May 6th, 1981, Serial No. 00876

Audio loading...

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




Monastic Spirituality Set 3 of 12

AI Summary: 





Last time we were reading a lot of things from Merton, which gives it the real crunch, the real nitty-gritty of stability, which is sticking with a commitment when the going gets tough, when all of the motivations and the good feeling drains out of it. And he really puts it across in forceful terms. This seems really to be what stability is, well, it's not the only thing that stability is about. Like all of these things, they have multiple facets to them. You can't say that the purpose of stability is just one thing. Stability is a quality of the Christian life, a quality of the monastic life, and it can't be pinned down to just one purpose. You find that when you start talking about these things, when you start talking about concrete realities, you can never pin them down to one purpose, as if they were machines made to do one thing, or to make one kind of article. They always have multiple aspects.


I'd like to read a little something from this, Consider Your Call, which is very good, by the way. We don't use it much, but it's an excellent treatise on all of these dimensions of monasticism. And he interprets stability largely, as does Saint Benedict, in terms of patience. Saint Benedict stands in the cenobitic tradition which reacted against the abuses associated with wandering monks, with the gyrobeys, that Saint Benedict talks about in Chapter 1. He required that those who entered his monastery should commit themselves to persevere in obedience, even in times of difficulties and contradictions. In the rules, stability is discussed in terms of the monk's continual search for God, his residence within the monastery and community, and his perseverance in the monastic vocation. The monk should say nothing and hold fast to patience in his heart, enduring all without going weary or giving up. The scripture says, He who endures to the end will be saved. Standing firm, or patient perseverance in obedience, is fundamental to what Saint Benedict


means by stability, for stability is the outward expression of perseverance. Saint Benedict was above all concerned with a monk's stability in his search for God. The novice seeking admission to the monastery is to be examined to see if he's truly seeking God, if he's totally difficult, and so on. In Chapter 58, and also in the prologue, Saint Benedict links perseverance with patience, which he interprets in its original sense of suffering. Patience in the Latin word, patio, means to suffer rather than to wait. We tend to think of patience as waiting, expectation, be patient. Stability involves both bearing from day to day the inevitable trials and disappointments which are part of human life and proffering from them. By persevering in obedience even to death, the monk responds to the words of Christ. If any man would come after me, I'd let him deny himself and take up his cross to hell and follow me.


Stability ensures that he will not evade the cross, particularly the cross of obedience. And then he quotes the end of the prologue, which we read before in this connection. Whenever we talk about these things, somebody mentioned this to me after the last class, whenever we talk about these things we seem, we're dissatisfied because either we talk about the bright side and we seem to have left out the essential dimension of difficulty of the cross and so on, or we talk about the dark side and the difficult side, like I did last time reading Martin. And we're feeling continually in ourselves, well that's not the whole story because there is the resurrection. But we don't even, we don't just feel that that's not the whole story, that the resurrection comes afterwards, but we feel somehow that we can't really talk about suffering just in times in terms of before and after, that when we talk about suffering only as suffering, we still haven't got the whole picture, even if we talk about the joy that's going to come


afterwards, because somehow the question of wisdom is to find the joy right in the suffering in some way. In other words, that's the secret, that's the key, that's the precious pearl, is not to be necessarily, you know, full of joy and suffering, but somehow never to let the two things get apart. And it's almost, in a sense, becoming a little indifferent to where we are in this respect of light or dark, happy or unhappy, pleasure or pain or whatever. Now it sounds impossible, but there's something to that, that business about accepting the rain and the sunshine or whatever, and loving the good and the evil, in the Sermon on the Mount. Those who love you and those who hate you, that thing. If we think that we're never sort of treating the thing right, and we just talk about one of those sides and then the other, it's because somehow the two are supposed to be interwoven, in wisdom somehow the two are interwoven, so that one is never without the other, and


yet one is always victorious over the other, the light is always victorious over the dark. I don't know how to say that any more clearly, but there's something to that, there's something valid in that dissatisfaction with the way that we tend to talk about suffering. It's as if the word suffering can't be left by itself, it's as if you can't say it and leave it there. It's as if you can't say cross without saying resurrection in the same breath or something like that. We're always dissatisfied when we hear that, and rightly so, because it falls short of the truth. It's hard to say that, it's hard to get into it. This business about the monk's perseverance in his community affecting the others too, we shouldn't just think of our own thing, of our own commitment, how it affects our own life and our own fulfillment, but also we've made a commitment to others, and our


departure is going to affect those others, and somehow the two things are united. It's not as if they're two separate sides of the deal, that is, I'm affected and my brothers are affected, but somehow that whole thing is interwoven, so that a person in a community is just like a piece of the body, you know, and both he loses vitality of the body, and the body loses his presence, his vitality, in separation. And then he quotes a bunch of the Cistercians who are not of such immediate interest to us, but nevertheless they're good passages that he brings forward, and they're also applicable to us in general. He's got three texts from St. Bernard, covering these three cases of when it's just restlessness, or you're moving to something less good, and obviously that can't be done, shouldn't be done. The second case is when you've got a good reason, really, to transfer, but it's not


an overwhelming reason, and still, he says, well you can do it, but it's better not to, even if there seems to be advantage, even if you seem to be moving to a better community. And the third case is where you're really in a wretched situation, and you have the chance to move to a good situation, a good community, and he says, you should do that. But of course one should not always be looking around, and sort of digging at his thermometer and seeing how it is, and so on, very aggressively on the other side, otherwise you'll never be at peace. This thing should not come up very often during a person's life, that's for sure, and maybe never. William of St. Thierry, now he's talking about the solitary life, this is in the Golden Letter, and did I bring it? I hope you've heard it. This is in here, on page 43 to 45, I'm just going to read a little bit of it, and if you're


interested you can read more of it. What he's talking about is stability in the cell. He's writing to the Carthusians, even though he, I don't know whether he was a Cistercian or a Benedictine, but I think he ended his days in a bigger Benedictine monastery. And this is about the animal man, the perfection of the animal man, it sounds horrible, but he's not talking about gorillas, he's talking about novices. Let's see, I'll try to find a punja passage for you. This is typical of the monasteries. Now all these good practices demand the cell as their workshop and an enduring perseverance in it. Now see, that's an echo of St. Benedict, but he's not talking about the monastery, he's talking about the cell as the workshop, because he's talking about solitarians, hermits. In it, anyone who is on good terms with his poverty is rich. Whoever possesses good will is endowed with all that he needs to live well.


Good will is not always to be trusted, it must be kept in check and under control, especially in a beginner. Let's see. Let the discipline of holy obedience govern good will and let good will rule the body. Let it teach the body that it can stay in one place, endure the cell, and live in its own company. That was always a big trial for the Carthusians, just to stay there, just to stay in that place. And stability and solitary are locked together, you see, the two of them, at least for Carthusians. Because your stability is not reclusion, but it's very local, it's fixed in one place. I mean, you're solitary. Whereas for other people, you know, the Desert Brothers, something like that, they'd say stay in the cell, but most of them probably have no mobility in the Desert Brother. Not so for the Carthusians. And not so for the Carthusians either, in general. The ones who lived in the structured hermitages, in particular, of course, the Lucrecians, I see, the peak of this kind of thing. Well, it also, part of the world of us is, it seems like, we're using it plentifully,


you know, the whole solitary thing, you see. There's a certain, you know, certain feeling that you get when you're building a kinship together. Yeah, there's a companionship with nature, you know. There's a presence of God that's easy to find in nature. But if you have to look at four worlds all the time, maybe it's not so easy. That's a bit of a difficult thing to understand, why they chose that enclosed form of solitude. But something to think about sometimes. Even the Desert Brothers, you know, they don't talk about nature. They don't talk about the marvels of nature, the beauty of nature, or anything else. They seem to have this sort of rude, ascetical view of solitude, in which they're not interested in their surroundings. It startles us to see that. But there's nothing good about nature, as far as I know, in the sentence of the Fathers, for instance.


And people like Cassian, they largely discourage attention to nature, too. That surprises us. We would have a different point of view, I think. My personal knowledge is that, at least to me now, the hermitage of the Plymouth is still just a magnificent view. Even though they don't talk about it, it's probably part of it. It can be, sometimes. I don't know about that. Somebody needs to write about that, and get the other point of view. I think that was Chitty's point of view, in his book. Which one? He had a despicability about the locations of the old cell and seats. They did have a sense of beauty. And St. Anthony, too, did read a lot about nature. Yeah, he said nature was his book. When the philosophers came and said, where... Yeah, that's right, that's right. They said, where are your books? You don't have any books. And Anthony said, nature is my book. And whenever I wish, I can read it. So, he sounded a little complacent about the whole thing.


But I guess he had a right to do it. That usually comes out in the more legendary accounts, you know. But it's true that there... It's like the restoration of paradise. That's the notion there, OK? For the perfected man. Because the nature... The animals that are supposed to be wild become tame in the presence of the saint. It's back in paradise again, the recreation. Carthusians have this... I remember reading something. This sense of the tomb. Yes, yeah. The instinct building enclosure is the tomb in which you enter. And it is where she enters. Yeah. And if you read Luth, you find a lot of that in Connexion and Sovereignty. That's hard for us to take. But I think people who have a particular vocation of that kind, they feel it. There's this Abbas Silvanus, I think, among the Desert Fathers. He went out and he put his butt over his face.


And I said, why? You can't even see where you're going. He said, why should I look at this futile son? In other words, he has some kind of experience inside of himself that made him totally unconcerned with what was around him, even if it be beautiful. It's difficult for us to judge those things. And on the other hand, you've got St. John of the Cross, who is sort of the most absolute of ascetics and takes his novices out in the countryside, you know, so that the nature somehow will stimulate the presence of God. It may be partly the literature, you know, that just the way that they wrote, and the way that they filtered those sayings when they passed them down to us, it seems so harsh in that respect. There's some knowledge of the locations and everything, probably correct. Often you talk, but when you hear about, like in the Middle Ages, also the commandoes, when you hear them talking about solitude, you hear them talking about a terrible solitude or something like that, you know.


Like the location of Font of Avalon, which is a beautiful place, is described as a terrible solitude. And it was partly a sense that they had for human companionship, I think, too, that made it that, despite its beauty. Okay. It's impossible for a man faithfully to fix his soul upon one thing who has not first perseveringly attached his body to one place. To try to escape ill health of the soul by moving from place to place is like flying from one's own shadow. Such a man as he flies from himself, carries himself with him. He changes his place, but not his soul. He finds himself the same everywhere he is, except that the constant movement itself makes him worse. Just as a sick man is harmed by guilt and he's carried about, and so he is harmed.


Thank you. The image that always comes back is a tree that's planted and has to sink its roots. And that leads us into deep waters, because when we think about that tree image with respect to man, what are we saying, actually? What are we saying about man? In some way, he interacts with his context. We don't think about that so much, but in some way, man has to be planted into God and he has to be planted into the world. And how do we understand that? There are Christians, because we're supposed to be pilgrims and strangers as Christians. None of us were planted into the church, we're planted in a community. We have to be planted into a human context in some way. And in order to do that stably, we require some kind of a physical context, in other words, a place where the same people can stay together. It's that kind of thing. We'll run into that a little more later. This idea of you staying in one place in an external way


in order to make this interior pilgrimage. To say, however, as Robert says, stability and pilgrimage thus have the same ascetic purpose. Well, it's true in a very general kind of way, in the end. But that can be stretching in paradox. Gary Covigne has this, on page 109, this image of the soul on the sea. A genuine monastic vocation is not necessarily connected with great initial fervor. That may be a comprehensible problem. You've got different shapes of the spiritual life for different people. And some people begin with an enormous explosion of mysticism or something. They can actually taper off and lose their vocation at a certain point. And other people may start very laboriously and just be hanging on by the skin of their teeth. But gradually they consolidate and get stronger and stronger.


It's like the hare and the tortoise in this cradle. Can you say something about Joseph? I think he observed in the earlier passage that he wants to be fervent on this. Yes, yes. He says that they should seek God. And I think he just uses the word fervent. They should be fervent. And that's true. One thing, let's think about this one. One thing is a lot of consolation and joy. And another thing is what you call fervor or resolution of will or desire or something like that. A person can be very earnest and in a sense fervent, even though God is not giving him a lot of consolations. Another person can just be flooded with consolations, with joyful emotions and even with contemplative graces. If a person doesn't have a pretty strong inner glow or something like that.


Glow, I don't mean pleasure necessarily, even joy in a sense. But if he doesn't have a pretty strong inner motivation when he comes to the monastery, the prognosis, the expectation is pretty poor. In other words, he has to bring something with him, that's for sure. It has to be there even if it hasn't emerged very strongly yet, and even if he hasn't had a lot of contemplative graces or anything like that. Sometimes you get people who have had a lot of grace from God, who have really been, what do you call it, showered with special graces by God, and it renders them almost unable to live the ordinary monastic life. And they get so identified with their past experience, with what they've had before, when God was so close to them, that they can't accept anything less than that, anything less satisfactory, so they can't live the monastic life. Because they're stuck on that experience that they've had. That happens sometimes.


Okay, doctrinal reflections. You get this image of the tree, and there are several biblical sources for that. The seed, the tree, the plant. Starting with Psalm number 1, remember? The just man is like a tree that's planted by flowing waters. And then the image of Jesus is the seed and the soul. We've been through that kind of thing before. But they're good to meditate on. They get you past, they get you beyond where you can go with concepts and ideas sometimes, those images. And they make you see how all of God's creation fits together in some way. That one thing is a parable of another thing. The plants and the trees and the seeds are parables of man. Parables of the kingdom. And then the parable of the vine in John 15. And the notion that he's trying to get there is that notion of abiding, of dwelling, which implies a kind of stability. Now the stability that he's talking about there is stability in Christ, stability in the word of Jesus.


He says, Abide in me, and he says elsewhere, Abide in my word. But he interprets that ultimately as being stability in the commandment of love. The whole purpose of the vow of stability is to attain this stability in love, that is, stability in living the word of God. This is the kingdom of Christ, the meaning of monasticism. And then the fact that the monk is a person who somehow tries to get the outside together with the inside. That is, he finds an external style of life or creates one, which is supposed to express the internal grace that he has. And that's why this interior stability, this dwelling in the word, dwelling in the commandment of love, for him means usually dwelling in one community of brothers, dwelling among one group of men, in which he has stable relationships. Fidelity and its importance in scripture. There's a central axis in the scriptures.


The people who started writing theologies of the Old Testament would come up sometimes, often, with the covenant as a central notion in the Old Testament. The covenant between God and man is a thing that gives meaning to the Old Testament, that pulls it all together. The backbone of the Old Testament, in a sense. And what that implies, of course, is fidelity. This fidelity relationship is a dialogue between two, and the fidelity on both sides. And it's a story of... Usually interpreted also by the prophets as a story of God's fidelity and man's infidelity, which sounds pretty unfair, but it's the way it looks. And that is a kind of pattern for our own life. The same importance of fidelity. Okay, now he gets into a quibble here about person and community, which may seem a little...


a little unnecessary. Some modern writers have abused the relation between the heavenly Jerusalem and the religious community by finding almost all the meaning of the religious vows in their communal aspect. The vows would be in the first place means to establish the perfect Christian community, and only secondarily means to sanctify the person involved. So he says, well, the sanctification of the individual is a more important thing, and it's that that is the common good that holds the people together in the community. Stability is not primarily for the perfecting of the community in the sense of making it more orderly and stable, it's certainly not, but rather in order to root the monk in the search for God and in the fulfillment of the plan of the Father. Okay. Then he quotes Gary Rinspeth. The social order in progressive development must at every moment be subordinate to the good of the human person. So he seems to have proved his point that the person is more important to the community.


But hold on, because you can't really put one above the other. And of course, that's what he would say at the end, is you can't put one above the other. But maybe he hasn't quite brought out that mystery of relationship between the two, between person and community, such that the more deeply you experience community, the more you're sanctified in your person. It's not a tug of war between a social structure which is external to yourself that makes these demands on you, and your own fulfillment, your own realization. Insofar as you discover the reality of community, you discover your own person. Your own person which is only discovered in self-transcendence. Teilhard, you know, Teilhard de Chardin, he talks about, puts this very well, I think, that the mystery of the person and the mystery of community is such that insofar as one develops, the other develops. They don't pull in opposite directions, they move parallel and reinforce one another. And if you think about it, it makes some sense, because we only grow really


insofar as we learn to relate with other people. It's hard for us to think of two things without putting them in tension, wanting to put one above the other, and wanting them to work against one another. But actually, these two reinforce one another. When they're on a sufficiently deep level. If they're on a shallow level, then they pull against one another. If we think of our human fulfillment on too shallow a level, then it's going to be hostile to community. It's going to be hostile to the common good. If we think of the common good of community on too shallow a level, as being just our obligation, just our duties, or just kind of superficial relationships with our brothers, then of course that's going to be depersonalizing too. But there is a deeper level on which the two are one. And once again, this is the mystery of the Trinity, remember, in which we find the one and the other, the one and the many, the singularity, uniqueness, oneness and plurality somehow fused in the third.


What is the third? The third is always the Holy Spirit. So it's the reflection of the Trinity in this mystery of communion, which is the Church and which is the monastic community, which actually carries within it the fulfillment of the person. And this whole business that we were talking about before, you know, if we see the monastic life in terms of freedom, well, what are we going to do with something like stability? But we find in the end that this freedom is only real when it's freedom in communion, when it's freedom in relationship. And our freedom is freedom within the climate of personhood. And that doesn't just mean my personhood, because my personhood doesn't exist aside from, call it the magnetic fields or whatever, of other personhoods. In other words, somehow our salvation and the expansion of our freedom into God is expansion into a personal field. Think of it as expansion into the Spirit or expansion to the Father, whichever you prefer, even into Christ. But it's into an increasingly personal field.


And the community is where that happens. It happens among a community of human beings that we move and grow and are freed into this field of personhood, which is God Himself, our participation in God. I wasn't thinking of a field in terms of a piece of earth. I was thinking in terms of a magnetic field. When the seed falls into the ground, what does it mean? You can say that the seed of your individualism falls into the ground of community. And there it rediscovers itself, filling the ground of community or sort of coexisting, fused in its being with the ground of community, so that the two are not outside of one another, but one is the other. So then it gains within itself all of the fullness of the ground itself,


of the community itself. And that's the hundredfold that Jesus is talking about. He who gives up brothers and sisters and so on will have a hundredfold in this life. And that's the ground, as it were, of community, which is the sacrament, the symbol, the sign, the material incarnate representation of and container of that ground, which is God, which is the Father Himself. Always think of the ground somehow as representing the Father. Exactly. The elbow only bends one way, as the Buddhist say. And so you find out which way your elbow bends after you've broken it a number of times. And then you use it that way. And that way happens to be in community. I think bending the elbow means something else. I'm not positive it does. There's another form of community. But that's really something to think about, that business of the person and community.


The person and community, the fact that insofar as you discover your person, now this is getting beneath that shell of self, the ego, because the ego is the one with the shell around it that's impermeable to others. And it's Martin's thing between the false self and the true self, or at least the shallow self, the individualistic self, and that deep self which is not distinct from anybody else. Distinct and yet not distinct. It's the mystery of the Trinity once again. And that's the beauty and the joy of the whole thing, the freedom to move sort of out of oneself and back into oneself, which in its hard form is the cross, right? When Jesus moves out of himself by laying down his life, that's the hard form, that's the dark form. But what's the light form? The light form is the experience of love. When one is free, one's very freedom is to pass beyond one's own boundaries and then back into one's own boundaries. And all of this guaranteed somehow by that life that comes from the Father, which enables us to do this without fear, without the fear of death,


because one has been given a life which is beyond death, which is coming from beyond death, coming from the Father. So it's this being liberated from fear that enables the thing to happen. Fear of death and correspondingly fear of one another, fear of being hurt by one another, crushed by one another, overwhelmed by one another, and therefore exposed to one another and hurt and so on, I think. But for that we've got to get healed from the hurts that we already have, because they're the things that trigger that healing. But it's community that does that. It's community that gives the healing, because it reassures us that we can come out of that clamshell and not be killed, not be swallowed up. We might call, this is on 114 in the middle, we might call the vow of stability the commitment to paternal love.


Now that's good, the commitment to paternal love. It's very important to realize this, because if we just see it in the vertical or God and me dimension, we're not really getting it. Because at that point you can say, well, I can do this anyway. I can live this monastic life anyway. If it doesn't work out well enough here, I'll just take off and I'll do it somewhere else. But what prevents that? What stands in the way of that? The fact that your commitment is a commitment to a group of men also, to a bond of love, to a field or a climate of love, to, I don't know, to a house, put it in that sense, a kind of family. Is that true? I think it is true. In the same way that we're joined to the church when we get baptized. We're not just joined to God, but we somehow are related to God through and in our relation to the church. Not only through and in our relation to the church, but not without it. And the monastic community is a further realization of that


in a very concrete way and with a concrete scope, a sort of more narrowly defined way, path. But it's the same thing, we produce. So the monastery becomes a local church and so does the hermitage. I mean, that's the choice that's been made in this community, is to try to realize that value of community and not just go for the God and heathen, not just the vertical way, not just the purely solitary way, but this also. Because without this, it hardly seems worthwhile nowadays. Unless you have both of those values, unless you have the value of, hold the contemplative value of union with God, along with that other value of communion with other men, it hardly seems worthwhile. You see, you know what you said, it seems to us that life is not really true. There's many places that you can go, but life is really living in a museum.


Well, you could say there's another, there's a better community on the other side of the border. Say there were a comparable community. Yeah. That's another factor that you're bringing up. Say there were another community, you know, just as good as far as that's concerned, over the hill, a little better, a little better. But suppose that I've been here for ten years, and suppose that I've built relationships, bonds, with these people who are living here. You see what I mean? I can't just move and find the same thing or something better over here, because that would be ripping myself out of the body, which is my body, in some way. It would be ripping myself out of the sacrament, which God has given me, for me to live in. It's a whole different point of view. And that, if we read Father, the Jesuits, or Father Hoy, we'll find him putting a value of stability, ultimately, in communion, okay?


Which is communion with God, but it's also communion with other people. He's talking about commitments in general. Now, what's this in terms of St. Benedict, in the language of St. Benedict? It's that love of Christ, which is the direct love of Christ, the love between you and Christ, but it's also the love which comes from Christ, which is centered in Christ, but which is realized among the brothers, okay? It's that whole thing which is very difficult to pin down, but which just is that climate of the upper room, as it were, that atmosphere of Christness, of the Spirit of Christ, the warmth of Christ, the tenderness of Christ, the love of Christ, which is supposed to fill the whole thing, which is supposed to fill the body. And that's the thing that makes all these comparisons, you know, I can do it better over there, it makes them all irrelevant, they don't mean anything at that point. And without that thing somehow, it's just one's own trip, you know, it's irrelevant. And I don't think that in the end it's really worthwhile from a Christian point of view. So you need these two things together.


And if you have a bunch of people who realize that, you've really got something. Where there is that communion, both in the common purpose, but also that love among themselves, between themselves. That's the gift, the bonus that's given to you. In a monastic communion. Would you call it a commitment to friendship? Yeah, that's the expression of it. But, you could call it a commitment to friendship, OK? Is this the way Jesus used to call it? Yeah, yeah, you could call it that. But it's got a real deep level which is beyond even our feelings, you know. Just like in married life, there's a commitment which is deeper than the feelings of the realization of friendship at any particular moment. There's a deeper reality there which holds the two people together so that a new love can spring up even after years, you know, of relative dryness. Something like that. There's a gift which is there underneath. Like a sacrament, there's a gift which is there underneath which may or may not come to the surface.


But whether it does or not, you know, it's there, ready to be tapped. And it's given to you. Also look around, consider the community. There'll be people in the community whom you really consider your friends, OK? For whom you have a real feeling of friendship and tenderness and so on and liking. But there'll be others for whom you don't have that. And yet they're also members of the community and they're also united to you in that way. So, we've got to be careful how we use the notion of friendship so that we include the ones for whom we don't have that special feeling. Something should arise also for them. We're not going to feel the same about everybody. It seems like it's kind of a mixture of two things, a universal sort of commitment to all of this kind of command and then the other is sort of a particular friendship and person. OK, but consider that it's really got to be concrete. It's really got to be individual in order to be meaningful. Because the kind of general sense of commitment or love for man


doesn't mean anything unless it proves itself in an individual relationship, in a concrete relationship, OK? Because it can be just romantic, you know, it can be just an idealistic thing. Unless it really is factual between me and these particular people here, and this particular person. Now, if this thing is there, it justifies itself. If this reality of fraternal communion, of fraternal love is there, then a person doesn't want anything. A person doesn't want any other kind of life. It somehow verifies his vocation and verifies his belonging to this group of men at the same time. It's a reality that we need to believe in even when we don't feel it. And if we really believe in it, we'll feel it, we'll find it sooner or later, the thing will come to the surface because the gift is there. If a person has the vocation, the gift is there.


There's a... Reese has got something on that page I thought was pretty good. At a time when inherited structures are changing, the real ground of stability becomes clearer. It is a belonging to the people who make up one's own community. It's not a belonging to the structure, and it's not really a dedication to a particular place, you know. Because, well, what's the difference? From the point of view of a place, I'd say, well, I can do it just as well anywhere, where there's the same setup, the same structure. No, it's a commitment to the people. And in that sense, it's analogous to marriage. We find that analogy of marriage in monastic life, religious life, cropping up frequently in various ways. Genuine belonging demands continual conversion of heart for the sake of trust. The real enemy of stability is not moving about, but personal alienation. And especially the alienation which is not a passing pain, but a rigid habit.


To be fixed in a personal hardness, or to make it difficult for others to escape from such an attitude, is not stability, but staticness. The community can discourage growth and conversion in its members by labeling people, by not expecting them to change, or by not believing it when they have. This fellow's really wise, isn't he? That's the way it is. The community can discourage growth and conversion in its members by labeling people, by putting them in a pigeonholing category, and keeping them, by not expecting them to change, or by not believing it when they have. We can force somebody, we don't like somebody the way he is, but we want him to stay there, so that we won't have to deal with a real person, we can deal with just a category or something. No, no. Yeah, sure. It's the vibrations. Yeah, see, it's the ambiguity of solitude, which may be true solitude in love,


or it may be the other kind of solitude, which is just withdrawal, isolation, with a good deal of dislike, hatred, and negativity. And that's no good at all, you see. So somehow community, community is a person who's supposed to work through that, supposed to be able to, with God's grace, so that his solitude may be filled with the other thing, with the spirit. But it's an interplay between solitude and community, by which we do it, though. It's not that we're thrown into community all the time, but the life is a mixture of community and solitude, so that moving back and forth from prayer, from interiority, from your own relationship with God by yourself, and your relationship with your brothers, sort of one diffuses into the other one, one diffuses into the other one. You begin to be able to find God when you're with your brothers, in them and around them, among yourselves, and so on. It becomes woven in with the other. The two sides of life should not really be that separate. Yes, it has to be. It has to be.


If it's not, then it's no good at all, okay? Not on the external level, no. Not on the external level. A greater openness of heart, okay? Because when you get deeper, you get closer to that core, where there is communion. And that's what solitude is about. That's right. That's right. Like Seraphim, you know, Seraphim of Sarov, who spent, I don't know, how many years was it, out in the forest? He stood on his boulder for a thousand days or something. A thousand nights, that was. And praying and so on. And he stayed in solitude for a long, long while. He didn't even talk to anybody. And then, in his later life, when he would meet people, he would just be full of joy. He'd say, my joy, Christ is risen. He addressed them as my joy. But he arrived at that point of communion through his solitude. A lot of people don't. The solitude curls around itself, and it's withdrawal instead. And, in a way, it's easy enough to see, isn't it? If we're honest about it. Because there are two opposite directions.


Two opposite directions. Either you're moving towards communion, or you're moving away from it. There sort of isn't any middle ground. It's like, life is not neutral. It's not as if we were just out somewhere, and God maybe will come around at a certain point, or evil will come around. No, we're in a place of choice between the two, as it were, all the time. It's as if the wind is always blowing, and there's always a movement, and it's our choice whether to go with that movement of affirmation of life or not. Whether to go with that movement, that river of communion, or to stand still. And if we stand still, we're going against it. Similarly, if we isolate ourselves, we're going contrary to communion. It's not just that we've stepped aside from the question. We're going contrary. So it becomes pretty clear at that point. If you read somebody like Clementus, when he tells you about the signs of true solitude, you can see it. All the anger, and irritableness, and resentment, and the other things that come out when solitude is going the wrong way. They're not always that obvious.


And a person's own self-hatred, you see, because he knows he's being unfaithful to the Spirit, and so there's all this tension within himself. I don't remember now. He was in a monastery. Yeah, he was in a monastery, but I don't know the proportion between his community life and his solitude. I do know that he spent a long time alone in solitude. He's one of those examples where you see the phases of life pretty distinctly, and then there's the return at the end, and just this flow, where he begins to receive many, many people. Sort of a classic pattern. I like the same anthem, too. Solitude and then re-emergence, in a very deep communion. Such is the meaning of cenobitic stability.


And then he quotes that beautiful chapter of the Rule, 72. I memorized that once, a long while ago. I'm not sorry. That thing is marvelous. The one on good zeal versus bitter zeal. And that's related to what we were talking about. There's a good solitude and there's a bitter solitude, just like there's a good zeal and there's a bitter zeal, because there's a good spirit and there's a bitter spirit. And the good spirit is the spirit of communion, whether you're alone or whether you're with other people. And the bitter spirit is the spirit of withdrawal, of dislike, of isolation, and of self, selfness, self for self. Self for self, which refuses to transcend itself. It necessarily has to turn mean, in one way or another. So, that spirit of bitter zeal, by the way, is a spirit of separation.


In other words, it's a spirit of judgment, which goes along with the wrong kind of solitude. Zeal means fire, zeal means heat, means energy. Zeal and jealousy come from the same word. And the bitter zeal is a spirit of judgment. It's a Pharisaic spirit, a condemnatory spirit. A spirit which finds its own identity by putting the other person down, by separating itself from the other person. A spirit which finds its own identity, its own sense of being, of confidence, and of selfhood, by distinction from the other and superiority to the other, rather than by communion with the other. Therefore, which is incapable of love. And when it seems to be expressing love, it's really expressing something else. By your solitude. For instance, if you make a retreat for a week,


and you find yourself afterwards with compunction, with gratitude, with a spirit of humility, and sort of just being grateful to be a brother of your brother, something like that. Well, your solitude is generally good. If you find yourself very tense, nervous, impatient with yourself, judgmental of others, or very superior about the sort of spiritual quality of your retreat, well, that sort of signs in the other direction. But that doesn't mean that the whole of your solitude is negative. It only means that that particular dose wasn't really the right prescription. Maybe it was too much, maybe it was done in the wrong way, something like that. But one sort of gets a feel for it as it goes on, year after year. Yes. Yes. Oh, yeah.


In fact, in a sense, that's the central sign. That's the other side. The other side of communion, simply, you know. It's the inside of it, sort of. Humility is that defenselessness, that openness, which expresses itself both in love. It's the other side of love. So you're saying that there could be cycles in that, and in some way that solitude will be positive in some kind of way. No, not really. That wasn't what I meant. Or you can have a passing disturbance of some kind also that can make it less fruitful for you. It can be a difficult time. You can have a time of dryness also when you're naturally a little bit early. So you shouldn't judge necessarily that your solitude is bad, negative, in that case. Excuse me. It's not quite as simple as I described it. That's kind of a first principle and a rough indicator, but there are lots of things that would make you modify your vision. I don't think it's that there are cycles. Now, cycles in a sense of period when solitude is positive for you,


period when solitude is negative for you. But there are phases. There'll be a time in your life when you need more solitude just to find yourself. Maybe due to external circumstances. Maybe due to your own life process. And times when you need more communion with that kind of thing. Now, theoretically, there's a kind of evolution towards more solitude. But we have to be very flexible about that because people's life patterns are so different. And maybe that person needs a lot of solitude for a while just to sort of find himself, and then not so much for a while, for quite a long while. And then he's called to real deep solitude a few years later. That's right. And often there are more factors involved than just the person's own spiritual development, I think, for sure. But the classic pattern sort of is that there's like a period of initial solitude


and then a kind of emergence for a while, and then a flowering into a community-like thing. And then later on, quite a bit later on, there'll be a real call to the deep life of solitude, the deep life of communion. There's a first breaking off from the world, and solitude is involved there. And that sort of incorporation into the community there. And then maybe a real call to a hermit-like thing. A classic pattern which has many variations. Well, I think the difficulty with that is that it's trying to make a theory out of only a little data. That is, they've got some cases for that among St. Ronald and his followers, but it tends to get generalized and made into a theory, a pattern for all the commodities,


which I think is risky, especially since you can apply it in so many ways. You can apply it in different kinds of apostolate. We talked about that before. I think it's pretty dangerous to generalize too much. It's a question of discernment in the individual case. And certain things that certainly are a pattern, which is the need for community to get in touch with God's Spirit in the first years of the monastic life. And then what may happen afterwards is unpredictable. A person could go in either direction, outward or inward, towards more activity or towards more solitude. Okay. He's got a long section here. I hope that you're reading all of Robert's, because we're not covering it all enough,


repeating it all, discussing it all. There's a lot of good points there that we really haven't covered enough. Much of that business is about the love of those who do not persevere. And the fact that we have to look critically at ourselves and not just at the ones who leave and ask ourselves how much of it was our responsibility, is our fault. That kind of thing. And also not to need to justify ourselves by judging somebody else, also in that case. I've got a long section on the love of the order. And this is important. And it's complicated for us by the various tensions in our own order, in our own congregation, in the way that we tend to talk about we Americans and them Italians. It's complicated, but there's a danger of our not developing sufficient love for the order, especially since we haven't been focusing much on our Camalthe's tradition, nor on our Camalthe's texts and so on.


So, at least realize the need for this, and that each of you will sooner or later have to give some attention to that. Now in the old days, too much attention would be given to it, in the sense that the whole monastic life would be seen as being, sort of the peak of it would be the Camalthe's life, of course. And the most interesting, most important things were the things that were particularly and exclusively ours. So the Camalthe's hermitage would be the garden of paradise and the peak of the church. Well, that's baloney, but it's too much of an exaggeration. The other extreme, however, is not to give any attention to our own tradition, not to cultivate any warmth or affection for our own house, really, our own family. And we're closer on that side now. We don't have that old chauvinistic and narrow patriotic spirit, which would have to condemn every other religious order, you know, in order to build up our own.


Unfortunately, there was a lot of that, you know, 30 years ago, 20 years ago. It especially happens when you have too many religious crowded together. So it's a thing that happened in Europe quite a bit, you know. The Jesuits all tell jokes about the Dominicans and the Dominicans tell jokes about the Franciscans. The Camalthe's tell jokes about all of them. But we don't have much of that in the States, because people don't really know all those kinds of religions. So I haven't been very responsible about giving you this kind of material, but I have to develop a taste for it, you know, a taste for our own tradition. It seems like in Europe there's this accountability there, there seems to be a monastery that's been there a long time. And the monastery's been there for a thousand years, you know, so... So we've had a long kind of time for culture. And the newness of this community in America.


That's right. I think the thing that's going to attach us to our tradition is not the particular history. If we were living in Italy, for instance, we would go over to the next town and we'd see a Camalthe's church that was built in 1200 and go over to the next town and see another one that's been there for 500 years and so on. All that history, it is soaked in history. Especially in certain areas of Italy where there's such a rich Camalthe's tradition. It's not at all the same over here. What is it? We can develop a kind of historical and what you call touristic and also romantic interest in those times and so on, reading about them and imagining pictures of them. But what's really going to awaken for us the love of our tradition? I think it's the experience ourselves of the same thing that was in the same monument as Paul was, OK? That thing that we were just talking about.


That sense of communion in the same experience of God. That shared vision, in the words of Joe Brode. That shared vision, in some way that shared experience. That common sense of common vocation. The experience of it, not just the idea of it, but the experience of it. Which we find to be also common not only to us, you and I, us who are here. But also common to us and to those first Camalthe's. In other words, that's the reawakening of that same fire of the vocation, you see. A thousand years later on. And that's what makes this lovely order. It's not the external history, you know, or the glories of the order in another time. With all of the legend and literature that's woven into it. So that's the proof of our vocation too. If we have that vocation, that thing will really be alive for us. In other words, it works for us in that sense. Not just works in the sense of machinery, but works in the sense that the interior spirit, the interior flame is really being transmitted.


Unfortunately, the Camalthe's theme has this beauty of the balance of the two sides, the two values and the way that the spark jumps between the two of them. Between the community pole and the solitary pole. It's a magnificent thing. It's better balanced, potentially at least, you see, than a lot of other monasticism in the West. And that thing is reproduced, on one side, it's the question of openness and contemplative life. The contemplative core of monasticism, yet openness to various kinds of activity and so on. But in our own ambit, on a smaller scale, it's experienced in the relationship between your own solitary life, your own life of interior prayer and your relationship with your brothers. Which is what we were just talking about. What is love of the order?


Full acceptance of this human institution and the gift of one's self to it as it is, does not imply maintaining, of course, what it may, the same idealistic enthusiasm that we had as novices. In other words, we don't have to cultivate a kind of glowing image of the community and of the order. We can let it fall apart, be happy to see that image fall apart, as long as we stick with it. And another image which is genuine will arise out of it. It may be no image, but just the experience, the reality. But that image that we start with is going to fall apart. It's a dream, it's a bubble. And it's a holy bubble and it's a useful one because it brings us here, but it has to disappear somehow and give place to the reality. And there are two difficulties, he says, in this. One is a false idealism and the other is a lack of vocation. False idealism, which he expresses right afterwards as lack of realism, is insisting on seeing things differently from what they are,


not refusing to accept the community as it is. Vanier is good on this in his book Community and Growth. Merton has this magnificent passage, which I think I've read to you before. Along with his love of the order, he had a good deal of, what should I say, healthy hatred. That's not a good expression. I may have read this thing to you before. It's number 72 in this Merton Jacob book about the monastery as a spiritual powerhouse. You know how he makes fun of it, I do. When you enter a monastery, you're no longer a factor in the world. If you think of the people outside thinking of you, you're messing up your monastic vocation, although we tend to do that. All this jazz which comes in here, people writing and saying, pray for us, we depend only on you. We get these things.


People asking, please do a prayer crusade for me. That's kind of awkward from another point, because they expect you to really knock your head against the wall and pray for their urgency. It's a little unrealistic. But the other side of it is that it tends to put the monks on a real pedestal. They're holy people. Yeah, well, they're holy people, so they're holy knees. You see, as soon as they hit the floor, things spring open in heaven. For the monks, it is not a good thing, because it gives them the impression that he's really somebody. That he's more somebody than those outside in the world. He's much more somebody. He's beginning to enjoy himself. If you're going to be somebody, you might as well go outside and be somebody outside where it counts. In a monastery, being somebody doesn't count. He's really beginning to...


Anybody who is a somebody in a monastery, to the extent that he is a somebody, is a nobody. You got that? A monk does not want to be a self that is a source of power that can move. We are not movers and movers and shakers. And then he quotes Alan Watts about the difference between a purpose and meaning. And this is good. Life without purpose is not necessarily life without meaning. A purpose is justified by something beyond itself, but meaning is its own justification. So the monastic life is its own justification. And it doesn't have to reflect itself back to itself. It doesn't have to mirror itself. It just should be in total transparency, total unselfconsciousness. Thus the inner life of God and its creative reflection is not purposeful, like the greatest achievement of human art. It's meaningful. Insofar as man has not realized union with God, he has purpose but no meaning. And we Americans understand purpose a lot better than we understand meaning. But insofar as he's realized it, he has meaning but no purpose.


See, purpose is for something else. And you've got to be careful with the language. That can be exaggerated too. If the world is depending on monastic orders to carry the torch of culture through a new dark age, it's due for a disappointment. A monk is a person to whom people pay no attention. If a monk is outside the monastery in such a way that everyone is paying attention to him, right away there's a contradiction. The meaning of monastic life is that a monk gets no more attention outside than a dog or bum on the street. And who got more attention in the monastic world? The Americans, of course. So that's part of his... the strong feeling that comes from that. He's fighting his own self-image problem. That's enough for today. I guess we can finish this next time. Then I'd like to talk a bit about this question.


Various ways of thinking of students. We may have seemed to stretch this out a bit, but remember that when we're talking about stability, we're talking about the whole business of commitment. And then the question about breaking commitment and when it's reasonable to do that. Just a couple of principles about that, which we'll get from the Father who is perfect. Can anyone say forever? Okay, that's enough.