Friday, September 30, 2016

Chapter 7: The value of humility (paragraph 8)


The second step of humility is not to love having our own way nor to delight in our own desires. Instead we should take as our model for imitation the Lord himself when he says: I have come not to indulge my own desires but to do the will of him who sent me. (From para. 8 of Ch. 7 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Benedict tells me that Jesus acknowledged his own desires: his ego and his will. But acknowledgement is not the same thing as indulgence or disdain. Acknowledgement leaves room for compassion, and compassion leaves room for growth and transformation. When I am compassionate about my self-centered desires, I leave room for growth. In this growth, my ego can be transformed into a vehicle of service.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Chapter 7: The value of humility (paragraphs 6-7)


As to pursuing our own will we are warned against that when scripture says to us: turn away from your own desires and in the Lord's prayer itself we pray that his will may be brought to fulfilment in us. (From para. 6 of Ch. 7 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Pursuing my own will, my own desires -- what am I really being warned against? Is my will or desire necessarily bad? I think that Benedict is asking me to look to the root. If the root of my will or desire is in my ego, then what grows from that may very well be just be a larger ego. If the root of my will or desire is in God's "will" --which I would be more inclined to call God's "nature" or God's "love" -- then what grows from that is a deeper and more loving human nature.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Chapter 7: The value of humility (paragraph 5)


One who follows that way finds protection at all times from sin and vice of thought, of tongue, of hand, of foot, of self-will and of disordered sensual desire, so as to lead a life that is completely open before the scrutiny of God and of his angels who watch over us from hour to hour. (From para. 5 of Ch. 7 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Benedict explains to me that if I live alertly to the intimate presence of God, I find protection.  In this loving relationship with God, I find that I don't need to protect myselfWhat an incomprehensible message to my ego! So much of my energy goes into my ego's perception of what I need to say or do to look out for myself. But what Benedict is telling me about how to live under the wings of God's protection, is, paradoxically, the ultimate in being set free.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Chapter 7: The value of humility (paragraph 4)


The first step of humility is to cherish at all times the sense of awe with which we should turn to God. It should drive forgetfulness away...  (From para. 4 of Ch. 7 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Previously when I've read this passage, I've been drawn to Benedict's words about "the sense of awe... [which] should drive forgetfulness away" -- such an encouraging description, for me, of the practice of setting the mantra free in my heart. But today the word that sings out is cherish -- an experience of intimacy.  To me it seems that the first step of humility involves a relationship, an experience of life-giving intimacy.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chapter 7: The value of humility (paragraphs 1-3)


Paradoxically, to climb upwards will take us down to earth but stepping down will lift us towards heaven. The steps themselves, then, mark the decisions we are called to make in the exercise of humility and self-discipline. (From para. 3 of Ch. 7 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Steps -- decisions -- exercise [practice] -- humility -- self-discipline. These words cry out to me in a way they never did before. At first they sound dry, flinty, demanding more motivation than I have. But as I listen to them, I hear a gentle voice of love, reminding me that in every moment I have a choice of where to place my attention -- a choice of where to step. This is what the practice of meditation teaches me. May each step, each moment, take me closer to God who is the center of my soul.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Chapter 6: Cherishing silence in the monastery


In a monastery we ought to follow the advice of the psalm which says: I have resolved to keep watch over my ways so that I may not sin with my tongue. I am guarded about the way I speak and have accepted silence in humility refraining even from words that are good. In this verse the psalmist shows that, because of the value of silence, there are times when it is best not to speak even though what we have in mind is good. (From para. 1 of Ch.  6 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

In my experience, words can so erupt so quickly from a defensive ego, creating a cycle of more and more defensive posturing. Perhaps, the loving gaze of silence can melt the ego, and accomplish much more good.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Chapter 5: Monastic obedience (paragraph 4)


We should remember, however, that such obedience will be acceptable to God and rewarding to us, if we carry out the orders given us in a way that is not fearful, nor slow, nor half-hearted, nor marred by murmuring or the sort of compliance that betrays resentment. (From para. 4 of Ch. 5 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

For me, Benedict paints another picture of obedience as radical freedom. A response borne of selfless love is not dragged down nor deadened by ego. Such obedience is a pure expression of liberty of spirit.