October 1st, 1980, Serial No. 00852

Audio loading...

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



AI Suggested Keywords:


Monastic Spirituality Set 9 of 12

AI Summary: 





Robert's tends to wear you down, any textbook does, with his point-by-point procedure. And in fact, this thing of conversion of manners is a baffling thing to handle. And you know why? Because like most monastic realities, and like most things that go way back into the patristic tradition, it's too global, it's too comprehensive, it improves everything. It's like talking about the heart, you know? Like talking about the Christian mystery, or talking about the monastic vocation. Then you try to analyze it, and try to say, it's exactly this, or it's this and this and this, or it's four or five things, or something like that. You're never quite happy with it, because really it's one thing, and it's everything. And so when they're talking about this vow of conversio morum, or conversion of life, they're talking about the whole of the monastic life. And so he's making an effort to define the monastic life as, as he says, the object of the vow. So we've got a conflict of two kinds of thinking,


or of two kinds of relating to this thing that we're talking about. And one way is the sort of instinctive way of relating to it with your heart, because you've got the experience of this vocation in your heart. You've got this call within you, inside of you, this sort of dynamic seed that's tending in a certain direction. And then you've got the analytical way of thinking that you've had to try to break it down and describe it. But you just try to describe anything that's alive with words, and you can't do it. You can draw a picture of it, maybe you can make a model of it, but you can't describe it so that it's really adequate. Anything that's living. Only simple geometrical figures really can be described, you know, very simple things like that. And so it is a living thing. And what's more, it's going to differ a little bit with each one of us, but all of the essentials are there in each one of us, just as all of the essentials of our bodies are present. We have to have two arms and two legs and so on, a certain number of internal organs. Okay. Just to review last time, I'm not going to review what I reviewed and reviewed,


because that can work its way into the ground too. But to recall what we were doing last time. First of all, we were talking about the motivation of our religious vocation. I want to keep getting back to that all the time, because when we lose touch with that, we lose touch with the reality, and we lose touch with sort of just the spark that keeps us going, and that makes all of this worthwhile. And we found, according to Rod, that the motivation is that encounter with Jesus. Whether or not we recognize him at first, and that sort of flame that lights up in our hearts, when we see the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. Now, we may perceive this glory of God just faintly, but why the heck are we Christians anyway? Well, the reason why we're Christians is the same reason why we're monks. I mean, the monk has got it a little worse than the others. In other words, he's been touched in so many more by this thing. Piper talks about the logic of the gospel and the logic of doctrine. Well, the monk is a person in whom this logic, like a disease, has taken deeper root,


and it's greater compulsion to do more about it and so on. So, this encounter with Jesus, which is at the same time, it's a word spoken to you, because it's not enough just to encounter Jesus. A lot of people encounter Jesus, but they didn't follow him. The only ones that followed him were the ones that he really called. Whether he called them by saying, come follow me, or whether he simply attracted them without words when they followed him, which he's still calling them. Because the fact is that you can't follow Jesus unless you have the grace for it. Because it's a supernatural way. It's a way that has to be led by the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself says in the gospel, Because it's only the Spirit that makes us even see Jesus, that makes us even see that he's different from other men. So much the more to follow him, and in some way, to share in his life. And then the other point is the joy that accompanies this discovery. The joy which the disciples are obviously manifested when they drop everything, and they just get up and follow Jesus, the way we find them in the gospel.


But also the joy of the merchant who finds the one pearl, and just lets everything go. The joy of Saint Paul, for the knowledge, the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, and the joy of the one who finds the treasure buried in the field, and goes and sells everything he has. And compare that joy with the sorrow of a young man who comes up to Jesus, remember? He says, well, he really wants to follow him. He's never seen anybody to attract him as much as a teacher. So he says, what do I have to do to be good? You can tell me, you can give me the word. And Jesus says, well, keep your commandments. He's putting them on his testimony. He says, well, I've kept all of these. And he says, well, you lack one thing. Go and sell everything that you have and come follow me. You lack one thing. It's that one pearl. It's that one treasure of mine. And the young man can't face this, because he's got too much. He was very wealthy. And so the gospel says, he went away sad. He went away sorrowful, for he was very rich. It's a real ironic line. And on the other hand, you've got this joy of the man who discovers the pearl.


So he didn't quite discover the pearl. He didn't quite discover the treasure, you see? He saw the glimpse of it, but he didn't have the nerve to jump. He didn't go over his head for it. He didn't exchange the everything, the many things, for the one. Just like the many commandments he was keeping. Anyway, I won't get into that. So instead of joy, he got sorrow. But why did he go away sorrowful? Because he refused the joy. He went away sorrowful because he went away with a pile of junk. All the stuff that he had. Because anything is junk, just like St. Paul says. Because if you put it, if you line it up with Jesus, if you compare it with this surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord, anything else is garbage. And if you go away with the rest, you're going away sorrowful. Whether or not you admit it to yourself. I won't do that. That's right.


Then he's talking about a seed. But it's like the treasure. The treasure is like a seed in a sense, you know? Because the guy has to go away and he buys the field. Why does he buy the field? Why doesn't he go and dig it up? It's as if the treasure was a field, which is laden with seed. You see, the treasure is everywhere in the field. And some of the fathers said that he has to plow and work the field so that the seed can sprout. But that seed can also be choked, right? Choked by the thorns, by negligence. And all the other stuff that Jesus talks about in the parable of the sower. That's right. He's got to dig after a while because he's no longer on the surface. He's no longer on the surface. He doesn't feel it anymore, so he's got to dig. And sometimes he has to dig for a long time without feeling it. The big thing is memory, you know? The big thing is remembering the moment. Remembering what your call was originally.


Remember how St. Paul says sometimes, Remember when you first discovered Christ, you were willing to give your eyes for him. You would have given up anything for him on his first days. And now he says you've fallen away from him on his first days. You've forgotten that you're with him. Okay, there's that. Then the question of the love of Jesus and the joy that's connected to this. And then this thing that's given to you and it's put inside of you, this seed that's planted inside of you, and it's got its law. Now, this seed is your new being in some way. In other words, this seed is something that comes into you and it's you yourself. It's you yourself too. And it's got its own law. And its law is a law of expression. It's a law of symbolism. The seed has to grow. The seed has to grow and be manifest. The seed has to grow up out of the soil, out of the darkness of the soil, and come into the light and diversify itself and bear its blossoms and its fruit. So the thing has to be expressed. And that's what the monastic life is about, is the compulsion of expressing this which you have received.


And it has its own law of growth. It demands that it grow in a certain way, that it express itself in a certain way, just like a growing thing. So we'll come back to that later. Because you need a way of thinking about all of this. And I think that's one of the best ways I've found, that matter of self-expression, of symbolism, and also of change. It's not just saying something. It's not just communicating or signifying. It's also becoming something. And then that biblical doctrine of conversion and how central that is. Now here's where the monastic life roots itself right in the center of not only the New Testament, but the Old Testament as well. Because if you read the Old Testament, you read the prophets, you find that the law was given, and the rest of the word of God, most of it, is the prophetic call to conversion, to go back and really listen to the word that God has spoken in the first place. To be faithful to God. The call of fidelity. And the call to conversion is fundamental in the New Testament, as we saw, both with John the Baptist and with Jesus, his first preaching. There's something new here. Because in the Old Testament, it was a call to go back


and be faithful to the law that had been given. And in the New Testament, the call to conversion is not a call to go back, it's a call to come forward, remember? Repent, be converted, because the kingdom of God is at hand. But something new is here, something new under the sun, unlike Ephesiastes. So it's a call, not just to return, but to move forward. But to move forward is also to return. Because the word who becomes flesh in Jesus, and who speaks to him, and who is the kingdom in himself, is the same word that was spoken in the beginning. But it's a call forward, rather than a call backwards. The same as a call backwards, but it's a call back to your roots, back to fidelity, back to the Father, back to the source. Anyway, Pfeiffer's got a section on that, by the way. Precisely on the doctrine of conversion in the Church, and especially in the monastic life. Those are pages 137 to 155 in Pfeiffer, where he talks about conversion and the monastic life.


But what's important here, you see, is to get the relationship right between your Christianity and your monastic life, and to see how solidly the monastic life is rooted into Christianity itself, how centrally it builds on Christianity itself. It comes right out of the middle of it, rather than being sort of a special way of life, way over on the side for a few outlaws. Let's return to Roberts and his chapter 2. This is a long chapter, and it's a challenge, how to get through it without drowning. Because he takes those basic observances, and he goes through each one, and I was wondering whether we should do that, or I think we'll just go through them rather rapidly. Because we don't want to spend a long time talking about we're talking about asceticism and those things now. What you have to know is essentially what they are, and how they fit in with this vow,


and then later they'll be studied in more detail in another part of Monastic Spiritual Articles. We don't have time to do any extended treatment. I was surprised that he spent so much time on each of them in this chapter. I remember the structure of his chapters. First he talks about the kind of meaning of the vow, in the external sense. Then he talks about the abuses, the violations of the vow, and then he talks about the spirit of the vow, and so it is here. And when he begins to talk about the external meaning of the vow, it gets rather complex, as you see. And it gets rather baffling as a matter of fact, because he quotes all these sayings about what monasticism is about, and they hover around the same themes, the same elements, but they're far from just lining up and saying the same thing, especially with Desert Father quotes mostly. But he does sum it up. He takes it all by the horns and sums it up in a couple of brief formulas for you, what the monastic life is about. That notion of conversion, remember, involves two things,


moving away from something and moving towards something. Moving away from the world, moving away from self, moving away from sin, moving away from evil, moving away from self-love, moving towards God, the Kingdom, one's true self, which is the image of God, and perfect charity and real love, the kind of love that is God and that comes from God. Monastic life and the logic of baptism. I won't go into that, but Piper goes into it on page 149 because the baptismal profession has a kind of logic to it. I'll read you those baptismal professions that we make. This is from the Easter Vigil Liturgy, when you have a baptism. Even when you don't have a baptism, you repeat these baptismal commitments in the same way.


I think he used exactly the same formula. It's a couple of pages after this. Renunciation of sin and profession of faith. Now, notice how this exactly is stating that conversion thing that we're talking about. In some way, this is the basic foundation of the monastic life. You've got different alternative versions of these interrogations, the first three. The old familiar one is, Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises? Or his ponds, for those of you who don't know. Now, the more often used one is this, Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God's children? You're supposed to respond, I do. Do you reject the glamour of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin? I do. Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness? I do. And really, they're all saying the same thing. That's the rejection. That's the turning away. Turning away from the world, in the negative sense in which that word is sometimes used in the Bible. And then the positive part. Do you believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth? I do. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,


who was born of the Virgin Mary and was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? I do. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting? I do. It's the creed. It's the fundamental symbol of putting together of the faith, as they called it in the early days. That's the positive profession of faith. I guess that's why the creed is so nice. Even when we don't have creed, that doesn't promise us anything. The two sides. The renunciation, the moving away from something, turning away from something, and the turning to something. Turning to the kingdom. The kingdom of God as it were. And the turning to it, the accepting of it, is part of this profession of faith. It's saying that we believe in it. To believe, in this sense, means really to invest yourself in it. It doesn't mean just that I believe that it exists in a kind of abstract, impersonal way. But I invest myself in it.


I sort of give myself to whatever is required of me for the sake of having this truth. It's a very personal thing. Because it's becoming the center of your life. You're walking over. You're switching over. You're standing on one ground. You're standing on the other ground. And there's a certain logic of that baptismal thing. Certain people don't carry it very far. Other people feel a compulsion to carry it further. Conversion is a complete revision of the meaning which a man attaches to life. Whereas previously he had believed that the gods of this world were sufficient to fulfill the desire for happiness, which is deeply rooted in every human being, he now understands the word of the gospel which proclaims that this world is passing away. This is what is involved in a conversion to the monastic life.


It is only a more complete and more logical form of the conversion which the New Testament demands of every Christian. Strictly speaking, a Christian is required to renounce only what is sinful and what proximately leads to sin. But the divine summonses can lead a man much further in the logic of conversion. What I wanted to stress is the use of that word logic, which means that one thing has to follow another. And some people are very illogical and some people are very insistent on logic. You find that there are some very logical people that get into it. There's a different kind of logic from working things out rationally in your head. It's a logic which involves your whole being. In other words, a logic which demands that when I believe something, the whole of me sort of has to swing into line with that and begin to express that belief. That's the kind of logic that leads to the monastic life. Rather than the kind of philosophical logic from which you proceed from one truth to another truth, where it all stays in your head.


You could call it an existential logic. I think that's very significant when you start reading the Desert Brothers. Because what they're doing is making sure one step, one logical step, which is not a rational logical step, in the sense of working something out in your head, but it's bringing your life into line with your belief, that's all. That one step of logic, which is doing what you believe, is doing the next thing. They do a kind of absoluteness, which makes it a sign for everybody else. And the complete logic of this conversion, the monk abandons not only the evil in his life, but also many aspects of his former life in the world which were good in themselves. He leaves behind his relatives and friends, and leads to a certain extent to society of all other men, and grows into solitary and so on. This is part of the logic that he carries far enough.


But you have to realize that this logic is different for different people because it's the logic of something that has been given to you as an individual. It's not just the logic of baptism. Somehow the logic of baptism seems to be carried further by the monk. But this logic is the logic of that seed which is in you, which demands to be worked out and expressed. I think it's better to think of it that way, than by saying, well, most people really fall short of working out the logic of their baptism. Because then you're in danger of saying, well, it's only the monk who really carries out the logic of baptism. Everybody else remains halfway. You have to really say it's the logic of baptism, plus the logic of that seed of vocation which has been given to you. One of which builds on another. On the other. One can ask about conversion, and how universal that is in other traditions, in other monastic traditions.


What happens if you talk about conversion in Buddhism? Because there was a fellow here the other day, Steve Frost, I don't know how many of you have talked to him, who is a nunner on Sunday, and he's writing a thesis on conversion in Christian tradition and then in the Oriental religious traditions. But do you find a doctrine of conversion in the Oriental traditions? In Hinduism, in Buddhism? Or say, in Sufism? I think you find it in all of the Semitic traditions, the traditions of revelation, that is, in Judaism, in Sufism, in Islam, and in Christianity, because they rest on the word of God, the Old Testament, and so it's close to conversion. What about Buddhism? There's something very like a demand for conversion, isn't there? But really, you're not heading... It's not a question of sin, is it? It's a question of moving from unreality to reality, from illusion to reality, in some way,


even though they don't express reality positively. It's a question of being converted from a false view of life, which really requires, also in its logic, it requires a whole transformation of your life. And that's why the Buddhists are so thorough in their monastic observance. I mean, that's just... I don't know so much about the other traditions. The word conversion is pretty peculiar to our Judeo-Christian tradition, in its real meaning. Conversion. Because it's a personal thing, and it involves an ocean of sin, an ocean of life and sin. And usually, in something like Buddhism, it's much less a question of sin than a question of ignorance, of illusion, and then of enlightenment. See, the movement tends to be along that track, from ignorance and illusion, and therefore a kind of slavery and suffering, to enlightenment and therefore liberation. Not from sin to holiness,


not from separation from God to union with God, as it is in our context. So, the monastic doctrine, of course, is going to be different in these different traditions, as we know, even though many of the same things will be done. The words that are used for this business, conversion, in Latin you have conversio, conversio, which means... conversio means turning. And I don't know why it's conversio instead of conversio. I think it's because it's turning to... In the Greek, what is it? What's the word in the Latin? Metanoia. Now, if conversion seems to imply something in the heart, the turning, metanoia means a new mind, a new mind, a new point of view, a new mental and spiritual world. And when you get into Latin,


you hear another word for it in English, which is penitentia, or penance, or repentance, which always is pretty heavy on the sinful aspect and also on the moral aspect. Penitence, or penance, for us it means something disagreeable you do, an operation for a sin. So, there's quite a shift in meaning when you go from the Greek to the Latin, and also from the Hebrew to the English. We used to hear due penance a lot. Due penance for the penance of a sinner. But due penance and be converted are the same thing. Be converted, or metanoia, as it is in the New Testament, is much deeper. And if you just hear due penance, it can come out very heavy. It's going out and doing something you don't want to do. But really it's a question of what happens in your heart.


You may have to do this unwelcome thing in order to turn to the Lord in your heart. But it's not that you're in it as unwelcome things, it's really the core of it. It's the core of it, really what you love, what you're after, what you want, where your life is centered, where your heart is. So you don't think that repent is... Repent is okay. It's better than due penance. Repent is okay. But what's the first word in the New Testament? Metanoia. That's the New Testament Greek word, is metanoia. I should... Oh, here's our blackboard. You've got to watch me when I get into Greek words. Because I usually tell you some things you don't understand. I'll put the accents in the wrong places, too. This indicates the depth of my classical education. I'm going to put the accent there.


Now, noia means... There's paranoia, there's metanoia, metanoia... Noia means... It comes from noose, which is a line. Noose, line. Meta means change. It says change of mind. Change of mind. But the noose in Greek is very often equated with a heart in Greek. So a change of heart is probably the best translation of the New Testament. It doesn't have to be. But when you change of mind, it has to be a change of heart. Because our conception of heart tends to be just another way of saying it. So that's the basic word. It's a New Testament word. When Jesus preaches and St. John the Baptist preaches, that's the word that we get in the New Testament. But you've got to realize that they weren't preaching in Greek.


They were preaching in Aramaic. I don't know what the word for Aramaic would mean. I don't know. In Hebrew, what you usually hear is a shuv. It's like this. It's pronounced shuv, which means return. Jeremiah spoke of it the same way. It was an acronym. Return. Converzio. Converzio is convertere in Latin, which means return. It means to turn away from something. Turn to something. Converzio goes directly to conversion. Conversion. When you get to penitentia and do penance,


then you're getting onto the kind of external level, the moral level, of just doing something. That's dangerous. Because it tends to empty out. To take away the interior spiritual. Is that the same word that Peter used in Acts when he told when they asked him what to do? Yes, I'm pretty sure it is. That's Acts chapter 2. This isn't a Greek New Testament, but you can tell if you read the Bible, whatever it is. Repent and be baptized. I'm sure it's metanoiete, and be baptized. Only, remember, he was preaching in Aramaic and not in Greek, as far as I know. That day they preached in every kind of language. But usually in the New Testaments, we've got to look for another Semitic Jewish Aramaic word behind the Greek word. But it's significant that this is universally used


in the New Testament, this Greek word metanoiete, for what they're talking about. I don't think there are other acronyms in the New Testament that actually use it. So it's pretty solid. You can look that up also. If you find the right book, like Tito there, he's the one, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Look up that word metanoiete in there, and they'll give you about 50 pages of it, the whole background. It's a very useful book if you want to study something like that. And some of those notions are worth studying, too, if you haven't got the time for it at this point. Okay. Then we get into this controversy about conversio-conversatio, which is a kind of frustrating thing. You go around in a circle and end up with not much more than the starting list. Robert sums it all up on page 10 in his book.


Piper spends further at it, and he goes around in a circle, offers three possibilities, and in the end comes back and says, well, the first one is the most likely one. So it's kind of futile for us to go into all that business, I think. But you've got two different words there, conversio and conversatio, and basically they've got two different meanings. And the strange thing is that we seem to be talking about conversio. That seems to be what it means, and yet in the rule, in the earliest manuscripts of the rule of Saint Benedict that they had, the word that they've got is conversatio, conversatio moral. Which means... Moral means just the ways of your life. From it comes morality. Moral. Even in English we have the word mora as... Moral. You've seen it.


The ways. So there's a big fluctuation down through the tradition between the translation, the use of those two words, conversio and conversatio, which leads to a big uncertainty as to what exactly the vowel means. So we don't want to fool around with that too much because it's pointless. When Roberts talks about it, he speaks of conversatio as the... external way. In other words, the word conversatio ordinarily means to live in a certain way. It means a way of life. The word conversio means a turning. Therefore it means something more interior. Ordinarily. So he distinguishes these two levels, the external level or lifestyle, and the internal level or the conversion of heart. And then he says the monastic life and this vowel of conversio morum or conversatio morum actually embraces both of them.


So whichever interpretation you take, you come back to the same thing. So what he ends up with is that the vowel of conversio morum is a vowel which embraces the whole monastic life. In other words, the basic monastic vow. Now this is important at this point. So you move from this ambiguity to a very important point. That this is the basic vowel in the monastic life. This is the vowel of your conversion itself. The vowel of monastic life. Of taking up the monastic life both on the interior level of really trying to turn your heart towards the Lord is conversio that we've been talking about. Conversion. And on the exterior level of doing all those things which are related to that search. Which express that sincerity which help to bring about that total conversion of heart that you want. Okay? So he ends up, how does he say it? When the monk pronounces this vow he promises to live monastically. Monastically. Thus the first conversion leads to a way of life


which points forward, toward and facilitates a deeper, more interior conversion which can carry the monk to the inner core of his being. We can thus begin to see how the vowel of conversion of life since it refers to the totality of the monastic vocation is the foundation of the vows of obedience and stability and includes in itself poverty and chastity. Okay? So it becomes the name for the whole thing. It includes in itself poverty and chastity because those are part of the external style of life that you adopt. It's the foundation of the vows of obedience and stability. You see how it fits together? Poverty and chastity go inside, fit inside of this conversion of life. They're part of it. Stability guarantees conversion of life. Why? Because you put yourself in a situation totally and the situation is supposed to act on you or you're supposed to interact on the situation. Obedience means you subject yourself to that situation, you see.


Obedience means that you subject yourself to the context you put yourself into through the superiors and through the rule. Stability means you stay with it. And then conversion of life is simply the totality of the thing. You see how they fit together? You can think of it in that way. But poverty and chastity are inside that thing because they're part of the complex, part of the structure of this conversion of life that you're talking about. Mostly on the external level, but they also have the interior dimensions, of course. Okay? Why do we take the poverty and chastity for simplification? I think that's church law probably, you see. I don't think that we did it until after... Because remember there wasn't any simple profession up until about 70 years ago. The monk would make his novitiate and then after that he would make a final profession, a permanent profession. So the church brought in the three-year temporary profession as a protection so that the monk would be sure that he really wanted to do it when he got to the time and give him another... See, the tendency is always to expand


and make escape hatches in that way and safety valves. So they've been doing it even more lately. So when you do that, then probably bringing in these new valves, the church legislated universally for all of the religious orders including the monks and not taking into account that the monks had a different set of valves, you see. I'm just guessing, but I'll bet that's what happened. So they said, okay, you're all going to make a simple temporary profession before you make that permanent profession and you have to make it with these three valves, poverty, chastity and obedience. So, of course, the Benedictines would add on the other two that they're going to make later on. But they wouldn't be required to do it when they make their solemn profession, so they don't. So they go back to their old assumption that those two are fitting into their own valves. See how things get confused historically. But I think it just came from the church for probably around 1900-something when they introduced that temporary profession. Marriage.


Yes. That's a very good question. And marriage is just as, what would you call it, just as onerous a thing as, it's just as serious a commitment, just as binding a commitment as an astronomer. It's a very good question. And why is it? You can say, one person could say, OK, there isn't any faith. In other words, it's easy to believe in marriage because it's very concrete, right? It's easy to believe in that bond because it's a very palpable, tangible thing. And the obligations also are right in front of your face, you know. They're very real and interpersonal things. Whereas in the monastic life, it's a matter of faith and it's much easier to lose touch with it, OK? It's much more mysterious and so on. And you could simply say, well there isn't that much faith around today. They could do it in the early days, but today there's not that much faith. But the motivations for marriage and so on are just as present as ever. You could say that as a first rough and unfair judgment


and then go from there. So it would take longer to make the marriage commitment? Yeah, but the thing is, you try in the monastic life while you're waiting to make this commitment, but you can't try marriage while you're doing that, right? In other words, it's a different situation in that respect. There's no such thing as a trial marriage with full sexual relations and so on. So, how do you work that out? Yeah. Also, the divorce rate is about 50% anyway. That is, half, probably, of the marriages don't work out. So, I don't know what that says. But it says, perhaps, that the law for religious life has been expanded so as to cover the confusion and weakening of the sense of commitment in contemporary man,


but that the marriage life has not been able to do that, and therefore the marriages are made and break afterwards. But the same process happening within the religious life has caused the Church to loosen up its legislation, you see, to allow these safety valves so people wouldn't leave after solemn vows, okay? You can say that. I don't know all that much about it, but it's very true. I don't know. One thing, you can say there may be a lot more ambiguity in the monastic vocation than there is in the motivation for marriage. I don't know. There's plenty of ambiguity in the motivation for marriage. It's not that about the attraction between two people. There can be plenty of immaturity. But in monasticism, or in a religious life, a lot of people can be getting into it for the wrong reasons.


Wrong reasons? I don't understand that. It's a mystery. I don't know. I don't know what it is. But it's a mystery. I don't know how Jesus looked into it, and it's a mystery. It's a mystery. But it's a point of view. And then you really find that monastic vocation is much more special than marriage is, just so that it's not a marriage. It's not a marriage. Something close to this, you could. This is just a hypothesis. You can say, okay, there should be two different kinds of monasticism. This is not true of marriage. It's true of monasticism. There should be a permanent monasticism in which permanent commitment is made. There should also be a temporary monasticism which may later open up to another form of life or a return to the world. Now, if the church does not have provision for this, it may be one of the reasons why the church has to wait so long before they ratify somebody's final commitment.


Because there are a lot of people in there who are really there temporarily, although they don't know it, and although the church doesn't really have provision for that kind of thing, you see. You can say that, too. Peter? Maybe another aspect is that when you talk about monastic life, it's not that you don't have to accept it. There's a relationship between the community and the church. That's what I mean. I don't follow you quite there. I don't follow you. We're not people who... Oh, yes. That's what I'm trying to say. Yes, there are different levels there, you see, because your deepest commitment is to God, your monastic gods, and yet it also involves the commitment to a particular community, a particular place, a particular rule, and all of that. So it may be that your commitment to God is valid and irrevocable, but that you're in the wrong stall or something.


That can happen. I don't know if I can say that that can happen in marriage. I don't think it needs to happen. You're going to be called in marriage if you're the wrong person. It's a hard question. We're so different nowadays than we were in the old days. The big thing that you see is that difference in the facility or difficulty of making permanent commitments, and the way that the church law has dealt with it in the case of religious life and has not dealt with it in the case of marriage, except now when they allow a lot of anomalies and things like that. Yes? Would you say that this temporary commitment may be anomalous to the courtship period? You know, two people go out and say, oh, we're interested in one another and see where this goes. They usually, you know, don't know if I should be married to one of them for six months, but I'm going to be married to the other. The due waits for a period of years


before making that final commitment. So it's kind of regrettable. You can say that. There still remains the gap between the average courtship period, however, and the long space of time which is provided in the master plan, which can be up to something like 12 years, you know. But certainly in principle, you can say that. And it is, in a sense. It is a courtship period. It's a period of experimenting in a relationship, even though the sexual, the physical sexual thing is another factor which makes them different. Is there a way in the museum to include humans in the spiritual life of the church? Well, first of all, because it's one of the three Benedictine vows, and therefore we don't have to squeeze it in for purposes of neatness. That is, it's there. It's there alongside conversion of manners. So the problem is to explain why poverty and chastity aren't there. It's part of it, which may seem silly.


And then there is this thing that obedience is related to conversion of life in a way, a little bit analogous to stability. In other words, it's related to it externally, in a sense. It's like saying I'm going to do something and what I'm going to do is... A is what I'm going to do. B is where I'm going to do it. C is the person that's going to see that I do it. And D is stability, which is going to ensure that I keep doing it, something like that. But the real immediate motive is just the fact that those are the three things that we find historical, side by side. Because you could certainly include obedience in conversion of life. There's obedience, stability, and conversion of life. That's right. But you can say that obedience is sort of the force which makes conversion of life effective.


Looking at it this way. You don't have to look at it that way, but it's one way of seeing it structurally. There's the stability, there's the length of commitment, or the totality of commitment that makes it effective, makes it able to move. These things are very difficult to structure in a kind of neat and clear way. Merton, he's got a long article I mentioned to you last time on this subject. A long article entitled Conversion of Life, which is probably the best treatment on this subject, at least for us. It's in The Monastic Journey, and it goes from page 107 to 120. Now, a lot of it is not worth reading, because he gets into a debate on one of his pet subjects,


which is the hermit life, with a commentator who interpreted conversion of manners to mean that you're not supposed to be a hermit if you're a Benedictine. So Merton gets into a fight with him, and that starts on page... His name is Lottan, L-O-T-T-A-N, Benedictine. That starts on page 114, and they continue slugging it up all the way down to the end of the article on 120. But up to that time, Merton is, you know, he's keeping his temper and he's making pretty good sense. And he's saying a lot more about, really about this, and saying it in more cogent terms. Of the vow of conversion of life. Remember that movie that we had with Merton over in Bangkok. And they had a part about his interview with the Dalai Lama. And I don't remember if it was in the script of the film or not, but he talked about the vow of conversion. This is where he talks about it. This is printed in that book by Moffat in a new charter for monasticism. I would like to add now,


while speaking of the Dalai Lama, that he had some very interesting questions to ask about Western monasticism. He was extremely interested in it. He had seen a film of the Trappist monks of Sept-Francs, that's one of the Trappist monasteries in southern France. And he was very much interested in everything they did in this film and wanted to know all about Trappist silence. Incidentally, the question of a married clergy in Isden Island, he thought that the idea of priests in the West getting married was very funny. He knew he had some married monks in his outfit that would eat you. He was not exactly wild about getting married monks either. That's a digression. But the questions he asked about Western monasticism were quite interesting. He started asking about the vows and I did not quite know what he was getting at. Then he said, well, to be precise, what do your vows oblige you to do? Do they simply constitute an agreement to stick around for life in the monastery, or do they imply a commitment to a life of progress up certain mystical stages? I sort of hemmed and hawed a bit and said, well, no, that's not quite what the vows are all about. Martin was expressing a kind of sense


of inferiority here about his monasticism and the sense of the vows which he feels is rather shallow compared to what the Dalai Lama is talking about. But it's a different ballgame and I think that has to be respected. This idea of life of progress up certain mystical stages. To what extent can a Christian really believe in that? You find it in St. Teresa, of course. You find it in St. John the Cross expressed that way. There's a lot of skepticism about it today as if you can sort of plot out a route in that way and then give a diploma at each of those stages. Certainly, certainly. Laying oneself open, at least to the road of progress, but the stages, that's the thing that bothers me. Because it is a pledge to open oneself and to give oneself to that progress of life. Progress also on a mystical level. Any time you start setting up stages


in Christian life, or in Christian monastic life, look out. The stages of interior achievement, look out. Or any time you start making it measurable, it gets real dangerous. Because you get into trouble with the gospel, you get into trouble with St. Paul. And simply the freedom, the gratuity of grace and the way that God can work anywhere, at any moment, and so on. And the fact of just being somewhere. Because inevitably, you get into a stage where you compare yourself to somebody else and you're better. There is that whole paradox about as you go up, you go down, which is built into St. Benedict's work. As you go up, you go down. As you go down, you go up. So that the person who's really getting closer to God feels like he's perhaps getting further away from it. There's a built-in protection against it. But as soon as you start talking about these stages and lining them up, there's an ambiguity that gets in there. What about someone who talks to the individual? You know what they ask?


Yes. Yes. It implies that... First of all, there's an implication there that you've got to go through a death to get to that resurrection. Therefore you've got at least two stages. One of which is death, the other is resurrection. If you don't consider them as being completely simultaneously happening, one just alongside another, then one has to come before the other. So there are your two stages. And it's true. There is that. But as soon as you start putting up signposts and saying, well, so-and-so is here or here, you're in trouble. As soon as you start comparing people, you're in trouble. I don't want to say too much about this because I can mislead you. You can tell sometimes where people are and things that they have to go through. But the danger is that all the time you've got to leave the freedom of God there and not start lining people up on the basis of superiority or not start making Christianity


or the monastic life a race course where you can really measure, compare and so on. Because then it turns into a parasitic thing. It really does. And we have to be in the position of the publican who doesn't have any place to stand. You know? He doesn't have any status. He hasn't got any rung to stand on. Now Hasidim like to talk about rungs. No. No. It seems to me that it's very delicate, the attitude that we take towards mystical experience. It should be sought and it should be received with great caution so that we non-possessively and yet we continually have to try to open ourselves to that experience. But also we tend to talk about experience in a kind of funny way nowadays, okay? And it comes from a lot of things in our culture. It comes partly from the drug culture, it comes from other things. We talk about experience as if it was only receiving something


without the necessity of responding. But mystical experience is what? Think of it for a moment as being analogous or like a word of God. Mystical experience is given to open you up to a new level of possibility, a new level of existence, so that you begin to live on that level. So it means that you've got to begin to correspond with what's coming to you. That's the point. So mystical experience is isolated from the necessity for one's life to change or for a response to be made, yet to be a very dubious thing. Because then immediately we get possessive and we get selfish about it. And then they become the same as goodies on any other level. So it's a question of non-possessiveness and getting beyond the self-centered seeking or receiving or retaining of mystical experiences. Just like any other favorable or desirable experiences. Experience also needs to be considered a communication of God. If it's a true mystical experience, then it's a communication of God to you.


It's a personal thing. And just like there's a wrong way of treating any kind of personal communication where I wrap it around myself and use it for my own vanity, my own ego support, simply my own pleasure, instead of thinking first of the other person who is God and what he really wants out of me. What that communication really means. So it's not just a something that I receive, but it's something that has a message in it. Something that my whole being needs to respond to in some way. And that's where we have to be careful. Because our tendency is always to take them as gifts. Gift meaning something for me to be wrapped around self, rather than something to be a seed to be planted, developed, and eventually left. The word experience is only ambiguous. A lot of the problem comes from that. In the old days, experience meant more either the long-term suffering of the monastic life or human life in every way, responding to it. Or it meant receiving and


realizing at the same moment. We talk about the mystical experience of the martyrs. Or, I don't know. It wasn't just the receiving. But we get very subjective and psychologized and introspective in this modern age. And so we can be interiorly greedy and possessive and that's the danger. And self-focused. That's the danger. That's one danger. And then the other danger is lining people up according to what they receive. Or the stages of achievement. Now you find this thing in, like, I think in Tibetan Buddhism, Duryodhana Buddhism, but it has no place in Christianity. There's a thing about, not about despising or disregarding or excluding mystical experience, but about hiding it. And one hides it almost from himself. And the principle in St. John of the Cross is that if God does it, you can't destroy it. In other words, it does its work as it were automatically. God puts something


in you and even if you nearly ignore it, it's there. All that you lose is the peel, but the fruit is really there. The seed is really there. There's a lot that could be said about that. But those things are the most precious things in the world. Genuine mystical experiences and communications of God. But they're very delicate because anything that's really precious, we get very greedy about. We want to grab it. Well, if you read the mansions of St. Teresa, you'd get that impression. You see, you can say, well, somebody's more graced by God. You don't have to say... But as you say,


St. Paul says, what have you got that you didn't receive? I think to the Corinthians, he says, what do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, if you didn't make it yourself, if you're not responsible for it, how can you compare yourself to somebody else and say you're better than them? So he's saying exactly that. Which is what we should say to ourselves whenever we start comparing like that. And then usually to become possessive about those gifts means to begin to distort them and also to begin to lose them. And to begin to accept counterfeits because the devil is very good at giving you something that looks just like them. Okay, on with our Dalai Lama interview. He was asking about the vows. He sort of had him backed against the wall. I sort of hemmed and hawed of it and said, well, no, that's not quite what the vows are all about. But it was interesting to see that this is what he thought the vows should be about. When you stop and think a little bit about St. Benedict's


concept of conversio morum, that most mysterious of our vows, which is actually the most essential, I believe, it can be interpreted as a commitment to total inner transformation of one sort or another. A commitment to become a completely new man. It seems to me that that could be regarded as the end of the monastic life and that no matter where one attempts to do this, that remains the essential thing. So, he's putting, you see the importance that Martin attaches to the vow of conversion of life and the way that he equates it or makes it comparable to what the Dalai Lama is talking about in terms of their path of achievement or path of progress, or path of transformation. Martin is not talking about experience, he's talking about transformation, becoming a new man. And that whole thing is thoroughly Christian, of course, it's thoroughly in St. Paul. And also in the Gospel, Jesus says, whoever hangs on to his life or loses it, or loses his life in this world for my sake,


will find it. And St. Paul says, I live not for nothing that I, but Christ lives in me. You have died in me to the life received with Christ in God. When Christ to your life appears, then you too will appear to him in glory. So that same thing is very much in Christianity. It's not just kind of a universal monastic thing. But when you talk about transformation, that's monastic jargon. Nowadays it's the jargon of transpersonal psychology. And you find it all over in the different traditions. But you don't have to talk about it. But in the end we've got to get ourselves back into the biblical context because that's where it is, that's where the truth is. Then we want to go on with that article of Merton. At least briefly, I want to skim the high spots because he says a lot of good things in there. And Merton usually says things more powerfully than other people. Here's just still on the importance of this vow. The vow of conversatio morum, conversion of life, is the essential monastic


vow. See, the other vows are vows of the religious life. But he says this is the essential monastic vow. And this is the vow that distinguishes monastic life from the other forms of religious life. Now, all religious are pledged to conversion, but the monk puts that in the center of his scope. He makes it kind of his one and only. And monastic renewal is only really comprehensible in the light of it. This was in the days of... I don't remember what year he wrote this. Earlier, middle 60s. Our age of transition and crisis demands a restoration of the monastic idea of conversatio morum and its purity and its depth. Our study... The term indeed is archaic, but the reality is as new and as old as the actuality of the gospel. Our study of conversatio morum is therefore a study of the monastic vocation of the monk's essential task, though in fact he has no task, but to pursue that peace and liberty of spirit which enable


him to rest in God. An understanding of conversatio morum is necessary if we are to evaluate the aspirations of some modern monks towards incarnational witness. This was in those days, the 60s, when they talked a lot about incarnation on one side and eschatological on the other side. Incarnation means going out in the world with a concrete vision, making yourself seen and known, making Christ evident in the world. Eschatological means moving out of the world into beyond the transcendent and was generally more disfavored in the theology of the time. Or toward greater solitude on the eschatological approach. This study is not, however, directly concerned with the problem of monks going out to work in factories. It's concerned simply with the heart of the monastic vocation to prayer and penance, to liberty of spirit, to freedom from vain preoccupation as well as from active pastoral works. The monastic vocation to prayer


and to penance, those two familiar terms, one of which signifies the moving forward into the kingdom, the other the letting go of what's beyond, behind. Conversion, as you put it. To liberty of spirit, to freedom from vain preoccupation as well as from active pastoral works. Prayer, penance, and liberty of the same. Prayer, penance, and these two bring you somehow into the liberty of the kingdom. But there's another liberty which is necessary for him to find this liberty of the kingdom, and that's the liberty provided by the monastic structure. Freedom from the noise and the concerns, the invasions of the world. Okay, we'll go on with that next time. You see how easy it is to get bogged down in a subject like this, which is so comprehensive. So we're going to have to skip through a lot of that chapter. We're not going to study it page by page, which would be pretty easy. Read it all by yourselves, and then I'll try


to hit the high points as we get to it in class, okay? Like those three renunciations of Cassian, which were important. Then the five basic commitments, the five basic observances, which were important. But we can't go into each of those in detail, it would just take us too long. And that can be done at another time. But what he's doing, he's trying to give you this whole substance, the essentials of the monastic life in this one chapter. And we need to keep in mind the distinction between this monastic life and the other kinds of religious life. And the other distinction between monastic life and Christian life in the world. And finally, the distinction between this kind of monastic life and, say, a Buddhist monastic life. You can keep those comparisons in the back of your mind, because it helps to sharpen the outline of what we're talking about. Okay. Now that we're out of Cassian, let's kind of move to Christian


and what he's doing. Yeah, you can drown in it when you're in it. But go back to him, you see the bones, the essentials, you can see how cogent he is, how sharp he is, and how he zeros in on things, like those three renunciations and a lot of other things. Because Cassian puts so many basic signposts into the ground for our understanding of monasticism in a beautiful way. Does he read Cassian? Not nearly so much. They have him as in Cassian. There are quote passages of his works in their books, in their anthologies, but I don't think they read him as a whole. First of all, because he's in Latin. Okay, so they translate chunks, just like we translate chunks from big works of the Greek writers into our languages, but they haven't translated all of them into Greek. They're more likely to use Basel.


Basel and Cassian have this in common that they're both very much theologians. But they're writing about this, they're very different. Their preferences are very different. With Cassian's preference for solitude and Basel's preference for a cenobitical effort, which is very close to the church, it's a very different thing. Okay, we've got a quick question.