February 18th, 1981, Serial No. 00795

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Monastic Spirituality Set 2 of 12

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In a couple of weeks, I'd like to review a bit before we go on with Robert's. We've gotten as far as Robert's page 84, I believe. I'll just review some fundamental notions, because it's important when we're talking about obedience that we keep the whole context behind us, or in front of us. Otherwise, we will find our brows furrowing, with the whole thing beginning to get out of disarray. I'll just mention a few things. First of all, we've got to look at obedience in the context of the whole mystery of redemption. Remember, redemption means two things. Redemption means a buying, and it also means a liberation, a rescue, right? And the idea that somehow, by the cross, by the obedience of Jesus, we've been bought. St. Paul said we've been bought into Christ. We've been bought, yet to buy something means it's a possession. And here's the paradox, that we become, in a sense, bought for our own freedom.


We become redeemed like a captive. They used to ransom captives, remember? So when a captive is ransomed, he becomes free. But also, we've been bought by God, in a sense, so that our freedom is never apart from God. And this whole business of obedience, whenever we talk about it, and it slips into juridical terms, or it slips into rational terms, and we forget that the whole thing is a mystery of the presence of God, then we get into danger. Then the thing gets dualistic again. It gets hardened, and it turns into the combat between liberty and law, or the combat between two egos, between authority and obedience, and so on. And that's what happened, of course, around the time of the Reformation. Luther, for instance, exploded, rebelled against a too authoritarian kind of obedience that was being asked for, a kind of discipline that was being approached. And the whole thing collapsed into a dualistic tug-of-war, instead of being a mystery of communion the way it's supposed to be.


And even in the Garden of Eden, I think it was supposed to be different than that. But something happened, something slipped away, and the serpent slipped in. What slipped away, actually, was the presence of God, the voice of God, which makes the obedience a different kind of word than just an external word. The voice of wisdom is a word, which sends so easily to get buried, to get lost. So we have to look at it against this, in this context of the whole mystery. Think, first of all, of creation. And creation in view of a kind of a collaboration. I just looked back at Genesis 1 this morning. But remember, when God made man, he put him in the garden. And all this, call it myth, call it history, whatever you want, but it explains our situation. It's a parable of our situation. God put man in the garden, and then listen to what he did. Then the Lord God said, It's not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.


So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle and to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field. So God makes man, then he makes the creatures, and he waits to see what God is going to name the creatures. This gives you an idea of the kind of relationship that God wants to have with man. In other words, he doesn't predetermine everything. He doesn't set him on a railroad track and say, Well, you do that, and I'll come around to see if you did it afterwards. No, he waits to see what God is going to name the creatures. That's a very kind of fascinating picture that's put there for us. It's sort of some symbol of the creativity that God expects from man, which is put in much harsher terms. When Jesus gives the parable of the master, he goes away and gives his servants ten talents or five talents or one talent, and they have to deal with him. But that dealing with him is not just a matter of going out and working.


It's a matter of ingenuity, a matter of creativity, a matter of man's development somehow his own potential. Not against God, not exclusively for himself, but the very development of that potential is somehow making profit for God in the business terms of the parable, or somehow pleasing God. It's delighting God as he watches man, his son, sort of branch out. So, even creation has that in view. And then there's sin, and the sin is the sin of disobedience, and immediately a sin then of enslavement. In other words, the whole thing collapses, the whole sweetness and freedom of obedience, and the sort of music of the collaboration of God and man collapses when sin occurs. And then it becomes a type of war. But man then becomes somehow enslaved to something else.


And this is something that we have to realize if we want to appreciate obedience. If we don't understand our enslavement, our unfreedom, then we can't understand our obedience. And the place I'd like to recur to, two places that you think of right away, besides the Rosary and Benedict, one is the letter to the Romans, remember, where St. Paul says, Through the disobedience of one man, sin entered into the world, and then death, through the obedience of one man, then salvation comes. And then the letter of the Hebrews, which talks in such concrete, flesh and blood terms about Jesus and his obedience. I'll quote the line to you again from Hebrews 2, verse 14. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself, that is Jesus, likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.


So somehow we sold ourselves into sin. And I put this in historical past as if we ourselves did it, but we don't know how to figure that out. We don't know how to understand and look at our solidarity in sin, or the captivity into which somehow we're born, or which we gradually take on as we grow up. It's a real mystery. The term original sin, well, it doesn't completely satisfy us, but it's very difficult to express that thing, that mystery of evil, that mystery of captivity among freedom from sin. It's darkness. Then this redemption that happens when God becomes man. Redemption meaning liberation, but freedom isn't free. Freedom costs something. When you've lost it, it's like losing potential energy somehow. There has to be a payment for getting that freedom back. It's a gift, the freedom is a gift to us, and yet it costs us something,


and it costs us something of our unfreedom. One thing, we have to give up our chains in order to become free, but we have a kind of love affair with our chains, with our slavery, which is another mystery of why a person can love misery, why we can love neurosis, why we can feel self-pity, why we can fear our freedom, or why we hate that which we are supposed to be, why we hate our greater self. I've just been reading a book of which the chief thesis is that the bottom, the essence of sin is hatred of oneself, is hatred of what one is meant to be, that is one's true self. We can go into that another time. But anyway, freedom costs God something. It costs God something to redeem us, and hence this word redemption, it sounds so strange to us that God should have to buy us. Well, who does he buy us from? That's a mystery. In St. Anselm's way of expressing the mystery of redemption, that's always been a problem.


Who is it that God buys us from? God doesn't pay a price to the devil, that's for sure. Just leave that question unanswered. But at any rate, it costs him something, because it costs Christ something. And Christ is God. Is he buying us from ourselves? Like with the false self? In a way. Why should he pay a price to nothingness, though? Why should he pay a price... The false self is real, isn't it? I mean, it exists. It exists in a way. It exists because our will has frozen into it in some way. So he's buying us from our will? You can look at it that way. I don't want to try to give an answer, because I don't claim to know right now, but it's a question that's worth asking yourself. I don't claim to know the answer exactly. Yeah, but you have to... It doesn't mean necessarily that you've been bought from death.


It means you've been liberated from death, okay? But it doesn't necessarily personify death in the sense that you pay a price to death. Because it sounds good for God to pay a price to nothingness, right? For God to have to pay a price to that which does not exist, and especially a price like the blood of Christ. At the same time, we don't like to think of the price being paid to God. We don't like to think of God like a vengeful execution of demanding the blood of Christ as a payment for our sins, something like that. So that remains a very difficult thing to deal with. It's not really something I want to get into, because it's a little bit aside from our point. I want to stick to obedience, but it's something to think about. In the end, you have to abandon the business metaphor at a certain point. You have to abandon that redemption thing at a certain point, because you can't carry it otherwise. In a way, it's God's pouring something out. It's the manifestation of his love.


And he doesn't owe anything to anybody. He does it out of the freedom of love. And we put it in... From our side, it looks like a bargain. From our side, it looks like a purchase or a redemption, in that sense, paying a price, okay? And from one side, it is, and from one side, it's not. There's a freedom in it on one side, a perfect liberty of God. And he didn't have to make things that way so that that price would be necessary, did he? But from the other side is the paying of a price, working out of the law. But that's kind of a side issue. There's other passages in Hebrews 5. I'll read this one to you before I turn. In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death. And he was heard from his godly fear. Now, that says what Jesus had to go through. Although he was a son, he was God. He learned obedience through what he suffered.


Those astonishing words. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obeyed him. So he paid a price. And our price, somehow, if we want to get where he is and follow him, has to be the same as the price of obedience. He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obeyed him. Somehow, our price is our life. Our price is our life. In other words, we pay this life for the next life. To put it in very crude and ugly simple terms. This life is a seed, and you have to lose it anyway, right? You can't hold on to it. So you have the choice of whether to give the seed to the ground or to have it taken away from you. There's a whole spectrum of ways to accept your life and your death in between. And, of course, the way of Jesus is the way of obedience. The way almost of anticipating. And yet, he doesn't throw his life away. He has his hour. And when his hour comes, then it's a question of obedience to the precise will of the Father at that hour.


He lays down his life at that time and not earlier. And until that time, nobody can take it away from him, and he's not going to give it away. At that hour, he gives it up. It's the will of the Father. And so it should be with us. But until that point, when we're asked actually for our life, our life is to be a kind of willing giving, rendering to him, true obedience. Obedience is just one of the ways that we do it, but somehow it's a way that comprehends all the others. Then, to show more clearly our part in this, besides that line that I just read to you, became a source of eternal salvation to all who obeyed him, and therefore who followed his own path. This is from Hebrews 12. Let us run the race, he says, which is set before us. Looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, in some ways, he's run before us and won the same run, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,


and is thus seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. First, there's the notion of a race, then there's a notion of a struggle, a combat. And finally, implicit in this is the notion of obedience, but it comes out under the term discipline. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. That's what he did. And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? My son, do not regard the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves and chastises every son whom he receives. It's for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? So that brings it back into the metaphor of obedience to God. It's God ultimately that we have to deal with and nobody else. If there's a struggle, our struggle is a struggle against sin, but it's a struggle in favor of the Word of God. It's a struggle for obedience. It's a struggle for that discipline which the Father is giving us.


The way that we think about these things is delicate because we have emotional reactions to them. Because remember, this is the one great koan, this great koan of... call it the koan of death or the koan of the cross or the koan of obedience, okay? Poverty and chastity are also koans. Obedience is a koan and the monastic life itself is a koan, which you only understand by living it. Living it, you understand it because you change. As you live, you change into that which you are trying to follow, want to obey. And in that way you understand it because you become it. But you can't understand it from outside and that's why I say it's a koan. It's a convenient Zen word that we have. That from outside just looks absurd. And it looks not only absurd, but as Jesus said, remember, that the cross, or as St. Paul said, the cross is stupidity to the Greeks. What did he say? Absurdity to the Greeks and a scandal to the Jews.


A scandal means something hateful. The cross is always absurdity and it's always hateful. And so is obedience until you begin to live it, you begin to understand the transformation that happens within it, inside of it. You don't understand without following. You don't understand without living. And that's the difference from all the gnostic ways, you know, where in some way you get a secret, esoteric handle. You get some book into it, an inner doctrine, an inner path that allows you to get to God in your own way. So even in somebody else's way, but you never give yourself up completely. And the distinctive thing about the Jewish and Christian path is that you have to put yourself completely into the hands of a person. That you take God seriously as a person, so that you have to put yourself completely into his hands. And you do that ultimately by obedience. So everything else funnels somehow into obedience. Because the thing that matters ultimately in the Christian life is not to do this or that, but to do the will of God. So really this distinguishes Christianity and Christian monasticism


from all of the articles on the spiritual supermarket and all the gnostic paths, where you find some technique, or you find some way, or you find some handle. You find some way of giving yourself partially. And it can be a very hard discipline, you know. You can meditate for 18 hours a day. But still it's your way, you know. You can obey a guru, but still it's your way. It's the way of man. Our way is the way somehow of trying to find the will of God. And I say that, you know, this is what we should be doing. Not that we always do it. But that's distinctive of the Christian way. And it reduces everything. It makes the wisdom of Christianity, as it were, invisible. It reduces everything to very humble proportions. Because all you need in a sense is the will of God. You don't need a lot of equipment. And the will of God is that discipline the Hebrews is talking about. It sanctifies you. It transforms you. It purifies your heart. And if you find the will of God, then you find God. And if you've got the will of God, then you've got God himself. There's one of those essays, one of those atakim,


that talks about having a shred of the will of God, or a shred of the word of God. It says if you've got a little chunk, if you've got a little tatter, a little scrap of it, you've got the whole thing. If you've got the will of God, the scrap of the will of God, the scrap that belongs to you, you've got the fringe of his garment, because you've got him. Just like the lady that touched the fringe of Jesus' clothes, remember? So, it's somehow that contains the secret of the whole thing. And this business of a personal God expresses itself in an incarnational way. That is, you obey a man. And what is there that represents a person except a person? But it's a person like yourself, who himself doesn't maybe have any magic techniques, or doesn't have it all under control, doesn't have it all together. We're simply with you trying to find the will of God. So it becomes a kind of humble, collaborative search, rather than a guru-disciple. Which is very disconcerting and disappointing, because we'd much rather have a guru. We'd have all kinds of powers. Which is not to say that there haven't been these spiritual fathers in the Christian way.


There have been, and there are still. But they're few, and they're hard to find. And most of us have to contend with something much more, much less impressive, much less appealing. Even if you have a spiritual father, the obedience is still very hard. I remember reading somewhere, it was Father Paisios, I think, he said he could have had lots and lots of disciples, but people weren't willing to follow the way they turned back. It's too hard. It's a matter of faith. And a faith which is somehow strong enough so that it overcomes all your resistances, so that you even believe that God can overcome your unwillingness. It's that kind of faith that it takes for that kind of spiritual obedience. In other words, you don't feel like it at all, but you set your feelings aside and you say, well, God will take care of that, because I believe in him, and I believe that I'm somehow hooking into his will through this obedience. So he'll even take care of all the impossibilities and all my feelings,


and the fact that I'm going to hate to do this. Isn't that the difference between a Christian way and a Baptist way, like you said? They don't involve faith. They just involve power and power. Well, there's some kind of faith, because first of all, there's a faith in the guru, okay? There's a very strong personal faith in the guru, like they have in this guy, well, Muktananda's one, and then the other one over there, Sai Baba, my goodness, they have an absolute faith in him. They consider that he's God. So in that sense, there can be, but... I mean, as far as the way itself, faith in the way, like believing what you're saying right now, about how you're an adult, understanding that's how you're going to live it. Faith that it transforms you, yeah. They just can't tell you what to do. Well, sometimes they have a faith in that, like the Buddhist way. I mean, what the Zen Roshi tells you might just be a little piece of, a little scrap of bread,


just a very little, you know, very little satisfaction sometimes, especially with the Zen people, because they're, what would you call it, they're very unyielding and demanding of Zen masters sometimes. But there's a terrific faith in the way. They even use the word faith. I don't know what the Japanese equivalent is, you know. But the notion of the faith in the way, that if you do this, if you just do your sitting and so on, do what you're supposed to do, that you'll be enlightened. In fact, even a faith that if you're sitting, you're already enlightened in some way. It's very much like the Catholic thing of faith and grace, you know. That the important thing is not the contemplative enlightenment, but the thing is the grace itself which you're living. So there is a strong faith there, often. But what's at the other end of that faith? Either there's a way, like that, which is to be infallible, the way of the Buddha, you know. Or there's a human person who somehow represents, but somehow there isn't that God who really exercises his own liberty


behind and through that human person who merely stands in a kind of sacramental relationship to him. There's something different in the Buddha. There's not that God who acts, who speaks, who really wants to do his own thing. That God who is intensely personal, that Jewish God, it's hard to get it into words, but there's a kind of a liberty about that God. He just speaks up and he does what he wants to do, you know. Unlike the other ones who are sort of, I don't know, sort of a vague background to the guru himself who is a magnetic personality, who has the powers, who is the focus of attraction. And often that divinity is just kind of an ocean of bliss behind the guru somewhere, you know. It's the guru that has all the power, the energy, the fascination. It's not so in the Christian world. Even Jesus, you know, gives way to that Father who is beyond.


It's the Father's work, it's the Father's work. I suppose there's like a communion, I would say, with the Hindu saints, where I'd say you follow a guru and then he has a picture himself of his guru. Often there is a train like that, yeah. I don't know whether they all do that, but there are chains of gurus that go way back. I think also among the Tibetans, certainly there are the Tibetans as avatars, as reincarnations, but also I think the teachers So what is the person linking up with, say if he follows a guru or something? But if you know Christ,


if you've heard the word of Christ, you're on a whole different, you're on a different journey. And we can't mess with those things anymore. Yes. And also a spirit. They seem to pass on a charism sometimes. It's incredible, you know. There's a power that they actually transmit. I don't know how to explain that. There's a lot that we don't know about in the spiritual world, that's all I can say. But with Christianity it's different. There isn't a transmission in that sense of a charism. The Holy Spirit just refuses to submit very long to that kind of thing. You don't get any chains that are really significant. You will have something very close, a unique relationship between


one spiritual father and one spiritual son, like Simeon the Theologian and his spiritual father. And occasionally that happens. But you don't get a chain with continuity in Christianity the way you do over there. And there's something about the freedom of God who refuses to submit to that kind of thing. Just as he refused to submit to the line of kings or priests in the Old Testament or anything else, he remains wild and free outside of all of those possessive things, where you're the one. He anoints somebody, but then he remains freely outside that anointed one, like with David. He's certainly not imprisoned by the anointing that he gives to David. And he comes and he throws his word in his face to Nathan the prophet, remember? He's always got somebody else to come around and tell you where you're wrong. And he remains outside and beyond all of this. He's never sort of controlled or in that way. The closest thing that comes to that is the sacramental transmission, which is something else. The transmission of the mysteries, like through the Eucharist, you know, they used to talk about those as the mysteries,


and they used to be considered arcane. They wouldn't even let the catechumens and the others into the central part of the mass. But that's something quite different. That's something we'd have to talk about at another time. You don't find that same kind of transmission. It's been said, you know, more than once that God has no grandsons, he has no grandchildren. His relationship with us is immediate because we are his sons in Jesus Christ and he gives us his spirit. Nobody gets in between. Nobody gets in between. And that's why the transmission thing very quickly gets short-circuited in Christianity because you relate directly to God. And whenever something gets too much in the middle, you get a rebellion like you did with the Protestant Reformation where the church was getting in between people and God as if the only way that they could relate to God and the full, complete way was through the church and through its institutions and through its sacraments and so on. But you see, there's truth in that. The church is immediate, but it can be overdone because the Holy Spirit retains its freedom


when God relates to people independently and immediately. Yeah, he did. There was a transmission there. There again you find a single transmission that spark that leaps from one prophet to another prophet, but it seems to end there. It doesn't go any further. So it's an isolated thing in Christianity. Nobody really possesses the enlightenment. Nobody possesses the Holy Spirit, in a sense. Another thing that we have to stress is that there's a difference between shallow liberty and deep liberty. The shallow self, the ego, and the deep self. What we're talking about has to do with that. But it's not only a matter of getting to your true self, it's a matter of getting to the will of God. So, there's always this sort of dualism between


our freedom and God's will. This paradox remains. But we are moving from a shallow self to a deeper self. From a shallow kind of external liberty to being able to do what you want to discovering our deeper liberty. But the only way we can discover our deeper liberty somehow is when our liberty is forced to go underground. I wouldn't make that an absolutely general statement. But consider the way that persons discover their deeper liberty when they're in danger of death, when they're in war or something like that. When they're really up against it, when they think they're going to get killed. In the presence of death, they discover for the first time what it means to be alive. And that everything that they thought was freedom before is just child's play, is just nickels and dimes. Compared to the freedom that they've discovered simply of affirmation or acceptance of life or whatever you want to call it. Or the freedom that they discovered in the very discovery of their courage. In the very finding of themselves in that pickle. But that's because in a way, they've been pushed, they've been forced into that place where that's the only


direction they can emerge in. Somehow they've been given the grace to discover that deeper self. So, the same thing is attempted in the monastic way. But of course you have to be very careful with that. Because you can't force anything. You can't produce that deeper freedom. You can't force anybody to discover it. And you can't kill people. And you just, you know, cut the plant off right at the roots. Being sure that that freedom is going to be, is going to come forth. It's not necessary. Depending on God's grace. And then the fact that obedience is a road. I mentioned this last time. Sometimes the road is wide and sometimes the road is narrow. Sometimes the road is easy and pleasant. Sometimes there's a lot of freedom on the road. There's a lot of creativity on the road. And it's like the summertime. You know, when the trees burst forth and the leaves come out of the branches. And then comes the wintertime. When the road gets narrow. And there's only one choice then. Either you go forward or you stop. Either you say yes or you say no. It's like Gethsemane.


So there's a narrow place and there's a wide place. So obedience is by no means always the same thing. And this we have to look at in the context of, well, look at the history of the Jews. And look at the life of Jesus. And then look just at the way that God acts with us. There's no scheme. There's no plan. But it depends on the way that God acts in our own lives. And therefore the way that situations develop in our own lives. And the way that we develop. So we've got to expect that sometimes it's going to be quite enjoyable. Quite creative. We'll feel very free. We'll be, as it were, making discoveries every day. And sometimes it's going to narrow down. And sometimes we're going to be in a tunnel. And sometimes we'll really be up against it and there'll be a chalice that we won't want to drink. And it'll cost everything that we have and more to be able to say yes to that. Just like it did for Jesus. And that's the real test. But we need both those wide places and the narrow places in order to develop. If it was only narrow places, we'd never be able to expand. Our hearts would never be able to grow. We'd somehow


be ridden with fear and rigidity. If it was only the wide places, we'd never discover that deeply. And we'd really spend, waste all of our energy in the branches. You know, like something, like a tree that's never pruned. Or a vine. Remember Jesus says this is John 15 where he says that the father is the husband and he prunes the vine so that it may bring forth more fruit. So there's a time of growing out, a time of expansion, and there's a time of pruning. That's for the sake of more fruit. So there are two kinds of choices here. More than two kinds maybe, but two kinds of choices we can think of. The choice where you really have freedom to do what you want. And where your choice is like the choice in artistic creation. Where it's a matter of a kind of sweet collaboration with inspiration or with the Holy Spirit. Or with the unconscious or whatever. And where, I don't know, life is like a song. And the choices are


obviously free choices. You're in a wide place. And then there's a kind of choice in a narrow place where there are only two alternatives and one of them is very disagreeable. There's the choice where you're sort of altogether, and call it a spontaneous choice, where you're sort of, your heart and your nature itself and your feelings leap forward towards this thing. And then there's the choice where you're divided, where you're in conflict. Where part of you wants to go ahead and part of you doesn't want to at all. Like Saint Paul in Romans 7. There's a law in his mind and a law in his body. That kind of thing. That's to get something. So, we've got a word like obedience. With any word we tend to generalize. We tend to look at the whole thing and try to talk about it as if it were all one thing. But it's not all one thing. Sometimes obedience is a positive thing and sometimes obedience is apparently a negative thing. Sometimes obedience is a matter sometimes of expanding yourself or developing yourself or using your own


ingenuity or being creative. And that's what God wants from you. And another time, obedience is accepting one thing, which is, God, you've got to do this. It's been said that the heart of obedience is not what you're asked to do, but what is excluded by the fact of what you have to do. It's all the paths that you can't take because of the choice that you've made and the way that that determines your life. But those things are not forbidden explicitly. That just happens because of the choice that you've made and because of what you're asked to do. There are lots of other things you can't do. And in that too, obedience is a confrontation of death, a limitation, a contingency of our life, a wall we run into continually. And then, obedience in the incarnation. Roberts talks about this one, page 82.


This difficulty of obeying, say, particular bishops and particular concrete, very real flesh and blood people with all their limitations, particular superiors, particular habits and priors and whatever. That's part of the whole plan of God, the way that God works in the incarnation. That Jesus comes into a very particular situation, and a lot of the scandal of Christianity to many people, the Eastern people, is that it's so particular, it's so concrete. That Jesus is this limited person and that there's this limited history that we have to deal with. And God somehow puts himself into this history. He doesn't pull us out of it. He doesn't vaporize us into some transcendental atmosphere. But he comes into this history and makes it sacramental. Makes it sacramental by the fact that he's present in it through his Holy Spirit. And the obedience thing is part of this, that we have to obey a particular man and we can clearly see his limitations.


We can clearly see that he doesn't have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, that he doesn't always know God's will, that he's not always, maybe even leading us according to a, you know, with complete detachment. Maybe there's a little of his self-interest in there too. Nevertheless, that's the way. The same way that Jesus walked. Only more so because the people that he had to... Of course, he didn't... His life wasn't a life of obedience in the same way that ours is. Because Jesus was not continually under another man as superior, was he? His obedience was directly to God. And then, of course, he submitted to the law which took his life from him at the end. But there's something else. He submitted to people coming to him. That's obedience in a broader sense. Obedience in the sense that St. Benedict says, Obey one another. It's also obedience to the Father's will as interpreted in this person that comes to me at that moment, in this need. So it seems that he read the Father's will


in that way. And therefore, the Father's will was a very sort of free, unpredictable thing which would come to him from all sides. Not just one unique idea that drove him forward. This is a problem that continually occurs, though. This insistence of God on the finality of this life, this community. So our community is... The Church is already a sacrament of God, a sacrament of Christ. The Church in all its concreteness and all of the false that we can see in the Church, all the humanity that we can see in the Church, humanity in the negative sense. And so, our community is a little church that has the same sacramentality. And so are brothers, and superior, and so on. All of them are part of this. And we know that very well, but we have to recall it to mind in order to be able, once again, to get together the two ends. That is, to get together the divinity of our life with the humanity of our life, so that we don't let anything escape us.


So that we don't fail to see the richness of our life because of the limitations we can see. We have to... We mustn't forget. We talk about, remember, the sacrament of the present moment, which is the sacrament of the now. Well, there's also the sacrament of the here. The sacrament of this place, of this community, of these brothers, of this superiority, and so on. The sacramental idea which brings everything right down into the here and now, brings the fullness of God somehow down into the here and now. And there's a very Jewish notion, too. I think every authentic tradition has its own version of this. But some of them tend to be, to sort of get you right into the transcendent, to the Gnostic paths that put you right at some time into the paths of that life. But a number of the authentic traditions are this way, that they insist on the reality, the importance of this life. But I don't think any of them do it to the extent that the Jewish tradition and the Christian tradition do.


That God is really in this life, and what you're doing now, you're doing for all eternity. And there's an extreme richness, an extreme potentiality in everything that we do. In a sense, it's not just a training. It's a training, but it's not a training. It's also a sacrament. It's a kind of a liturgy, if you want to put it that way, what we do. Now, this is maybe hard to accept sometimes. We don't want it to make us over-serious, but it's true. That God is in our life. God is in the way that we relate to one another. There's a sacredness about it all. No longer is there a division between the sacred and the profane. You know, the sacred looks in church, the profane looks outside. But because of the sacramentality of our life, especially in the Gnostic way, there's God in everything that we do. St. Paul talks about it all the time. They say here are the temples of the Holy Spirit and so on. Our life becomes a liturgy? Yeah. Liturgy, actually the word, liturgia means service, originally. And what it originally meant was like the public service


that the pagans would offer, you know, which would have a cultic or religious significance. The sacrifices, I suppose, they perform. So then it was taken up for the Christian liturgy. But it can be extended. Because all of our... See, the trouble with that kind of thing is it can make us too solemn or make us too serious or something like that. But also, even our levity is part of the... is part of this liturgy. There's the Levites with their levity. It carried the Ark. Somehow... Somehow... Somehow the... the liturgy is... the New Covenant liturgy especially is the... is the very substance of our life. So we have to let that word be transformed. There's a serious liturgy. There's a formal liturgy that takes place in the Church. And then there's an informal liturgy which is the Holy Roman. St. Benedict...


The Benedictines being very heavy on liturgy have tended to claim that, you know. But the risk is making things over-serious and over-formal. It shouldn't be that way. I didn't used to like that idea very much myself either. But... If you look up that word liturgia in a Greek concordance it might be interesting to see how it's used. And the notion of rational sacrifice also, which St. Peter uses and St. Paul uses. Originally the whole monastic life was considered to be the Opus Dei. Which means first of all the service of God. It's got a double meaning, right? Our serving God. St. Benedict says it's the school of the Lord's service. But it's also God's work. And this brings out the sacramentality once again. That God is doing this. Remember where St. Paul talks about that


he says that God in some ways is the artist and he's created these good works for you to walk in. I forget what that is. It's that way. But it's a free collaboration. It's a duet. We're not just instruments. The image of the instrument, which is sometimes used for the relation between grace and nature, is too heavy. Too stiff. The other thing in this business is about by obedience we get beyond ourselves. Roberts brings this out in page 83. Beyond ourselves liberates us from ourselves as opposed to from our little world and then brings us into this stream of God's plan into the flow of what God is doing. And we don't understand that, I guess, until we understand what our own will means. The limitations of our own will.


There's one of the Desert Fathers, remember, that said your will is a wall of brass between you and God. A wall of brass. It's a memorable image. But we shouldn't interpret the will of God too narrowly. We tend to interpret the will of God in a very human sense. The will of God has its narrow places but it also has its broad places and in the end the will of God is broad. It's the will of His good pleasure. It's the will of the father who smiles upon his son. Rather than the teacher, a master who insists that you do one thing and keep practicing the same thing until you know how to do it. It's not that. The will of a schoolmaster or the will of a slave it's the will of a father who delights in the freedom and the play of his son. Something that's hard for us to understand now. But that should be, that's already in our lives and it should be in our lives and therefore the kind of freedom, the levity that we were talking about,


the right kind, the celebration which we do, we get back to the liturgy thing, the spirit of celebration and of joy is part of our obedience in a sense. It's part of our service. We tend to lose the sense of celebration especially if we focus on obedience and things like that in the wrong way. And this is one of the ways in which we have to recover our Jewishness, is the sense of celebration. The sense of, you know, like David dancing before the Lord. Most of us are not likely to do that. The sense that God wants us to be joyful and that somehow when we are joyful we're participating in Him. Although you say, you know, God sometimes will bring it down to that kind of human level and there's also another side where it really is on a human level, a bit on a human level. You said it's on a human level. About God's will you mean? Yes. This whole thing. Yeah, yeah.


God, it's sort of the spiritual disappears and therefore the danger of vainglory and inflation and everything is removed because everything is on very incarnational, simple human terms and therefore the whole the whole balloon thing disappears. The whole transcendental thing is found exactly to the incarnation in the human. Getting back to that rediscovery of I ran across the quote by a pretty great artist, contemporary artist Alfred Nassier. He's an abstract painter. French abstract painter. And he made a statement back in 1934. He was doing some liturgical work and he said he said in order for the


church to understand this kind of painting it's going to have to rediscover its evangelical evangelical evangelical spirit childlike spirit And that was a long time ago to say something like that. Yeah. Because something happens to the church and it freezes continually. Sclerosis is a continual danger and fossilization and over-seriousness You can get an over-seriousness out of the gospel. It's as if there are few indications in the gospel, places where Jesus points to children and says you've got to be like that. But if we don't if there's a way of reading the gospel it can make you dreadfully serious and dreadfully gloomy. If you read it in a moralistic way or if you read the whole gospel exclusively in the light of the cross


or I should say the shadow of the cross rather than the light of the cross it can make you over-serious and gloomy and Christianity can turn into something very heavy. But the Holy Spirit there's a hidden wisdom in there which is a wisdom of joy and a celebration of freedom and that thing is hidden and it's left to us to figure it out. It's almost as if there's a game that goes on with the word of God not to outwit God but to find that hidden wisdom in the word which is not manifest which is not said because it can't be said in some way it has to be stolen rather than being a law it has to be almost an escape from the law because the word in a sense is raw. I don't know. You find it. It's implicit everywhere. It's implicit in the Old Testament, in the stories, in the poetry in the Old Testament. It's implicit in every place where you find yourself delighting in the scripture but it sneaks out and manifests itself and then it sneaks back in but it's something that has to be continually rediscovered. It itself is something I suppose that we can only realize in our hearts


but we also need to manifest it. Monasticism should have to do with discovering the joy of the gospel discovering the joy that's inside the word of God and which is not just on the surface of the word so you can't prove it and you can't really maybe teach it in a scripture course or something like that on the surface It's got to be discovered by digging and finding it but after the digging is over you find the treasure, you find the joy and you find this strange freedom, not freedom from the word but I don't know just the other side of the thing it's the dialectic between the word and the spirit once again or the male and the female in the very revelation which it's easy to exaggerate and get into some kind of Gnostic, Kabbalistic trap This business about the breadth of the word of God is a beautiful section in Isaiah which you know it's in Isaiah 55 but let me read it just in this reading it


bit by bit as Isaiah 55 now in the light of this notion between a narrow will of God and a broad will of God seek the Lord while he may be found call upon him while he is near that's something that St. Benedict uses in his prologue let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, that is the idea of conversion turning to the God, the will of God away from the wrong way let him return to the Lord that he may have mercy on him and to our God for he will abundantly pardon so this is conversion, return from your own sinful will that's the essence of conversion is to give up hope in your own will and turn towards God and abandon yourself to his will which you know at that moment the moment of conversion is not a narrow will but a wide will it's the embrace of the Father embracing the Father and the Son for my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways says the Lord, for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts


and we tend to think of that means that his thoughts and his ways are remote from ours and higher and unlike higher in a vertical sense but suppose it means bigger suppose it means so my will is broader than your will and the little will that you've been following in your sin which has enslaved you and narrowed down your life until you come to the end of your rope is nothing is a speck of sand compared to the breadth of my will which is a will of love that encloses somehow all things it is neither a speck nor a line nor a single line but is an unbounded somehow sphere for as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and return not to the water of the earth making it bring forth and sprout giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth it shall not return to me empty but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and prosper in the thing for which I sent it now think about the rain and the snow for a second


the rain comes down and gives life to the seeds that are in the earth and to the plants, right? but the rain gives itself to the plants so that they may grow in their own form, doesn't it? the rain gives itself into the plants so that they themselves may develop, so that they may freely spring forth, right? and he says this is the purpose for which I sent it in other words the will of God, the word of God that comes down is somehow loses itself, dissolves itself into the earth, into us so that we may bring forth our fruit in our own form, that is according to our own nature, according as it were to our to our own desire our own will, our own freedom so that the will of God in some way permits itself to lose itself into us so that we may find our life so that we may grow up all of this has to be taken carefully, not over generalize or absolutize the will of God is big


right? it's not an enslavement, it's a liberation for you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace now this is the image right away that follows of exodus, right? of liberation from captivity, because this was written evidently during the exile the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing and all the trees of the fields shall crop their hands, they too have found some kind of freedom that they didn't have before instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress, instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle, a different kind of tree it's as if the cross were to change into a fruitful tree and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial and so on and then remember that obedience is fundamental and central in the will of St. Benedict, it's the axis the center of the line, right from the first words of the prologue through chapter 1 where the Cenobites are the ones who live according to a rule and an habit and so on, as distinguished from those other disagreeable kinds of monks and then in the chapter on obedience number 5 and chapter 7


the whole thing, the first steps are about obedience 2, 3, 4 and then later on about obedience even in impossible things and then finally that a monk should obey what the mother instructs his servant to do there's something, if you read Roberts you're once in a while going to get a dose of this juridical language there's a strong dose of it on page 84 where it begins to talk about the exterior and I'm leaving Austin Roberts here for you to read yourselves and I'll hit some spots you need juridically and exteriorly the obligations of the vow of obedience and then you begin to freeze at that point and then we get to the next paragraph in juridical terms the motive of our obedience is the dominative power that the superior has over us that's lovely that's the poetry of canon law what's wrong with that? Somehow that language just doesn't have anything to do


with Christianity it doesn't have anything to do with the gospel or with the spirit and yet the reality well the reality, I don't know I don't know if the reality even comes through in that language somehow Christianity doesn't fit well into juridical terms and yet we have to have some kind of law but as soon as that law gets expressed in naked juridical language outside as it were of the context of this presence of God or this relationship with God which alone makes that obedience significant and outside the reality of that living bond in the heart between God and the individual person and the fact that this superior whoever he is with all his dominative power and his big stick or whatever is inside this thing and he's just sort of a tool of this drama that's going on it becomes impossible it just everybody doesn't feel this way if a person is in


the throes of conversion he's going to probably just swallow up that kind of thing but he's able to abominate later that kind of concept so the law thing has somehow to be relative on a relative level inside the reality of God's work otherwise it becomes intolerable enough for us maybe but even more intolerable for people outside you cannot understand that kind of thing the expression of the Christian reality in those times I was thinking of the other day when Father Robert was here they were talking about the table of the revision of the canon law down to about 1700 laws and I thought of something Peter said in Acts about that there is that there is this law that neither we nor our fathers could bear it's like you just get this sense of canon law


that you know they're going back to 1700 laws from 2000 this sense that it's heavy, there's no freedom in it, it's like something imposed it's just like a burden on your shoulders you have to look at it in the concrete however to see how it operates because there is some if you read the book of canon law you find some of it is beautiful, people have made their meditation on the code of canon law, I wouldn't recommend it sometimes they were canon lawyers but some of it is some of it is really pretty heavy especially the sections on sanctions and penalties about excommunications and how to throw somebody out of an order and all these punishments those things have been rarely used anyway but parts of it are beautiful the pastoral parts the laws which are concerned to protect the individual see a lot of those laws are, we have the sense that these laws are all obligations and stuff like that that's put on us and we have to know them actually a lot of them are to


protect the individual and to keep authority in it's place, okay so there are laws which guarantee freedom to the individual religious like the law that says that any nun has a right to to go to confession to any priest even outside the convent or something like that whether the superior gives permission or not that's to protect the individual and there are a lot of laws like that to protect the individual from an overuse of authority so first of all we have to understand that and there are a lot of other things like that, the sacramental laws which have a kind of beauty about them, so I think law in itself we regret the necessity of law but it is necessary and there is a place for it but it can't be allowed to escape the context of the Christian community the Christian koinonia in which it exists otherwise it becomes fatal it distorts the Christian message irrevocably I don't know


what the new canon law looks like too much I've only seen the part to do with religious that doesn't seem too bad actually we shouldn't blame it on the church and we shouldn't blame it on the canon lawyers we have to blame it on our situation in a way, in this world, in our fallen state we have to have law we have to have you have to decide what time you're going to have dinner and so on the church has to do the equivalent and the church is a big a big organism it's a big institution you've got to have it and it saves you a lot of trouble if we had to do without it, it would be a mess it is disorganization sure that's right that's right there's the continual tendency to over legislate, that's the trouble, especially in our Roman Catholic church with its strong legal tradition Roman law and everything behind it


a very strong juridical tradition there's a tendency to over legislate and to over organize at the expense of the spirit at the expense of freedom, that's true so there's been a lot of controversy about the new core canon law a lot of people say we'll hold it wait, because it hasn't been done in the right spirit and it's still too heavy I haven't really studied it but there is a kind of a freezing quality to that language I don't know how to get around it because obviously law is one thing and spirituality is another thing like in our constitution we have the same problem the constitution is supposed to give you theological principles and then juridical precepts and guidelines, you know and sometimes it's hard to fit the two together so you'll find two very different sections maybe in the constitution actually they're a pretty good job sometimes they're theological principles and then rules that tell you what to do now the rules have been very much reduced


and broadened in the new constitution compared to the old ones where we tell you how many times to ring the bell in certain cases but nevertheless there's still that difficulty it's trying to find the spirit within the law it tends to be in times when there isn't much movement in the spirit things become very oppressive it seems like now we're entering an age in the last 15 years that we're being able to see the spirit within the law that's right it's like the winter-summer thing once again there's a time when the spirit seems abundant you seem to be able to do without the law because you're above it and things are growing and you're not in a period of threat like when St. Paul says these are the fruits of the spirit charity, joy, peace, etc and against these there is no law if you're living on that level and if there's that abundance of the spirit in you well, then you don't need any law but then a little while before he told you the fruits of the spirit are the works of the flesh


and you need a law against those works of the flesh and when the water level of the spirit recedes and when that spontaneity of holiness and of love is not there then you have to have a law to protect people from one another and even to protect them from their superiors from authority also there's this business about defensive paranoid periods in the church's history and confident periods in the church's history take the period of the Reformation when there's been a great trauma inflicted on the church the church freezes up and goes into a kind of state of shock sometimes and that's when you get the heavy juridical things the anathemas and so on and they may seem to be fitting at that time but the whole atmosphere is distorted by this kind of satanic deception of division and mistrust and suspicion and fear so everything comes out very heavy like a military or wartime structure and then there are other times


like Vatican II where that's not so easy and you have an entirely different approach there's not much legalism in Vatican II what do you suppose because there seems to be so much more freedom in the priesthood monastic life than in the priory well I think over there you have to be a little careful because the freedom is of a different kind now if you were living in certain monasteries over there you wouldn't think there was much freedom because the regime can be very heavy and the regularity and discipline expected from every monk can be very heavy and in certain areas there's much less freedom there's much less opportunity for some of the things that western monks can find permission to do fairly easily matters of personal development and so on all kinds of things however there is more flexibility in the forms it seems they're not so determined into given structural forms as we are there's more of a variety, more of a flexibility so that a monk maybe


maybe he's not so bounded in another way by certain concepts and fixations on structure, that's where I see the difference the life of the individual monk in a given monastery may be very strict very severely regimented but there's not this structural preoccupation and fixation with respect to communities and ways of life so that you have kind of a flow between the cenobitical life perhaps and the hermit life and a more natural thing one community or one monk is not necessarily restricted by the fact that he's being a monk to one particular kind of activity I know the way I've said that's kind of confusing but I do see a difference in that there's more of a interchange between the different forms of life than we have in the west in the west we tend to have specialization and then each community with a specific scope and very difficult to get outside of that, you see


in a given order or a given congregation or community and for instance we'll take the situation of Fort Clare's, who can't have any hermits they're a monastic community but they can't have any hermits somehow because it seems to be contrary to the spirit of St. Clair or St. Francis of St. Clair well that's a typical typically western problem the same thing would happen with men's orders in the west where things have got specialized and often specialized in a kind of apostolic or extroverted sense so the monastic thing tends to get lost partly it's this business of fragmentation in the west of breaking up into different sectors, different segments, specialization and then sort of walling in those sectors with legal structures, you see that seems to have happened and also sometimes with theological structures difference between the active life, the mixed life, the contemplative life and then being


shut into those various compartments so that life can become very narrow it's more true with respect to nuns I think than it is with respect to men is that partly because the different religious order is supposed to stay with this group and falter or is it something else? that's partly it and that's a difficult question to what extent is that true to what extent is it a theological principle that if you're founded by St Ignatius your spirituality is determined by his charism I wouldn't actually try to answer that question but that's true whereas in the east it's not nearly so true you're in one big tradition, one big monastic tradition and therefore it's much broader you have all these fathers behind you and yet your individual life in a monastery may be very strictly determined by the local customs from one monastery to another there seems to be a greater freedom in some way a greater attitude


which gives us a greater flexibility there's simply less organization less confidence in structure and there's perhaps sometimes a better understanding of the relationship between letter and spirit between law and freedom there are ways in other words of interpreting the law in such a way that it's not an absolute whereas in the west it tends often enough to be an absolute or has in the past at least this is changing a lot I guess we're very quick we'll go on maybe with Robert spending more time on the next time about page 85 around