Retreat Conferences #5 and #6

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Retreat Conference #5-#6, hosted by Fr Robert Hale




Loving God, by the inspiration of Christ's Spirit, draw us into the silence of your mystery. This we ask through Christ's word. Amen. Good morning. Our text today is very short. And one, the biblical text, is Matthew 26, verse 38-C. The last part of this verse, Matthew 26, 38.


Only the last part. John, wait here and stay away from me. Today I am in trouble because I must speak about silence and about monastic silence. We should not speak about silence. We are called as monks only to experience it. When I am invited to speak about silence in Italy, because there is today in my country a strong interest regarding the philosophical, religious, and theological meaning of silence,


Father Innocenso and I are preparing a work about the silence in the Ecclesiastical Age. I accept this, but always with personal difficulty, because I think that a monk must not speak about his silence. It must be silence. It is enough. And often I am not understood because my discourse is monastic, contemplative. Today in the church there is an interest about this dimension of the spirit, which is the silence, and many people come in the monastery, in the hermitage, to seek this silence.


And they want to know from us, tell me a word about silence. But this word breaks our silence. There is a contradiction. And often I am not understood because my discourse is monastic, contemplative. I think that we cannot comprehend the profound sense of this practice if our life is not silence. But today I speak to monks, to brothers who share my same experience. In fact, we know that our silence is an interior dimension of the spirit.


For this reason, I want to begin our meditation quoting some texts. And for this reason, I have here a photocopy, because it is important to read these texts. They are texts from our tradition, monastic tradition. They are also in my papers, but today it is important to read. The first text.


John, please. Today you are my leader. St. Peter's Seat. Pambo, illiterate, goes to a brother to learn a psalm. As soon as he hears the first verse of Psalm 39, I said, I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue. He does not want to know more. For me it is enough, he says, if I will be able to do it. Six months pass, and because his teacher, meeting him one day, has reproached him, he answers, but I have not yet learned to practice the first verse. Thus he lives many years, but a certain man, who knows him well, asks him if he has learned his verse.


Pambo answers, in nineteen long years I have learned to practice it only a little. It's a funny story, but interesting. This first text is of a historian, Socrates Scholasticus of the 5th century, who in historical history narrates this famous fact of Pambo. This person is very funny, but very interesting. I think because we come to know that this spiritual practice of silence is biblical, and rooted in the monastic desert, especially this practice of silence. Now we read a second text, which is more profound. It is of Saint Isaac of Nineveh.


Slowly, because this is not parable, but theological. Love silence more than any other thing. It gives to you a fruit, which our tongue is not able to describe. In the beginning we seek silence, but then from our own silence comes something, which takes us into the silence. God gives to you this something, which comes from the silence. If you will practice this interior silence, you will see what profusion of light you will receive in your soul.


In fact, from the practice of silence, our soul gives birth to goodness. And finally, there is also our verse, a biblical verse, Remain here and wait, or keep awake, with me. It seems to me that these three texts reveal the dynamics of monastic silence. In the first text, silence is understood as a vigilance not to sin with our tongue. What is this sin of tongue? It is the sin of Israel in the desert, when the people of Israel grumble against God and his servant Moses.


And often also we must grumble. We are not happy with our life. We are not content with our community, with our brothers, and of course with the Bible. And our tongue grumbles against everything and everybody. Blah, blah, [...] blah. In other words, this sin of grumbling takes our soul outside ourselves. It is also a consequence of another state of soul, which the ancient monks called Akedia, or the midday demon.


St. John Cassian calls it Tedium Cordis. That is the temptation to consent to boredom and thus to spiritual negligence. This is a state of insufferance for my life, for the other, for the community. Sometimes we experience this state of insufferance. It is not depression only. It is Tedium Cordis. And often we think to talk, to speak with others is the better solution. No, it is a terrible solution. In this anti-spiritual state, we want to do nothing.


We do not wish to pray, to work, or to study. Though we are in a personal situation of permanent temptation, and we begin to wander around spiritually. I like in Camaldoli, we are mosquitos, also here. But in the winter, there is cold in Camaldoli, and snow. And the mosquitos, which are in the cell, in the winter, begin crazy. They begin spinning around. And for me it is interesting, because sometimes we monks are these mosquitos. Our stability.


Where is that stability of grace, of our heart? The necessary response to all this is a way of silence. It is a way of retiring into ourselves. Come back in ourselves. And to retire into ourselves, it is necessary to stop our tongue and our dark thoughts. For this work of spiritual concentration, I recommend the prayer of Jesus, or the interior recitation of a biblical word, mantra. Now, if we will find this interior stability, we will experience the true joy of silence.


It is necessary the experience of tempo, to take literally the silence in our life. The second text, very profound, invites us to love this interior silence. It seems to me that in this second quotation, the silence is understood as a companion. To discover the silence as a companion of our life. Or better, as a presence. The silence is a presence. In the beginning, we seek silence. Here, the silence is our production.


We want this silence. But then, from our own silence, comes something which leads us into the silence. So, there are three kinds of silence. There is a first silence as absence of external sounds, of rumors. Here, our struggle is a return journey into ourselves. It is difficult, this first way. Come back, to come back in ourselves. To retire in ourselves. To seek this exterior silence. To find this interior stability.


There is a second silence. It is the silence of our own soul. Of our interior life. And this second silence comes after many years of monastic life. In fact, there is within us an interior dialogue which often we are not aware of. Because we don't hear ourselves. Because we don't enter into the profound silence of our soul. In this sense, there is an exterior world. And for this reason, we seek a silence. Exterior silence. No rumors, no words.


And here we discover the importance of the cell in our life. The cell is this exercise of silence. But when we are in ourselves, when we abide ourselves, there is a dialogue in my soul. Interior dialogue. Which often we are not aware of, because we don't hear ourselves. And here is necessary another kind of silence. At this point, it is necessary to stop not only every kind of activity of thought.


Very difficult. To stop every activity of thought. Especially for theologians. Because we thought too much. This is our sin. It is necessary to stop not only every kind of activity of thought. And of imagination. But also every form of prayer and of recitation. To listen to silence which gives itself up to us. There is a profound silence within us. And for this reason, it is necessary to stop every kind of word.


Personal word, our spiritual dialogue within us. And also the prayer. To listen to this silence. This silence is not ours. This silence does not come from our will, our practice. This silence is a gift of God. This is the third silence. But then, from our own silence, comes something which leads us into the silence. This silence is different, another. I have experienced this silence only one time in my life. And I remember this experience. I was in Camantoli.


In the church. With a big community. Because that day, our community celebrated the mass with 50 monks, Buddhist monks. Not only silence, 15 minutes of silence. So profound. And we were 70-80 monks in the church. Profound silence. Very intense. Truly, a field of grace. No thought. No word. No hesitation. Or every kind of word. Silence. Pure silence. One time in my life.


This is a gift. I am young, I hope other experience. I don't know. You. In this silence came something. Came something. I have experienced a sense of inundation. But not physical or corporeal as we can experience in the sea. When we can dive into the sea. There is immersion, inundation. Not physical. It was an inundation of interior presence. I felt myself to be in the center of someone. Do you see the church? Not something, but now someone.


Invisible, impenetrable and immense. Beautiful and profound experience. But one time in my life. Finally, there is also our biblical text. Remain here and keep awake with me. Which I interpret in the light of this interior journey. Because we don't experience always this ineffable silence. This ineffable silence, it is an extraordinary gift. From grace of God. But we must persevere. Persist in our interior silence. And to wait.


We must be ready. Because we don't know when the Lord will come. We must be ready. Because we don't know when the Lord will come. Probably He is already at our door. And is knocking. And if there is not this interior silence within us. This time of waiting. It is impossible to listen to Him. But Jesus is at our door. And He is knocking. Alessandro, Alessandro. Probably I don't listen to Him. Remain here.


Means then stand firm in your monastic vocation. Not to search outside you that which is already within you. It means in this context retire into yourself. Remain here. Find your silence. And keep awake with me. A wakeful heart is alert to the presence, to the beloved. And prepared for a visit. I think the heart of a monk is prepared for this visit. Is always ready. The bride in the canticle is an example of the watchful, responsive heart. Listening for the approach of the lover.


I was sleeping, but my heart kept vigil. I heard my lover knocking. Open to me, my sister, my beloved, my dove, my perfect one. Open to me. We keep awake through a profound interior silence. In hope of catching sight of the glory of the Lord. Like the disciples on the mountain where Jesus was transfigured. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep. But they kept awake and saw His glory. Our temptation is sleeping. But if we have a ready heart, watchful heart, it's possible this experience.


They kept awake and saw His glory. In this sense, silence is awaiting. We keep watch for the coming of the Lord. Confident that He will appear a second time. Not to take away sin. But to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him. I wanted to conclude today our meditation reading. And also to repeat our prayer of today in the Lord. From Psalms 146. The Lord delights in those who revere Him. In those who wait for His love. In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Loving Father, so inspire us with Your Spirit. We may always see in Jesus the Word of God. And receive that Word into our lives and be transformed by that Word. All this we ask through the Saint, Christ our Lord. Amen. Today our text is Luke chapter 2, verse 19. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.


In these days we have seen true practice, monastic practice, stability. And yesterday attention to oneself. Today the third monastic practice is meditation. And I think that this text of Luke is the best text for speaking about monastic meditation. In the sense that Mary is the figure that helps us much more than any other to understand the work of meditation in monastic life. Mary is the archetype of every believer. And in her we can see what meditation truly is. According to Christian tradition, meditation is not a technique for the emptiness of our soul.


But rather its goal is the fullness or the maturation of God's Word within us. In this light, Mary is a paradigm of every Christian meditation in the interior dynamics of the conceptions, the growth and the birth of God's Word within us. Today my meditation is about these three levels, conception, growth and birth of God's Word within us. The conceptions of God's Word in our heart is the moment of hearing. I insist, hearing, listening. The moment in which we receive the seed of the Word. It is the kairos of our yes to God.


It is the kairos of our yes to God. Of our opening and our receptivity to God's gift. Here, in this first moment, an interior work of purification, of disposition and of preparation is necessary. To understand this, we must read the parable of the sower with the explanation of Jesus. But today we read only the explanation of Jesus, Matthew chapter 13. This text is important to understand what is conception in my life, concrete. Matthew 13, verses 18-23. You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower.


When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart. This is the person who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the one who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him. He does not last. Let some trial come or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the person who hears the word. But the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word, and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the person who hears the word and understands it. He is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.


Don't close your Bible, because this text is essential today for us. God's word is generous. It gives itself to everyone. Nobody is excluded, and everyone hears and receives the seed of the word. But it takes root only in the good soil. Now, the explanation of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew is very interesting. In the first case, the seed falls along the path. The word becomes heard, but is not understood. Here, between the word and the hearer, there is not the same level of communication. Insofar as the word utters the contents of life, which are much too far from the ideals and the choices of his ear.


In the first case, there is no communication. The hearer does not understand the contents of this word. Here, the incomprehension is not intellectual in the mind. Because the subject does not understand it, because he is not intelligent, no. But the trouble arises around the values and the choices of life. This word is too strong, too radical for this person. And he prefers other choices. He does not understand that this word is the rock of his life. In neither of the other two cases does the word find the condition for his conception.


In fact, in the second case, the word is heard and received with joy. But the hearer has not rooted in himself. Very interesting. There is only an enthusiastic adhesion, which is very superficial. And in the third case, the word is heard, but it is present amid the destruction of the earer and his strong interest in the cares of the world and in the delight in riches. The true conception of the word occurs only in the last case presented by Jesus, that is, on the good soil. Now the word is heard and becomes understood.


And as above, the comprehension is not of the intellectual order, but it is a personal receptivity. This is comprehension, understanding of the word. Personal receptivity. An answer of participation, of openness and of love. In this context, good soil does not mean simply a moral disposition. But it means a field prepared to receive the seed of God's word. A field prepared. Though the spiritual conception of the logos of the word, the divine word, within us is an event of the divine spirit who gives the word and does it.


Through our opening and our receptivity, our, yes, our field. For this reason, for this reason, Mary today is important for us because Mary is this field. Yes. And the spirit conceives a new life in us. We can also call this spiritual conception of the word within us Lectio. Insofar as it is the first step of Lectio Divina. What is Lectio? The first step is our disponibility to receive this word. It is our opening, our receptivity. But we say also, yes, I am ready.


After the conception begins the growth of God's word in our life. After conception begins the growth. Now, in the verse of Luke 2.18, there are two verbs which help us to understand the concrete forms of monastic meditation. They are to keep and above all to ponder. In my translation, I have learned today, probably it's different. My translation is standard, standard version Bible. But I have controlled this text with a Greek text. It's very good. They are to keep and above all to ponder. To keep means in the monastic tradition Ruminatio.


Ruminatio. It is double meaning of both remembering the word and repeating it. And of digesting the word and of assimilating it. The other verb, to ponder, to keep. I have spoken about this verb in my course before about Lectio Divina. The other verb, to ponder, is more important for the Christian goal of meditation. To ponder. To ponder translates into English the Greek verb sunballein. In Greek, in this verse, we have this verb sunballein. Which in this context of Luke 2.18 means to compare, to confront or to ponder.


Good translation. But we must understand the deep meaning, the deep sense of this verb. Mary keeps everything in her heart and she ponders about these things. Not only keeps, she keeps, but also ponders, sunballein, confront, compare. In this light, the interior meditation of Mary was a spiritual comparing, spiritual comparing of the marvelous works of God in Jesus Christ through a consideration of the unity of the mystery. This is our goal. We keep everything, but we see the unity of the mystery.


This is meditation. This is the ponderation. Here, the heart of Mary seems to be a furnace in which the fire of wisdom burns. This image of the furnace reminds of the experience of the disciples of Emmaus. Do you remember this text? First of all, they receive the revelation of scripture. Luke 24.27. Today, we read many texts. This experience is essential for us. They receive the revelation of scripture. 24.27.


Thank you. Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, Jesus explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself. And beginning... I have another translation, but good. And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. The Old Testament is important. In all the scriptures, everything, every work of God is important. To understand the mystery of salvation and, of course, the mystery of God. But he interpreted to them these things concerning himself.


In this light, our interpretation of the Old Testament is in the light of Jesus Christ. Secondly, from this to keep the word of scripture, to keep... about Jesus Christ's Christological moment, a spiritual fire of comprehension of God's mystery burns. Neomatological moment. Do you see this? Two levels. To keep the word of scripture about Jesus Christ. This moment is Christological. Essential in our faith. A spiritual fire of comprehension of God's mystery burns within us.


Neomatological moment. In fact, Luke 24, 32. Then they said to each other, did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us? This is the fire. Spiritual fire. An open heart. Transformed heart. Living heart. A heart of fire. A fire. Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road in my concrete life when he opened to us the scriptures? And finally, we can live a fascinating movement of opening.


It's present in this text. I like very much this page. We can live a fascinating movement of opening. Opening. And this is a great gift of meditation. In fact, the growth of God's word is our opening to the mystery. Our opening to the mystery. Through our senses. Through our senses. Their eyes were open. The first opening in this text is the opening of the eyes. And our mind. He opened their minds to understand the scriptures. True levels. The senses and the mind.


And it is a revelation of God's mystery through the image of the open heaven. In this text, we have three openings. The first is our eyes. The eyes of disciples. The second is the mind. To understand the scriptures. Exactly, Luke 24, 45. And finally. The final sequence in this text is the opening of the heaven. Ascension of Jesus. Do you see? Our growth of God's word is our opening to the mystery. Through senses and mind. And it is a revelation of God's mystery through the image of the open heavens.


So, we can call this growth of God's word meditation. Insofar as it is the second step of the divine. This opening. After our yes, our lecture, our conception, there is this growth. And this, in our tradition, is called meditation. Opening of our eyes. Opening our mind to the profound sense of the scriptures. And finally, opening of the heavens. But the greatest gift of biblical meditation is the birth of the word in us.


Not only conception, not only growth, but the birth of this word in us. In my life. At this step of our spiritual path, journey, we become like a mother. Who gives birth to the gospel. This is, for me, the best experience. Especially in our monastic life. We become like a mother. Who gives birth to the gospel. Wonderful. Do you remember? There is a verse in the yoke. The evangelist yoke is essential for my discourse today. We can understand this ineffable experience with the birth of scripture.


Luke 8, 21. Thank you very much. But Jesus said in answer, My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice. My mother and my brother are those who hear the word of God and do it. We are called to become mother and brother of Jesus. A sister of Jesus. Wonderful. Wonderful. Profound experience. Mystical. Mystical experience. In these days we are persecuted by the repetition of some verbs.


And I am very sorry. But it is important to hear and to do. We have already seen that the verb to do means to live. That is to build our life on the rock of the world. But now we must discover a more profound meaning of living the world. A more profound meaning of living the world. The mystical sense of this birth of the world within us. The mystical sense. For this reason, these practices are dimensions of the spirit. Not simple exercises. But dimensions of the spirit. In fact, this birth of the gospel is...


Excuse me. There is a mistake here in my notes. In fact, this birth of the gospel within us means that we become a living gospel. On the first day of my meditation I have thought about this, but very quickly. This is now the meaning sense. We become a living gospel. We are a living gospel. Especially every Christian. But now I talk to monks. Especially monks. We are a living gospel. A symbol of goodness. Of compassion. Of participation to the mystery of God. In other words, this generation is the fruit of the spirit.


Who transforms us into a living evangelical world. Also, this is one aspect of our transfiguration in God. Transfiguration is not only light. And a participation of mystical spirit in life. No. It's also this. We become a living gospel. We become a living evangelical world. And I think it is very important today in our world. In every age. But today, in our church, in our history. To be this world. This evangelical world. This living gospel. It's essential. And this is our prophecy.


In our world, this generation is a fruit of the spirit. Who transforms us into a living evangelical world. A world which prays in Jesus Christ. A world which prays in Jesus Christ. In this moment, it is oration. A world which contemplates in the Holy Spirit. Contemplation. And a living world which through its same presence. Spreads the gospel. Evangelization. When we are conceived by the world. And this world grows within us. This world works within us.


A transformation, a transfiguration. And changes also our prayer. And gives to us the gift of contemplation. And especially, we are living world. We are a sign of evangelization. So, the monastic meditation. Is a practice which involves our conversion. The spiritual attention to oneself. Probably, you can understand. My journey with us in this day. Monastic meditation is a practice. Which involves our conversion. Without conversion, it is impossible this path, this journey. And also, the spiritual attention to oneself.


This is the work of purification. And a concrete path of Lectio Divina. Three steps of Lectio, Meditatio, Ratio, Contemplatio. Which now become within us. A virginal conception of the world. A spiritual growth in the world. And a mystical birth from the world. Which transforms us in the living gospel. I love the preposition. And this preposition is very important. A virginal conception of the world. Of. A spiritual growth in the world. A mystical birth from the world. Which transforms us in the living gospel.


Today, let us ask in our prayer. For the gift of an evangelical meditation. To become the friends of God. To be a living world of peace, of reconciliation. Of compassion. Of goodness. Of love. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.