The Brief Rule of St. Romuald

Audio loading...

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


AI Suggested Keywords:


The Little Rule of Saint Romuald

Archival Photo

AI Summary: 






Let us pray.
O God, unto whom all hearts lie open, unto whom desire is eloquent and from whom no secret
thing is hidden, purify the thoughts of our hearts with the outpouring of your Spirit
that we might love him with a perfect love and praise you as you deserve.
This is my favorite prayer.
It's the opening prayer to the Thamma Thammela.
Some of you may have heard it.
I use it all the time in every prayer.
Did everyone bring up a copy of the rules that came in?
Those cards that enclosed them are stolen from our mother house in Italy.
They had plenty and they were very happy to give me a handful of them.
And I find it fun to use for that.
We all have a memento then of the mother house in Albany.
Earlier this afternoon I ran into Fr. Bruno who had this wide smile on his face and said,
How on earth will you get four conferences out of the Cathedral of St. John's?
And I said, well, maybe it's because I wish to talk a little bit about Zen as well.
And then we both looked at one another and we both said, how is he going to get four conferences
after he does Zen?
The Little Rule of St. Ronald, or it's also called the Brief Rule,
is a short but very pithy set of reflections by Ronald of Gravena, our founder.
Reflections recounted by his disciple Giovanni and written down by yet another disciple,
Bruno Baldifaz of Corford, in Chapter 19 of The Life of the Five Brothers.
This latter document was written in the early 11th century.
And then promptly lost.
And then rediscovered and published in the late 19th century in Poland and in Germany.
And then popularized in the 20th century Italian, French, and English versions.
It's an extraordinary text.
And we call this course Natural Enough, all of it.
It connects the hermit of the Ronaldian world a thousand years ago
with desert monastic teachings.
With the ancient desert Pesachas spirituality as well, the East.
And with the emerging currents within 11th century reforms of arithmetical life,
which were ongoing during Ronald's lifetime and his own reform movement.
And yet at the same time manages also to sound quite Zen-Buddhist in its mystical unfolding.
And I say, thankfully so.
Here we have one of the few collected sayings of Master Ronald, as he was known and called.
Who had gathered around himself a small group of disciples to live in solitude together.
To pray and meditate upon the Psalms and to read together the desert tradition.
That is The Life of the Fathers and John Cashion's Conferences.
As well as to live an ascetical life together under the Master's supervision and his moderating direction.
And this happened, as you know, those of you who have read Peter Daniel's The Life of Blessed Ronald,
in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the southernmost part of France,
near the Benedictine Abbey of Cusha.
St. Michael Cusha.
I don't know how it's pronounced in French.
It's sort of a capellon, I think.
Cuixa, or something like that.
C-U-I-X-A, you'll often see it spelled.
Like the very life of Ronald himself, the little rule is marked by the utmost simplicity.
It's a very brief compendium of wisdom, set out for us in a way that we might expect for a collection of favorite sayings
of a wise old monk in the deserts of Egypt, or Syria, or Palestine.
It could be a brief list of instructions for a novice monk in hesitant spirituality.
It could also be the collected opus of some Zen master in a desert mountain retreat.
And I think, for a student of comparative religions or mysticism,
it could be representative of various religious traditions.
If one only substitutes the mention of psalms, as such,
with any appropriate corollary of texts from the world of religious consciousness,
even so far, I would say, that's primitive religious instructions
that might arise from the profound world of the mind.
I think it's a gem of mystical literature, and a gem of dynastic literature.
And so what I propose to do during the four sessions we have this weekend
is essentially to wend our way through that little rule,
commenting on various words and phrases,
and attempting to distill the spiritual teaching or meaning
within or around these words and phrases.
While hoping all the while to open our minds, and particularly our hearts,
up to the profound presence and mystery evoked by these few words of St. Ronald,
that we call the Little Rule.
The spiritual treasure offered us by this brief testament of deep faith
and the fruit of long, long spiritual practice
is something for all of us,
hermits and oblates, nuns, nuns, and spiritual seekers alike.
You'll hear a lot of coughing this weekend,
and I'll try to keep it at a minimum.
It's not because I have a cold or allergies,
it's because I have a physical condition that we're trying to treat right now,
but coughing is triggered by talking or singing.
And so, come to vigils and logs to my room, you can hear me cough and sing.
Get the whole picture.
I do apologize, there's really nothing I can do about it, except cough.
Could I request that everyone simply close their eyes at this point,
and quiet themselves down, while I read the Little Rule of St. Ronald.
Thank you.
Sit in your cell, as in paradise.
Put the whole world behind you, and forget it.
Watch your thoughts, like a good fisher watching for fish.
The path you must follow is in the Psalms.
Never leave it.
If you have just come to the monastery,
and in spite of your good will,
you cannot accomplish what you want,
then take every opportunity to sing the Psalms in your heart,
and to understand them with your mind.
And if your mind wanders as you read,
do not give up.
Hurry back, and apply your mind to the words once more.
Realize, above all, that you are in God's presence.
And stand there, with the attitude of one who stands before the Emperor.
Empty yourself completely,
and sit waiting, content with the grace of God,
like the little bird that takes nothing and eats nothing,
for what its mother gives it.
We will read the Little Rule at each meeting we have.
And I would ask three volunteers,
tomorrow morning, tomorrow afternoon, and Sunday morning,
to read it for us at the appropriate time.
So, any of you, in your own time,
in your time between now and then,
as you meditate on the Little Rule,
as you read it and reread it,
find yourself wanting to proclaim it,
then just let me know,
that you can move on to your third.
I'll read to you.
Sit in your soul as a paradise. Sit.
Sitting. Until the most recent times,
historically speaking,
one does not read of sitting for prayer in the West all that much.
And in the West,
sitting was seen more in the context of hospitality, for instance.
Please sit down.
Come in. Sit. Enjoy.
Take a load off, as they say in Wisconsin.
It's a sign of hospitality.
Sit. Sit at your desk down.
A sign of welcoming, or being welcomed.
Also, sitting down to a meal is very important in the West.
And all that connects.
Not that it isn't important in the East as well,
but at least we have something,
some context where sitting in the West is important.
It is prominent.
As well as in hospitality,
I think also in the spheres of judgment
and power in the West,
sitting is very important, historically speaking.
So the judicial modes of judgment and law
will see a power seated,
whether it's the liege lord,
or the king, or the prince,
or the queen,
or the judge.
In all of these contexts,
sitting is very important.
No one sits, or no one sat,
until that person, the judge, the power sits.
So even today, our judicial system,
all, I don't know, how do they say it in the courtroom,
all lies until the judge sits.
Until she or he has seated down.
We stand.
Historically speaking, that's very current
with sitting in the West.
Also, of course, in throne power.
Now, we don't have many kings and queens left in this world,
but there's still very few.
And it's the same way.
When the queen comes into power, for instance,
everybody stands, and when the queen is seated,
then the other powers sit.
In various courts, that still exists.
Sitting in scripture,
how do we find, where do we find
the context of sitting in the scripture?
Well, one figure immediately comes to mind,
and that is David.
David sitting at his heart.
Praying, writing poetry,
singing poetry to God.
Also, interestingly enough,
the prophet Elijah.
When we think of Elijah,
we usually think of him, I suspect,
battling the 400 prophets of Baal
and slitting their throats
after his display of power.
Terrible, terrifying.
when he does that, in fact,
and he runs for his life, literally,
and hides out in a wall
for a protracted period of exile,
he is depicted as sitting in prayer
and subsisting
on God's mercy,
on God's love,
on God's care for him,
as he sat in the body.
Yet, if I rose,
the story goes,
certainly also in both Testaments,
the banquet scenes
and table literature,
certainly in the Gospels,
extremely important.
And these are sitting contexts.
And so,
if you want to develop a spirituality
of sitting scripturally,
that's a good place to start,
at the table.
Just as it is in the West,
the context is very powerful.
When Jesus teaches the crowds
on the mountainside,
He always asks them to sit down.
In fact, one of the,
I forget which of the Gospel writers,
maybe Luke, I would hazard saying Luke,
he's the one that says,
he sat them down,
like little patches of flowers,
a flower garden.
Do you remember that?
Do you remember which evangelist?
One of them actually,
I forget what the other says,
and he sat them,
and they sat the people down
in sections,
like flower arrangements,
or flower pots.
That's the sort of
a little image,
that rings very true to me.
It isn't just a poet
trying to depict something.
It's an oral tradition
of how they remember something,
when they put in little colors like that.
And of course there are other colors
that show up that are even more endearing
and probably more embarrassing
than sitting down with flower pots.
But anyway,
in the context of teaching
in the wilderness,
when Jesus is the master,
and people gather around to hear the Word,
it's in the context of sitting down together
and listening,
sitting down and listening.
Also in scripture,
enthroned power
is replaced predominantly.
So any context of the king,
and the king's court.
But not only that,
also when the scriptural writers
are referring to God,
or to the celestial,
or to Lady Wisdom.
Where does Lady Wisdom sit?
At the right side of God.
Lady Wisdom is sitting.
Why is she sitting there?
Because she's the right hand of God.
Because God sits.
Because God is enthroned.
And we stand before God
who is sitting there.
who else does Jesus meet
on his travels?
Who are invariably, invariably
sitting by the roadside.
But the blind,
the beggars,
and the lovers.
All the people he felt closest to.
All the people, all the outcasts
whom he welcomed
and said would be first.
He's asking.
There they are,
sitting by the gates,
waiting to be healed.
Sitting by the pool,
waiting for the finger of the angel
to stir the water,
for the angel in the wind
to move the water to this one
and move the other one.
Waiting by the roadside,
Who is this?
What's happening?
Jesus, Son of David,
have mercy on me!
The blind beggar is sitting.
Sitting by the roadside.
What about Job?
What does Job do?
His whole life falls apart.
He sits on the donkey.
Sits on the donkey.
And he sits, and sits.
We just read in Evangelist
the whole cycle of the Book of Job.
Every single word.
Vigils after vigils.
And Job sits, and sits,
and argues,
and listens to arguments,
questions God,
and somehow survives it all
in the end.
Sitting there on the donkey.
And as the story goes,
it's restored to
even the full life that he had in the beginning.
More children,
more money than he could spend,
and wealth and riches.
And I saved the best for last.
Sort of in the context of
sitting at the feet of the Lord.
Letting his words soak in.
While Martha,
just as important to the Lord as Mary,
just as dear to the Lord,
certainly just as attentive to the Lord in other ways as Mary,
works in the kitchen.
But there's Mary.
And the reason we point out Mary
is because of what Jesus has to say.
Come, come, come.
Let Mary sit here.
She has chosen something extremely important
to listen to.
And of course, we monastics
have matched on to that,
and held on to that,
and kept it through the centuries,
and even writing on banners from time to time,
especially during history,
when we get in trouble with church authorities,
or bishops, or cardinals, or whatever,
trying to take over our monasteries,
and trying to get money, or whatever.
Not nowadays, but I mean in former times.
And we would say,
we are the inheritors of Mary.
And you know what Jesus said?
Leave us alone.
All of these scriptural examples of sitting
can prove beneficial
for our own approach to sitting in prayer,
for we can undoubtedly, I think,
find ourselves in prayer
with these various modes of sitting.
You know?
Is there anyone here who hasn't felt like Job
at least at one point in their life?
We are the Prophet Elijah sitting in the lobby.
We are David.
Regardless of what our music might sound like.
We are the poets.
We are the musicians of the heart.
We are at table fellowship with the Lord.
Every day.
We will be tomorrow.
We are those
occasionally sitting on the roadside,
waiting, desperately waiting sometimes,
to be healed.
Or to see, finally, see Christ.
Or to feel the healing touch of Christ.
Or to just get the touch of the Lord.
Just an itch.
Even to see.
Like the Canaanite woman.
Was she a Samaritan?
The Canaanite woman.
The one who was feeding and managing the family.
And she stopped.
She snuck up and
touched him on his lower right hair with her.
And occasionally,
each one of us
can be wisdom.
Can be wisdom.
God's right hand.
Sitting close.
Eye to eye.
Ear to ear.
We certainly can be
on the wrong side from time to time.
In a crowd.
Listening to the Word.
Hoping that the Word is real.
Asking ourselves how to make it real.
How to live that life.
Live the gospel.
Embrace it.
Spread it. Proclaim it.
Sitting in the desert tradition.
There are various references to sitting
as the way to pray
in the desert tradition.
Which is our ancestry.
As monastics.
within the various collections of
those sayings of the desert elders and fathers
that we have in various collections.
We call apophthems
or the apophlegmata
in the monastic world.
Also, in the refinements
in his History of the Monks
you will find mention
of sitting as
sitting as the way to pray
as sitting in prayer.
Also, Palladius
in his History of Monks.
Specifically, number 9 of Palladius.
And in John Cashion's conferences
in a number of contexts
that I will direct you especially to
Cashion's conference number 7
for sitting in prayer.
Here are some representative examples
that I can read for you.
Three of them.
They're all from the apophlegmata.
Abba Moses
sit in your cell
and your cell
will teach you everything.
That's probably the most famous one.
Abba Rufus
remain sitting in the cell
with fear
and with knowledge of God
holding far off
the remembrance of wrongs suffered
and pride of spirit.
This is a precious one.
Because it's so hard
to hold off
the remembrance of things
past that hurt.
This we all know.
And I pray for healing of memories
through the years of our lives.
Because until you let go
of the past
until you let go of all those hurts
of all those imagined
and the anger that comes from it
or the vengeance
even sometimes
or the
anxieties or fears
or even sometimes
of others who
received what we didn't receive
or whatever.
As long as you hold on to all these
various forms of crap
psychological crap
in our hands, rubbish
you know
that sitting is going to suffer.
That is, that prayer
is going to suffer.
Abba Rufus
he said
remain sitting in the cell
with fear and knowledge of God
holding far off
the remembrance of wrongs
and pride of spirit.
Of course with that phrase
you can go off in all other directions.
It might be good for you to use this
this is a
a koan as it were
especially since it caught your
your attention at once.
Let's sit a bit tonight.
And of course the phrase is
fear of God
and knowledge of God
carry a whole
plethora of connotations
spiritually speaking.
It's a very powerful little
very powerful little
Abba Anthony
is the third one.
Abba Anthony said
just as fish die
if they stay too long out of water
so the monks
who lay there outside their cells
and pass their time to others.
Abba Anthony preferred the monks
going to the cell
and mind their own business
and sit in their cell
and pray.
Just as fish die if they stay too long
out of water
so the monks who go there outside
their cells.
So really
it's powerful because Anthony is saying
the cell itself
is where the monk
gives and moves
and has his being.
Where the nun belongs
if she wants to live
and have her being
not out prattling
with the others.
There are stories about the monks
who stand outside their cells
while reading the Gospels
or on their way to market
and rumble
about various things.
And Anthony is speaking
to that issue
in the desert.
Sitting in patristic
among the fathers
of the church
when they use the term sitting
or the image of sitting
in prayer
what they mean is solitude.
The context is always solitude.
If you want to
this further and I'll give you four examples
If you want to investigate this further
if you read the section
on the patristic writers
in my
latest book
The Language of Silence
I treat in that one little section
I treat quite a few of them, maybe 12 or 13 of them
and all
in the context of solitude
you're probably
able to see much more
than I'm going to give you here
but I will give you four instances
four writers who use
in the context
of solitude.
Jerome in his letter
wrote the following
phrases describing
his solitude
I was sitting
and I will
sit in the waters of solitude
I will
sit in the waters
of solitude
of Lyon
wrote about sitting
in God
sitting in God
Gregory the Great in any number of
contexts used
the phrase tranquil
He doesn't mean
sitting quiet, not just
sitting quiet
usually is in the context
of what in the East
would become hesychia
the inner stillness
that one
seeks, that one
strives for
for instance in Jesus' prayer
where in the West
Gregory the Great used that
the phrase tranquil sitting
that plumbed into that same
Augustine of Hippo
sitting in prayer
like David and Elijah
the two were just
I was very happy
when I ran across that
because I had already found David and Elijah
when I went through my
and I had already written them down
in the other section
When we get to
Medieval spirituality
and Medieval patristic writers
the context
for sitting
changes slightly
from solitude to
a fuller contemplation
so we get the Middle Ages
contemplation is the context for sitting
and here I'll also give you four
of using this
context of sitting
for prayer
Be the Venerable
For Be the Venerable he uses again
and again and again Mary
sitting at the feet of Jesus
to embody or to symbolize
the contentment of life
Be the work of calming the body
quieting the spirit
and finally resting
in Christ
resting in Christ
that's like sitting in God
I like both of those
The Elber of Revol
who was
a second generation
Cistercian Abbot in England
wrote to his sister
who happened to be a Hermetist
and he wrote a rule of life for her
which we have
very interesting to me
sit and be quiet
he didn't mean that she was a chatterbox
sit and be quiet
he means quiet down
listen to God
so that you can speak
to God
and certainly
constantly I'm sure of how we
see prayer and how we see
silence in prayer
Isaac of Estella
was another Cistercian Abbot
who wrote
why do we
sit in prayer
to drink in
Christ's wisdom
so for
Isaac of Estella
it was important to sit
in prayer if you were
going to do any drinking
not that one couldn't pray
through one's work, it certainly wouldn't be a good
Cistercian Abbot if he didn't believe
why sitting in prayer is interesting
to answer the question that was being posed
so obviously
there are people saying
why do we have to sit in prayer
let's keep working
we go
the first
the prior of
Huguenot Choucher's
New France
early Carthusian
that there is an absolute
absolute primacy
which is very
Carthusian of course
an absolute primacy
quiets in sitting
stillness is a good word to use
when you think of the tranquility
because stillness
speaks to more than just
absence of noise
tells you
something psychological
as well as physical
and certainly spiritual
stillness is
stillness is
true stillness
to mystery
and so when we talk about
stillness or inner stillness
please remember that we are not
just talking about quiet
as important as
that is but stillness
sitting in the east
in the east
sitting is
inner eye
as has its context there
the inner eye
the gaze into mystery
and we have how many
countless spiritual
ascetics throughout the various
eastern traditions
say the same thing
be still
if you want
to embrace the mystery
if you want to become
the mystery
some master
will say become, go on
a Hindu
sage might say
or mantra until you become
the mantra
or whatever tradition
it doesn't matter
in that context
sitting for
what does sitting for Ramayana
the little rule interestingly
enough begins and
ends with sitting
first word
first word
sit in yourself
last image
sit waiting
content with the grace of God
like a keeper
I suppose
for Ramayana's followers
we could see
sitting as both our
beginning and our end as well
after all
what are we
about if not about contemplation
what is sitting in prayer
if not
contemplation is what we're talking about
stillness, inner stillness
why don't we
stand in ourselves
well of course some of us do
some of us pray
standing in ourselves
some of us chant songs
standing in ourselves
but when we want to be still
why don't we sit
why don't we stand
after all
the people of the resurrection
the children of the resurrection
stand up, standing
resurrection stands
that's what we're doing
when we stand in our rotunda
around the altar
we are doing this as a resurrection
not just because
we didn't want to put in cues
or mirrors
you know
there's a theology there
there were a group
of Syrian ascetics
known as
spelled the same way
as the electricity
where taking off your sweater
and getting the charge
they stood for
they literally stood
until they
the statics were very
often stood on
one foot
although they alternated
until they died
they ate that way
for years
ate, drank
took care of the bodily
probably called themselves
the standards
the statics
we don't know a lot about them
Syria was a
treasure ground
weird movements
early monastics
we also had
the browsers
in Syria
and I don't mean to
I mean
these people were trying
to do what they felt was right
a number of the browsers
were highly educated people who went out
and lived on the sides of mountainsides
on all fours eating grass
as cattle
until they died
also there were
the dendrites
a whole other movement
the dendrites
those were the
those were the
also the stylists
if you want to get some
good laughs
the history of the
mass of Syria as well as being
highly edified in places
and holding
a treasury of
also has short
reflections on these various people
that are quite humorous
at least from our standpoint
why not stand, huh?
whether for
out of respect for the resurrection
or out of
for penance
the question is
what are we concerned about
when we pray, when we want to go to
contemplative prayer?
are we concerned primarily about penance
or resurrection's dance?
I don't know
I think so
why don't we kneel?
kneeling is certainly
a sign of respect
it's a sign of humility
it's also a sign of penance
and it's very conducive to prayer
for as long as you can do it
maybe that's the point
you reach a point
that's quicker than you would sitting
although you reach a point sitting too
if you do it in a disciplined way
and you all know this probably
that you reach a point where
you could scream
if you don't get up
if you don't
or if you don't change
part of your body
or part of your position
or whatever
but again, what are we concerned about
when we talk about
contemplative prayer?
why don't we lay down?
sleeping in the Lord
there's nothing wrong with that
there's nothing wrong with
sleeping in the Lord, dreaming in the Lord
and praying in the Lord on our
backs if we fall asleep
you know
there's nothing wrong with that
but do you want to
make it your everyday spiritual practice?
that's the question
you may find yourself sleeping
more than praying
and it would feel good
but what is the concern
when you're talking about
contemplative hunger
and contemplative prayer
and dialogue
sitting is a way
to quiet ourselves
in all the traditions I think
I think that's consonant throughout
it's a way to quiet ourselves
sitting is a discipline
and yet not primarily
a penitential one
it's a way
of staying awake
and attentive
without suffering
a new trauma
there's a connection here
that I would note
to the hesychastic prayer
of John Climacus in the east
and others in the east
in the Byzantine Empire
and the reason I point this out
is because as we know from long old life and times
in the cities of
Ravenna and Venice
and all of eastern Italy
where he was primarily
Romulus was influenced
by Byzantine spirituality
his mother
was Byzantine
his mother was from Byzantium
and carried with that
into his life
and his spirituality
the very rich
and very different
Christian spirituality
of the east
in our early
there are many
indications of this
and many results
from this
the Commodities movement
the Romualdian world
and then the Commodities
historical movement
has a very
strong bond
between us
which flies up again
in the 15th century
14th-15th century
being deputized by the Pope
to try to bring the Greek church
back into
union with Rome
and it almost happened
it actually hadn't been written out
and then
it fell apart
it's interesting that
it started in the east
we had a sudden
surge again in the name
of union with the east
and nowadays
in our early
historical times
although our
concern is not so much with the
eastern church
in a hands-on
our order
is very very
involved with
inter-religious dialogue
with the east
certainly a spirit of ecumenical
so we'll
meet again tomorrow
morning at 9.30
and get deeper
but at least this gives you
a general intro
and a general step