Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chapter 7: The value of humility (paragraph 7)

And so, if the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked, and if at all times the Lord looks down from heaven on the sons and daughters of men to see if any show understanding in seeking God, and if the angels assigned to care for us report our deeds to the Lord day and night, we must be on our guard every hour or else, as the psalmist says, the time may come when God will observe us falling into evil and so made worthless. (From para. 7 of Ch. 7 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Unfortunately, Benedict's words scare up feelings of my own anxiety and failure in relation to my Source. And yet, this is the opposite of how he describes the appropriate behavior of the abbot or abbess who takes the place of Christ (from Ch. 2, para. 7: It is the task of the superiors to adapt with sympathetic understanding to the needs of each so that they may not only avoid any loss but even have the joy of increasing the number of good sheep in the flock committed to them.)  So I think what Benedict is trying to summon up in the sterner paragraph of Chapter 7, is how important it is to guide people to show understanding in seeking God -- the words buried right in the middle of the passage. Perhaps someone, somewhere, at some time, needed to be "put on guard" to remember to seek God. Today, in my life, I also need to be reminded to seek God, but perhaps in words like these: God is the center of my soul.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

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, turning away from 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, January 27, 2015

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 can love because God loves me first) I find that I don't need to protect myself. What 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, January 26, 2015

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 an experience of life-giving intimacy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

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, January 24, 2015

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 quickly erupt, that the ego overestimates in importance, when the loving gaze of silence would accomplish much more good.

Friday, January 23, 2015

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 stabilized in love is not dragged down nor deadened by ego. Such obedience is a pure expression of liberty of spirit.