The story concerns a monastery that had fallen
upon hard times. Once a great order, as a result of waves of
antimonastic persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
and the rise of secularism in the nineteenth, all its branch
houses were lost and it had become decimated to the extent that
there were only five monks left in the decaying mother house:
the abbot and four others, all over seventy in age. Clearly it
was a dying order.
In the deep woods surrounding the monastery
there was a little hut that a rabbi from a nearby town occasionally
used for a hermitage. Through their many years of prayer and
contemplation the old monks had become a bit psychic, so they
could always sense when the rabbi was in his hermitage. "The
rabbi is in the woods, the rabbi is in the woods again "
they would whisper to each other. As he agonized over the imminent
death of his order, it occurred to the abbot at one such time
to visit the hermitage and ask the rabbi if by some possible
chance he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.
The rabbi welcomed the abbot at his hut.
But when the abbot explained the purpose of his visit, the rabbi
could only commiserate with him. "I know how it is,"
he exclaimed. "The spirit has gone out of the people. It
is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue
anymore." So the old abbot and the old rabbi wept together.
Then they read parts of the Torah and quietly spoke of deep things.
The time came when the abbot had to leave.
They embraced each other. "It has been a wonderful thing
that we should meet after all these years, "the abbot said,
"but I have still failed in my purpose for coming here.
Is there nothing you can tell me, no piece of advice you can
give me that would help me save my dying order?"
"No, I am sorry," the rabbi
responded. "I have no advice to give. The only thing I can
tell you is that the Messiah is one of you."
the abbot returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered
around him to ask, "Well what did the rabbi say?" "He
couldn't help," the abbot answered. "We just wept and
read the Torah together. The only thing he did say, just as I
was leaving --it was something cryptic-- was that the Messiah
is one of us. I don't know what he meant."
In the days and weeks and months that
followed, the old monks pondered this and wondered whether there
was any possible significance to the rabbi's words. The Messiah
is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks here
at the monastery? If that's the case, which one?
Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation.
On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light
Certainly he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in people's sides, when you look back on it, Elred is virtually always right. Often very right.Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred.
But surely not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for somehow always being there when you need him. He just magically appears by your side. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah.
Of course the rabbi didn't mean me. He couldn't possibly have meant me. I'm just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? O God, not me. I couldn't be that much for You, could I?
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.
the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, it so happened
that people still occasionally came to visit the monastery to
picnic on its tiny lawn, to wander along some of its paths, even
now and then to go into the dilapidated chapel to meditate.
they did so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed
the aura of extraordinary respect that now began to surround
the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate
the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely attractive,
even compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to
come back to the monastery more frequently to picnic, to play,
to pray. They began to bring their friends to show them this
special place. And their friends brought their friends.
it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the
monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After
a while one asked if he could join them. Then another. And another.
So within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving
order and, thanks to the rabbi's gift, a vibrant center of light
and spirituality in the realm.
came from The Different Drum, by M. Scott Peck. It is the story
most read at the begining of a Community Building Workshop. I've
heard it at least 300 times and have heard over 100 different
intrepretations of the story. It still gives me chill bumps each
time I hear it or read it.
. . . . .Jerry Hampton
There are links to 5 additional versions of this story at: Resources