January 20th, 1981, Serial No. 00793

Audio loading...

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



AI Suggested Keywords:


Monastic Spirituality Set 2 of 12

AI Summary: 





I've got a few quotes I wanted to read just to finish up on Poverty with a Bang, they're from this anthology, Less is More, just to leave a good taste in your mouth at the end. Some of them are from unexpected people like William James. The opposition between the men who have and the men who are is immemorial, he says. Though the gentleman in the old-fashioned sense of the man who is well-born has usually in point of fact been predacious and reveled in lands and goods, yet he has never identified his essence with these possessions but rather with the personal superiorities, the courage, generosity, and pride supposed to be his birthright. In other words, there's a kind of nobility there. This ideal of the well-born man without possessions was embodied in knight errantry and in templardom, the knight's templars, and hideously corrupted as it has always been, it still dominates sentimentally if not practically the military and aristocratic view of life.


We glorify the soldier as the man absolutely unencumbered. St. Paul talks about it similarly, he says if you want to serve Christ, you can't be inhibited or impeded by possessions. Owning nothing but his bare life and willing to toss that up at any moment when the cause commands him, he is the representative of unhampered freedom and ideal directions. It's funny that it's paradoxical that you take examples also of the spiritual life from people like soldiers. But the desert brothers, remember, they take examples even from prostitutes and people like that for the spiritual life, their intensity, their dedication, one thing or another. And similarly here with the soldier. In short, lives based on having are less free than lives based either on doing or on being. A life based on having, a life based on doing, a life based on being, progressively becoming deeper. And in the interest of action, people subject to spiritual excitement throw away possessions as so many clogs.


Only those who have no private interest can follow an ideal straight away. Sloth and cowardice creep in with every dollar or guinea we have to guard. But beyond this more worthily athletic attitude involved in doing and being rather than having, there is in the desire of not having something profounder still, something related to that fundamental mystery of religious experience. And we saw how poverty sort of puts you on a boundary line of the transcendent. As well as putting you on a boundary line of your death, really. And another one here from William James. These are all from one chapter entitled Controlled Folly. Really to give up anything on which we have relied, to give it up definitely for good and all and forever, signifies a radical alteration of character. In it the inner man rolls over into an entirely different position of equilibrium, lives in a new center of energy from this time on. This is a psychologist looking at the act of renunciation, which is poverty.


A radical alteration of character. In it the inner man rolls over into an entirely different position of equilibrium, lives in a new center of energy from this time on. You kind of jumped into this a little bit too quick. I haven't really caught how you got to that place yet. These are kind of scattered quotes, okay? So I'm not attempting to hook them into a continuity, into a structure. I just wanted to leave them as kind of indicators of the depth of what we're talking about. This business of rolling into a different position of equilibrium, it's as if from drawing from outside you begin to draw from inside. And he talked before about moving from having to doing to being. You're progressively moving inside. Having, you're, as it were, resting on something that's outside of yourself. You're based on something outside of yourself. Doing, you're based on something that relates to what is outside of yourself, right? Because you're affecting what's outside of yourself, you're involved with it.


But the movement, the action is coming from inside. Being, you're resting inside. Okay? This relates to the monastic life too. This is somebody else called Eli Jones. No man is free until he is free at the center. When he lets go there, he is free indeed. It is life's supreme strategic retreat. Asking for nothing, if anything comes to him, it is all sheer gain. Then life becomes one constant surprise. This idea of there being kind of an act of renunciation in which a person becomes free. There's a quote from St. John of the Cross that's very close to it. I don't know if you've heard this before. That you may possess all things, seek to possess nothing. In detachment the spirit finds quiet and repose. For coveting nothing, nothing wearies it by elation,


and nothing oppresses it by dejection. Because it stands in the center of its own humility. It's as if you were to say it stands in the center of its own nothingness, right? It stands in its own emptiness, and therefore it's free. For as soon as it covets anything, it immediately is fatigued thereby. It's immediately weary. You remember that passage in Matthew 11? Come to me, you who are heavily laden and burdened. I'll give you rest. It's that flipping over at that point that he's talking about. But here he's talking about attachment, or possession, or coveting, wanting something. Which are all really the same thing. No soul is rested till it is made nought, till it is made nought as to all things that are made, as Julian acknowledged. Thou shalt love the noughting, and flee the self. It's Mecto. This is Trungpa, the Tibetan fellow who was in Colorado.


As with anything else in this kind of work, such as the practice of meditation, you have to be fully involved. You have to become one with what you are doing. So it is with giving things away. No matter how small the thing is in terms of value, one must be fully involved in the giving, so that a part of one's ego is also given away. That's something to think about. I don't quite understand that. It's as if... Now, he's talking not just about poverty, he's talking about giving. But it's as if giving becomes a sacrament, in some way, in which you have to make the inside go along with the outside. You have to make the spiritual go along with the material, in such a way that it really becomes a kind of a death for you. Otherwise, it's not very significant. Looking at it from the other end, to receive a gift... A gift is supposed to imply something, and a gift is supposed to communicate something beyond itself. Gifts that mean anything, mean that that person is expressing his love in the gift. He's expressing somehow the gift of himself in the material gift. This is looking at it from the inside,


which is a more ascetical way of looking at it. In a way, I think, the Trump Assumption is almost like a contradiction of the Buddhist doctrine and Christian view, of not letting the left hand hold the right hand, and being special and beautiful. And the Buddhists, they say that we should even be aware of giving something, in the ideal state of charity. They don't call charity for contention. Yes. I think at this point... A couple of things I can say here. At this point, he's not at that ideal state, I think. He's talking about somebody who's on the journey, and therefore has ego to give up, okay? So this is the act of detachment, which would lead to a state of detachment, theoretically, okay? Now, whether that's a sort of fantasy, or whether it really happens, is another question. This is a way of achieving that. Yes, because he says, a part of one's ego, and if the ego is still there, you see, is still to give away, then the person hasn't got to where you're talking about. Once he's there, presumably, he would be able to act freely, or he would be so unattached, so that he wouldn't have to give away a chunk of himself.


Or, to put it in another way, he would be able to give of himself freely, right? Because there wouldn't be that gravity of ego, and, in fact, the gravity of selfishness holding him back. Isn't there even... the purest heart of a person still gives of himself in the act of giving? Let's think about something else which is related to this, which is forgiving, okay? Now, suppose you're completely detached from material stuff, all right? So you haven't got anything to give away anymore. Suppose you're just poor on the external level. Now, what way can you give? You can forgive, right? Or you can thanksgive also. But to forgive means that this giving comes right into yourself and begins to touch you in the sense of suffering, right? In the sense of pain, injury. Something which is a bit of your death, okay? So that, in some way, is laying down your life. So then you begin to move into the area of Christ's giving, essentially, right? And his forgiving. The fact that he was able to give his life and forgive his killers at the same time.


He thought, forgive them for they know not what they do. So you move into the interior zone there where it becomes a question of blood, you know? And that's where anybody can give, I think. Okay? There's always something to give there. And St. Paul talks about filling up with my body and my body the sufferings of Christ. So he can still do that, even if he's detached and knows how to live without sins. Okay? Wealth is the abundance... This is Bushiri, whoever he is. He died in 1063. Wealth is the abundance of worldly goods and poverty is lack of them. All goods belong to God. When the seeker bids farewell to property, the antithesis disappears and both terms are transcended. That's kind of a philosophical way of putting it. That the person becomes wealthy or he gets into a position


where he's both wealthy and poor at the same time. The terms are transcended. All goods belong to God, so all goods belong to him at that point. That rings a familiar note, doesn't it, in some of our Christian religion. In St. Paul where he says that we have nothing but we possess all things. Also on St. John the Cross. He says the heavens are mine, the earth is mine. This is Evelyn Underhill. Accept poverty, demolish ownership, the very to have in every mood and tense. The verb to have in every mood and tense. And this downward drag is at an end. You'd have to read the context of this to get it. At once the cosmos belongs to you and you to it. You escape the heresy of separateness, the illusion of the separate ego, as they talk about, the separate of self and ease, and are made one. Then in a free spirit, in a free world, then a free spirit, in a free world, the self moves upon its true orbit, undistracted by the largely self-imposed needs


and demands of ordinary earthly existence. Turn yourself into gold and then live wherever you please. That's Ramakrishna. This is something from Saichi. He sounds like him. Nothing is left to Saichi, except a joyful heart, nothing is left to him. Neither good nor bad has he. All is taken away from him. Nothing is left to him. To have nothing, how completely satisfying. Thank you. Okay, let's start obedience. I was wondering if I could just say something about poverty. Sure. You mentioned earlier in the class something about poverty being generosity. I was just thinking that... I know most people's experience with poverty, like Christians. The first thing that kind of happens is


you just have a tendency to give things to the poor. It's all in relation to the poor. It just seems like we've got to try to get that in there. Instead of just all turning on ourselves and having poverty for our own sakes or something. It's more directed toward the poor, I think, if it's true Christian poverty. Even in the heart, like Jesus said, give alms, give alms. He even said that one time where he didn't know what he meant. He said give alms in the heart, kind of. He was talking to the Pharisees and said you should have been doing this or something. Yeah, he said give from what is inside. It's a mysterious saying. Give from what is within and everything is clean for you. Yeah. Okay? I forget the context. I forget what the conversation was. I think that was about what you were getting on, in this case, about having clean things to eat out of and stuff. Oh yeah. You guys put the outside in and the inside is full of the remedy. That's right. But he says give from what is within.


You remember that turnover that William James was talking about? Sort of the organism, the spirit flips over from one energy cycle to another one. It's like that. If you start giving inside instead of taking, then everything is clean for you somehow. But as long as we're taking, everything is defiled. It's like we can work two ways. No doubt that's a crucial implication. Yeah, Jesus, he's got the poor very much in mind, and then at a certain point the poor are almost going to be left behind. Remember? Where he says to the rich young man, well go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Then, as it is, you're squared away and then come follow me. But where he's going to lead is to another kind of giving, right? It's to a deeper kind of giving, where you don't have any goods anymore to give away, but he teaches how to give oneself to the poor, which means to mankind. There's a point at which, like in the monastic life,


where you may be physically separated from the poor, and therefore it's hard for you to keep that always in mind in the same way. It's as if you have to find another level on which to practice it. There's two things it makes me think about. One is that Jesus can say, the poor you have always with you. That's right. So he's obviously indicating that Christianity is basically just social work. And the other thing I'm thinking about, there are these books, but I don't know if you've heard of Carlos Castaneda and the Don Juan books, and there there's an episode where Carlos and he are at some restaurant and there are these little Indian kids struggling about getting all these little things. You know, the crumbs from the table, to use a Christian phrase. And Carlos says, poor little guys, you know. And Don Juan says to him, where do you get off calling these guys poor little Indian kids? He says, I was one of them. Who are you right now in relation to me? You know, I'm your master. Yes. You're the impoverished one.


And so he was indicating to him that physical poverty is not necessarily a hindrance to greater things later on, it can even be beneficial. So the physical state is the bottom line. Yes. It's not the bottom line, and yet there is this obligation to try to remedy that poverty. Like the story of Devis and Lazarus, you know. Evidently the rich man should have done something about Lazarus. He should have noticed, you know. He should have helped him. But he didn't. So there's that double thing. It works in both ways. There's once again a paradox of the fact that poverty itself may be advantageous in certain ways, or certainly is not necessarily negative. You find that in the Beatitudes. You know, blessed are the poor in St. Luke, for theirs is a kingdom of heaven. And woe to you rich. But at the same time, the rich have got the obligation to help the poor. That's the paradox. What you mentioned about the poor always...


This was to the ones who objected to Mary's anointing him with the precious ointment, right? The week before his death. She broke that bottle of precious ointment. And Judas... One gospel says it was Judas who objected, and the other gospel just says it was some of the disciples. He said this could have been sold for $200 a night or something like that. But he says the poor are always with you, the rich are not always with you. If you do this for anointing, whatever the gospel is preached, this will be told. Now, you wonder, does that mean only for her, or does that also possibly refer to a way of living, or to something that other people can do at any time? You have to think about that. In other words, is there a way of relating to him, or to his death, a way of anointing him with that? Which somehow has value aside from the direct helping of the poor. It seems to be pointed to here, but it's left as kind of a mystery. And it's too easy to bamboozle oneself through that, you know,


by canonizing the contemplative life and saying, well, contemplatives do that. Well, maybe they really don't. Because after all, it is close to the cross at that point. You can't fool them. There's the question, too, of who's really rich and who's really poor. Like in St. James, doesn't he say something like, he says, you poor people rejoice in your exalted state, and you rich people rejoice in your humility. They each have a kind of wealth, as it were. Something like that. You take pride in your loneliness. But in St. James, he tends to hit the rich pretty hard. And yet he's not interested in social solutions. He doesn't tell the rich that they're supposed to give what they have to the poor. Somebody else might say that. John of Aptus, he says, you've got two tunics. Give one to the poor. Why haven't you got any? He says that. St. James doesn't seem to say that. But he does hit the rich pretty hard. It's as if he's not expecting that social situation to change right away. And so he's pointing the right way to both of them, as long as that situation remains. And especially the fact that the rich are not to be privileged, as they were in the assembly.


They're not to be treated with respect while the poor man says, you know, sit down on the floor. It's that kind of thing. Somehow you have to take the whole of the New Testament and put it all together in order to get the full story. And even there, the story is not a simple thing. How about growing rich in the sight of God? What Jesus says is to grow rich in the sight of God. Where does that come from? That's where he gives a parable about the man who piles up riches and he says, I had a good harvest. He says, I'm going to tear down my barns and grow bigger ones. And they say, you fool, because your life will be taken from you this night. Who's going to have all that stuff? Jesus says, so it is with every man who grows rich for himself and not unto God. Very mysterious. Rich towards God, says what he says. So that means, you have to relate that to his other sayings where he says, give up what you have and you'll have treasure in heaven, right?


So that's evidently riches towards God. Whether pearl of great price or the treasure, riches towards God are for some stake in the kingdom. Which you only get by giving up the other things, by giving up the things on this earth. It's also the thing about the rich man passing through the eye of the needle. It's like a person who has wealth is more likely to be attached to that. Therefore, he's attached to material wealth and he's not going to see it when he brings it back. So it's not likely to pile up riches in heaven. He's not going to be able to do that. And then it said at one place that so he who trusts in riches... I forget how that works in the gospel. One place. And it's not impossible because they say, well, then who can be saved, I think, at that point, right? Yeah. And he says, well, impossible to man, but all things are possible for God. So even a camel can get through the eye of the needle, through God's grace. He's not going to do it on his own volition. It's a matter of likelihood and the riches certainly tend to turn away from the kingdom of God.


Poverty doesn't. Very often a poor person desires wealth. That's the other problem, that the poor person will look simply for material riches and be envious or greedy, lusting after wealth. Just get into that dualistic thing. Same as the rich man. He first needs his immediate needs, his status quo. That's one of the things. That's right. There's a saying of George McDonald's, he says, if things are what matter to you, what difference does it make whether you have them or don't have them? Exactly. You're on a shame and a dogfight. You're right. It's like it's happening in India and places in the third world, too. Well, persons that might in the past have been more inclined to dedicate a certain part of their lives to spiritual pursuits. When they see the material things coming their way through the influx of Western civilization, they start getting attached to all that stuff, to the excruciating, excruciating world. And then they begin to look on the old brahmin class or those sannyasis and things like that


as being a bunch of idiots and wasting their time. And they're just getting degraded. The Western thing really catches on. The Western spirit. About that whole poverty thing, just to review one or two notions. If you remember our fundamental notion of religious poverty, monastic poverty, it was as a kind of witness to the kingdom, with its double character. That is, the fullness of the kingdom being the ground on which one stands, and therefore one doesn't have to have all the other stuff. But at the same time, the emptiness of the kingdom, so there's a real impoverishment, there's a real desert experience, and a real hunger for it. There's two sides of the same coin. And that monastic life really is a journey of hope. It travels along the axis of hope. Like walking from one country across a desert ground into another country.


And hope means poverty. Hope means leaving behind one thing in order to move towards another thing. The letter of the Evers was against that. It seems like it was written for monks. It was written for the Evers. It seems like it was written for monks, but somehow they were the descendants of the Evers. We inherit their desert. Their exile. The people who were always longing, were always somewhat greedy. Okay, let's go on to obedience then. I want to give you some references. Our basic track will be to follow Roberts in that chapter of his. But this is a subject which really needs to be wrestled with, this obedience. There's a book by Hausserr entitled Religious Obedience.


There's a bibliography on Roberts on page 97. He mentions the Hausserr thing. Fr. Isaiah, maybe you could dig out those things that we have that he refers to and put them on the flash drive. Some of them we've already dug out because we used them for the other vows. This one of Hausserr may have to help you find. Maybe it's in the back room. The Commodities Constitution, Scheme 4, page 10 and the following. It's on the monastic community, the prior, and obedience all together. The Rule of Saint Benedict, chapters 3, chapter 68, which are both specifically on obedience. 3 is on obedience, 68 is on when you're asked to do impossible things, remember? And then chapter 7 also, remember, it's several of the degrees of humility related directly to obedience. 3, 7, and 68. Also the beginning of the prologue, we'll refer to that.


That spiritual guide of Desai has a good section on obedience, pages 32 through 35. I hope you've got a copy of that either down here or on the shelves there. Which pages? 32 through 35. What's that one? Desai's Spiritual Guide. The one that's translated from the French. It looks like this. He's that Trappist who started the Eastern Rite Monastery in Southern France. Didn't he join the Orthodox? The Orthodox finally, yeah. Look out. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, now, book 14 is on obedience. That's in Western asceticism, starting on page 149. The Sayings of the Fathers that have to do with obedience in the systematic collection. Cashion, now Cashion relates obedience to the cenobitical life, remember? The cenobitical life for him is the life of obedience.


Whereas the hermetic life is the life of continual prayer. Remember someplace he says that the failure of the Cenobite is a failure in obedience. The failure of the hermit is a failure in prayer. There's an interruption in his prayer. You find it especially treated in the Institutes, in book four of the Institutes. And I don't remember just where, except at the end, certainly. About the last five chapters, also before the end. In this anthology of Merton, collected by Father Jacob, there's a good section of sayings on obedience. There wasn't so much on poverty, so I didn't refer to that. But on obedience there's a whole lot. Partly because Merton had a problem with it himself, you know, with his habit. Obedience wasn't easy for him, because he was such a, you know, so full of life, such a dynamic character. So he had to wrestle with it, and he has some good things to say about it. Now, also on the biblical doctrine of obedience,


there's the article in the Dictionary of Biblical Theology, R.L. Stanton, entitled Obedience. But the article is kind of sketchy, it's kind of brief, and perhaps incomplete. So really to get the whole picture, you'd have to read a couple of other articles. The one on liberation and liberty, and the one on law. So I just point that out, so you realize that article maybe doesn't cover the whole thing. Because if you treat obedience just by itself, without treating it in the whole context of, you can really get into a corner. Without treating it in the whole context of redemption, you know, because after all, God's plan is a plan of liberation. It's not a plan of rubbing you out, of extinction of man. So you have to get the whole framework, or it looks pretty grim. Including St. Paul, because St. Paul is critical on this issue of obedience and liberty, of the law and the spirit. So I'm just going to mention a few things before we dive into our reading.


First of all, I pointed out already the necessity of considering obedience in relationship to liberty. Now, if you were taking this from a strictly ascetical, professional, monastic point of view, you might say that obedience is simply for the purpose of arriving at true liberty, true spiritual liberty. And there's an awful lot of truth in that. But there's still something lacking. To take it from another point of view, to call it a biblical point of view, you would have to say that obedience is in function of finding the will of God. If we say that it's just in terms of liberty, we're in danger of setting up one of those philosophical schemes, one of those humanistic schemes, by which you're really striving for a sort of self-realization, and you're going to be able to measure it because you're going to be free. But suppose God's will is otherwise. Suppose God's plan doesn't happen to include that full self-realization, that full liberty, even spiritual liberty, during this life for you on this earth.


So it seems that the will of God has to be the other term in there. And then we have to remember that this too is a paschal reality, that all of these roads lead to Rome, in the sense of everything leading to the paschal mystery of death and resurrection. And as long as we're in this life, we've still got a dying to do, right? So maybe we're going to leave this life like Jesus did, on the cross. So we have to sort of bring every other scheme, every other ascetical scheme up face-to-face with the cross and with the resurrection, with the paschal mystery of Jesus, in order to bring it into the ultimate context, okay? So that's not going to give us any simple formula. Like, you know, obey and you're going to become completely free. Well, you're moving in that direction, but this life is still under the shadow of the cross. And it's not until the resurrection that that total liberty is going to be ours. Liberty also from death, because the ultimate liberty is liberty from death. Just as death is the last enemy, and the law of death, the law of our mortality somehow, is the ultimate law. The ultimate freedom only comes after we're dead, and after we've risen again.


Now, in the measure in which we can already die to ourselves in this life, we have a freedom coming to ourselves in this life, okay? An interior resurrection. And we still have to pass through just regular death. Okay, there's the relationship between the law and liberty. And this is a very... It's a fascinating thing because it germinates so many things, this notion of law. Because even the way we think is a kind of law. And we've got psychological laws. Even our problems, our hang-ups, our neuroses are a kind of law. The ultimate law of this world seems to me to be the law of death. It seems to be the law of mortality. And everything sort of flows towards that point, towards that goal of death. Even our natural science doesn't get beyond that. And the resurrection is the emancipation, the liberation from all of those laws, including the very law of death. And so when Jesus rises from the dead, law turns into something else.


Nature, as it were, becomes subservient to person, becomes... Person becomes liberated from nature, and liberty comes into its own, and law is subservient to liberty, just as if law and nature become the garment with which the risen Christ is clothed, something like that. And remember that the risen Christ is man. He's you and he's me. He's not just the risen Christ. So that's when law, every law, turns into liberty. So that's a kind of explosion, you see. And we don't know what law means after that point. We don't know what reason means. We don't know what order means after that point. Everything flows through that point, that new thought, that there's no resurrection. And then it's new. And somehow freedom rules at that point. But freedom is the freedom of God, which we participate at that point. It's not the freedom of the flesh. It's the freedom of the spiritual body, which means that everything is moving, as it were, in the music of the Holy Spirit,


moving in the music of the Trinity. So there's not much we can say about that. We've got to realize how little, really, we know about it. I mean, everything has to go through that point. Remember when St. Paul talks about a new creation, that means that it's a fresh start, it's a rebirth. And so liberty is just going to have another sense to it when we get to that point. We only begin to taste a little of that in our hearts in this life. There's the connection also of law and death, which I suggested. I think law is related to death, necessarily, essentially. And that after you've died, there isn't any more law. And this is true also on the spiritual level to some extent in this life. That's what those people are saying. When they're talking about poverty, they're talking about the same thing, aren't they, really? That if you are able to get to... Remember that fellow who said that there's one ultimate renunciation, one ultimate giving up.


If you give up at the center, if you become poor at the center, then you become completely poor and everything is yours. All right? At the same moment that that's poverty and wealth, that's also liberty. At the moment that a person turns himself over, really, at the center to God, he becomes free. He becomes free. And this happens already in this life. It's a death and resurrection in this heart. But law is related to death. And liberty is related to resurrection. There's this whole matter... Now, when we start to talk about our Christian doctrine of obedience and our Christian monasticism in general, we've got to remember that Judaism and Christianity are under the Word of God, right? That these are the asceticisms. These are the wisdoms. These are the disciplines and doctrines, the traditions that follow from the Word of God. They don't follow from anything else. Now, the Word of God is spoken by the God who speaks.


And what he does, what he says happens. What he says happens in nature. What he says is supposed to happen through us, but it has to happen through our listening and our obedience. So the whole Christian thing is in this line of the Word of God spoken, our listening, our obeying. And then it works that way. So it's relational. It relates us to God. It's personal. It's unlike a lot of other ascetical things. It's unlike any technique, you see, because it's a person-to-person relationship. And this is from the start in our Judeo-Christian revelation. So obedience is unique in this sense. This whole business about the God of the Jews and the Christians being the God who speaks, and therefore who sort of gives man the dignity of being able to listen, being able to hear the Word of God, and then man becomes in some way changed fundamentally, and his life becomes changed fundamentally. So obedience has a special character for us that it wouldn't have in another religion. When we talked about the will of God, of course,


we were referring to that. And ultimately, it's related, of course, to Jesus, the Word of God himself, who comes and lives what? Lives what kind of life? He lives a life which is a model of obedience. Remember St. Paul distinguishes that as being his characteristic. Emptied himself, took upon himself the serving form of man, and became obedient unto death. It's as if to be a man means to be obedient. If you're in the Word of God, to be a man means to be obedient, and ultimately to be obedient unto death. And death is the ultimate law, as it were, to which we have to be obedient, and then we're free. Jesus is exalted, but then we're free. We're liberated at that point. School is out. So you see that there's a very specific line that flows from the Scriptures about this obedience thing. It flows right through Jesus. It's the line of the Word of God. The God who speaks and who has a will, who said something, who wants something, who has a plan, and that's what we have to find. It's not just an operation that we do sort of within ourselves.


Another thing, when we talk about the will of God, and when we talk about will and obedience in general, it tends to make us freeze up, and part of the reason is because we've got a narrow notion of will. This Victorian notion of willpower as, I don't know, as a kind of compulsive, very stiff, very rigid, and I don't know the right word for it, but it only involves about the upper tenth of our person, this kind of willpower. In other words, is there a kind of will which involves the whole of our person? As Rollo May has got a book called Love and Will in which he approaches this problem. It's as if during the last centuries will and intellect, will and mind have gradually become narrowed down until they refer only to the tip of the iceberg and the whole rest is left in the darkness. So when we're talking about our will and when we're talking about our mind, we're only talking about the tip. Then, of course, somebody like Freud breaks through and points out that there's a whole other thing that he calls the subconscious or the unconscious, which has gradually been forgotten


as we got more and more rationalistic, as we got more and more onto the head level, you see, with our scientific type of mind. But all of this somehow is involved in will. The will is the person in some way, and the will involves not only deciding to do something, not only willing an object, willing a goal, but it involves loving, okay? So will ultimately has to be related to the heart. It has to come together somehow, even with desire, even with eros, even with those things that involve our body somewhere in the heart. That's a complicated issue, especially because we tend to get ourselves into binds, considering, oh, my will is contrary to the will of God and so on. We're not counting on those other things. We're thinking of our will as just being that little thing up in our head somewhere, just our conscious will, the will that we really have a hold of, that we're aware of. The concept of divine wisdom that the Father sees in the will of God.


Yeah. There you've got something, you see, that is able to make it connecting like a bridge between us and God. If you just talk about the Victorian type of will that really 19th century rational, head level will, you can get that into an opposition with God which is impossible to break, impossible to penetrate. You can seem to end up in a perfect dualistic stymie. It's only when you enlarge the notion of will, both the notion of our will and the notion of God's will, and somehow discover, as it were, that feminine dimension which relates the two, which is wisdom, which is wisdom and which is the Holy Spirit, which somehow brings God's will into our will so that the two are no longer two separate video calls colliding one with the other, okay? Irreconcilable. But somehow are one, even as they're two. And so the mystery of eternity is reproduced in that way in some way. Okay? So as long as we stay in a dualistic bind, talking about will, and as long as we stay


with that shallow tip of the iceberg rationalistic will, we really are going to have a very difficult time with the notion of obedience. Obedience, in the end, is the gift of God's wisdom or God's Spirit, which comes within our own will and in a kind of a dialogue, a kind of a, what would you call it, a harmony of conspiracies, as Father Hooley says, moves our will sweetly and strongly, you know, to agree with God's will. And yet it allows our will to be, as it were, original and creative and so on. It doesn't rub it out. It doesn't take its place. So it's the mystery, actually, of God's wisdom. Suzuki talks about the Zen poem in one of his books, which is, The Elbow Does Not Bend Outward. There was a period in my life when that kept coming back to me. And it's the idea I got behind it was that the elbow, this is a restriction that it can only go this way. And if one concentrates on the restrictive nature of that,


they can think of it as an opposition to the will, but without that opposition, without that restriction, the thing is useless. It was just brought back and forth. And so, actually, the restriction is a freedom. That's right. Exactly. So somehow, your nature and your freedom and your law turn out to be, in some way, the same thing. That which appears to be your restriction turns out, in some way, to be your liberty. For your liberty is discovered within, as it were, the nature of things. That you were created to be free, but unless you find the right way of inserting yourself into reality, you're not going to be free. You're going to be bending the elbow backwards. Ted Cohen has always fascinated me that the elbow only bends one way, the elbow only bends inward. It's got something to do with that. The law of liberty. In order to become free, you have to discover the law of your nature. The law of your nature, after the resurrection, turns out to be liberty. Because then you're one with God. It kind of reminds me of


the pianist who wants to play and begin in scales, but only through discipline and law and can be free on the scales. At first, you have to learn the alphabet and you have to learn the scales, you have to learn the notes. So it's one by one, you go plunkety-plunk-plunk. You have to do these scales that don't have any music and don't have any joy to it. There's no spontaneity in that. You plug along, right? Whether you're learning to read or whether you're learning to play an instrument. But then, once you gain that mastery, it becomes instinctive, it becomes part of you, and then you have a freedom to do all of that which at first was labor, okay? And the freedom allows you even to fly, sort of, and to be joyful and spontaneous, using still those things which at first were a labor to you. So you somehow learn the law of the thing and then you're free with it. So law turns into freedom also in that case, as it does in many human activities. Learning music is maybe the best example. Because music has this freedom about everything, you see? But if you don't go through that discipline, somehow, you don't learn the law of your freedom, and so you don't inherit that freedom,


you don't come into it. So, I just wondered, this obedience is sort of the same as acceptance. Acceptance of death, and acceptance of the things we have to go through. That's part of it. But sometimes obedience will be an act of obedience in which you have to do something, and even you have to take initiative, okay? You may have to be creative, you may have to use your mind. In which case, it's acceptance of the need for me to get up and to think something out, you know? To work something out. So, the word acceptance doesn't carry it all. It's part of it. But in the end, it turns out to be acceptance, yes. Acceptance of God's plan, of God's way. It turns out to be reception of God's wisdom inside of me, which enables it to happen through me. And brings out in me capacities that I didn't know I had. Because it's something beyond me, and greater than me, that's coming through it. I was just wondering, as far as asceticism goes,


you know, how asceticism gets involved with death and all that. If maybe somebody might have a charisma to say, for instance, his asceticism might be more of an asceticism of acceptance, to realize, you know, the plan of God, and that you're in the state of man, and say, for instance, his asceticism would be to eat, or to sleep, you know, at the right times. It could be. To be in the state of man, and not to go against it, because those are kind of laws, deaths, and to take part in them is... Okay, you've got to accept your condition. And if you don't have the health to be a faster, then part of your asceticism is humbly going to be to accept that situation, right? And to eat as you have to to support yourself, to keep yourself calm. Which is a death to your own desire to do something special, you know, a death to your own desire to be an ascetic, to that image. Rahner interprets asceticism precisely as accepting your death in advance.


Go along with that, I think that's true. It's accepting, it's submission to that law of death, you see, and sort of getting the jump on it by beginning to hear it, to intuit it, and to go with it already before it grabs you, before it comes and catches you. And in that way, you begin also to taste the freedom, to taste the resurrection. But obedience is a very special kind of asceticism. Why? Because it's personal, because it's relational, because a relationship with another person is involved, which is a kind of a sacrament of your relationship with God, okay? And that relationship with the other person can reach deeper into your heart and into your self-will, and can scour it out better than any abstract or external principle or practice, you see? It's the relationship with a living being which is somehow the real test. Because you can't respond to, I don't know, fasting with love, or you can't respond to


other kinds of penitential activity with love the same way you can respond to obedience with love. And yet obedience is harder because you're going to be inclined to hate that very person that you have to obey, okay? So it binds you into a relationship which is a kind of sacrament of your relationship with God. Now, this not only with respect to the superior, but also with respect to your brothers. Remember St. Benedict's got that chapter that the brothers should obey one another. So relationship, human relationship is sacramental, and that's why obedience has a significance which is greater than that of the other forms of asceticism. It's more than a form of asceticism. Besides the fact that it comes to us out of the Word of God and it relates us to the Word of God, there's a personal thing about it, an interpersonal thing about it, which makes it in some way a sacrament of the Trinity, of the relationship with Jesus, of the Word, with the Father. And yet it's a difficult thing too. The trouble is that the more we discover


of ourselves, the more we wake up to our own humanity, the more difficult it can get, you see? Because the more there is that you have to give, in the beginning it might be very easy. The Holy Spirit is very important in this whole business of obedience. If we just emphasize the Word aspect, the Word of God aspect, we can get into one of these dualistic grinds again, where we're just obeying something which is completely exterior to ourselves. We have to bring in the third member or the third term who is the Holy Spirit who is, as you said, wisdom, God's wisdom, in order to find ourselves really, basically, at one with God's will. And then the interpretation of God's will. There can be a conception of religious obedience which is like that, but it's not true because God's will, first of all, doesn't signify just a railroad track, but it signifies His good pleasure, okay, in the Scriptures. God's will is not a rigid,


determined plan which binds you down to one sole choice in every case. But God's will is His good pleasure. But then also, God's will, taking it in this sense of a plan, of a route, a journey, leaves you free to discover yourself and it sort of goes along with you and, like wisdom, in the Old Testament and the wisdom books, sweetly encourages you to find a path which will bring you to God instead of laying one down for you so that all you have to do is pick up the threads of every moment. It's not all predetermined in that sense. And here is the mystery of God's grace and free will. That God's grace somehow encourages our will and somehow encourages our initiative, our originality. And it doesn't just dictate to us things that we absolutely must follow. And yet at the same time there's a death to be died there, you see. So you've got this paradox of the difficulty, the steepness, the harshness, as it were, of God's will, the fact that it's outside us,


the fact that it's a death, and the sweetness, the closeness, and the, what would you call it, the unity, the haven't got a word for it, of this God's will which is also His wisdom and which is inside us and is also what we really most deeply want. So we don't go along with that paradox all the time. But don't think of God's will as simply being the least desirable thing, the most unpleasant thing hanging over your head, which is about... God's will is being kind of a monastic house pet. Okay, maybe that's enough about that. Let's take a look at that article in the Dictionary of Biblical Theology. What time is it? So what time? Okay, we'll go


a little longer. Take a look at that article and the next time I'll start with those. Now, as far as obedience is concerned, the biblical doctrine is very important, of course. It starts off with a kind of a summary introduction. Obedience is far from being an endured constraint and a passive compliance. It is rather the free adherence to the plan of God still enclosed in mystery but proposed by the Word of Faith. And this obedience permits man to make of his life a service of God and an entrance into His joy. And yet not without the shadow of the cross as we continually have before us the example of Jesus who led the world that way. In this first section he talks about the obedience of creation. All things somehow conform to God's will. And they do it


somehow willingly even if they have no will. In a way, they have it in their will. Nature itself corresponds to God's will and praises God. Remember some of the saints who would reproach themselves for being sinners and worse than the inanimate creatures who obey God. I forget, did Silouan say that? I think he does. He says, I'm more sinful than the cats and dogs than the animal creatures or the inanimate creatures because they all obey God and I disobey them. They're all somehow God's children somehow still unspoiled untainted by sin. Even though they really are affected by the results of original sin, right? Because they too are living in this fallen world which somehow according to the scriptures is a consequence of man's sin and man's first sin. And then secondly this drama of disobedience.


From the very beginning Adam disobeys God. That's where the rule of Saint Benedict puts us in the beginning. Listen my son and incline the ears of your heart and hear the precepts of your master that you may return by the labor of obedience to him from whom you departed by the sloth of disobedience. So immediately, those are the first words in the rule. Saint Benedict inserts us into this biblical history of Adam's disobedience. And that's the way the Saint Paul puts it up of course in Romans, right? Romans 5. This is by the disobedience of one man sin and death under the world by the obedience of one man, Jesus. These things are defeated or overcome. So we're inserted right into that. The monastic life is supposed to be plugging us in at that point. So that the monk, the one who takes up the monastic life according to Saint Benedict is the one who wants to reverse this thing. Some of the brothers have talked about it of course the return to paradise. He doesn't talk much about that. The rule of the master has a whole long section on paradise in the first part


of the rule. Maybe what corresponds to the rule of it. But the monk is the one who wants to reverse this thing and he does it by taking up the same tool, the same thing that Adam threw away and thus got us into our pickle and that's the tool of obedience. Saint Benedict calls them the strong and bright weapons of obedience. The revolt of Adam shows by contrast what obedience is and what God expects from it. It is the submission of man to the will of God, the execution of a commandment whose meaning and value we do not see but whose character we perceive as a divine imperative. And it depends on faith of course. If God demands our obedience it is because he has a plan to fulfill the universe to construct and needs our collaboration and our adherence to faith. Faith is not obedience but it is its secret. And that's fundamental in religious obedience because if you think you're just obeying a person it's not going to work. You won't be able to do it. You won't be able to put your heart into it. Somehow you have to


seize the sacramental nature and depth of obedience by an act of faith which sees God behind the person who commands and the person who asks. That's St. Benedict's doctrine. It's also Marley who writes a lot about it. Although he makes the monastic life seem very heavy because he stresses excellence so much. See the Benedictine thing since the Benedictine rule is centered in obedience sometimes makes the monastic life seem exceedingly heavy by its insistence on structure, institution, the abbot, the rule, and obedience. It sounds like it looks like an enormous grinding machine at a certain point but it is kind of a crusher into saints. So somehow one has to be careful to get the other dimension into it, the other pole which is the pole of spontaneity, of liberty, and of the Holy Spirit which St. Benedict brings out at the end of the Prologue and again at the end of chapter seven. The quality of love which is not just sort of the color of obedience


but after all it's the whole thing. The whole of the rule gives that. If you focus on the obedience aspect it can come across pretty good. And then here he talks about the obedience of the Old Testament and Abraham being the first example. Abraham starts to reverse this process. Remember Abraham is the father of the faithful. God speaks to him and says leave your place, leave your father's house and so on and come out and come to the place that I'm going to show you. So that's a command, a vocation, an invitation, and a matter of obedience. So at that point things begin to reverse. For those of you who haven't studied the Old Testament it seems to be that actually the economy of the Old Testament starts with Abraham. That's where this thing starts to reverse. Even though you have people before there who obey God like Noah and so on yet the chosen people are the sons of Abraham. That's where the saving history starts definitely at that point. And the first act is an act of obedience of listening


and responding to the word of God and a journey. It's in spatial terms. Moving out one place, moving in another. Then he talks about the covenant which has the law along with it which is the obligation of obedience. And that of course is a fairly grim structure. Remember when St. Paul talks about the whole thing. He makes the law an intervening thing but he makes Abraham and the promise the initial thing and the thing that endures. And the law comes in between and puts us under a different system which is more severe. And it's as if St. Paul sets aside that law the law of Sinai at a certain point and goes back to the promise of Abraham and says that we're relating directly to Abraham and that promise now that Christ has come and has given us the spirit and has freed us. You mean the covenant of circumcision? Yes. The covenant with Abraham. If you talk about a series of covenants in the Old Testament you talk about


one with Noah which is kind of a universal covenant but the Jewish people doesn't exist until Abraham, you see. And so the covenant of circumcision is that one, yes. But of course we go beyond that because circumcision is thrown out as a sign and it does become universal. But it's that promise to Abraham which starts the pattern of obedience which starts the pattern of God's work forming a people. And then after Jesus comes that people sort of explodes and spreads out beyond the people of Abraham and the people of the circumcision to include all those who believe. So Abraham is the father not so much by generation in the fleshly sign of circumcision that goes along with it but by his faith. And the faith implies obedience. So that's the way that we hook ourselves into God's word and we become part of that organism. I was wondering if maybe circumcision of the flesh may be a type of Jesus coming in the flesh. Well, it's generally related to the crucifixion of Jesus and to baptism. Okay? So what corresponds to circumcision for us is our baptism. It's the sign


the sacramental sign the exterior sign which shows our integration into this people of God. Okay? And it's also the expression of our faith. Same as for Abraham the circumcision was an expression of his faith. The circumcision is a strange kind of a ritual with some deep meanings to it. But we can't go into that. Paul talks about the true circumcision of the heart. That's right. Now that means that circumcision for one thing is a sign of this act of faith but it implies a lot more than that. It implies somehow an obedience to God which cuts to the quick. It implies that God is really uppermost in your heart. It implies a kind of mortification you have to say that sort of when he says you're dead with Christ or your body is dead because Christ has been crucified or you were crucified with Christ through your baptism remember in Romans 5 or 6 he's talking about that basic circumcision of the heart which then has to be carried out in life. In other words that state of detachment


as it were that state of being dead to the world has to be verified throughout life. So one is the initial thing in baptism the other thing is living according to it which is not so easy. Circumcision of the heart is what counts for a Christian. And you could make it correspond with a bunch of other expressions in St. Paul by being dead to the world or having crucified the flesh at the end of the relationship with its passions and desires and so on. And then he talks about Christ our obedience and the obedience of the Christian climate. I'd better quit now and not try to get into this this time. With regard to the obedience of Christ I'll just mention a couple of places in this picture. One is Philippians 2 that hymn that St. Paul uses the one about the self-emptying the kenosis of Christ and his obedience unto death. And he makes that he says have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus so he makes that a pattern for us. Jesus where he says come and learn of me because I'm meek and humble at heart. He's not talking


about obedience but he's close to it at that point which is if that's the one thing that he puts before us to imitate. And then Hebrews OK. Hebrews which is a very great way of what we're talking about. And especially that place in Hebrews chapter 5 which we had in our first reading the other day. Though he was a son and this parallels what St. Paul is saying though he was a son he learned obedience to what he'd suffered so that those who how does it go having been perfected he might be the source of salvation for all those who obey him. That's so dense there's so much in that thing. The whole humanity of Jesus the fact that he had to learn obedience that it wasn't that he had to fight that battle he had to die that death really of a struggle to conform his whole being to the will of the Father. And then that he is the model as well as the source of salvation for those who obey him. So our work is to obey Jesus. And then the letter


to the Galatians and the Romans because you remember that obedience and law are not the whole thing. There's another side which is the liberty of the spirit which St. Paul is talking about. And in some way we have to be able to keep those two things together in our minds. That we have been freed from the law he says of sin and death and from the law of the Old Testament. And we have to discover what that freedom is and hang on to it. Otherwise we can sort of make an idea an image of obedience which will crush the Christian life right out of us. But it's a mystery how to live together those two things. Our Christian obedience our imitation of Christ in that sense up to death and our Christian liberty which is the gift that we receive through his resurrection. It's our perennial problem how to live the life and the dying at the same time. And we find it in chastity we find it in poverty we find it in obedience we find it everywhere. In terms of the Christians being liberated from the Old Testament law you mentioned something


about the return to paradise before. Yes. And I was thinking about that in terms of even the animals being in a fallen state. Is there a state progressing in the spiritual life of a Christian where one kind of makes a transition has sort of a Christian enlightenment so to speak where that fallen state of even the animals is reversed where in other words is there a return to paradise on earth? Okay, now the fathers write about that kind of thing. In fact, Stoltz when he wrote his book The Christian Asceticism he took that as one of the major themes of the early fathers especially the monastic fathers this return to paradise. If you read the life of Saint Anthony and you see Saint Anthony when he comes out of the tombs you remember after about 20 years and his flesh is like the flesh of a child and so on you begin to get that idea. The stories of the desert fathers relating on friendly terms with the animals is the condition of paradise which has been re-established around them, okay? So that it's like Isaiah 11 where we have the lion and the wolf the lion and the lamb


lie down together and so on around the saints who have passed into that state so it's the kind of doctrine or thesis of the tradition of the desert fathers that you do have a state like that that condition of paradise is re-established. St. Francis St. Francis and another guy St. Francis and Brother Wolf remember? That's the same thing coming up later on. So if we make the transition within that what's external it's only a reflection of our internal state anyway. So if we complete the Christian life so to speak if we become one with Christ then the creation becomes ours. In some way although that always seems to be kind of a fragile gift of God because if you look at the saints they don't walk around that way under a canopy of paradise you know? You find it here and there in the literature but in real life we have to be realistic and realize that that's a kind of what would you call it? It's a miraculous


sign in the same way that the miracles of Jesus are signs and not an enduring condition, okay? When Jesus heals people he doesn't create a situation of healing that endures in the world forever in that way. It's a sign. Similarly this thing only occurs occasionally very occasionally as a sign and it's not that the new condition is really established it's a sign for the rest of us. It has to be established by each person. It has to be established by each person but even then I think it's a very precarious thing a very fragile thing and a gift of God which could be withdrawn at any moment. Because it has to be in terms of Jesus and the entire creation in terms of his plan and all this. Yeah, and also look at even look at the Desert Fathers, okay? You'll have one like this who is seen playing with the lions or something like that and then you'll have somebody like Arsenius who is weeping with fear as he's on his deathbed and none of that around him, you see? So it's a very sporadic and uncommon thing


even even among them. It's not as if there were a law that when you reach this state of development the creation changes around you and is returned to paradise. No, there's no such law. It's an exception. It's a miracle and a sign. Okay? The suspension, as it were, of the laws of fallen nature around that saint as a kind of witness to others. Even St. Francis couldn't get the birds to do what he wanted all the time. He couldn't. They'd jerk during his ceremonies. Or they'd fly away when he asked them to come back. Yeah. And then remember the way St. Francis went out of the world. Sick, dying in agony, you know? I think he had moments of peace at the end but that's the way it is. The cross remains that. It's not as if we ever... there's ever a place in this world that goes beyond the cross permanently. Not until the second coming. There's some Zen master


who's recorded this saying. He says, now that I'm enlightened I'm as miserable as I was. Yeah, you had to get enlightened to find out how miserable he was. Yeah, you had to to find out he was. So I guess Luigi's having class tomorrow. Whether or not it doesn't matter.