...the path to God passes through our own reality, through observation of our thoughts, through proper dealing with the passions, and through an ascetical practice that will train us for openness to God. It is a spirituality from below that the monks teach us, a spirituality that has the courage to look upon everything that is in us and offer it to God. They invite us to take the path of humility, on which we ascend to God by climbing down into our own reality. The model is Jesus himself, who came down from heaen to carry us up to God as his brothers and sisters. For Paul too this is our way: only those people who have first gone down can ascend to God (see Eph. 4:9-10).
We will come to God only on a path that goes through sincere self-encounter, through listening to our thoughts and feelings, to our dreams, to our body, our concrete lives, and our relationships with other people. And God will transform everything that we hold out to him, until the image of Jesus Christ shines out in us too, the image that God has pictured to himself of every single one of us and that can irradicate the world only in and through us. All the pains that the monks have taken in their asceticism have no other aim but to make this unique image of God appear in this world without distortion.
The monks wish to pass on to us today their optimism, their confidence that we can work on ourselves, that we are not incurably abandoned to our predispositions or our education or the current social situation, but that it's worthwhile to form ourselves through asceticism until the image of God shines out undeimmed from us, and until the unique word that God speaks through every oe of us rings out clearly in our world.
The dignity of every individual who was formed by God in a unique way and in each of whom God speaks a different word, peculiar to you and me, is the reason why the monks invite us to the ascetical life. We should and can work on ourselves. We can find our true self -- and we will find God, who in prayer and contemplation heals our deepest wounds and silences the longing of our hearts.