Spiritual Teaching of the Brief Rule of Saint Romuald

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Most loving God, we give you thanks and praise for this new day, for the newness that is
in us, and in everyone around us, and in everything around us.
For indeed, as you tell us in Scripture, Behold, I make all things new.
Lord, teach us to let go of the old and to be open to this newness that you promise us.
Continue to teach us that in order to be open to this newness, we must release our grasp
of the old, especially the old me, the self that I thought I was yesterday and the day
before, the self that I have worked so hard to put together and cling to for some sense
of continuity and security in life.
Teach me how to let go of that self in order that I might receive this newness that you promise.
Glory be 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.
So we come to our last reflection together on this weekend.
It's amazing how fast it all goes, at least for me it seems to go fast.
It seems it was not that long ago, but it was Friday night and we were beginning our
reflection together.
And so we come to the sixth point of reflection, and the literal translation says,
Destroye, they told him, destroy, that's the word, destroy yourself completely.
But another sense of that might be, as we see in the more colloquial translation, empty
yourself.
Or perhaps in an even more modern, maybe Californian idiom, we might say, let go, let go.
This injunction of Romuald follows upon the previous one.
So we have to see it in that connection, to remain or to realize you are in God's presence
with the attitude of holy fear and trembling that Romuald suggests, is to be led into wonder
and awe with the deepest expression of our being, our true nature, and not the inflated
ego, the false self, or even the persona, that is the more social or external part of
me that's identified with my role, the roles I have in life, in society, in family, in
relationships, what we might call my achieved sense of identity.
To truly stand in the presence touches my conferred identity that I have to discover,
goes beneath the sense of achieved identity, which is an identity that says I am what I
have accomplished, or might even say I am my experiences.
The Latin here really sounds brutal, doesn't it, to our modern ears, destroy yourself.
How unhealthy, it's not very healthy for your life, it's sort of violent.
The word destroy has a sense of what demolition, demolish yourself, when we do that to buildings,
unfortunately, wars do it to people, but we don't like that.
We live in a time and in a society and a culture that says to build yourself up and to build
others up, not destroy, demolish, to bring down a building, to bring down low that which
stood high.
So it does suggest humility in that expression, humus, earth, down low, to touch the earth
you've got to bend down low, to listen to the earth like the Native Americans, you had
to get down on your knees, lay down prostrate and put your ear to the ground to see if the
buffalo were running or if a train might be coming.
There's no way you can do it except to get down there.
That's a kind of demolition.
Or that other famous monastic word, compunction, which is kind of the sting of conscience,
the prick of conscience, when you're convicted, when you can be convicted, that word we use
in our legal system, convicted of a crime.
It's as if here Romuald is saying that in comparison to the Divine Presence breaking
into your awareness, no thing hyphen can stand.
It's very interesting in light of what he said in the previous one, stand as if in the
presence of an emperor, but he's giving us a paradox here.
But destroy yourself.
Well, who's standing?
In comparison to that Divine Presence breaking into my conscious awareness, no thing stands.
Nothing exists.
No thing can compare.
There is no other sun that can equal the brightness of that Presence or the light of that Presence.
Of course, John of the Cross puts it, nada, nada, nada, nothing.
But I think what Romuald is saying here, to say it in a more perhaps positive way, is
be who you really are.
You'd say, well, that's completely different than destroy yourself.
No, it's the same thing.
Be who you really are.
I don't think we, even though Romuald says destroy yourself or empty yourself, we really
don't empty ourselves.
The ego can get quite interested in that, as long as it's in control of the emptying
process.
We don't empty ourselves.
We are already empty.
That's the nature of things.
So to just be who you are, you will discover your emptiness.
That I am empty, I am creature, I am far more a moon than I am the sun, totally dependent
upon catching the life and the light of another and reflecting that and making it my own.
Totally dependent on God as the source of my being.
What Romuald is talking about is what the Bible says is poverty of spirit, which was the attitude
of the Anahuim.
It reflects Mary's words, for whom Luke portrays as the true Anahuim, or representative of these
poor folk, when she says, Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Some scholars say that's a very nice translation, it really means slave.
Behold the slave, behold the lowest of the lowest.
Let your word be done to me.
Let it be done to me according to your word.
Must remember, biblically, word is presence.
God's word is God's presence.
It's the same as Peter's words to Jesus after the miraculous catch of fish, when he says,
as he goes down on his knees in the boat at the feet of Jesus, Depart from me, Lord,
for I am a sinner.
He's struggling there to bear the beams of love, he's overwhelmed.
Or it's Jesus' words elsewhere in the gospel, where he says, If you would find your life,
you must lose your life.
If you would find yourself, you must lose yourself.
Or Paul's words, in comparison to Christ, I consider all else manure, to use a polite
word.
Or else where he says, It's no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
Johannes Metz has a classic little book, I don't think we have it in the bookstore, Poverty
of Spirit, that really, it's a little thin thing, but boy, it's a rich meditation on
this.
What it means to be, to stand in the presence of God as you really are.
With no fig leaves, no hiding in the bushes, to really stand naked, is to experience on
one level of yourself a destruction, that's what Romulus is saying, a demolition, a tearing
down.
The enigmatic words of Meister Eckhart speak of this truth when he writes, quote, Only
when there is no self in which God acts, do we at last recover our true self.
That's a powerful meditation in itself.
Only when there is no self in which God acts, do we at last recover our true self.
Only when there's no more space in me to invite God in, when I'm so one with God, that's my
true self.
But as long as I have more space, you see, I'm still in the process.
Or Paul writes in Philippians 2, he pierces into this same mystery when he says, Though
he was equal with God, he emptied himself and became human flesh.
Though equal with God, though equal in God's presence, Jesus empties himself in order to
become human.
To be human, you must be empty.
That is my natural state.
To be human is to be empty of God, so that I can receive God as the source of my being.
Not by nature, but as gift.
By the way, that's the second reading for our Mass today, Philippians 2, chapter 2, 1-11.
We first and last do not generate our own existence.
We are always receiving it as a mirror is empty, waiting to receive its reflected image.
Remember last night's reading at Vespers.
On one level, it seems like it's, well, how can you put your, he uses the simile, right,
of looking in the mirror and then walking away, forgetting, but there's a deeper level that
Romule is talking about, and that is seeing into the mirror of your heart and seeing your
true self.
How can you then walk away and forget what you've seen?
Well, from the Christian point of view, another way of talking about sin is amnesia.
It's a kind of amnesia, we forget, we have glimpses into the truth and we forget it.
Or some might call it aphasia, the inability to pronounce our own name.
And yet, it's in there, it's in us, but we can't say it.
God's presence as infinite fullness fills us in our emptiness.
In this sense, destroy yourself means to be who you most deeply are and let go who you
think you are and spend so much energy trying to maintain and protect.
Let go and let God be God in you and you will find who you really are, a beloved of God
with Christ in the paradise of the Trinity.
Let yourself freefall in God like a skydiver, but you've got no parachute and there is no
earth.
What if living in God is an endless freefall?
What if living, we often think, well, I'll let go but God will catch me.
But what if that's not, that's the human preoccupation, that security is being caught.
What if the ultimate security is flying and having space to fly?
And God is that eternal sky and that ultimate perfect freedom that we so often touch and
experience when we look at a hawk or an eagle soaring.
So often, biblically, that's an image of something in us, the soul in us, whatever you want to
call it, that seeks to soar that way, that seeks that kind of place in the sky that's
like a home, which it isn't to us here, the sky is kind of a foreign place for us.
So let yourself freefall in God within the mystery which is nothingness, no object but
a total presence engulfing and permeating me.
Cease looking at yourself as an object of thought or reflection or concern or anxiety
or desires.
Let this self go into the nothingness of the indistinct fullness of the Godhead.
Stop reflecting on yourself, on what is happening, on what the divine presence is like, as if
such reflection will add to the encounter with divine presence.
And simply be in the presence, forgetful of self.
This will enable your inner gaze to be joined with that of Christ in the Father as loving
communion.
Release yourself, let go of yourself, both outer and inner, because the essence of being
is releasement.
Without this releasement in God, there would be no sun and no spirit and no universe and
no earth.
Without this releasement in you, you cannot find your way back to the source, to your
beginning, who is also your end.
Our ground that we stand on or sit on is our horizon that we look toward and move toward.
The source, the ocean, our One.
Romuald is saying, annihilate the grasping, manipulating, fabricating self, the self in
me that produces idols of everything.
Releasement is the truth of all things, it is the condition for mystery to manifest itself.
The heart, the center, is the place where the totality of being renders itself essentially
present and the heart maintains a non-fortuitous relationship with letting be, an openness to
mystery.
To stand there, to be there empty, to destroy yourself, is to have discovered the mystery
of the Trinitarian life, which is releasement, and the mystery of our own human becoming.
It is essential to the heart to let things be.
Releasement is the very essence of the heart.
To empty or destroy yourself is an apprenticeship of the heart.
When the listener becomes his or her heart, then he or she becomes what they are most
naturally.
In releasement I find my heart, the ground of my life, and that of God.
Again Eckhart writes, in the desert of the Godhead, a released man is and possesses all
things.
In the desert, meaning emptiness, of the Godhead, a released man, woman, is, is and possesses
all things.
You've got to remember though, to the false self, what does it feel like?
I'm a loser, I've got nothing.
So the false self will engage your faculties, your imagination, your memory, your emotions,
to try to convince you, you're a stupid fool.
This releasement, this letting go business, you've got nothing.
As the commercial says, you've got to grab for all the gusto.
And it can be very difficult to resist the wonderful court case that this self in us
will present to our inner judge, to try to convince us.
I suppose you can look at the cross and see a total loss that a man experiences and a
crying shame, or you can see a man who has come into his fullness, depends how you look.
But this is what Jesus teaches us, that it is in the moments we lose ourselves that we
are most ourselves.
Saint Bernard wrote, quote, in the unlikeness to God, which we find in the human person
after the fall, the soul had evidently not put off the form it was originally given,
but has put over it a false one.
Very important.
And that's, I think, what Romulus is saying, destroy that self, that one, that false something
or other that hides the truth of who you are.
And you don't have to worry.
If you're really in the presence, you will find the beams of love exposing.
And the thing is to cooperate, that we have, God respects our freedom to cooperate with that.
In this, Romulus touching upon the theme of death, isn't he?
To destroy myself, what that will feel like will be a dying.
And it's obviously related to my physical death, which every one of our lives is heading
toward, whether we like it or not.
And some say perhaps the deepest fears in us, or fear in us, is the fear of death, the
fear of non-existence, of the me that I think I am will be completely terminated.
In his little book on the theology of death, the theologian Karl Rahner writes, the end
and excuse the language here, it's not all inclusive language.
I won't try, he has it so much in here I wouldn't even attempt to try to make it inclusive.
But anyway, the end of man as a spiritual person is an active fulfillment from within,
an act of self-completion, a life synthesizing self-affirmation, a person's total taking
possession of himself, the final act of self-formation, the plenitude of personal reality.
At the same time, inseparably and in a way which affects the whole human being, the death
of man as the end of a material biological being is destruction, is a rupture, an accident
which strikes man from without, unforeseeably, with no assurance that it will strike him
at the moment in which interiorly he has completed his life.
Death is a blow of fate, a thief in the night, an emptying and reducing of man to powerlessness,
in fact the end.
This simultaneity of fulfillment and emptiness, of actively achieved and passively suffered
end, of full self-possession and of being completely dispossessed of self, may for the moment be
taken as a correct description of the phenomenon we call death.
And the paschal mystery that we said Brahmul is touching upon, which we see in 1 and 7,
is learning to anticipate my physical death by learning the way of dying to self in life,
so that my physical death becomes the culmination of a whole lifetime of learning to die to
myself so that I might discover the enduring me, the enduring self.
And that brings us down to number 7, which I said I wanted to say a little bit more about,
even though I touched upon it in our first talk.
And sit like a chick, content with the grace of God, for unless its mother gives it something
it tastes nothing and has nothing to eat.
To be empty, Brahmul is saying, is to sit and be receptive.
And so this rule now comes full circle.
We began with sitting and we end with it.
We've been told to sit in our cell as in paradise, to sit casting all memory behind us,
watching our thoughts, chanting the psalms and reading scripture,
to sit aware that we are in God's presence, with fear, holy fear, reverence, trembling,
ready for surprise, to sit empty of self.
And finally to sit empty like a chick in its nest, totally dependent and waiting upon its mother.
Back at our monastery, Epiphany Monastery in New Hampshire, when I was there this past year,
it was a great delight. We had one of the worst winters in years.
And when the snow, which was, I don't know, five feet deep at certain points,
slowly melting and a little bit of the green grass coming.
And of course, knowing the spring birds, and it's known, this place is known for a lot of birds,
started coming and we had a couple of bird feeders.
And we had a couple of bird houses and a more rare bird that we were hoping would come.
It's like a small bluebird. It looks like a sparrow, you know, with the forked tail
and it kind of flies like a jet. Not a sparrow, but what do I mean?
Swallow, thank you. But it's all blue. Beautiful.
And sure enough, one of these little bird houses was occupied by mom and dad bluebird.
And it was right on the lawn, it was like a pole with the house on top, about five feet high.
And of course, I mean, I had to cut the lawn once the box started growing
and kind of disturbing the rearing of the young.
But it used to be interesting, I would wait till the parents weren't around and I'd sneak up
and you know, there's just a little hole which just isn't large enough.
The thing is, you don't want other birds going in there to eat the eggs, so they make it
so it's just large enough for that bird.
And I would hardly get near the thing and all you'd see was this gaping mouth there.
You know, and it wasn't, in the beginning, of course, they can't see.
They're all mouth. And any little noise, they're ready.
The slightest thing, they're ready for this presence, which they associate with feeding.
And they know the response. The response is, you've got to be all mouth.
If mom and dad are all food, you better be all mouth.
And of course, in this brood, there was more than one.
And so they would fight for the place closest to the entrance.
And it was very interesting to see how...
I was thinking, well, the others are going to starve to death.
Because it seemed the one in front was getting everything, you know.
The mother couldn't even get in there, she'd be going into the mouth of the baby.
And it's amazing how the mouth would cover the whole entrance.
My God, what did they give birth to? Mouths, you know?
Well, every once in a while, both the mother and the father were bringing food.
I mean, to keep up with these mouths, these hungry chicks,
required both of them constantly going to get insects.
And I would watch them. I'd say, where did they get all this stuff?
And constant, constant, constant.
As well as defending the nest from some other bluebirds that were around.
As well as people on riding lawnmowers like myself going too close.
And so I was swooped a few times.
But, you know, that struck me, you know, that when Ramu uses this image,
you know, that's what he's drawing from.
We've all seen chicks that way, you know.
That it's amazing that their wings aren't very large,
and the rest of their bodies, it seems the first thing they're given is a big mouth.
And boy, they can really open it.
They live for one thing.
Even before they can see, they are learning how to listen for a presence,
and to respond with a trusting, open mouth.
Fortunately, every once in a while, one of the parents would crawl over this mouth
and go in, which I was supposed to give food to some of the others that were there,
so this dominant one wasn't getting everything.
In Matthew, chapter 23, verse 37, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem
and says how he longs to gather her scattered children like a mother hen,
gathers her chicks.
Or in Isaiah, chapter 40, he writes,
youths may grow tired and weary, the young stumble and fall,
but those who hope in Yahweh will regain their strength.
They will sprout wings like eagles.
Though they run, they will never grow weary.
Though they walk, they will never tire.
Elsewhere, Isaiah writes, does a mother forget the baby at her breast?
Yet even if she should forget, as impossible as that seems,
I will never forget you.
I will hold you in the palm of my hand.
What Romulus is suggesting here is being content with God alone.
Complete trust.
A releasing of the self-feeding that our mind is so often engaged with,
particularly by way of our compulsions and our attempts at being in control of life.
It implies patience and blind trust.
That naked faith that I was talking about at the end of our time yesterday.
And the chick is the image of a newborn.
That's my opening prayer today.
God promises newness every day, every moment of the day.
Am I ready for that newness?
Newborn, a child, reminding us of Jesus' words,
unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.
A chick, a newborn, is the image of a beginner, a novice.
Empty and open.
Not full of ingrained habits of thought, memory, imagination, feelings and behavior,
but rather open to all possibilities.
Not preoccupied with the past, my own past, or my own future,
but present with full attention.
For the newborn, all is now.
That's all that matters. All is right now.
As you know, it's very hard to correct an infant,
or to use at least the idea of delayed gratification or delayed consequences,
because they're all now.
That requires an idea of thinking in the future.
It is an attentiveness to your life in God each moment,
to the extraordinary in the ordinary, and the ordinary in the extraordinary.
It is to allow the flow of consciousness to move beyond fixed patterns of self-centeredness
to a spontaneous natural flow from the center.
And it results in wonder, gratitude, simplicity, humility, joy, serenity,
compassion, suffering with others, solidarity with others.
To sit in stillness, content only with the grace of God,
is the direct expression of our true nature.
It is to fulfill the biblical injunction, be still and know that I am God.
It is not to attain anything, but to express who I really am.
It is to be like the fruit on the tree that simply ripens in the presence of the sun.
And Romuald is concerned with our ripening.
Are we ripening as spiritual beings?
It expresses integration and balance, openness and receptivity,
undivided attention and a fixed gaze.
It is to sit straight with the head supporting the sky,
which is at the same time the ground supporting me.
There is nothing to seek, Romuald tells us, except that which is already present,
totally yours, right here as you are sitting in the cell of your heart.
Sitting in the cell of the heart is an act of being itself.
And when I sit thusly, everything sits with me.
I haven't left the world, the world sits with me.
My family sits with me, my loved one sits with me.
The suffering in Bosnia sits with me.
The hungry in Somalia sits with me.
If I'm really sitting the way Romuald is saying, the whole world sits with me.
To sit in our cell as in paradise, as a chick waiting to be fed by its mother,
is to eventually do everything in a centered way.
Everything we do becomes an expression of the same deep activity of sitting in the cell.
This is single-mindedness, purity of heart, to seek one thing.
This is what James meant when he wrote in the reading we heard at Vespers last night.
Once you see your true reflection in the mirror of your heart,
how can you walk away and forget it and act differently from it?
The more I see that reflection, my walking, my acting, my relationships with life
will start to change.
They will bear the mark or the imprint or the reflection of that true image.
Another way of saying this is, with each step of the way, the other shore is reached.
To reach the other shore with each step of crossing is the way of true living.
Or as Paul puts it, I run to grasp the prize, which lays ahead of me,
fixing my gaze on high, yet realizing at the same time
that I have already been grasped by it.
That gaze has already grasped me.
Or as Augustine put it in giving out the Eucharist to his community,
as Bishop, be who you really are.
No, be who you receive, receive who you really are.
One translation of this last point of Romuald's rule says,
be content with the grace of God.
Grace conditions our homecoming to the center from start to finish.
As Merton puts it, quote,
it is the very attraction of the center itself
which provides the incentive to start on the way.
And the energy to face and overcome its many and various obstacles.
Grace is the welcoming hand into the center
when we find ourselves at last on the brink of a great divide
where all familiar human landmarks have disappeared.
Gerald May describes grace as a boundless burning offering of God's self to us.
Suffering with us, overflowing with tenderness.
Grace is God's passion for us and creation.
And it seems to me as we come to the end of these reflections,
the question is, can we be content with that one passion?
Can we be content with God's passion for us?
And can we truly make it our own?
A passion which is both an emptying and a filling.
And I suppose the process is trying to bring
all of our desires and our passions into this one passion.
And I think what Romuald promises to us
is that in the end we will find that this is enough for us.
This is everything.
This is what we've always longed for.
Thank you.
Okay, I'm going to stop there and invite your own reflections
or comments or questions.
Either on this morning's presentation
or anything related to the whole weekend.
Yes, Rick.
I was just saying to that,
as I was reflecting last night,
I realized that I felt, when we were talking about
the transcendence and the incarnation,
I realized that I felt really relieved to be
looking at this from a different point of view
about the logic of the thought
and remembering that there's transformation going on all the time
and that would be my part.
And the other thing that felt real good
was to be reminded that you can't be just God through experience
and that the absence or whatever, if not, is an illusion.
That was a good reminder to be with my own mind.
Good, good.
I mean, I think we all need that reminder.
I need that reminder, too, because
we get so much of the opposite in our culture,
that is so hungry for experiences.
And that has a place, certainly.
We wouldn't want to become a totally head of religion
that's just intellectual.
We need to be touched at the experiential level.
That also has its limitations in this life.
And in the next life you have the fullness of experience,
but in this life we always have to be careful
because our experience,
which usually when we talk about experience
we mean the engagement of our faculties in some way,
and to realize those have limitations.
I brought John Main's book, Christian Meditation,
to reread this weekend.
It's so complimentary.
One passage here that really speaks to
the Greek rule of St. Romulus,
so prayer, meditation,
is not just a way of doing something,
but it is a way of becoming something,
becoming yourself,
created by God, redeemed by Jesus,
in the temple of the Holy Spirit.
And I never realized if the Greek rule
was really a prayer of becoming.
You said,
in the desert of the godhead released man
in the possessive office.
When you first started saying that sentence,
my image was early as man to Jesus.
Of course.
Breed St. Paul.
Everything has been handed over to him.
Everything has been given over to him.
This man who released everything on the cross.
That's why I think in the other talk
I said he is the key for us.
He is the eye with which God sees me
and I see God.
It is his sitting that I want to make my own sitting.
He is the prototype.
Or as Paul says,
he's the firstborn of many to come.
And from the Christian tradition or path,
that's why Jesus is so central.
Sometimes I hear some Christians talk about
Jesus is just the means to get to the Father
and you kind of move beyond Jesus.
But you never go beyond Jesus.
There's no such thing.
The traditional way we describe it in our tradition
is in, with, and through.
So there's a throughness, but there's an in Jesus
and a with Jesus.
And those prepositions from Paul
are very, very important.
They're little, but they're very, very important.
The other thing I wanted to say was
thank you for what you said on Psalm.
Because this morning,
they took out all the media.
Oh, good.
I never thought of it.
And I thought of it as Old Testament always.
I also found this whole thing to be moderate.
So, after reading it,
the aspect of the psalmist,
I want to say that
it's one thing,
but it's another thing,
the constant attention of the psalmist.
Every office we begin, you know.
Oh God, come to my assistance.
So it's interesting how it found its way
and it was the favorite one.
And then eventually the Jesus prayer
became the favorite scriptural mantra or word.
And then different abbreviations of it, you know.
Anybody else?
I mean, has this been helpful for your life, do you think?
I mean, I think it's the type of stuff
you need to go away and continue to think about
and chew on it, but I hope that
this has had something for you in your life.
Jim?
Well, I mentioned to you in private
that what's happened this weekend
is basically the reality
and the experience of the centrality of Christ
has become alive.
And, you know, I share with you
in my reading of Psalms and in my reading of the Old Testament
His Word, His presence in those writings
it changes everything.
And it was a question I was asking myself
for a long time, you know.
It's like, how do you take this
and believe in Jesus business, you know.
It sounds so corny from the standpoint of, you know,
the Baptist type of, you know,
believe in Jesus.
That's all we have to do.
And it puts it on another plane.
There's a lot of neededness
coming from that truth.
And it doesn't have to involve words.
Yeah, I mean, the Christian teaching is
the Jesus event has touched all human nature
and all creation.
It's changed after the historical Jesus event.
And I think that's something we,
in our life, we have to discover.
In what way has my own human nature been touched
by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?
So it's not super nature, you know,
or something outside.
It's at the heart of my nature.
And as we were talking,
but a lot of what gets in the way
is my unnatural self.
So I don't have to go beyond nature.
I really just have to return to my nature
and realize the veils and falseness
that have overlaid it.
Yeah.
I didn't read the rule.
You know, I just glanced at it
when you first gave it to me.
And because when you had, like,
just one seven on there,
I didn't want to read it.
I had...
And I grabbed that life,
that someone was trying to kill me,
and that the person that was trying to kill me
was on top of the seven,
and that I was going up the canyon,
up the valley,
that I wasn't able to just be there
on the top of this mountain.
And I killed the person,
or I thought I killed the person
that was trying to kill me.
And when I woke up this morning,
I was so happy that this was reality.
Because my dream was still...
Now I was trying to help this person
that I thought I had killed.
And when I came in here,
you're trying to destroy yourself completely.
Normally,
normally if I would have had
a spiritual dream like that,
I would have tried to just
shut it out when I awakened.
But this morning,
you know, I was,
God, what are you trying to tell me?
And the only answer I got was,
you know,
if you're sitting in yourself,
this false self that has been destroying you
will come to be the reality.
And, you know,
I realized that
we have a lot of hurts within us
that keep us in that false self position
that don't want to allow us to,
you know,
come to the top of the mountain.
And, you know,
when we were talking about
valleys and mountains yesterday,
and, you know,
how do you leave this mountain
and go to that valley?
And, you know,
it's like a light came on
because we do have to travel the valley.
And sometimes it means
truly destroying
who we think is our true self.
Because it seems like
we live so much on surface thinking.
Or at least I do.
So much on the surface,
and I think,
well, that's me.
I don't know how I react to certain situations,
and, you know,
I accept that.
But it seems like
just what you said about when you play tricks,
be careful about, you know,
the tricks that you were playing yourself.
I mean, it's pretty obvious sometimes
when you see other people playing tricks on you,
but it's very hard to see
the tricks that you might be playing yourself.
You know, in what I said in the opening prayer,
when we hold on to the self yesterday
in order to know how to function today,
we really limit ourself tremendously.
But you might feel pretty much in control
because, you know,
you're building upon your past experience,
and I know how to act in this situation,
but you're also cutting off possibilities.
So, you know,
the search for that kind of security
short-circuits the possibility of discovery
and being on an adventure, you know.
It really is an adventure,
and we are the adventure, you know.
Our own becoming is the territory
of this great adventure,
this great journey.
So to be careful, yes,
I am the 25-year-old person
that's somehow connected to me,
but I'm more than that.
I'm more than that today.
If God's promise is true,
then behold, I make all things new.
I think it struck me,
a comment that you made yesterday
about life is mostly in the valleys,
and somehow this morning
when I thought about that,
and then I was looking at number five again,
realized above all that you were in God's presence,
and how I try to structure my life
so that I'm not,
so that my life isn't mostly about you.
So I walk in the valley of darkness,
I appear in the way you are,
for you are at my side.
It's just interesting,
the little bits and things that we do ourselves,
and how I think the reason to do it
is because I don't, you know,
I don't really believe at some level
that God is there with me in the valley.
I know he's, you know,
I always try to create things,
so I'm not in the valley,
but I think there's a lot to be learned in that valley.
I learn in the ordinariness.
Father Bruno, I've heard him say several times
that one of the detriments
of the hermitage being in this location
up on the mountainside
in the beautiful view is he says,
people want to become monks here
for the view, he said,
and what they're going to have to find
on top of the mountain here
is the valley,
while they're on top of the mountain.
And maybe that's a greater challenge,
because the illusion that you're above it all,
you know, the clouds are down there,
you can kind of ride on that for a while,
but you've got to discover
that life here, daily life here,
is a life in the valley,
though we're on the mountainside.
As Brother Benedict there is saying,
you ain't kidding, buddy.
You want to hear about valley here,
I'll tell you about valley.
Yeah, I mean, after you're here a while,
you realize that...
I heard somebody say that
life is what happens to you
while you're waiting for the good stuff.
Uh-huh.
Somebody else said,
real life are all the interruptions
that you didn't plan for,
and all the things you had planned,
that's not your real life.
So the things under your control
are really not the main stuff
of your life.
You were going to say something?
The image of the mutual gaze
was really meaningful for me.
A priest last week was defining
the sacrament of reconciliation
as a word that's coming back
eyebrow to eyebrow with God.
And I just thought that was
a beautiful image,
but this really brought it
to more meaning for me.
In a way where it's strange
from God's presence so much,
but that's what we can strive for,
to bring ourselves back
eyebrow to eyebrow.
Yeah, and that means
nothing then is in between
once you let yourself get that way.
I remember when I was up
in Berkeley one time,
and I was walking the streets
along Shattuck Avenue,
which is kind of an interesting place,
and the coffee shops and cafes,
and then the street people
and derelicts and the alcoholics
walking around asking for handouts
or trying to wake up
and find food for that day.
I remember I was walking
this one day,
and this black dude
came walking toward me,
and he was singing
at the top of his lungs.
But as I recall,
I don't think it was any words.
He was playing a human trumpet
sort of, you know,
that kind of thing.
And he walks up to me,
and of course I know
he's going to ask me for some money,
but he really comes closer
than the three feet.
He comes up.
And so I was aware
of some part of me.
See, that's defending our space,
and you're trying to,
how do I act to be in control
of the situation.
I was aware of that feeling,
and I resisted it.
And I just said,
let's see what happens.
And so he came up,
and then I walked even closer
to him, and we were
eyeball to eyeball,
and he was taller than I was
by six feet, you know.
And it was just for a brief second,
you know, he stopped
and looked at me,
and I looked directly
into his eyes.
And I could see the pain there.
And I started to be moved
to tears, you know.
I mean, it was so fast,
so instant.
And he looked into me, too.
And I don't know if he saw
an easy mark,
because he quickly said,
you have some money, bro?
But if he saw something in me,
maybe a soft touch, you know.
I was just really surprised
that a total stranger,
that I would let myself,
which is not typical for me,
get that close,
and just forget about everything,
and just through that gaze
start to go into his inner life
without knowing
any of his past, you know.
So I looked at him,
and we were locked
into this gaze,
and I smiled back, you know.
And then I could see a smile
like in his eyes,
and I said,
Well, I said,
I'll give you some money,
but the only reason is
because I really think
you sing pretty well.
And he just then beamed.
He went into a big beam,
and so I gave him
a little bit of change.
And then he walked on,
and I walked on.
But to me,
there was a real 5-second,
but a real breakthrough
encounter there.
One little tiny thing.
But I mean, that's possible
all the time, all day long,
with people, with birds,
with, you know,
the bird that was squawking
during LODs this morning,
giving Daniel a rough time,
you know.
You could try to block it out
as a distraction,
or make it part of your prayer.
Merton says there are
no real distractions in life.
Nothing is a distraction.
That's a human invention.
Once you realize
that in the silent desert,
you are everything,
and everything is yours,
then it's not pulling you
from anything.
It's within the whole thing,
which is prayerful presence.
I had a similar experience
at St. Patrick's Cathedral
in New York City,
not St. Patrick's Day,
this past year,
and it was snowing,
and they leave the vestibule
of the church open
and there was this one man
that had slept there,
the colored man,
with enormous brown eyes,
and they weren't asking for money,
and I just kind of, you know,
gazed and struck each other in the eyes,
and I'll never forget his eyes,
and they were just so full of peace.
It was the only word
that I could describe it.
And at the time,
he gave me some money,
and he said,
the Lord will always bless you.
And I thought that, you know,
I'll remember those words, too,
because normally, you know,
you might get a thank you,
but it was just something about
the peace within your mind.
Yes, Jim.
I've always felt that the most powerful force,
human force, there is,
is the force of acknowledgement,
which really comes from love.
And what I don't want my false self
to be doing is justifying that.
You know, I guess I'm confessing
before it all.
I really believe that God,
I believe that my capacity for love
only exists because of God.
And I think that's,
in a day-to-day person-to-person account,
that's really the way of being present
and ministering to people.
That's the least I can do.
Presence or presence?
I loved your image photo, John,
looking at the sky.
Trying to take it all in.
You couldn't believe it, of course.
That's my brother, Mike,
showing it last night,
looking up at the sky.
Open wider, you may see.
Did it work? No?
You start to get a headache?
It's the same thing
when our mind tries to conceive
an infinity or eternity.
Our whole human experience is
everything has a beginning and an end,
and so you get this stretching feeling
going on in your head,
and if you go too far,
you'll get a headache.
That's the word Mike used,
because I keep stretching.
Yeah, yeah.
Well, I'd like to end with that poem
that I really love by George Herbert,
entitled Love.
Love bade me welcome,
yet my soul drew back,
guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed love,
observing me grow slack
from my first entrance in,
drew nearer to me,
sweetly questioning
if I'd lacked anything.
A guest, I answered,
worthy to be here.
Love said,
you shall be he.
I, the unkind, ungrateful,
ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand,
and smiling did reply,
who made the eyes but I?
Truth, Lord,
but I have marred them.
Let my shame go
where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says love,
who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says love,
and taste my meat.
So I did sit and eat.
Amen.
Thank you for a great weekend.