The Brief Rule of St. Romuald

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The Little Rule of Saint Romuald

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Let us pray. Almighty God, during this Advent season, as we await the coming of the blue sky and the sun for the day, we also await your coming into our hearts, into our minds, that we may have open minds and pure hearts. That our hearts may always lie open like yours. That our minds may always be open, clear, and pure with the intentionality that leads to you always. O God, unto whom all hearts lie open, unto whom desire is eloquent, and from whom no secret things give, purify the thoughts of our hearts by the outpouring of your Spirit.


For we might love you with a perfect love, and praise you as you deserve. Amen. Amen. Sit in yourself 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 goodwill 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 of 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 tastes nothing and eats nothing but what its mother gives it. Thank you. Take every opportunity. St. Daniel urges us to take every opportunity to sing the Psalms in our hearts


and to understand them in our minds. This is the old monastic practice of ruminatio, or rumination of monastic spirituality. That part of vexio divina by which we are to choose the good and the bad, like the cubs of the soldiers, like cows chewing their cubs over and over again, until the prayer becomes incessant for us, unending, even unstoppable, no matter what we might be doing at any given moment. That's what ruminatio does. A Hindu might urge you to pray your mantra in the same way. A Buddhist, a word or a phrase or a name of God. A Zen Buddhist, perhaps a koan. A Muslim, a list of the names of God.


An Eastern Christian has a caste, the holy name of Jesus, or the classical Jesus prayer. The paths are similar and the hope for a result is the same. We are to sing the Psalter in our hearts, at the very center of our being. One might say we are to become the Psalms, if our heart is truly in God, if we are, in classical monastic spiritual terminology, pure of heart. And for John Cassion, whom Romuald was reading and rereading on that mountainside in the Pyrenees, southern France, purity of heart is the whole purpose of monastic life, if it is to be to perfect love and divine life.


We are to persevere if we are to understand the Psalms with our minds. We must maintain the right intention, to use again a phrase common to our Buddhists, brothers and sisters, if our intention wanders, we need not panic. Like a good fisher, we recognize the movement, we acknowledge it, we calmly bring back the line in our collection. And we begin again. Always again. And always beginning. I think Romuald is concerned with the path and faithfulness to that path. Not the wanderings, not the daydreams, not the meanderings. What is important is always to begin again.


And again, and again, and again. You are in God's presence. Keep in mind that Romuald is a Benedictine monk. I'll say that for one hour, in November. The rule of Benedict, chapter 7, verses 10-30, is the first degree of humility, and recalls monastics to God's presence, encouraging them to remember always the presence of God, God who sees all, who knows all, who hears all, and monastics to be vigilant. Again in the rule of Benedict, chapter 19, verses 1-2, Benedict reminds the monastic that the divine presence is everywhere.


Romuald wants his followers to be mindful of that presence. Everywhere. Empty yourself completely. We are to empty ourselves so that God's presence may fill that empty space. We are to become totally dependent upon God in readiness, alertness, and attentiveness. In this mindful state, we are meant to get back to the source, the font of our very being. This state of emptiness mirrors the kenosis of Christ, that self-emptying of Christ. If you're fond of the Philippians hymn, you're fond of kenosis,


where the empty good self becomes flesh. This state of emptiness that mirrors kenosis mirrors Christ because, as Christ was willing to do the Father's will, no matter what, emptying self completely. So we do that. We empty ourselves of self completely, and that means we let go of our most prized illusion, our own control of things. As we suppose. We let go of everything. Our angers, our fears, our passions, even our desires. And we sit in the present. In the presence.


Not holding on to the past, and not projecting ourselves into the future, but merely present. We remain present to the present moment. And that is not to say we are closed in on ourselves. No. We're open to possibilities with God, but that openness is an availability, an available intentionality. In the Zen Buddhist tradition, the monastic Zen masters have spoken of this self-emptying movement and mindfulness of the present moment, in terms of clearing the mind, or forgetting the self, or maintaining always the mind of the beginner. Compassionate and selfless openness,


day after day. I think this is the place Thomas Merton spoke of as le point vierge, the vertical point. In the writing of his first letter, he was writing le point vierge. That's M. Abdel Noor, and you can find this in her article in Distriction Studies No. 6. She wrote about Merton's vision of this point vierge, of this vertical point. She wrote, the center of the soul, le point vierge, is both nothing and everything. It is the fountain of living waters within the human person, springing up into life eternal. And again,


to sink into this deep awareness of the ground of our identity before God, and in God, is the only way to discover that true self, hidden in obscurity, and nothingness, at a center that is accessible only to God. One must desire only to enter into complete nudity, emptiness, and poverty. And so, Merton, when he writes le point vierge, his writing of his dialectic between the false self and the true self, he's writing of the true self, the very center, the very pit, of who we are in the presence of God. Sit, waiting. Sitting closes the little room of Saint-Franco


just as it opened that world. Here, that sitting, following upon a complete emptying process, is sitting with one's whole being, mind, body, psyche, and soul. Sit there, he tells us. Sit there with constancy of mind and heart. Just sit there as if it were the most ordinary thing to do. And of course it is. Just sitting there, waiting for God, waiting upon God, waiting in God, in good Advent and Gnostic expectation, waiting upon God's Word, waiting. Wait to be filled, he tells us. Wait to be filled by God within the very emptiness itself. Even the bare, effortless, pointless waiting itself


is a kind of communication, and a kind of communion. There's a dialogue in waiting, because you're always waiting for something. Perhaps it is the most precious kind of communion. Remember above all that everything comes out of emptiness. Every word comes out of silence. And we are born of emptiness as the Word is born in silence. As we sit waiting, we are only living the present moment. Content with the grace of God. Why shouldn't we be content with God's grace, and at ease, even happy and joyful with God's grace? Remember, for instance, grace is chiral.


Grace is eternally present, always there in the here and now. Eternally. We have to simply plug into it. We have to be open. We have to be available in our ways. And that's what makes communion. Like a little bird dependent on its mother. So, this final image, used by St. Ronald in the Little Rule, is a delightful surprise. Not only because he's telling us to sit like a little bird, like a hooloos, a little chick or a bird in its nest, with its mouth wide open, ready and waiting for whatever mom might put there, but also because God is a mom here. St. Ronald gives us the Holy Spirit here


as a nurturing, sustaining, caring mother. No, Ronald is not the first to refer to God as mother in Christian literature. Some of the earlier fathers of the Church have done so in various contexts, and soon after Ronald, St. Bernard and the other Sturgians will take it to the highest. And then many of the women mystics in France and Germany and England and the Netherlands will all use this image of God as mother. But this image of God's Spirit coming to us as a mother glory, with goodies for our moms, waiting for breakfast, is surely different. And I find it delightful. And I think apropos. I clearly think of it every time


when our swallows in the church portico of France raise their two groups of nestlings during the summer, and they sing to one another, the female in the nest and the male on his little pig, and they sing in a little choir back and forth. They are waiting. And I would like to close this retreat, if I may, by reading a poem I wrote in 1990 about these swallows on an amazing night during Vespers when our two choirs were singing back and forth, singing to one another, and the swallows were singing to one another from pig to nest. And then we sat down, and the reading was from the Canticle of Canticles, the Song of the Mother to the Mother. I entitled it The Nesting Place.


Mud-daubed almost overnight, quartered high, molded with alacrity into church portico's high corner, marbled shades of stale baking chocolate, lined with cinnamon-rust feathered down for the clutch of five freckled ovals beneath her tiny breaststone. The barn swallow's nest is back. Attentively she faces her mate, pink-perched opposite her listening post, both nooks albescent, chalked off by annual accretions of droppings, while he serenades her wooingly with modulated, intricate thrills, chirps and twitters, warbles and trills to charm busy souls into reckless. Inside, sung monastic sanctum,


alternations of antiphonal psalmony chanted by monks wedded to presents, seats for reading of Solomon's Canticle. Beloved sings to lover of communion, beyond the threshold of captivating reunion. Deferential hush envelops the choir, where hearts lay folded within love's song. Ensuing silence is only enhanced by the gently repetitive mantra issuing from his bill's articulation. While she delicately shifts and fans the blue-black lines of her long, deeply forked tail, nestling into the rounded wand of stability, if only for an instinctive interview. I want to thank you for coming.


I want to thank you for your attention, your attentiveness and your participation. But most of all, I want to thank you for being interested in all of the experience of our home, which I carry on my shoulder everywhere I go. Thank you. And we can use this time, one last time, for anything we want to do. We can do anything we want to do. And we can ask questions at this time. Why the emphasis on the Psalms as opposed to the Gospels in the early ages? Because it's the monastic... Remember when I said John Cassidy considered the Psalms to be the companion of all scripture? I guess my question is, why did he? Going back to the very source, why did he consider that? Because it was already in the desert tradition


that the monks memorized the Psalter and then prayed day and night constantly. Would that be because the desert tradition started so early before the Gospels were really being taught? No, it's because they saw the Psalms more as prayer than the Gospels. The Gospels were certainly the life of Christ, you know, but also the proclamation of the resurrection event. But they saw the Psalms as being asking, praising, lamenting, crying, screaming out, they found it all on the Psalter. And that's why they chose the Psalter, I suspect. It was that literary format as much as anything. So right from the... Well, the Psalms were written as prayer. Someone said, and I don't know if it's true scholarship-wise, but that the Psalms were written for Jesus to pray. So, that's a real way... And he did. He did it in his prayer.


And then, of course, he was using the Psalms for liturgical purposes. I think that's the right answer. Well, thank you. Thank you, Lou. Yes, thank you. Anything else? I'd like to draw upon something Hunter mentioned when she asked a question last week of the prayer agenda of gathering. And it's mulled around in my mind a lot since then. And that is, and I'm paraphrasing some of it if it's not accurate, just help me, but that idea of solitude and how there's such a longing, I think, in our heart for solitude. And certainly, praying the rule, brings that


to fullness. And yet, there's, for all of us, the connectedness on a daily basis to the noise, the cacophony, the constant goings-on. And there's that sense of how do we keep that? I know that it's personal, and I know that it's daily reminding ourselves. But in order to help deliver in a practical way, I would just be, I sometimes lose it. I guess that's what happens. And so I'm coming out of my own self and asking. Other than to say, just from my own experience and from knowing people who have the experience of making time and making space, I remember when I asked and here I'm thinking, I'm back at your place, thinking this is the book discussion. We had a discussion group


at the San Francisco area obelisks, the Central Coast obelisks, where for four weeks we got together and discussed the fourth of the book. And at one point, we were talking about this big issue. And I remember Robin saying, you know, I'd be lost in a very inevitable way if I didn't have my prayer closet. If I didn't take my time, and you could tell she was meaning it from her very center core of her being, that that's kept her together. And I think it really takes something like that. It might not seem like I have to have a closet, but I do have cannons and whatnot, you know. But maybe Cairo's time is more important than the place. That there has to be some kind of dedication to availability where you can just say, this ten minutes is for me


just sit as if I were in paradise older and waiting. And if nothing else, even that bears the fruit of the book. Vis a vis solitude, I think. Of course, if you can do more of what each person wants, but I don't know what else to say. Even we monks have trouble sometimes. And during the coming years if we have ongoing construction here, year after year as we do each part of the hermitage, we're going to have some problems regarding quiet and silence. We ourselves are going to be faced with that sort of thing, at least for a while. The difficulty, at least I find, is once you're in the space and you have the time, is shutting up the monkeys. Oh, that's always the problem. And you find that


in every religion. Every religion that speaks about meditation, this is the main issue to deal with. For everything. Human nature. You can't stop the machine. I have no easy answer for that. You know, there's lots of answers. But, you know, when you melt them all down, they really just sit there and persevere. I think. And that's what I've always known. They all said the same thing. Keep at it. Show up. Yeah. Try to keep your heart pure and mind clear and just keep at it. And notice things that aren't there. Acknowledge them. Let them go. What's important to me is not to judge them. Judge. Judge your thoughts.


Don't get caught up into them and say, you know, well, that was a stupid thought. Not to go there. Yeah. That's easier to do with thoughts than it is with feelings. Because that stuff comes up out of nowhere and it's hard not to immediately be invested in there. You know? On one side or the other. The fantastic feeling is on one side or the other and you're right there with it. It's you. And see, I'm into thoughts. Yeah. The Enneagram 5, 6, 7, 8. Oh, but when we meditate, we all have thoughts. Yeah. That's my challenge. What's the positive verbalization for mental verbalization going on? I didn't have that. Did that help at all? I mean, you already knew what I was going to say. No, you didn't. You said something that did touch me in a way. It was the idea of


giving myself permission at the time when I needed to just, when possible, stop. Stop. Just stop. And I sometimes try to follow through to say if I only get this finished or if I only get past this critical feeling, I will be okay. But usually I spin further. You know, more anxiety or more sense of intensity. And I think that what you said is just stop. Just stop, if possible, for five minutes or two minutes or as when we have the Yemi Abraham workshop in our group, Tori Wah gave us a breathing exercise, a breathing prayer. you can do that anywhere. You can do that anytime. It really does. I hadn't it just wasn't in my consciousness right now. So having said that


helped me. Does anybody have anything to add to that? In their own experience? I would say one thing because I teach, right, so in the middle of the day and it's chaotic and all that and I need time all the want, what I've done is to memorize some other songs, right, and so I can go into my office, you know, and just spend the energy that it takes for me to recall a few lines of a song just sort of brings me out of whatever space that's distracted or whatever and it cleanses and moves me forward into the day or into whatever and everything you know. So and particularly the important piece seems to be when I can't, the same thing with quieting thoughts,


if I'm trying to recall scripture it pushes everything else away because I have to focus there. So it's even more effective than reading, I mean, reading scripture sometimes. There's a lot of clearing in the mind. I think that on that agreeing with you that it's one of the things that Sri Eswar points out is Sri Eswar, Blue Mountain Meditation, and he focuses on all kinds of religions, but on the prayer of Saint Francis saying you become that so if you constantly work on something like that, loving, giving, then you become that and so that becomes the thing that you pick up, you memorize, you think about. You know, it could be that, it could be a psalm, whatever works for the individual, but he recommends something that has been tried and


true through the ages that has been used by those of deep leanings toward God, such as Saint Francis. What do you practice now? I think that the word, the phrase that comes to me is particularly a spiritual phrase, and I think that it's important, it's behavior modification in a sense, and that to purpose in my heart that I will show up and pay attention and be there, and yet at the same time kind of holding and balanced with that, that even though I show up and pay attention, that so much depends on the grace of God in that moment as well, that I can predispose myself, I can do the things that have been suggested,


but ultimately then for whatever God is going to gift in that particular if I'm going to be attentive to it, that is well and good, that the gift comes from God, so it's kind of making the habit of it, the practice of it, it's exactly back to the rule of the practice, whatever that practice is for each person, and I think in a spiritual direction, I try to help the person find the practice that works for them, so they can show up. Right. Whatever works, stick with it. Stick with it, yeah, don't try to fix it, you know, if somebody, if you and your prayer, if I and my prayer are present and found a way to become present and allow myself to receive that grace, then do that and don't worry that it's not like what someone else is doing. Or something just gets dry and stops working. quit it, and find another way. We started


at the same spiritual direction. I think so. An interior one. I was wondering, I know you talked about hypnosis, I'm not sure if I'm pronouncing that correctly, but I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit more about that. The Canonic Jesus? And also the Ruminatio. Oh, okay, Ruminatio. In the classic levels of Lectio Divina, monastically speaking, popularized mainly through Gwego, the Carthusian who wrote it all out. Yes, Gwego, G-U-I-G-O. Gwego the Carthusian. Gwego the second, actually. He lists the four classical


monastic ways of Lectio Divina, spiritual reading. And it's Lectio, Meditatio, Ruminatio, and Contifatio. So Ruminatio is that third stage towards Contifatio, where you just sit there, again and again and again, and you just let it be with you, in you. That's Ruminatio. And the reason it's called that is because they used the image of the way cows just stand there over and over and over again. That's Ruminatio. And so Lectio Divina calls the person to do that on the third level. First they read the text, secondly they let their mind go ahead and meditate on the text, and you go back and forth with Lectio and Meditatio, and then you add Ruminatio and you again go


back, you don't just stay, you can move back to Meditatio and Lectio, go back to the text, and Ruminatio is just going to be there with it. And then, if Contrapassio happens, that happens to you. It's nothing like you press the button for number four and you get contemplation. But sometimes you're seized into Contrapassio. And we go to second, again, a good read for you on that, on that story, on this Lectio Divina. Kenosis, Kenosis is that, is that part of Jesus Christ, whereby we key in or cue in to his total self-gift. And so when you talk about the Kenotic Christ, when you run into that phrase in a book, that's what we're talking about, how Jesus does little everything, nothing


there except to do the will of his Father, unto death, unto a horrifying death by his own people. That's Kenotic, Kenosis. If you want to be a nice, well, two people, there are two people who write on the Kenotic Christ. There is this Benedictine, what is his name, English Benedictine, Sebastian Gosch. I'm going to lose the last name right now, but I can show you in the library afterwards where his books are. The Crucified Christ is one of his books. Sebastian Gosch. He lived in Rhode Island for a while. He may still be there, actually. He writes a lot about the Kenotic Christ, the suffering crucified, the empty Christ, and what that means for us, and what he means to us in that meaning of


Kenosis. Also, do now Cardinal Gabriel tell us in his Models of the Church, isn't one of the models the Kenotic Church? It doesn't say then you'll find it elsewhere in his models of how church should be, how we can look at church, the models of the church. Also speaks to this, but you can also find, you know, things written just on Kenosis and the Kenotic Christ. I was just going to say that recently, I think it was in SDR, there was an article by Will Heiser, or however you say his name, and he was offering forth the idea of Kenosis as an image of Christ for this age, particularly because the younger generation, many of them, are into me, me, me, and this is


like a whole other challenging image, because they don't relate at all to the other images. This one, which in one way is so almost contrary to the lifestyle, is really what they're going to break for, and so he offered that as an image to you. I would also think Buddhists would be most attracted to the Canonic Christ. Oh yeah. It would have absolute resonance with the Buddha. Absolutely, and self-gift for everyone unto death, unto annihilation. Is that all with pianos? Yes. Oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,