1987, Serial No. 00918

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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and let it be created. Amen. Let us pray. May the outpouring of your Holy Spirit, O Lord, cleanse our hearts, and make them fruitful by the image-sprinkling of His dew, through Christ our Lord. Amen. In order to shed a little more light on the intimate connection between our personal growth, particularly in the virtue of humility, and development of that compassion which brings the common life into lively being, we must, I think, my dear fathers and brothers, go a little deeper into the theological root of this kind of thinking. It is, I believe, one of those hidden wells beneath the thought of St. Bernard. We should perhaps first note that as far as the New Testament is concerned,


it is only Luke who describes the Ascension as a visible event. But elsewhere in the New Testament, there is a widespread interest in the Ascension as a mystery of faith. We should not attempt to survey these passages as a whole. It's very fascinating to do. Do do it sometime. It's something one ought to do about the time of the Feast every year, have another look at it. The New Testament is much more full of the Ascension than one knows, until one looks. But for the moment, I'm just going to confine ourselves to the most familiar text of all, that which comes in chapter four of the Letter to the Ephesians, which is generally read as the first reading on the Feast itself. This chapter says, verse seven, as you'll remember, that grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. And it goes on to justify this by what seems to be a reversal of the meaning of a single phrase in Psalm 67, verse 18,


which is already full of problems for the meaning of the Hebrew anyway. This psalm, let God arise and let his enemies be scattered, is certainly one of the more strange ones, but it's full of extremely wonderful images. And the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians, whether it was Paul himself or a gifted and thoughtful disciple of Paul, has certainly done no worse in this matter than many over the centuries since. The gifts mentioned in this verse are all seen not as being given to the conqueror, which is what the original Hebrew seems to mean, but as being showered down by the conqueror as a result of his triumphal ascent. And this shower of gifts, which gives so many people different things to do, teaching and all sorts of pastoral ministerial functions, has a clear purpose behind it, good though it is in itself. It is concerned with building up of the body of Christ.


Until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children. So the special gift of the mystery of the ascension, deeper than all the special personal gifts, is that of maturing to the kind of personal fullness which shines out in the humanity of the Son of God. I hope to show in a few moments that this is very definitely Burns' thought. For the moment I shall point out that I use the word personal for the deepest and most general aspect of all these gifts quite deliberately. For as a modern Greek theologian, Christos Yiannos, points out in a remarkable little book called Freedom of Morality, the word person, when consciously used as opposed to individual,


implies relationship, certainly in the Greek and in some modern languages too. For the word prosopon, when broken down, refers to someone who has his face towards someone else. And of course this also happens in the modern German word Angesicht, and in the Norwegian Ansicht, for face. Now as you will have noticed, the letter to the Ephesians is speaking of our maturity in Christ, precisely as a result of a function of relationship. And I believe we shall come to see, when we've weighed the matter properly, that this is also the mark of monastic maturity, which is to be seen in the growing penetration of the monk by the virtue of humility. Indeed, before we leave the insight of Christos Yiannos, I think we should also bear in mind his saying in a chapter on asceticism,


which is very, very good, that the aim of asceticism is to transfigure our impersonal natural desires and needs into manifestations of the free personal will, which brings into being the true life of love. Now this way of talking, though I think probably Christos Yiannos doesn't know this, is very close to Bernard. It's very, very good in modern sense to say it this way. You see, you remember how earlier on we've seen Bernard saying, the trouble about lots of things that appear to be human in us is that until the Spirit of God takes over in us, we don't really become properly human. And I think it would be very good if the world at large nowadays could get to know a little bit more about this kind of thing, because the passions are not simply good in themselves as human things until they're transformed. They are impersonal in the way they're pushed forward, even when they appear to be aiming at personal things. It's only when they're transformed


that they really do become part of the function of the free personal will. We have to be free to be able to use our passions in the right way. Obedience, he says, freely given, always presupposes love. It's always an act of communion. The struggle becomes an act of communion, taking its place in the life of the whole body of the Church. Because I'm convinced that this is right, that I'm convinced too that my good friend Charles Dumont is right when he is resolute in his insistence in his study of obedience in the Holy Rule, which was not, as far as I could see, correctly translated as it appeared in Cistercian studies, that Benedict's direct simplicity about his obedience should not be minimized. It is good, Charles says, and here I translate directly from his French, it's good not to establish weakness as a norm and not to hide the demands of it all by sugary reflections.


If a thing is difficult, it's not because it's complicated, incomprehensible, something out of another age, but perhaps it's too simple. And it's also always easy, this is very good, it's always easy to avoid a decision by closing oneself up in a paralyzing problem condition. Think about it. It's always easy to avoid a decision by closing oneself up in a paralyzing problem condition. I hope that won't seem a little too abstract and difficult. I wish I could spend a bit more time on it with you, but I don't want to delay it too much, and probably most of you will have got it. But you will see, in fact, that in this process of transformation a number of factors are at work, and slowly, by the help of the Holy Spirit and the insight that we gain, we become more human in the way our passions function.


I'm going to try to make things a little simpler by calling in the help of Bernard directly again. If we turn to his fourth sermon of the Ascension, paragraph 3, we find Bernard quoting a passage from the letter to the Ephesians, about which we've just been thinking. He who ascended is he who also ascended. Here's Bernard. These are the words of the Apostle. For thus did Christ come down that he might teach us how to go up. Indeed, we long to go up. We all desire to get higher. For we are noble creatures and of a certain greatness of soul. So we crave the heights with a certain natural desire. But, he continues, will be taught us if we decide to follow the devil to that cold mountain apart and are captured by the libido dominandi, the desire to dominate, that terrible lust for power over others,


which is naturally not unknown in monasteries, any more than it is anywhere else. It does not, of course, always take the form of an appetite for official positions in the house of the kind, as Bernard says, even angelic shoulders should fear to bear. As Bernard says in sermon 2, paragraph 6, of this same feast, this is the sure way to go down rather than up, to be bound rather than free. The true Christian picture of man, I suppose you may say, in the total cosmic setting, may be humbling, but it's not of itself humiliating. I hope you notice that. At one and the same time he's saying man is a noble creature and the drive which God has put there is good, but it does need to be transformed. Humiliation is, of course, something we ourselves generally bring about by refusing to go up by going down. And notice that it's clear it's in the pursuit of power in all its forms, because that is the pursuit of what is primarily external


to the exclusion of the resources of true life. Again, I'm sure Charles Dumont is entirely right in his study of humility in the Holy Rule in saying that what we have in chapter 7 are the discernible signs of the presence of genuine humility rather than a description of what it is in itself. I think perhaps we should say at once that we may even read chapter 7 of the Rule with some care and then make it the excuse for evading what it's really talking about. If evidently what is referred to by Benedict as our monastic conversatio is the way we live, not the way we perform. If I can make such a distinction. It's the deep sources of our life that are in question, not the public performance we put on. We shall never get as far as the fourth degree with any prophet unless there is some authentic life in us to convert.


This is why Benedict is not afraid to talk about man as a noble creature, since the sense of which is part of the true way of ascending to the things of God. It's the perversion of this sense in a world of illusion that makes the wicked go round in circles, as we read in the Latin of Charles Armadale in a phrase which, as you all know, the Cistercian-like writers love to quote. It is apropos of this text that Bernard says in his treatise on loving God, paragraph 18 to 20, It's natural to anyone who uses his reason always to desire what he thinks to be better for him. But, as he goes on to say, this easily leads to a mad pursuit as well in monasteries as outside them. For if, instead of desiring the one thing that will really satisfy us, namely God himself, we are constantly running after other things which will never be done. The obstacles make it quite impossible.


Life is too short, our strength too little, the competition too keen. Those who wish to obtain all they desire will never attain all that is desirable. Saying that, I cannot help recalling a monk, Erlanga Yang, saying to me at the end of a retreat I was preaching with many years ago, you know, I'm a spoilt child. He wasn't at all a bad monk. The things he had had for his use were all received, as far as I could tell, in the framework of obedience. But he reached the age where he saw that it might have been happier if he hadn't always been given almost everything he asked for. And sometimes, though this wasn't his reflection but mine, perhaps the kind of things the layman working for his living he might not have been able to afford. I do not say this to make people feel guilty about receiving almost anything they like


and perhaps need. For as the great English Benedictine Father Baker says, Father Augustine Baker says, there are some people who are not happy unless they're always on the rack. I'm not saying this kind of thing to make people feel guilty. And such people, of course, often need to mortify a disordered desire for mortification. This is certainly among the reasons why Saint Benedict desires us to make our lenten penances known to the abbot. And doubtless often choose them by reference to him. He sometimes perhaps sees us more shrewdly than we see ourselves. As we approach what is evidently being spoken of in the fourth degree of humility, we are perhaps moving out of the area where there are serious problems of choice. For this is the step where love begins to be tested in a way that I would venture to suggest it always is tested in any serious form of Christian life. A fact which will often help us to remember,


I believe, but I don't think it's at all necessary to imagine that the difficulties and contradictions we meet with in the life of obedience have to be invented by our superiors or thoughtless brethren. Many of them almost inevitably arise in any ordinary life. Since my early days in the cloister I've often thought, especially about this time of the day, when I was beginning to feel a bit tired and I've thought, well, if I were a mother of five children or father of eight, I should have to come home from work and carry on as cheerfully as possible for the evening, even if my partner wasn't always as cheerful and sweet-tempered as I had once imagined. And then, of course, it's absolutely anywhere. Someone whom we depended on can fall ill or get injured and always under such circumstances it's necessary to have someone around to calm the troubled waters and fill the gaps, and why not me? It is, of course, always like this


that one realises, better than reading about it in books, that the pursuit of perfect charity is not a private affair. And indeed, what a blessing it is for all of us if there are at least a few around in the house who don't make a fuss, but who with a quiet mind hold fast in patience. That loveliness of virtues when its strength is love. This is naturally the kind of strength that can often only be obtained by that constant prayer, prayer on the wing, one might say, of which St Benedict speaks in the opening sentences of the prologue. There, of course, is one of his own sentences, one of the very few that is Benedict's own, in tantissima ratione, within everything, with instant prayer. In the very shortest of his Ascension sermons, number 5, Bernard says that Luke makes us aware of the common persevering prayer of the Apostles awaiting the consolation they've been promised by our Lord. God,


not being a God of dissension but of peace, only he brings it about that people of one way of thinking live in a house. Then, quite rightly, the divine ear hears the preparation of such hearts and does not fail them of their hope. People who are great-souled it's a pity not to give the English equivalent of magnanimous, it's great-souled, long-suffering and of one mind. When you find these, these are the clear signs of the presence of faith, hope and love. For as he notes, it is hope that brings about long-suffering, love that brings about unity and faith, the quality of the great-souled. Very, very good. You'll notice that I cannot quite keep certain phases of our growth in awareness of the different kinds of truth from really slowly beginning to draw together.


They do. This convergence has inevitably been happening from the very beginning of our life in the cloister. For as Bernard would expect us to be aware, we shall never begin to grow in self-knowledge if we do not begin with prayer and never ready to show compassion long before inner understanding of human situations gives us stronger motives for doing so. Indeed, I suppose at whatever stage of our lives, it's extremely important that we should want God to know us at least as much as we wish to know him. For this is the surest way he enters into our woundedness and transforms it if we wish it. This is perhaps especially important in relation to our growth in compassion. There will be many circumstances in which, if we have any tact at all, we shall not always be quite sure whether in order to give our love the right shape,


it would be best to act or refrain from acting. I'm sorry if this seems to be a somewhat private language, but I've never quite yet found the words to speak of what I wish to say here when I talk about love taking shape. What I mean is it's got to be something concrete, it's got to take a specific form perhaps. It should be obvious, in other words, that it's very important to see that our love shouldn't be simply an abstraction, a thought in our heads or a feeling in our hearts. It can sometimes only be appropriate to the circumstances by being willing to take a form. But whether we act or refrain from acting, it's naturally likely that our efforts to give love the shape we think it should have here and now, will in the end humble us. Sometimes we'll recognise we did the wrong thing. As Berne observes in sermon 34 of the Saint-Saëns, the general rule,


this is paragraph four, the general rule is that he who humbles himself shall be exalted. This evidently means that not every kind of humbling is to be exalted, but only that which comes from choice, not as a result of depression or force of circumstances. Thus, it is not the one who is humiliated, but the one who humbles himself who shall be exalted, because of his good will. And if the subject of his humiliation comes to him through somebody else, then he shall rightly be said to be humbled by another, if he decides to take all that happens with a quiet and happy mind for the sake of God. A tiny little paragraph, only about six lines in that, it's lovely, isn't it, very wonderful, and right on the point we're talking about in the rule. Very clear, very lucid, very true. And because of these considerations,


because of these, I venture to say that I believe real community is born when the experience of ourselves trying to live together in patience and love brings out in each of us nothing but what is fundamentally sweet and good, as the natural desire for the good that is in us and the anger that guards the continuity of our life, they're both necessary, are transformed in our growth and humility along the way of obedience. For I do not believe that genuine Christian community can ever be brought about by conscious planning or effort, but only by the love of God in response to our limitations and our needs, our poverty accepted in love. And this is also why after the fourth degree there has to come the fifth degree of humility, in which in relation to what we do or omit simply out of weakness or malice, we make our way known to the Lord and hope in him, as Benedict says, quoting Psalm


36. As I've just been saying, it's not enough to be aware that God knows everything about us, we must actively wish him to know it. That is the only way in which we display our wounds for healing. It was this kind of realization that came to that extraordinary Father Silouan on Mount Athos when he heard the voice that said keep your mind in hell and do not despair. As we learn this there is a progressive loss of self in its egotistical sense where the love of God slowly takes command of our total situation in its poverty and need. It means, as my dear Charles says, in the end simply the acceptance of our terrestrial condition, our earthly condition. We at last reach the earth where we are, in the very place where we come into our fullest contact with God.


And so beloved, as Bernard says in his final paragraph of the Second Ascension sermon, keep on in the discipline you've undertaken that by humility you may ascend to the heights for this is the way and there is no other beside it. Anyone who goes another way is more likely to fall than to rise, for it's only humility that lifts us up and leads to life. Even Christ, by his divine nature could not grow or go up for there is nothing beyond God, found a way of growing by going down, coming and being born, suffering and dying, lest we should die forever. And this is why God exalted him for he rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of God. Go and do likewise. That's what I did, just like that, go and do likewise. This way of talking is, I suppose, typical of Bernard's clarity


and theological boldness. We find this same clarity and boldness in paragraph 20 of his Steps of Humility, which Bernard begins, as we've already reminded ourselves, by telling us that it occurs to him it's possible to appropriate each of the three phases of our development in truth to one of the persons of the undivided Trinity, the Holy Spirit being the one to whom this second stage, for which I've been trying to speak, is appropriated. In speaking of this, Bernard quotes Romans 5, Love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which has been given us. To love is the gift of the Holy Spirit, by which it comes about that those who under the instructions of the Son, have through humility reached the first stage of truth, now reach the second through compassion for their neighbour, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the one truth that works at all these stages, in the first teaching like a master,


in the second comforting like a friend and brother. I can't think of anyone else who's been bold enough to say that of the Holy Spirit, that he's like a friend and brother. Though this comes very close to what a modern script exegete like Father Raymond Brown will find necessary to say about the term paraclete for the Holy Spirit. Look at it, if you will, in the appendices to his big commentary on the Gospel of John. He has a special thing on the paraclete, which is very, very good, and you will see how in a way, simply thinking like an exegete, he comes to much the same sort of notion as Bernard does. But all that, I think we must leave for another time. I think I'll come to it probably the day after tomorrow, or something like that. For this evening, I'd like us all to sleep on the final text from Bernard on the Cloister as a Paradise, which occurs in Sermon 42, among those on the different subjects, paragraph four. This is the last one I want to send you


to bed with. Yes, he says, the Cloister really is a paradise, a country defended by the grand part of obedience to the rule, where we find a rich abundance of precious wares. It's a glorious thing for men united by one form of life to live in one same house. Just look, one weeps for his sins, another exults in the praises of God. This one is at the service of everybody, that one forms others, one prays, another reads, one humbles himself when things are going well, another displays nobility of spirit when they're going badly, one pours himself out in the active life, another rests in the contemplative. Go round, amid the virtues of those who live together in the house of the God of virtues, get yourself this way of life, make it into a parcel you can take away with you. You who once dwelt in the region of the shadow of death


are moving now in that of truth and life. Heavenly Father, thanks be to you for your mercies to us all. You long to lead us into the light, give us the longing to be led there through Jesus Christ your Son. There is, I believe, my dear brothers and brothers, something about the celebration of the Feast of St. Joseph today which suggests those aspects of our monastic life upon which we should reflect a little. For Joseph is essentially the saint of those aspects of life of which no one normally speaks very much. There is, after all, very little to say about them, though they occupy a great deal of the time of our living. Joseph is the faithful and wise servant whose care of the household means not only that he does the work that provides his income, but does many of those new little domestic jobs that provide, that in fact keep the place serviceable and habitable.


Most of us who live in monasteries are involved in at least some of these kinds of duties, in season and out. They're among the most obvious opportunities for giving a certain shake to our love, if you'll let me go on talking that language I used yesterday evening. But in some cases, both externally and if we are not very careful, internally they can become very encroaching upon that for which we came to the monastery, and seriously threaten that balance in the life of the Holy Rule between Lectio, work, reading, work and prayer which St. Benedict so rightly desires us not to lose, at least habitually. To illustrate in its very simplest form what I am speaking of, before setting down to prepare this particular conference of Big Sur, I had after the concelebrated Mass in the morning, given my prior, my reasons for thinking we should not take a young man who was asking to work for us, taken a very brief breakfast


during which I looked over some of the passages I shall be quoting, visited the guest house to check one or two things for guests, arranged for the father who looks after our water supply to collect samples for the health authority coming that day, given an appointment to a junior monk who is under my direction, and seen the young man who helps me in the kitchen garden about concrete plants for digging and planting various patches and said to us, this is no doubt a very modest list of things by comparison with what some of you may very well have done today. Though there are of course days when even with such a modest list of duties, some of us will look back a little wistfully to our junior days when we were protected from any claims of this kind. For upon these duties there come those variations of health and temper in oneself and others which do not necessarily get less the more one is accustomed to living with them and in general wear and tear of living even in those of us with the best of health


and the body slowly getting older. I say nothing for the moment of those rather big upheavals which are not so uncommon as we think when we wonder whether we've lost our way completely which sometimes by the mercy of God we have until he finds us again or when we think we're really going out of our minds which we should mind rather less if we could only find the place of our hearts. In saying that, I'm suddenly reminded of a young religious who told me years ago that his landlady had once said to him that he hadn't a heart, he only had a swinging brick. Let no novice in his first fervor imagine that he will never at some time later in life wonder whether that's exactly his trouble. I had almost said blessed is he who does for anyone who's worried about not being really alive is manifestly not yet dead and surely has further to go. That saying is very true my brother says Bernard at the beginning


of the very first of his sermons on different subjects that life of man on earth is a testing affair. Yes, this life is deceptive and normally it's not only in one way that it deludes us to play with it in a variety of ways it changes its face it changes its voice sometimes it confirms sometimes it negates and without blushing for either. Beginning by describing the waterless and pathless desert in which the proud find themselves and the shortness of the life that faces them Bernard turns to his own brethren evidently not absolutely beginners but those who know a little more of the solid enduring difficulties of the life to which they've come. As for you my brothers, my fear for you is not that you will grieve in vain about the real shortness of life or that you will take an unreal comfort from its supposed length for I'm quite convinced that you are already on the road to the city it dwell in and that you are walking on the road


on the contrary my fear for you is that you too in another fashion for you life will give the impression of being long and for that matter not to comfort you but to make you depressed yes I'm afraid that some of you thinking you still have a long life to go through and telling yourself that you have still a good stretch to go will collapse spiritually from lack of courage and despair of the strength to endure so many and such prolonged trials I can't think why this sermon isn't quoted more often than it seems to be and I suddenly recall a Benedictine novice master who must I believe still be alive in his eighties, I haven't heard of his death anyway I'm probably assured, saying to me some years ago how extraordinary it was to watch people being broken even by the boredom of the contempt of life it's that old devil of axody of course of which the desert fathers seem often to have spoken in one form or another


in fact it's the subject of the very opening of the alphabetical collection on Anthony the Great where Anthony as the cure for his troublesome thoughts sees a man engaged in the alternating rhythm of work and prayer and is saved by adopting them as part of his solution I say part of the solution because as everyone knows, although a proper rhythm in the monastic life is an enormous psychological safeguard of spiritual sanity it doesn't simply by itself produce men of the spirit everything turns as we shall find Bernard and in fact most of the great spiritual masters say upon the attitude we take up towards the training God chooses to give us through what happens to us by the ordination of his providence he quotes St. Paul saying in the letters of the Romans the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us


what a wonderful promise with all our longing let us embrace it then we shall not be present as ordinary bodily spectators and this glory will not show itself in us from outside but in us, we shall see God face to face not outside us for he will be in us, he who will be all in all with this glory all the earth will certainly be full how much more will the soul be full of it we shall be full with the blessings of your house says the psalmist on all this Bernard is I think better than anyone else I know he has such a firm conviction of salvation as being for the whole of us and so he continues, already it is in us but then it will be revealed and he quotes the first letter of John so much beloved by all these early writers my brothers, beloved, my God


we are God's children now but it does not yet appear what we shall be my brothers, if we haven't received the spirit from this world but the spirit that comes from God we ought to know what are the gifts that God has given us I tell you all the gifts and if you don't believe me at least believe the apostle and here Bernard goes back to the letters of the Romans surely the God who did not spare his own son but delivers him up for us all will grant us every other conceivable good this is the power of the children of God that God has given to those who receive him it's given to us by him whose glory we have seen and as for this power, hear what he says of it, everything is possible for him who believes after that passage of splendid concentration Bernard launches into a dialogue


with his listeners who turn to him and say, how on earth can you say all this it's quite clear that lots of things are against us even the things that appear to be at our service are normally so unless we first look after them feeding and grooming the animals, tilling the soil that ought to be our sister and even then it produces thorns and thistles in brief the service of the things exact of us is greater than they give us it's a powerful argument of course and you can work it out for yourselves and yes says Bernard, it's true and yet the apostle doesn't lie when he explicitly affirms we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, those who according to his purpose he's called to be saints yes take care to note that the apostle does not mention that everything conforms to our good pleasure but that everything works together


for our good in practice everything is at service not of our will but of our use not of our satisfaction but of our salvation and this is true even of those things that are in themselves nothing simply privations disagreeable things illness, even death and even sin all those things which we know have no reality of themselves but are simply deprivations of reality don't worry about the philosophical background there, it's quite true all this for as Bernard continues even as far as sins are concerned do they not work together for the good of him who because of them becomes more humble, more fervent more on his guard more circumspect, more prudent this is of course again the Augustinian idea of the happy fault but it's not peculiar to the position of the west as you'll see if you look at the passage


from the letter of Macarius quoted by Dom André Louvre, a little book which has appeared in English under the title The Cistercian Alternative Bernard is certainly not alone in believing that lived through in the spirit of faith, these things produce the first fruits of the spirit the foretaste of glory the beginning of power such are the pledges of the inheritance which the Eternal Father prepares for us only when perfection comes will everything clearly go our way such will be the weight of eternal glory of which the same apostle says this slight affliction is preparing for us an internal weight of glory beyond all comparison then comes Bernard's irony, very well you go on, and go on complaining how long it is how heavy, I cannot carry such a crushing burden so long


and yet the apostle speaks of what he's borne as momentary and light, five times thirty-nine lashes, day and night in the deep, and so on and yet you've not resisted to blood now of course this is not at all to say that we should not look at what we may need to do in the way of alleviation for that would be to be contrary to the spirit of the rule and really to Bernard himself who quickly calms down after this rather fine tirade, in which naturally he's been making the point which is decisive for our fidelity to the life to which we felt called namely that we have radically to change our point of view about what happens to us and one of the ways of helping ourselves to do so is by consciously avoiding a kind of cult of suffering and above all by not piling on the agony as Bernard so sensibly says why count up the days and the years


which you know nothing the hour goes by and so does the pain they don't add up one upon another they give place to each other and succeed each other but with the glory it goes differently, there nothing is passing, nothing finishes when the Lord has given his beloved rest then their heritage will come for the moment each day has its affection and one day cannot reserve its pain for the next but the reward for all the pains will be given us on that one and unique day which will never be followed by another one day in your courts is better than a thousand then with a touching way of turning a comforting phrase from the Gospel of Matthew about many sparrows Bernard draws this rich little survey of the theology of daily life to a close by assuring us that your days no less than the hairs of your head are all counted


this is of course one of the ways of asserting the absolute fidelity of God which must naturally be the true basis of our fidelity any that we can ourselves develop over the days and over the years in that connection it is I suppose important to remind ourselves that fidelity like experience can only grow if there is more than one day it is cumulative by the passage of time it's also in this way that we teach each other and learn from each other sometimes of course without saying a word I imagine no one who has lived in a community for a very long time can fail, unless they're almost sub-human, to develop a genuine love and appreciation for those who are always there who warm us by their presence and help us by their serviceability as one whose education as you can judge stops somewhat short of the 20th century I'm always grateful for those who know how the electricity functions and who seem to have the capacity to say the right


things to those little machines that prompt to stop or break down when I approach them and I suppose this appreciation becomes a little sharper on those occasions when for some reason the corner of the veil is lifted on their lives and realize that they too sometimes feel as lost as inadequate as one feels oneself but what smooths the oil of their promptness is a self-effacing love about which they never think but of course Bernard was entirely right that a just appreciation and love for our neighbor can only grow with the growing and daily experience of ourselves relating or not relating to God in fullness and openness this is the subject of the second of the sermons on different subjects, not quite so exciting as that first one I think but I think as it develops the ideas of living here and now in the reality about us we should gather one or two thoughts from it before we conclude this morning


forgive me for constantly quoting but I'm not sure I should venture to say some of the things that seem to me need saying if they'd not been better said and more firmly by those who've been here before us Bernard begins with an idea which I've already expressed to you in my own words here he says here you don't have to worry about how to feed the children or please your wife no need to think of business transaction or even of what you will eat or what clothes you will wear so my beloved keep yourselves in peace and see who God is but in order to do this you have first to attend to what you yourself are and he quotes Augustine saying in his soliloquies that I may know you and know myself and that comes about by accepting the human situation the trouble caused by what you do and the pain of what you suffer the framework of obedience


is the setting that freezes of the troubles of egotism that otherwise ruins so many of our actions and patience will cure the wounds that come to us in so much of what we suffer but for that we need patience that is better than that of a dog says Bernard and obedience is dry and lean both need the savour and sweetening of wisdom it's the kind of wisdom whose marks are justice joy and humility for God loves a cheerful giver and it is in humble patience that according to our Lord we shall possess ourselves it's in longing for these things that we live with each other and it is in the experience of living that we become more and more aware of living in exile how should not this experience awaken in us compassion for each other there is I believe always a reason to worry about those who appear to be hardened rather than softened by the experience of life


sometimes there are people who insist on trying to do everything alone and I suddenly remember touching a surprisingly true little radio play I heard by accident more than 20 years ago it was a little play written by someone whose name I've forgotten but who evidently had a genius for writing things to be heard rather than seen what a delightful challenge this is the austere resources of radio can sometimes pose this in the way that all those pictures people look at every day don't this play was called hold my hand soldier and was simply a dialogue between a wounded private and a wounded sergeant who met in a barn after a battle I shall not try to reconstruct how the conversation went it was very subtle but slowly two different character styles began to emerge that of a sergeant who was constantly saying things like don't you worry I can manage for myself


and the private who was saying well you know I'm pretty sure I can carry you you can't make it alone and this has gone on for some 20 minutes or so and then suddenly the private laughs and says something like really I can see we are both in exactly the same situation I always have to help people even when they don't want it and you always have to stand alone even if you need help why don't we just go together this my dear brothers and sisters is surely the way to the holy spirit our friend and brother would guide us guiding us to transcend the self we have or made for ourselves and be lost in the larger perspective the pure love of the brothers which is like the love of god himself for us all a shared love we need not fear


that that shared love is wanting immaturity for as Gregory the great says in one of his homilies on the gospel we can carry the cross of our lord in two ways either when we discipline our flesh by abstinence or when by our compassion we turn our thoughts to the need of our neighbour for everyone who takes trouble in the need of someone else carries the cross in his heart as Bernard too says that Joseph carried our lord on his shoulders coming and going from Egypt something I've never heard anybody else say it's a rather lovely picture, instead of those rather tiresome statues of Joseph as an old man which he certainly wasn't I suppose er at all too smooth and pretty as a more natural thing for a father to do is carry the boy on his shoulders as Bernard says and he associates this image with the words of our lord


if anyone will follow me let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me well forgive me I think this has probably been rather muddled, perhaps we'll try to put it together later on today heavenly father we thank you for all the guidance you give us in your saints and holy ones who go before us grant us by your grace to be worthy of their company through Christ our lord