June 30th, 1981, Serial No. 00695

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Monastic Spirituality Set 4 of 12




Enlarging the question, as I said last time, of the whole question of commitment, and so I want to continue to follow Fr. Hoy's book. Call him Hoy, it sounds Jewish. So bear with me, this gets a little heavy while I read some of this stuff, but I think it's important that as we conclude considering these vows, and conclude with talking about commitment in general, that we really try to get ourselves grounded with a kind of conviction, a kind of personal assimilation of what is the core of this commitment. And of course he finds that in communion, in indwelling, so let's try to find out what he means by indwelling. Each of us might have a different point of view, we might prefer other expressions for this, but it seems to me that he's on the right track. Now indwelling for him, he starts out talking about our horizons, you know, our world, and


then he starts talking about what he calls a horizon change, and here I think he's based on people like Heidegger and Rahner, especially Heidegger I think talks about those horizons, and Rahner got the notion from him. And your horizon indicates the size of your world, so that you can move from a little world into a bigger world, and we know that as we grow, as we grow up, there are times when we experience kind of a quantum leap in our consciousness, and we seem to jump from a smaller world into a larger one. And then he compares sort of an archetypal experience as falling in love, or the time of adolescence, when our world just seems to become larger than it was before, and as new possibilities develop inside of us, new possibilities develop outside of us. And so we simply expand in a way, or at least we have the potentiality for expanding. Now this is a very useful notion, I think, because it relates that experience of falling in love, or being in love, with the experience of conversion, and gives them both kind of a philosophical dimension, in that our universe itself, our consciousness itself, our life


itself expands. This is very much related to that basic Christian experience I've been talking about. So that when we experience God, it's not necessarily what you call an altered state of consciousness, that is, it's not necessarily a strange state of consciousness, or a special place, but it's a bigger place. Our life is made bigger, our possibilities are increased, our horizon has changed, so we have what he would call a horizon breakthrough. Now he talks about this specifically in terms of being in love, and we might choose to change the terminology. We don't necessarily have to talk about that, but it's a good place to start. And then he describes what he calls his indwelling, which is being in love. Now it seems to have two meanings, and he flips back and forth between the two meanings. One meaning is the one that we think of first, because when we've heard of indwelling, we've heard of it in a theological context, and it means, like, the divine indwelling, the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, so God dwelling in you, or your dwelling in another person by love. He gives a text from St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nazianzen here, which shows that he does


mean that, even though that wasn't clear to me at first. This is Gregory of Nazianzen describing his friendship with St. Basil. It seemed as though there were but one soul between us, having two bodies, and if we must not believe those who say that all things are in all things, yet you must believe this, that we were both in each one of us, the one and the other. So that's one meaning of this indwelling. But the other meaning of indwelling is simply dwelling in love, all right? Now this is from the individual point of view, or between two people. And then he goes on to talk about communion, and communion is the whole network of relationships one has in this experience of indwelling. That's the way I understand what he's saying, okay? So communion would be the whole field, the whole area of your life, not just with one other person, and not necessarily even just with God. And that's what he's making the criterion of commitment. By communion here, I mean the matrix of relationships which circumscribe one's life.


The quality of the communion one had with others before such an experience, before one of these horizon changes, or a conversion, an experience of God. And the communion one is entering into must be taken into account. The surest sign that love is operating in a situation which purports to be one of indwelling is that it shows itself inclusive of those to whom one is already linked, and that it accepts and reinforces the identity and life situation each has chosen for himself prior to the indwelling. He's talking about one of these horizon changes and how it affects your prior commitments. It will never be successful if either party fails to bring back what each is becoming as a result of the new experience of indwelling to the one or to the community, in the case of religious and so on, with whom one has shared one's becoming and with whom one has joined


in commitment. Indwelling is a dynamic reality that cannot remain long at the intimistic stage that involves only two parties. It must flower into and become part of a larger communion. Whether he's talking about a family or any kind of friendship. Now he's talking about Marcel. Remember, we're talking about the history of Christianity and the history of our theology and our ways of thinking, and how the preference, the weight, has all been on the side of stability, it seems, up to a certain point, up to quite recently. And this comes out of the Greek-Roman context. And even in the Hebrew context, you know, there's very much of that. The notion of God as being the faithful one and the notion of, I don't know, the notion


of God as being, in a sense, the massive one, and of being itself having a kind of weight, a kind of density, even manifesting that word for glory, which is cohort, which is heaviness, you see. You know, the same thing. Preference was given to stability, and then at a certain point, in our whole worldview, something else begins to take over. And his preference for stability, he traces it through Greek thought, Roman thought, Roman government, Roman law, through the Middle Ages, scholastic philosophy, scholastic theology, and then up to the modern time, and up to, say, a hundred years ago. And then you get these people like Darwin and Hegel and Marx and Freud and many others bringing in a dynamic dimension into the secular area of thought. Meanwhile, people in the church are beginning to do the same thing. And now the balance is flipped over completely, at least of the prevailing current of thought,


from the stable and from sort of substantial type of thinking to a fluid and dynamic type of thinking. And it's expressed particularly in Catholic theology by the prevalence of process theology. You could say the same for liberation theology, couldn't you, from another point of view? Because that too is dynamic, and it's focused and centered in a chain rather than in a stable state. And it'd be interesting to compare those two. One is much more speculative and metaphysical, and the other one is practical, economic, political. But they're both based in dynamism, you see, rather than in a static situation, rather than a kind of a stable worldview. Of course, ultimately, our view has to incorporate both of these possibilities, and many of the other possibilities too, if we go beyond the opposition of stable and dynamic. Ultimately, I think that the truth is trinitarian, and that the comprehensive view itself has to be trinitarian. When we're talking about stability and dynamism, are we talking about fidelity and life, or


covenant and animation or experience? I think that we're talking about word and spirit, basically. You can see that dynamism, that polemic, what we call a dialectic coming up again and again as we go on. Okay, so he talked about Sartre as a typical example, kind of extreme example, of the present-day current of thought, which tends to be dynamic, tends to be also individualistic. So, Sartre makes the key in his philosophy the notion of the freedom of the individual, and how the individual is becoming. And he becomes and is in the exercise of his freedom. And then he finds fault with that, of course, because it is so fragmented, so individualistic, even though Sartre himself modifies it during a later part of his life. And he turns to another existentialist philosopher who was a Christian, Marcel, who himself makes the cornerstone of his philosophy evidently communion. I haven't read Marcel, there's very little.


And this he adopts then for his discussion and his judgment of commitment and for discerning questions on the permanence of commitment. So we talked about communion a little bit last time. That's a notion which you can take his definition, but eventually you have to go back to the scriptures to find out what communion really means for us. That's one of those words which becomes sort of a tributary to the stream of scripture and of tradition, so you can't just take a philosopher's definition from it. You have to go back and allow it to expand in the light and to the dimensions of the scriptural reality of communion. Okay, I don't want to read you too much of this. Here's Roy talking about commitment.


Marcel's optic is always the intersubjective. He sees the aspiration for human communion underneath all human striving. In communion, the human spirit flourishes. Outside of it, it wilts. One could say that communion is each person's fundamental project, if one wanted to be Marcellian in his thought and Sartrean in his language. The fundamental project is Sartre's notion. Communion is Marcel's. Communion as our fundamental project, is that true? Sartre's notion would probably say that the fundamental project is your freedom, the realization of your freedom. I think to say that is true, and maybe it's not the whole truth either. Somebody else might say that our fundamental project is glory. Somebody like a Becker that we were talking about. Communion is one dimension. Freedom, another dimension. Glory, another dimension. And each one of them is kind of a transcendental that includes the others. And of course when we say communion, we're saying love, but we're saying love in kind of universal sense.


It's freedom for, but I don't think he defines it in the end. And that's valid, to take freedom and leave it open. It's valid to say freedom from, freedom from an enslaved kind of existence, for instance, which is only half-life, and yet to leave it in the end undefined. That shows respect for the mystery of the human person, I think, to do that. I think that, for instance, Rahner does the same thing. If you say freedom for union with God, that's okay, but then you're imposing it in certain terms which are going to close in your thinking about it. If you just say freedom to be, or something like that, perhaps it's best, because you leave it open to all the possibilities. And actually we can't circumscribe it with our terms. If we give ourselves the illusion of thinking that we're defining our freedom, then it isn't freedom anymore. And then we've made a mistake. Because the term should open up to the undefinable. Freedom should be an open term. However, I can't really speak for Sartre, you know, because I haven't studied him that thoroughly. What we call freedom is impossible to distinguish from the being of human reality.


For him it's a kind of openness of existence. In my own terms, this is Roy, communion flows naturally from indwelling, just as indwelling flows from self-donation. Those are his key terms for authenticity of life. Like indwelling, communion is created and sustained by words and deeds. The deeds that bring it about and keep it in existence are many. Generically, the deeds of caring and sharing, giving and receiving. Human communion naturally involves more than two people. A child who is the fruit of the union of a man and a woman is the most obvious symbol of this extension. But communion grows beyond the family, but embraces a whole network of relationships, each reinforcing the other. Ideally, a communion will have a relationship with indwelling at the heart of it, but it is not to be judged inauthentic if it does not. And then the fact that genuine communion can only be based on God in some way, even if we don't recognize that fact. A deeply religious person will believe that God is the omega to which all human communion


tends, as well as the power that brings it into existence. A knowledgeable Christian will see in human communion the raw material of the beast, if not the reality of the kingdom of God. Somehow it's the only material that can be used to build the kingdom of God. And think of the Tower of Babel for a moment, and all those bricks that were stuck together and at a certain point the angel of God comes down and confounds their language and everything flies apart and they sort of flee to the ends of the earth and the tower is left unfinished. And then think of Pentecost and human communion and the tower that begins to be built once again. And the only stones that can, the only mortar that can hold it together actually is this communion that he's talking about. In some way we are the stones. And it's the spirit that somehow cements us together and builds us into one body. There are a lot of metaphors, a lot of images of this in scripture. Another body in the building, the temple, the vine, a whole bunch of, and the one bread.


Actually it's a Eucharistic reality that we're talking about. Human communion is broken. I was just going to ask, do you think you're a big dealer? You know, he's saying that that one woman, Gabrielle, Gabrielle Wendel, she said that the name for a moment was unified. Yes, yeah. That means a bunch of things. Monochos comes from monos which means one. Now it's very tricky because that word one can go all the way from fragmentation, from individualism, okay, that you're all alone and separate from everybody else. One can mean alone, separate from others, or one can mean comprehensive. It could be exclusive or inclusive, okay? So the monk can be the one who is separate from others, therefore he's alone, maybe lonely. He can be the one who is one in himself, in some way, all right, he's together.


He's arrived at his own integration, in some way. It's sort of abstracting from others. Or he can be the one who is one with everyone, who is not separate from everybody, okay? Like when Evagrius says that the monk is the one who is separated from all and united with all. And so in that sense the monk should be the person who is united to him. Now all of those senses are true for the word in one way or another. What we have to be careful of is that individualistic sense in which the business of being alone with the alone is very tricky. That's a neoplatonic phrase. And the hermetic life has often been conceived of in those times. Alone with the alone. What happens? We exclude every other being but God and ourselves. But if we do that, we can do that in such a way that we're not really relating to God at all. If that alone that we're relating to is really alone, it's not God, it's us again. It's something else. We're coming right back to ourselves. That alone, if we relate to him and find him as the one God, is communion. He's the God who is communion.


He's already communion as Trinity. But in our experience of him, in our relationship with him, he has to be communion also that embraces all creation. And if that fruit doesn't show up in the hermit in the end, then his vocation, the authenticity of his life is seriously in question. That Shema of the Jews is fascinating too for that reason. The Lord your hero Israel, the Lord your God is one God, and you shall love your God with your whole heart and your whole soul. One. The Lord your God is one. That's all it says. It didn't say one God. What does that one mean? It means, the Muslims sometimes interpret it in the sense that outside of him there is me. Outside of him there is no being. For a Muslim that's a problem, of course. Because they're certainly not pantheists. Human communion is broken by the absence of love, by breaking promises, by withdrawing


one's word, by changing the meaning of one's word, by infidelity. But then he goes on to talk about two different ways of living out your commitment. One of them falls short of his communion. And he talks about constancy and fidelity. Now constancy is living by obligation. It's staying together out of love. It's relating to somebody because you have to, because you've made a commitment and you don't want to violate it. On the other hand, fidelity, as he defines it, is remaining in a commitment or living a commitment because of the interior reality of the commitment itself. Marcel observes that some perseverance in commitments takes place at a superficial level inasmuch as some people live in a way that has them do what they said they would do, and they do it dutifully. He calls this kind of perseverance constancy, but mere constancy can have a demeaning effect on the one for whom one fulfills one's duties. Fidelity, on the other hand, is more than the performance of promised actions. It is constancy plus unction of God.


That's a funny way of putting it. It's true, but maybe it could be misread. By fidelity, according to Marcel's use of the term, one preserves the interior sentiments that initially cause the person to commit himself. When the love which inspired the initial promise continues to animate the one promising and the one to whom the promise has been made, then neither party will become an object of the other's duty. That's an important distinction. But somehow, when he says constancy plus unction of heart and talks about the interior sentiments, there's a danger of interpreting that in a weak way, as that's just sort of the embroidery, that's the frilled sort of feeling on the substance of the commitment, which is obligation. But really it's the other way around, isn't it? What he's talking about is the reality somehow, the interior reality of the commitment, is this fidelity, this matter of the heart that he's talking about, which may or may not be felt at a given time. And the constancy is the exterior conformity to that agreement that's been made, to that


covenant that's been made. But the heart of the thing is the interior reality. This is true already in a human level, but it's more true even on a spiritual level, on a religious level, where the actual gift of a reality is given to us and which dwells in us, and which is the basis of our fidelity. And if that goes to sleep, then we can talk about mere constancy. If it's awake, then we can talk about fidelity. Unction is a binding or an adherence? No, unction means... unctio means anointing, okay? So unction means the sweetness or the feeling, okay? The affectivity, the emotion. Unction of heart in regards to... how would you use that? Unction of heart I would say is tenderness of heart, okay? Or emotion, the emotional quality of a relationship, okay? Warmth of heart, I'd call it. But unction literally means anointing. A union of hearts is the stuff of human commitment.


If such a union exists, many difficulties can be withstood. If a union of hearts is slight or virtually nonexistent, then any difficulty can bring a fragile relationship to an end. To aim at permanence and commitment is sterile. To aim at a greater union of hearts within the commitment already experienced will be a more effective and efficacious way of attaining permanence and commitment. Permanent is an after-the-fact description of a commitment that has been true to the communion within which it operated, okay? So it's the importance of distinguishing between those two levels and getting our emphasis on the right level. If you concentrate on the outside, on the obligation, then your religion goes dead. Now, if there never was that awakening, that inner awakening, or that horizon shift that he was talking about before, or that falling in love, or that experience of conversion, that encounter with Christ, well, then that's something else. And the question can be raised as to whether a commitment can really be made if that hasn't been there. Because what is making that commitment then? What's bringing that commitment into existence if that experience isn't there in some measure,


at least as an initial experience, at least as an invitation, as a seed? See, people can make commitments, religious commitments, out of all kinds of motives. And if they don't know their own motive, there's a trouble. We only know what we know. We only know, to the extent of our experience up to this moment, our horizon. If it hasn't enlarged beyond a certain experience, we'll think that we're doing something for the right reason, but we'll actually be doing it for the wrong reason. Because the right reason isn't yet within our horizon. See what I mean? How's that? What about people who feel reluctant, saying, but are sure they're called to it? That's valid for what he's talking about. That certainty has to be tested, okay? It has to prove itself. But it can be valid. So, somehow, way down deep, there is a kind of option. There's a kind of uniqueness in the feeling that they have for God and for Christ, both for the monastic life that makes them do it, even though on the surface they may feel very broad. It's really a question of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in this thing we're


talking about. And the Spirit can be there and can be acting in a very subtle, apophatic way, a very hidden way. Strong, but hidden, so that there's no pleasure or joy or emotional satisfaction on the surface at all, but a very strong compulsion and need to do something. It has to be tested to distinguish it from those other kinds of compulsions which are neurotic in one way or more superficial. St. Therese is a good example of that, you know. St. Therese of Lisieux didn't have a whole lot of unction, that's for sure. But she certainly knew what God wanted of her. And her commitment was like rock. And it seemed to intensify as she went on. Excuse me. So then, for example, could we accept someone entering simple vows as valid, even though the conscious reasons may not be particularly valid, but the sacrament of the vows itself


providing a certain option that there's an interior validity to it? No, we have to be very careful of that. In other words, if a person makes vows and counts on the grace of the vows to put in him something which isn't there already, he's making a mistake. The grace of the vows can strengthen what he has and help him to live it. It can really strengthen it. But he can't count on that if it's not there already. In other words, he can't hope for the experience of a vocation which he hasn't experienced yet by the grace of a vow. OK? So one could receive vows in an invalid manner? Yes. Just like a marriage can be a no, so vows can be taken and then later be found to have been mistaken. And that's one of the reasons for the simple vows, you know, for a temporary profession. Because it's happened quite a few times. But these things are mighty difficult to judge, you know, after the fact, to look back and say, well, what was in a person's heart at the time that they made the... Because we were talking about that last time.


A person changes and his own view of his past changes, you know. He tends to look at his earlier experience in a different way as he goes on. Very difficult to straighten out. Well, is there any... Excuse me, is there any... OK, well, that's simple vows, that's almost... Is there any particular point where you can simply say, this is the fact, therefore there's validity to it? OK, now you can in one certain sense. You can say that this is valid for me, alright, as far as I'm concerned, I'm totally committed to God and I've made this commitment and he has sort of ratified it and confirmed it as far as I am concerned, therefore I will remain in this commitment for the rest of my life. You can have that kind of interior certainty, but there's nothing sort of exterior that gives that kind of certainty. We say solemn vows give that kind of certainty, they should indicate it, you know, but there's no absolute guarantee that they do. In other words, it's still within the heart of the individual, because otherwise it wouldn't really be faith, would it?


In other words, if you could get stamped at a certain point and just said, you know, this is it, it's absolutely certain. Somehow it would undercut the faith of the commitment. Evidently that's the reason why God leaves us with this kind of thing. Although if a person is permitted to make solemn vows, he ought to consider at that moment that the commitment is confirmed. The fact of the approval of the community, the fact that he's gone through all of this time, all of this verification, that the answer is going to be positive, you should, by that time, consider it to be permanent. But it's not an absolute confirmation? No. There isn't any such thing, it seems. What about the other side of the spectrum? Somebody that's just broke, got the unction, just, you know, you know what I'm saying? Yes. Okay. Then it seems like that, um, it seems like somebody like that could live this life, vows or no vows, you know? Sure, I think so. That's why he didn't even need it.


It could be, it depends on where the unction lasts, because I think it's rare that a person has that kind of, is on that kind of a high, a peak and remains that way for years and years and years. Consider, might have to live 50 years in religious life, and he's not going to remain on that peak all the time. And at a certain point, he may start to think, well, gee, three years ago I felt wonderful, I really felt the presence of God and I was completely convinced that this is where he would live. But now I'm beginning to have my doubts. I wonder if I should look elsewhere. So the vows are a sort of, one kind of where you feel like you want to, you know that you want to give it to him, to make the vow. You may or may not want to keep him in jail or whatever. You know, there's a thing here though, you see, in other words, we've got to believe in the validity of a permanent commitment, otherwise this doesn't make any sense to us, okay? We've got to believe that God wants a permanent commitment and somehow he's going to make


it come true, make it be realized inside of us. Otherwise, as you say, it seems an absurdity. Otherwise, it's a kind of trap, you know. There's the bait of this initial peak experience and then whack, the thing comes down and you're in the box for the rest of your life. So we've got to believe theologically. That's where theology comes in. Because you can believe it emotionally. You can say, boy, I really love God and I know that nothing is ever going to change. Well, Peter was like that, wasn't he, wasn't he? Peter was like that. He said, Lord, I'll follow you to prison and to death. And half an hour later he's denying it. And we do the same thing, but it takes us longer. But we've got to believe theologically, in faith, that God wants us to make that permanent commitment and then that he makes it good. Otherwise, it's a trap or it's a mistake or something like that. And why not go off to greener fields at a certain point? But look, the same thing is true of marriage.


And the analogy of marriage holds throughout in this business. That's the kind of relationship God wants to make with us. Now, I don't think it's hard for you to believe that he wants you to make that kind of commitment with him, abstracting from a particular form of life, okay? In other words, when we are converted, and when the early man says, suppose he grew to adult age without becoming Christian. When he would become converted and be baptized, that's a lifetime commitment, right? I mean, that's irrevocable. That's a unique commitment. You don't go back on that. And we know that that's supposed to be permanent. We don't have any doubt of it. The problem comes up when we're talking about a specific form of life, right? A person really has to look into his own heart and see whether God is really asking him to live his Christian life, his baptismal life, out in a particular form. In a particular form. Is God calling him to that form? Is he calling him... Because what he feels is a desire to make a total commitment in some way, okay?


Even after baptism. Now, if you've been baptized and God seems to call you further, he's calling you to a deeper commitment or some kind of a ratification of that first permanent commitment. And it comes up, the desire in a person comes up to make an irrevocable commitment, a ratification and some kind of a specification of the baptismal commitment in a certain form of life. And to put oneself into a certain context. And if you read the rule, the prologue of the rule, and the first chapters, you get an idea of what that context is that the person is looking for. When the certain form of life that he's devoted to is kind of a love affair? It's like he's taken whatever form of life he's taken so that he can become closer to whatever he sees is conducive to his growing closer to God. Well, what if that changes? Okay, now this depends on the way that you look at the whole business. Do you look at it in terms of keeping sort of the control of your own life throughout


or really handing it over in a way in which it's taken out of your hands? Okay? Now, in marriage this happens, doesn't it? I mean, if you marry a person, you commit yourself to that person for better or for worse and there's no going back on it later on. Somehow there's a turning over of your freedom to the situation in which you put yourself. I won't say just to the other person because you're turning it over to the situation, to the family and behind it all to God in a unique way specified in this way, okay? Your life is going to be specified from this point on by that situation. Now, the same thing is true in the monastic life, it seems. Now, this is not just because the church has made these laws or because we have this theory, but because that's what people wanted. See, when the early monks went out into the desert, that's what they wanted, was an irrevocable, a permanent commitment. They wanted to give their lives once and for all, okay? And that's what makes all this. And then the laws and stuff come up later to explain it and to give it a kind of structure. But it's the fact of the vocation itself that a person wants to give himself permanently and turn himself over to God in a way in which sort of this life comes from God


in a given context afterward. In other words, he's not going to be the determiner, the pilot of his own life independently after that. Somehow it's going to be this dialogue through obedience in some way. He wants somebody somehow also to convey to him or to help convey to him the will of God. A person or a community. Both, actually. He's both in our situation. It's a real jump of faith in which a person decides, well, God is asking me somehow to really turn myself over to him. And here, I suppose we're talking about stability, and we're talking about obedience very much in this case, I think, because we're talking once again about giving up our freedom in a way in which we expect to get it back, but we don't know how we're going to get it back. And this is something we have to go back down into our hearts time and time again and re-examine this thing and say, is that valid? Is that God's will? Is that not supposed to do? Is that what he wants? Now, he's not going to give a person, as we know, you know,


a ticket that says you're to go to this monastery and turn yourself over to so-and-so and put you, fix you up for the rest of your life. It's not that way. Okay, he starts talking now about specific questions and trying to solve the specific questions of permanency now. The question of permanency of a commitment. Do you stay in a commitment or do you break it? Trying to solve these questions with this criterion of communion that he's come up with. And first he talks about marriage. And he talks about the kind of marriage in which there isn't an enormous communion at first, but it may develop later on. It's a common experience of many marriages that the actual commitment of oneself to another is made long after the words of permanent commitment are spoken. Not that the initial I do when pronounced is insincere,


but the full yes frequently does not come until the person is capable of a more total choice. And this is true also in the religious life. In other words, you can't go back 20 years later and say, well, gee, I really didn't understand what I was doing then. I really didn't have the grasp of the situation that I have now. And I wasn't as free then as I was now, as I am now. There's a certain truth in that, but it doesn't necessarily invalidate that previous commitment, because exactly we turn ourselves over to God in order to grow. You've got the mystery of all of these child monastic locations in other centuries. It's not something we approve of now. But God is able to act in that way also. Remember Samuel. Certainly the Church does everything it can to avoid that kind of situation nowadays, but God still works in that way. The Church does everything it can to protect people against an unwise premature surrender of their freedom. I think God can still call them when they're 11 years old, but the community won't accept them.


Some permanent commitments are taken in a community such as religious life communities in the Roman Catholic Church. He wrote this book for everybody. What justification is there for withdrawing from such a community in which one has permanently committed oneself? The answer again relates to the presence or absence of communion, but the reason why communion has not taken place must be asked of both the individual who withdraws his or her commitment and of the community itself. The inviolate nature of each person's commitments, as inviolate as his conscience, must be respected at this point. In other words, nobody can really finally judge somebody else and say, he was wrong in the decision that he made to leave. He can think so. You've got to be careful about pronouncing judgment. What reasons does the individual have for thinking that the absence of communion he experiences is the fault of the community rather than himself? In other words, he couldn't do better. He couldn't find it if he really wanted. The community, after all, is made up of a number of individuals, and if the individual in question has not been able to attain


to some degree of communion when a large number of people are accessible to him in the community, what is solved by withdrawal from the community? There are questions to be asked of the community also. If a number of people withdraw from a community in which they have permanently committed themselves, obviously the quality of the relationships within that community must be scrutinized. A large number of withdrawals indicates that a need is not being met, and a union of hearts is not being achieved. If some degree of communion with others within which the process of self-donation can take place, notice that he makes the condition for self-donation a climate of love in some way, an atmosphere of communion, in which you're sort of encouraged and your self-donation is received in some way. It's a climate which makes growth possible, is self-donation, which for him is the root of communion and at the same time is a product of communion. If this isn't being achieved with members of the community,


is there enough space being allowed by the community for such communion to take place within a wider circle, with individuals who are not a part of the community? One of the main reasons for non-communion in religious life is that frequently adolescent patterns of communication and relationship develop early. This is especially in the communities where they accept people younger, where they have novices younger who are used to. And then they grow up side by side and their pattern of relationship never really changes. They grow up together but without really deepening their relationship. And these patterns are never tempered or matured by outside influences. One of the best ways to overcome this deficiency is for the community to give the individual enough space for this to take place. So the idea is that sometimes relationships with people outside the community can help you to mature in communion with your own community. This happens in sort of the marriage encounter thing also works that way in a sense. A priest outside of the marriage relationship is able in some way to facilitate the relationship.


Or sometimes a priest who is a friend of the husband or the wife, that kind of thing. Sometimes you have to relate to somebody outside the community in order to get out of a kind of stuckness in an immature or incomplete or shallow form of relationship in the community. I think this is discovered by many religious communities nowadays. Communities which themselves have been sort of frustrated and tied down to an immature level of relationship. Somebody outside has to give them fresh light. Or relationships of individuals in the community with people outside which can seem a pretty threatening process with what is taking place. And there is a chance also that the person will jump the fence at that point. Just preferring the outside relationship to the community. It feeds back into your community.


It feeds back into the context of your whole life. Rather than becoming a special thing, kind of an exit. That's the sort of sign of validity of the friendship itself. If it goes the other way then it's very successful. Of course it depends on whether the community permits it. If the community says no, we don't approve of that. You can only relate to people inside the community. Maybe there isn't any alternative. Of course there are all kinds of relationships. One cannot promise that all his or her becoming will take place within the matrix of relationship with the community itself. What one can and must promise, if religious life is to mean anything, is that one's becoming will be shared with the community. It is not enough to integrate one's radical loves, whether these are with members of one's community or outside it, with one's commitment to God. One must also integrate these in the flesh and blood life of the community


for which one has given oneself. One's willingness, even need, to do this will be a good sign of the pedigree, the authenticity of the relationships one has, and a good measure of the depths of communion one seeks with his or her community. Otherwise one should be quite insincere, merely seeking an escape from one's own community. Let me tell you about two kinds of extremists in this whole business. One kind he calls the centrifugalists, and the others are the centripetalists. And the centrifugalists are the individualists who think that the community exists for them, the community exists for their sake, for what they can get out of it. And the centripetalists, like this, right out from the center, like a washing machine. Centripetal is towards the center, like gravitation. The centripetalists are the ones who... Anyway, shorter words. The centripetalists are the ones who settle into community, and they just want togetherness.


The centrifugalists are more likely to be men. And also they're the hermit types, of course, who believe, well, you tolerate enough community so that you get your kit, or your running water, or whatever, your public utilities, but that's all. And the community only exists for the sake of solitude and for my personal realization. And the centripetalists, of course, are per se centripetical, they're community-centered. But the thing is that both of these things are on a shallow level in someone, that just as the individualist, who may claim a spiritual motivation, but for him, other people believe they only exist for the sake of his own realization, his own self-fulfillment. And this can be carried out in the spiritual life just as well as in other forms of life. In fact, even better, because you have a kind of isolation. You can have an ideology, even, which lends itself to it in a hermetical way. Whereas the centripetalist will condemn that kind of thing, condemn all individualism, in fact, probably all freedom, and demand that everybody remain in a tight cluster.


For the sake of what? For the sake of security. And this is much more frequent among women's communities. Some people can't even conceive of that kind of situation, because simply they don't have that kind of experience. That kind of mutual confirmation, buddy-buddy thing. Now, both of those are shallow, because both of those miss the reality of communion. And they're seeking for a satisfaction which is really selfish and not a self-giving. And it's not a dying into someone else, or dying into God or self-donation. It's not indwelling. It's really kind of individualistic in both senses, in both situations, in the sense that it's self-centered. But in one case, you confirm yourself, sort of. You go off by yourself and you're isolated. In the other sense, you're not isolated. You're together with other people, but on such a level that there's kind of a, what do you call it, a conspiracy or a collusion,


just of mutual back-rubbing or whatever, without deep relationship. It's a conspiracy or an agreement not to relate on a deep level, but just to cater to one another's needs and so on. That kind of thing. This is a very real thing in our own congregation, of course, among the Kamalis, where precisely the axis of our life is between solitude and community, right here, or between our medical life and community. So we have to avoid both of those pitfalls. We have to avoid the pitfall of individualism, in which the others just exist for me and the community just exists for my sake, and the pitfall of this buddy-buddy togetherness, which really isn't challenging. It really doesn't ask anybody to go or to go deeper. Now, we don't need to be too, what would you say, too scrupulous or too nervous or too introspective or whatever.


We've got to watch out for those pitfalls. Because you can't just judge the quality of community and say, well, this is all shallow, there's nothing to it. You know, we like to go off and brood in solitude or something like that. No. It's a very gradual and subtle and nuanced kind of progress, I think. And at one time we got much too much of the first thing, and we never had any risk at all of the second thing. Now we have, there's a little possibility of the second thing, but I don't consider that it's really a menace. Anybody, any comments or questions about that particular subject? I think this may seem a little aside from the whole question of commitment. We're talking about, remember, we're talking about the quality of commitment and that the basic criteria and the reality of that commitment is commitment. And these are kind of the false types of... It just seems to me that how could you even make a vow


It seems like it takes a whole lot of trust in community to make a vow in life. So how can you make a vow to community? Is there any relationship or friendship such that you know the other people? In other words, if there isn't a kind of incipient communion in which you, I don't know, you know people, you know them as your brothers or something, you really can't vow. And the vow around here was not a vow of vocation in the sense of candidness, in the sense of people coming. It's a vow of people staying. Because if you've got this individualistic thing, then you feel at a certain point, well, you know, I could do this just as well somewhere else. If your commitment is only vertical, if it's only to God, then at a certain point you're going to say, well, I could be closer to God in another place if I were doing this on my own. These people are getting in my way. I don't like this whole set up thing, that kind of thing. As soon as the going gets rough,


the person is likely to pull out and go it on his own. Especially if he has carved out for himself a territory of solitude. And then it becomes a challenge. If he's been a recluse or something like that, or a semi-recluse, and then somebody asks him to come back in the community to do something, no, I think I'll move out. That kind of thing. So that what we call the horizontal thing, the commitment to your brothers and to the community, is extremely important. But also it has a lot to do with the authenticity of the whole business, the whole commitment. Because you can see that that kind of vertical commitment, with which at a certain point you can just pull up and go elsewhere, has something missing. Where that doesn't spread out into communion with your brothers, into a real union with the community, the whole thing is pretty suspect. You have to question whether it's really responsibility, whether the person is really being responsible to anything but himself. Okay, he, at this point,


Boyd starts talking about, from another point of view, he goes into the Bible, into the New Testament, and starts picking out examples of commitment. It's rather interesting, but we don't have time to go through much of it. I'll just mention the examples that he takes. The first, he goes right to the foundation, in the beginning, and talks about the two commitments which are really the ultimate basis, and they're within the Trinity. The commitment of the Father to the Son, the Father to Jesus, and the commitment of Jesus to the Father, okay? I don't think we can go any further than that. And if we look at the question of commitment ultimately, and want to find its roots, we have to go there. Now, the one that we're more interested in, from our point of view, is the commitment of Jesus to the Father. And he goes into that in considerable depth. And the way that this commitment works out, and I read some of this stuff before, I don't remember whether it was on Sunday or when, but the way that Jesus' commitment frees him, it doesn't just freeze him in the way, it doesn't fossilize him in the way that the Pharisees


could fossilize and sclerotize with their commitment to the law, but somehow it liberates him by giving his life a direction, and then... He's got a bunch of observations on this commitment of Jesus to the Father, and I'm just going to read them, and then maybe comment on a couple of them. He was accused by no one of being under-committed, but he was accused by many of being over-committed. The object of his commitment was unmistakable, Yahweh, whom he perceived as his Father. About him, Jesus was unreserved in his obedience, trust, and praise. It's like the Shema. You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, for living in the Father. That's the one thing, sort of, that dominates in the life of Jesus, is that devotion to the Father, that living for the Father, living towards the Father, because that's what he is. St. John, at the beginning of the Gospel, says that the word was not only with the Father,


but prostanteum, towards the Father. His commitment to his Father was interpersonal, without, however, being egalitarian. In other words, he was obedient to the Father, and yet, said, the Father and I are one. And he related to the Father as another, somehow on the same level as Adam, as we know. Jesus' commitment to his Father cannot be adequately distinguished from his love of his Father. The effect of his commitment was that it gave his life its direction, and because of it, he was free. The freedom that we have before our life has a direction is a very ambiguous freedom. It's a very strange and frustrating freedom. It's funny. It's this kind of starved freedom. Our real freedom comes when somehow our roots are in the ground, that is, when our life has direction, and then, as it were, our work is cut out for us. It's not the disengaged freedom, but the engaged freedom, the freedom of engagement. At a certain point, a person's freedom may be disengaged, and should be, but ultimately, it has to be engaged.


Otherwise, he's not really free, but he's imprisoned by his own isolation. Consider the alternatives, then. If you never get engaged with life, with reality, with the soil, with the context, with a particular situation, a particular road, a particular journey, you're not free at all, because you're not free to live, in a sense, you're not free to interact with your environment, and so you're not free to live. You're only free to be free. You're only free to be abstracted from life, not to be involved with life. And somehow the direction of our life, the rooting of our life, gives us our freedom, in a sense that it's a substantial and nourishing freedom, just as the plants being rooted in the earth allows it to receive nourishment from the earth, so it's... Freedom, then, is a substantial freedom, and not just sort of an abstract freedom, not the freedom of the seed to fly through the air, because the seeds that blow off the plants


fly through the air, but their freedom is a very limited kind of freedom, isn't it? It's not a freedom to grow, it's only a freedom to move. But the seed which falls into the ground and sinks its roots into the ground and then begins to grow up, it's got a substantial freedom, why? Because it's drawing nourishment from the earth. It's drawing nourishment also from the earth. But until it lands and plants itself, that image of the seed in the plant keeps recurring. It's irresistible. His commitment was total from the beginning, but always new in the ways it was shown. And then about this commitment, it isn't a freezing into a static situation for the rest of your life. It's a choice, but then a choice which opens up, and opens up a bunch of other choices, which are rather challenging. The seemingly religious commitments of other Israelites constituted the greatest obstacle he had in being heard. The least religiously committed were the most willing to listen to him. Now here he's talking about the difference between the Pharisees and scribes and the publicans and prostitutes, I think.


The scribes and Pharisees were terrifically committed to the Jewish religion and to God, but in such a way that they were over-committed, in a way, to something short of God. They were over-committed, in other words, to the law, to the rules. Their commitment did not free them. The prostitutes and the publicans, on the other hand, seemed to be not at all committed to God, not at all committed to the law, certainly, and yet they were the ones who were free to listen to Jesus. Over-commitment makes it impossible somehow to hear the Word and to become committed to God when he does speak, when he does come, as he came in the Incarnation. So I have to be mighty careful of over-commitment or prior commitment. We have to ask ourselves what we're committed to, don't we? Sure. It has to prove itself, really. It has to prove itself by its fruits, just like any form of life, you know. It has to prove itself by the freedoms of others.


Because a monastic life, it's an imprisonment in a sense, but it's also a terrific freedom because we're freed of a lot of burdens and involvements and preoccupations of people who are in our way. The risk is that that freedom remains an empty freedom and doesn't really become filled with the substance of the truth, with that sort of nourishment that comes up out of the ground with God and flows into our lives and makes them blasphemous. Freedom is an abstract word and it can be full or it can be empty. Almost any word is ambivalent. His commitment did not make him myopic. Myopic is short-sighted, isn't it? Or brittle or aprioristic. Aprioristic means that you've made all your decisions before the discussion starts. His enemies, on the other hand, seem to be all of these. In other words, his commitment freed his vision in some way also, his mind. His commitment to his Father did not exclude, rather it enhanced his capacity for communion with others. That's the other thing about this commitment.


Okay, I really shouldn't spend any more time on this probably. It's a shame because what he does is, he talks about the commitment of Jesus to the Father and then he talks about a bunch of commitment invitations or challenges in the New Testament, in the parables. The parables, whether you realize it or not, have a lot of a lot of images for the situation of commitment. One, for instance, is the pearl of great price. Remember the guy goes and he sells everything he has to buy this pearl. In other words, that's one total commitment in some way of his life. It represents one total commitment of the whole life. And this is what Jesus is asking. And then the master and the talents, you know, he entrusts the talents. The kind of commitment which is to put your talent into the ground rather than going out and investing the talent to get, trading for the money. So there you have two possible kinds of commitments. And the one that the Lord condemns and the one that he approves is investing.


The man with the bonds who was invested in another way. Then the rich young man uses that as his principal example of non-commitment. And he doesn't even talk about religious commitment in the beginning, but he talks about this person being committed to his own wealth, first of all, and then to his own good deeds, to his own marriage, whatever, he kept the whole lot. And Jesus is asking him to be committed to a person, to leave behind those things, because even his good life, even his life of virtue for him was a thing, it was wealth. And to be committed to a person. So he says, first, take everything that you have, go and give it to the poor, and then come and follow me. In other words, give away things for persons. First of all, give away everything that you have, all those things that you have for the sake of feeding people. And then come and follow me. Come and follow me as a person. In other words, he's inviting him to the love of himself. Even before he talks much about God, Jesus didn't want to talk too much about God.


So it's this business of from the thing to the person. Commitment to things and then commitment to a person. The commitment to things is a self-centered commitment. The only thing that can pull us out of ourselves is commitment to a person. That's where Jesus is inviting virtue in that too. Then he goes on. His discussion of this whole thing is good. Then he goes on and talks about the commitment of Mary and its various developments during her life. Another one that was most interesting to me was the commitment of St. Paul. St. Paul was terrifically, before his conversion to Christ, he's terrifically committed. Nobody could be more committed than he is. And so he's persecuting those Christians who he feels are betraying that commitment to Yahweh. Totally committed to this indignant, zealous kind of Pharisaic faith, Pharisaic religion. And so, Paul says he becomes the image of the God that he's worshipping. He becomes and makes God in his image. The image of the jealous, the bitter zeal, the person with that bitter zeal.


He and his God. And then he flips over completely. And retaining that total commitment, the commitment somehow gets turned inside out and it becomes a commitment not to that, what do you call it, that theoretical God, that law, that legal God, that juridical God, who is himself kind of a fiction of law, a concept, an ideal. He becomes devoted to a person, the person of Jesus. And of course that passage from Philippians 3. For Christ Jesus, my Lord, I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish. If only I could have Christ and be given a place in Him. It's this change from a commitment to stuff, which for him now is rubbish, he realizes it's stuff, things, privileges, merits, status, honors, rubbish, junk. In comparison with what? With a person of Christ, and yet a person which is much more than a human person at this point. But it is a matter of love.


It's a matter of moving from stuff, one's own acquisition, one's own goods, to the person, and the person is somehow his God as well as a human person. Paul literally lost his footing in trust, hope, belief and love of the person of Christ Jesus. A dramatic relationship began to take place between Paul and Jesus after the interruption of Saul's journey on the road to Damascus. The best adjective one could use to describe the interpersonal intimacy of that relationship is symbiotic. Symbiosis is a biological term in which two things live together so that each one somehow lives from the life of the other one. We talked about indwelling before. Now this is St. Paul's horizon change. Where his world was a very crusty and stiff little world before when he was persecuting the Christians and hunting them down and so on. It's a world of laws and of observance and so on.


And now the thing has suddenly exploded and he's blown open and he's in love. And he's in love with Christ. And the whole thing changes his character. His horizon has been suddenly expanded. And this relationship which he has now is one somehow of Christ being in him as his own life and his being in Christ. It's one of the shell of his own person. At the same time that the shell of his horizon of his world has been broken has sort of shattered and fallen to the ground. The shell of his own ego, of his own self has shattered and broken so that he's no longer that separate crusty individual but somehow his being is fusing into that of Christ and vice versa. A symbiotic relationship is one in which two living entities live as if they were one. Certainly the union between Paul and Christ was more than a moral one for that would simply indicate that two wills functioned as a zero definition which is teaching on theology. More than an affective union which would only mean that Paul's heart was brought up for the attractiveness of Christ Jesus.


Though that was part of it too. Symbiotic seems to be a better term for their union than indwelling because by the free choice of both another spirit was permeating Paul's arm. The life of Paul was now unfolding in the life of another and the life of the other was unfolding in the life of Paul. Paul was allowing the very core of his own spirit to be penetrated by the spirit of Jesus. So complete is the permeation that Paul can say I live, now not I, but Christ lives within me. This is not an announcement of Paul's annihilation or the dilution of his personality. You can see that his personality remains very strong. He talks about this at some length afterwards. The sense of self-worth that St. Paul has is compared with the kind of prostrate and limp sense of the term of humility that we've used often. Now the concept of humility is just being nobody and staying nobody. But that's not St. Paul. And somehow St. Paul authentically represents the Christian experience which doesn't just sort of annihilate you and leave you annihilated for the glory of God


but in which you discover this new leaven, this new life, this new expansion of the very glory of God within you. It's very important for us to realize that. And it's a very subtle point to realize what humility means in the light of that interior glory, in the light of that expansion. To realize what it means to be nothing and nobody in a positive way. Very elusive. And it really can't be understood from the outside. It can only be understood by the experience. And it's hard to be faithful to the experience too. Not to slip off on one side or the other. Now, why do I talk about this so much? It's because St. Paul's example is not a kind of example of a saint. He was a saint with a capital letter who was different from us. But that's what our experience is supposed to be. That I live, not I, but Christ lives in me is supposed to be our experience. It's the experience of the life in the Holy Trinity. So he's not an exception. He's not the lofty example. This is theology, which means that it's us too.


It's our life. It's what our experience is supposed to be. And it's also the basis of our commitment, you see. The basis of the commitment of baptism. And then the basis of our religious commitment. I forget what we were talking about. We were talking about the pearl of great price and so on. The whole idea of making one single commitment. This is what it gets back to. It's a response to that commitment which is God's very presence in us. And which is our life in the Trinity. And then he talks about how that commitment frees St. Paul from his crust that he was before. Not only that he had, but he was a shell. The focus of Paul's commitment to God had become the person of Christ Jesus. His commitment to God was emptied of its legal content only to be filled with an immediate and personal content. Once again, it's moving from things, from stuff, from rubbish, from the inanimate, from the inorganic,


to that which is personal. And not only is personal, but is the core of personhood, which is sort of by definition person. Remember where St. Paul says in Romans 5, I think, he says that the first Adam was made a living soul. The second Adam in the resurrection is made a life-giving spirit, which means that he is the person who makes persons by the very indwelling of his personhood. This is Christ and this is the spirit of Christ, which creates this thing we call person and intensifies it and brings it into its own reality, into its own truth by dwelling in it, by dwelling in us. So basically our commitment is to that. And if we have encountered Christ, then we have had the beginning of that experience and we're invited to have the fullness of it, the way that St. Paul did. And this thing comes from God, it doesn't come from us. Those words of Jesus, you know,


you haven't chosen me, I've chosen you. In St. Paul's too, he says he was grasped. It's essential to realize that, because otherwise if we think that I'm doing this thing, then I can do something else too. But if it comes from God, then inside God's action is God's fidelity. And God commits himself totally to what he does in that when he opens something, he enters it. When he starts something, he finishes it. When he initiates something, when he invites to something, he completes it, he fulfills it. And so it is with this. So we have to see the shape of this thing now that he's initiating and opening and inviting us to. What is the shape of this? Does the shape of this thing that he's calling me to or that he's putting into me involve this kind of commitment? What kind of commitment does it involve? What kind of life should I live in accord with this gift that has been given to me? Now that Gabrielle Winkler, those tapes of hers, when the early monks received this gift of the Spirit in baptism, the shape that that took for them immediately was to push them out into the desert, okay? And some kind of irrevocable commitment to it.


That was their life. Somehow there's a kind of experience of God that sets you from that time on in a particular direction. Now it doesn't always give all the answers and draw a map of the whole path right from the start, but it's kind of an indication, a promise that the map will be supplied as the path goes on, which is not to eliminate the factor of freedom. The religious life also, and the monastic life, has to make enough room for the guidance of the Spirit after the initial decision, because the religious vocation, also communities, congregations can make mistakes about it and freeze it into a mold so that it's only got one form and the diversity of the Spirit really can't be manifested afterwards, okay? Somehow the way that communities and congregations are set up has to correspond to the way that God acts. It can't be set up just on sort of categories. Right.


It seems to me that a community has to make room at least for the other possibilities which can flower out of an authentic vocation of its kind. That may not be clear, but what I mean is if somebody's got a monastic vocation, then his order ought to make room for all the possible flowerings of that monastic vocation. In other words, there should be such a thing as a monastic vocation, which means that if somebody's called to a monastery, he's not going to be called to become a schoolteacher later in his life, a full-time schoolteacher or a full-time nurse or something like that. He's called it a monastic vocation. He's called it his life of interior prayer and self-transformation and so on. But consider all of the communities of nuns, for instance, like the poor prayers, for instance, which don't have any room for the solitary life. Now, that seems to me to be limiting too much the activity in response to the Spirit afterwards.


If you're called to a monastic life, then you should have room in your community, in your order, your institution, for all of the possible, normal, foreseeable evolutions of that particular vocation. And that can include solitary. But too often, the women's communities have ruled it out. And a lot of the men's communities, too. For instance, the Trappists, they didn't have as long as it is. They didn't have any termites. It's too bad if you have to jump over the wall, if you have to leave your own order. And sometimes even your own vows, sometimes you have to get a dispensation from the vows in order to live as a hermit. Well, that's a pity. There are other possible expressions, too, of the monastic life, but the solitary one is the most natural. It's in the direct line of the monastic life. The other one is maybe apostolic. One or another kind of preaching actually is something like that. Yeah. Well, that can be a part of the monastic life, too.


So it's not that every monk has to make a vow of stability to a particular place, does it? To a particular place. But it seems to me that a vow of stability to the way of life and very possibly to the community, actually. A monk who goes off on pilgrimage, for us at least, would return to his or her communities in a way. Even like Cashin. Cashin and his friend Jim Ennis, they haven't known him in how many years, I think. I don't know. I haven't seen him. Because this thing in Christianity, this business of the church is kind of important. And church means local church, and it means a kind of commitment to it. This has got to be another thing to do. I'm touching this a little shallowy right now, this whole question that you raised. Fundamentally, it's commitment to the form of life. And that commitment to a given group of people, to a given community.


It seems like a commitment. Which, you may go out and come back, but basically, it's not going to still occur. Does it seem like you believe in grace? Perhaps something precious? For us to, in this country, to learn how to grow people, in this way, [...] in this way. The point is, actually, that we believe that God is acting in this way. If we didn't believe that God acted in this way, in Christianity, then there wouldn't be any point in our doing it. In other words, the reason has to be theological in the end. And not even that the monastic life works out best this way. It's only that God is working in this way. It's something I sort of have to struggle with, because it's not immediate, that we're convinced of that. No, that's not the only way it works. Okay, we'll have to go on a little longer


with this next topic. Before we go on to the next topic. Well, stability is a long deal, you know. Well, stability is a long deal, you know.