On the last weekend in May a small group from the Wellington Abrahamic Council visited the Abbey of Our Lady of the Southern Star, also known as the Kopua Monestary, near Takapau in Central Hawkes Bay.
Made up of a group of Jews, Christians and Muslims, the Abrahamic Council seeks to promote understanding and acceptance between members of the three faiths that trace their roots back to our common father Abraham, and also tolerance of all faith communities within the wider New Zealand society. Having heard about Kopua at one of our meetings, several Council members were interested to come to the monastery, as this particular form of spiritual life is not present in their traditions.
While at Kopua we attended several of the Offices and the Sunday Eucharist. One even got up at 4 am for Vigils. They meditated with the monks after Vespers and in the morning before the Eucharist, a shared spiritual practice in silence that transcends the symbolic framework of each faith tradition. They spent some time with Fr Niko Verkley before breakfast on Sunday. Around a warm fire in the evening in the peaceful atmosphere of the Guest house common room we had time for a good conversation with each other. We all appreciated the vegetarian food the cooks had gone to the trouble of providing for us.
The visit highlighted certain similarities in the faith practice within the three traditions. All share, in their own style, the rhythm of prayer throughout the day. Each involves, in their own form, ascetic practices to help us become responsive to God as the source of our lives and being. All are based on devotion to God through response to the gracious divine Word that is heard, in its own way, within each of the Abrahamic traditions.
Appreciating what we share with each other as Abrahamic peoples not only helps us to understand others from different traditions, but also appreciate more deeply the divine gift we have been given.