A short-lived fascination with another person may be exciting-I think we've all seen people aglow, in a state of being "in love with love"-but such an attraction is not sustainable over the long run. Paradoxically, human love is sanctified not in the height of attraction and enthusiasm, but in the everyday struggles of living with another person. It is not in romance but in routine that the possibilities for transformation are made manifest. And that requires commitment.
We shortchange ourselves by regarding religious faith as a matter of intellectual assent. This is a modern aberration; the traditional Christian view is far more holistic, regarding faith as a whole-body experience. Sometimes it is, as W.H. Auden described it, 'a matter of choosing what is difficult all one's days as if it were easy.
But it is daily tasks, daily acts of love and worship that serve to remind us that the religion is not strictly an intellectual pursuit, and these days it is easy to lose sight of that as, like our society itself, churches are becoming more politicized and polarized. Christian faith is a way of life, not an impregnable fortress made up of ideas; not a philosophy; not a grocery list of beliefs.
To eat in a monastery refectory is an exercise in humility; daily, one is reminded to put communal necessity before individual preference. While consumer culture speaks only to preferences, treating even whims as needs to be granted (and the sooner the better), monastics sense that this pandering to delusions of self-importance weakens the true self, and diminishes our ability to distinguish desires from needs. It's a price they're not willing to pay.