October 8th, 1980, Serial No. 00853

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Monastic Spirituality Set 9 of 12

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#ends-short; #item-set-165

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If I keep reviewing, it tends to go backwards instead of forwards, so I'll end up behind where we began last time. We've got to be careful, especially in this darn chapter, because he's got everything to do with it. He starts out saying, what is the eval of the conversion of life, and it turns out to include everything except cooking. So we'll have to start moving along at a certain point. We were talking about the notion of conversion and how it relates the monastic life right to the scriptures and right to the biblical basis of our faith. First to the Old Testament, the notion of conversion, especially in the Prophets, and then to the New Testament and the Gospel, and this conversion which John the Baptist talks about and then Jesus talks about. And what about St. Paul? He doesn't talk about conversion that much, and why is it? Because it's already happened. So what's he talking about? He's talking more about transformation.

[01:01]

He's talking about putting on Christ in time, but more often he says you've put on Christ. He says you've changed. He says you've been baptized, you've died with Christ, you've risen with Christ, and so he's talking about another process, which is the completion of that conversion. It's good for us to think about that for a minute, because a lot of the traditions in the world, the religious traditions in the world, don't talk about conversion, they talk about something else. They talk about a more complete process. Well, we're talking about conversion as being a complete process, but conversion has this ambiguity. Often it only means a threshold. To be converted means to turn to God or to turn to Christ at the outset, at the beginning of your faith. But in the monastic life you make conversion a life work, you see, and so conversion also becomes transformation. When we make a vow of conversion, we can't really make a vow of transformation, because that depends on God, it depends on the Holy Spirit. We make a vow of conversion and then depend on the Holy Spirit to do the transformation. The conversion is our part, as we vow it, and to seek that transformation, but the real

[02:07]

work, like St. Paul says, it's God who gives the growth, it's God who gives the transformation, he's talking about the same thing, using a figurative speech. Okay. So, in most of the religious traditions of the world, you don't hear that much about conversion. You hear a lot of other expressions, and more or less in the line of transformation. I happened to run across this article in that journal for transpersonal psychology, which is a collection of ten different figures of speech, ten classical metaphors of self-transformation. A lot of these will be familiar to you. But just to get our conversion thing into a general scheme, we got it into the biblical scheme, now to insert it a bit into the sort of universal scheme, not only of monasticism, but of non-monastic spiritual tradition as well. This is by a certain Ralph Metzner, somewhere in San Francisco, I don't know where he is. He's talking about the transformation of consciousness, that already puts a certain, aims it in a certain

[03:10]

direction. And he says you can look at it in various ways. One could speak of mental, cognitive changes, new ways of thinking or using the mind, a kind of metanoia. He uses our word, our New Testament word for conversion, but he's using it in a narrower sense. He calls it meta-knowledge. But that's not, I think he's really, he's not being just to the biblical sense of the word. Because meta means two things. Meta means either change or afterwards. And in the Bible, it means change, it means a change of mind, in the New Testament. Metanoia means a new noia, a new mind, a new noose, actually, a new way of thinking. But he's talking about a beyond thinking, some kind of transcendent, and that's not what it's saying, like metaphysics, beyond physics. He's using the word in a way that's kind of a linguistic trick. These are the kind of changes aimed for by the Indian jhana yoga, wisdom yoga.

[04:13]

One could speak also of the transformation of the emotions, the change of heart, repentance. Now, this is where Christian conversion is, you see. And then the metanoia, in the sense of change of mind, is part of it. But it really refers more to the heart. When it gets into Greek, it becomes metanoia. If it were Jewish, it would be something else, in Hebrew. Surrender or the purity of devotion, aimed at in bhakti, in other ways of the heart. And the Christian way is principally a way of the heart. See, he's talking about emotion, and he's separating the heart from the mind here. In Christianity, you don't separate the heart from the mind, not in the primitive tradition. The mind is in the heart. So conversion and the way of the heart is a way also of the mind. This metanoia, this new mind, is a new heart as well. It's not just a matter of feeling, it's a matter of faith. And this connection between faith and love that we have, that faith is centered in love, and that faith gives birth to the fullness of love, the full development of faith is in love. So we don't separate those two. Extensive literature also exists on the transformation of perception,

[05:15]

the development of heightened sensory awareness, of psychic senses such as clairvoyance, of new ways of seeing the world. At the level of physical body and behavior, we can and do look for signs of different behavior, the transformation of function. In Western religion, saints perform miracles. In yogic traditions, adepts are said to have powers, siddhis, supernormal psychic abilities such as levitation, hearing by touch, and so on. Okay, here are those ten expressions. First of all, from dream or from sleep to awakening. You're going to recognize these from other traditions, but you're also going to recognize most of them in Christianity. Remember St. Paul quotes that expression, wake up, sleeper, dreamer, Christ may enlighten you. Jesus talks in the video about watching and not going to sleep, which we'll later connect to. The second one, from imprisonment to liberation, which is pretty general,

[06:18]

especially in Buddhism. The book shows the liberation of the central emotion. Also, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, in our tradition. The Old Testament, the exodus, and the New Testament, the new exodus, but also the idea of being liberated from the law, liberated from sin, liberated from devil, liberated from the law. St. Paul's quote is the idea. Let's look at this one. Let's explore this one. From darkness to enlightenment. That's a very familiar one. And the New Testament is full of that one. St. John especially. Fifth, from fragmentation to wholeness.

[07:19]

From being in little pieces to being more popular. This is especially familiar in the monastic tradition. When you consider monokos, the word monk to mean one who is one thing, not just one who is solitary or separated, but who is one. There are different derivations. You've got at least three different interpretations for monk. Monokos comes from monos, which means one. That's dangerously ambiguous, because you can go several directions with it. You find one person who says, the word came from this, that the monk is one who separates himself, who lives alone. First of all, he's not married, therefore he's single. We say single. The monk is one who is alone. Another person comes along and says, the monk is one who finds unity in himself, who makes unity in himself, or separates himself from the world in order to become one, to become one thing. To find himself within himself. The third interpretation, which St. Augustine brings in,

[08:21]

which I think is not a primitive interpretation, is that the monk becomes one with all. You see, all of these three things are true, but the question is, where did it really come from? And where it really came from, I suspect, is that the monk is the one who is alone, who is a solitary. That's the one that seems to go back to the beginning. From fragmentation to wholeness, from separation to oneness, this is a little different from the former one. It's still inside yourself, but it's referring, you've got two poles inside yourself, like the masculine and the feminine, the light and the dark, and so on. It's not a question of being one with God. From being on a journey to arriving at the destination. This is very familiar in the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament. And, in fact, it's played out as the disciples are following Jesus along the road to a Jerusalem.

[09:22]

Aid from being in exile to coming home. Very familiar in the Old Testament, the whole thing about turning to the promised land, returning to Jerusalem, and so on. Familiar also in the New Testament, in the parables of Jesus, the parable of the prodigal son, especially. Also other places. And then the ultimate idea of the heavenly Jerusalem. Nine, from seed to flowering tree. There's a quotation from Meister Eckhart. Eckhart says, The seed of God is in us. It will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is. Accordingly, its fruit will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds grow into nut trees, and God-seeds into God. So there. Ten, from death to rebirth. And, of course, we don't have to look quite upon that one. Because it's hard to grasp this whole thing

[10:23]

in concepts, you see. So we have to use these different metaphors, and all of them have value. Remember, we started with conversion, turning. Conversion means turning. Turning to God. We're also turning with them. Turning toward their true self. There's another article. Right now, I haven't got any in mind. There's another article in the same periodical a number of years ago, with this Asajoli fellow, where he had a similar collection. Can you think of any? Anybody got any more? Got any new ones? ... ... ... I remember two words. One means single person, and the other means a mono-group. ...

[11:24]

... [...] See, that's very nearly the same word as monochose in Greek. It's the same thing. The question is, I guess she's sure of that. ... [...] I wanted to continue that article of Merton on the vow of conversion of life, which is in the monastic journal, if you want to read it yourselves. It's rather long, but I thought we'd skip through and just hit the high spots. First of all, the importance that he gives to this vow. You see, Roberts is depending on Merton. Up to this point, usually even the monks haven't put that much stress on the vow of conversion

[12:26]

of life, because they weren't quite sure what it was, because of that confusion between the two words, conversio and conversatio, in the different manuscripts and the different commentaries. And also because they've been somewhat overwhelmed by scholastic interpretations of the religious life, which couldn't deal very well with this one. The vow of conversatio morum, of conversion of life, is the essential monastic vow, says Merton, and monastic renewal is only really comprehensible in the light of it. Such renewal must consist first of all in a rethinking and adaptation of the monastic conversatio, the whole monastic life of prayer and penance, which is the heart of the monastic vocation. Our age of transition and crisis demands a restoration of the monastic idea of conversatio morum and its purity and its depth. Our study of conversatio morum is therefore a study of the monastic vocation of the monk's

[13:27]

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. And then he talks about how we have to understand this conversatio morum, this vow, if we want to deal with the present controversies about whether monks should be involved in the world in an apostolic way, an incarnational way, as they were saying in those days, or whether they should just be witnesses to the end times and give themselves to prayer and penance. This study is concerned 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. Then he goes on, the vow of conversion of life, as it's habitually called, is by no means easy to understand. The term itself is both ambiguous and quaint. And then he goes on to talk about the very inadequate interpretations, definitions that have been given to it, like in the Trappist spiritual directory, like this one here,

[14:29]

an engagement to advance without intermission, tending to perfection by the percative, illuminative and unitive ways. What's wrong with that? It puts in a lot of theory that isn't there. And then it's general, it doesn't refer that specifically to the monastic way in terms of conversion in the biblical sense and that which distinguishes the monastic life from other kinds of religious life. But it's particularly that extraneous theory about the three ways that gets stuck into it. So that comes out of some book. It must be admitted that conversatio morum does not permit a precise scholastic treatment with clear definition of the matter of the vow and a strict limit where one sins or does not sin against the vow. See, that's the thing they traditionally try to do with these vows, is to tell you where you sin against it and where you're just committing an imperfection or something else,

[15:31]

or you're sinning but not against the vow. That kind of casuistry really doesn't appeal to those models. In Saint Benedict's mind, it is simply a formal commitment to live until death as a fervent monk. Then he goes on with a whole string of different definitions and descriptions of this vow from the earliest commentators up to the present. He did quite a laborious study on those, but I won't go through them. You can read them if you want. Then he sums it all up in a kind of a long paragraph. This is page 110, if you want to go back to it. We might summarize all this by saying that the vow of conversio morum is a vow of renunciation and penance, a vow to abandon the world and its ways in order to seek God in the solitude, ascesis, obedience, prayer, poverty, and labors of the monastic way. It is the vow to respond totally and integrally to the word of Christ, come follow me, by renouncing all that might impede one in following him untrammeled, all that might obscure one's clarity of intent

[16:32]

and confuse one's resolve. It is the vow to obey the voice of God, to place oneself under a rule and an abbot, in order to follow the will of God in all things. Then he goes on, which does not exclude a hermit life, because he's going to get into this argument with that lotan, that Benedictine commentator later on. He says a very important part of this is the determination to bear with patience and courage of all the trials that he went into in the monastic life, the kind of resolution and perseverance of patience. To really understand the traditional basis of conversio or conversatio morum, we need to go back to some of the classic New Testament texts. And he points out two for particular attention. The first is Matthew 4, 18-22, which is the vocation of the apostles. As he walked by the sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

[17:33]

Immediately they left their nets and followed him. So it's that notion of leaving, of leaving everything behind in order to follow Jesus. That notion of renunciation comes throughout this vow, whether we leave Mark or whether we leave Robert. Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, in the boat with Zebedee, their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Conversely, they turned away from what they were doing, from what they had, and followed Jesus. So that, he says, is the essence of the vow. And the other text is Mark 8, 34 to 38. These are words of Christ. And he called to him Jesus, I guess, the multitude with his disciples and said to them, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life

[18:34]

will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake in the gospels will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Renunciation in order to follow Christ, in order to have Christ. Here in the background, those words of St. Paul again in Philippians 3. Congressatio morum is a life which renounces care according to the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount in other words, don't worry about what you're going to eat and drink and so on, in order to fix all the love and attention of the whole in Christ alone. One renounces all that might tend in the slightest way to make one ashamed of the gospel. You could comment on that because if this is being ashamed of the gospel or ashamed of the monastic life, it's sort of the line between the monastic life

[19:36]

and the world, between having the heart of a monk and having the heart of still which is much affected by the world. To be proud of being a monk and to be content, to be content to be a monk and not as an object of admiration but maybe as an object of contempt. Or to be a bit ashamed of being a monk, a bit ashamed of being a Christian a bit ashamed of being a Catholic. ... [...] So, the point here is that one should be satisfied with Christ to such an extent that he doesn't require the approval of others and he doesn't require other things ... [...]

[20:38]

... [...] regarded simply as one inclusive promise, not as three vows. By this promise the monk is subjected to monastic rules and observances in order to please God by zealing good works. One inclusive promise, not as three vows. We talked about that before. The monastic profession is one thing, though, and these just cover sort of the various aspects of

[21:38]

it. Conversio morum is turning toward God in monastic ascesis and good works and implies the refusal to turn back to the works of the world or to negligence. Here's a text attributed to Ephraim Soudard. He who desires to please the Lord and to become a son of the Lord must above all get rid of anger and firmly hold on to patience and silence. In all things that come upon him, in tribulation of all kinds, in need and bodily care, sickness and conflict, struggle with evil spirits, insults from other men, in all these things he who desires to please the Lord must consequently rejoice and love and exalt and be fervent with the zeal of the Lord and approach him with perfect conduct. This is conversio morum. Martin puts in an explanation. I like that. I'm going to write that one on your wall. Ephraim's always made it golden better than most of us. I agree. Then, the complete abandonment of one's own will. He

[22:44]

makes that sort of the core of the thing. So one's will is really, no need to insist that in spite of the crucial importance of fasting, prayer, solitude, labour, works of charity and so on, all the life of the monk hangs on the renunciation of self-will. And this is consequently not simply a special obligation of the vow of obedience, as modern thought would insist, but is also an essential note of conversio morum. And he says he could quote a lot of texts on this. Renunciation of self-will, which is the renunciation of self-will. Now he gets into a fight with this Don Lattan, who has questioned all the traditional interpretations and has the audacity to say that the vow of conversio morum is simply and strictly a vow to persevere in the community with the explicit intention of never becoming a hermit. So it's a vow never to become a hermit. But Martin is absolutely sure that he's wrong. So you don't have to hesitate. When it comes time to make this vow, you don't have to.

[23:46]

And he goes on through pages and pages proving it. Let us therefore conclude that for Saint Benedict the vow of conversio morum is the vow to live as a true monk in renunciation of the world in perfect obedience to the voice of Christ. It is above all the renunciation of one's own will. And that's why the cenobitical life sort of is emphasized here, because that's the life in which you learn to renounce your own will. Not so much in the hermit life. The renunciation of one's own will is, according to the classic writers, that's the purpose of the cenobitical life. If you read Cashin, that's the purpose of the cenobitical life. Because the cenobitical life he describes as being a life of obedience. It's also a life of interacting with others who don't have the same will as you do. And so that's the way of denying your own will. And then after that has happened, one is ready for a life of solitude, because his own will has been reduced or sort of buried or has died to such a point that he is able then to respond to the will of God by

[24:56]

himself without it sort of being put on him by somebody else or interpreted or represented by somebody else. And by his brothers. Okay. It's a bit studious article, but of course he does have a bone to pick. Now we get back to our Roberts. He talks about the two dimensions in this verse. It's on the bottom of page 10. There's the external dimension which conversatio signifies and there's the interior dimension which conversio signifies. So whichever way you want to read it, you end up with about the same thing. It's about to be a monk both externally and internally. Does that mean only the interior

[26:03]

spiritual life of each monk, which conversio might mean, but also and more directly the external life of the monastic discipline. Conversatio, way of life. Better still, it is the life of monastic discipline in its true spiritual dimension. Then he goes on to give some fairly recent sources. Well, not the first one isn't recent. It's the prologue of the rule. That notion of service and the notion of imitation of Christ. And then once again service, but this has been the second Vatican Council. The main task of monks to render to the Divine Majesty a service and one simple and noble rule in the monastic confines. It sounds very Benedictine. Many quotes from Schmitz, who's a historian of the Benedictines. He wrote the big history of the Benedictines. Who makes it seem exclusively the struggle, the active life. Roberts corrects him by saying, no, there's a contemplative dimension right also in this vow. But the thing that predominates is the active dimension. Then he gets into the various versions.

[27:08]

What he's trying to do now, you get the logic in all this. He says that the vow of conversion of life is a vow to be a monk. So then he's asking, what does it mean to be a monk? So that's what all this is about. And the subject gets so big that it's hard to deal with. About this kind of thing. One good reference is Merton's essays on the monastic life in The Monastic Journey. There's one, The Basic Principles of Monastic Life, and there's another one, Monastic Peace and so on. Those are pretty good places to find a deep treatment of the essential values of monasticism. But you've been across them a number of times already. You can just look in the Table of Contents in Pfeiffer, where he treats one at a time. The Desert Brothers. And he's simply got several of these general questions.

[28:13]

The monk comes up to the abbot and says, well, what does it mean to be a monk? How can I be saved? What I should do? What should I do? Notice there's a kind of a consistency in all of those answers. Do you notice any continuity? Almost all of those things are negatives. Almost all of those things are renunciations of one kind. They're things you don't do. And yet, in some way, they have to be manifestations of something positive, manifestations of love, but they're negative manifestations, not condemning or judging. They have no confidence in their own virtuousness. Not until you get down to the third one, where meditation is included. That's not a positive one, is it? It sounds a lot like the kind of monastic ten commandments.

[29:15]

And then, rather to give to others. Now, of course, they're talking about what monasticism is beyond what Christianity is as ordinarily taught. In other words, these are the monastic disciplines and the monastic renunciations, which are built on top, as it were, of the Christian life, of the particular monastic means to realizing Christian life. I think it's time for another definition. Now, this is a universal one. This is good for Christian and non-Christian monks, as it were. What characterizes the life of a monk is a dynamism of renunciation. Okay? All of those negatives. A dynamism of renunciation that leads to the experience of ultimate reality. This is ultimate reality instead of God, instead of Christ, because he's putting in a general term. Complete conversion of life. For the Christian monk, the beginning and the end of this dynamism is the person of Jesus Christ.

[30:15]

So there's a general definition of monasticism. Renunciation, dynamism of renunciation, that leads to the experience of ultimate reality. Any comments on that? It's not really the point of explaining about renunciation. It's this negative. You can't let this in. You can just get away from what's getting us down. We've all got passions, haven't we? Yeah. See, you can ponder on that. You can ponder on that question, why they insist on the negatives. And then you begin to see a certain relationship, a certain similarity to Zen or something like that. If you stop your mischief and stop your nonsense and just be, you'll begin to experience ultimate reality. You'll begin to experience your own inner nature and you'll begin to experience God. It's a matter of stopping our foolishness, which is not at all negative. So that the great positivity, the great yes, which is our very life, can begin to resonate in us.

[31:24]

Instead of all our... Okay. There's one more. One, two, three, four. And then, what's inside of it?

[32:34]

What is quietism? Is this a manifest disloyalty to his fellow man, and he's exempt from that because of the highness of his contemplative states? Or also, that it's wrong for you to respond to God's grace, his contemplative grace, to the Holy Spirit in an active way, a positive way? All that you need to do is remain quiet. In other words, it's an interiorism which has completely cut off external activity. And this is a heresy. But because this thing would pop up in the church at certain times, it slammed down on it so hard that you push contemplation and mysticism right out of the picture.

[33:44]

A certain time, back in the 16th or 17th century, and everybody, all the prayer was to be active, to do what was best for them. There's a great fear of quietism in a certain time. It can be a delicate boundary line for an individual to know to what extent he should just remain in that interiority. To what extent he's quiet. To God, to do something, to serve. Okay. Cation. The three renunciations. You remember those. First, the external renunciation. See how continually we're on this track of renunciation. The external renunciation is the things you give up when you leave the monastery, according to Cation. Now, I'm not sure that Robert's interpretation of Cation is legitimate here. Because Cation is not precise enough about it himself so that you can be absolutely sure.

[34:47]

If you want to make your own judgment on that matter, look at Conference 3, Chapter 6, which is in this edition on page 321. I didn't go through the whole thing again after that because I didn't have time to see whether it gets more precise than any other chapter. But here's where he talks about the three renunciations, Chapter 6. We must now speak of the renunciations of which tradition and the authority of Holy Scripture show us three, and which every one of us ought with the utmost zeal to make complete. The first is that by which, as far as the body is concerned, we make light of all the wealth and goods of this world. Now, that means, first of all, what you give up when you're out of the monastery. You separate yourself from your family, from everything that you possess, and so on, from the cares and responsibilities of the world as well. The second, that by which we reject the fashions and vices and former affections of soul and flesh. So the second is letting go of habits. But you'll notice that there's a difference with Robert's here because he says,

[35:53]

The first is the external renunciations. It's not just giving up what you had in the world, but solitude, stability, celibacy, poverty, manual labor, fast, non-violence, recitation of the Psalms. He's going beyond Cassian. He's making the line clearer. And he's including a couple of things that Cassian doesn't talk about. Recitation of the Psalms, I can't get that one anymore as part of the first renunciation. It's as if he was trying to get everything under the rubric of renunciation, which you're not necessarily allowed to do. And I see some of those things, like fasts and non-violence, fasts and manual labor, those are a little hard to include too. The ones that are obvious are poverty, celibacy, a certain solitude, and stability. The others are dark. But we don't care that much about the fasts and recitations anymore. The point is the general drift.

[36:57]

The second, that by which we reject the fashions and vices and former affections of soul and flesh. Now usually we think of this as the interior combat, the combat of the heart. And so in that we can agree with Robert's. But it could also be, because he talks about former affections of soul and flesh, and fashions and vices, those are external things. So maybe there's some external habits to be overcome. Therefore part of the external thing may in turn be the second renunciation. And thirdly, in Cassian, the third renunciation is very mysterious. Thirdly, by which we detach our soul from all present invisible things and contemplate only things to come and set our heart on what is invisible. Now at that point we seem to be just taking off and disappearing from the visible world entirely. And it's a little hard for us to place that in our ordinary scheme of forgetting. Cassian puts it in terms of forgetting, the purification of the memory. Now Robert gets it in terms that are a little easier to grasp, but I'm not sure that he's faithful to Cassian.

[38:03]

You can take your choice. Okay, Robert says it this way. First, the external renunciations. Second, and above all, the internal renunciations. Even new attitudes. Especially new. Now, Cassian's talking about renunciation, but here he begins to talk about positivized attitudes. And then thirdly, the contemplative renunciations. The secret annihilation of the imagination of the soul itself. We're examining about the memory. Memory and imagination are very close. We remember our renunciations, our attachments in terms of renunciations. And then there's an interplay between them. So he makes quite an effort there to sort of get everything together.

[39:05]

But I don't think we have to strain too much with Robert. You can see the monastic life in terms of renunciation without having to claim that we've completely got a hold of it. Knowing that the other part of it corresponds in a positive way. And then he takes the Will of St. Benedict a few passages, and you can see what he's trying to do from this first paragraph. He wants to point out the dynamism, the movement, which is obvious, especially in the prologue. The way he talks about running or walking or following or labor or climbing. And then running again later on and hastening in terms of movement. The dynamism of conversion and renunciation, which is obvious too, and centered on Christ. As in several places in each of those quotations. Then his interpretation of the third renunciation at the top of page 14.

[40:08]

Once again, I'm doubtful about that. I think it's a good parallel, but I'm not sure that he's basically attached. Once again, you can make your own judgment. See, he interprets that as annihilating yourself through humility. Self-effacement through humility or through extreme confunction is the 12th degree of humility in the Will of St. Benedict. Or in that chapter on prayer, on the oratory. We shall be heard, not because of saying a lot of words, but in purity of heart and tears of confunction. Of course, confunction is valid. Which is valid, but not quite the fashion. And here we get about the 150th attempt to define the vow. The personal giving of oneself to the daily struggle of the director of all negligences in Will and Christ and virtue. And so on. And then a version of St. Bernard for superstitions.

[41:11]

That's a wonderful thing. That's a beautiful thing. Our way of life is rejection, but I take it as a separation. Okay, the commitments of conversion. He wants to break it down now so we can analyze it, so we can treat each of these commitments in detail. First of all, this promise to tend towards the perfection of the love of Christ through self-renouncement. That was the definition of the vow in the first place. But that has to be made concrete. He has two Vatican, two quotes there to illustrate that. But he wants to make it more concrete. And therefore he wants to talk about certain well-defined concrete ascetical means. And he breaks them down into three classes. First, poverty and chastity. Secondly, the basic observances that are in our order, in our community.

[42:13]

And thirdly, the inner attitude. He's going to spend a lot of time talking about the basic observances. Not much about poverty and chastity. It may surprise you at first that poverty and chastity are included here instead of under obedience. He explains that at the middle of the page, page 15. The historical reasons for that. Basic observances of the order. Second class. Lived in the place where we made the vow. The principle matter of conversion of life. Matter means the substance, the object. This is scholastic language. The novice who is preparing to make this vow learns how the life lived in his own monastery constitutes a withdrawal from the world for the sake of union with God. It's not just in general, sort of. It's not theory. It's very concrete. By doing so, he promises to live the monastic life not in some ideal form.

[43:17]

It's a big temptation for us, which never exists. But according to the concrete observance of a stable and fervent house which he has chosen. He says there are deficiencies in all monasteries. So, what we have to do. Our vow doesn't ask us to reform the monastery that criticizes us. It doesn't set us up as judges. It requires that we ourselves be good monks who give our efforts to maintain the fervent observance of the house. It doesn't mean that we can't complain or bring up the subject of things that are on our mind. The house is getting decadent. And the superior has a particular obligation. Then he gets on to the basic observances. He separates them into five categories, which are where your enjoyment put on a blackboard. Some of these things are essential and others are not so essential. So, he's talking about the essential now, right? Essential for the monastic life. And then others are not strictly monastic, like fraternal charity, mutual service, the sacraments.

[44:21]

So, he's not going to talk about them because they're for all Christians. And you can find those in the catechism or whatever, in the moral theology text. He's talking about the ones which are essential and the ones which are monastic. And first of all, withdrawal from society. Now, for him that means enclosure and silence. Does it mean anything more for us? It means solitude to a greater extent, doesn't it? Because, whereas another one down there, common life, number four, is still present for us but it's mitigated somehow, right? So, there's a different relationship between number one and number four for cremaldolites, for people who live in a hermitage, than there is for cistercians, for sun abuts. Secondly, life of prayer. Lectio Divina Liturgy. Thirdly, austerity of life. This includes all the penitential things. Fourthly, common life. Fifthly, monastic work. So, these are all part of the vow.

[45:26]

So, you've got the whole of the monastic life there, sort of, trying to get it under this vow. So, you could go through the whole of Pfeiffer, you see, if you wanted to study in detail the content of this chapter. Now, I don't want to spend a lot of time on each of these, because we don't have that much time. So, we'll have to skip through and touch sort of the high points, or the points that seem most acute, for each of these five levels of observance, which itself can be a bit tedious, but some of these things it's important to know where they commit us and where we can pull through. And he's got a Vatican II quote, which sums up the first three. Withdrawal from society, in solitude and silence, life of prayer, an assiduous prayer, austerity of life, fervent penance. Then he adds two more, the Benedictine tradition, common life and monastic work. Who imposes the obligation? We do ourselves. We take it up freely.

[46:27]

That's the thing. With your profession, you assume the obligation voluntarily. It's not that somebody shoves it on you. If you don't want to do it, you don't have to. But once you do, then you're in for it. Look in the bakery. Relation to charity. It's a double relationship. He quotes Vatican II once again. The perfection of charity is encouraged by these things, and charity animates and rules. You see how it works in two ways? And then a little further on, he says, These observances have a double function, therefore a double obligation. They are instruments or points of departure for attaining the purity of a love which is both paternal and contemplative, vertical and horizontal, and signs which give testimony to and protect the special intensity of love. So, instruments and signs. Does that remind you of anything? Word which begins with S ends with T.

[47:31]

Sacrament. Sacrament, that's it. Sacrament. Exactly. Good. Then, that sends us back to Vatican II and that passage in... Sargent. What, Sargent? No, that's not good. Saint. No. No, he did it. Now stop. He gave the right word. Quit now. You guys don't know anything. This sends us back to Lumen Gentium number one. Which says... You've heard this before. Pardon me, say before that you've heard this before too. The church in Christ is in the nature of sacrament. Okay, now he says the church in Christ is in the nature of sacrament a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men. So, sacrament means something which is a sign and an instrument. It means a sign of grace and an instrument of grace at the same time. It says something and it does something, alright?

[48:33]

That's what the sacraments do. The seven sacraments. The Eucharist is a sign but it does something at the same time. It signifies the unity of all Christians in Christ but it makes that unity at the same time. It signifies Christ and it makes Christ in a sense at the same time. And the ultimate thing behind these sacraments is always in some way, we say grace but always the reality behind it is God in some way. The Holy Spirit. That's a very important notion. Now, I have a digression before we dive into those five observances. This whole notion of sacrament and of symbol and so on because it seems to me that to get the richest understanding of what you're really doing and taking up a lot of these things when you become a monk you have to begin to look at your life as being a symbolic life or a sacramental life in which something comes out from the inside of you and has to be manifested on the outside. I think we ran into this earlier

[49:35]

but the idea is that you get a certain grace and why do you start doing all of these things? Why do you do the particular things that I'm on? Why did the desert brothers go out and do the crazy things that they did? It's because they had to express through themselves they had to symbolize what they had been given, what they had received. And this is the law of our being. What's inside has to come outside. Jesus says what's hidden has to be revealed. And it's the same way with a seed. It's the same way with a plant. It's the same way with something else. Pardon me if I go back to you really get a beautiful theology of the symbol. This is in Volume 4 of his Theological Investigations and the essay is called The Theology of the Symbol. I'm just going to give you a few little quotes from it. You can go back to it sometime. It's long and it's kind of difficult. First of all

[50:36]

this first principle. Our first statement which we put forward is the basic principle of an ontology of symbolism is as follows. All beings are by their nature symbolic because they necessarily express themselves in order to attain their own nature. They have to express themselves in order to attain their own nature. Now this is not just on the shallow psychological level on which it's also true that man sort of becomes himself by expressing himself. But he's generalizing this completely saying it's true for all beings. It's a very it's an astounding statement. Symbol and mystery, the same thing. Huh. Yeah, it's taking it from another angle. It's taking it from a depth angle. In the Greek it comes from symbolism which is to put together to put together a symbol. But I don't know the whole history of the world.

[51:39]

Does that mean that we are beings and spiritualism is what we are? That's right. And in fact in order to be itself it has to be expressed in that way. In order to be it has to express itself in that way. He's saying that. And the thing that really surprises you is that he says it about God too. In other words he says that's what is in the trinity. That the word, the logos is the expression of your father. Remember? The word, the logos, the word, the Christ, the logos, the word in the second person of the trinity is the expression of the first person. Just as in the incarnation Christ is the visible of the father and the father is the invisible of Christ. So the word is spoken by the invisible father, is the expression of the father and in this way, some way, God himself realizes himself. He's really got something.

[52:41]

But how can you say that, how can you say they're sort of moving towards him, God? We simply don't know. The mystery of the trinity leaves us just baffled to say how there can be division, separation, relationship, and so on. They struggle with that in the theologian sense to begin. We don't know how. But somehow the archetype of all this is in God. And then it's carried on in us. ... ... ... It's not self in the same sense that we think of self-expression, whereas I got this ego thing and I have to, in order to think well of myself, I have to get it out and get approval from other people. It's not that at all. It's something deeper in them, a deeper self. And it's that way with us. And with this grace that we're talking about in the Gnostic life, that's a thing that's deeper than your ego.

[53:42]

And it's like it's in you. I think artists feel like that sometimes. There's something in them that's deeper than their own ego, deeper than what they can grasp. ... [...] At the same time, each animal has to reach its own shape. It has to reach its own form. So each plant has to find its own shape. The whole of its life seems to be ... [...]

[54:44]

... [...] which is true also of the two creatures, that's the one sort of thing, then they die. God seeds turn into God trees, that's God seed in you he's talking about. Plum seeds turn into plum trees, nut seeds turn into nut trees, you got that?

[55:48]

I don't know if anybody ever attacked him in this theology, but he carried it as far as he had. Okay, let's see if I can find his second principle. The symbol, strictly speaking, the symbolic reality is the self-realization of a being in the other which is constitutive of its essence. The self-realization, I take it this is the way it should be punctuated, is constitutive of the essence of the thing that happens in another. When there is such a self-realization in the other as the necessary motive of fulfillment of its own essence, we have the symbol of the being in question. In ourselves we'd have to talk, I suppose, about our embodied soul, embodied spirit, embodied something like that, but the other is part of ourselves. It's one self, the body is one self, it's not just something we have, it's not simply another.

[56:58]

Then it goes into the Trinity. This is enough for our purpose to point out very simply that the theology of the Logos is strictly a theology of the symbol, and indeed the supreme form of it, if we keep to the meaning of the word which we have already worked out. The Logos is the word of the Father, his perfect image, his imprint, his radiance, his self-expression. Then he talks about sacred images too. He talks about the sacraments here. The sacraments do that which they signify, and they signify that which they do. The mutual support between the symbol and what is symbolized, the invisible and the visible. Sacred images. The Aristotelian way in which it's just a distant representation, and the Platonic understanding of the image. In this concept the image participates in the reality of the exemplar of the original, brings about the real presence of the exemplar which dwells in the image.

[58:04]

That's the Greek theology of the icon, that's what makes the icon so significant, where it's nearly for them like the Blessed Sacrament is for us. He's got a couple more principles. Number three, he says it's impossible to understand theology without this theology of the symbol. And then another one which I don't need to bring up. He says God is always the fundamental reality to be symbolized when we're talking about the sacraments or we're talking about salvation. God himself is the thing. Then he goes on to say that the body is the symbol of man, okay? Now we're getting more, we're getting towards our monastic thing now. The body is the symbol of man. The principle that the body is the symbol of the soul, or the symbol of man, inasmuch as it is formed as the self-realization of the soul. He talks somewhere also about the heart as being the symbol of man.

[59:06]

Now I want to switch to somewhere else. This is David Knight, this book, Cloud by Day, Fire by Night, where he talks about the vows and talks about the whole religious life as being, monastic life as being self-expression. Now it's not self-expression in the shallow way of the guy who has to express his originality. It's the opposite of that, all right? It's the expression of your deep self. In our treatment of the vows, self-expression will be the key to the meaning of each one. Each vow is a real-symbolic gesture of faith, hope, and love, through which a person takes a real and visible stance towards one of the root values of human life on this earth, towards one of the basic realities of human existence. Since the stance taken is one that does not make sense except through faith in the gospel, the person both expresses and experiences through this stance towards created reality the depth and reality of the stance towards the transcendent God who revealed himself in the gospel. The vows, therefore, are a means of self-realization in grace through the expression and experience of one's supernatural faith, hope, and love.

[60:12]

And we use the word self-realization here in both of its senses as discovering the truth, the reality of one's personal free self-orientation in response to grace. I should read that much slower because the language is kind of dense. And as making that free response, that act of grace and self-creation, real. So you discover it. Now here we have that sign-instrument thing, but it's all internal. It's in the person. You discover the truth of this when you express it. And at the same time, you make it true. You make it real. We will use celibacy in this treatment as a key to the vows. Could have used probably a test. What celibacy expresses is real belief that it is possible to have with the person of Jesus Christ a relationship of growing intimacy and love during this life. Celibacy is a way of affirming that true friendship with Christ is possible on this earth. Friendship is real, is satisfying, and is developmental as the deepest relationship of human love between persons is capable of being.

[61:14]

How does celibacy express this? The vow of celibacy is a real-symbolic gesture. That is, it is a way of giving expression to one's belief through the actions that engage one's being. The vow of celibacy engages one's being in two ways. First, it is a renunciation of marriage, of spousal love, with any and every human partner on earth. Secondly, it is a positive commitment to some concrete, specific things that express and embody the relationship of spousal love with Christ. Now, this has to involve the body in this case. I don't want to get into detail about celibacy because we'll do that later. The ancient tradition may seem to argue for celibacy on negative grounds, as removing the obstacles of family and flesh. But even at its most negative, the ancient tradition always presented celibacy as a way of living to the Lord, of relating personally to God in knowledge and mutual gift of self. And so celibacy is not, in its deepest and most authentic meaning, essentially a movement away from anything.

[62:19]

Celibacy is not authentically understood as a movement away from sexual activity, considered as a distraction from the Lord. Celibacy is not a movement away from personal love for the sake of more total dedication to work, and so on. Celibacy is not repression, it is expression, and the medium of celibate expression is the body. What we are undertaking to explain is that celibacy is an abiding physical response in flesh to the very abstinence of the body, to the person of Jesus Christ. Our physical stance of renunciation toward all potential partners in marriage on this earth both defines and expresses the nature of our response to Christ. It is a response to God offering himself in Christ as partner in a relationship of love and friendship. This relationship is one of love and friendship on this earth here and now, as it's human as well as divine. But celibacy expresses a spousal relationship with Christ. There's a way of saying...

[63:17]