January 13th, 1981, Serial No. 00366

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Monastic Spirituality Set 1 of 12

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Start obedience next time. We got up to page 75 on Harvard. We were talking about Cistercian poverty and Camaldolese poverty. And it's interesting to compare the two of it because they arise in times which are not too far apart and they're both reformations in the Benedictine tradition. In other words, both of them are trying to go back to an original authentic sense of poverty, but they take different tracks. The Camaldolese track emphasizing solitude and personal poverty. The Cistercian track emphasizing community, well individual poverty, but the community may possess. And then putting a real emphasis on work. I guess this was already in the Cistercian tradition before the, I'm sure it was, before the Trappist Reform. And then it was once again accented there with a special emphasis on the penitential


dimension of work, as well as everything else in the Trappist Reform, dare I say. When was that, the 18th century? Okay, and now in the Camaldolese tradition, as I said, there's a lot of diversity because you've got not only the strict aramidical tradition, but you've got a lot of cenotaphical monasteries. And in certain times in the Middle Ages, you know, there were probably maybe a couple hundred Camaldolese monasteries altogether. So there was a wide range of diversity as regards poverty and a lot of other things. And some of them were very close, in fact indistinguishable, I think, from the ordinary Black Benedictine monastery. And on the other hand, you would have some aramidical communities. It seems like the poverty of the hermits used to be more severe than that of the synagogues. It seems like it's so very practical to have a poverty synagogue


since you only use one thing. That's right. In a sense, you seem to be able to be poorer because you can economize by doing something once instead of 30 times, for instance. Say, having one icebox, one walk-in for a whole community instead of a hundred. In those days, we didn't have that problem. They had one outdoors with a refrigeration. A lot of places in Europe, even today, in their apartments, they have a room that is cooler. Well, as a matter of fact, see, the Camaldolese, they did that. And the hermits, as far as the things that they had, that they used, they were in common. Like one kitchen, and they didn't do any cooking in themselves at Camaldolese, so they ate bread and water when they were alone. And when they had a cooked meal, they did it in common in the refectory. And similarly, I think, probably with a lot of other things. So you certainly spend more when you build separate cells than you do when you build a monastery, even with a room center, let alone a dormitory. But from that point on, they could be pretty poor, aside from the separate cells. But nowadays it's different


because we're used to more conveniences, or more, we call them necessities, and we have to multiply those too, like the refrigerator you mentioned. So you do get into more complexities today. But the hermetical standard of poverty has always been more severe than the cenobitical standard. In the Camaldolese tradition, and also in general, there's that tendency. But it's very difficult to absolutize and to say that every hermit should be poorer than every cenobite. No, you can't do that. There's going to be a diversity among the hermits. And there's no reason to pin somebody down to a kind of absolute poverty when that's not his vocation, and yet he may be called a solitary hermit. So we have to allow a certain freedom. As long as the vocation is authentic, you don't have to insist on uniformity. Nevertheless, that would always be taken, for instance, in the East, I'm sure it would be taken as a sign of an authentic paramedical vocation, is the desire for poverty. A real


strong drive in that direction. If they saw somebody pile up a lot of stuff, they certainly suspect the quality. And yet I remember seeing one hermit at Mount Athos who did quite an accumulation of stuff on himself, for instance. And sometimes when you live alone, there'll be that tendency, because nobody else is going to provide for you. So is ambiguous. And then remember that thing about Abba John, was it? No, it's Cassian, who writes about the problem in the hermetical life is you can't be poor, because you have to worry about yourself. In other words, you have to think about your own maintenance, your own future. You may have to store things for the winter, and so on. You see? You have to work and support yourself, make your own income, and so on. So he says you can't endure poverty. So see the paradox that there is, right? But if you have an organized setup where the hermit is provided for, and doesn't have to make his own livelihood completely, then you can overcome it. Which


is one reason for organizing hermits, you see, in the groups. A good reason for it, too. Okay, let's go on. Remember, he talked about three dimensions of this poverty thing, of our responsibilities in this regard. The first was personal poverty. The second is common life and productive work, which he talks about very much as one. And the third is responsibility for the community's collective poverty. Now, this is something which is much more present in the mind of most today than it ever was before, largely because we're a smaller world. And so we look over the fence and we see people that are starving. We begin to realize that we cannot simply put blinders on and each one go ahead with his personal poverty, while the community somehow lets its whole thing get out of whack with regard to the rest of the world.


But the community somehow is like an individual person having to look at his brother in the world, not only as the individual, of course. He refers to Vatican II here, and it's also our own Constitutions refer to Perfectic Erotitis No. 13. According to this, that one's on chastity. You get the point. Anyway, the reference in the Commodities Constitutions is No. 3, which is on page 49. Everybody should have a copy now. And I think I read that to you before.


He quotes from St. Benedict's Chapter 3, for the principle of co-responsibility, that the younger brothers too should be heard. And out of that he draws this implication that everybody should think about these problems. But then he goes on to point out that this isn't the same in every stage of a monk's life. That in the beginning, in the early years of their life, he shouldn't have to be that much concerned about the communal poverty. Certainly he's not going to be indifferent to it. He can't simply get numb about these questions. But his principal concern is going to be with personal poverty and working it out in his own life. And then having done that, having sort of touched reality in that way, he's in a position to turn to the situation of the community, rather than contrarywise. Thinking about the communal thing first may be an evasion of one's personal responsibilities. Remember what he said earlier, that the people who complain about the lack of communal poverty are often the people who don't really make an effort towards


personal poverty. So what they're doing is compensating for the evasion of their own responsibility by sort of just projecting it outwards onto the community, and then making noise about it. Without having really made a try at it oneself, that's the thing. When you make a try at it, you know, and you find your own limits, you realize your own weakness, and your own selfishness, and your unwillingness really to make a total gift to yourself. Then one can begin to talk to others, and about others, and about the whole problem with compassion, and not just with a kind of bitter zeal. This activism has often got this in it. I mean, the people who were even activists with regard to poverty, I suppose, and social issues of projecting sometimes something outside of themselves, because it's easier for them to be aggressive, and to push somebody else, than it is really to convert their own hearts, reform their own lives. Which doesn't mean that there shouldn't be such movements,


that there shouldn't be that kind of action. It shouldn't be allowed to get out of balance. Gandhi, for instance. I remember Gandhi, he'd always do it himself before he'd ask somebody else to do it. Remember the story about the mother that brought the little girl to her? She said, I want you to get my little girl to give up eating candy. Gandhi said, come back next week. And so she came back next week, and he gave her a good little lecture. And the mother said, well, why didn't you do what I asked you to last week? He said, I hadn't given it up myself yet. That's a good intent. That's why you run away, doesn't it? Some real heart. Keep away those little girls with a sweet tooth.


Before the time of this final profession hour, the monk should be able to take an active part in the material interests of the community, and to make an intelligent judgment on the humanitarian practice of poverty. Everybody isn't going to be able to understand these things in the same way. Certainly not everybody is interested in them to the same extent. But it's strange that about a lot of these things, a person doesn't have to be a great scholar, a great student, and he doesn't have to be a genius in order to get a feeling for the values involved, in order to have a sensitivity for what's right. So, what are the factors that we have to take into account in forming such a judgment? Three criteria. Now, this we're going to have to think about a little, maybe a discussion of it. The first is the standard of living of the poorer families who live near the monastery. I had to ask myself, what does he mean by that, the standard of living of the poor families? Who are they poorer than? If you've got some people really living in misery around you,


you know, living in shacks, like a few of the people I suppose around here, are you going to take that as your standard of poverty? And if you do, or if you try to, aren't you going to be doing something foolish? Aren't you going to be putting yourself in a straitjacket? Or, you know, you don't commit yourself to destitution because somebody else is in that position. Somehow this thing has to be realistic. It has to also go beyond the kind of accidental factor of how the poorer people live in your neighborhood, right? You don't conform yourself to the most miserable people on the street, just out of some kind of arbitrary compulsion. There has to be a better standard than that. Now, certainly the standard of living of the people around you is influential. And this comes out especially in the Third World. I mean, he's writing this in Argentina or somewhere, right? And that's where it really stands out. It has to be kind of a general standard of living, it seems to me, that you're


talking about. Or at least if these are the poorer people you're talking about, it has to be a meaningful poverty and not a kind of misery, not the people that are living in what they call the barriers. Because monks can't live that way and still be monks. And he brings that out in his other principle. There's another vocation, you know, the vocation of the missionaries of charity or something like that, you know, to live in the middle of L.A. But I think the neighborhood is, you know, they pray too and they keep themselves up. They don't live on the street. See, they deal with the people that live on the street, but they don't live on the street. They can't. So that first one takes a lot of thinking about. When you say the poorer families who live near the monastery, well, that term poorer, I don't know how to interpret it exactly. I don't know what it means. It may have got a little lost in the translation. Did you write this in English? The point is that the monks should be closer to the level of the poor than they should be rich,


nor should they have a comfortable middle-class existence. But in some way, their life has to be a witness, not only for the witness value, but also because if it's not in some way a witness to poverty, then in some way it's not authentic. There's an interior truth there. It's not just the exterior impressions. Anyway, we can come back to that one. Maybe afterwards we'll look at it in the light of the others. This I find referred to in Perfecta Caritas number 22. By the way, before I forget it, the section of the Vatican II document, Perfecta Caritas on the Renewal of Religious Life, which deals with the three vows, is section two, entitled Essential Commitments. Sooner or later it's good for you to read through that whole thing. It's only a few pages. It's number 13 through 29 in this edition. This is the Flannery edition. It starts on page 686. Some of you have got that earlier on Abbot. So it'll be a different page number. It should


be the same numbers. And they treat one right after the other, chastity, poverty, and obedience. That's a basic source for us now. Document on the Renewal of Religious Life, number 13 through 29. Well, in here it starts on 686 and it goes to 694. Now remember, if you've got three circles, they're talking about the middle circle. The biggest circle is the church in general, the Christians in general. The second circle is the religious life. The third circle is the monastic life. So this deals with the middle circle, not with the smaller circle of monastic. Number 22. You are aware, dear sons and daughters, of the needs of today's world, if you experience them in heart-to-heart union with Christ. Make your poverty more urgent and more deep. If, as is evident, you must take account of the human surroundings in which you


live in order to adapt your lifestyle to them, your poverty cannot be purely and simply a conformity to the manners of those surroundings. It's not just a matter of making yourself, not just living like the people around you. It's something more to it. Its value as a witness will derive from a generous response to the exigencies of the gospel in total fidelity to your vocation, not just from an excessively superficial preoccupation for appearing to be poor. So it's possible to be phony in being too authentic. Now that, obviously, it's a dumb paradox. But what I mean is, it's possible to really be concerned with externals and not with that which makes this whole thing worthwhile. To be so concerned with sort of authentic externals, authentic there in quotation marks, that there's a kind of phoniness in what you're doing, because it's got out of balance between the face of it, the surface of it, and the reality. Now, poverty on the outside is not just a surface, though. It is something to you.


And in avoiding those ways of life which would denote a certain effectiveness and vanity, effectiveness and vanity. It could be in either way. Effective, it can be an effective poverty. Saint Peter Damian says that. Some of the others. Don't aim for squalor, but for poverty. Well, we recognize a certain situation, and then it may go on talking about that. Number two. Now, these other two factors, the other two criteria, come back and they moderate, they modify the first one. The contemplative nature of our life. Monastic poverty should aid us to reach our ideal of contemplative union with God. In other words, poverty is for the monk and not the monk for poverty. So, if you get a continual distraction and preoccupation, this would damage the monastic life. That cuts us short when we fly off on our idealistic view of poverty. And it's very true.


That's what I mean when I say you have to measure your own capacity. You have to try and see. You mean, getting sidetracked on poverty is to come in your own time? Yeah, I mean like when a community really tries to do the maximum in poverty to deprive itself. Or an individual, you can do this individually. You can become completely distracted about the next meal, about the cold, about your cold feet, or about a whole bunch of other things. And you're not supposed to be preoccupied with those things. You're supposed to be free in some way to give your mind to God. Now, this depends on health. It depends on grace, okay? If you've got weaker health, a weaker constitution, you can do less in the way of poverty. And if you try to do too much, you're going to be preoccupied all the time. You're going to be concerned. And it depends on grace because there can be a progressive call to poverty and a gift of poverty by which a person can transcend his natural limitations, okay? He can do more in this department than his health


would ordinarily permit him to do. There are some people who live on a very precarious razor's edge like that, you know? But they do it because the Holy Spirit asks them to. They're always on the edge of ill health and so on, and yet they get through. Most of us are not called to them because we'd lose our peace completely if we had to live like that. It's a special call. But those people that Justiniani writes about, you know, the people that are walking around with their feet in the wintertime and this and that, they're trying to walk that razor's edge. That's a special gift because the ordinary person can't do that with joy. They can't do it with peace. They can't do it with a spirit of freedom. They do it with a spirit of slavery and of depression. They start cussing God in for a while, you know? So it's something a person has to try, you know, to find out where you are. Unless it's normal that we spend less than many families for food and clothing,


we're the same stuff over and over again. So you don't have to look that way. We have a habit which is always the same. And for heating, you have to stay in the same place. There's some awkward, embarrassing physical necessities there that we'd like to be able to do without. We'd like to find the health or peace of mind. So we don't do that. And heating is one of them. You start freezing yourself, you usually get depressed. Concerning buildings in general, now he starts talking about this question of beauty. Our houses, though of modest proportions, ought to express a certain harmony of form. You find quite a spectrum between the different Baptist houses, between, say, Spencer, which is described as the second ugliest monastery in the world, by no less than the Apostolic Delegate. So that's official. And we've changed a little in this department. We didn't have a taste so much for poverty as for ugliness.


Because Marci, he's the master commentator on all these things. And when he went to New York, he said they had an enthusiastic devotion for ugliness. I remember when he was showing his slide. This document on environment and art in Catholic worship is very good on these things. I wasn't able to find a whole bunch of paragraphs that refer explicitly to beauty and poverty. But the point is, how do you get the two together, you know? How do you combine the simplicity of poverty that's obviously called for by your vocation with beauty? And it's not impossible, but it's not easy either, because you can't improvise that. You don't just go and do that very quickly. In other words, poverty in the monastic life has to achieve a kind of maturity and depth before beauty comes out of it. Just as the monastic life and the spiritual life has a kind of harshness and awkwardness about it in the beginning, so it is with this matter of beauty in the community itself, or in the buildings, or whatever is produced. Well, nearly it takes a while for that to happen. And so we have to be a little patient with


ourselves. It's just a matter of pointing ourselves in the right direction. I'd recommend this document to you. We've got another copy of it, a bound copy of it somewhere. It's really good on the whole, the meaning of beauty in not only in the liturgy, but implicitly also in in the spiritual life, in the monastic life. I'll just read just a chunk or two, something from the beginning. The worship of God and its requirements. Number 12, the experience of mystery. The experience of mystery which liturgy offers is found in its God-consciousness and God-centeredness. This involves a certain beneficial tension with the demands of hospitality, because hospitality wants you to have something warm, right? Something accogliente, as they say in Italian, something which makes you comfortable, which invites you.


A certain beneficial tension with the demands of hospitality requiring a manner and an environment which invite contemplation, that is, seeing beyond the face of the person or the thing, the sense of the holy, the numinous, mystery. A simple and attractive beauty in everything that is used or done in liturgy is the most effective invitation to this kind of experience. One should be able to sense something special and nothing trivial in everything that is seen and heard, touched and smelled and tasted in liturgy. So that says both simplicity and beauty. There's one kind of beauty that comes out of richness, abundance, profusion. There's another kind of beauty that comes out of fairness, austerity, and which invites you into the depths of the thing rather than pouring something out of itself at you, right? Baroque, you know how Baroque is? It's pouring something out at you. It's pouring golden babies out at you. And compare that with Zen, you know, which pulls you into the emptiness. With Japanese art, you know, where there's just an empty space. There's extreme poverty, just a piece of paper or something, and yet it's fascinating because there's a presence.


The emptiness itself is allowed to exist and therefore there's a beauty in a poverty at once. I think Zen testifies to this especially. The old sisters should have it. It's probably very expensive to build. Yeah, the West, after a certain point, after the Renaissance, it began to have this profusion and this abundance and this outpouring, this richness. What do you call it? There's a word, in its artistic expression, which turns us off now because at a certain point that seems to turn rotten and we get tired of it. There's a kind of a rancidity that comes into it and we're tired of it now. And we want depth and we want quiet and we want emptiness and we want an entirely different kind of beauty, not an exteriorized beauty rather than an interiorized beauty. Maybe that's what we're trying to say. There's an exteriorized beauty which has to have a delicacy about it because as soon as it becomes too much, it dies.


And there's an interiorized beauty which in great simplicity draws you into the thing itself, like the simplicity of a face or something like that, which doesn't have to be an extraordinarily, what you'd call an extraordinarily beautiful face, a start on you, but which draws you into itself. What it does really is draw you into yourself and draw you into being. It shouldn't really draw you into the thing itself and leave you there, hypnotized with the thing itself. It should draw you beyond itself. I'm just distracted because there's smoke in the air and there's something burning. That's your incense. I don't see. I smelled incense before when I came in. I was wondering, do you suppose what happens there with simplicity of surroundings like that? What it does is it leaves the person free and then just naturally you've got this sense of beauty kind of evolves and kind of takes place there.


Good. That's another thing is it leaves you free. Yeah, it leaves you free. Whereas the other kind of beauty, what does it do? It tries to overpower you in a way. It says, here it is, ain't I beautiful or something like that. What does it do? It's triumphalistic. The triumphalistic thing, this is connected with a certain period of history in our church also, right? This particular kind of splendor and a particular religious attitude which says we've got it all. We've got it all. Zen says we haven't got it and come and look for it with us or something like that and disappear into the nothingness, the emptiness that's supposed to be found. At a certain point in history, Catholicism says the opposite and says we've got it all and nobody else has it and so we show it in our building. Like a lot of the art in Rome, the Baroque and Renaissance, is like that. It overpowers you. There's just too much stone, too much stuff and everything, every ornament's got another ornament on top of it and that one's got another one on top of it. There are a couple of New Yorker cartoonists who are good at burlesquing that kind of thing.


But William Steig years ago, he could do it with a pair of shoes. What about the Eastern Church? Because it's the opposite of the medieval Western Catholics. Sometimes, yeah, I don't know. It's hard to make a judgment. And it's hard to generalize that way, too, because they'll have their periods of austere beauty and then they'll have their periods of overdoing, too. And they're all different periods of making icons and so on. Some of them are probably great beauty, and they're beautiful in their simplicity, and other ones are just very degenerate. Yeah, the 15th century art forms have their simplicity and lower and lower and so on, and then they get into the art of technique. The artist got into the art of technique. So it becomes a virtuoso thing, just like a violin concerto or something was written to show off the artist. And if you're looking at the artist and


you're getting a sense of how wonderful he is, somehow it doesn't take you where it's supposed to take you. It's supposed to take you beyond and tell you something about being, tell you something about reality, something about yourself, rather than startling you and continually entertaining you and overpowering you with its own richness. And the word richness there, notice richness, display, and that kind of thing, and stopping you right there instead of taking you beyond. Okay, so liturgical art, religious art, and especially monastic art, which emphasizes the transcendent, should do the opposite, right? Invite you by its simplicity to consider that being itself, reality itself, material reality itself, is beautiful in itself because there's something in it, beyond it, okay? And so it is with we ourselves. And so it should draw you into your own center in some way, in your center where the beyond is. You should say that to us. It's hard to get to that point. But even sometimes poverty itself can do it without


a great aesthetic sense. Like if you have a liturgy in a barn, something like that, that can be beautiful. Or a meditation hall, which is a barn, like they had where I've been elsewhere, yeah, that can be beautiful. Because you admit your poverty, even of aesthetic inspiration, and you let poverty say what it does. But as soon as, how easily our creativity turns to display and loses that transcendence, loses that beyond. There are a couple of levels of that mystery thing, because one is a level of the mystery and the beauty of being itself, and then there's the level that sends you beyond it, beyond the thing, beyond nature. One should be able to sense something special and nothing trivial, and everything that is seen and heard, touched and smelled and tasted in a liturgy. And that means that each thing should be able to be experienced fully in itself,


rather than multiplying things. So it's a question of intensity, of entering in, of opening up the thing, rather than of multiplying things, okay? Once again, this is poverty in simplicity. You mean sort of seeing particulars, Yeah, seeing in each particular, even if there's only one, okay? Rather than having seven things to dazzle you, to have one thing which invites you into itself and which you experience fully. You see it, you hear it, you touch it, you smell it, and so on. It's allowed to express itself fully, let the thing open itself up and express itself, rather than multiplying things. This may sound a little confusing at that point, because obviously one object can't influence you in all those ways. But the point is to let the thing speak from inside of itself, and fill the space in that way, rather than filling the space with a multiplicity of things, okay? Incarnation, the paschal mystery, and the Holy Spirit in us are faiths,


access to the transcendence, holiness, otherness of God. An action like liturgy, therefore, has special significance as a means of relating to God, or responding to God's relating to us. This does not mean that we have captured God in our symbols. The notion of capturing God, see how it's connected to the triumphalistic idea, okay? The triumphalistic thing in architecture, and so on, is if we've got God inside this basilica here. And if you want him, you've got to come inside this basilica. Then the Protestants say, it ain't so, and they go, Saint Peter's at home. We've got God. It means only that God has graciously loved us in our own terms, in ways corresponding to our condition. Our response must be one of depth and totality, of authenticity, genuineness, and care, with respect to everything we use and do in liturgical salvation.


Then you talk about the opening up of symbols. Every word, gesture, movement, object, appointment must be real in a sense that it is our own. It must come from the deepest understanding of ourselves, not careless, phony, counterfeit, pretentious, exaggerated, etc. We know it requires the opening up of our symbols, especially the fundamental ones of bread and wine, water, oil, the laying on of hands, until we can experience all of them as authentic and appreciate their symbolic value. So what happens is that when you lose the intrinsic, the interior value of the symbol, you begin trying to make up for the deficit by multiplying things. So you multiply symbols, and you multiply decorations, and you plaster everything over with ornament, because you have forgotten the way into the simple symbols. And these are all poor things. These are all very simple things that he's talking about. Bread and wine, water, oil, the gesture of the laying on of hands. In baptism itself, what could be poorer than baptism? What is poorer and more common than the bread of the Eucharist? But these are infinitely


rich symbols. And to find some way to let them project the richness that's in them, that intensive interior richness, rather than multiplying things, that's the secret. Well, this is true of monasticism too, and of what monasticism wants to say, because monasticism points exactly, and leads exactly, in the direction of interiority, intensity, and transcendence. So it should, by its simplicity, invite you to go inside. There's often a tendency to take a symbol and just surround it with all kinds of things, say it's the baptism, they get into the baptismal fountains, and the cafes, and everything, like a priest putting his hands on these wild vestments, you don't even see his hands. It's important that the fundamental symbols not be buried. Martin has this funny article about the priest wearing the chasuble, he's like a sandwich man, with two ornaments, one on the front and one on the back.


And the one on the back, is it a burning candle or something? This is some vestments happening at this time. It's a hilarious article, but what he's saying is that there's a difference between symbolism and ornament. Between symbolism and illustration, I think that was the point of the article, because symbolism draws you into itself, like the vestment itself, it's supposed to be symbolic in some way of Christ, it draws you into itself, whereas illustration puts the thing right on the surface so you can see it. It's like a magazine cover, which doesn't really draw you into itself, it says everything right there, maybe it says too much. The symbol, by saying a minimum, just by being itself, draws you into itself, and thereby speaks of the richness of all of being. Because if that symbol is symbolic, and has an interior, and has a depth inside of it, so does everything else, and so do you. And that depth, of course, is God. He does another passage which consoled me at one time, where he talks about the statue of St.


Benedict, and he said the community fought over it for three years on whether to get rid of it or change it, and he said it was so ugly, he looked like a wizard, because he had these half moons and stars on his robe, but they finally got rid of it. There's a picture of him playing around the statue of St. Benedict that he put his sunglasses on. I didn't see that. He had to look through a lot of that, because there was one abbot at Gethsemane who filled the place with statues and stuff, brought them all over from Europe. Is that the reason why Jesus used bread and wine? I mean, the instruments. Is that going to be used by the common man? Although they argue with that in some third world countries, because we don't have any grapes. Can't we use sake or something like that for the Eucharist? But the simplicity of the thing


certainly is true. And the churches have to deal with that. I still don't think they've allowed any other fermented drink. You don't find wine anywhere in the world. But all around Europe, the poorest person in the world will still have bread and wine. The poorest families here would serve us always wine. He couldn't have chosen a commoner of food certainly than bread. But it's interesting that he didn't use water, he used wine. He can get water everywhere, it's interesting that he used wine. I wonder if that has something to do with the work of human hands, that some of the man has to participate in the thing too. Both of them do, both of them do. The fathers, they like to allegorize or to do a commentary on


how human hands bring the grains together. I mean there's a lot of symbolism in those two things, but both bread and the wine are the work of human hands. Especially the bread, because bread and the hands are intimately connected, right? The kneading and everything, it's hand work, the most intimate kind. Jesus spoke about meat and wine. Yes, that's right. And in the Old Testament, you've got a lot of symbolism in the wine, because that's so dominant, I guess, in the whole area. Okay, the other guy I wanted to refer to is this man, he's got a whole chapter called Creative Poverty. What did I do with that book? He's got a whole chapter called Creative Poverty, the Aesthetic Aesthetic, or something like that.


This is Emerson, I don't know if you like Emerson. Beauty rides on a lion, beauty rests on necessities. The line of beauty is the result of perfect economy. The cell of the bee is built at that angle which gives the most strength for the least wax. I can't justify that. The bone or the quill of the bird gives the most allure strength, the most flying strength, the least weight. It is the purgation of superfluity, said Michelangelo. There is not a particle to spare in natural structures. Sometimes I suspect him. There may be not a particle to spare in natural structures, but look at the waste from a certain point of view. The profusion of grain and profusion of seed and things like that. There's another angle you can take to this. If a man can build a plain cottage with such symmetry as to make all the fine palaces look cheap and vulgar, can take such advantage of nature that all her powers serve him,


making use of geometry instead of expense, tapping a mountain for his water jet, causing the sun and moon to seem only the decorations of his estate, this is still a legitimate dominion of beauty. What he's trying to say is that the greatest beauty comes from simplicity, comes from poverty. There are a number of quotes in here about Japanese culture and particularly about Zen, and that's where this thing comes to it sharply, because there's a cult of emptiness there, and in that emptiness there's a great beauty, a very delicate beauty connected to the emptiness. Even in Japanese paintings, the center of the painting may be an empty space and down in the corner there's a little something. So this suggestiveness of beauty, which doesn't try to say everything, in fact which leaves the real message unsaid and merely hints at it. They say that a Japanese will make a pot, for instance, less in order to affirm the pot than to affirm the space inside the vessel, the empty space.


The sense is of the space, of the emptiness, and also in a Japanese house, they say, rather than of the vessel itself, or the structure itself. It seems a complete other side of the Western culture. Yeah, that's just, that's poetry. That's what poetry is, too. Words aren't really a thing. They just suggest things and are a catalyst. That's right, that's right. So if you get too many words, if you get too much of an unhushed of words, then it's going to block that process and suggestiveness, choke it. In my hut this spring there is nothing, there is everything. That idea of the empty cell, how do you find that? The thief who comes in and steals everything, you know, and the Buddhist comes back and says, ah, he took everything but the moon. He works with the moon. You get the sense that everything is still there. The fullness is still there.


Zenism, with the Buddhist theory of evanescence and its demands for the mastery of the spirit of a matter. He did this idea because there's no self, there's really nothing, the Buddhist says, okay? If there's nothing, then the greatest beauty is to be found in emptiness, right? In nothingness. So the whole thing leads in that direction. There's a great truth there. It's kind of a stumbling block for our minds, but there's a great truth there. Recognize the house only as a temporary refuge for the body. The body itself is but as a hut in the wilderness, a flimsy shelter made by tying together the grasses that grew around. Then I get out of the paper. In the tea room, fugitiveness is suggested in the thatched roof, frailty in the slender pillars, lightness in the bamboo support, apparent carelessness in the use of commonplace materials. The eternal is to be found only in the spirit which, embodied in these simple surroundings, beautifies them with a subtle light of its refinement. The simplicity of the tea room and its freedom from vulgarity make it truly a sanctuary from the vexations of the other world. There and there alone can one consecrate


himself to undisturbed adoration of the beautiful. There's a good...quite a bit of this stuff in... There's a good one here, I see. One of the curses of art is art, for the capital and quotation marks. This filling up of things with decoration, with by-play, to make them beautiful. When art has attained its place, surfaces will be infinitely less broken. This is not Japanese, this is something called Robert Henri. There will be millions less of things, less words, less gesture, less of everything, but each word and each gesture and everything will count in a fuller value. When we have attained a sense of the relative value of things, we will need fewer things.


The most furnished rooms have very little in them. The mere proportions of a room act on our sensibilities much more than is declared by our present consciousness. It is not the barrenness of an empty room or an empty life that we see, we would get rid of clutter and thus get room for fullness. Well, that other thing that St. Francis was in, that spiritual guide, by mistake. I can't open that, it isn't up all our time. We must note, however, that monastic poverty cannot always coincide with thriftiness and the lowest expense, because it is essentially the efficacious sign of an interior attitude, not simply an economic and social condition. A cheap object with its gaudy appearance and its elegant and frivolous ostentation could very well be in opposition to the spirit of poverty,


because not everything is cheap, it's gaudy. Well, a similar object, more expensive but more simple, could more surely lead the monk who uses it to acquire the soul of the poor. In like manner, the spirit of evangelical poverty is more in harmony with a certain sense of the gratuitous, which is free, in other words, it goes beyond the stingy, as a kind of sense of stinginess, which is twin brother to ugliness, and a sense of the gratuitous, which is akin to beauty, right? And this is, we find it hard to get this together with poverty. More in harmony with a certain sense of the gratuitous and a concern for sober and discreet beauty than with a mentality which is too exclusively utilitarian and practical, because the practical middle-class mentality, which is neither hot nor cold, somehow doesn't do with what we're talking about. It is related of Saint Francis of Assisi that he, and the Trappist can get into that, when they talk about productive work and so on, there's a risk of that,


even though their work should be productive. It is related of Saint Francis of Assisi that he once said to the brother in charge of the garden, not to plant in it only vegetables, but to use a part of its ground for green shrubberies that would in due time produce our sisters the flowers. He even said that the brother gardener should reserve in a corner some proper places for the cultivation of a fine small garden, where he would grow all kinds of aromatic herbs and flower plants, so that in their proper seasons they might invite all those who sow them to praise God. For every creature says and wildly proclaims, it is God who created me for you, man. That's marvelous. That's marvelous. But even with that absolute drive toward poverty that Saint Francis had, he had that instinct, because he was stumped and left a place for beauty. And then there's not only a question of beauty in itself, but also of mental hygiene. A certain expansion of our effective faculties in this search for what is beautiful,


that Dominicanizes the whole thing, it makes it sound good. Thirdly, the physical, psychological, and moral abilities of the members of our community. And then there's that saying of Abba Arsenius, which you find a couple of different versions of, the one about the fellow who planted the flower and stuff. The way you've got it in the sayings of the Desert Father, Sister Benedicta's translation, there were vegetables, and the end of it is not the way it is here. If he can't live without the flower, he'll have to plant it again. If he can't live without the vegetables, he will find others and plant them. But it comes to the same thing. In other words, there's a line beyond which you can't go in trying to prune away the non-essential. Also, we read before a couple of other sayings about Arsenius, which point out both the cheapness of his clothing on one hand, his poverty on the other side, that even he had his little compass,


remember the pillow, which he explained. Saint Benedict, the abbot should always take into account the weakness of the voters, in order all things in such a way that the strong desire more in the weak do not discourage. Then he gets back and repeats what he'd said earlier, that sometimes it's poverty itself, that not to be able to have the greatest degree of poverty. In other words, our human fragility comes around simply and confronts us again in another form, and we find out that our hunger for poverty was itself maybe transgressing the bounds of our fragility of what we are. We've gotten away from our human ground in some way, with that zeal for poverty, and so we're brought up short again. We find that our limitation goes all around us, that you can't fly out of life in one spiritual direction and sort of get the handle of it and do something absolutely new. You're not going to be able to live on an absolute level. The frustration circles you all around. You're humanity.


The cenobitic life will always be much less poor in the material sense than the life of a hermit due to the multiplication of personal needs. Interesting that he uses that phrase, multiplication of personal needs, because in the hermitical side, as you pointed out, yeah, you multiply the personal needs by having to do everything 20 times. You have to wash 20 tits and so on. Whereas in the cenobitic world, you have much less hot water and soap probably. True humility and interior poverty will know how to live poorly in a monastery which is less poor than the ideal. Then he talks about the progressiveness of poverty, and it's not something that is all there at the beginning. You have to grow. It's the charism, the talent, the seed. It's not enough simply to have permission for everything. If you take that attitude, you'll never grow in poverty because you'll always be leaning against the rule, and you won't sort of begin to move under your own power.


So by satisfying always with permission their desire to acquire more things, they move little by little that spirit of sacrifice which constitutes the very soul of monastic life. They never really accept the fact that poverty consists in not having what they want. This section is one that you have to think about a little bit, because if you interpret it in a unilateral way, you can get to this absolute thing again, that the only way to be faithful to Christ is to have absolutely nothing and to be completely empty. And that doesn't work very well, because you can just sort of woo it in one way or another. Also it's suggested that it's a mighty stark prospect that you have to be as naked, as empty, as poor as that, as if there were nothing there. The opposite point of view is the one of Knight, who insists just as much on absolute


renunciation as the way of the religious life or the monastic life. But he says that you're already receiving what you are expecting that is in exchange for this renunciation. In fact, I think it overstates his case. This is in the booklet on poverty, page 12 and 13. The second thing to say about the stance of renunciation is that it is and professes to be paschal renunciation, according to the paschal mystery, the death and resurrection of Christ. That is, the religious believes and proclaims that he is not in reality renouncing any value at all. To understand this, we must first insist that religious recognize real value and ownership in the use of material things, in sexuality, marriage, and freedom. Paschal renunciation is an act of giving up real values on one level of existence in order to receive them back immediately on another. The death of Christ was paschal renunciation. He laid down


his life in this world on the cross in order to take it up again immediately in the resurrection. He talks about Abraham and Isaac, same thing. Paschal renunciation gives up those particular means to the values contained in ownership, marriage, and independence that the world spontaneously takes to be the only way, but you get the value back by the way he says. He does this in an act of hope visibly based on pure faith that God can and will provide him with an access to these same values through means that transcend the normal human path. In doing this, he bears witness to the invisible reality of grace. Okay, that invisible reality of grace, we certainly have to agree with. Also, the fact that he's expressing faith, hope, and love, especially hope by this renunciation. But do you get your basket filled right away? Do you sort of give up something with your right hand and immediately get something back in your left hand? Well, that's not part of the experience. In other words, there's something not quite right. Not that what he's saying isn't true, but there's a death to be died. If this is a


paschal renunciation, that means you've got to die. So, it's not as quick and as easy as this. And he knows it isn't, but it just doesn't come out in the way he says it. You have to die. And it's a matter of moving through a desert, right, like the Jews did, like the Israelites did. And Jesus has to suffer. It's not just a matter of sort of a quick instantaneous death. And then resurrection. No. There's a process. There's a time scale there. It's a dying progressively during your life and progressively discovering the resurrection at a deeper level within you. These purifications that John of the Cross talks about, you know. In John of the Cross, you certainly don't get the idea that you're instantaneously filled as soon as you give something up, do you? But the filling is at a deeper level, which you only touch through faith and which only gradually emerges, you know. And even at the end of your life, it's not going to be just flowing up and filling you with the experience of death. So, and when he talks


about that spousal union with Christ, it's as if it were just as tangible as a marriage relationship or something. Well, that can be misleading. That can be over the ages. The walk of faith can be a dark walk, you know. And the life, the monastic life can have a lot of emptiness in it. You have to learn to live with it. Merton is much more realistic in this regard, I think, when he talks about, you know, the difficulties of the journey. David M. Knight. He's a Marianist, isn't he? And he's got a community now. He's a retreat preacher, I guess. He's Canadian, I think, isn't he? And some of the stuff that he writes is very powerful. He bases himself on Ron, okay, and interprets in terms of spirituality, but sometimes the balance is missing. I wonder where he gets this thing of


receiving anything immediately. I don't know. Why you give up by clearing out something and then you receive through giving. Because, in a sense, it's true. Like this Devo Barsatti, he's an Italian spiritual writer, he says, if mysticism comes before asceticism, because before you can give anything up, there's a grace there which is already filling you, okay? Well, that's great, but you don't feel it. Andre Levin talks about the dying and the rising. Sometimes it's true. Sometimes it's true. There's also with Luth that idea that you only can go insofar as your joy carries you. That too, boy, you have to interpret that carefully, because you're not always going to feel joyful when you make a renunciation. Your life is not going to have a visible, guiding track of joy like a silver thread through it all the time. No, sir.


No. Not around here, anyway. Well, the joy can be so deep, so far down in the well, you know, you're going to be awful miserable looking at it. So, how are you going to get to the end of your rope if you've always got some joy to hang on to? I mean, this thing is ambiguous, because it's true and it's not true. It's very difficult to talk about this. When you're talking about the experience of faith, there's already a paradox in there, right? If it's faith, well, how can there be experience? How can you be joyful? How can fullness be there? And yet it is. That's what it is, basically. Right? He's joy, but he's not always joy in the same way, and he's not always fully joy. That is,


the Holy Spirit is not always present in the same way. There are times, there are desert times, there are times of emptiness, there are times of purification, there are times of the apparent absence of God, maybe long times. So, you've got to be careful of that. Otherwise, we can't deal with the difficulties when they come. We think, well, this shouldn't happen, you know, I'm supposed to be full of joy. Or at least, it shouldn't be like this, but it is. But there is something wrong. For example, if you don't, there is something wrong. That's purification, because there's something wrong. Oh, okay, but that something wrong is simply that you're a human being, and then you've got original sin, and everybody has to go through some of that. In other words, you can't assign it to some neurosis, you can't assign it to some sin of your own. It's just like the man born blind, you know. How come he had to wait all those years for Jesus to come on the planet? Well, anyway, there are other better examples in the scriptures. It's a matter of dying and coming to life and discovering a new life over a time


period, which can be a whole lot. We learned that from Victoria and St. Francis, and it's, you know, the He's given her, you know, the harshest treatment of all. Yeah, yeah. St. Francis had that care of him, you see. But St. Francis suffered too. I think one of his biographers says there were two years in which he didn't smile. I'm not that. Anyway, this thing, this thing, we can't sort of treat easily. We're talking about the whole, the whole problem of life and death. Okay, I think next time we better go on to obedience, in spite of the fact that it's. If you have any questions or anything you want to talk about a particular connection to the problem, we'll leave space for that first, but then we'll move on.