The Brief Rule of St. Romuald

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The Little Rule of Saint Romuald

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#set-brief-rule-of-st-romuald

#preached-retreat

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Mindful of your loving care for us, we ask you for your peace. Instill in the hearts of all your peace, your gifted peace. We ask you for peace in our country. We ask you for peace in our church during this troubled time. We ask you for peace in our families, in our community. We ask you for peace in ourselves, that gift of peace that only you give. That peace that goes hand in hand with the inner stillness we strive to create in our lives.

[01:09]

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 by the outpouring of your spirit, that we may love you with the perfect love and praise you as you deserve. Amen. 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.

[02:17]

If you have just come to the monastery and in spite of all 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 tastes nothing and eats nothing but what its mother gives it. Amen. Thank you.

[03:21]

So I thought, after my presentation, we could again have the opportunity for discussion. Let's see how it goes. Put the world behind you. Forget it. The accent Robin will place on how to sit in one's cell as in paradise accentuates the fact that this time is sacred time, just as the cell is sacred space. And in sacred time we are always as though in paradise, here and now, at the beginning and at the end. Sacred time.

[04:29]

We are in that eternal presence that's always now, facing the Alpha and the Omega. We are not in clock-oriented time here. That's chronos, as in chronological time. But we've now entered the eternal time, the sacred time, kairos. We are now in kairotic time, as it were. And as such, we can let go of all the stuff connected with the clock and the clock-oriented world. That's the point of entering sacred time. This kairotic time is not something we Westerners and Christians have coined the mark of.

[05:35]

Anything but. If anything, we've coined it chronological time. Sacred time pre-exists us. It is the time entered by primitive religious consciousness, so many eons ago, and continues to be entered by everyone seeking the quiet and peace accorded us by religious experience. What is beyond chronos? Extra-chronological time, or even better, meta-chronological time. In the East, both the Christian East and non-Christian East, we are urged to enter the quiet and to find that inner stillness that hezekiah, in the Christian East,

[06:41]

find it within our hearts, within our true selves. And here, of course, we encounter the importance of cultivating that inner self, that cell of the heart, where each of us, regardless of our lives, regardless of our vocational choice or life circumstances, must come to grips with the true call of solitude. St. John Climacus wrote, Close the door of your cell to your body, close the door of your tongue to tongue, and the gate within to evil spirit. When we're cultivating that inner cell of the heart,

[07:44]

St. Romuald urges us to forget. We must place our memories behind us. We must set aside all that the memory is capable of doing to us. Aware of things, we let go. We let go of all control, quite simply. We should not let our minds wander back outside the cell. We're talking about the inner self now. I'm mindful of what one of the Desert Mothers, Amma Sutlejka was her name, a little bit more famous ones, said about this. She said, she wrote, There are those in the city who live as if they were living on a mountain. And again, there are those on a mountain who are living as if they were in the city.

[08:52]

Those of you living elsewhere and not on this mountainside can and should take great solace in this saying of St. Sutlejka. No one is cornered the market on contemplative peace. No one is cornered the market on inner stillness and the inner cell of the heart. We all have that potential. The solitude of the physical and the mastic cell can facilitate, and should better facilitate, the cultivation of inner stillness and peace. And it should protect its ongoing maintenance. But human nature does not let it do so. It is not so much who you are or where you are as it is how you are, where you are, whoever you are.

[10:01]

Once again, it is not so much who you are or where you are as it is how you are, where you are, whoever you are. Watch your thoughts like a good fisher. Notice here the passivity of one who lives behind the world, who forgets the world. You are to be an observer of your own inner workings. Watch your thoughts. Read here your passions, your vices, with your thought processes, as if, as you would if you were reading the Masters of Desert Spirituality, such as the Baudrillard's Contemplates or later John Cashin.

[11:06]

We also are welcome all of these primary sources that Baudrillard did in fact read the Desert Masters. He did read Cashin, and thus Evagrius' spirituality, because Cashin popularized Evagrius, even though he didn't let people know he was doing that, because it was dangerous at the time. We are to keep vigilance over ourselves. Vigilance. Like this morning, remember, the key to monastic spirituality, vigilance. Vigilance. Watchfulness. It was the monastics who kept vigil, who prayed vigils during the nights. And now they must be vigilant within themselves, watching their inner thoughts, their inner emotions. All of them. It is common in desert literature to read such things as

[12:14]

dash your thoughts against Christ, and let your thought think what it likes, but do not let your body be the cell. Again, the idea is perseverance, regardless of how the cell is treating you, personally. Romulo tells us that we must watch our thoughts like a good fisher, watching for fish. When I went to the Comandolis Coronese, Comandolis, hermitage of Montagua, near Padua this past summer, at one point I was standing near a pond, water, after the liturgical celebration, standing by a fence overlooking this pond of water,

[13:15]

murky water. And there was a cement pond. At first I thought it was a treatment bath. Looked like it. And as I gazed into the pond, suddenly I noticed fish. And then I noticed schools of fish rising to the surface of the pond, and then slowly fading back into the depths, or swimming into the depths. I was looking into the hermitage fishina, or the fish pond, watching a wonderful water ballet in action. It was mesmerizing after a while. There were thousands of fish in it, I think. That is how we are to watch our thoughts. It came to mind. With the calm passivity of the fisher, watching beneath the water's surface,

[14:18]

watching a whole world, a floating world, of thoughts and desires and passions, swimming out in the depths, coming briefly to the surface, and then sinking back into the depths. At times these thoughts remain on the surface, and swim around and play, maybe even eat a little bit, before disappearing from view once again. There is a swimming world, a floating world there, just beneath the surface of each of us. As a child, I often went fishing with my father, who was an excellent fisherman. But I never quite was a fisherman like my father. Where am I going, Miss Jo? What a tummy.

[15:21]

Although I daresay I went fishing as much as they did. I just didn't like to catch stuff. I liked to watch them. I liked to ride on a boat. And I liked to gaze into the water. I was fascinated by watching the under, beneath the surface, the underwater world. And sometimes I secretly hoped that they would not be caught. In fact, sometimes it wasn't so secret. Because I would catch something, and insist that we let it go. And when it was a large fish, my dad wasn't always that happy about that. John Cashin used this image of the monk fisher when quoting Abba Abraham in his conference number 24 in the Newman Press edition of the conferences.

[16:27]

And I quote. And this is from pages 827 to 828, if you're interested. The person who keeps constant watch over the purity of the inner person, attentive, unmoving, like a clever fisher looking out, may catch the swarms of thoughts swimming about in the calmest depths of the heart. And like someone gazing intently into the depths, may with wise discretion judge which fish he should drop to himself if it's safe and proper, and which ones he should let go and reject. John Clivicus, with whose hesychast spirituality

[17:29]

at the Eastern Church, St. Ronald may have been directly, or certainly indirectly, cognizant of, wrote this. This is John Clivicus, from the Letter of Divine Ascent, Paul's edition, page 196. The vigilant monk, note vigilant, the vigilant monk is a fisher of thoughts. And in the quiet of the night he can easily observe and catch them. And so, Ronald wants us to pray as if we were fishing, ever observant and certainly vigilant, watching, recognizing, letting go,

[18:30]

letting things sink back into depth. Not necessarily sticking an oar in there and digging up the muck on the bottom. It's a good thing, not necessarily. The path you must follow is in dissonance. Notice how fast we're going through the word once we've sat in the cells in paradise. We should not at all be surprised that St. Ronald chooses the Psalter as the only path to prayer. We know from various references in the Life of Blessed Ronald by Peter Jaden, such as chapters 9, 31, and 50, how important the Psalms were to Ronald. He says it again and again.

[19:34]

After all, he was a Benedictine monk of Ravenna, in the Abbey of Sant'Apollonare in Place, and he prayed the opus Dei as any good Benedictine, daily, for years, at his abbey, at least three, before he left there, at least. Once he left the abbey, with his abbot's permission, to seek greater solitude, he joined an older men living in the countryside, like Radena, the native Marina. And what they did, as their practice, was pray the Psalter, day and night. And we know from the Life that Ronald made a mistake. Marina caught him in the ears. Once,

[20:36]

to the point where Ronald couldn't hear out of that ear for quite a while. When they moved to an arabidical lifestyle on a mountainside near the great Puniac house of St. Michael of Cusa, which I mentioned the other day, an important Benedictine abbey, in abbey of Puniac before. But this time, their roles reversed. That is, Ronald was now master, and old Marina was now a disciple. The little group of them, with Marina, gathered around St. Ronald, and while studying and reading the wisdom of desert literature, including John Cashion's conferences, they prayed the Psalter over and over again, just as we, his followers now, do so today, within the traditions of the Benedictine family. John Cashion had considered the Psalter as containing a condensation of old Scripture,

[21:39]

and thus, rightfully so, the one way to pray in all of its various forms. So praise, thanksgiving, sorrow, petition, it's all there in the Psalter. And so it becomes a compendium of all Scripture and the way to pray. And later on, we are told that St. Ronald received suddenly a great grace of mystically comprehending all of Scripture, suddenly, and in rapture. Never leave this path, Ronald tells us all in his little rule. Be faithful, persevere, this is the key, perseverance. The key to monastic knowledge, awakening, and peace, or as we have here, inner stillness has a key in it. Do not leave the path. Do not stop the practice, he tells us. This should sound very familiar

[22:41]

to anyone familiar with the writings of our great Buddhist sisters and brothers, a saying of the Zen Buddhist master Shunryu Suzuki speaks to this and should say something valuable to the Christian ideal of becoming bread for one another. He wrote, actual practice is repeating over and over again until you find out how to become bread. There is no secret in our way, just to practice sitting and put ourselves into the oven is our way. Let me repeat that. Actual practice is repeating over and over again until you find out how to become bread. There is no secret in our way, just to practice sitting and put ourselves into the oven is our way. Thank you.

[23:42]

Thank you. And then we go to the discussion. What would Suzuki have meant by Virendra? I would assume presence to one another, nurturing one another, bread for the world. The point of Zazen is certainly awareness, awakening. But there's also a consideration of compassion in the process. So perhaps it plugs into the compassionate part. Being bread for one another. Sustaining one another. I would guess.

[24:44]

I don't know for sure. What was the thought of the psalms first part of the day Benedictine? Oh, right from the beginning. Right from the beginning. Even their first monastery in Egypt, that was their center. They memorized the psalms and just kept reciting over and over again. I have a question. It's not exactly what we're talking about. Just a point of clarification. When you said about John writing about Evagrius? Evagrius. And that was the origin. Why was that a no-no? Because I read that in a book and I wasn't... I don't know that part of history that well.

[25:45]

I don't know if you could give me a short thumbnail of what happened. Have you ever heard of the Origen's Conspiracy? I don't know. I don't know what it is. At one point, those who followed Origen, the theologian Origen, as their guide, ended up on the wrong side of the theological fence when there was a battle raging. It's called the Origen's Contradiction. And there were saints on both sides of the fence. And unfortunately, at one point in Egypt, at least, in a later phase of it, the Romans killed on both sides of the fence over the Origenists and non-Origenists. I don't think we should get into the whole Origenist thing

[26:46]

because that would take a while. And it's not necessary. But Evagrius, Ponticus, had Origen as his hero, his theological hero. And when he moved from present-day Turkey down through the Holy Land, and we won't go into Evagrius' biography either here, it's not the point, had a healing, decided to become a monk, went to the deserts of Egypt and lived the rest of his life there and became one of the renowned Abbas there in the Egyptian dynasty, not even Egyptian or Coptic. Became a great teacher and master there. Evagrius became really what one could call the first systematic theologian of spirituality. He gave a whole system of how a Christian

[27:47]

can live spiritually. And he was the first one to do that systematically in the entire family. And he wrote maybe a dozen major monastic works all about this, getting the elements of spirituality out there. Cassian, John Cassian, later was very entertaining with Evagrius' theology. And Cassian, as a young monk, spent years before he went to southern France and formed monasteries there, and then lived among these Abbas in the deserts of Egypt. And he just imbibed Cassian's teaching of spirituality. By the time he got to France, it was all very suspect and heretical, you know, depending on, again, which side of the fence

[28:49]

you were on. Once again, Evagrius' origin all coming into their own now, and we're talking two millennia later almost. And so that's why I say although he popularized Evagrius' spirituality, he never ever mentions his name, never ever mentions his origin. The theology is the same. The spirituality is the same. And that's partially one reason why Cassian in the West was never canonized. Because he's skirting a dangerous fence there. And he got caught up in a controversy in his own day that even put him in a much worse, un-worse fence with Augustine at the stadium theology. And so

[29:49]

he never was officially canonized, although we celebrate him now in the church calendar. The Anglicans do also, and of course the Eastern church considers him a great father of the church. But our Roman church never canonized him. That's the problem. There's some of his background in that new book over there. It's a very old treasure trove. I wanted to ask you about these different communities and their doing so much with the Psalms. How literate was the majority of these people? The different communities? Not at all. Okay. That's why they had to memorize. No, for the most part in Egypt, up in Syria they were educated.

[30:50]

Even though they were living like they were. For the most part in Egypt they were not educated. They were feminine. But half of it was male. I'm interested in I've always been interested in the idea of Kairos time. I think of that as God time. Grace time. Yes, the wholeness of time. In our own small way the ability to look back on our own life and see patterns and symbols and manner different from any kind of linear pattern. Which would differentiate it between chronological time. Hezekiah is, I've never seen the three of those together. Oh, I didn't, I just, that's why I separated it a little bit more. I just wanted to get the spelling

[31:53]

down for people. Yeah, it's not very good time. Oh. But. It does. I was sitting here pondering. What would you come up with? I thought that what it is is almost time less or time out. Whereas it is that being in time, being where you're not focusing on the whole and you're not focusing on any part of it. But you're just living in the present. Living in the presence. Definitely Kairos time. Also, an easy way to think of the differences is that this time here that we're spending is Kairos time. Even though for a split second we waited until three o'clock

[32:54]

chronological time to start. After that we could care less about the clock. We're talking about other realities and we're in another place. And so that's grace time. This is grace. We in our lives in the last few centuries, we take time. We look at the clock, but it's interesting in Bornstein's book on the discoverers he really brings up how really this is such a new thing for human beings to be thinking so much of hourly time as opposed to even some time. Right. Yeah, that was a later development. We think it's such a brand new as we stopped when we think about it. Yeah. Over the last few centuries we've been pretty good at it. Yeah. I was driven by it. It's amazing

[33:54]

to me because when daylight savings time ends standard time begins and vice versa. My husband and I run around the house and it's like about 13 o'clock that we have to change. The wristwatch, the cars. It's absolutely amazing. Yeah. At least the computer does it automatically. Yes, the computer does it automatically. The telephone. We take such a tremendous toll on the human psyche these days. Time. Our time pressure. Our clock orientation. Well, I think we have plenty of chronological time here too. Those bells ring at specific times for specific reasons and we can't be just oblivious to time. But the more we walk in chirotic time the better off we are.

[34:54]

Even though the bell rings chronologically once we get here we're not in chronological time anymore. We're in seats out there. We better not be. We're missing all the time. Petey, I wonder if you could take us through maybe a mindset of perseverance from a more spiritual standpoint than perseverance. What it would mean in its literal translation. Which to me would be for the outside world to sort of be driven. If that's the right word. Perseverance. I suppose if you're looking etymologically at the word perseverance, what does it mean? Etymologically. Following through. Per and following up.

[35:55]

It's not necessarily that. It's something else. But spiritually the etymological etymological reason would be following through I think. More precisely it's not that. It would be persecutory or something like that. Perseverance. What would persevere come from? Through and durable or hard. Through the hard. Through the hard part. You see it through. But I would say spiritually speaking it's more like following through. That's your when you persevere in something you're not just just boldly sticking something sticking it out. You're following it through because there's a relationship there

[36:57]

with whatever reality you're dealing with. That you're persevering in or at. There's a relationship with your wisdom. And the very fact that there's a relationship, that there's a relating taking place calls for something beyond just enduring. Enduring. And certainly perseverance within the spiritual life is more than just simply enduring something or somebody. There is a part of it that is that. Surely. Because enduring also means in the heart. Enduring. In the heart. Following

[37:57]

through again though. I think it's not just sticking it out, but following through. And the through is important. Through it all. And through yourself. And through the reality of whatever you're dealing with. Am I just talking here? No. What I'm saying is kind of related on the level that she's like married. She's been married 40 years. And it wasn't just kind of just enduring. It was following through on the promise of a relationship and continuing on through all kinds of stuff. Same thing with the wildlife. I mean, I suppose it's possible for someone just to stick it through year after year. How many years that can go on without some following through happening for us?

[38:57]

It would seem to me it would all start to unravel like a sweater with a lip in it. I don't know. You'd be aborted. Yeah. The seven speaks of it. Yeah. The seven would work for you. Injections. Anything else? The watching your thoughts like a good fisher. It's a point that puzzles me because what I'm wondering is what are we doing in the watching of the thoughts? You also quoted I think it was Kathy who said that at some point one gets to a place of knowing which of the fish to draw in on the

[39:59]

saving hook. A Tibetan Buddhist master that I studied with at some point compared or talked about this process of contemplative or moving into the contemplative experience as watching a train go by. So you're watching and the boxcars are like the thoughts. The intention is to focus on the space between the boxcars. And to eventually expand the time of seeing the space and not the boxcars. What would also say just in the swimming pool thing that the real importance there is the perceiving of this depth that the fish can rise in and sink back into. So what we're doing then in the sitting in this way is waiting as we're watching the fish waiting for the point at which they have gone

[40:59]

into the depth and being in the depth which is the space basically between the thoughts. Not to focus on the thoughts themselves. No. More on the movement. In other words and even some practitioners of meditation will tell you or even psychologists will tell you go ahead and acknowledge your basic instincts. Acknowledge what you're feeling. Notice the outrage you suddenly have. Notice it. Own up to it. Let it go. Well I think that's also what it's doing because when we're supposed to be watching our thoughts we're feeling our passions not just thought processes. That's why I said originally read here passions and vices whatever you want to fill in that line. Own up to them. Notice them as phenomena

[42:01]

as phenomena in your life. What? And the one that says I think it was catch the ones you can catch and John Klimek has they both did Klimek has said in the quiet of the night you can easily catch them. I know what he means by that. I know what passion means I think where some you can catch others you let go is that there are good passions helpful passions helpful thought, helpful feeling. It's alright not just to own up to them but to actually acknowledge them and let own them own them others to let go I think. So even in the process or in the sort of

[43:04]

passive action of seeking the stillness of those moments of actual sitting the idea would be that there would be times of catching the fish basically and holding or you know the drawing in of the, and I think the quote was something about the saving hook so that at times even in the quest for the stillness to catch and save something that has redemption personal redemption and so it works then with the individual in those moments to have a redemptive but I mean from my own experience as limited as it is it's not so much a question of what I'm going to catch although I've caught something now and then which has been worth catching and noticing and thinking oh where did that come from but it's more of

[44:07]

a process of even in a quiet meditation or at the most recollected moments during silence in the middle chamber or even in the moment sometimes I must imagine horrifying images coming to my head or horrifying memories or violence done somewhere by someone something I've read or whatever floating just like a in and out and the point is these can really bother me especially the more sensuous things that would go through my head thinking about something like that at this point in time, it's only a split second but it's there come to more or less let go of all that and I'm now more amused or being amused by incredible things in my mind can, even when I'm intending this thing things can go through in the back of my mind

[45:10]

I've got like a number of levels going at once and they all seem to be rather amused by one another and I'm somehow in the middle of it what incredibly complex things our minds are how did you relate these little thoughts floating through the head to dreams? to dreams? I don't know, go to the subconscious the dream world of the subconscious is a whole other reality I think much deeper it might have similar emotions in your being but it's just floating thoughts but that's a whole other big, big trick sitting there studying psychology especially if you're getting something like archetypal dreams in a month's in a month's dream these powerful

[46:14]

things at work in our beings trying to be resolved trying to come out of the depths trying to come to the surface and cause some kind of action one way or the other so in that sense certainly the fish in the pond I mean you could talk about the dream world the same way in fact the Japanese are very fond talking about the dream world as the floating world I think I think what you kind of said about letting those thoughts go by meditation if you get a negative dream or sometimes you kind of let that go too the same way it can come up

[47:16]

and kind of change it around in your life for something better have you ever done that like when a negative image comes up you let it go and you try to create something positive or you just let it go and just be still that's what I try more for I used to try and fight it substitute it for whatever I just recognize somebody when I'm gone sometimes that's my life I like the idea of the dreams and the fish those thoughts that keep coming up and surfacing and resurfacing and thinking in terms of a big one because they come from that from that deep place and those places are the places that we have to come up and work with and when we can't work with them we know that when we're in meditation and in ourself

[48:17]

and in that wonderful space that the grace of God is working even if we can't and just to acknowledge as the Buddhist sometimes when they come up and those thoughts surface and they just start thinking just thinking and we just let it go and if we can't work with the grace of God I agree that's what I'm talking about anything else? thank you

[49:04]