January 27th, 1981, Serial No. 00794

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Monastic Spirituality Set 2 of 12

AI Summary: 





I found this article by Father Hauser, The Theology of Obedience and the Supplement to
the Way.
It's a rather long article, very thorough, pretty good, especially when it gets down
to the, well, first of all, the biblical and patristic theology of obedience, but then
when it gets down to the practical situations of obedience.
Also what Merton has to say in this anthology of his tapes and so on is very stimulating.
Okay, Roberts begins by talking about Christian obedience, and so this is the general theology
of obedience before you get down to the specifically monastic thing, because we have to remember
that there are all these different concentric circles or different levels of obedience.
You can talk even about the obedience of the inanimate creatures, or of the subhuman creatures,
I think we did, which is not a conscious obedience, but a conformity to God's will.
The obedience of man in general to God's will, and the obedience of the Christian.
The obedience of the Christian, or the obedience of the person who hears God's word, becomes
something special, because he has something special to obey.
When a personal relationship begins to be established, then obedience begins to take on a new meaning.
Because people can sort of conform to God's will, obey God's will, in all kinds of indirect
or somewhat conscious ways, but when God really speaks, then you have a whole new opportunity
for obedience, and obedience becomes a new opportunity for the relationship with God.
The subject of obedience is always a difficult one, because the word itself sort of hits us,
especially nowadays, it strikes a person as a disagreeable word.
In fact, maybe this is the major conflict between Christianity and the world today.
The Christianity of modern man.
So it's something that we have to handle a little carefully.
You can't just give all the answers on obedience, and then think that you've got it all sewed up.
You can have a beautiful theology of obedience, but it can fall down, it can collapse immediately,
and get down to something concrete.
Where your will really begins to collide with the will of God, and you don't know how to get out of the impasse.
So we have to treat this rather delicately, rather carefully, not claiming to have all the answers.
There aren't any mental answers to the problem of obedience.
Remember that the letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.
So there aren't any clear or beautiful theological answers to the problem of obedience.
But there's a kind of a structure, and kind of a pattern, of course, to look at.
He begins by talking about God's plan, and so on.
And even that doesn't always sound too persuasive, doesn't always sound too sweet to us.
This idea of God having a plan laid out for us,
we could be like a toy railroad train on the track of God's plan, something like that.
It's very hard to talk about this kind of thing without oversimplifying it,
and without in some way creating something which is unworthy of God,
creating images which are unworthy of God.
Even to talk about God's plan, unless we consider it as being sort of total mystery of which we only have some glimmers.
And those glimmers we have to use as indicators and guides along the way.
Let's see what Roberts has to say.
Every person has been created in order to accomplish God's plan in his regard.
So you might get the idea that God's plan is something that's laid down uniquely there, like the railroad tracks.
But that's not really so.
There are wide places and narrow places.
There are places where God leads you sort of to be creative, to use your imagination, to find your way,
to use your ingenuity, even in finding him, finding his presence, almost in inventing his will.
There's a kind of a way in which we discover God's will,
rather than finding a unique thing that you have to follow, just a thread that's laid down for you.
You discover God's will sometimes by inventing it, it seems to me,
because part of our conformity to God's plan is to be creative, is to be inventive,
is to, in some way, embody the Holy Spirit, express the action of the Spirit within us.
And the Spirit himself is creative and encourages creativity.
So remember Jesus in that parable of the fierce landowner who reaps where he didn't sow
and collects where he didn't put anything out.
Well, God is like that.
And that he expects us, in some way, to be creative,
and not just to discover a prefabricated will of his.
So see how tricky this thing is to talk about.
And we've got to find, in some way, we've got to find a liberating subject
rather than an oppressive subject, and we have this business of obedience.
Because really it's designed to, it's meant to liberate us.
And I don't merely mean to be playing with words,
but this is sort of the problem which we have to confront, the paradox,
the colon which we have to confront.
How obedience can be liberating when it seems to be just the opposite.
And we have to confront it not by playing any easy tricks with words,
but by trying to see where God is in the Scripture and in the monastic tradition.
This implies the need and the inner obligation to obey both God and those who have a right to command.
Now, immediately this thing is set up in sort of external juridical terms,
according to a juridical image which sounds a little bit like a military image,
right to command and obligation to obey.
And it turns us off immediately.
At least it does me, that sort of approach.
And we have to realize that there's always another dimension.
There's always an unseen dimension.
And as soon as we...
It's as if you can't say the word obedience without saying the word love first.
You can't say the word obedience or command without saying the word Father first.
Because you've got to realize that this whole obedience thing is inside God's love,
and inside God's wisdom.
That it's not the whole thing.
Otherwise we get trapped into...
We always end up getting trapped into this dualistic thing
of simply God against man, or obedience against liberty,
or obedience against creativity, all those things.
It's a trap.
And it's not true.
It may look that way when we get into a particular pickle,
when we're in a particular confrontation,
when we find a narrow place on the road.
But it's not true.
And if we really get inside God's will,
we'll feel it like something like Zosim expresses it, you know?
Where the heart is changed. That's the point.
And we discover that God's will is the kingdom of heaven.
God's will is peace and joy and love and all those things that Saint Paul talks about.
It's not a kind of slavery.
It's not simply that which is contrary to our own will.
Saint Benedict says, you know,
that the road is narrow and the gate is narrow at the beginning.
Remember, a gate is something that lets you inside somewhere,
but after you get inside, maybe it's not so narrow.
It sure is narrow in places.
Look at the life of Jesus, you know,
and then Gethsemane and the cross and whatever it is.
It sure is in places.
But that's the gate. It's not the inside of the kingdom.
You think God's grace is there?
God's grace is there, and yet,
and sometimes God's grace may be so little felt
that you feel like you're doing it completely,
maybe without any help at all,
or completely against your will or something like that.
It feels like you're going through by the skin of your teeth.
It feels like there's no help, no grace, no joy, no will there,
and yet you do it.
It's the thread going through the needle's eye.
And the thread seems to be purely you,
but maybe it's purely God's grace with none of you left,
and that's why it's the needle's eye.
It's because it pulls you through that place which is so narrow
that you really can't go through it.
The camel can't go through it,
only the thread, sort of, of God's grace can go through it.
And so you find yourself on the other side,
and it's a death and a resurrection.
But that's precisely it.
God's grace is so elusive at that point that you can't taste it.
It's no fun anymore. It's no joy anymore.
And you seem to be all alone at that point.
Somebody put that thing up on the board
like one set of footprints moves. It's like that.
And yet that's precisely where God's grace is the most powerful,
because it's going against your own inclination.
But because it's going against your own inclination,
there's no sensible grace there to make you happy,
and you feel like you're doing it all by yourself.
So it's when you seem to be doing it all by yourself
that God's grace is most powerful.
Doing it all by yourself against your own will, in a sense.
Is this definitely it?
Faith and obedience are one thing.
In other words, obedience is acting or living faith, right?
These words, you can line them right up.
The word listen, the word believe, or faith,
and the word obedience.
They're one line.
Because faith becomes active when, first of all,
you listen to God's word.
Because faith is okay, you believe in God,
but it's kind of an abstract,
it's kind of a blank check until God says something, right?
Then when God says something and you've got his word,
then the faith becomes actualized in listening,
but then in doing.
And in doing the word which you hear from God,
the faith somehow is completed.
Because man becomes complete somehow,
becomes expressed in God.
And that way we embody God's word.
Like Jesus becomes a word in common.
So we, in another sense, become a word in common.
The other image, of course, is Mary,
who receives the word and says,
Fiat, let it be done to me according to your word,
according to your word.
And the word becomes flesh in her possession.
That's not always true, though,
is that when you look at Christian martyrs
and in Acts, a lot of times,
they talk about the joy of separating from Jesus.
But really, why do you do it?
You can't make a law out of that.
That's God's gift, too.
And they usually have their Gethsemane,
I think, probably before that,
where they really have to wrestle with that.
But then sometimes they're over on the other side
by the time they're being executed.
I doubt if it was always true.
Probably someone had great agonies.
But often, that joy seems to have been there.
And that was left also as a witness for us, I think.
To encourage us.
You know, like St. Lawrence
had his good iron and so on.
Yeah, they were singing as they were executed.
Right, right.
The thing is, though, if you sort of count on that,
if you count on that joy or something,
then your ego's still got something.
It has to be sort of a total gift to God.
And then, regardless of whether
you're going to have that or not,
that, I imagine, comes as a gift.
That's the resurrection.
We're already living the resurrection.
There's nothing more to fear.
That's really it.
He begins to give examples here
about this authority and obedience.
People who have
a certain Christian authority.
And this authority comes from God.
Those children obey their parents
because that comes to them from God.
By the nature of paternity.
Married partners have a certain authority
over each other's bodies.
St. Paul talks about that.
Kind of a mysterious thing.
Citizens, all obedience to the legitimate
government of the country.
St. Paul talks about that, too.
Catholics owe it to their bishop and to the Pope.
Nothing very
romantic in all of that.
Acts of obedience
consist in doing what another person
decides should be done because he has authority.
That is the right to command.
Now, we still remain on the external level
of this delegated authority,
this juridical thing,
which is the heavy side of the picture.
Not exactly mystical.
And yet, it's real.
But whenever we just consider
this thing without the other
side of the picture, it's very hard
to accept it lovingly.
It's very hard for us to elicit that
loving acceptance from the middle of our heart
when we look at this external picture.
It's only when we look at the picture
and see the love on the other side,
the love, as it were, behind that
that we're able to do it.
So we'll try to keep that in sight
as we go on.
This authority over our will
must come at least in an indirect way from God.
Now, the exercise of authority
and the nature of obedience depend on the end
of the society in which they're exercised.
See, this is a sociological way of talking,
which remains on the external level.
In a church,
there's an intimate relation
to the mystery of Christ.
Now he's getting to the center of this thing.
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
Christians exercise an obedience which is not merely
sociological but also truly charismatic.
Actually, it might be better to start from
the Christian mystery and bring the
sociological comparisons in afterwards
because there's the risk here
of making it seem that the church is a society
that's got something special.
The church is a society which in addition
has this charismatic
force to it
and fullness.
But really the church is something unique.
The church is
the creation of God,
the breath of God, the word of God,
which has its own power and its own
laws within it.
It's got these external
similarities and analogies to other
Its interior
dynamism is something else.
It's only by virtue of that interior
dynamism that obedience really becomes acceptable.
And the power of the Holy Spirit,
this is going to turn out to be
very important what we're talking about here.
This third person of the Trinity
who is the Holy Spirit
who gets us out of the dualistic bind
of authority versus
of obedience versus
of superior versus subject.
That whole deal. So you end up in all these
dualistic stalemates.
And in some way, obedience,
the mystery of obedience, reproduces once again
the life of the Trinity.
Just as the mystery of the church reproduces
the life of the Trinity. The life
of the Son with the Father
which we find expressed in and carried out
on the earth in the life of Jesus
is a life of obedience.
But it's only
acceptable, it's only comprehensible,
it's only God
when the third person is there. And the third person
is the one who bridges the gap,
bridges the gap between
authority and obedience, between
obedience and freedom,
between obedience and creativity.
Just as, in a sense, he bridges
the gap between the Father and the Son.
Even though there is no gap
because the Father generates the Son.
But it's only the Holy Spirit that makes it
possible. And
remember how our Western theology has very
often sort of relegated
the Holy Spirit to the margin
and set the Holy Spirit aside or forgotten about it.
And that's why the thing of obedience has become
so hard sometimes in the Western church.
Because it's become
divorced from the mystery, the total
mystery, the Trinity of the Holy Spirit and therefore
a dualistic thing. And like
the Reformation
itself, you know, the rebellion
against a kind of oppressive
obedience in the 16th century.
A lot of that has to do with where we got in the West
with our neglect
of the mystery of the Holy Spirit.
And the mystery
of the church, which is
a koinonia
before it's a structure,
which is a communion, a fellowship,
a oneness, before
it's a hierarchy.
This begins to be recovered in Vatican II.
But if you forget
that, then obedience
becomes a military thing, a juridical thing.
people can no longer accept.
this specifically Christian
obedience participates in the obedience of Christ
to the Father with all the communion
and filial joy that this implies.
And that's where we should start
from. The mystery of the Trinity,
the mystery of the church, the uniqueness
of the Christian
fact. And talk about the
gift before you talk about the obligation.
Because the Christian life is a gift.
And then inside that gift there
are certain ways that one has to follow
in order to realize the gift in himself.
And one of these ways
is obedience. We could say
that the central axis
is obedience. Following the
footsteps of Jesus and moving through
his classical mystery, going through that
and that involves
a death to oneself. And we should
talk also about those two levels of
the self. About the ego level
and the deeper self, what Martin calls the
true self. And how
what is liberty on one
level or seems to be liberty
on one level can be slavery on another level
because it takes you off from that deep self.
And so much of what seems to be
freedom to us is actually
subjection, is actually some kind of slavery.
And paradoxically
in order to get to our
real freedom we have to
die to another kind of freedom.
We have to allow a
subjection, a suppression
of another kind of freedom
very often in order to let that
deeper freedom emerge.
Which is just the law of the paschal
journey as it were in other terms.
You can say the same thing with respect to
poverty, you can say the same thing with respect to chastity.
In obedience
it has a particular
it's on the central axis as far as the will
and the self is concerned.
Even though it remains kind of
kind of open and abstract
it remains like an algebra when we talk about
obedience because the concrete thing
is not there. When you talk about chastity
the concrete reality is right there you see.
With obedience it remains
an abstraction until
there is some concrete event or demand
in your life that makes it feel concrete
for you.
It doesn't relate
for instance immediately to your body
but it did for Jesus you see
Then it narrows down to a very concrete
And then he
refers to Hebrews 5.8
remember what that is mentioned? That's the one I covered
before. That Jesus though he
was son learned obedience to what he
suffered. Words to be
pondered. How could he learn anything?
And yet to be
human means to learn obedience just as
to be human means to suffer.
means patience. Those words
are all related.
Although in the Greek I forget how it is.
we don't want to stress too much the
suffering angle of these things because
we tend
to have kind of a proclivity for
ruin. We tend to
want shadowy and dark things
at certain times. We have to
be aware of that and always see the other side
of it when the resurrection comes.
We have to face those things.
We have to face the subject of suffering. If we get fixed on
that suffering then we get paralyzed.
In some way we have to be able to find the light that's behind it
over there. Even the word
sometimes. We dwell on the word. Just like my
dwelling on the word death sometimes.
Unless we see that light coming from behind
it all the time shining through it
we get ourselves into trouble.
A trouble that sometimes perversely we seek
to get ourselves into. And I sleep much
less in the wilderness sometimes. We have to be aware
of that.
The Christian has thus
entered explicitly and publicly into
the mystery of the redemption of the human race.
This is the first principle.
Now what does redemption mean?
He goes on to say this mystery
of liberation is common to God. If you look up
redemption in Webster you get
first of all
to regain possession of something
by repurchase.
Well, okay.
Secondly, to rescue or deliver
as from bondage by paying a ransom.
Now put that
in the context of what we call salvation
history. And God does when he
takes his people out of Egypt for instance
he regains possession of them
doesn't he? Because then remember he says let my people
go right into the desert to offer
sacrifice to me, to worship me.
In other words, if they can't really be
his people, they can't do what he wants
until they're free in some way.
the second meaning there, to rescue or deliver
as from bondage means that in some way
their freedom is related
to their becoming his possession.
Nobody else's possession. Not Pharaoh's
and so on. And this all has its analogies
for us on our own level.
So if the mystery of
Christ is a mystery of redemption, that is a mystery
of liberation, therefore obedience itself
must somehow lead to this
liberation. And this should not just
be a matter of pious words
but it should be reality for us.
it's only a reality to the extent that we're
generous about giving ourselves to the
obedience, to the paradox,
to the death to serve.
It's only somehow when you go
through one side of the door that you find yourself
coming out the other side.
You can't stand on one side of the door
and look at yourself over on the other side.
You've got to go through it.
This mystery of liberation, redemption
is common to all.
This exodus thing, remember, is fundamental
also for Jesus,
Paschal mystery,
exodus, liberation.
So all obedience,
in the Church, has this purpose.
And then the difference
of this kind of obedience from that
of any other structure,
any other institution,
the pagan soldier,
the policeman,
and so on.
Let me quote Solomon Jensen
on this
strong mark of common service
to Christ, redemption, fellowship
with God, with the Virgin and Christ.
And this is the basis,
this is the reality. See, all the obedience
and the authority in the Church, insofar as
it's a relation of one man to another, is temporary.
It's not permanent.
But the communion is permanent.
The fellowship is permanent.
The gift of communion
is enduring forever.
But the authority and the obedience
pass away.
Just as the authority and the obedience only come into
being at a certain point.
St. Gregory likes to say that this only
came into being because
of sin.
That one person has to be
subject to another person, has to obey another person.
the sentence after
the first sin, right in Genesis
2 or 3, 4.
And God says that the woman
should be subject to the man and so on.
He should dominate over her.
This first kind of oppressive
dualism was introduced.
It was a different kind of relationship
before that.
Relationship of help and
relationship of equality.
The vow of obedience, what does it add?
He doesn't immediately talk about the vow
in its context, but the fact is that
you don't make a vow of obedience in the abstract.
You make it in a particular community
which has a particular superior and so on.
So it's choosing a concrete
set of means
to in some way
obey God to help you obey God.
I don't see it here.
Yeah, I dimly remember
now, what he did was
he wanted the spiritual father to accept
him, remember, to make him a monk.
And he kept sending him back home, telling him how he went radio.
And one day
there was something about his family,
he had to take care of his family.
And every time he came
he said, well, I still have to see about my mother.
I still have to take care of her.
And finally, he said, he came
to the spiritual father and said, well, no,
this is all settled. Now you can make me a monk.
So he said, okay, I accept you as a monk.
Now go back and do what you were doing.
That's it.
It's a paradox. But simply, the fact
of obedience, the fact of being free
completely, makes him
able to obey.
But then the content of the obedience is
of secondary importance. He can be doing the same thing
he was doing before, but the fact that
he is free completely, without any bond, without
any conditions on that obedience,
makes him able to be accepted as a monk.
Now there, it's as if the liberation had to come
before the obedience, in a sense.
But the two are connected.
In other words, that totality of commitment,
in order to make the vow of obedience, he has to
be free from any conditions.
Like, remember the people who came
to Jesus once said, oh boy, let me go home
and bury my father. I have to go home
and say goodbye to my relatives or something.
But he wouldn't accept
those conditions.
He wouldn't let him.
The vow implies
a totality of availability to this divine
And the vow puts you in a context
concretely in which the thinking
can be worked out. So it doesn't remain just vague.
Suppose you made a vow
of obedience to God, and that's all, you know,
in the abstract.
Well, many times,
every day, you run into
places where you wouldn't
really know whether you were being obedient to God or not.
Or places where you could
sort of cut corners, where you
start making conditions
on your obedience to God and so on. Why?
Because it's too abstract. Because you need a concrete
context there, in order to make it
real for you, in order to be a real believer.
We can deceive
ourselves, and we can play games
to reason. It wouldn't work that way.
So the vow makes it possible to
concretize this obedience we're talking about.
But also, the vow implies
a special, or a total
commitment, in a way that
ordinary Christian obedience
isn't committed to that. And it's a way.
It's a particular way. A choice.
Remember, here we're talking about the religious life
in general, not just the monastic life.
Two complementary realities, he said. The community
of brothers, and the church authority.
The community has
a visible header guide to be a sign
and instrument of the spiritual thrust here
of other brothers.
So the superior becomes an instrument.
He's a sign, because in some way
he represents the orientation of the
community, and in some way he also represents
God whom you obey.
It just is a sign. It should be transparent.
The relationship is really with God.
The commitment is really to God.
And then he's an instrument which you use
sort of as a pivot
for your obedience to God.
Your relationship to God.
Because you can
get a hold of him, concretely.
You can pin things
down. You can have a concrete
command which touches your life.
Rather than just sort of
making something up
in your own mind.
Or imagining something
coming from God and not being quite sure.
The hierarchy of the church
is the second element.
It approves our choice.
And it delegates the local superior
participation and so on, teaching
and so on.
presses pretty strongly on this
insertion of the
religious vow of obedience
into the structure of the church.
Now it's true that it does insert us into the structure of the church.
But you have to make the distinction here
which Clement makes between the
hierarchical order of the church
and the other order of monastic
vocation. Those two are not the same.
And originally the obedience
which we found in the monastic
life to a spiritual father
did not insert him into the structure of the church
in that way. It had him a desert.
I don't think they really got that in mind at all.
That's something that happened later on.
And originally it had
a different function and yet the
same function in another way. In other words
it was in order to
find the way of following
God's will, determine God's
will, but
not in the sense of
determining, of being inserted
God's will
conveyed through ecclesiastical authority
in this whole organism,
this organization which is the church.
It was on a different level.
it had a different track.
Not the external track
of service to the church
through apostolate, through all the various
things that had to be done, through ministry,
but the internal track of
purification of the heart, right?
And conformity to the will of God
within one's own heart in the interest
of one's own
purification. Now this is the direct
thing and then indirectly it has another variation.
So it's a different path.
It's a different track and you have to be careful to keep that in mind.
Lamont talks about one of those
lines as a line of the Word.
Word, sacrament, hierarchy,
the whole deal there. And so the priest
who is ordained and professes
obedience to his bishop is in that line,
that obedience is in
view of his function, his ministry.
But in the monastic life, the
obedience would be
in function of the person's sanctification.
And in the religious life
it's sort of a mixture of the two, it seems to me.
The non-monastic or partially
monastic religious life, the active
one is partly sanctification,
partly function, with at least
theologically and theoretically
the sanctification
scope of obedience coming first
and the other being secondary.
But often the tail comes to ride the dog.
I may have oversimplified
these things a little bit.
Nevertheless, devout obedience does
insert us into the church structure
and you realize this later on where he says
our ultimate superior
on earth is the Pope. In other words,
your vow of obedience hooks you up into a
chain of authority which terminates
in the Holy Father,
which is related, in other words,
to the whole structure of the church, not just to your own
community, not just to your own religious
congregation of order.
But ordinarily that
doesn't function that way. The Pope doesn't
normally tell you what to do.
The Pope
neither does the local superior.
But the Pope is not
actually, frequently
in touch with you in that way.
And yet he will be, indirectly
and sort of diffusely
through his messages to the religious and so on
in the way that he directs the church
and the religious orders.
The importance of a living faith.
You know, faith
both makes
obedience possible because you're relating
not to a human being ultimately, you're relating
to God through your obedience. And that's essential.
Marmion is very good in the way he talks about that.
if you read Marmion's chapter on obedience
you may have more than one chapter
because it's the center of his thing there.
In Christ, the ideal of the mockery. It comes across
pretty heavy. It comes across
like a great monolistic
black Benedictine form
coming about you.
But nevertheless
he's got a real good grip on his thing of
faith. And it's necessary to have
a real good grip on that. Otherwise
we start cheating on obedience from the Lord.
Otherwise we start hedging.
Unless you really believe that
you're in confrontation with God
not just with a superior,
with some human being, you won't be
able to do it.
It's not worth it.
And it's also because, as he said, God's plan is bigger than our minds.
And so, also it's much bigger than the mind of any superior.
And so, we've got to believe that we're getting
hooked into God's plan and God's direction
rather than just somebody else's
good idea.
Or somebody else's bright leadership.
He doesn't distinguish too much here, however.
These two things we're talking about.
The spiritual direction, as it were,
from the
plugging into the external structure
of the Church, the hierarchical structure.
Because traditionally monastic
hierarchy is distinct from the
Church hierarchy, from the
clerical hierarchy.
Look at the fact that we don't even
know whether St. Benedict was a priest, for instance.
Now, the authority
of the abbot would certainly be sanctioned
by the local bishop in the old days.
Not sanctioned by the Church authority, but nevertheless
it's distinct.
He refers you to Lumen Gentium No. 8,
which I didn't check.
The Venus does not
reject human prudence.
But human prudence is supposed to be
somehow inserted into
and dependence on the will of God.
This ultimate criterion of the loving will of God,
the hierarchical communion of the new people of God.
The way hierarchical
and communion are joined together there is maybe
The formal reason for obedience and the direct
object of our vow is the divine will.
This is a good scholastic way of presenting something.
And the discernment of which
the authority blessed by God is an expression
and is an instrument of fellowship and trespasses
that we know.
Thus we enter into the great current of grace
and truth that flows from God and returns to him
bearing all creation. That's the important thing.
The vow of obedience purifies
us from our own point of view.
Not that our own point of view is completely
We need to be liberated from our own
point of view. We don't have to
abnegate it. We don't have to
abdicate it completely.
It's not that our point of view...
This is one of the things that creeps
into this obedience thing.
The idea that you're essentially evil
and that you have to be completely
quashed if anything good is to come
out of you.
And it's only from your squashing that
good things will arise.
This is where Luther
starts from, I think, more or less.
This whole
bitter dualistic thing between
authority and man
and the church in the secular world.
And people looking at the church
sort of as the great
what do you call it?
Stepmother of mankind.
Just out to quench every spark
of human initiative and human freedom.
not a matter of
giving up our
point of view. It's a matter of being free of it
so we don't have to absolutize it.
A matter of becoming
open rather than closed into our
point of view.
But in order to do that
we have to be able resolutely to step beyond
our point of view and
accept another will, another
point of view at certain points.
Freezes of much human
narrowness unless it's entered in.
What seems like breadth to us, in a way,
another way also often is narrowness
because we're tied to our own point of view.
Let's just enter into the views and ways of God.
These persons
that mediate
our obedience are men like ourselves.
And this is hard for our human nature.
That's the scandal of Christianity.
The scandal of the Incarnation, once again,
which is reproduced in the church.
God is present to us
and manifests himself to us
and relates to us through men
like ourselves, whether on the level
of the brotherhood
of living together
in community, just one another,
finding Christ in our brothers, or on the level
of obedience and finding Christ to be superior.
They're equally difficult.
That's the way that God wants
to relate to us. If that were the
only way that he related to
us, it would be a pretty depressing prospect.
But it's not the only way. Why?
Because there's the Holy Spirit.
Because if I have to find God in you,
God is also in me. And he can be
related to directly within my own heart.
That saves the situation.
That is, we do have this interior
presence, this interior communion with the Spirit.
Interior communion with the same Spirit
that's in each one of us.
I think that Andre said something
discovering love for God
and how hard it is
to find and discover God's love
going through humans.
First you have experience of God's love,
then you can recognize it
and share it.
Lots of psychologists would say
that you've got to be loved by somebody else
before you can love anybody else.
The theologians would tend to say,
coming at it from their angle,
that you've got to have an experience of God's love
before you can love anybody else.
Who's right?
I don't know.
At any rate, it seems that you have to be loved.
You have to experience love
before you can love anybody else.
You have to receive it before you can give it.
Whether that needs to come through
another human being, whether you have to be
affirmed by somebody else
before you can love anybody else
is a question. I think you do, probably.
Or at least, without a real miracle,
I think you do.
But that goes way back.
It goes even into our childhood, you know,
as to whether we were loved by our mother
and whether our father and mother
loved one another. The climate that we come out of
has so much to do with whether we can love anybody else.
But God doesn't normally
just come down like a lightning bolt
and energize us with His love
and make us able to communicate
unless it's mediated through somebody else.
Somehow He likes to act
through human situations,
through human
He likes to be,
as it were, the third party
in the relationship.
Obedience and conversion of life.
Now, he gets into quite a long thing
here about showing the relationship between
those two commitments, between those two vows.
And, of course, remember that now he's narrowing
down from the religious life in general, the vow
of obedience, to the monastic life in particular.
And he didn't say it,
but he is. And the vow of conversion
of life, which, remember, specifies the monastic
life, makes it different from the other
ways of
religious life.
And so how does obedience relate particularly to the
monastic life and through this vow of conversion
of life?
Remember, the center of the monastic life
is supposed to be this conversion.
If you look at the Rule of St. Benedict,
you see that conversion and
obedience line right up. You see it
first of all at the beginning of the prologue
and then you see it in Chapter 7.
and obedience. It's good to read those
passages and to meditate on that, to get the
connection clearly in your mind.
That conversion, actually,
a turning to God,
if it's a turning in faith,
it's also a turning in obedience at the same moment.
It's saying, OK, Lord, you win.
I'll do it your way
instead of my way.
To do it my way, ultimately, all the way,
is sin.
To do it his way is
It's a way of faith.
It is living conversion.
He refers you to the many books
on religious vows for the
juridical, the obligation,
like those catechisms of the vows.
That catechism of the vows is so
dry and heavy, though,
maybe not to
be recommended.
We'll have to find a better
source for the
concrete things. Actually, they're specified
pretty well by the Constitution.
I want the novelist
Constitution, Scheme 7.
Scheme 4.
And then the other schemes, which,
as it were, make
concrete, the other chapters, which
make concrete all the different sectors of
obedience, because obedience governs
all of that stuff.
Scheme 4 just talks about
obedience, specifically.
Now we get into juridical terms again,
and they're really heavy ones.
The motive of our obedience in juridical terms is the
dominative power.
Where did he get that?
Well, we gave it to him.
I don't know if anybody would want to admit that
at this point. At this point, everybody wants to pull out
and go home.
He receives his power over us
from us ourselves. On entering the monastery
and on making provisions, we give ourselves freely
to his authority.
In fact, in the beginnings of
monasticism in the desert, you can see that sort
of process, where they go to the spiritual
father and they say, Father, give me a word.
Or, Father, teach me to become a monk.
Something like that. In other words,
they freely commit themselves.
In the religious life as it is now,
one isn't thinking of the superior much when
he makes his vows, I don't think, concretely
and directly. He's thinking more of the way of
life, the community, and the monastic
life in general.
But that's where it comes
from. We have to remember this when we
think about obedience, that this is something we undertake
freely, this commitment we undertake freely.
It's very important to reflect on this before somebody
makes his vows, before somebody
professes obedience
as to what he's really doing,
not just to slide into it.
And even though he does reflect on it,
and even though he tries to make it
as conscious and fully deliberate as
possible, there are going to be times later in life
where that's going to grind,
where that's going to seem like a very tight
When things begin to
emerge in his life that are hard
to pass through that needle's eye of obedience
once again.
This is
the vow of obedience essentially
made to Christ
and almost sort of to heaven
in a way. To heaven?
How do you mean to heaven?
I just mean that
he's saying that I'm laying it down
here and I'm living for heaven.
It is, but then I'm living
for heaven according to somebody else's
guidance, such a thing.
The specific commitment to obedience
is I'm living for heaven
because even conversion of life
is a commitment to that also.
But obedience is a commitment to do it according to
somebody else's
Sort of saying in the
meanwhile. Yes.
But when I
get there,
first thing I'm going to do is get rid of that.
It seems to me like
when I was thinking about the
obedience, the value of it is that
it's not just
obedience to an exterior thing, it's a way
in terms of the capital W.
That's right. And what you're doing is
through this obedience it's
actually a conversion of your way
of being until
liberating I think maybe in the sense that
our real nature is to
obey God. So
it's liberating in the sense that we're liberated
to be who we really are. That's right.
So conformity doesn't
really matter. It's the
internal relationship that matters.
It's not who the person is. It's how you
approach them. That's right. That's the monastic
way of looking at it.
And yet besides that there's the fact
that in doing that you're inserting yourself into
something, into this mystery of salvation.
You're following Christ, therefore you're inserting
yourself into the life of Christ. You're reproducing
the life of Christ in yourself. You're receiving
the Holy Spirit in yourself. Because what you said could be
applied to Buddhism,
could be applied to any way of obedience, right?
That is, as a spiritual discipline,
aside from the incarnation, aside from the Christian
mystery, that's very true. And that's the monastic
way of looking at it. The Christian
fact adds something else to it.
And then you're inserting yourself somehow
into the life of the Holy Trinity
through that obedience. And it adds
this other dimension within you of
the Holy Spirit which is liberated
inside of you. Because then you're linked up
to the entire church.
That's right. That's right. Linked up to
the church, to the whole mystery, and
to God in that personal way.
Because you can think of obedience in a very
impersonal way as a spiritual discipline.
That is, by obeying
this man, who's just sort of a figurehead
for me, who's an instrument for me,
just like a, I don't know,
I don't have a good word for it.
But by obeying
him, simply I accomplish
a process of myself.
It's like he's the thing that I
push against. The stone that's wearing away
whatever it is. Yeah, yeah.
He's the point of
opposition, what I grind myself
against, as it were. I'm trying to find a disagreeable
enough image.
In order
to accomplish that inner process of myself.
But if I do that,
then I'm not even going to be doing it the Buddhist way.
Because I think, for instance, if you look
at a Zen disciple and his
Roshu, there's a kind of a love there.
There's more than just that cold
functional kind of obedience.
And yet, the Christian
thing sort of makes that love a
principle element, because it
rediscovers in it the love of Jesus
for the Father, okay?
Which led him to his obedience
and to the cross and everything.
And with that love already inside you, then you follow that
track of the love. Then you have something
else to follow then.
So it helps to interiorize
it a great deal, besides
opening that power of the
Spirit in you explicitly. So you really
get something to count on. And a real
transformation can happen.
I see a kind of
relationship between
Western monasticism
and Orthodoxy.
In the old sense of the word,
the stars would
have a disciple,
and the disciple would
be obedient to the stars.
But at the same time, the stars would
only have one or two disciples,
at the most, and would constantly
work with them and pray.
There was like another dimension
of obedience between those
people. That's right. Whereas
in the more large
monastery in the United
people would be obedient
to the rule. You don't have that
kind of thing going on
Can you explain that?
Well, there's a change that happened very early.
Fr. Debreguet's got this book called
The Community
and the Abbot and the Rule of
St. Benedict. Fr. Charles translated
part of it. How did he translate the whole thing? Has it been
published yet? Yeah.
Do we have that one? Yeah, somewhere.
Now he brings this out, that you get a
change from the desert, for instance, to the
rule of St. Benedict. Now consider these two examples.
The first example you told about was a desert
example. It's kind of an idealized
view of the desert example, which sometimes
is really harrassing, which
is a kind of strictly ascetical
obedience and very personal
between a realized master and
a few disciples whom he leads along the same
path to bring them to where he is
as principled as he can.
Very personal and in view of their
sanctification and a whole intentionally
personal relationship. So it's
almost as if he was guiding them by
the hand as his own sons,
breathing the Spirit into them.
Hauser's got this beautiful book
on spiritual direction
in the early church, in the early monastic
life, in which he talks about that.
Then, when you get to the monastery,
what happens? When you get to a bigger
monastic community, what happens? You get
a whole different thing. You've got an Abbot
with about 30 or
40 monks, maybe, with a different
relationship with him. It may be a filial
relationship, but it's a
community, it's even bigger
than a family. To call it a family is an
exaggeration. It's an organization
of some form, and that
relationship is not nearly as personal
and is not
an immediate linking up of
a person's spiritual growth
to another person's direction.
In other words, it's not walking hand in hand
with a person along the road
of spiritual progress. It's something
quite different. It becomes
collective, it becomes generalized,
and it tends to become exteriorized
and juridical, so that the Benedictine
thing very easily turns into
a kind of exterior
authority. It may be very benign,
it may be very
charitable, but it doesn't really do that
inner work, because the Abbot doesn't really
know where that individual monk is, and he's not going to
work with him that intensely, and he can't
because he has that many. Remember that chapter
that we just had in St. Benedict's Rule about the
deans of the monastery?
He says, if you've got a lot of monks, divide them up
and put ten of them under
one sort of delegated superior
that we call a Dukkana Siddhi.
It works for that sort of thing. You can picture
how that's a very different
thing. You've got a monastery that big, the real spiritual
father is remote from these people.
There's a delegate there who maybe doesn't
have the charism or whatever, and even
he has about ten monks on him, so
you're getting into a kind of an army
type thing.
Should he be proven by any way of life?
Well, he should be, but still
that charism of spiritual
fatherhood like they had in the desert
which the abbot is supposed to have is a rare
thing anyway, so you can't depend on having
enough people in the monastery to have that.
And when we talk
about that, we're always talking in kind of idealistic
terms, because we simply don't see that much of it
But nevertheless, there is that transition
from the
desert pattern, a very
personalized, small-scale
charismatic direction,
that's what David Ray called it,
to the more organized
relationship of the rule of St. Benedict.
And if you read the rule, you don't
find that individual
kind of relationship. You've got something
else there. The abbot's got to consider
each monk, he's got to know his weaknesses
and his capacities and so on, but he's not
nearly as intimate and as continuous as
that other thing was in the desert.
It seems that he was part
of that, Christ and the
apostles, that it was a very personal
type of relationship.
He didn't kind of sit
as an authority.
Oh yeah, right.
Same with
Paul and some of his
relatives. Right. With Paul
you see the transition though, because he's got
some churches that are over there, you know, he's away
from them, and there's remote control and so on.
And with some disciples,
some disciples were really close to him.
Even with Jesus, you don't know how
close some of those apostles and disciples
were to him. You don't. But with him, there's
another personal element that enters, simply because
he's person carried to the nth power.
So that what he's giving is actually himself
in some way, you know. So there's a whole other
element there. It was only true
in an analogical way of a spiritual
Perhaps the 72 is more like the
monastic thing, whereas the 12 is
kind of a different kind of relationship.
But even within the 12, there were the insiders,
there were the really close disciples,
the three, remember? Peter, James, and John.
The one with him in special places.
And some of the others, you don't know
how close they are to Jesus.
And sometimes they seem
to show an astonishing sort
of ignorance, you know, or lack of
So you wonder.
I wonder, in the
in the larger structure, I think,
if that doesn't mean
more responsibility on
just, say, you know,
relation between the members.
It does, yeah. That makes up
in part for the distance from the
spiritual father, yeah.
And also this whole sort of
disappearance of spiritual fathers in the church.
Yes, well what happened to our tradition of spiritual
fatherhood? And that's a real question
that is, you know, where are the Roshis? Where are the
Starzi? Particularly in the
Western church. You seem to have a few in the Eastern church.
we end up with some disappointing
answers often.
Well, that role has been taken
over by something else. It's been taken over
by the direction of the community. You've got constitution,
you've got all this stuff. You've got the church guiding
you. You've got, you know, other
things helping you. And you've got
a generally higher level of education.
So, and you've got a kind
of horizontal spiritual,
mutual spiritual guidance.
Okay? People sharing their
experience one way or another.
Especially the charismatic groups you have there.
And yet, it still
leaves us with the same question. We ought to have those
people. It's the same.
There's still a gap.
Yeah, you'll
find it in some places.
Yeah, but the structure doesn't
exist. Because the structure remains external.
And something has to be
personalized. And what you're really looking for
very often is a person who can look right
into your heart, tell you where
you are and what you need to do, you know,
the next step. And then somehow give you the
encouragement that enables you to
jump over that threshold and do it.
But that's a little hard to find.
Maybe it's a function
of just historical context
in general, but you see it in the secular world
too. I mean, the role of fatherhood
in the family has been subordinated
to social things.
A lot of kids have more or less
raised themselves among their peers.
And the father's role in the upbringing
has minimally changed.
One thing we have to recognize is that there is a change
in history and in the Church, which means that
the world and the Church are going to be much less
paternal now than they were
in the first centuries, okay?
Even the fact that we call the first centuries
the centuries of the fathers. We're talking about the Church
fathers and the monastic fathers, okay?
There's a change.
There's a difference, because
the vertical element becomes reduced
and the horizontal
dimension grows. The horizontal
dimension tends to predominate.
And so as the Holy Spirit
somehow works more into
the dough of the Church
and the mass of individuals,
somehow that vertical thing does
need to be gotten more
into perspective. It was exaggerated in the early
Church sometimes, especially where you had a few
educated people and a whole mass of ignorant people,
okay? And so those educated
people could become sometimes also the
spiritual Zionist occasion. They weren't all like
that, but you had the same sort of structure.
But this democratization
process which has occurred
and the sort of common
distribution of education
goes along with this other spiritual
democratization to a certain
extent. So we
shouldn't expect to see the same thing nowadays
that we had in the early centuries of the Church.
A more widespread
Christian insight, for instance,
would be in place today. And more
ability for one brother to help another.
And more common experience of the Holy
Spirit, not just a few outstanding individuals.
I think that's true.
The Lord wants us to
look in another direction for our health
rather than just looking for a few
or one outstanding
individual who has all the secrets, you know?
That could be dangerous too.
Yeah, the guru phenomenon.
A lot of people are hunting for gurus, and often
what they want is that divine fellow
who's got everything. He just touches you
and you light up like
a Christmas tree.
But is that what God wants them to have?
Sometimes he wants them to grow up.
Now I just throw this out
not because it's the
only answer, but because it's how it balances
the situation. We're not
always supposed to look in exactly the same
direction in the early centuries
for the action
of the Holy Spirit.
I think a community today
can sort of
more fully and more homogeneously
and express the Holy Spirit
than in earlier centuries, in which
it was like one father and a bunch of sheep.
The image of a sheepfold
is not that appropriate today.
Right. When we say horizontal,
when we say horizontal, that's too crude, right?
It's crude. Just like when we say vertical,
it's crude. Because what we're really talking about is
that koinonia, right, that fellowship, that communion,
which goes beyond our geometry.
But that direct relationship
with the Holy Spirit.
Remember even in the Old Testament where the prophet
says, in those days the Holy Spirit will be poured
out upon your sons and
daughters, and even the
children, the slave girls, and this and that, they're going to
be prophesying and so on. In other words,
the equalization
that comes from God being
realized within the human person.
This has to
be witnessed to and has to be manifested in
I think more than in earlier times.
Also, as we echo
our own cultural structures,
the feudal structures of
king and
baron and the whole vertical thing,
which is no longer
Also, the disappearance of the strata
within the monastic life, you know, like
the priest, quorum monk,
lay brother, this and that, the whole deal,
it doesn't go anymore.
And it's part of all of this.
Very good.
Father Basil talked about
when he was at Mount Athos about
their custom and the tradition of
linking up with a particular spiritual father.
It's as if certain people would try out
different men and then finally link up
with one. Do you have any comment on that?
How important is that to
submit yourself to the right
man? It seems much more important if it's going to be
this relationship of two or three people.
But, as it gets bigger,
maybe it's not so critical.
As it gets bigger
and in the different contexts we have,
it's maybe
not so critical.
You can say that
would it be true that God would lead
a person to a particular
guide, to a particular spiritual father?
In other words, God would place great importance
on that unique relationship?
Or is it more or less a matter of our choice?
There's almost a presupposition
that it is a predestined
I think
it's usually
a much simpler situation because there aren't
many alternatives.
There aren't many alternatives, nor
is a person usually inclined
many alternative people.
It may be different in Mount Athos where you
get a whole peninsula with a certain freedom
maybe to go around.
But when one is first choosing,
then he would maybe
seek out a spiritual father and settle where
he is, something like that, rather than joining
a community in which I'm a spiritual father.
But which situation are we talking about?
I guess the
Where he's not yet committed to.
With our structures, the way
it is in the Western Church, that doesn't seem so
appropriate. Because realize
that also, well
normally the spiritual father wouldn't have to be a
superior, so even if he wasn't elected or something like that
maybe the relationship could continue.
But it doesn't seem so appropriate in the Western
Simply because
that's not
the tradition and it doesn't seem
like it would work to go that way.
How much difference should it make to a
person say, because it's a monastery,
should I join here? I don't like the prior.
Or I do like the prior.
I wonder how much that should weigh.
I don't think you can say in the abstract
it has to be balanced up against the other elements
in the community. It has to be balanced up
against the
rapport he feels with the community, the value
in the community, how well he sees his vocation
embodied in the community and their
orientation of life. And then
what God seems to say to him in that place.
Because sometimes there's just a feeling of rightness.
This is it or something like that.
It sort of overrides all those other considerations.
Not that we don't have to
think them over, we do.
I'd say that normally
it wouldn't be the,
shouldn't be the deciding issue.
But it can
be sort of, it has to
be plowed into your computer insofar as you're
thinking what is the future of this community going to be.
In a given case.
what you're saying
is that
our direction then
we kind of don't have to
worry about this.
The direction in the future
is going to be more of a community thing
than a spiritual father thing.
I think we have
to hope for and pray for the emergence
of some spiritual father because
things simply don't work
without some kind of guidance.
But maybe we can't look for the same kind of outstanding
charismatic individuals that we've
led to look for by our
tradition. Or by a kind of
literature which builds people up.
The monastic literature, for instance, puts some people
on pedestals and ignores the rest of them.
That's an artificial setup.
And really it's not that way.
It's that there's a kind of legendary thing that
builds up that does that. It sorts people out
into enormous stars
and non-entities. It's not really that way.
I think we still have to
hope and pray for that emergence
of some spiritual guides, spiritual fathers.
But that
meanwhile we have to
do it the other way
very largely. Or also
we have to create them in a
way by our faith.
Because that's the other part of it.
They say that spiritual fathers are made by
the disciples and not
vice versa.
It's the faith of the
monks which creates the guidance
that they need and which
empowers somehow
individuals to perform that function
for them. Because they're not serving
themselves, they're serving those
monks who want that guidance, who want that
It brings to mind
more like the Levin image rather than the
perhaps the spiritual father
image in the old one-on-one
basis. Where
the faith of the monks, they're calling
for the guidance of the spirit. That will
pull the spirit into their guides so to speak.
And you can kind of feel the influence
of the father of the community as
it manifests within the
community in general. Not necessarily
on the one-to-one, you don't have to be with
the community. That's true also.
It's good to point that out.
It's not like
there's only one avenue of
flow of light which is from head
to body or something like that.
But the flow of life within the community
is integrating somehow
that charism of the leader, of the
spiritual father. So that
the flow, the horizontal
flow, call it that if you want to,
is also related to him.
He's part of the thing. He's not outside of him.
Just relating to it
through that one-to-one relationship. There are all kinds
of currents of flow.
We better quit for this one.
So next time we'll go on from
I guess.
Yeah, it'll be a couple weeks.