Of Gods and Men

Theological students, bishops,
soldiers, journalists, are amongst
the many who I know have
already enjoyed "Of Gods and
Men," (Des Hommes et des
Dieux).

There are parallels in this film for
those of us based in the workplace especially
as we may also ask, do we stay or do we go?
It is a true story about monks who in the
1990's lived amongst a Muslim community in
the Atlas Mountains in Algeria asking that very
question. The film swept the Cannes Film
Festival by surprise and along with everyone
else in the cinema we were stuck to our seats
after the film had ended. An incredibly good
film. It was so deeply powerful, a profound film
that touches on so many of the issues that are
critical to the world today: inter religious
dialogue, terrorism, and the existential angst
that accompanies the violent post-modern
world. But above all it spoke of a deep love of
Christ, Christian service and endurance in
following God's call. A film that speaks
volumes of the incarnation and what it is to be
immersed in God's messy world, even if that
means risking your very life for Jesus. Their
monastery was symbolic of the "branch that
holds up the birds" who are the ordinary folk
living in the town that has grown around it. The
film communicates the life and spirit of
Christian living and discipleship, including the
importance of regular prayer and outreach.
When life becomes threatened by extremists,
the monks have to discern if they should flee
or stay. In following the call, we may have to
risk our lives for Jesus and so these Christian
men too had to prepare for possible death. It is a great film to show friends who have not found the Christian faith for themselves. A most

 

moving point was sharing in what became their
last supper together to the powerful music of
Tchaikowsky's Swan Lake. Do try and watch it.

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan
Smith, preached in St Albans Cathedral at
Christmas on Christ 'pitching his tent' among
us. He saw 'Of Gods and Men' and said this: "Fifteen years ago, this happy equilibrium of
monks living, working, and praying was
disturbed by mounting lawlessness and
political unrest as the military lost control. But
the monks had made their vows and decided
they could neither abandon their life of prayer
and service, nor their terrified friends in the
local villages. During the night of 27th March
1996 seven monks of the Cistercian Monastery of Our Lady of Atlas, near the
village of Tibhirine, were abducted by
terrorists, by men who were inspired by racial
and religious hatred. They were murdered on
21 st May, 1996. The film illustrates incredible
courage and what lies at the heart of the
Christmas celebration - the truth that God
comes to dwell among us in love and
vulnerability. It is a love, so powerful, that it
transforms individuals and entire communities.
In the film a troubled Muslim girl facing the
prospect of an arranged marriage asks the
elderly monk, 'Father, have you ever fallen in
love?' 'Yes' he replies, 'many times'. The girl is
puzzled. 'Then how did you cope or end up a
monk?' The old man pauses, 'Because I
discovered a greater love'. St John's gospel
says, And the Word became flesh and lived
among us, and we have seen his glory, the
glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and
truth. In the Bible the word 'to live among'
literally means 'to pitch tent'." St John is
saying, God 'set up camp in our midsf. Jesus
lives with us and so we too can pray that He
will set up camp in the workplace.So
take courage.

 

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