March 26th, 1981, Serial No. 00798

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Monastic Spirituality Set 2 of 12

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I'd like to finish Obedience if we can. And I won't spend too much time with Roberts, but I'll bring in a few other things, presuming that you have read Roberts. Peter, those are stamps for Peter to put on his proof picture. He's a GC4 or something like that. He's a civil service employee. I'll take all of those to mail a letter. Somebody said they were going to put the rate up to $0.20. Is that true? That's what they wanted. It's not sure, though, because they published all that material, all those lists, and we

[01:04]

got a big chart that's three feet wide with all the new rates on it. We'll have to do all that over. Well, the guy in Washington said they'd go back in a year now since they didn't get $0.20 and go back and ask for $0.20. Oh, is it? There's somebody adopted in those charts. Yeah, that's it. Reagan will change that. Okay, back to our subject, gentlemen. That business about the how of obedience, which Roberts talks about on 92 and the following page. Let's review that a bit because it's important. We talk a lot about the theory of obedience. I just reveled in the theory of obedience, but then the practice is something else. This business of first of all, he says, take up obedience as a work. Now, that means to take it up consciously. There's something that we do in our mind when we set something before ourselves and we say, okay, I've got to work on this. In other words, this is going to cost me some effort. This is something that I have to put in the forefront of my consciousness.

[02:06]

I have to focus on it. I have to try to understand it and to do it intelligently and consciously. See, a lot of things we don't do that way. And if you don't do that with obedience, what happens is we turn into machines and we start to live a mechanical monastic life. There are times when you have to do something like that, either because you're kind of numb, you're in one of those places in your spiritual life, or for other reasons. There are times when we just have to push ourselves, you know, like soldiers. But it needs to be as conscious as possible, because otherwise it's not doing its work on us. You see, the idea is the conversion of your heart, is the transformation of your consciousness. But if you don't open up your consciousness, if you just harden it and sort of bury it and put it down your head and grit your teeth and go ahead, it's not going to do its work. As I say, there are times to do that. But then that involves difficulties. Obviously, you're inviting difficulties, because suppose you become conscious about obedience and then you find you don't agree with what you're asked to do.

[03:08]

That's when you're inviting problems, and that's when you have to confront the whole problem of obedience. So that whole business about facing things. And then the context of faith. Now, these two things, in a way, can work against... well, not entirely, work against one another. You can be conscious of obedience. You get so conscious that you can make it a... what would you call it? A human thing, in a sense, unless you reinforce the context of faith. And if you reinforce the context of faith at the expense of consciousness, that's when you just do everything with a kind of blunt willpower, in what you call faith, but which may be something else. But at any rate, these two things should work together, the consciousness and the faith. It's a faith consciousness, and yet a working, practical, existential consciousness too, as you do any work. Now, the faith thing, it means that your motive is not just a simply natural one.

[04:15]

It's not just to get the job done, obviously. It's a supernatural one, but it's not as simple as that. You have to sort of reinforce the content and the strength, too, of your faith. Sort of the focus of your faith on this thing, I'm doing this for the love of God, I'm obeying the superior, I'm doing the rule because of God, really, not just because of it. But at the same time, you have to build up that content of faith, the way he talks about reading and meditating on the mystery of the Church and all those things, so that your obedience makes sense to you in the context of faith. And also your faith is strong enough and awake enough so that it confronts each thing that you do in the context of obedience. Now, that doesn't mean that you go through your day saying, I'm doing this out of obedience, I'm doing this out of obedience, for everything that you do, that would be absurd. But that, as they would have said in past years, that supernatural spirit gradually penetrates everything that you do. Or say simply that the spirit of faith penetrates everything that you do.

[05:17]

You do what you do consciously, but not only consciously as a worker would do it, but you do it consciously, but with also that consciousness of faith, which is a deeper level of consciousness, you see? With the consciousness of the spirit, the consciousness of the heart, but the heart which is a believing heart. The idea is to put all of yourself into obedience, because it's supposed to work on all of yourself. Obedience is a very wide-ranging kind of instrument. And so you want to expose all of yourself to it. Then this emphasis on humility. As we said, humility is a tricky thing because it so easily becomes negative. And if you try to practice humility, you very easily sort of reduce yourself. You very easily do something negative with yourself. In a sense, humility is something that can't be practiced, because it's, well, it's a kind of invisible thing.

[06:18]

It's a quality of actions which are really something else. And yet it's something that we can see in a person, and something which is infinitely desirable. Humility is like the other side of faith, it's like the other side of love, it's like the other side of your fervor and your zeal. It's that sort of shrinking back of our little self in the context of faith, and as we move towards God. It's very difficult to practice directly, in a sense. And when we do practice it directly, the funny thing about humility, I suppose it's like dancing or something like that, it should be instinctive, and when you do it by yourself, not instinctively, not through the impulse of the spirit, then it's always somehow clumsy, it's always somehow imperfect. But when God works in us, then our actions have this quality of humility. And we won't notice it, but others will. So it's a tricky thing to try to practice,

[07:22]

but it's something to be striven after. Of course, the rule of significance is pointing us in that direction all the time. I suppose it's funny that when we try to be humble, when we try to practice humility, that's often when we are humiliated, in a sense of realizing that our humility itself is a sham, or our humility itself is clumsy, or our humility itself simply isn't true. And that is the source of the humility maybe that we were looking for, when we sort of played the humble person. Because that's what we do, we play the humble person. But somehow it's not really there until God does it, until he works in us. Okay. So what are you doing to support humility? Is there something that you do? Become aware of the other thing that's operating in yourself. And then it's the external thing that does it. In other words, what's St. Benedict's formula for humility? Submit things to your spiritual father

[08:23]

and be obedient, and then all those other things, like trying to prefer others to yourself, and trying to practice love. Now, as you do these things, if you do them sincerely, you will become aware of your shortcoming. You'll become aware of your inability to do them. And as you practice obedience, if you do it with a true spirit, you will become humble. Remember Isidore, that famous monk in Climacus? You read his story the other time. Who had to... His abbot, he was a proud fellow, an independent clergy. The abbot told him to go out and prostrate before everybody came into the monastery, remember? And he hated it at first, you know? And yet gradually he became humbled by doing that external thing. His external, his physical action worked on him. And through doing that, through obedience in that way, he became gradually humble, until the thing actually penetrated his heart. Now, it's hard for us to believe that. You gradually acquire the habit of it. Yeah, except that it's more than a habit.

[09:24]

That's the strange thing. In other words, something greater is coming from something smaller. Something interior is coming from something exterior. It's as if there's an intermediate zone in there, okay? And you make this fundamental act of faith, and you go to the abbot and you say, I want to become a good monk. You know, I want to become humble. And then there's this big zone of pride in you, this intermediate zone, your soul or whatever, which is not humble, all right? But you hand the whole thing over to the abbot, and he says, all right, you go down and you prostrate yourself for seven years before everybody that goes through the door. And then you go out and you do that external thing. So you've got these three levels, the interior commitment of faith and obedience, the fundamental commitment of obedience to the abbot, the desire to change, okay? That act of will, fundamental commitment of will. Then you've got that intermediate zone, which is still sinful and proud and independent and ornery. And then you've got the external action. Now, as you do the external action,

[10:26]

gradually you work through that intermediate zone until you become one piece, until all of you pulls into harmony and conformity with that interior commitment of obedience, that desire to change, that interior commitment to conversion, you see? That may be making it sound too simple, but it works. So you kind of have to... The real humiliating thing, then, is realizing that you have to start where you're at to begin with. That's very humiliating. The willingness to do that physical thing already, you see, is an enormous act of... not exactly of humility. It's basic humility, but it's only a seed of humility. But it's a very powerful seed, like the mustard seed. So it's able to fill that whole intervening earth there, you see, as you do it. Because the body is very effective, the body is very powerful, if you unite it with that mustard seed, that fundamental act of submission, you see.

[11:29]

It seems like the more you try to be humble, the more you realize how far you're from that. That's right, but if you keep doing the acts, the physical acts of humility... Because those acts for him, for Isidore, were phony, weren't they, for the first few years? In a sense, you could say they were insincere. Because he didn't feel that in his heart, but he did it, right? But the body teaches the heart gradually. First there's that initial commitment saying, I want to be converted and therefore I submit myself, and then there's all that physical action, and gradually, gradually, gradually, the heart falls into line. Now that's the theory, and I think often it works, but we're not used to it very much, because... Why? Because we don't have the body together in what we do. We're not into the integration of the body into our spiritual life, our monastic life. There's a whole complex of symbols.

[12:41]

That's the same thing Isidore did, you see, and that's in the rule of St. Benedict, but we don't do those things anymore, and therefore they don't seem like they have any point to us anymore. They would seem artificial and insincere in our culture, and yet we lose the benefit, you see, because we don't have that external, that physical connection, We don't have the way to get the body, to get the leverage of the body into the work of transformation, the transformation of the heart. Now this holds for many things. It holds for fasting and all kinds of things, and the way we pray, that we don't use frustrations and inflections in our prayer and so on, like the Orthodox do. Peter. It seems that somewhere in the rule, instead of going from the interior to the exterior to the interior, he goes the other way, like the last steps, you know, walking right down. There he's going from the outside. Well, that's somehow in the rule. You can't follow that order and make logic out of it, in the end, okay? Because in the beginning,

[13:43]

he proceeds to this center point, which is, say, the sixth degree, where you feel you're lower than all, you know, and that kind of humility of the heart, where he feels it's the most sinful of all. But then it starts moving outwards, and that doesn't make sense. Those are expressions of humility, but they're certainly not further grades of humility. They're beyond that point. You can say, in a way, that that point is the highest point of humility in the world. But you have to realize the history of that, that that came from Cassian, and in Cassian, it's not really steps of humility. They're signs of humility, okay? So they're not successive, one after the other, like the rungs on a ladder. So it's a little bit confused in that way. In a sense, they're all on the same level. Some of them are in a sequence, like about two, three, and four or something, those are in sequence. But it's not that simple really. And in all of these things, it's very difficult to line things up, you'll notice in the spiritual life. It's very difficult to make a sequence,

[14:43]

a linear sequence of one thing following another, because it's global, it's a global process. Okay. And then a lot of the other things he mentions here are about the fullness of this spirit of humility or obedience, which involves... has a lot to do with your motivation, and with trying to get the whole of yourself to move with it. And this is difficult for people like us who start out from being individualists, and with such... often, anyway, with such a sense of our own judgment, of our own convictions, of what we feel, of our own experience, and so on, it's hard for us to plow all this into the ground and cultivate a spirit of obedience of that kind. On the other hand, we have a lot to give. If we can transform all that subjectivity into obedience, we've really got something. More than the person who is just able to close his eyes

[15:45]

and sort of with willpower, all in one piece, do it. We've got all that consciousness to hand over to God. It takes an awful lot of faith to do it. A persistent faith, a persevering faith, even when it seems to be very unreasonable sometimes. Like Paul said... Yeah, when it's strong... And when he talks about throwing everything away, you know, for the love of Christ, it's that kind of thing, which we have to do time after time. Now, the trouble with this is you can get into such a negative situation if we emphasize this paradox too much. It's the risk in all of these things, obedience and harbour, and so on, but we've got to get back to the positivity of choice. And so, at the end, I want to talk about the whole of obedience and function of freedom, because that's really what it's pretty much. Cultivating promptness and zeal in obedience, this whole business of enthusiasm and obedience. Now, obviously, there's something else here. If you let that other spirit creep in, this is a matter of a spirit that's in you, you know,

[16:46]

it's a matter of the fundamental disposition of your heart. And you can be saying yes, you can be saying no, you can be saying maybe. And if you let that spirit of no creep into your heart through murmuring and criticism and things like that, the right kind of criticism is all right, but it's always... The real question, the real discernment is what spirit is in your heart when we're talking about, you know, conversation or something like that, or even your thoughts. Is it a positive spirit? Is it a spirit of affirmation, basically, or a spirit of negation? Is it a spirit of faith or a spirit of self? Murmuring or something like that, for instance, kills what he's talking about there. It kills that spirit of obedience by simply putting in a contrary movement in your heart so that the two, in some way, are incompatible. A person can only give a very lame kind of obedience, which isn't really sanctifying them, if he lets that spirit of negativity, of criticism, of murmuring, and so on, lurk around inside of himself. And, of course, that's related a lot

[17:48]

to the way that we relate to other people, whether we exchange criticism and murmuring and all that dark stuff with them, or whether we try to enkindle one another in this positivity, in this spirit of enthusiasm, this fervor and willing obedience that he's talking about. It can sound very childish, in a sense, you know? And it is very simple. But, boy, there's nothing better than that, if a community lives that way, if they enkindle one another with that kind of willing spirit, rather than pulling one another down with any kind of negativity. So you need an acute sense of discernment for negativity, whether it be murmuring, whether it's criticism, or whatever, or discouragement, you know, gloom. You really need a keen nose for that, and then just a hatred for negativity. A hatred for it. It's funny, because we're talking about something that's not reasonable, exactly, is it? It's a question of discernment of spirits, and not of reason. Because a lot of criticism is justified very often. But if the wrong spirit is in that criticism,

[18:50]

if the spirit of negativity, rather than the spirit of positivity, is in it, then it's murderous. And it pulls people apart and destroys the community. The most essential thing is to kindle that flame of positivity. How do you go about discerning the negativity from the positivity when it comes to criticism? You can feel it. If you really watch your heart, you can feel it. And I know I've talked with a lot of you about this kind of thing. You have a sense for it, you know? If you listen to your heart, you have a sense when something is going right and something is going wrong. Talking about another person, for instance, you know? There's a moment when what was an innocent conversation turns into a kind of complacency in destruction, complacency in the wrong kind of criticism. When we're beginning to enjoy evil. Remember when St. Paul says, Rejoice in the good, rejoice not in... Charity never rejoices in evil. He says something like that. When we begin to enjoy negativity, when we begin to enjoy the criticism, then it's victorious.

[19:52]

And it's very easy right to go down the chute so it turns entirely negative. In fact, very often it does. So you have to have a sense of discernment and a sense of readiness to say, Well, look, we've got to get off this. This is going a long way. Not that we should always be on tenderhooks, you know? But... One might also bring like an example. Like if you're looking out for this in yourself and you see an example of this, you might also bring that to your spiritual director and he could give you some kind of... Well, you know, that was just some jokes or the guy could say, well, no... Yeah, that's what you should do because the discernment won't be there. Even though you've got the sense of this thing really in your heart, you've got the taste of it in your heart, you need help to discern it. To be sure. To check your discernment with somebody else's discernment until you're sure. And then you can act on it consistently. It's hard to stay when you're talking to someone and stop at the end. Oh yeah, sure.

[20:53]

You're putting the end more in judgment. Exactly. But if you have an understanding among you, sort of, if there's an understanding among the community, then you won't even have to say that. It'll almost be a mutual response almost without saying anything to lift a conversation somewhere else, to move it in another direction. You don't have to raise a big red flag. I think, though, that it almost as a training thing, it almost might be useful to have that kind of thing. You know, as a practice to be able to check a conversation in that way. The trouble with it would be that it would inhibit conversation and make it a very... I don't know. It would spoil the freedom of conversation in a group or anything like that. But do cultivate the awareness. And you find ways of at least not pumping in any more negativity. Not giving yourself to the negativity that's in a conversation or something like that. As long as we're talking about conversation. One thing is conversation, the other thing is your own thoughts, your own private thoughts.

[21:53]

It's the same principle, though, for both of them. Not to... not to assent to negativity. In the realm of your private thoughts and spirit of negativity, would you say that the way to discern whether it's positive or negative when this negative thing starts happening... You know, I think Paul always talks about the fruits of the spirit of peace and things like this. So it causes tension and anxiety and restlessness. Would you say that's a sign? Yeah, that's the basic sign of... criterion for discernment of spirits for Saint Ignatius, and also for many of the others. That sense of peace and that sense that you get after a while of the presence of the Holy Spirit, which you don't have any words for except those words that refer to the spirit. Peace. Also freedom. That's another word that relates to that quality of the presence of the spirit.

[22:55]

But that is not to say that every conflict is bad, okay? In other words, you've got to go through conflicts. There'll be times when you're disturbed and there's no good just sort of shutting it out and say, well, I'm going to exclude those thoughts because they're keeping me out of the presence of the spirit. No. The spirit also arouses a struggle in you at times, you see? And so you have to get through the conflict. That's another question. And that itself is something to be discerned. So you can't expect a continual peace. We know that well enough by now. But at least we don't want to buy into negativity, into destructive thoughts. We can avoid that. It seems important to, without having to be centered on it all the time, to know that there are bad spirits and that, as Father was saying this morning, try to destroy community and unity, and that it's a spiritual thing. It's a spiritual battle, yeah. Because we 20th century people,

[23:57]

we think everything's thoughts, you know? Everything's just, you can deal with it. It's rational, it's an idea, you talk it out, and so on. No, it's spiritual, too. Because there's a quality beyond the content of the thoughts, a very simple quality of love or hatred, of yes or no, positivity, negativity, life or death. It's as simple as that. But you can taste that, you can detect that in a conversation, the way that it goes. However, you've got to say this, that in a conversation among a group of people, for instance, you people at lunchtime, somebody's going to say something funny once in a while, which maybe is a little bit, you've got a little negative potential in it, a little critical. Maybe it could hurt somebody, or maybe it puts somebody in a bad light that's not making fun of... You don't want to suddenly raise a red flag and call everybody to order or something like that. Because a lot of things can be allowed to slip by, but when the course of the conversation itself begins to turn in a negative direction,

[24:58]

that's something else. Because you don't want to tie everybody up in a kind of suspenseful fear, for fear that something negative is going to creep in. No. It's when the whole course of the thing starts going bad that something should begin. It seems like in conversations, especially in group conversations, hopefully, usually God has always got two or three people who are given the grace that that's going in that direction. So if their response at that time can be about being his brother and his weakness, knowing that you're probably doing the same thing in a few days or whatever, that's the thing that really heals it. Whereas anything else, any kind of attack on it or any kind of attention on it, really, in that sense... Yeah, it's best just to divert the conversation in another direction very gently,

[25:59]

preferably without even attracting any notice to what's happening. Just to turn away from evil and do good, as the scripture says, but without even focusing on the evil. Because that just creates a lot of unpleasantness. If it's bad, you can talk about it to the individual at another time, but it's hardly ever advisable to raise a stink in the middle of a group meeting or something, or a meal or something. And individuals have to refine their sensibility to this, and then among a group of people there should be a kind of way of dealing with it, an understanding. And it's something that you can talk about among yourselves once in a while, you know. And then just let that be the background at other times, but without bringing it up all the time. This all connected with this very simple thing

[27:02]

about the spirit of obedience that he's talking about here. Because that spirit of obedience is the spirit of everything else at the same time. I mean, it's the monastic spirit, you know. It's the spirit of the love of God, as expressed in the monastic vocation. And obedience is one of the principal ways of gauging it, or expressing it. In yourself, you mean? When you're alone? Okay. You can read the scriptures, you can pray, and then you can go and talk to somebody. The scripture, the word of God is the most powerful thing. It depends on what kind of negativity it is, you know. If it's discouragement or something like that, or even critical thoughts, the wrong kind, the scripture is often the most potent thing, especially the New Testament, and especially for me, St. Paul, maybe not for everybody. And then to pray, if you can, which you may not be able to, because often the thoughts will be so powerful

[28:02]

that they'll just come in and invade and you won't be able to move your heart towards God. And then, if it's bad like that, go and talk to somebody. Go and talk to somebody who you can, you're not going to hurt in any way. You know, the spiritual father is one. I find that also, a lot of times when you're doing this, especially when it's, you don't feel like you can pray or read or nothing's happening, the best thing to do is, instead of to keep on thinking about it is to do something else besides that. Sometimes you just have to distract yourself with work or something like that if you can. Sometimes, if you're doing manual work, sometimes the thoughts will continue. If you can get your attention on another kind of work, that's great. Because they may come back at you. I ended up thinking

[29:11]

that a group has critical thoughts, thinking that it's actually inciting outside of itself, destroying inside of itself, really it's destroying itself. How do you mean? Well, I was thinking about the group that I'm in, which is in Germany, and no one is here. No one in my group is here. They were very negative. Very negative. Very critical and negative. And since there weren't as many as we are, it was easy to see that it's very hard for us to begin a negative conversation at a table with someone, because there are so many different opinions. And somebody is always outside of it. But there, they were... Because it's poison. It's real poison. See, you project it outside of yourself. You're criticizing something else, but the poison is in you. That's the thing, you know. The criticism seems to be projected

[30:11]

against negativity that's out there, but actually that negativity that one is taking pleasure in and sort of sloshing around is in himself, and it's poisoning him. And it just eats away. It destroys the monastic vocation. It destroys that spirit. The spirit of love and positivity. Which is a very simple childish spirit. It is childish. Childlike, in a sense. The simplest thing in the world. The most precious thing in the world. And it's so easy for it to be harmed by ridicule, or by over-sophisticated thinking, or by the mind, in so many ways. By cleverness. It's so easy for it to be put to shame, or dampened, or discouraged. It's very delicate sometimes. Until it learns its own its own freedoms, its own strength. Okay. Because you can really fortify one another

[31:14]

in this positive spirit. There's nothing like it to find, have somebody else, like, two burning logs against one another. Keep one another burning. One of them goes out. On this whole hell business, I wanted to read some stuff from Martin in this anthology by Father Jacob. But I'd better limit myself so as not to take too much time. I have to drag this into the next day. He's got a section on obedience in here, which is good. I'll try to choose a few useful selections. First of all, the importance of available obedience. These are not all on the how business, but I didn't have time to sift them all out and use them at other points. The importance of the vow of obedience. Obedience is the most important vow for the sanctification of the monk. It's the vow which makes the religious life. He's saying a lot there. Why can you say that? You can say that because obedience is able to influence everything that you do.

[32:15]

In other words, it's able to work into the whole of your life in a way that poverty, for instance, is not quite able to do. And chastity, in a sense, yes, but in a different way. Very difficult in words to talk about the difference between these things. But somehow obedience is able to get into everything that you do, particularly. It's not possible to have religious life without the vow of obedience. You can have religious life without the vows of property or chastity, but obedience is necessary because it puts a person in a state of life, a stable condition of life, where you are not your own property. He says you can have religious life, and I guess he'd say monastic life, without vows of poverty or chastity, but somehow the resolution and somehow the maintenance of poverty and chastity is necessary. But obedience somehow requires a vow in a sense, huh? It calls for a vow in some way. And that's maybe why the vow of obedience was already in the Rosine Benedict at the start, whereas poverty and chastity came in later.

[33:17]

Because it's a matter directly of the will, and of your will and somebody else's will, and of something which is quite unnatural, quite, in a sense, against nature. You subject your will. It requires something that's on its own level, on the level of the will and therefore a vow. And it's something which then governs your whole life. By our vow of obedience we don't belong to ourselves and we are always accessible to our superiors or to the Church. Remember, Drifted's on his three levels of what do you call it, death to self or whatever. The first one, level of the body, related that to chastity. The first one was poverty, outside, outside yourself. The second, level of the body, chastity. The third one, and the affection, the level of the self itself, of possession or non-possession of yourself, and he related that to obedience. So, owning things outside yourself, having disposal over your own body and your own affection to your heart,

[34:18]

and having disposal over yourself. So, in some way it dispossesses you, yourself and the whole of yourself. And that's why it's such a general thing. His business of faith, he talks a lot about that. And as you know, obedience was a struggle for Martin. It wasn't easy at all for him, because of the way he was made, being such a dynamic type of person. And then being in such a tough and compressing structure. Remember all that he said about over-control in the old Trappist regime, which was true of our regime, too, to a great extent in the old days, but not as much because the life was not so cenobitical. The cenobitical life is where really the pressure of obedience is felt, because you're always with the others, you're always in the community, whereas it's different in our times. We had rigidity just as much, but not as much pressure, I think.

[35:19]

There's a real good in obedience in that it gets us in contact with God quicker and easier than if we were following our own wills. By obeying, you simply cannot miss in contacting God. The most important thing in obedience is the faith in which you carry out the commands. And our faith grows when we act in faith. Like most things, it grows with its expression and grows with acting it out. The interior thing grows through the exterior, fulfillment of it. Like that body and spirit thing we were talking about before. We are a permanent yes to God by obedience. And of course, St. Paul, in Christ there is no yes or no, there is only yes to the Father's will. It relates to that spirit we were talking about, either positivity or negativity, you know, and the things that cut into that and destroy it. Okay, you can read this yourselves if you want to. I'm not going to do as much of it as I expected. Now, this business of conscious obedience, this is where Martin is likely to be

[36:22]

good because he was one who introduced this element of consciousness and intelligence and deliberateness and all that, of personal participation and response into the monastic life, which had become kind of mechanical and over-authoritarian and over-controlled and robot-like sometimes, just all focused on will without enough consciousness. Religious obedience is not the obedience of a slave or of a child. First, of a slave, because a slave exists entirely for the good of another. His own good doesn't count, he doesn't have an end of his own. This comes from Hegel and Marx, I think, the notion of alienation. The obedience of a religious is for his own end, his sanctification. Although, we have to put it beyond that, don't we, in a sense. You can't say that you obey just for your own sanctification, just for the salvation of your own soul. That is to prefer the other pole. Actually, what's our obedience for? Certainly it's for our own sanctification. But our own sanctification isn't just for our own

[37:24]

sake. And our obedience has an inside and an outside. And on the inside, it's for my sake, but on the outside, it's for the community's sake and for God's sake. It all fits together. And obedience is like the joint where it fits together. The inside and the outside of it. The personal individual dimension of it, and the communal dimension of it. And also the dimension of worship, of course, which is in both of those. So, it's not easy to pin it down into words. It's not just a dualistic thing. A religious has rights to a life that is ordered to sanctification, a human life, since sanctification concerns human life. A religious can't be used for something which has nothing to do with his sanctification. We saw that in Roberts. These rights exist, but they may be violated, and you may have to put up with it. In other words, you don't go to court when you're violated. Two, religious obedience is not the obedience of a child, either. That would mean that a religious would never have to use his own prudence, which would mean that it's not a virtue. You then would have only the will of the superior or a childish whim. Religious obedience demands

[38:26]

that the subject take responsibility for his obedience. What does he mean by responsibility? It means that you shouldn't think about what you're doing, and in some way weigh it in your heart. This, not every single time somebody asks you to sweep the floor, well, you don't go into the theology of obedience about that. But basically, you have to have a conscience, a conscious response of obedience. You have to know what you're doing, know why you're doing, and sort of have made up your mind to do it. You have to be together in doing it, not just do it with a little bit of yourself, which is mostly muscles and determination. You can really only be obedient to somebody else, but to really be obedient to yourself, then you have to go with how far can you go outside of yourself? I don't know exactly what you mean. Well, in a sense, or as such, you can't love your neighbor as yourself. Since you can only love your neighbor

[39:26]

as much as you love yourself, therefore you can only, in a sense, kind of be obedient to your neighbor, because that's... Okay, I don't think you can put those two principles together in quite that way. In other words, I think they're in different lines. One is sort of the vertical, the other the horizontal, to put it very clearly. We're supposed to... In that commandment of the love of God, it doesn't say you shall love the Lord your God as yourself, does it? It says you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, with everything you've got. Forgetting yourself, in a sense, in the love of God. Now, obedience is in that line. It's not in the other line, okay? Call it the vertical line for a moment. But it means a complete going beyond self. That's precisely what it's for, you see? And so it's better to think of it in that context, because you can't really limit it. You can't weigh it in that sense, and say I shall obey my superior to the extent that I obey myself, or something like that. It doesn't work. It doesn't work out. Yeah, but I...

[40:27]

It's a good question. You can't put a measure to it. You can't put a limit to it in that way. That would frustrate it. It's not a question of a limit. It's a question of whether it's in the truth or not. In other words, if it's in the truth, there's no limit. If it's not in the truth, then it's already limited in some way. Although if it's a small matter, you know, you don't make trouble over it. But if it's a question of in order to do something which is a sin, obviously you don't do it. And if it's something really stupid, well then, possibly you'll have to at least dialogue about it and maybe even appeal about it beyond the superior. Because ordinarily that doesn't come up. Ordinarily it's not that question of measure, limit, or whatever. Okay.

[41:35]

He makes an issue also of the question of communication. And this is part of the consciousness business, but consciousness, and now we're talking about consciousness in another dimension where we have to be able to reach an understanding with the superior or whatever. You can obey like a soldier who doesn't give a hoot about his sergeant or his colonel or whatever, you know. He just obeys. He can hate it, and he can hate his commander too. And he just obeys because he's got to, or the obedience of the slave or whatever. But monastic obedience shouldn't be like that. If it's like that then it's not, I don't know, something wrong. It doesn't mean that you have to have an enormous liking for the person who asks you to do something. But it does mean that you've got to be willing to be open enough with him so that the whole thing becomes a human act in some way. So that the whole obedience is brought within the context of a relationship of love and acceptance, on that level. Not just on the level of on an animal level

[42:37]

or a mechanical level or a military level. Communication. The communication in some way of one mind with another mind, and preferably of one heart with another heart. So when Robert says you should interpret, try to understand and then obey, even the intentions of the superiors and so on. That's what he's talking about. But it works in the other way too. That you should communicate how you feel about it. At least when there's a problem, when there's a difficulty. Obviously these things are not to be realized in their full every time. Otherwise life would be an interminable talk. An interminable dialogue. Never anything getting done. Communication. Because a lot of the problems in obedience, as he says, results from breakdown in communication. Because a person says one thing and the superior is afraid to dialogue about it with a monk and the monk is afraid to dialogue about it with the superior and they both get mad at each other and it just flies apart. Most of the

[43:40]

problems in community are breakdowns in communication. People just somehow don't want to talk to one another. They don't want to understand one another. They don't really believe in community. They don't really believe that the Holy Spirit is effective in that situation and strong enough to bring them to an understanding. So they're afraid, really, of attempting communication. This happens a lot. Now a lot of these things come up in serious questions of obedience. When your life is very much at stake, maybe. The whole direction of your life is in question. So they're not so likely to come up in a novitiate context. Or in the matter of just daily jobs and so on. There's a reason we're doing the obedience and everything is deeper than just doing it in itself. So that's why communication has got to be a sign that it's deeper than what's going on.

[44:42]

Okay, good. The communication ought to be a sign of communion, right? Deeper communion. If you get the military image of obedience, or if you get the exclusively ascetical image of obedience, you're just doing it sort of in order to rub out that nasty false self or ego or whatever it is, you know? Well, that's not quite adequate. Because, after all, Christianity is communion. The Church is a communion. We are all in one body. And the level of communion is much more important than the level of obedience of one man to another, at least, okay? Obedience to God is extremely important. But if we don't have that realization of communion, then the whole thing is very, how would you call it, very much vitiated, remains very imperfect. So that's what it really means. When he talks about communication, he means giving that expression of the underlying communion. The fact that you're together in God. Okay? And that your obedience is just as somehow is a sacrament

[45:44]

also of this relationship with God. It's just not in itself one man obeying another. Yeah, because it's really the relationship that obedience is a part of that's taking you somewhere. It's not just the obedience itself. Yeah, very good. Very good. Right. Obedience is one dimension of it, but the communion is the other dimension of it, which remains. Yeah. This should be brought up more. We haven't got time. There's a whole theology which could be worked out in that respect, which is important for our understanding of these things. Because our wrong ideas get us in so much trouble, you know. We can have a half-baked idea about something which can mess us up for ten years. I was just going to say, it really comes down to just what our purity of intention is. Okay, purity of intention and also, say, consciousness. Because you can have

[46:45]

what you believe is purity of intention, but you can have failed to see the whole situation, or you can have failed to try to understand the situation enough, or the mind of the other person enough, and so on, you know. In other words, we can sort of... There's a kind of purity of intention which just closes its eyes and goes ahead. And that's not enough. Okay. Because that's the way that they used to train the Old Trappists, for instance, and that Merton's reacting to that a lot. And that wouldn't require any consciousness. ...in which we live nowadays is that people be fully personed, you know, in what they're doing. People be fully personed. It's a real challenge to the monastic life. To be a monk and to be a human person at the same time. It sounds very simple, but it's not so simple. And things like the traditional way of thinking about obedience are very much challenged by this. Okay, a lot of these quotes of Merton are very very trenchant and very pungent.

[47:47]

This business about bearing interior conflict. In obedience the problem comes if we're expecting complete and total consent at all times with all superiors. In other words, we've got this idealized view of obedience where it's got to be a perfect communion where no tension and no disagreement is to be tolerated. If there is, then either that means that the superior is wrong or it means that I'm wrong and therefore I should feel better about it. This is not a human response to the situation. It's a mechanical response. But obedience is not a mechanical situation. It involves people relating to one another and as we relate to one another there's always tension and there should be tension and we shouldn't feel guilty about it and we shouldn't be afraid of it. But it's hard to develop that kind of strength and that kind of consciousness, that kind of courage to live with tension and not be enraged by it or something like that. In other words, not to close the door of communication

[48:52]

or to feel guilty. Fear is so powerful in these things. In heaven we'll all be obedient to each other so to speak. But now, we'll all be united to each other and since it's like what you were saying, you can't grab at that We have to leave people the space of freedom, yes. And we have to sort of obey them often, even when they're not acting perfectly themselves. Maybe superior, maybe. No, you can't grab it. It comes with time. So we do it the best we can and meanwhile something grows inside of us

[49:53]

which is growing towards that fruit, towards that perfection. We've got to be patient with ourselves. Merton again. We put too much emphasis on interior agreement. We aren't able to live with a little interior disagreement. The amount of interior disagreement he had with his avid contendent biography, which was considerable. We should be able to drop what we think is the ideal and obey what we consider a less ideal situation. Obey whether you agree with the command or not. But the point here is to be able to live with that interior disagreement and know what to do with it. Because that can turn sour very easily, you see. Or you can feel guilty about it. You can suppress it. But to be able to live with it and bring it into your faith, bring it into your obedience and into your essence. That really does something too, you see. That really works in you. But if you use the other words, if you suppress it or if you sort of cherish negativity, then it gets you into trouble. Or at least it doesn't do you any good. So obedience really has to be able to

[50:54]

has to be worked through in your heart consciously if it's going to have its full effect. Okay, I'd recommend Merton's section but I won't keep you on it any longer. Another thing, maybe just next time just spend ten minutes trying to sum this thing up. I'm sorry we didn't get finished today but we better quit. And then we'll go on to stability. I wanted to tie this in the end to a kind of theology of freedom because that's where it belongs. Because remember that Christianity is a liberation. Christianity is the bringing of a new freedom into the world which has its roots in the resurrection, has its roots in the new creation. And unfortunately, this very easily gets inverted. And so often our ideas of obedience and our ideas of the structure of the church have become

[51:56]

so massive and so heavy that we identify them with monasticism and we identify them with Christianity and it totally inverts and darkens our notion of what Christianity is and what monasticism is. Because Christianity is a liberation from death and from everything that follows from death, from all those laws that follow from death, monasticism also is a liberation. That's what it's for. And every expression of Christian life in some way has to open up, has to open up to the spirit, has to manifest itself finally as a liberation. And yet things get turned upside down and inside out. And if we lose the grasp, the view of that end, things can get horribly negative. And they have, you know. There have been centuries in which these things, the understanding of these things has been very heavy. Which is not to say that everything is wrong, not at all, but boy, things can really get turned upside down. Is it a good article to make a video about

[52:58]

what happened outside on the ascetical life of freedom in the ascetic world? That was Merton, wasn't it? A couple of tape conferences of Merton and Cistercian. If anybody can find that article, it would be good. I have one article. You have a copy of it? I have a copy of it. I don't remember what year it was. Yeah, see if you can find it. It must have been five or six years ago in Cistercian studies, wasn't it? Not too recent, I think. You have the copy? I have a copy. What he talks about basically there, as I remember, are those two levels of freedom, okay? The level of doing this or doing that.

[54:00]

Which he jokes about, you know, buying this or that toothpaste or this or that. And the other level, the basic fundamental level of your freedom, which is saying yes or no to life, to God and to yourself. That's what Rahner talks about too in his theology of freedom. So you've got to distinguish those levels of freedom. And we have to give up the more superficial level of freedom in order to realize the other. Which is not to say that the first one disappears forever. The seed sort of has to fall into the ground. The deeper freedom is... That deeper freedom brings the whole of ourselves to life in some way. The deeper freedom is the realization of the resurrection already in this life. And somehow we don't move in that direction spontaneously, strangely. It's that paradox of our nature. And we have to curb the other freedom, just like pruning the vine in order that the deeper freedom can be reached. Viktor Frankl is... He quoted Frankl, if you remember. And Frankl was the one who had the concentration camp experience. He was a Jewish psychiatrist who was in... I forget whether it was

[55:02]

Buchenwald or wherever. But he discovered, in that situation of complete unliberty, of complete non-freedom, he discovered his freedom. He discovered his charism sort of too, or his therapy. He's the logotherapy man. He was one of Dr. Pope Francis' mentors. I think so. That's one of his books. Okay, so we'll finish with that next time. Also, the Commandments, Constitutions on Obedience, it's in Scheme 4. If you take a look at pages 10 and 11, there are several articles there which are quite good on the question of conscious and free obedience.

[55:48]

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