Prayer & the Rule of St. Benedict

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Part of "Prayer and the Rule of St. Benedict"

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I'd like to begin with a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2, Verses 42 to 47. These remained faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, to the Brotherhood, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. And everyone was filled with awe. The Apostles worked many signs and miracles. And all who shared the faith owned everything in common. They sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed. Each day, with one heart, they regularly went to the temple, but met in their houses for


the breaking of bread. They shared their food gladly and generously. They praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day, the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved. Amen. As we mentioned last night in our talk last night, prayer, true prayer, is that relational dynamic of presence to presence, human presence to divine presence. Divine presence, of course, it always starts with divine presence, present to human, to


the human, and inviting a response of presence, of recognition. So that's the sense now you want to keep in mind that I'm talking about prayer. And therefore, prayer is a much broader reality than, you know, a formula, someone else's form of words addressed to God that you might memorize and know or read. And I want to keep stressing that, that it's a relationship that we're primarily concerned about here and that Benedict is. And we, I think, ended last night by saying that the problem we have is, first, you know, we've had perhaps that in-breaking time in our life, it may have been one dramatic experience or a gradual awareness of someone there with us in our life, and then the desire to respond, the desire to be present to the other as we're experiencing the other present to us, and


to do that all the time. And that's when we confront our own weakness and our own limitation that we're so off and on with regard to presence, not only regarding God being present to us, but even another human being, how difficult it is to be present consistently and constantly. And are we ever really fully present, 100% as a human being? So we talked about, for us, the importance of Jesus Christ. God is present to us in Jesus, through Jesus, and we are present to God in that fullness of Jesus' presence to the Father in the perfection. And so how do we enter more and more fully into His presence before the Father? And that's the problem of Benedict, or that's the concern of Benedict, in setting up the monastery and writing his rule, and I think that's where we ended last night. He wanted to set up a school. Now, if you're listening to the text I began with, it probably sounded something like your


image of the monastic, but of course, the monastic followed after that text in the early Christian community, and that was one of the basic inspirations for the monastic. The monastic has always seen itself as simply continuing the apostolic life, that's all. Not setting up some whole new vocation called religious life, but rather in the earliest years it was simply a way of continuing what they envisioned based upon this text, and there's another one in Acts 4, their image of the apostolic community of Christians, which, as you were listening, is like a commune, isn't it? It's a communal enclosure, it's an enclave, for what purpose? To grow in this relationship, this presence to presence.


So that's all Benedict is trying to do. And so his rule was written for this kind of a community, and this is important to keep in mind. Not a disparate or separated group of people from all different walks of life, living in all different places, but the rule was written for a Christian ghetto, if you want to say, community, that were coming together within an environment that at times perhaps they experienced as hostile, and many years of persecution of the early Christians, at other times perhaps at best tolerant of them, sometimes indifferent, and then at other times favorable, almost to the danger point of being a way of getting ahead after the edict of Constantine to be Christian, can be a way of getting ahead, and that can be dangerous in a sense. So, it's this image from the early period of the Church that was not part of the mainstream


of society that captures the early monastics, and Benedict included. You've got to remember, as I mentioned yesterday, he was responding to the general Christian society of Rome and the surrounding area of Italy at the time, and perhaps he saw it as hostile in a certain sense to the true sense of what he saw Christianity to be, particularly as he read about it in the scriptures. So, he writes the rule and he calls it a rule for beginners, and for the small monastic society, not big monasteries, which of course later developed, but 15 to 25, that was the early idea and vision. And his concern is to lead the beginner into this relationship of presence to presence, which is a life of prayer. Now, apparently there was a Jewish settlement in the town where Benedict grew up, according


to some scholars, Nursia, where he grew up. And this would not be surprising, because in the rule of St. Benedict, we do see Jewish influences. The Torah is a rule for beginners in the covenanted life of a Jew. We often translate it as law, the law, the Torah, meaning the first five books of the Bible, of the Hebrew scriptures. But, law, rule, regulation, it's the same. It's interesting that Benedict would write a Torah, a rule. Torah was meant to teach the Jewish people how to be present to Yahweh, or how they might express it, to be in right relationship with Yahweh.


I suppose right relationship is to be present, and wrong relationship is to turn the other way, to be ignorant of that presence. Or, as the prophet Micah would beautifully put it, Torah is to teach you how to walk humbly with your God. That image of the early Jewish people of nomadic life, and knowing how to walk with God, who in that early period the ark was always placed in the tent, a beautiful symbol of God who journeys with the pilgrim people. And so it's not surprising that when you go through the Pentateuch, and especially in Leviticus, you know, not our most favorite books, and the later rabbinic development in the Talmud, and the thousands of regulations there, that we see, my God, every aspect of life is somehow covered in the Torah, in the Jewish rule of life. And to us it may be nitpicking, drive us crazy, but if you understand, the idea it's trying


to convey is that Yahweh is not a component of your life, but relationship with Yahweh is meant to have something to do with every aspect and detail of life. I think the idea behind it is beautiful, the way of conveying it, we may not want that so much ourselves. And so, for them, the importance of reading Torah, of listening to the Torah, of memorizing the Torah, of chewing on the Torah, you can see why that would be important, this is the rule, this is the guide, this is going to teach me how to walk humbly with my God, how to be in right relationship with God, how to increasingly be present to the ever-present One. Remember, the great characteristic of God for the Old Testament people is faithful. God is steadfast presence. Now, it's interesting that the Kemal Delis motto comes right out of the sense of Torah,


of rule, of covenant relationship. The motto, I am yours and you are mine. Kind of a paraphrasing of that Exodus text, you know, I will be your God, you will be my people. I am yours and you are mine. Very similar to my experience that I shared last night, that confessional experience, I want to belong totally to you. The rule of Benedict reflects Torah, it is a Torah, a law, a rule, and the rule reflects many other biblical perspectives. Torah, as well as the rule of Benedict, aims first at the outer life of the person, their behavior, their relations with others and the things in the monastery, etc., moving ever increasingly inward to the heart. That's what the Jewish Torah tried to do, meant to do, and that's what Benedict tries


to do, so that eventually there's a union that takes place in the person between their deepest inner self and their outer life and interactions with life. Now, the Bible declares that disobedience is the source of loss of relationship with God. As we read in the Adam and Eve story, I'm going to be speaking and mentioning this through the rest of these talks, it's very key. Now, we have to understand that word, disobedience, literally means deaf, deafness. And obedience means to listen, to hear. So the loss of relationship somehow, as the writer of the Book of Exodus tries to explain


something, there was a unified relationship of presence to presence, and that was lost through an act of disobedience, a deafness, a turning away from the Divine Presence. The Divine Presence, who for a Jew, always speaks. God's presence is always spoken, so to be attentive to that presence, I must listen. And it's interesting that Benedict stresses the very same thing throughout his whole rule, and he sets the tone for that in the prologue, that disobedience is the loss of your presence to God, and the way back to presence with God, and therefore prayer for life is obedience, is a listening life. That disobedience being what? A form of willfulness. As we read in Genesis, the willfulness of the first humans, symbolizing Adam and Eve,


going against the word they had heard of Yahweh, and asserting their own independent will apart from God. Of course, the temptation is they would be like God. They would know as God knows, without God. And the reaction to that action is what? They hid. They covered themselves, and they hid in the bushes. When Yahweh called, they hid. You see, that's the fundamental problem of every human being. God is calling to us all the time, and we hide. As the Bible declares that obedience is the way back to presence, a listening, if you might say, with the ear of the heart, so too does the rule say. Disobedience turns us away from God's presence, insensitizes us to God's presence, and obedience


turns us toward God's presence, sensitizes us towards God's presence. And it's interesting that Paul will talk about Christ as the new Adam, just as all have inherited this tendency of deafness, disobedience through Adam, all will inherit this healing, this listening, this obedience through the new Adam. It's back to my point about there's only one who's ever present before the Father, and that's Christ. As the Bible stresses acting justly and walking humbly with God, so does the rule speak of initially walking very carefully, but eventually running in the ways of God. So when you hear the echoes of the Old Testament, and this is all in the prologue and it's mentioned elsewhere, as the Bible in the book of Deuteronomy mentions the great Shema Yisrael,


the great prayer that every pious Jew, and certainly at the time of Jesus, prayed twice a day, beginning in the end, hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one, therefore you should love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. That's in Deuteronomy, and it's interesting in the very beginning of the rule, what does it say? Hear, listen, my son. It's the Shema. And then in chapter four, the tools for good works, it's mentioned again. Hear, what is that? First of all, love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and all your strength. It's the Shema, Yisrael. The rule of Benedict stresses right relationship with God in, and with, and through Christ by the power of the Spirit, who makes Christ present in us, in us individually, in our


midst as a community. And that's why the rule says, prefer nothing to the love of Christ. That's your key to presence to presence and a prayer for life. So when we talk about prayer and the rule in reality, we're talking about a whole way of life designed by Benedict to gradually teach a person to be more fully present to God in all things, all people, all seasons, all situations, all decisions. Therefore, it's about awakening, growing, maturing in relationship with God, with others, with oneself, with the world, with Christ at the center, made present by the Spirit. Now, it doesn't take much of an expert to realize that the rule of Benedict is primarily concerned with leading the monk from a state of disobedience, of deafness, increasingly


to a state of obedience or listening. It's a movement from deafness, inattentiveness, to listening, being attentive, to present, alert, awake, presence to presence. The rule is filled with advice about what promotes a listening life and what promotes stubbornness of heart, that other biblical phrase for deafness. In fact, the rule is ruthless about cutting away self-will. And the prologue is very important for the rule. It sets the tone for the whole thing. Listen carefully, my son, to the Master's instruction and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you.


Welcome it and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you have drifted through the slope of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will. Now, this may sound harsh for our modern ears, but we must understand what he means. This kind of autonomy of willfulness that tries to affirm my own existence, apart from any creator, that kind of sense. So, ready to give up your own will once and for all and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord. So that's it. He sets the tone right off. And so it's important how we understand that in relation to the overall goal.


He sees that this presence to presence and the dynamic between me and the Divine Presence, which we call prayer, requires an obedient life, a listening life. And Christ is the prototype for that. And he is the way into that kind of life. And the monk needs all kinds of help in even spotting the ways he is deaf to God's presence. For it has many manifestations and forms. And at the heart of that deafness is that self-will or willfulness, which renders a person insensitive to God's presence. It's kind of like going your own way, not needing God or others. That's the sense, I think, that the Bible and Benedict mean. And of course, nothing could be further from the truth. This kind of willfulness, which is a form of pride, creates an illusion of complete autonomy as a creature,


complete independence based on achievement and accomplishment. It tends to reduce presence to doing. I am what I do. My identity is what I do. And so I affirm my existence. I don't need anyone else, thank you. I don't need God or other people. I will make my accomplishments, and that affirms that I am. I exist. That kind of willfulness creates a deaf person who is oblivious to a presence all around him or her and within him or her. It is a trying to be like God, a God unto yourself, without God. It's the Adam and Eve story repeated over and over again. Now, Benedict's primary tool... Okay, so given this now, how is he going to go about awakening us,


helping us to realize this dynamic, and to lead us from a deaf life, a disobedient life, to a listening life, listening for God's presence? And his primary tool, and this shouldn't surprise any of you, is Scripture. It's the primary tool he'll use. In that same chapter four, we read, Listen readily to holy reading. And it's interesting he puts it with it, And devote yourself often to prayer. You really can't separate the two. Every day with tears and sighs, confess your sins to God in prayer. And change from these evil ways, from this deafness in the future. Scripture teaches us about other people's relationship with God.


We get to see the ups and downs of the dynamics, so that we get some idea of how are we to be in relationship with God, present to the divine presence. We get to see how God is present to people, to humanity, as we read the Scriptures. We become familiar with God's ways of being present. We become familiar with the successful responses of people, as well as their horrible failures, in which we probably see our own. And we realize there's some fundamental human dynamic there, that makes them like us. The Scriptures teach us about ourselves, therefore, and our own inconstancy. The Scriptures have the capacity to pierce through the illusion of my false self and my own willfulness. It teaches us what pitfalls to avoid, and the many forms of deafness, of disobedience,


that there are in human life. As well as how to grow in relationship with God, through a prayer for life. The Scriptures also tell us about relationships with other people, and the close connection, as I mentioned last night, between human relational development and human divine relational development. Now for Benedict, the Psalms in particular are of great importance, for they contain all the major themes of the Old Testament. The Psalms for Benedict are kind of like a condensation, in a rather acute intensity, of these themes. Kind of cutting out all the non-essentials, and really bearing in on what is essential, in presence to presence. But it's more than that. The Psalms not only contain all the major themes of Scripture, but they are contained in a certain form,


a certain literary style, that is poetry. And therefore, as poetry, they are highly evocative of presence. Poetry seeks to lead you into presence. When the poet describes a tree or a flower, he's describing an experience of that, in order to lead you into that reality right as you're reading. That's what the poet's doing. And that's what the Psalms do. They seek to evoke presence, as poetry and as highly symbolic literature. And when they're chanted, which they're meant as, after all, they're lyrics, right? They're poetic lyrics for songs. When they're chanted, they tend to rouse up something in a human being, because they take a lot more effort, you know, to chant than to say. And they take more breath, and it kind of comes from a deeper part in you.


Something deeper in the person is engaged. And Benedict knew this, that as chanted, they involve more of the person. And when they are read and chanted aloud, it's because they're meant to be heard. They were never written. See, we don't realize this, that it was rather, I forget which century, before people read silently to themselves. I think it's the 4th or 5th century after Christ. I know, I think it's, Augustine talks about seeing, I think it was Saint Anselm reading something, and he's moving his lips but making no noise, and he's kind of, what is this? Some new invention. People wrote, and it was meant to be sounded. We have a hard time realizing this, but if you think about your experience a little bit, it makes more sense. That's why a poet would say, well you never read a poem, you have to say, especially if you read like Hopkins, you know, with all the alliteration, it's meant to be heard.


So too with the scriptures, so too with the psalms, when they're chanted aloud and heard, they teach listening obedience. And they teach attentiveness to God's presence. It's always interesting to read scripture to oneself silently, and then to hear the same text read aloud, and to pay attention to your experience. I know I find that I can spend hours over a text doing Lectio Divina, then I come to the church for the community mass, or whatever it is, and God knows how many times I've gone over that reading, but when I hear it publicly proclaimed by another person, I hear some new dimensions I didn't hear before. I'm surprised by what I hear. So this is why, some of the reasons anyway, why Benedict chooses scripture as this tool to lead us from deafness to listening. Another reason is scripture is also filled


with many, many stories. In fact, probably the bulk of it are stories. The truths are kind of hidden in a story form. And who can overestimate the power of story to engage a person, to lead a person, or a group of persons into relationship with God and one another? Jesus himself, we know, preferred stories called parables, for stories draw a person into the truth that it's trying to teach. They help you to identify with the character, so that's how you're drawn in, as opposed to someone who's just giving a discourse on some truth, then you hang back and you're listening to the ideas. But when it's a story, you get pulled into the scene, and then the ideas will come at the end, as you know, the great punchline, but you're one of the characters and it really hits you. Stories are not about information. They're not informative, primarily.


They're formative. They're designed to shape you and form you in some powerful way. They're essentially relational. They're meant to convey some relational dynamic, and that's what the whole thing is about. I don't know if you've heard the story of the four rabbis. This great rabbi, and this is the time of the Jewish settlements in Eastern Europe, Poland and Yugoslavia and Russia, and the development of Hasidism and the Kabbalistic mystical tradition in Hebrew religion. There was this great rabbi, some great rabbis and teachers grew during this period. When raiders used to come to raid his village, he would run to a certain place in the forest, a very set place, and he would light a fire, build a fire a certain way, and he would say a very specific kind of prayer. Whenever he did this,


the village somehow would be saved, would escape devastation. And as was the custom, a rabbi always trains a disciple who then continued after he dies, hopefully. So he died, and I guess many years had passed by before the village was threatened again by robbers. But it did happen. But you can remember it was many years, so now this disciple of the great rabbi, fortunately he manages to find a place in the forest. You know, it's been so long. And he remembers how to build a fire, the right kind of wood and the way to place it, but he can't remember the words of the prayer. But the village was saved anyway. Well, of course, as he got older, he had a disciple. He died, and many years later, danger threatened the village again. Well, this disciple, it had been so long, so he managed to find a place in the forest, but he didn't remember how to build a fire. And he certainly didn't know the prayer because his own master


had forgotten the prayer. And behold, the village was spared. And finally he grew old and died, and his disciple was the rabbi for the village and danger threatened. And all the townspeople came running up to the rabbi's little hut, little house, and the doors were bolted and the shades were pulled across the windows, and they didn't know what was going on. You know, they were all pounding, save us, save us. And imagine seeing the rabbi's there in his little study with all these tomes and books, commentaries on the Torah, a wise and learned man and his head buried in his hands. And he finally utters, he says, Lord God of the universe, what shall I do? Danger threatens the village, my people and your people, but I don't remember the place in the forest, and I don't know how to build a fire as my master did,


nor do I remember the prayer. All I remember is the story. And the village was saved. That's the bottom line, isn't it? We don't have to remember all the details, but we must remember the story. And all the story contains the essence, the fundamentals. And that's the way our Gospels are, aren't they? They do not contain the details of Jesus' life. As the end of John's Gospel says, if one were to write every detail of his life, there wouldn't be enough books in the world to contain them. And so that's not what the point of Scripture is. It's remembering the story, because the fundamental power is in the story, not all the details. And the Scriptures are filled with these stories, and Benedict knew that even the life of Benedict by Gregory is all through story. Now, in using Scripture as this key tool


to lead his monks from deafness to listening, Benedict knew that you just can't give somebody a tool and expect they know what to do with it. If you've never seen a hole before and I give it to you, you say, yeah, this is going to really save your life, but I don't show you what you look at and you might think you're supposed to try to eat with it or something. So Benedict realizes this, so he has to teach people how to use the tool of Scripture. It's not automatic. And if it's that primary tool for Benedict for developing relationship with God and becoming a prayerful person, he's going to have to teach a method for approaching Scripture called Lectio Divina. And for him, Lectio is a way of approaching the Scripture so as to grow in obedience, so as to grow in listening for what?


The presence of the Divine Other. Scripture teaches me how to listen throughout my life, not only when I'm with the Scripture, but throughout my life, it's a teacher, how to listen for God's presence, for God with me, and to respond with my own presence, which is what prayer is. As my tapes on Lectio explore, Lectio is a listening-esque communion with God or for communion, not so much for a message, but for a presence. Lectio, as listening for God through Scripture, is the fundamental spiritual practice of the Commandolese Benedictines. The French philosopher


Gabriel Marcel once remarked, there is a way of listening which is a way of giving. I think that's very important to remember here, biblically, because modern people tend to use the word passive. When you're speaking, you're being the active one. When you're listening, you're being the passive one. And that's not really completely accurate and it's not completely biblical. Listening is how you give yourself to the other. So Marcel is on to a deep, not just a philosophical insight, but a deep biblical and relational insight. And we do that because we realize that God first listens to us. That's God's way of being present to us in a listening mode. God gives God's self to us. As that one psalm says,


a blade of grass doesn't blow in the wind without God hearing it. Another way of saying, without God being aware of its existence. That's how sensitive and fine-tuned God is present to his creation. So there's a way of listening which is a way of giving. And that is because when we give and receive, we cease to be strangers. For the giving and receiving reveal the self behind them. And that's the basic idea of Lectio and this listening life. It's how I give myself and it's how I receive and how God and I cease to be strangers. Because through it all, God reveals God's self and my own self is revealed to myself. Even when chanting the psalms


here in our chapel, we are fundamentally listening. That's the primary thing we do here. It's all Lectio. That's why I say it's the underlying spirituality of our life here. And we try to listen and that's the challenge with our whole being for God's presence through the words we speak or through the words chanted by the cantor as we're quiet or the other side of the choir, you know, in the back-and-forth rhythm or the Lectio when he gets up and reads a text from the Scriptures. It's all about listening for someone who's there through the words. The words are a medium. They're a conductor of presence, like I suppose copper conducts electricity. So for us, listening is fundamental to our prayerful relationship


with God. It is how we welcome God into our conscious life. God is already in my life but in my consciousness that requires a free act. I can do very well to try to block God out of my consciousness. I can't block God out of my life. I would cease to exist. But I can keep God out of my conscious awareness and be aware of everything but God. And I think when we begin to welcome God through this listening life into our conscious life and the full reality of God starts to break in upon us, I think more and more it becomes harder and harder to speak. For words seem to fail to express what is deepest within us and we're reduced to tears as the Eastern monks and Benedict and Romuald were so fond of recommending as a form of prayer.


Or gestures like bowing and prostrating which were so much a part of the early monastic tradition. The end of the psalm, the whole group used to fall in its face for quite a while in silence and that was the real fruit of the psalm. The psalm was the hoe or the plow. But when you bowed down you were underground. You were down there. That was the real essence of one's prayerful contact. We don't do too much of that prostrating because we have, I don't know, harder floors or we're just not as tough. I mean they used to really go down there. But that's a form of prayer. Or groans and sighs recommended in the monastic life based upon a reading of Saint Paul when he says the spirit teaches us to pray with groans and sighs such as crying out Abba or sitting in absolute stillness.


It seems the more the reality of God breaks in, words become harder to come forth and we're brought into these other kinds of expressions and maybe even to that silence and stillness. It's a fact that Benedict does not favor a lot of words with God. He says it's not necessary. In fact he says short arrow-like exchanges with God are better. They go right to the center instead of beating around the bush. I think he used the word dart like a dart because he recognizes how often for human beings words get in the way of what's really real, what's deepest within us. Words can so easily superficialize presence and camouflage presence or be a substitute for my presence to another. We read in the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, chapter 5, on this,


and again it takes us back to Jesus. During his life on earth, he offered up a prayer and entreaty with loud cries and with tears to the one who had the power to save him from death. And winning a hearing by his reverence, he learned obedience. He learned to hear. Sung though he was, he learned obedience through his sufferings. When he had been perfected, he became for all who obeyed him the source of eternal salvation. Hebrews is very important in the New Testament, this book, for taking the essence of the Old Testament and filling it out with the revelation of Jesus Christ. So it's a very key text. If you want to try to understand the relationship of the Old Testament to our Christian life, go to Hebrews and you'll see how the author really tries to do that. In our Constitutions,


the Commandolese Constitutions in number 4, it states, in both the hermitage and the monastery, the monks attend to the contemplative life above everything else, which is simply a prayerful life, meaning a union with God through a deep, heartfelt listening to God's presence, mediated in a special way through Scripture, which is the support of faith, food for the soul, and the pure and unfailing source of life in the spirit. Now this movement in relationship with God from deafness to listening through Scripture is a daily task. It's a never-ending, this side of death for you and for me, and Benedict knew that. And it takes place in a certain setting, this school, this monastery, this community, which ideally, or supposedly, was a community


of like-minded people who were seeking the same thing, who were seeking to be more consistently present to the Divine Presence. And so the whole community and the rural reflexes is set up to facilitate this one goal for everyone. The rural itself, the abbot, the prior, all the other people in authority, and the way of life are all there for one aim only, to foster prayerful relationship with God. The structures facilitate listening, but at the same time, as we know, if you've read through the rule, it attacks, it confronts deafness, willfulness, disobedience in all its forms. The rule seeks to wake us up to God's presence. As we see every


Monday morning here at vigils, rise, sleeper, wake from the dead. Your salvation is near at hand, quoting from Scripture. We say that every day because we're always falling back to sleep. You know what I mean, a lack of consciousness. So the whole way of life is meant to wake up the person and to wear down the illusions of the false self and to penetrate to the heart of the matter. For Benedict, to seek God necessarily requires first confronting yourself and then how to go beyond that self, self-transcendence. I have to know what has a hold on me before I can surrender and relinquish that through the power of Christ. So the monastic community is meant to be a sign and an instrument of intimate union with God


and of unity with the entire world. The community of people as well as the structure of life are all part of this school teaching a person how to be and grow in relationship with God, how to listen and be obedient. It's all through the rule. Even chapter four, which is mainly on the virtues or tools for this workshop, this school. And it's almost all those virtues you can only acquire if there's other people there in your life. Almost all of them are virtues that a person hones in reaction or response to other people. You want to learn patience? Just put you with certain kinds of people. That's how you learn patience. It's not just poured into you from the sky. It's some concrete situation that teaches you that virtue. So almost all the virtues in chapter four require other people in close living situation. And these virtues all are related to what moving


from deafness to a listening life. By weaving in to this way of life as Benedict does community life, he weaves in work, he weaves in solitude, liturgical prayer and worship. By weaving all of these things in, Benedict is teaching one unified reality. God is everywhere in all things and all people and all events in each person seeking a relationship with you. Can you find God in all of these places, in all of these people and be present to God? That's the question. And like Chinese water torture, because we're exposed to the scriptures constantly, like Chinese water torture, gradually in time, and I stress that,


it's gradual and in time, it does become possible to enter into Christ's presence before the Father. And as a concluding remark, and we'll follow up with more on this tonight, part of the setting within which we listen to scripture, aside from the community, is silence and solitude, both in its outer dimensions, meaning a silent place, a quiet place, but it's in most dimensions a silent mind and heart, calm, open, receptive, attentive, responsive. In such a space, we really fine-tune our listening to God and to ourselves from the most superficial levels to the deepest levels. Saint Augustine once said,


a human being is a great deep. I suppose you could say a great abyss. Presence is a great deep, a great abyss. Presence, to be present to the Divine Presence requires depth and the capacity to go deeply. It requires contemplation, some experience of reflection and meditation that can give time for the inner self to expand. Charity, which is so important in the rule and in the Gospel, is simply the overflowing of a carefully gathered treasure, which seems to require time alone and time quiet to gather that treasure. Presence requires depth. Jesus was present and that presence came from a depth nourished by his own solitude times with God


that we see especially in the Gospel of Luke, tries to catch that, how important that was for Jesus' presence to the Divine Presence. Silence in itself, however, is not prayer. Silence in itself is not prayer, yet it becomes prayer when I suddenly awaken to someone there with me in the silence. Then without a word the silence speaks, doesn't it, and embraces and kisses and nourishes me. Then the silence ceases to be a stranger or an enemy, but a friend and a kind of homecoming. Words also in themselves are not prayer. Even the words of a formula prayer, in the sense that I'm saying, are not prayer in themselves. But when I'm suddenly awakened to someone there with me


as I'm using those words, that's prayer, because then the words pierce me to the heart or they well up from deep within my heart. Then the words begin to soar to the heavens or they stir the very soul. They shake the foundations of my life. They soothe and heal. They challenge and convict. They wound and caress. So I'll stop there. That's it.