Messiah?' 'What could this mean?' 'The Messiah is among us?' They were deeply puzzled by the rabbi's teaching. But according to the instruction, no one ever mentioned it again.
Days and weeks went by. The monks began to treat one another with special reverence and respect. There was a gentle, wholehearted, human, yet divine, quality about them which was hard to describe but easy to see. They lived with one another as men who had found something special. They prayed and read Scripture as men who were always looking for something. The occasional visitors found themselves deeply moved by the life of these monks. Before long, people were coming from far and wide to be nourished by the prayer life of the monks and young men began asking to become part of the community.