Spiritual Teaching of the Brief Rule of Saint Romuald

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Different date on cassette case vs. cassette itself. Case date -1995.MM.DD #ends-short


I'd like to take an excerpt from Psalm 24. The Lord is good and upright. He shows the path to those who stray. He guides the humble in the right path. He teaches his way to the poor. His ways are faithfulness and love for those who keep his covenant and will. To those who revere the Lord, he will show the path they should choose. The Lord's friendship is for those who revere him. To them, he reveals his covenant. Lord, continue to open us, open all the faculties of our minds, our thoughts, our


imagination, our memory, our emotions, and our will, so that they can belong to you and be more open and receptive to your presence with us. We give you thanks for Saint Romuald, our guide and teacher this retreat, our brother and friend, our fellow traveler, one who is praying with us and for us, and for all the saints and all those that you have and continue to give to us. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,


world without end. Amen. I don't know if I said the tail end of that, but I meant to say the tail end of the last reflection, that when Romuald says, you know, to cast all memory of the world behind you, we talked about the faculties of the mind, and what the memory does to reality, and our way of seeing the world. Sometimes you read in some books, and I think, at least from my point of view, I think we have to be careful, and I know Merton, too, when he would, you listen to some of his tapes, and he's giving talks in some of the very famous and ancient doctors of the Church, but he would point out, well, we can't follow that, and we can't follow that, in light of our current understanding, in light of maybe our own understanding of medicine, our own understanding of anthropology and the body, our own understanding of psychology today, and addiction, you know, we understand more things than they did, so certain things, we have to be a little bit careful, so we read the classics, I always get a bit


nervous when somebody says, oh, I'm reading John of the Cross, because if they swallow him whole, they'll run into the, I mean, he reflects certain limitations of his period, as well as certain graces and insights, so the thing is like panning for gold, you know, there's gold in the Indar Hills, so don't throw it out, but it's not all gold, and that's why usually a good commentary is always helpful to know what you have to be careful, otherwise we can go on a tangent that is not really healthy and helpful, so like when John of the Cross talks about nada, nothing, nothing, nothing, you almost get the sense of annihilation of one's faculties, and I don't think that's really what he means, you know, but the language is a kind of language that in our modern idiom sounds that way, and we can easily misunderstand, and probably for us it's better to say letting go, so letting go so that you might receive it back, and so the faculties, as I told you, God meets us through our faculties, the, I think what Romulo was saying, you cannot repose in


them, you cannot live in your thoughts, or in your emotions, or in your imagination, you can't live in the past, the holy remembrance, I said, is important, and you can't live in the future, yet the future has a privileged place in Christianity, that's what's pulling us forward, so, but it's all to keep us in the present moment, on the cutting edge, where God is creatively present in your life, in my life, and in the life of the world, and it's almost as if our faculties, because of whatever this thing is in you, that is in human beings, tends to narrow, or confine, or restrict the faculties, and so I think when we have an experience that we might call an experience of God, or some kind of a breakthrough awareness, it's usually like a window has suddenly been opened, and it might last a second, 20 seconds, and go, wow, your faculties are still there, but they're suddenly, they're opened, and it's interesting how very quickly, once you become aware of what has happened, you want to kind of get in control, hey, it's good that we're here


Lord, Peter says on Mount Tabor, let's build free rooms, you know, confine the experience, you know, enshrine it, and then the faculties become restricted again, so that's really, God, all our faculties are wonderful, so it's not going beyond, in the sense that we leave our faculties, but it is going beyond our present use of them, that's the problem, to constantly pray that I can be, that my faculties can all be stretched and expanded, I'll be talking about that in number five, to be in God's presence, and the importance of the faculties, so I just wanted to say that, make sure you didn't misunderstand me in my talk this morning, so let's go to number four, the path you must follow is in the Psalms, never leave it, if you have just come to the monastery and in spite of your goodwill cannot accomplish


what you want, take every opportunity to sing the Psalms in your heart, and to understand them with your mind, and if your mind wanders while you read, do not give up, hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more, so it's as if, you know, we've got one and seven, and two and three seem to fit pretty close together, about, once you try to sit in the presence, in the gaze, in the stillness, you start to notice how the mind functions, and how the memory will try to feed something in that time, how to use that time, and then how the thoughts will start working, how to watch your thoughts, now he seems to make a slight shift, and let's take that first line, the path you must follow is in the Psalms, never leave it, that's quite a bold statement, I think, I mean, after all, Romul was a Christian, the Psalms are the Old Testament, how can our path be in the Old Testament, we're New Testament people, right? It's truly amazing how much weight


Romul gives to the Psalms here, and one cannot help but wonder why, and pay close attention, what is he really saying? And even the word path, you know, or way, translated path or way, una via, a way, or a path, what is this path, or a way of ours that is to be found in the Psalms that we're never supposed to leave? And without question, he's referring to Christ, he's referring to a person, not some secret little code of behavior or morality, but he's talking about a person, Christ to whom he knew very well, according to the New Testament, is the way, the truth, and the life, and that opening Psalm 24, you notice how many times, you will show


me the way, you will show me the way, you will show me the path, that's a very ancient idea of walking, of being, walking in the presence of the Lord, how to walk one's life, or as, I think it's AA who puts it, how to walk your talk, you know, it's one thing to talk, but to walk it, to live it. So it is Christ he's referring to, Christ is hidden, bless you, in the Psalms, that's what he's saying, he is the way, the truth, and the life, he is your path. Christ is hidden in the Psalms, and we chant them repeatedly, both outwardly and inwardly, singly and collectively, in order that we might find our way to the Father, in and with and through Christ, by the power of the Spirit, that's what it's all about. For Jesus, and his people, the


Psalter was the prayer book of the people. The New Testament presents Jesus as totally familiar with the Psalms, drawing deep inspiration himself from them, and insight. He is often in the New Testament quoting from the Psalms, or paraphrasing the Psalms, many times not even referring to it, but when you look it up you see it's a paraphrase. It's as if the Psalms have worked their way into Jesus' life and his consciousness, his thinking, his way of speaking, that they become his own words, with a freedom of paraphrasing and interweaving. Even his last days and hours are filled with expressions from the Psalms. Oh God, why have you abandoned me from the Psalms? Into your hands, oh Lord, I commend my spirit, the Psalms, you know, his last words. The most quoted book of the Old Testament in the New


Testament is the Psalter, the Psalms. And of all the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, half are from the Psalms. So we see this privileged place of the Psalms in the New Testament, which Romulus following a gospel way here. Jesus found in them prophetic words for his life, which he as well as the early church applied to himself. He also found in them various suitable expressions for his own personal relationship with God. In Luke chapter 24, verse 44, we hear Jesus say to his apostles, this is what I told you while I still walked in your company, how all that was written of me in the law of Moses, in the prophets, and in the Psalms must be fulfilled. How all that was written of me in the Psalms must be fulfilled. Jesus


saw himself in the Psalms, and he calls his disciples' attention to them. So it's only in Christ that the full significance of the Psalms are revealed. But he's hidden there. You know from, you may know, you may not know from Lectio, the whole Lectio approach is a non-literal approach to Scripture where you realize it's not every word or literal message you're looking for, but it's a hidden presence in the text. And you approach the text in a way like someone panning for gold, going over and over and over the text so that what's hidden can become revealed and apparent. And it's the same thing with the Psalms. According to the ancient fathers and doctors of the church, the Psalms reflect all the major themes of


the Bible in a condensed form. So that's why they're important. You know, like we might pick up some cliff notes, you know, instead of having to read the whole thing. That would be very condensed. The Psalms contain all the major themes of the Bible in condensed, of the Old Testament, in a condensed form. But more than that, it's in a poetic form. And more than that, they are lyrics set to music to be sung. The Psalms reflect a contemplative or sapiential insight into salvation history. They seek to engage the one who's chanting them at a deep interior level. They are not just repeating the story to us, but expressing a living relationship to the story as one's very own. And this is why, in part, the Psalms are so


powerful. As sung poetry, they are a voice from within the experience. That's what sapiential means. It's sapiential knowledge is to know from within. And the Psalms are not communicating information. These are already in other texts of the Bible. They're taking these, but they're communicating through poetry, sung poetry, from within the experience, seeking to speak to my own inner experience. That's the aim. They evoke a similar experience in myself. The Psalms also reveal to me myself. As St. Macarius writes, The secret movements of the heart in its struggle against the forces of darkness are revealed in the Psalms. They express a wide range of human emotion and thought.


Their earthiness and honesty teach us how to be in relationship with God, to be honest. The Psalms, in a sense, give us new thoughts. So that makes you wonder, well, it's interesting how this is following upon our other reflection, you know, watch your thoughts as a fisherman watching for fish. Well, it's as if the Psalms now are going to teach you how to. Now that you see how your thoughts go, how can you maybe overhaul them? How can you retool your mind? How can you purify the faculties of your mind? And the wisdom is that the Psalms can be a very powerful way. If you let them work into these faculties, they can teach your memory, teach your imagination, teach your emotions, teach your thinking and thoughts. And if you are faithful over a long enough period,


you will find yourself, like Jesus, thinking of lines from the Psalms. When you address God, there will be a paraphrase from the Psalms. Quite often, the first thing when I wake up in the morning, a line from the Psalms, as it's chanted here, will be the first thing in my mind. And I mean, I don't force that or it's not a discipline. It's just as I'm coming out of unconsciousness and sleep, it's interesting how they're just sort of there. Again, not every single morning. I mean, every time I take a hike in the woods, especially at the creek, Lime Kiln Canyon Creek, and I'm down by the water and if I see a deer, I mean, automatically my response is always, you know, like a deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul yearns for you. I mean, and I'm quoting,


but I'm not aware that I'm quoting. I mean, that's my sentiment. Those are my words. It's working its way into me. I remember when I injured my back working in my garden, lifting a rock that I was laid in bed a couple of days, and it's very hard when you're in pain, you know, to pray. I don't know if you've ever been in that experience. It's not easy because your attention goes on to the relief of the pain and all that kind of stuff. And I had my Bible and the only solace or comfort I could get were from the Psalms. And I mean, as I went through them, of course, some more than others were getting out what I couldn't quite express. And almost midwifing, you know, these inner things that I was feeling, they were a great, great help to me. St. Romuald urges us, never abandon the Psalms, particularly if we are new at it.


He says you're a novice in the monastery. Let's broaden that. When you're just a novice at it, at the whole thing. If you're new at it, he says, don't give up. And he says, seek to understand them with your mind and heart. If you have a hard time paying attention, return again and again. Persevere so that in time they may unlock their meaning for you, their riches for you. So we're encouraged to chant them both inwardly and outwardly with our whole self, mind, body, and heart. We don't go into a lot of things here at the Hermitage with our new monks, but I try to tell them anyway about posture in the choir. You know, and sometimes we'll have, because I'm not singling out anybody, sometimes we'll have guests, you know, and they'll be sitting there and sprawled out.


And that's all right, you know, but you shouldn't see the monks doing that. You might see a few of their feet out there. But generally the posture is one of rest, relaxation, but attentiveness, attentive listening. And the body has to be listening too. And if you were kind of sprawled out and I said, hey, I've got something very important to tell you, without you thinking, your body would change position. You'd think, what is it? You see that? And that's what we're doing in the psalms, you know, that attentiveness. And that's what Romulo was suggesting, praying with the whole self, be careful you're not just rattling off. He knew the indictment of the prophets in the Old Testament. This people pays me lip service, but their hearts are far from me. Romulo knew that indictment. And so he says, the goal is not how many you say, it's the way with which you say the psalms. So make sure they engage. And, of course, if they're chanted and sung in poetry, there's a greater chance for them to engage you more fully.


I mean, isn't that why we go to music? Because music engages us. Romulo stressed taking his cue from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 14, to recite the psalms with mind and heart. There is a quote by St. Bruno of Romulo where he says, it is better, if possible, to chant one psalm with heartfelt compunction, compunction just means conversion of heart, than to run through 100 with a wandering mind. Now, the goal in his day was certainly to go through the whole Psalter, all 150 psalms in a week, at least. I mean, the ancient monks did it in a day. Benedict in the 6th century says, well, we're not like these super guys, so we're moderate, we try to do it in a week, you know. But certainly in Romulo's time, they tried to follow that


because they were following the will of Benedict, at least 150 a week. But I dare say, when you read what they did, they were doing more than that, they referred to the psalms constantly. Yet, numbers isn't the important thing, it's the engagement. It's important in this whole rule to realize that Romulo is saying, when you do anything, do it with your whole self, your whole being. Which seems to suggest, do only one thing at a time. If it's time to clean your place, clean. If it's time to chant, chant. If it's time to eat, eat. If it's time to wash, wash. So he advises that we set the quality, not quantity, using the classic Lectio approach. The Lectio approach is a qualitative approach.


Romulo himself, who prayed for years for the gift of tears, which was known, and he was influenced by Eastern monasticism, which was known as the Second Baptism. He prayed for this gift, and I mean, he couldn't even get a slight bit of moisture around his eyes, you know, he prayed and prayed and prayed. Then one day while chanting the psalms, in his cell, and the particular line was, I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go. That first important line, I will counsel you with my eyes upon you, gaze. And with that, he suddenly, some kind of enlightening happened, and he started to weep, and according to the report, the whole meaning of the scriptures changed for him. And they suddenly had a depth of meaning for him. And he burst out, Jesus, my dear Jesus.


In that enlightenment he recognized who was hidden in the psalms. So his teaching comes out of real experience. This really happened to him. I'll say a little bit more about that later. It's very important that he's just, even though he's drawing on a rich tradition, this is his own experience that has happened. He discovered Jesus in the psalms. And when he did, Jesus taught him the meaning of the entire scriptures, and that is the Christian teaching. That is our doctrine, isn't it? Jesus is the key that unlocks the deepest, fullest meaning of scripture. So the line he read, I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go. I will counsel you with my eyes upon you. The eyes, the gaze, the beams of love will teach you. I will teach you in my presence, which is going to make us, when we get to number five,


realize above all is during God's presence. So he cried out, Jesus, my dear Jesus, desire of my heart, joy of the saints, delight of the angels. Just as Romuald did not give up on the psalms, so he advises us not to give up. Saint Athanasius wrote, the psalms are like a garden, containing things of all kinds, and it sets them to music. They sing of all the events of scripture. They teach the emotions of the soul. They describe how to bear with suffering, what to say in suffering, and after suffering, what the words of those who hope in God are. We are often moved by the words of the psalms


as if they were our own. They act as a mirror, he goes on, leading to great self-perception, awareness of emotions of the soul, and thus help us to speak from the heart. They reveal to us ourselves. In this sense, they are therapeutic, end of quote. Notice the first line, the psalms are like a garden. We're back to sit in your cell as in paradise. In that same Psalm 24, my eyes are always on the Lord, for he rescues my feet from the snare. Turn to me and have mercy, for I am lonely and poor,


empty, I'm the chick waiting. Relieve the anguish of my heart, the desire I have for God, and set me free from my distress. Memory of the world, thoughts. See my affliction and my toil, and take away all my sins. See how many are my foes, my inner foes, how violent their hatred for me. Preserve my life and rescue me. Do not disappoint me, you are my refuge. My hope is in you, O Lord. My eyes are always on the Lord. If that were only true, that's not true of my life. I don't know about your life. So who's saying that? Jesus. That's Jesus. And he is my hope. He's my only chance of returning the gaze, of keeping my eyes upon the Lord. So we seek Christ in the Psalms.


Psalms which are vehicles of prayer, but they're also meditations by which we seek to enter into the spirit of Jesus' own prayer. But for Romuald, Jesus is the only teacher, the way, the truth, and the life. And so he is the path hidden in the Psalms. And let's go on to five. Realize above all that you are in God's presence, which the Psalms should be doing for you, helping you to realize that. The more literal translation says, place yourself. Father Elrod says, put yourself. But what they really, you can't put yourself in God's presence. It's not a swimming pool that you put yourself in. God's presence is there. So it really means to realize, to wake up, to become aware. That's what it's really saying. And I think here we touch upon


what I consider to be the heart of the brief rule, as well as the heart of the rule of Saint Benedict, the heart of the Old Testament, and the heart of the New Testament, is number five. I think it was today, Victor asked me, he says, with the structure of the rule, do you see any kind of a chiastic structure? Chiastic structure, which we see in Scripture, usually means it's set up with so many different teachings or points, and if you graph them out, you'll see that there's a central one that's put in the middle. So like, if it's, well, anyway, it doesn't come out that way. Five is not the center in the sense, at least if you break it up out of seven, I thought, well, if I managed to do it differently with eight, it still wouldn't be the center, or at six, it wouldn't be the center. So it doesn't seem to work out, but I consider that the center. And so does Romul. He says, realize above everything I've told you. This is it. But it's as if to realize that, you need these other things


that he's teaching us. Realize you're in the presence of God, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor. It's kind of an interesting cultural image there. And if you remember, he was friends with Otto III of Germany, who was trying to be the emperor of all of Germany, France, and Italy, and was trying to get the lands of southern Italy, which were under the control of Constantinople. So, and also, he was trying to move into the area of Poland. So, I mean, it was quite a vast empire. And this 24-year-old Otto III, who was dealing with all kinds of troubles, comes under Romul's influence, and he respected Romul greatly. So it's interesting that Romul, from a personal, see, again, we have personal experience. I'm going to share an anecdote with you


about that personal experience of his, which makes us sort of wonder about this teaching. It's a bit puzzling to me. But what is it like to realize you are in the presence of God? And he says, with fear and trembling... I remember when, before I came here, when I was in Southern California, we lived, in the community I was in, we lived on 80 acres, and it was about five miles away from Hemet. Hemet is sort of south of Riverside. And it was five miles from the town, so it was, you know, kind of rugged country, and we had some wild area there with a lot of the same animals, including mountain lions that we have here, and coyotes, and hawks, and buzzards, and all kinds of things. There was a path around the property, and there was a pretty high hill in the back, which had a big cross, wooden cross on there. And you could see our property,


but also the valley, and then Hemet, the city of Hemet, five miles down into the Hemet Valley. And this one particular morning, I went up the hill, and it was not quite dawn, and there was a fog coming from the coast, and that you could see rolling, and I thought of the Exodus, one of the plagues, you know, when the angel of death, as it was depicted by Cecil B. DeMille, this fog creeping in, this low fog. I remember, that was one of the thoughts that, as I saw this creeping fog below me, just filling in the valley, which wasn't there, as sometimes happens at daybreak, coming in. And the sun wasn't quite up yet, and I was there to see the sunrise. And the fog was enveloping the buildings of my community, and was starting its way up the hill. And I'm wondering, well, gee, will I get to see the sunrise before the fog comes? And so, finally, the fog, and it was very strange how the fog was low, and very condensed, you know, so that it was very clearly defined, and it came, and it first hit my ankles,


very, very specific, and was working up, its way up to my body, and then just had, and of course, I can just see the light of the sun on the edge of Mount Idlewater. The other side is Palm Springs. It's just about ready to come up, and the fog, or the mist, you know, comes up as the sun breaks through, which created an incandescence, or, what do I want? Incandescence, with all the moisture and it just lit up, and I saw all these little lights reflected in the mist that was around me, and of course, I would have my arms to the cross, and it was the most unbelievable experience, you know, and I started trembling because I'd never had that kind of thing happen, and the coincidence of that exactly at the time of the sun coming over the mountain and to have my, you know, arms against the cross as I was kind of, and it was just this trembling


and a kind of fear, this overwhelming, and I suppose that's the closest I've come in my own life to standing before the emperor, you know, but it's something like that I think that maybe Romuald means, although I wouldn't want to say every experience of God has to be that way, that's for sure. I've had many other, and we can think of the Elijah experience of the tiny whispering sound that is not nearly as grand as that, yet even Elijah took his cloak and covered his face. The entire Judeo-Christian tradition I think has really one aim, to learn how to live in God's presence. That's the aim. So that the words of God, You are mine and I am yours can truly be so. That is by also the Kemalites motto, You are mine and I am yours. To learn how to live


in God's presence, and that's what Romuald is teaching, as he's bringing to us the very heart of our tradition. This is indeed covenant relationship, to simply wholeheartedly be in the presence of another, and to be present to that other. That is the essence of any relationship. To be in God's presence wholeheartedly, and thus belong completely to God, is the contemplative quest. And the way the Old Testament, I mean the way the scriptures talk about that is face to face, gaze to gaze, to return the gaze of the Father in and with the Son, who sits at the right hand of the Father. Again, the psalmist says, my eyes are always on the Lord Jesus. Do not hide your face, another psalmist says. Do not hide your face from me, which is another way of saying your presence. See, face is presence, to be present to another.


And why? Well, my story this morning of standing before the woman, the face, the eyes are the most expressive and revealing feature of a human being. The way we can enter into the depths of a person. So this is why we speak of God's presence that way, using that metaphor, face to face, to be known, face to face, with no veils, nothing between us. This is why icons place so much emphasis on the face, and particularly the eyes, the gaze. And so I brought this other icon, which is an original from a monk on Mount Athos, which is the island of monks in Greece, Eastern Orthodox monks. And I like this one. This is one that's in our sacristy, and I always look at it


when I walk in, when I go out usually. And you'll notice the eyes, you know, and if you were in this, no matter where you go in this room, the eyes are going to get you, you know. And you notice how the light, he has the light around the eyes, and they're piercing into you and they're inviting you in to the reality that stands behind. As you probably know, in the Eastern Church, there's great, great reverence for icons. And the reason there is, is because they believe they can be a vehicle. They can help draw you into the reality that stands behind, as if there's a person behind the icon of themselves and holding it, but they really want you to see them. But they use the icon to draw you through. So the eyes are very important. Because in Eastern theology, which is certainly in Western, but they seem to have emphasized it maybe more, the whole Trinitarian life is stressed. In the liturgy,


the Trinitarian life is stressed even more symbolically in the Eastern liturgy. The life in the Trinity, that's what we seek. We want to come into Rublev's circle, and that's why he's done this. You notice there's an open space. Who's that space for? It's for us. For us to sit down and join that circle, that open circle. Their heads bent like a circle. There's the circularity there. We were talking at lunch, several of us, about the Celtic. For me right now, I'm strongly attracted to the Celtic cross I made. This image kept coming up, so I said, well, I should really act this out in some way and honor it. So I went to the wood shop, and I'm not a wood person. I mean, working. So I clumsily made a cross, and then to try to make the wood form a circle, that was even trickier. But I found some thin kind of band of wood, and I kept bending and bending it, and then I put some grooves and I formed a band so I have the circle around the cross, which is the Celtic cross. And I mentioned


the Rublev icon has that sense of the circle. The head's bent. The tree above is bending over. The wings, they're all, it's a circle. But there's an open spot, very obvious for us. To awaken to the mystery, first becoming aware of an everlasting, ever-creating gaze upon us, and then returning that gaze ever more fully and purely and freely without reservation. Meister Eckhart says, the eye with which God sees me is the eye with which I see God. That eye is no one but Christ. That's Christ. Christ is the eye with which God sees me, and the eye with which I see God.


See, for us, for Christians, Christ is everything. Jesus alone is the one who perfectly and steadily returns the loving gaze of the Father. Thus he is our way before the Father. He is our way within the Father. He is our way into the intimacy of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit. He is our way into the love between the Father and the Son. John captures this in his Gospel towards the end of the crucifixion scene, and they looked on him, they gazed on him whom they had pierced. And that's the call of everyone, to gaze on him who has been pierced for love of us. God so loved the world, John says, that he gave his only Son. In the Abraham cycle


of readings, in the Moses cycle of readings, and the prophetic cycle of readings, all that we go through during the year, the ultimate desire, you hear in that, you hear a lot of other things, but the ultimate desire is to live in the presence of God, to walk in God's ways, to see God face to face, yet to fear the annihilation to the self that this requires. Not the deepest self, but some other self that we hold on to and cling to. Paul puts it this way, all of us, gazing on the Lord's glory with unveiled faces, it's contrasting us to Moses, he had to veil his face, gazing on the Lord with unveiled faces are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image by the Lord who is the Spirit. Corinthians 3, all of us gazing on the Lord's glory with unveiled faces are being transformed from glory to glory


into his very image by the Lord who is the Spirit. So Romuald here presents the essence of the biblical tradition and says it's above all else. For Romuald, it's a presence that arouses fear and trembling in the sense of awe, respect, wonder, humility, like being before the highest dignitary in human affairs. But the interesting antidote is at some point in his relationship with the young Otto III, the emperor, Otto prevailed upon Romuald to become the abbot of a monastery. Much to Romuald's resistance, he finally agreed and took the shepherd's staff, symbol of being the abbot, the shepherd of the community. Well, he wasn't there very long. Before he came back


in the presence of the emperor and the bishop, he threw the staff down at their feet. So much for fear and trembling in front of the emperor. It's a very interesting antidote in light of this teaching because he doesn't seem to have that for the emperor in that sense. He throws it down and he said, these people don't want an abbot. He said, they're incorrigible, you know. Have somebody else do it. Leave me alone, you know. Then he walked off. So his own personal experience doesn't seem to be quite the same here or maybe it went through a change. Maybe once he started to stand in front of God as emperor, then any human emperor started to pale in significance and he started to fear no man, no person because he had learned that holy fear in the presence of the one


who is all presence and all life and all eternity, who is life and death. Maybe what Romuald is suggesting is to be careful not to domesticate God. Maybe that's what he means by at least having the attitude as if you were before this highest dignitary. And you notice he says standing. We have sitting in the beginning and the end. Now at the middle we have standing. He means attention, isn't he? We say that, don't we? Stand at attention. I don't think he necessarily means to stand because he's praised the sitting. Sitting in the presence. But I think he means with this attention to make your attention stand as if a person came into your place or any person you would stand if you were being introduced to them.


Oh, hello, how are you? To be careful you don't make God into a little pet, you know, that you've gotten used to. Don't domesticate God. There's a wildness to God, meaning not a meanness but an unpredictability. There's a strong streak of surprise in God. There's a more than streak, there's an infinite depth of that which God has yet to reveal to us. And usually when we say domesticate it means you're pretty familiar, you know, there's not too many surprises. And I think that's probably what Romuald is getting at. Be careful you don't make a pet of God. Domesticate God. Take the wildness and the surprise and the awesomeness out of God. Don't reduce God to your level because God bends down to your level and is intimate with you and is loving and caring and forgiving, yes, but be careful you don't try to put him


in your hip pocket or like a rabbit's foot around your neck. Be careful you don't do that. That's not Romuald's God. Romuald's God is a fire. It's the fire that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into in front of King Nebuchadnezzar. Remember that story in the fourth? The king sees a fourth one like a son of God in the flames and they're all untouched yet they're glowing. That line in the Old Testament it's a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God. I think it's that sense that Romuald means that you can't remain the way you are and that's what's terrible about it. If you're looking for the cruise control in your cell, in your sitting, you won't find it. There's no cruise control. You're either progressing or regressing is the ancient wisdom. If you're really present, there's no in-between. You can't put it on cruise control and you've got to be ready for your transformation.


The essence of the Christian life is an invitation to share in Jesus' vision of the Father in love. He who sees me sees the Father. Jesus tells Philip, with Christ the veil before the Holy of Holies and the temple is torn open. And as the author of Hebrew says, we thus gain full access to the Father. It is a gaze that goes beyond physical sight, calling for a seeing that requires deep listening, incredible tasting, unrestricted touching, overwhelming smelling. All of the senses are engaged as well as the inner senses and spiritual intuition. All are engaged, involved, and expanded to their perfection. That's paradise. That's a real picnic. Picnic's one of my favorite things,


probably because my senses are all kind of really stimulated by the picnics. It was a popular image for the kingdom, wasn't it? This grand banquet or picnic. And so it's sort of like going beyond the senses, but more, I would say, it's going more deeply into them and with them. It is a gaze unlike normal focusing on an object. When I say gaze, it's not our normal experience of physical sight that seems to be made for focusing on an object. This is a mistake many people make. They try to make God another object. God cannot be the object of our contemplation. God cannot be the object of our sitting. God cannot be the object of our chanting the Psalms. God is not an object. You can't get your gaze around God. Rather, it is like gazing at the sky. Try gazing at the entire sky


all at once without moving your head on a clear day with a wonderful view. You can't. Just like you can't take a picture. You have to have panels. You can't take one photo of it. So it's more like gazing at the sky requiring a stretching and a broadening of our vision. When Yahweh takes Abraham out and tells him, look up at the sky and try to count those stars, Abraham cannot. And what is his response? Awe and faith. That's the inner gaze. That which our physical eyes cannot contain, cannot see in a glance. We're called to try to see it. And obviously I can't. I've got to look with some other faculty. And it's the eyes of faith.


And the wonder, if you looked at the night sky last night, here it's a great place to look at the sky day or night, and I was telling somebody that today. I'm always so attentive to the stars and the moon, the heavenly bodies here at the Hermitage, you know. And, I mean, my eyes get sore because I just, it's just too, oh, look at that over there, and then I'll see the Milky Way and it's just too much to take in. And that's just a little bit of an idea of God. So God is infinite spaciousness and can only be seen in spaciousness, with spaciousness. And that's a whole new way of seeing. And that's what God is training us, preparing us. For a number of years, before I came here even, and I was a priest and a religious, and another religious community for many years, I used to, at different times in the day, and this was about three or four years before I came to the Hermitage here,


I would be sometimes doing the books, doing finances, whatever, and I'd be alone, though, in my study, and I would hear a whispering voice beside me. You might want to lock me up after this. A whispering voice that would say, Am I enough for you? But in a soft voice. Am I enough for you? And I would, What is this voice? I must have read that somewhere. It's like a mantra. It's coming back to haunt me or something. I would, at the oddest places, I would hear it at chapel, I'd hear it saying Mass. No matter what I was doing, Am I enough for you? And when I came here to the Hermitage, eventually I met Brother Anthony. Brother Anthony is a recluse, and he has a cabin out in the hills here. So he invited me to come and see his little shack. So I went, and he's from my hometown, New Bedford, Massachusetts. He's French-Canadian like him, so we have those things in common. So I go in, and I'm sitting there and looking at this very humble little place, and I happen to notice on the wall, in French, the words Dieu me suffit,


God is enough. And that was the answer to the voice I'd been hearing before I came. Am I enough? God is enough. I think we all deeply long to be able to say that. I haven't dared to put that up on my wall yet, because I watch my mind, and I watch my thoughts, and I realize at one level, I want, this is my desire, but God isn't enough. I still hang on to many things and think I need many, many things. Yet that call, that invitation is there, and that is my eternal rest, because that's what it will just be for all of us. God will have to be enough for eternity. And it's learning, I guess, to wean ourselves and to entrust ourselves to that truth, to that future, that God really is enough, even now, but I guess I'm not ready for that enough yet. And I think I need


all these other life savers and these other substitutes and things to help me get by. We are above all to realize that we are in God's presence, and to do so with humility and compunction, as we really are, in utter nakedness and poverty. As St. James writes in chapter 4, verse 10, Be humble in the sight of the Lord. It is extremely difficult to remain for long in God's presence. Our minds are so preoccupied. They seem to be made for diversity of focus. We find it impossible to return God's steady gaze upon us. In Romulus' great moment of awakening and gift of tears, it's important to note that the text says, it says, I will instruct you with my gaze upon you. I will show you how to return that gaze. So again, it's God that will show us


in Christ. And that's why Romulus proclaims, My Jesus, my Jesus, desire of my heart, joy of the saints, delight of the angels. And with that, I'd like to invite any comments or questions or insights that you might have on everything so far. If you haven't. I think the first time that I read the rule, the part that was the most problematic for me was the number three, watch your thoughts.


Like a good fisherman watching for a fish. Perhaps because I came out of a sort of Zen understanding of letting go of your thoughts. So why would I want to watch when a fisherman wants to catch a fish? I'm not really so sure that I want to catch them, you know. I want to let them go and so I'm wondering is it my part of that process too or is that, I guess maybe what you said about the net, when you had Peter Damian in your book, that the net is for, you know, keeping the good and throwing out the bad. I'm just like, trying to feel my way through that one still. Not really. It just kind of seems to me to be kind of different from the other ones. A little problem. Yeah, for me, you know, I just see it


as he's saying to, that as you're trying to sit in the presence, you're going to notice your faculties and you've got to pay attention to what they're doing otherwise they will lead you around, they will have control over you. So you have to pay attention to them. And one of the ways you learn is to, after they've had their way with you and you try to evaluate what happened, what did I do? And you start to, you know, I think in Romulus' experience, you know, with training young monks in the cell, they would be running out of their cell all the time. And they'd make it seem like very reasonable reasons, you know, but where did this all start? It starts with a thought. And the thought used the imagination and then stirred up the emotions and then got the body in gear. And yes, you know, I needed something in there. And here we see the same thing, you know, people, new candidates, I eventually will point out to them how they're flitting into the kitchen all the time. And it's not necessary. There's William St. Thierry


whom we're listening to at vigils, but not that particular text in his Golden Epistle. He has a lot of things about the cell and he says the cell can be either a garden or it can be a whale spewing you out. You just can't stay there. Well, it's because of what your thoughts, what's going on. And if you don't watch those, it will just, it could be years before finally somebody says, do you realize you're in the kitchen all the time and you're never in your cell? What did you come here for to be in the kitchen? Well, no, but well, and to help you realize what's going on there, you know. So I think that's what he means. He doesn't really say to catch the thoughts there, you know, I mean the literal sense is to watch your thoughts like a fisherman watching for fish. Although, that's why a fisherman watches is to catch them. And I think that's why Peter Damian's comment is probably his own meditation on this text, you know, and that's how he saw as part of it, you know. So I'm just trying to turn that around into something that I understand the progression from thoughts to the driving


in that direction. I think what I'm saying is that it's also can go in the other direction that the thoughts, you know, the moments of enlightenment come to you that way too. There's times when the spiritual ocean is up to you, or when the song is up and up to you, will be like those fish that you want to catch and they're there. Or a thought that says so-and-so, so-and-so could use some flowers, at least some flowers. You could ignore that thought, you could notice it, and then discern it, and act on it, you know. It's like in my mind, I put there too. Yeah, so I imagine


going through their legs, they wear these high heels in there. Too far, and I guess the water's too far. It's higher. A real serious thing. Yes, that's right. Yeah, and I saw him on video while I was working on it, and it's kind of perky. St. Rob? You know, you just watch your thoughts and you're meditating as if you're sitting on the shore and all of a sudden you get thoughts and you jump and you think, is this the temptation? I'm staying on the bank and I can only have an observer. And I don't know what's happening. I'm going to pass it on. Wait, is he... I mean, you can... Yeah. of other families.