Monastic Spirituality for the Christian in the World

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Monastic Spirituality for the Christian in the World

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So, we've been mentioning the possible advantages of having a rule of life, and of course there are dark sides to that also, but the rule of Saint Benedict can also very much help us there as a model and can warn us also perhaps of some footfalls, some slippery areas. Also in the Brian Taylor book, at the end, he has an appendix with a model for a rule of life. This is for people in the world, life in balance, practices, lexio, etc., a very interesting model if you want to bounce your thoughts off of something very contemporary and thought out. Then there are the various oblate rules. We have one, Holy Cross, I think has three or four for all sorts and conditions of people, but you might look at that. A helpful thing to remember is that the goal of the rule isn't to establish control over

[01:02]

one's life. If one's life is out of control, it is a relief to have some gentle order there, but the main objective of the rule, as I hope we've seen with the rule of Benedict, is to bring us into a balanced day and life and into a day that brings into some kind of harmony and mutual support the various components of our life, body, mind, and spirit, affect, thought, and will, the whole of us. Once we've done this, is this then just for ourselves, just so that we can enjoy a further inner serenity or sense of control? Well, no, it's very much for Christ. Before we get that, the function of the rule is also not just to placate kind of the superego in us that says, you've got to do this, you've got to do that, so I even put it down on paper to satisfy the superego the more, and then later feel the more guilty when I don't do

[02:07]

all this. That's not the function. It's to free us up to balance our life, and this for Christ. And here the faith dimension comes up. This is a faith community, and in faith in Christ, then we want to free up our life for Christ, and that's the goal of the rule. So at the heart of the rule of St. Benedict is Christ, is not some kind of self-fulfilling goal, but to free us up to serve Christ the fuller. And the lovely models that come through in the rule and in the whole Benedictine tradition about Christ, about Christ as the loving, good shepherd, Christ as the strong, liberating king, Christ as our brother, Christ as the spouse, Christ as friend, and someone like Eliot, I think we want to really hang on to these strongly, because these evoke from us

[03:10]

that response, again, of contrite love, to get back to that point. If it's Christ whom we are approaching in that love of contrition, then it just works marvelously, because it is he who calls this attitude of heart from us, and it's that which bonds us in a profound way with Christ, and that's just all that the rule is about, to stir up and maintain that spirit and commitment in us, and to reassure us that this leads to the deepest union with Christ. Just a word here about the monastic theology and conception and experience of love, reflecting here a bit on the work of St. Aylred, this wonderful English monk of the 12th century, contemporary of St. Bernard, however you want to say that, and out of the English tradition,

[04:11]

and a wonderful theologian, he also has that marvelous book on spiritual friendship, seeing in the bond of friendship precisely the place where Christ is present in a very privileged way, where two or three are gathered together in my name, I no longer call you servants but friends. But he makes the point that we sometimes think of love just as kind of a superficial feeling, an emotion, a sentiment, and most of our contemporary rock and western music is about love, and much of it is about love in that context, what I'm feeling about love, and what she is feeling about love, and why it doesn't work, and this kind of thing. And that is an important moment, but it's not the substance of the matter. There's that classic now book by Scott Peck, The Way Less Traveled, he's very rigorous

[05:16]

against any kind of romantic model of love, he says if you're just falling in love, that's not true love, because that's just a kind of a capitulation to something that doesn't come out of the deepest freedom. I think he overstates the case, but I think the substance of his insight is true, and Ayloured would very much agree. So for Saint Ayloured, who was just recently put on the Episcopal calendar, after a great debate, I guess, in general, well, there's, we could discuss that maybe in the discussion room. I'll just sip on my coffee here. Three moments to love. The first is attraction. It might be simply Eros attraction. It might be attraction for the intellectual or cultural gifts of the other, or the charm or whatever. But I experience this, and if it's overwhelming, that's the experience of just being whipped

[06:19]

off my feet, of falling head over heels in love, that's the first step. But, as Peck reminds us, and as Ayloured insists, if it then doesn't come out of my deepest freedom at that peak point of my responsibility and intentionality and will, then it's not mine really. I'm just a victim of it. There's lots of victim souls of sentimental romantic love. But if I engage at that level, then it is truly human and personalized, and that's particularly where the grace moves through also to sustain that. And then, if everything works out, and if there's love given and then love reciprocated in this marvelous union in love, whether it be the love of friendship or filial love or paternal, maternal love, or spousal love, then you have fruition. So three moments, which are wonderful in Latin, atroxio, abolicio, and fruitio, I think.

[07:21]

So that sounds a little forced, but attraction, volition, and fruition. But he makes the very important point, I think, that in this life, unfortunately, we don't always have all three. In this life, we often only have that middle way, and that's enough. If we have that, if we don't feel the attraction, whether it be eros or whether it be esteem or admiration for the other, and whether we don't enjoy that fruition at the end, if there is that intention that in my deepest will, I will to be for the good of that other, I will to pray for the other, I will to be united with that other at the deepest level where that person is image and likeness of God and is potentially saved for all eternity in the kingdom, or at that level where I cleave to Christ here. If I have that, that's everything. That's at least the substance of it.

[08:23]

The other is kind of marvelous frosting on the cake. But I've got the substance of the cake with number two, with the volition. This is extremely important, for instance, when Jesus commands us to love our enemy. We may not at all feel that attraction. Indeed, we might feel strong repugnance. And there at the end of my generous heroic act of love for the other, there might not be any reciprocating, maybe the person just bashes me or something, but still the substance of the love on my part is there. I fulfilled our Lord's injunction to love my enemy, which is simply to put me in sight with the divine way of dealing, God who has the rainfall on the just and the unjust. All this fits into the centrality of Christ for the rule, the centrality of love for Christ. Prefer nothing to the love of Christ. This doesn't require of us that we always be in happy, sentimental moods of affection

[09:25]

and devotion towards Jesus. Maybe that won't be there at all. Maybe we'd be in the desert and not feel anything regarding Jesus or Christ. Maybe we'll have all kinds of intellectual notions of perplexity and problems regarding Christ. But if in faith there is the commitment of the heart to cleave to Christ, then we're loving Christ and preferring Christ above all things. So I found this extremely liberating because it doesn't tie my commitment and my persevering in this commitment, again, to my emotions of this day or tomorrow, my particular thought patterns of today or tomorrow, but it roots it in faith, a reasonable faith, it's not just wild, illogical, but it's in faith that moves my volition at this highest level to cleave to Christ, always. And then the rule sustains this in an ongoing way through faith and through them.

[10:27]

And I assume it's the same in marriage, it's certainly the same in deep friendship pacts. There may be lots of moments where in friendship there's all kinds of flourishing, there can be also other moments where it's particularly arguing and hostility and bitterness and pain and all that. But at this level, we can perdure, we can persevere in our love. So it's which Christ who is at the center of the rule and also the Gospels, ultimately. It's the Paschal Christ, the Christ who has suffered, died, and risen. We later get into the devotions. People can dedicate their life to the infant of Prague, or to Gesù Bambino in the crib, or to Jesus teaching at the side of the lake. This is lovely stuff. But in fact, Jesus is no longer the Bambino in the crib, unless you want to do the mystical

[11:28]

thing that Jesus is with every baby in the crib, and that's true. But the historical Jesus now is risen and in glory and in our presence, in a mysterious way, in his Paschal state. And it's that risen, glorious Christ who is at the heart of the monastic community, as at the heart of orthodoxy, for instance, as at the heart of our liturgical life. So this gets us to a deeper level than our devotions. And there again, it no longer depends on my emotional unction towards Gesù Bambino today, whatever I think about Bambinos. Christ is risen, and in faith, I cleave to Christ in love. So throughout the rule, there is this Paschal vision of things. So that again, we're persevering in the monastery. According to his teaching unto death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ

[12:32]

and deserve to have a share also in his kingdom. So this is a life of participation, of communion, and then deification. Not simply, Jesus is over there, I'm here, and I'm thinking about Jesus, or I'm feeling about Jesus. Rather, I'm participating really, objectively, whatever I'm feeling or thinking, in the reality of Christ through faith and through love. And so this important figure in the monastery of the abbot, why is he so important? Or the abbess in the convent, or the parish priest, or that inner abbot that wants to guide that inner community, to interiorize it. The abbot who is worthy to be over a monastery should always remember what he is called, and live up to the name of superior, for he is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery.

[13:32]

So that's something where we have, hopefully, this living icon of Christ. And there often, the poor monks may not see it as that evident, but here also, there's this act of faith, and the exhortation of the rule to the abbot. The rule doesn't just say, you're a guru, do whatever you want. No, insist, you follow the way of Christ, particularly in Christ's solicitude and compassion and consideration for the monks. So in that wonderful chapter, what kind of person, how the abbot should be solicitous towards all, and in a special way, towards those in trouble, towards the excommunicated. For the abbot must have the utmost solicitude and exercise all prudence and diligence, lest he lose any of the monks entrusted to him. Let him know that what he has undertaken is the care of weak souls, and not a tyranny over strong ones.

[14:34]

It's extremely important. A whole community, and certainly an abbot, can get into an ego space, where this is the best community in the world, and so I'm just going to keep the marching lockstep, kind of a few good men, marine corps kind of approach. This can happen in a parish, this can happen in a family, this can happen in that interior monastic community. Let him fear the prophet's warning, through which God says, what you saw to be fat you took yourselves, what was feeble you cast away. So there's not that kind of, well this person is a problem to the parish, well let's just try to kind of isolate that person or something. Let him rather imitate the loving example of the good shepherd, who left the ninety-nine sheep in the mountains and went to look for the one sheep who had gone astray, on whose weakness he had such compassion that he deigned to place it on his own sacred shoulders, and thus carry it back to its flock. So compassionate love, that's who Christ is for us, thus that's what the abbot should

[15:40]

be, and it's in that atmosphere and logic that we should respond. And then with all the unof him, with all the weak, the needy in the community, this particular solicitude, because that's the logic of the gospel, that's the logic of love. So the sick are extremely important in the community. Benedict every now and then throws out priorities, and they tend to be in the line of absolute priority of Christ, and therefore of liturgy, and therefore of the sick, and therefore of the guests, of anyone in whom Christ is particularly present. On the sick, brethren, chapter 36, before all things, and above all things, care must be taken of the sick, so that they will be served as if they were Christ in person. For he himself said, I was sick, and you visited me, what you did for the one of these least ones you did for me. Matthew 25, which is very important for the rule.

[16:41]

So the importance of the sick, the abbot should take the greatest care that the sick not be neglected by the seller or the attendants of this particular solicitude. And then the young people also, although human nature itself is drawn to special kindness towards these times of life, that is, towards the elderly and towards the young, still the authority of the rule should also provide for them. Let their weakness be always taken in account. Let them be treated with kind consideration. So there's this atmosphere, and here we get as close as we're going to in the rule to theology. The rule depends very much on St. Augustine, but not for the theology, thank God, of Augustine, who towards his end years got extremely pessimistic and dark in his battles against Pelagianism. And we don't have to get into all of this, but at the end, it was just a very few who

[17:44]

were going to be saved, and just by this incredible miracle, most people were going to be damned for all eternity, etc. Well, Benedict has no interest in any of that. He simply is interested in the loving texts of St. Augustine about friendship, about monks bonded in love, that kind of thing. And here we have quite a different anthropology implicit here, although human nature itself is drawn to special kindness towards these times of life, that is, towards the elderly and the young. So there is implicit here a rather more optimistic view of the human person. We're not just totally vile and reprobate and disgusting in God's eyes. There is this human nature of compassion. I think this is kind of an Italian flavor for St. Benedict in the rule here. This is human family, and every Italian father loves the bambini and loves old granddad.

[18:46]

And this is the spirit that comes through here. We in America, it's been argued, are particularly confused in terms of human nature. What are we like, ultimately? Because we have the puritanical influence, according to which we are just dreadful after the fall, and without grace we're just utterly disgusting, and that doesn't jive with this. Then we have this enlightenment, we're all really good, every now and then we're just a little distracted from the level of pure reason, or this latest workshop will get us in touch with this mechanism that will make us just bliss out and be the attitude one to another. This presupposes that there's been a fall, that we are wounded, but that there is that goodness as created by God. Why is the rule there? To support and sustain that goodness. Although human kindness is naturally drawn, the authority of the rule should also provide

[19:47]

for them. So there's this both and, the original order of creation that is an order of compassion and mercy, especially towards those who have a special need, and therefore the rule is there to reinforce that, presupposing that unfortunately we're not always there. So it's an interesting little tiny moment of theologizing, I think in a good sense, in the rule, and it's a theologizing that is again a higher middle way between we're all good, let's not talk about evil, or we're all evil, don't even worry about being good kind of thing. And so also with the guests, a very important category in the monastery, you can't have a Benedictine monastery without having this real commitment to hospitality, that all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for Christ is going to say, I came as a guest and you received me. So it's a sacramental thing, Christ is everywhere there, really present, this is the risen Christ,

[20:50]

now present through his members. Sometimes he comes in distressing disguises, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, but there is where faith comes in, and again there's not that attraction at the beginning, and there's not that marvelous fruition at the end, but with that commitment of faith-loving, we'll get there. One of the experiences of the monk as he or she goes within and becomes more conscious of the whole inner world is all these thoughts and confusions, etc., what do you do about them? When evil thoughts come into one's heart, to dash them against Christ immediately. This is a particularly rigorous approach, there are all kinds of other methodologies that are rather more gentle, but the basic thing is right at the heart of one's also interior life is Christ, and he is the measure for what thought, what sentiment, what feeling

[21:53]

is on course and what is not. Then we, as we're more and more aware of our affectivity and our thoughts and feelings, we're more and more aware that we just don't like some people, some people are our enemy, what do we do about them? To pray for one's enemies in the love of Christ, that's a wonderful, very succinct phrase. Lots of the rule has this Roman sobriety and succinctness, but if you start to unpack it, there is a whole richness there. To pray for one's enemies, first of all, is an extremely powerful, disarming practice, but where do you do this? In the love of Christ. There's another one of those powerful genitives. Is it in the love that Christ has for you, that should invite you to show the same love for your enemy? Is it the love that Christ has for your enemy, and so what are you doing hating the chap

[22:53]

when Christ loves the chap? Is it the love that you should have for Christ? Well, it's all of this. So in this context, there is the possibility of reconciliation. Again, whatever we're feeling, we don't have to like our enemy, or we don't have to think the same way our enemy thinks, but we have to love the enemy, and this is possible in the love of Christ. It might be that's the only place where it is possible. And finally, that absolute priority to prefer nothing to the love of Christ, and that's repeated right at the end. Prefer nothing whatever to Christ, so it's a kind of antiphon response kind of thing. And this is what's going to enable us to go day in, day out, whatever's happening, again, whatever, if the roof leaks, or if the abbot is grouchy this morning, or if the choir is off key, or whatever happens, we can persevere in the solid path of faith in the gospel,

[24:00]

in the gospel teaching, in the gospel teaching of this primacy of love, because God is love, and this is what will bring us through. Prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to life everlasting. Amen. So at the heart of the rule is not an abstract ideal, or a particular condition of soul I'm trying to get to. One of the very erudite fathers of the desert, Evagrius, if he's not read carefully, he seems to be saying, what I'm trying to get at is this perfect passionlessness, which is a perfect communion with the one, with this ineffable God. And that's true too, but if there isn't this living incarnate, enfleshed person of Christ in our life, we're not Benedictines, we might be Evagrians, but we're not Benedictines. And I think we want to claim that as Christian, and certainly our liturgy presupposes, whether

[25:06]

we're doing Eucharist, or morning prayer, or evening prayer, presupposes this, if we're doing something like a prayer of the heart, whatever we're doing, presupposes this real centrality of Christ. And to claim this, do I believe, really, when it's all said and done, that he is more than just a first century rabbi, with some weird thoughts about the end time, is his suffering and death decisive, somehow, in my history, and in Salvation's history. And does he really live? Is the resurrection true? So I think we have to wrestle with these, and when we come to our Christian faith, then live that faith as it's crowned, as it's fulfilled in love, and then we're on our way. One of the principal places I encounter Christ in the Benedictine community, and also in parish life, whether it be Anglican, or Orthodox, or Roman Catholic, or whatever, is in Scripture.

[26:08]

Christ is the living Word of God, manifesting the inner heart of God, and Christ is present to us in a special way, in the Word, which is Scripture. St. Jerome says, ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. So once you start out with this centrality of Christ, the living, risen Christ, where you inevitably want to pick up the good book and read it, because Christ is there. Well, this was Benedict's approach. So his rule is just virtually a chain of Scripture citations. The explicit citations, there's something like 130 of them, but all the way through there are indirect references, and besides that, the whole scope and goal and project and program of the rule is Scripture, from that very beginning word, listen, obskurt, shema, O Israel. To listen to the word proclaimed, proclaimed in liturgy, proclaimed on the page of Scripture.

[27:11]

So this is the basic vocation of the monk, again, to listen. And so those incredible four and a half hours of Lectio, this isn't just getting into your head and getting some ideas, this is journeying into Christ, because Christ is he who fulfills every passage of Scripture in some mysterious way or other. So we study Scripture, then we meditate Scripture, then we pray Scripture, then it's word into silence as we move with Christ in the depths of the Godhead. Then if you add to this the Opus Dei liturgy, about three and a half hours, this is when the word of God is so interiorized that it becomes our prayer, and we offer it back to the Father through Christ in the Spirit. So the word comes to us from the Father in the Spirit, inspired by the Spirit, we make it our own, we ourselves become living word, hopefully, unite our personal salvation history

[28:16]

with that of Christ, and then in liturgy, we unite our word with the one praise of Christ, the High Priest, in the Spirit, glorifying the Father. So it's one dynamic in Christ always. So if you add the time for Lectio with the time for Divine Offerings, you come up with eight hours a day that are lived in the word of God, either again meditating, studying, praying, contemplating, or in communal worship. And this is not because Benedict is very excited about liturgy and Bible, but because Benedict of this radical love for Christ, and that's where we encounter Christ in this very privileged way, in Christ's word, in Christ's liturgy. So again, it's the Paschal Christ who we encounter chiefly in Scripture, there's all kinds of

[29:21]

stuff in Scripture, ups and downs, but it finally culminates in the Paschal Mystery. Again, that wonderful text right at the beginning of the prologue, Let us arise then at last, for the Scripture stirs us up, saying, Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep. So Scripture comes and raises us up. Let us hear with the tinny ears the divine voice. Today, if you hear His voice, then just hear it. What is this divine voice? It's a text from the Psalms. So that's what we want to hear, as this deifying light. Lumen deificum, marvelous. This is where Benedict is in communion with the whole of the Eastern spirituality. This word is like nourishment. It's sweet. Here, if you get into Bernard, he takes this and runs, just the honeycomb of the Word of God. And so that's why we want to gnaw and chew on this. And in this sweetness is the Bridegroom speaking to us, inviting us.

[30:25]

Origen says, Scripture is the love letters that God is penning to us. And only the spouse has the right to hear them. Love letters are a very intimate thing. So it's not fair for someone who's agnostic or atheist to just open Scripture and start reading it, playing around with it. That's obscene. It's like breaking into someone's apartment and going through their love letters. It's a very intimate thing. Only the spouse can understand what it's all about. What can be sweeter to us, dear brethren, than this voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold in his loving kindness, the Lord shows us the way of life. That's what it's all about. And so we're to hear this and then, of course, put it into practice. Let us walk in his paths by the guidance of the gospel. We may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom. So the gospel is our light. The gospel is our basic rule.

[31:28]

One of the great rule scholars, Pfeiffer, says, the rule within the rule is Scripture. We've been talking about the task within the task is to love. Well, the rule within the rule is Scripture. And at the end of the rule, St. Benedict says this explicitly, this is a little rule for beginners. But when you've gotten this under your belt, then you go to the higher things. For what page or what utterance of the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testament is not at most an erring rule for human life? So it's all about Scripture. And then the whole thing of, well, how do you read Scripture? It's preparation for prayer again. It's not head trip. It's not to get more culture. It's immediate disposition of the heart to pray. And then after we prayed, we go back to Lectio.

[32:30]

We go back to Scripture. We read Scripture in the light of our experience communion with Christ. That's our hermeneutic key. Again, as Jack said, we don't want to just know things about Christ. We want to know Christ. And it's in that light that we read Scripture. And Scripture itself helps us keep on the right path, then, in our communion with Christ, the bridegroom, because Scripture is Christ's communion with us. So it's this hermeneutic circle. Reading of Scripture in Lectio leads to prayer, which leads back to Lectio, which is a mutually enforcing, deepening thing. This is, in the first stage, the beginning of monastic studies, the beginning of monastic theology, and this is an important current, and it's an alternative current to the more scholastic and neo-scholastic that comes later, that does very much get into the abstract and into categories, etc.

[33:31]

But the goal of monastic studies is not so much information, knowledge, being able to shift categories around in jazzy ways. The goal is wisdom. The goal is union with God. There's a lovely book by Jean Leclerc, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God. So the monastic tradition has never been anti-intellectual, but it's intellectual, again, not as an ego trip, I know lots, but it's the using of the gift that God gave us of mind, of insight, of wisdom, for communion with God. There's that lovely phrase from T.S. Eliot about the drama of our time, and part of it is in this regard. He says, where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? We've now got the computer model, and we've got to get all our data in there and have

[34:33]

more information than the other person, but you can have all the information in the world and know not a whit about what it's all about ultimately. So what this reading of scripture gives is gnosis. We do have a knowledge of wisdom, but it's a wisdom who is God's wisdom, who is the Christ. And we've seen the four steps. So that serious study, we want to know what Paul intended by the text. So this is the beginning of serious exegesis, and that's totally legitimate, but then you go beyond that to pray it and meditate it and contemplate it. Then they have an interesting method, these fathers and mothers of the church and monastics, and it's already there—thank you—already there emphatically in scripture, and that's what's sometimes called the typological reading of scripture. And here, the very latest of hermeneutes say this is legitimate. Once you've gotten the conscious intention of the writer of the Pentateuch, if you can

[35:36]

ever get to that, or the conscious—yes—does that mean you've got the whole meaning of the Pentateuch? No. You've got the conscious intention of the author. But once that text is out there, there can be all kinds of other potentialities in the text that maybe the author never dreamed of on the conscious level. If we take it all seriously, Freud or you, beyond the conscious intellectual level of the author, there's all kinds of depths. And if we have any kind of theology of inspiration, the Holy Spirit is working in and through the text in a way the author might not even imagine. So when the author of Exodus talks about Moses leading the people through the Red Sea, etc., he's got something in his mind. But the church has always taken that as a prefiguring of Christ, the new Moses, leading the church through the waters of baptism into the new covenant, into the new journey towards the new promised land.

[36:37]

And that is fully legitimate in any kind of serious work with the text, whether it be in the specifically faith dimension or even working with a poem or a deep text out of the past, if it's truly deep. So there is this typological, which Jesus himself insists we use, in his resurrection state. So we'd better take it fairly seriously. Remember in Luke, when this mysterious figure shows up with those two disciples of Emmaus who are fleeing away, and he starts talking about Scripture with them, and then he starts explaining it in the light of the suffering death and resurrection of Christ. Then he said to them, O you fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary for the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses, that is the Pentateuch, and all of the prophets, he expounded to them

[37:44]

in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So what the risen Jesus is saying, and what Luke is saying, is it's all about Christ in some way. You hear about Joshua and the people coming out of the waters of the Jordan, and Joshua sets up those 12 stones, and then they have the Passover meal there, and then they start to eat of the food of the place. This is interesting information about what might or might not have happened in so many But for the Christian, this is all mysterious prefiguring of Christ, and of the Christian community, and thus of me, of us, at deep levels. And then the very same thing is echoed almost directly just a few verses later. Luke is afraid we won't get it. So then the disciples of Emmaus return, and there's the apostles sitting behind their locked doors, and they're scared, and Christ appears to all of them, and says, These are the words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all things must be

[38:48]

fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms concerning me. Then he opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures. So it's at that level that we want to penetrate to the Scriptures. And this is liberating. So the first stage for when we have a text before us, what we usually do in our me-me generation is, what is this text saying to me? How does it make me feel good, or how does it worry me, or how do I respond to that text? And that's lovely. It should be personal. But what the fathers and mothers did, and what Jesus did, and what Paul did, was first of all, what does that text say about Christ? This gives me quite a larger horizon, and quite a surer view on the thing. So the Christological sense of it. Then, if it's about Christ, it's got to be about Christ's community, Christ's church,

[39:53]

which is Christ's body. So what does it say about Christ's body? And then, consequently, as a third stage, what does it say about and to me? First of all, what I should be doing, how I should be living better, I don't know, committed to the poor, etc. But then there's a final mystagogical in the interior life. What about me in my communion with Christ? The deepest communion in the contemplative life, if you like. So it comes back full circle from the union of Christ with the Father and the Spirit, and then wanting to bring me into that union through Christ's Word. So, this is a way of reading Scripture that offers some interesting depth. Suppose you're reading a canticle. Well, it's just that ancient love story between some mysterious two lovers. Were they real lovers? Weren't they? The scholars can... Was it intended typologically? That's debated also.

[40:53]

But the whole Jewish community and the whole Christian community, whatever was in the attention of the author, have always interpreted it also typologically, so that it represents the espousals between Israel and Yahweh, the espousals between the Church and Christ. And read in that way, the canticle takes on a real intensity and depth. Or the suffering servant passages. Who is the suffering servant? Is it the people of Israel at that time? Is it a prophet who was to appear? It's important to explore all that. But having done that, Christians have always felt, as did Jesus, of Jesus is the suffering servant. And that gives quite a horizon. And therefore the Church should be suffering servant. Therefore the Church should minister, even unto suffering and death, for the poor and for the oppressed. And therefore I should be, but in the light of Christ and in the light and in this larger

[41:55]

ecclesial setting. So I don't immediately, what does this make me feel? Oh, Jesus loves me or something. That's good. And I should suffer. That's good too. If done rightly, but in this larger horizon of a theology and spirituality of the cross and of the whole Church that's suffering. Probably in ways that I could never imagine or sustain suffering. So this method frees us from too intimistic, too subjectivistic a reading of Scripture and permits a horizon that is the horizon of salvation history. Just some of the psalms we were preparing for tomorrow. What do you do with the psalms? Well, one way to do is to hear what are they saying about Christ and therefore the Church and therefore me, Saturday. I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lifted me up and have not let my enemies triumph over me. Aha! So I'm a winner, you know. Well, suppose that's about Christ.

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Suppose that's a prefiguring of the whole Paschal mystery of the victory of resurrection. O Lord, my God, I cried out to you and you restored me to health. You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead. Now that's exhilarating with a deeper, I think, oomph, if it's about the risen Christ. Read and prayed, celebrating in faith and therefore in love. Then we make one, our voice, with the risen Christ. You hid your face from me, O Lord, and I was filled with fear. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I cried to you, O Lord, I pleaded with the Lord, saying, is this all about my own sufferings also? But they're about a larger horizon of suffering. First of all, Christ, and therefore all of the Church, all of humanity, I'm praying these sufferings. Then I can get into my sufferings. What profit is there in my blood if I go down into the pit, the blood of Christ? Will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

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Here's Christ wrestling with the Father. This is Gethsemane. This is pretty tough stuff. But then the victory. Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing. Now this is a lie. I'm distracted 90% of the time. But if it's Christological in its ultimate depth, it's true. Christ now lives to make intercession always for us. O Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever. Well, in Christ. That's a glorious, otherwise it just puts a guilt trip on us, that kind of thing. Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord. So many verses are about the right, the just man who always perseveres in the way. What do you do with that? Just feel guilty? Well, again, if it's about the Christ, the risen Christ, then it receives this power and this glory. Amen.

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