April 24th, 1981, Serial No. 00874

00:00
00:00
Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.

Serial: 
NC-00874

Keywords:

Suggested Keywords:

Description: 

Monastic Spirituality Set 3 of 12

Photos: 
Notes: 

#item-set-168

Transcript: 

This time, let's not be so philosophical and plunge right into the nitty-gritty, as they say. We can start with Roberts and just talk about what stability is, concretely, juridically, legislatively, romanly. And then afterwards, we can talk about the theology. But just to review a bit before we do that, we were talking about obedience, and then we were talking about obedience and freedom, how obedience is a function of freedom. Then we were talking about the theology of freedom, which is a very deep and interesting thing. Because somehow, when we talk about that, we always get close to the roots of our human person in some way, because that's where we're at. The question of freedom is a central question for us. And a question which hasn't been maybe present enough in the minds of religious and also

[01:06]

just present enough in the church. It tends to be an irritating question, the question of freedom, sometimes, whereas it should be an exciting question. And it shouldn't be just a matter of not wanting to rock the boat, and therefore keeping the question of freedom sort of marginal. The question of freedom is a central question for the church. It's supposed to be a function of freedom. So, no matter which of the vows we talk about, we have to consider them in some way in relation to freedom, which is one name for their goal. It's not an adequate name. It doesn't say everything about it, but it's one name. That realization which we're talking about, which we can call love, too, starting from the other side. We'll call it perfection, we'll call it union with Christ, we'll call it the new creation, the new man, the kingdom of heaven, whatever you want to call it. Okay, so we were talking about the theology of freedom, looking largely at honor. And then we talked about freedom and commitment, and how the two are in a kind of dialectic. Whereas, at the very outset, on the surface, they may seem to be opposed, so that if you

[02:10]

want to be free, you can't be committed. However, that's just a paradox of existence, and it turns out that if you want to be free in any real sense, then you have to be committed, simply because of the way that reality is, excuse me, and the way that we are. The way that we are, as Rahner says, that our freedom is constituted by being able to bring eternity into our lives. There is a kind of absoluteness in our makeup, an absoluteness in what is available to us. That means that we're able to make an absolute commitment, too. In other words, we're able to do something which is absolute. And therefore, we're able to commit ourselves, and therefore, commitment, rather than being a mistake which, in some way, nails down our person and keeps it from being free, turns out to be the root, in a certain way, of the full expression of our freedom. And this thing is a real mystery. It's not just a paradox, but it's a mystery, and it's worthwhile meditating about this

[03:14]

relationship between freedom and commitment, and the way that the... We'll call it the eternal, as Rahner does, or call it the absolute, or whatever you want to call it. The way it comes into our life through commitment, precisely. Now, the most obvious way in which that's true is by the commitment of conversion. When a person has been living on a kind of superficial level, he has some kind of experience of God that, for him, opens up another world, opens up the world of the absolute. And at that point, he wants to make an absolute commitment. I think anybody that's experienced the touch of God in that way and has experienced a conversion feels the need, in some way, to say once and for all, you know, God, I belong to you. I don't want anything else but you. He wants to say something absolute. And it's a matter of love, too. It's like somebody who is in love, and he wants to say, you know, I love you forever. I mean, this is it. This is it. He wants to make a total expression, an absolute expression. He wants to make a total commitment. And this is right in us. And when something touches us deeply, that's what we want to do.

[04:15]

Especially when that something is something absolutely transcendent, which is greater than anything else that we've experienced up to that moment, and also expresses in it a kind of sovereignty with respect to ourselves. The experience of God is such that you not only know that it's greater than anything you expected, but somehow it floats you. Somehow it is the ground of your own being, and you know it. You experience God as the one that you come from. St. Augustine talks about that sometimes, as the one who made you and who is above you. In his confessions, he talks about that kind of thing. In other words, the experience of God is such as to elicit from you the desire to make some kind of absolute commitment. And the person who commits himself to the monastic life, to the religious life, is trying to do just that. He's trying to nail it down in as solid a way as he can. Explicitly. Because we need, we want some external way of doing it. It's not enough just to say, I commit myself to you, I give myself to you. We need some external way. Otherwise, we can't protect it, and we don't know how to do it afterwards. We haven't got any program otherwise.

[05:16]

It's as if the particular program at that moment doesn't make so much difference, but the desire to have a line, a road, a way, and to commit ourselves to that road, absolutely. That's the thing that makes us want to do that. That's what's operating in us. So then this question of stability comes out of that. But of course, it's not just out of our own experience. Then we have to ask ourselves, how does God work? How does he operate? If you look at it scripturally, of course, in the Old Testament you find the covenant, which is his commitment to the Jews, to Israel, which calls for, on their part, a similar commitment, which is an irrevocable commitment. He never lets go, and he doesn't want them ever to let go. And every time that they do, of course, he starts hammering away at them through the prophets, through his word. And this whole business of commitment and stability has a lot to do with the word, you know, the word of God. The word of God somehow is his fidelity. It represents his commitment. The word of God, you know, the word of God stands forever,

[06:17]

and the word of the Lord stands forever, and all flesh is like grass. You're reborn in that word that stands forever. So you're reborn in this eternal thing, this thing that's as solid as a rock, the word which is God's fidelity. When he talks about fidelity and mercy, he talks about word and spirit, he talks about male and female. Fidelity, mercy, word, and spirit. His mercy endures forever. His mercy is faithful. That dimension comes out in the word. That dimension is his commitment, his irrevocable commitment. He will never abandon his people. And calls for something on their part. And that's what, of course, happens in the New Covenant with Jesus, when he gives himself in his New Covenant. Remember, the New Covenant is in his blood. This is the cup of my blood, a new and eternal covenant. That's a commitment that never goes back. And what a person is trying to do in the monastic life, of course,

[07:19]

is commit himself in an equally absolute way, as a response to that commitment. And the monastic life is one way of doing it. But then we get the whole question of, well, what does stability mean concretely? We'll get into that when we get into Robert's. Some references. I don't know if I gave you any of those, Tom. There's Robert's chapter 6, obviously. The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 58, which is on the reception of novices. Also chapter 1, with reference to Cenobites and Hermits. Remember, chapter 58 is the one on the novices, I believe. Chapter 1 is the one where he talks about the novice. The hermit is one who goes out after a lot of experience in the Cenobites. So there he provides for a possible movement from cenobitic life into the hermitage. However, you'll find at the end of the prologue that he says that the monk is to persevere in the monastery until death.

[08:19]

So that's the ordinary understanding. And the hermetical thing is an exception. There's a little... the inconsistency is not cleared up in the book. We must try to figure it out for ourselves. And there's this book by Fr. Hoy. Can Anyone Say Forever? Which is very good on the experiential question of commitment. And simply settling the question, well, under what conditions can a person make a change? How do you understand that change? What are the conditions for making a change from one way of life, one commitment, pulling out of one commitment and making another one? We'll get into that later on. In this anthology of Merton sayings by Fr. Jacob, there's a little section on stability, nothing very startling. Merton doesn't pay nearly as much attention to that nor go nearly as deeply as he does with obedience. A lot of the things that we might want to talk about

[09:22]

in connection with stability, he talks about them, at least Fr. Jacob here has classified them under obedience. That is, that whole spiritual battle when you are locked into some kind of a structure. You can look at that either on the side of obedience or the side of stability. Okay, let's take a look at Roberts. Immediately we'll get down to concrete things. It's on page 98. Stability is the first thing St. Benedict mentions. He's often given credit for having originally but according to Roberts, he didn't really originate. It was always in monastic tradition but in a different form years ago. The merit of St. Benedict consists in underlining

[10:25]

the importance of stability in the very ceremony of profession, relating it with the community life. The basic obligation of our promise of stability is simple. By the vow of stability, the monk commits himself to live in the community of his profession all his life unto death. So he lays it out there right away what that means. Ordinarily, and then from that you go on to the exceptions, the modifications, and so on. Let's look at the commandolese legislation in this subject just to have it as background as we go on to the details. You'll find it in Scheme 2 of the Constitutions. Numbers 10 through 17 on pages 5 and 6. I'll read a little of it. The basic article is this one in number 10. Stability, acquired with simple profession, besides creating a particular bond with the community, binds the monk to the permanent exercise of the monastic life.

[11:25]

Now if you think that over a little bit, you'll have problems. Because if this is made with a simple profession, how can it bind the monk to the permanent exercise of the monastic life since simple vows are, by their very nature, limited at the start to three years. And as a matter of fact, this article has a history and it results from the change of weight gradually which happened with the vows. Let's see how did that work. You know, before the thing was that... See, the importance was on simple profession before and solemn profession was just a ratification of it, OK? And then they changed the center of gravity in the new Constitutions so that the emphasis is put upon solemn profession as being the single monastic profession, at least according to the Constitutions. But they didn't change the point where stability is made, you see. And so you've got that inconsistency there that you're making a vow which in some way

[12:28]

implies permanency in the monastic life and yet is made with a temporary... with a limit in a temporary vow. Now, it's unsatisfactory, but... So you have to take that permanent exercise of monastic life in a broad sense. What it's trying to do is point out the two dimensions of this notion of stability. First of all, it relates you to a given community, a given concrete community in a given house. And then secondly, it's a commitment to the monastic life in general, OK? To the monastic way of life, conversatio morum, whatever you want to call it. So those are two different dimensions, and it's really trying to express that with that clumsiness of tying the second one to a temporary commitment. Is it possible that as it stands now, that can be changed later? Yes. Oh yeah, it would be better to put it in some way, at least the expression. Because it does still have those two dimensions, even if it's got a limit to it,

[13:28]

say of three years, it's still a commitment to the style of life as well as an attachment to the community, OK? And in some way, it indicates an intention of persevering permanently in the monastic life, even though it's subject to future revision, juridically. And that's the fact about the simple profession, because the simple profession still... Normally when a person makes it, he intends it to be permanent. And it's only if it turns out that there was some reason why that commitment really wasn't valid, that God didn't want it, for instance, you know, afterwards, if that becomes fairly evident, well then, then the commitment is almost like an annulment instead of a divorce, you know. That it really wasn't there because God didn't want it in some sense. If God wasn't on the other side of it confirming it, it's that kind of thing in a way. But that notion of committing oneself fully is necessary, actually, even to simple vows, even to temporary vows. It can't be just sort of a timid gesture

[14:31]

towards a monastic life. They have to be pretty serious. And we even get to that question, we talked about it before, as to whether you can make a temporary vow. Because, you know, if you go deeply enough into the theology of the profession, of the vow, what you're trying to do is make a total commitment of yourself. Remember that conundrum, that koan. Can you make a total commitment of yourself for a limited time? Say, Lord, I give myself totally to you. I'm yours for three years. You know, can you do that? I don't know. And then psychologically, you know, how does it work out? Is there a conflict? There's certainly a little vagueness, a little inconsistency there. So it's a question of a person really giving himself to God as fully as he can, committing himself as fully and as permanently as he can, and then realizing that his understanding of God's call to him, his understanding of his vocation, is still not perfect. He's still subject to revision later on. But this varies very much with the individual,

[15:35]

depending on how strong a vocation he's got, how strong a sense of vocation he's got, and how deep an understanding of what he's really called to. And some people, there'll be no question at all. They sail right through. And another person, he may really be questionable. And so he might leave, if you will. And quite rightly so. So it's not so simple. And then this covers the concrete, the particular cases of a transfer. And number 11 is a lyrical one about the transfer to the Aramidical Life, from the monastery to the home church. And that one's encouraged in the Constitution, but it's a little different in the concrete case. Of course, over at Kamaldi, the situation... Now that's the place where you have a hermitage and a monastery together. The situation is different over there, you see, because those two communities are one community.

[16:39]

And so it's not hard at all to move from one to the other, at least for a temporary time. To do it permanently is something else. It's much simpler where you've got hermitage and monastery in the same community. And why shouldn't it be natural, normal for one of the cenobites, one of the monks, to go up and spend some time in the monastery? But to make a real transfer, that's another thing. Of course, it would always be up to the general in this case. It would be different, say, for a monk of Fonda Evolana. He'd have to transfer to another house, to Montejove or somewhere, or to the hermitage of Kamaldi, so it would be a little more complex. But it would be a long while before anything like that was finalized, before it became a permanent transfer. There's no reason to hurry anything like that. Number 12 is the case in which a monk wants to request a transfer, spiritual or physical motive, temporary transfer. And probably a general, you notice,

[17:42]

is only notified here. It's worked out between the two communities. You just inform the general. You can appeal that, but that's not going to happen too quickly. Then number 13 is the case where the thing originates with the general. Say he wants somebody to do a job in another community. And so it has to be, however, first of all, the monk has to agree. It's presumed in this article. He has to be willing to move to the other community. And this is temporary, and then it requires consultation of both communities, of course. Number 14 is the more unusual case where the prior general wants to transfer somebody against his will. And as you can imagine, it's going to be a little disagreeable probably also for the community where he goes. This guy is a real lemon.

[18:43]

Even against his will. It doesn't say in chains. I don't know. They work that out informally, pastorally. Whether to put him in a straight track or what. Number 15 is the case where this never happens. And then making a temporary transfer permanent, number 15. And then 16 and 17 are about rights and so on of the transferred monk. Then there's the whole question of transfer from another community, from another order and so on. And it's not very adequately covered in the Constitution, you'll find. That would be in Scheme 10. It's not adequately covered. The only case they cover, I think, is transfer of a benedictine. And the other just goes in their order according to the ordinary canon law, the church law. They don't have anything either for a person leaving the order,

[19:47]

the congregation. That just goes according to canon law, too. Any questions about those things before we close for now? You should be familiar with them, just so you know. Okay. He talks first about the commitment, the juridical things, and then he talks about the spirit of stability. The promise of stability is specifically monastic. And you notice that the monasteries are different from the other religious communities in this sense, that there's much more attention given to the local community. The local community is much more autonomous and people tend to commit themselves to it and to remain there for their life. This is not so true in the other religious orders, which tend to be more centralized, and where a bigger factor is the work, the function. And therefore, a religious will move or be moved from one community to another

[20:50]

for practical reasons. But you see, this is related to the difference between the scopes of the two types of life. In another religious order, the work function, the apostolate, is very important. And often even the, what would you call it, the spiritual scope for the religious himself can take second place. But that is not supposed to be so in the monastic world. Sometimes it may happen, especially when a monastery is very involved in works. But the monasteries are pretty autonomous. And you know the structure of the Benedictines. You've got the individual monasteries, then you've got the congregations like ours, and then you've got the confederation. The confederation has virtually no power. It has no grip on the individual monasteries, nor on the congregations. It's a, what would you call it, a persuasive power that the abbot, he's the head of the confederation, has over the... It's not power, it's a persuasive role

[21:50]

and a moderating role that he has rather than a governing one. And even the individual congregations are not centralized. It's the monasteries that have the most consistency to them. And the congregations are sort of a secondary level of structure. Now that didn't used to be true of us. You see, we were centralized before. The Monte Corona commodities still are, so that a person can be moved from one monastery to another, even permanently. They can't be done among us anymore, as you see from those constitution documents we just quoted. So we're much more in the Benedictine pattern now. The Benedictine pattern is a tradition of autonomous monasteries. Of course, in Italy there were, in Europe there were hundreds and hundreds of them at certain times. And then the congregation thing came up later on. I guess the first ones were like Cune, were about the 9th century, and then the Cistercians. And then the other monastic congregations came along much later,

[22:51]

during the Counter-Reformation, 16th century, in an attempt to reform the scattered monasteries, or to put them under one very fervent monastery, as with Santa Giustina in Italy. OK, different interpretations. This is kind of important. The first one is stability in the cell. These are different levels of understanding of the term stability. Stability in the cell means you stay put in your cell. That's it, very simple. And it's an ascetic practice, and you find it recommended time and again by the Fathers. You never find them recommending the opposite. And I suppose there may have been some pruning in the tradition, before it gets into the books, into the epitaph. But you never find them telling somebody to go take a walk, or why don't you go to town for the day. I haven't run across it yet. Stability under an abbot.

[23:52]

Now this is different, and this depends upon a certain structure. He says under an abbot, but it also means to a congregation, like the congregation of Cunei, and I suppose the Pacomian thing might have been of the same kind, because Pacomius had several monasteries under him. A whole bunch of monks. You get the difference there. Stability on the pillar. That's meant with, that's typical Trappist, graveside humor. That's to remain in one monastery all the time. You never leave. That's obviously, there's some kind of a hang-up. That's not a commitment, that's a hang-up. If a person refuses to go outside the door. And then there are historical precedents for that. And there we cannot judge, we cannot say that they weren't inspired by the Holy Spirit.

[24:55]

The fact that those men that stood on the pillars were saints, and they really were, some of them at least, means that we have to respect that. And that the Holy Spirit simply calls people to do different things at different times, and especially in terms of visible witness. If you want somebody up on a 30-foot pole at one time, then put him there. Who are we to say no? Stability of a traveler. Romuald isn't here today. Even here one is a member of a determined community for life, but he's never there. I hadn't heard about that. Stability in the community. Okay, now finally here's what he's pointing to. So you commit yourself to a community, you don't change except for a special reason. And he goes into these individual reasons before. Benedictine stability.

[25:55]

Live within the community until death. That note of grimness is fine, it's too much of a cheer. Stability. Binds us to the community, not necessarily to the place, much less to the person of the abbot. The meaning being that what you're doing is uniting yourself to a group of people. You're uniting yourself to the most real thing there, the most important thing there, which is giving birth to people. And here, of course, you get hooked into ecclesiology, don't you? Because that's what we do in Christianity, is we unite ourselves with a group of people. By baptism we join ourselves to a church, not only to the universal church and a local church at the same time. And when you join yourself to a monastic community, you're joining yourself to a certain kind of local church in a way. So that's the theological ground for that, it seems to me. The place itself is of no importance, except insofar as it's got a certain ascetical importance as this thing of the cell before.

[26:57]

In helping you to develop, and we'll get into that later on, in the business of how consistency and stability and sort of having a limit, having a boundary line, helps you to grow. Chapter 58, the ceremony itself of profession. And then, of course, the end of the prologue. Persevering in his teaching in the monastery until death, shared by patients in the sufferings of Christ. You get a notion of part of the meaning of stability there, is to be able to engage in a certain struggle, the death and the resurrection. And then, of course, chapter 4, stability in the community. He gets into some sort of intellectual distinctions here. Withdrawal from society and conversion of life and so on,

[27:59]

versus membership in a group of persons. Stability is something personal. It is interpersonal commanion. Or to put it better, it is perseverance in this commanion. Now here you get the connection, the analogy, once again, between monastic life and monastic community. Monastic profession and marriage, and perhaps that's pretty deep in understanding this whole business of stability. Because the vow of marriage is certainly, predominantly a vow of stability. You talk about poverty, chastity is something else, poverty, obedience, conversion of life, those sorts of things. Stability is the prime thing. And that's where the problem arises, of course, with the marriage bond, in most cases. And we have to ask ourselves why, and we have to ask ourselves what that why has to do with the why of stability in the monastic life. And we're talking about interpersonal things, we're talking about an interpersonal covenant with God, which is sort of realized sacramentally in a covenant with another person, a covenant with a community, which is a monastic community.

[29:00]

And it's not just a juridical abstract thing out there somewhere, but it means that you're going to have living relationships with these persons, which in some way sacramentalize your relationship with God. And that you have to be committed to these relationships, otherwise in some way they won't be valid, otherwise in some way they won't be sufficiently, I don't know, they won't have the consistency that will enable that to happen, which has to happen in you and in the others. You're talking about the relation between conversion of life and stability, I don't know that's very fruitful to you. It's good to see that all those things are related, but the details are not that essential. Infidelities to the promise, exteriorly by running away, interiorly by fantasizing about greener pastures, or hoodwinking the superiors, getting an indulge of exclustration,

[30:03]

making up one's mind too for frivolous reasons. Indirectly, by threatening desertion in order to gain a special permission from the superiors. The way this goes is that either I get this or I'm leaving. I'm going, I can't stand it anymore. That's it. And if the superior says, go on, here's your bus fare, that's considered to be pastorally inadequate. They never say, I'm deserted. Do you get bullied like that very much? Not very much. Those are all gone already, those guys. Special cases when you can leave one community and enter another. We won't go into these in detail.

[31:08]

Our constitutions don't treat them, it doesn't treat the foundation thing, for instance, it's taken for granted. We haven't had that at all, many foundations anyway, you know, our congregation, whereas the Trappists have had a lot of them. They have, what, about eight or nine of them, I think, in the last fifty years in the States, so that's a more lively issue. It's obvious that when your community makes a foundation, to go along from that foundation to start a new community, if it's not doing it on your own hook, if it's not your idea and your project, your thing, is not a violation of that obstacle. Now, some might feel that it was, and therefore you might prefer to remain home, okay. But what he says is that it's... Being a member of the group that goes on the foundation, far from going contrary to the vow of stability, fulfills it and transcends it. Well, it's not, it doesn't violate it, but to say that it fulfills it and transcends it is maybe... It fulfills it.

[32:12]

Didn't Augustine always leave the foundation? I don't know. He must have, because he was a monk, where? Edward Spencer, since 1962, he's been a member of the Trappist community here in Oslo. It doesn't explain why. Maybe he has a preference. A preference for making foundations. Either that, or he had a problem with the other. He didn't want it just to fulfill, he wanted it to transcend it. Yeah, to transcend it. It sounds marvelous, but after all, you can't transcend everything. Then he talks about the other possibilities there. He used to escape from a difficult or burdensome situation once on Communion. Problem of obedience. For down below, superiors should resist the temptation to rid themselves of such and such a brother or sister by sending them to a foundation. Don't laugh.

[33:15]

That sounds comic, but that's what very often happens. I mean, things work themselves out in that fashion. Well, gee, it would be nice if he went along. This is providential. Yeah, a transfer application. It's good to... to write to the where from, to the place they're coming from. Yeah, it's too easy to do that sort of thing. And it's awful in a way, because it prejudices the beginning of the foundation, you see. The people are starting off coming out of a situation they couldn't face, getting away from a problem, instead of really trying to respond to the grace of God. It's almost an opposite situation. You see what I mean? So you start out with negativity, you start out with a downward movement instead of an upward one. Instead of a response to the Holy Spirit,

[34:18]

it can be a flight from the Holy Spirit, asking a person to work out his life, his salvation, within that setting. So it can be pretty weird. Which is not to say that there won't be a mixture of elements in any situation. It's a person who sees certain advantages in the new opportunity, certain freedom or something, but he can't react in basically and primarily to some problem in his community. And often it's fairly easy to see whether that's true. It's fairly easy to see the motivations. Which isn't to say that nothing ever does happen providentially in that way. Excuse me. That a situation doesn't open up in the foundation of a new community which provides a release for some bad adjustments or things in the existing community. That can happen. But what's inside the individual?

[35:19]

That's the question. What's inside the individual? Because a foundation should start with a certain, what would you call it, a certain fervor of spirit and a certain selflessness also. It's a matter of reacting to one's own pinched situation. If it's a self-centered motivation that's at the root of the thing. And of course, usually the person doesn't see it himself. He tends to see it as being a spiritual impulse. Escape with light. It gives the conditions there. In general, it's better not to offer our services until we are clearly asked for. Obedience. You can be sent to another monk. This is Cistercian stuff, you have to realize. This is their setup, but it's more or less general too. If you have any questions about the differences, just let me know. In general, what he's saying here

[36:20]

is applicable to any monks, to us as well. The most common case under this obedience thing would be sent out for studies, of course. And normally this doesn't happen without somebody's consent. I don't know of any cases where it happens. Health. Short stays, which are obviously necessary, are no problem. Permanent change, something else. If a really significant improvement in health is to be hoped for, then it can be justified. But it's easy to deceive oneself about this. Greater spiritual good. This is the more tricky one. You see, this is the one where you don't have something objective there at the root of the motivation,

[37:21]

but it's a spiritual... therefore it's harder to discern. Spiritual health. And he's, of course, very much on the cautious side here. And one has to be on the cautious side because it's too easy to see the green grass on the other side of the fence. Especially when the going gets tough. And one may be, as a matter of fact, on the threshold of some kind of breakthrough in one's own life, if you can just fight through the tension and some other difficulty. And it's at that point that a person can be tempted to bust out and try something else, release the pressure. Stability itself is an immense good. It's hard to appreciate that, because stability, in a sense, is nothing. It doesn't have any shape, it doesn't have any weight. Stability is a condition under which something else happens. And so it's hard to measure the goodness, the effect of stability itself. Except when you look at a big oak tree or something like that.

[38:22]

Some kind of a parable, some kind of an image. Therefore, the vow of stability implies, of itself, renouncing the thought of seeking a greater good, even a greater spiritual good, in another community. When is it advisable to change stability for a greater spiritual good? He keeps emphasizing that we should be on that before song for pleasure. The conditions, not to be a sudden whim, has to be tested. He who desires to change should be a mature man of firm character, if there are any such. Not a question of self-will. In other words, a person can't be just absolutely resolute about it, come hell or high water, he's going to change. Because that indicates that his motive is not supernatural. Not an escape. One who questions his monastic vocation seldom saves it by changing to another community. Obviously, he's got some experience

[39:23]

behind that. See, if the whole monastic vocation is in question, then, probably, it's not a question of one situation or another, is it? I mean, that's more or less logical. If a person is challenging the whole thing. On the other hand, he might conceivably be in a situation where the monastic vocation in him simply is stifled from being able to grow, to express itself, to expand and, therefore, to be experienced. That's possible. To transfer to another order. He makes a distinction from an active order to a contemplative order. That's conceivable, possible. But it's another thing to transfer from one contemplative order to another. That's what Thomas Merton wanted to do, of course. And that's hard to get approved. I don't know what the record is now.

[40:24]

It's what it used to be. Paramedical life within a cenobitic order. Mary's talking about the Trappists. For us, of course, it's a different thing. Because we saw that article in the Constitution where it's even encouraged, right? It has to be discerned what the movement is to be favored by the superiors. Whereas among the Trappists, it's an entirely different thing. The vocation is presumed to be a cenobitical one. So the aramedical vocation is much more of an exception. Nevertheless, there is a possibility now. Transfer to the active apostolate or the lay state seems to be very rarely put into the right formula. And if it is, then it indicates most probably that there wasn't a monastic vocation in the beginning. These things are rather hard to... These questions are rather hard to answer except on the basis of experience. I don't have enough experience to answer them. In a small congregation

[41:29]

like ours, a small community, they're not likely to have that broad of experiences in light of the Trappists. But they can really have kind of a statistical... They've shrunk a lot of statistics now after all the people that came in after the war and all the people that left. Okay, now the why, the deeper dimensions of this. Why do we make the promise of stability? Does it not seem to be against the spirit of detachment in favor of a life of comfort? What does he mean there? That you get attached to one place, in other words, right? And get attached to your surroundings, to your buildings, to your cell or whatever. How is this compatible with the need for constant psychological growth and human development? Is it really healthy and sufficient to remain in the monastery until death? Now all these things are arguable, you know. You can never prove any of those things, really. There's a certain amount of evidence, but in the end, it's a question really of the faith that is in one

[42:32]

and the degree to which the Holy Spirit illumines one particular path for them, I think. Because spiritual good is a hard thing to evaluate in yourself or in anybody else. Desert Fathers. There were some pilgrim monks, Bessarion. There was Patnoutsios, the buffalo, too. Nobody knows where he was. Remain in your cell and your cell will teach you everything. This is the standard, this is the central tradition, the main line of the tradition. Just as a tree cannot bear fruit when it's transplanted frequently, likewise a monk cannot bear fruit if he often changes his dwelling. This image of the tree, of the plant, is going to come back again and again and again, and so we're going to have to consider it more deeply later on. But it seems that that image is one of the most adequate ones for a human person and for a monk

[43:32]

who is rooted somehow in two ways. He's rooted in God and he's rooted in... has to be rooted in this world in a certain way. It's not enough simply to be rooted in God without being rooted in this world in a particular way. Just as St. John says, well, how can you love God if you don't love your brother? So he could say, well, how can you be committed to God unless you express that commitment by some kind of commitment in this world? So that's what we're talking about when we talk about stability. And then everything that involves, when you commit yourself, it's like being planted, like being rooted, you begin to interact, you begin to... you send your roots out and you're nourished and presumably you produce fruit and you nourish your environment. So there's that whole interaction thing. And the difference between that happening in one place, being rooted in one place, and then trying to do the same thing as it were on the move, do the same thing in a mobile way, continually changing the context. I know that some people have at least a relative vocation to do that latter thing. But the monastic life, the tradition, depends upon our belief

[44:34]

in rootedness, our belief in the fruitfulness of rootedness, okay? Something maybe that's worthwhile debating. We don't have that much experience on the other side because we haven't had a tradition of wandering monks. Not in the past, you know, nine centuries or so. St. Romuald Corral, the ones of his time, put them in hermitages. When a man dwells in a place and produces no fruit, and that the place itself casts him out as one who has not borne fruit, there you have the other side of the thing. That instability there is a product of fruitlessness, a product of sterility, and of, as it were, the place itself casting out the person who bears no fruit. What's a way to paraphrase that? That if you don't respond to your environment, then you're going to move, okay?

[45:35]

If you don't respond to the place in which you are, if you don't, in some way, commit yourself to it in the right way, then you'll be ejected from it. You won't just leave it. It's not as if you were just making up your mind. It's as if the place throws you out. But you see the connection between instability and lack of response to what's there. And this whole business of not being able to relate to what's in front of us and therefore seeking something else. And the whole business of, instead of moving into depth, moving along the surface. You see, it's changing one kind of movement for another. The plurality, the multiplicity of the change of moving across the surface as a substitute for and an escape from the change that consists in moving into depth and therefore requires building up a pressure. There's no pressure on the surface, but to get into depth you have to build up this pressure. You begin to feel the weight and tension. And to escape that, we get back into the rat race. What Martin talks about

[46:41]

as diversion, following Pascal, compares Zen sitting. The clerk somewhere wrote an essay on the Latin word sedere. And I think he connected it with Zen too. His business of rootedness of location of sitting, whether prayer, meditation, or notion of state in one person. Remedy is not in going to another place, but in opening himself to truth, love, and self-sacrifice in the place where he is. The basic fact is that there's a close bond between fruitfulness and stability. That's something I need to think about. I see there's something deep there. Produce the fruit into that soil, into that place. And if there isn't that interaction, then there isn't life really. There's something that looks like life, but isn't life. Somehow, life, real life, only takes place in that kind of flow of life, doesn't it? The flow of life.

[47:42]

Now, there can be an illusory flow of life along the surface, like a movie, you know? Like a movie where there's this surface that changes in front of you, but nothing changes in you, you know? You're all drawn out and you move with everything like a TV screen, but nothing happens in you, really. And you go away or you turn the knob and watch another movie. That kind of life. And then there's the kind of life which really operates in you, in which you really have to participate. There's a kind of life cycle where something takes place. You're nourished, you assimilate, you process, somehow you feed back into your environment. Crude as that sounds, that agricultural image, the same thing happens in us in some way in our life. And in order to do that, we have to have consistency. We have to espouse that environment, that soil in some way. We have to be committed to it. Something is not easy to get into words. The plants and the work place experiences everything with the sun and the rain. Exactly. And if you don't,

[48:44]

if you just experience the sun and then you move on to Florida or something where there's sun again and you don't experience any rain, then somehow it doesn't work. It's that thing. You can't somehow get over that, get through that knowledge of the good and evil, that poison, unless you go through the rain and the sun. Similarly to that thing that Jesus talks about in the Sermon on the Mount. This is a gospel too, that idea that just as your father sends his rain and his sun on the good and the bad, so you bear with the good and the bad, which means bearing with the rain and the sun and bearing with the good and the bad, the ones who love you and the ones who don't love you. So, to do that, you have to hang in. You have to remain stable. You have to commit yourself to that relationship and commit yourself somehow to the whole deal, the whole thing, the weather, the human weather really, the human weather of living with a community and the individuals that are in it,

[49:44]

good or bad, friendly, unfriendly, when they smile at you and when they don't smile at you, the whole thing. Now, the comparison in married life is fairly obvious, isn't it? It's the good times and the bad times. I mean, anywhere you read about marriage experience, you find that kind of thing. The honeymoon phase and the phase of romance and infatuation and tenderness and then when everything dries up and then the discovery of a deeper love later on. Now, you can't have that happen in you unless you commit yourself. Because what happens if you pull out and try it somewhere else? I'm talking about the married thing or the domestic thing. Then you start the cycle over again. You've got to go back to the beginning and start over again. So you repeat those initial phases but you never get into the ultimate phases. You never go through the whole cycle. But you keep yourself occupied with the initial phases of the cycle. Does that make sense? That's the theory anyway. The trouble with all these things is we think them out but then you really have to compare them once again with experience

[50:45]

and see whether it works for you and see whether it's really valid in the people that you know and so on. It's not good enough to make theories. I've heard in the movies that there won't be enough services seeming like things are going well but it's not going so well. I haven't experienced there being enough spiritual support. Yep. Going from one discipline to another. Not following anything really. There's another thing here that the only way to get beyond your own experience and your own lights is by committing yourself to something beyond yourself. In other words, you've got to have an anchor that's beyond your own mind. And beyond your own will. And beyond your own feelings. Because there'll be days when you feel good and days when you feel bad. That's what Ephraim was talking about. This is sort of the interior of whether you want the rain and the sunshine and your own heart. And if you guide yourself by those changes and by those feelings nothing's going to happen somehow because I don't know you can't go through the process. You just go around

[51:47]

in a circle. You go around you follow the you're like a person that went around the earth to keep the sun going all the time and just keep going. It won't work that way. It seems like you were looking in the music class we were talking about there was a movement from the spirit of prayer down just like roots go down. Yeah. Yes. This is somehow a quality this would relate to your stability in an external way too. And for them of course they take the importance off the external and the interior as completely. So one first step is to say well it doesn't matter where I am I can do the same thing I can do the same thing but in some way I have to be committed to a given place because it's almost as if when they talk about the life of Hezekiah they talk about the life of choir they talk about the cell the cell the external cell becomes a symbol for the interior place

[52:47]

where this is going to happen. And by stability in that exterior place somehow you put yourself in the right setting for that movement into the interior. Stability in the exterior signifies stability in that interior process that interior struggle or that interiorization itself. Exterior cell interior cell which is the heart. And somehow if you change that exterior situation that symbol symbolic exterior thing you interrupt the process which is going on inside. But for them the place can be rather indifferent except that they've got to stay in the same place. The cell fixity in the cell is sort of the crucible in which this thing takes place. In other words taking the importance of external change and putting it totally on internal change and therefore sort of sealing stabilizing the external. This is very common in monastic tradition when the notion

[53:47]

of the cell and the recluses are to be sealed up and I think this can be overdramatic but nevertheless it's a good symbol of what we're talking about. And the anchorites and anchorisms will work well there. Isn't there something else just to the uprooting like we uproot ourselves to come? That's right. It seems like there's something in the air. Yep. Well there are different phases for instance that if you're in the world like you've got to uproot yourself in order to pull out and get into God's world you've got to get into his process in some way. I repeat that. You do. The question is how? OK? Because your life is supposed to be a continual exodus a continual pulling out a continual transcending a continual movement journey OK? The desert life. But the question is how do you do that best? Do you do it best by a continual

[54:48]

external movement or by uprooting yourself and concentrating on the interior journey? That's the question. That's the question you have to face. I don't pretend to give an answer right away but of course Robert Schusskopf this Catholic saint said the monastic tradition tends to favor the way of rootedness and then giving your attention to the interior journey the interior exodus and struggle. However, you do find like in the East you've got these wandering monks and the fools for Christ and so on who as a matter of fact they weren't always called monks some of those people are not called monks at all they're outside of the monastic tradition and that's they don't even lay claim to that status at least according to this woman living there they're outside of every category we're very tricky with ourselves too if we leave room for ourselves to choose then we can deceive ourselves it seems at some point you have to have faith in us I like to

[55:48]

have faith which means externally what does it mean? I like to have faith well it means putting yourself in a conflict situation where at some point you're not going to have a choice if we go in the direction of unlimited choice all the time somehow it's hard to put your finger on it exactly what if nothing happens or if we can simply go as we wish there may be certain people who really have a charism for spiritual development on the road that kind of thing but for most people they get scattered and I think their development cuts off at a certain point and human nature is very difficult to get beyond to get beyond your avoidance thing when you meet up with something disagreeable and to be objective about yourself there's no exterior god there's a bunch of factors but that thing about see the conversion thing implies somehow that we've gotten sick of our own lights we've gotten sick of our own motivation and we're very

[56:48]

skeptical about it and this ties into the obedience thing in that question St. Benedict says well you get tired of your own world you dislike your own world so you put yourself under a habit under a rule in order to have an anchor outside of yourself by which to as it were test yourself against which to work and here we get to that other question of the limit and this has to do with the rule the obedience and so many other things we need some kind of a thing to push against we need something to work against a limit a law a rule obedience an habit we have to in some way drive a post into the ground and locate ourselves by means of that and symbolically in some way express our what do we say our spiritual struggle by means of that I don't know how to put that anymore clearly but it comes up concretely in a whole bunch of ways it's as if man has to sort of

[57:49]

accept his human condition by accepting some kind of limit in his life which in a way is a symbol of death it's a symbol of every limit that we have and then he works against that and by working against that he finds his freedom now this is typical in work you put yourself into a work situation and the thing may seem overwhelming at a certain point like a person who has a family in the world but it's by working against all those limits and he's surrounded by limits he's questioned by limits by working against those limits he discovers his freedom and his fruitfulness it's the same in the monastic life we need a kind of an enclosure in a sense in order to be able to dig for that freedom which has to come up into us in order to be able to emerge into the level of the spirit is there a statement about that kind of being limited to the cross exactly the cross is the

[58:49]

ultimate symbol of that because Jesus has got his feet nailed and his hands nailed and he's completely immobilized there right and people like Cassian will use that for the example of monastic life but we have to remember that every moment we're not crucified that there is a certain freedom that we don't want to we don't want to to absolutize or we can also to romanticize our monastic life otherwise we get ourselves into a real pickle in other words if we say well I have to be completely deprived of freedom at every moment we're going to get ourselves in a jam you get compulsive about things we're supposed to have freedom and it's as if we have to respond to God's action respond to God's action and when he asks our freedom from us then we have to yield it until we're supposed to have it the image of the cross is an ultimate

[59:50]

symbol and one that we should as it were bear with us at every moment but one which is not going to be fully realized in us every moment Jesus doesn't say be crucified and follow me he says take up your cross and follow me right? to take up your cross and follow him is to accept that cross accept that ultimate point of renunciation contradiction of living whatever it is accept your death and carry it along with you even if you're not there at every moment you can't be we're not ready for it because that's death the cross there's something of it realized all the time because every time we run into a limit we're running into that and that's the point where we have to find freedom on another level and that happens so a lot of the stability thing has to do with that it's getting us from a level on which I've got to have this I've got to have that I've got to have that I know how it's going to work level of control to a level

[60:51]

where we are in a dialogue with God signified by a dialogue with something else which is much harder and more it was very unyielding the stability is that too and the rule is that this idea of being in a relationship with something which is unyielding and in that way somehow working out my dialogue with God I don't know how to put that any better and that may be kind of may sound kind of misleading but it's there it's a fact I was thinking about Father Robert's poem about the axis that doesn't move yeah the unwobbling unwobbling axis yeah it seems like that's the more an easier way to look at it I'm trying to think of where it was coming from when he spoke about that that was Easter day wasn't it about being centered in the resurrection yeah well that's good that's good he was talking about getting the center of gravity in the right place

[61:51]

and getting the priorities right now I remember that and if you get your center of gravity right then you don't wobble okay here it's a question also of not wobbling but having that part of you rooted which has to be rooted so that the rest of you can grow you've got part of this which is a root and which shouldn't be moving all the time maybe we'll find some ways to open this up as we go through it further down here down at the bottom of 107 however Robert gets to the core of the thing Benedict instability places us in a situation where sooner or later we arrive at the heart of every human situation the choice between despair and the total gift of self to God it is an identity crisis as we get to the deepest level of our being okay I want to leave it there and this is pretty close

[62:53]

to it this is the core of it the reason for stability now think about that you find that it expresses itself in all kinds of ways it expresses itself in all kinds of ways this is the thing that Merton is so fond of talking about and evidently it's a place that he was pretty familiar with in his own life he talked about it very much in connection with obedience but also when he writes about despair and things like that to see what it looks like and the need as it were for despair the need for an ultimate challenge confrontation of death in one way or another total challenge to our identity our being a situation where sooner or later we arrive at the heart of every human situation the choice between despair and the total gift of self to death you may think of some other analogies perhaps we have to talk about it a little further to eliminate this whole question so the

[63:54]

place where you are becomes the place becomes the place of life becomes the symbol the location of every place boils down to this this is the place of the challenge the place of truth as it were and so one place is as good as another but you have to have a place and that place that you're in requires a certain commitment so one place is as good as another what would be the difference between real despair and despair that is part of God's working okay real despair means that you and this is on the experiential level I don't know if you can tell sometimes you know because a person thinks that he's despairing and yet he's not real despair you mean the despair of Judas okay I think it's measured in its fruits actually and it's pretty hard to tell by the experience itself until the thing is over and you can see which way the person is going or he can say which way because it's a question of on your deepest level saying yes or no to God right on your

[64:54]

deepest level turning away from God or turning towards him and you can say that there can be a situation which is allowed by God in as it were an opportunity for growth where the person turns away so it's a little both of what you were saying okay a challenge that's not met in other words that's not responded to but on the experiential level the tricky thing is that a person can think that he's given up in a sense but he really hasn't and he's going to come out of it or a person can really get there and turn away and it's that thing in the heart that we do way deep down when we say yes or no but we can be saying a near no and have God come in and make a very positive very very loud yes at a certain point and save us and in part it's by experiencing our negativity by experiencing our resistance itself that we get

[65:54]

sanctified because then we discover that the real effect of that information comes from him and we really don't have it in us it's not that he just tests our hearts to see whether we're going to follow him or not that's there too Deuteronomy talks about that but also he brings us down to that point where the only thing that we can rest upon is his grace and then he gives us his grace and the only thing that we had left was not any strength of heart that was able to say yes any generosity that was able to say yes I'm willing none of that left wiped out completely all we can say is lord help me or something like that and then he does and that may taste just like despair may feel just like despair the word despair is a little ambiguous to the in the sense stone think we're out of the woods we got through the archer riddle stone I think

[66:50]