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Monastic Spirituality Set 4 of 12

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I'd like to review very briefly what we were talking about then and also add a little something about the connection between vocation as we see it in the New Testament and the religious life, the monastic life, because this is going to tie right into the first vow that we're talking about, which is the one of conversion of life and which has got strangely lost in tradition, so that its interpretations became very confused, sort of doubtful. We were talking in reading this first introductory chapter about two elements of monastic profession, one of which is interior and personal and the other one is exterior and juridical.


And the interior one tends to express itself also in a kind of natural or symbolic external way, but then that's something different from the juridical one we were talking about, which incorporates the monk into the structure of the church in an official way, into a legal structure, and that's the one that we always tend to look at for a bit of disdain or aversion or whatever. The essential element, of course, is the spiritual connection, the interior one, the one by which the person wants to give himself to God, but the spiritual connection can't really be realised, can't be realised without some kind of external expression. We're going to be talking about this continually. There's a problem in treating this material of how to keep coming back to the sort of living centre of it and not get lost into the marginal things or the things which are not really alive, things which do not really relate to the core of our vocation. Maybe


you can help me with that. I want to keep trying to return to the living part, the living flesh, of a heart, of what we're talking about. Now, when we talk about this expression, first of all we talk about the interior gift, the interior experience, and then we talk about the expression of it, and these are two very living aspects, very living dimensions. They're very personal. First of all, what you experience, and then the compulsion that you feel, the necessity that you feel to express that, because we're going to find that everything has to be expressed in some way. Man is an expressive being in some way, we're like a plant in some way, and what is in us, the seed that is planted in us, as well as the seed that we are, has to manifest itself, has to come out of the ground and into the open. Not because we want to, not because we want to show off, not because we want to make a particular image, but simply, when Jesus says, that which is hidden must be revealed, he's saying something like that. It's a law which is not only, it's in


nature, but it's also in supernature, whatever you want to call it, it's also in grace. So, we'll find that that's a pretty rich notion. But we have to keep close to the interior experience that we're talking about. When we get to talking about the obligations and especially the infidelities to the vow and so on, it can get pretty heavy, unless we keep coming back to sort of the living core. You can remind me of that when we get into the outskirts sometimes. As we do easily, if we just follow Robert's, but another temptation of mine is to follow the text, and in that case, it gets very heavy. So, we're talking about obligations, but, and so there's a certain tension in what we're doing, because we always have to relate these obligations to something that's alive. They're not just like traffic laws, they're not like any kind of laws, they're things that have to spring out of the core. So, we have to keep trying to rediscover that living core, which you've experienced, which you feel within yourself as your vocation, as your own motivation, as something in


your heart, and then following the movement out into the external expression, which finally gets incorporated in some way into a book, you know, into a revelation. Yeah. Sure, yeah. I'm sorry that I tend to, why don't you, there's no reason to be so far off. I tend to talk a little low, I try to talk loud and then forget. Okay, so I want to read some more of that Tillard book, because I think he's really got the center of this thing, when he's talking, he's connecting the religious vocation with simply the experience of encounter with Jesus in the Gospel, and pardon me if I spend some time on this, but I think it's important, and I'll have to return to this time and time again, to refine the life and the fire in what we're talking about. He's talking about the way that religious vocation follows naturally out of this encounter with Jesus, and the mysterious point is that you don't understand at the beginning, very often, that that's


what's happening. You don't understand that you've been touched by Jesus, you've been grasped by him, until maybe later on. You don't know what it is at first. Let me just read a little bit of what he says about that. There are charisms and charisms. He's starting out, it follows the title, as you know, he's starting out with an axe to grind, and he's evidently been, had some kind of an encounter with charismatics, and he's defending the religious life and saying, the religious life, too, is charismatic. That it's not just the extraordinary experiences and phenomena and so on, and the Pentecostal movement, but also the religious life in its core is charismatic. And in getting into this controversy, you see how controversy brings out good things, because it really does manage, I think, to bring very well into the life the charismatic core of the religious life, where it's not just a system of Okay, let's listen to what he says, and be patient if I have to read a bit.


I read you a little bit of this last time at the end, but I want to go back further and pick up. It's difficult for a religious, or for a monk, to say straight away what brought him or her to the following of Christ. Indeed, the most immediate reasons for entering the religious life may conceal an implicit and more profound motivation that becomes explicit when one examines them more closely. Those immediate reasons vary according to person, circumstances, and ethics. One knocks on the door of a novitiate because one is attracted by the community's specific work, by the importance it attaches to the contemplative dimension of Christianity, or by something else. All these reasons enter into the choice of this form of Christian living, but those who are satisfied with them and do not look for the deeper motivation risk never getting down to the essentials. In the circumstances, they may simply persevere in the religious life without living it as a profoundly meaningful experience. So you've got to get to the core in order for the thing to be alive again. And then he starts talking about the ways that often people have interpreted the religious life. And here you can hear monastic life every time he says religious life,


because he's really talking about the monastic core of all religious life. So that shouldn't bother us. To get to the truth of the religious life, we must obviously discover its central pivot, the thing, the hinge, the core, the key. But the latter will not stand out in bold relief unless we look at it from another standpoint than that of usefulness or moral value. Now, in the active religious orders, often the person finds the reason for his life, the significance, the meaning of his vocation in being useful. Okay? I mean, somebody, a sister who becomes a hospital sister, a nurse or something, that's obvious. Or somebody who goes into admissions also. In monastic life, you can't do that. But what are you likely to do in the monastic life? You're likely to see it as a striving for personal perfection. Now, that's pretty persuasive, or just a striving to fulfill yourself as a human being, okay? I mean, you can have looked all over, looking for the right kind of journey, the right kind of trip, the right kind of teaching to bring you to your fullness,


to the potentiality that you have in yourself, or to what God wants you to be, or to the image of God, whatever you want to call it. Okay? But that's still not quite the Christian point in vocation. Granted all this, the fact remains that the striving for personal sanctification, or fulfillment, or self-realization, whatever you want to call it, even when it's closely bound up with the evangelical service of mankind, is a moral process. It's an effort man makes under the action of grace to realize his true human nature. In this light, the religious life emerges as a school of perfection. Nothing can be more true, more specific to its nature. But does one enter the religious life primarily, basically, in order to find a school of perfection,


a school of service of the Lord, as Saint Benedict says? Or does one desire to find that school of perfection for another reason, which is less explicit, but deeper? And that's what he's aiming for. You don't join an order in order to follow a rule, either, even though it was Saint Benedict. In terms of its deepest source, the religious project, that is, the thing that you are trying to do when you come into the monastic life, is of the charismatic order, although the religious may not be aware of this from the start, but only after reviewing his life. What do I mean by charismatic in this context? And here, obviously, he's quibbling with the Pentecostals. I mean that it's the Spirit alone who takes the initiative and the experience that leads a Christian to choose this type of life. And also that such an experience lies beyond the rational.


A Christian finds himself in a climate closely resembling that of the poetic experience, in which the human mind feels possessed by what the ancients called the daemon, or demon comes from that, who inspires it by raising it above its own limitations. At the religious level, we then speak of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm, which in the old days, the origin of the word is that God is within you, that God is within your breast as a bit of enthusiasm, which, of course, can go to excesses. What, then, is the experience of evangelical enthusiasm in which the religious project must necessarily be grounded to be genuinely charismatic? It is an experience of faith in the strict sense of the word. To discover the content of this experience, we have to look at the gospel. He's already shown in another book that the religious project carries on, as it were, the following of Christ of the apostles.


Now, all of the New Testament accounts of personal vocations have common traits, and when these are singled out, they're mostly healing. The most striking and possibly the most essential of those traits is that the chosen person does not ask to be chosen. He's not seeking to fulfill his personal quest for perfection. He talks about the rich young man who does come up to Jesus himself, but that doesn't lead to anything. He turns away. Rather, it is Jesus himself who, in one way or another, issues the invitation. It may not feel like that, we may not experience it like that, but it only appears that way later on. Then he goes on giving some of these vocation accounts in the gospel. Here, too, he's talking about saying in the gospel, Christ's demand has the extraordinary, abnormal, and irrational traits which characterize the eruption of the world of the spirit. For taken together, the gospel passages which allude to this call


translate an almost impracticable demand. Immediately they left their nets and followed him. He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. He said to him, follow me. And he left everything and rose and followed him. Another of the disciples said to him, Lord, let me first go and bury my father. But Jesus said to him, follow me and leave the dead to bury their dead. Go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you'll have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me. We've left everything and followed you. There's no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom who will not receive, and so on. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things. Saint Paul. In the apostolic call it is the Lord himself through his spirit who thus alerts man to the reality of the last times, asking him to live as a witness to the gospel's great assertion. The kingdom of God is already at the door. Here he's quoting somebody else.


In other words, kairos means a decisive moment. There are two kinds of time. I think Robert was talking about this. There's chronos, which is just ordinary time. We talk about chronology. And then there's kairos, which is like the moment of salvation. It's a specific moment, which has a special value from which it's not repeated. It is in such a kairos that the religious vocation is born, and it is in such a concept of time that it's grounded. It does not impose on the summoned one a stiffer dose of evangelical morality, like the council saying, well, you've got to just do better than the others, you've got to follow me more closely. That's not it. But it affects him here and now in the root of his being, in the root of his being, leaving him no reasonable choice but to say yes to the kingdom of God, who needs him for a task and invests him inwardly in his lifestyle without instantly renewing him through and through in the depths of his spiritual being. It follows that the one who is summoned is neither more saintly nor more perfect than that other man whom the Lord has not called away from his wife and children in the trade he usually pursues.


So the vocation doesn't make him any better, by the way. Now here he begins to get to the real point. And I read part of this last time. Since man's freedom is involved, it's clear that God's call awakens in the believer an initial reaction which constitutes the soil in which the decisions he has to take, for instance, to leave everything determined. Remember the call of St. Anthony. Remember? In the life of St. Anthony, those of you who've read it, he was in church and he heard that word of the Lord. Here he heard the gospel read. He heard it read twice, and I don't remember the order. One of them was, whoever wants to be perfect and wants to follow me, let him take everything as himself. And then another one was the same, renunciation of the Father and of the Lord, twice. So that's what he did. But this reaction is not first and foremost of the moral, ethical and practical order. Primarily it is one of enthusiasm. That's the point I wanted to get to.


And the enthusiasm is about Jesus. And in this context, enthusiasm is fundamentally doxological. Remember we were talking last time about the word doxology, doxological, doxa, glory. So it's a perception of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. And whether or not one realizes that's what's happening. Because the face of Christ Jesus may be a bit hidden. But the call is leading. And sooner or later it emerges, or it's got to emerge. Otherwise the vocation goes off in some other direction. Otherwise the person stops hearing the word of the Lord. Vocation means call, it means word, communication. So far I've examined only the vocation narratives found not too frequently in the New Testament. But there are other New Testament passages that shed light on man's attitude in the encounter with Christ which reorients his life. The most important of these is the double parable of the treasure and the fine pearl, Matthew 13. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field


which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. So on finding one pearl of great value he went and sold all that he had and bought it. Which echoes the words of Jesus to the rich young man. Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor and you'll have treasure in heaven and come follow me. This is the context of the call of the apostles. The texts don't compare the kingdom as such to the treasure or the pearl. They compare what happens within a man discovering the kingdom to what happens within a man finding the treasure or the pearl. It would be wrong to maintain, especially by bringing up the vocation narrative, that the point of these two parables is to command to make an absolute gift of all one's possessions to the poor and summons to take a heroic decision. What they really mean is the key idea is the following. It's self-evident that whoever discovers the kingdom leaves everything in order to enter it. In other words, he's overpowered


by the value of the kingdom. So it's not the point that he has to be driven. His fingers have to be pried open and he has to be persuaded or forced to give up everything he has. None of those parables. It's the joy of the discovery of the kingdom that just makes him feel he can drop everything else. The fact that the man buys the field containing the treasure signifies that it's worthwhile relinquishing everything for the sake of this kingdom. In both parables, the relinquishment of which the gospel speaks is important, but more as a result of discovering the kingdom that as the steps must take in order to enter it. And then, I forget whether I read that passage from Jeremiah's testimony, or, as Thomas would say more accurately, Joachim Baromius. The key words are in his joy about the man who finds the treasure. They're not expressly repeated in the case of a merchant who finds a pearl that they apply to him as well. When that great joy beyond all measure


seizes a man, it carries him away, penetrates his inmost being, subjugates his mind. All else seems valueless compared with that surpassing worth. No price is too high. And the unreserved surrender of what is most valuable becomes a matter of course. The decisive thing in the double parable is not what the two men give up but the reason for their doing so. The overwhelming experience of the greatness of their discovery. So it is with the kingdom of God. The effect of the joyful news is overpowering. It fills the heart with gladness, making life's whole aim the consummation of the divine community and producing the most wholehearted self-sacrifice. That's what I think the core of a monastic vocation is. That leaves a person to leave the world. It's some touch, it's some feeling of that joy that is greater than any pleasure but just of a different order. It may be very dim. There may be a very painful process of letting go and turning around and self-emptying. And one's fingers may have to be pried off


in a lot of things. But ultimately it's that joy which is simply on a higher plane. The sovereign kind of joy. We talk about joy and we talk about glory almost in the same breath. The joy is the perception of the glory of God which is fundamentally a contemplative experience. The inestimable value of the kingdom relegates everything else to the background. This doesn't mean that other goods and personal relationships are rejected or held in contempt but rather that he who discovers the kingdom sees those other realities from the standpoint of his dependence on what has become the center of his life. Consequently they cannot compete for his affection. Not because he's renounced them but simply because of the attraction of the kingdom and the joy it awakens. We could stop there and just think about that for a while because that's where it is. And often we get ourselves into a bind


because we get ourselves into a kind of a dualistic struggle between wanting something and wanting to be faithful to the Lord. If we could only see the difference and if we could only see the way in which we should really relate to things and to people we'd somehow have that freedom to be able to come back to them and relate to them and not be bound apart and not be blinded apart. So it's a matter of somehow we can't hold on to that joy exactly we can't grasp it it's precisely ungraspable but to remain open to it to retain a kind of memory of it so that nothing else can fill that space. It's in this light that we can understand the apparent inhumanity of assertions like this. If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters yes, and even his own life he cannot be my disciple. The mysterious enthusiasm


created by the encounter with Jesus coming into their lives at a decisive moment can alone explain the action of Levi leaving the customs house to follow him the decision of James and John leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and following him the attitude of Simon Peter smitten with remorse and following him on the shore of the lake in order to be led where he would rather not go. The gospel has a lot of those places in it where just the fact of Jesus being different being separate, being above every other possible experience or encounter or possession or whatever and therefore they let go of him they just follow him. Remember where he asks the in the first chapter of St. John he said, what do you seek? after John of Aptos points him out he says, Rabbi, what do you dwell on? Then he quotes he gets on to St. Paul in the third chapter of the letter to the Philippians which is the same experience


although St. Paul experienced it after the resurrection. The theme of joy runs through this apparently disjointed letter and somehow links up its various parts. Joy constantly breaks through. It matters little whether or not one half of chapter three is the conclusion of the previous chapter one half of the first line of chapter three. The context is wholly one of enthusiasm. The joy to which I refer is joy in curio that is in the Lord. In curio is the Greek for in the Lord. Not simply a joy whose object is Christ but one that finds its whole source in the dead and risen Christ otherwise it would not be the unquestionably triumphant joy which resounds here. Moreover it doesn't spring from an experience of piety or inner delight but stands out against the background of a harrowing situation which it transfigures. St. Paul has a problem he's in a butch and kill. It is a realistic enthusiasm if ever there was one. The enthusiasm associated not with a light-hearted


youthful joy just brushing life with its wings but with a joy which despite sufferings, failures and disappointments springs from communion with the Lord Jesus the communion that faith engenders. And here I have to read that passage once again I've probably read it too many times. St. Paul's been talking about his privileges boasting in a kind of left-handed way about others' dignities and so on prerogatives when he was a Pharisee when he was a Jew. He says but whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and I count them as refuse in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him. How does Paul describe this communion? As the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.


With such knowledge all Paul hopes for is to become like Christ in his death and to share his sufferings while awaiting a mysterious association with his resurrection. But this wish and dynamic hope have their origin in the experience of being captured by Christ Jesus being grasped by Christ Jesus as they usually translate. Here they've got to be made one's own. I press on to make it my own. I've not already obtained this not already perfect but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. They usually translate that to grasp this because Christ Jesus has grasped me. Grasp by Christ Jesus which was precisely the moment when Christ seized hold of him on the Damascus road. Being seized by Christ was an experience that turned his life upside down, holy transforming. Suddenly because of Christ, what he was and what he possessed the privileges of his birth and education, in short


everything he had hitherto valued was counted by him as a loss. And so on, so he dropped everything. He goes on commenting. For the religious who is seized by Christ, he's still feeding from that passage of Philippians chapter 3. In a mysterious moment that determines his life and who may be immediately aware of the impact or only discover it gradually the following of Christ is rooted in an experience analogous to that of Paul and the apostles in the gospel vocationality. A charismatic experience, clearly it is the experience of the laborer overcome with joy on discovering the treasure in the field. It is the experience of Paul caught in the conflict between flesh and spirit yet filled with the joy of Christ, a realistic joy growing and gaining strength beneath his sufferings. At the root of every authentic


religious life, he means monastic life, that is conscious of itself one finds as the primary and compelling motivation not a for or the sake of, in order to, but a because of. And here too the object of this because of is none other than Jesus Christ. In other words, it's not because it's useful, it's not really for a purpose, but it's because one has been grabbed because something has been done to one, something has happened to one. This whole notion of God's initiative, God's doing something to us. I remember we were talking about that thing a couple of Sundays ago about Donald Nicklin, his resolution thing, remember, and the fact that you've got to go into it wholeheartedly. And we were wondering why it is that he says that you can't pull back, that you have to be wholehearted, so wholehearted, so committed that you won't turn back, otherwise it's very dangerous. We were puzzling about that. Mark brought something up the other day which brings us closer to the core of the Christian life. The Christian context. The experience of not being


able to go backwards once you've been grabbed by Christ. Because it's a personal thing, it's a relationship. Once you've gotten to a certain intensity of relationship, certain closeness, a certain intimacy, a certain point of fidelity, and that's something you've been given, not just something you've been done. It's not just you've climbed to that point of personal perfection or something, but you've gotten that close to a person. You can't really go back to another level. It begins to be like St. Peter saying, I do not know the man. I don't know if you want to say that. So, in a Christian context it's a different thing. It may be true for any monk, you know, for any spiritual person, but when we look at it in terms of this relationship with Christ, you can see it pretty well. Aside from the danger, that's another question. One thing is, it's just a feeling of betrayal, or the


feeling that one is adrid that Merton talks about, the feeling that one is not responding to the deepest thing in his life. ... That's right. Then the devil entered into it. ... There's something very strange about the two different things. First of all, Jesus was talking, I think, it's not something he did, but he was talking about it was a parable, wasn't it? The house that's cleaned out, it had a demon in it, and it's cleaned out, and then that demon comes back. He goes out in the desert, in dry places, but he's looking for a place to live, so he comes back, and he brings seven other demons, worse than himself,


with him, and they all live there in the house, which is a parable of what can happen to a man. The other thing about Judas, it's very mysterious, the interplay between intimacy and betrayal, that the morsel that Jesus passes to him seems to be a sign of special intimacy, a special favor. And it's precisely at that moment, St. John says, that the devil entered into him, and he went out to do his business. And it's as if that were almost a sacrament, upside down, that piece of whatever it was that Jesus gave to him. Maybe a sign of love, which somehow drives a person to do mysterious things. And then the kiss with which he betrays Jesus, as he was in some ways related to that, itself is an upside-down sign. So, the greater the invitation to intimacy, the greater potential for betrayal, the greater potential for evil,


for infidelity, and the greater danger, in a sense. And Judas is the other one, I'm pretty certain, as well. But Jesus has the better form of betrayal. But it's possible that people have made up this conviction, and then give it up later on. Yeah, I think if they have this conviction as a very personal conviction of a relationship with Christ at the beginning, or with God, and they give it up later on, I think it's because of a gradual series of acts, of turnings away, each of which sort of puts another veil over reality. Okay? And then, a good deal of rationalization is here. A good deal of convincing oneself that, well, this doesn't matter, or it's all the same, and maybe finally that it was never there,


and it never was, never thought of. Something happens to the memory. Something happens to the memory of experience, the living experience which was in the memory, is no longer alive after a while. The same thing happens in love between people, that they don't so often say that it was never there, they say that it just disappeared. But with a vocation, a person may have to say that it was never there. He doesn't see it in that light anymore. Either that, or he doesn't interpret it in the same way anymore. Because a person can very well say, okay, that invitation by Christ was there, but I no longer interpret that as a requirement I give up such and such, whether I live a particular kind of life or this or that. That's another thing. But it's a matter of forgetting, which we can do. You can forget the most significant experience in your life,


even though it's still there inside of you, good first and the final one. It seems almost good to perhaps doubt your conviction. That's right. That's right. You can doubt your experience, or you can doubt your conviction. Some experiences are so strong that you can't really doubt them. Or you can doubt your interpretation. Or then you can, as you say, doubt your conviction, if you've really met it or you've really understood it properly. I don't understand what he says. We don't really have to be conscious of it yet. We don't really know where it's going. As a matter of fact, we know from the gospel that we're called to the kingdom, but the kingdom is a very mysterious thing. We don't know what it is. We're not supposed to.


It hasn't entered into the heart of man. To know what it is, it gets prepared. It's like, for so long, it seems like they've been trying to justify this sort of life, I see. They're crazy people who are blind and all this. Yeah, that can be okay, at a certain point, for helping people support a feeling of uselessness or lack of identity or emptiness in life. But Merton fights that tooth and nail. He's continually saying that the monastic life has no purpose, that it's useless. Because if you begin to... I don't know, I didn't read that passage, did I? He says, if you begin to think that you're a powerhouse of prayer, what are you doing? You're building up an ego, and you're building up a self-image of being a power, of exerting a force, of being the most valuable thing in the church, which becomes absurd at a certain point if what you're aiming for is to get beyond that self-image. So he says the monastic life


is completely useless, it's only for God. And that's a big paradoxical statement, because obviously that which is solely and purely for God is more useful than anything else, but it's not useful in the ordinary way. And we can't justify it by its usefulness. That usefulness is for something else. A as... B as its purpose, okay? Its purpose and its meaning is outside of itself, but the monastic life is not like that. Its meaning is in itself, which is a kind of realization of God, that's what it's supposed to be. And it's right in the life, it's in the person, and so on. It's not outside of it. But in a way, of course, the monastic life is the life which is most oriented outside of it. Outside of itself. Human life which is centered completely beyond itself. So it's very paradoxical. But his point is that it's very dangerous to begin to understand the monastic life in terms of a usefulness like that, even though the official church tends to do that, and the bishops tend to do that, of course, because they're missionaries,


they're pastors, and that's what they're doing. I just thought it was quite an unheard decision, I suppose, to justify the life, but when you meet people and they hear that you're going to the monastery or something, they ask about it. It seems the only thing you can call it. That's right. You've got to give them something that makes sense to them. Or you just have to present yourself as a mystery, you know, which can be kind of arrogant sometimes. You can't say, I just don't know why, I just have to. So it always falls back on this thing of credit. There are various explanations like that you can give that I think they're valid. But they just don't get to the core of the thing somehow, because the core of the thing is in your own experience, and is quite incommunicative. It's just that for God, you know, for God, which is not a purpose, not an end outside of itself. A contemplative life


and a natural life is like a lot of things in nature which don't have any purpose. God made them for him, for himself, also for man. We can't find any use for them, because maybe they're the best things around. Things that don't have any use, they can't be carved up and subjected to something else out of themselves. In the times I've come to, you know, I'm just proud of the relatives who remember me and ask me for a nasty life. It seems as though, in a sense, I've fallen into that danger of wanting to justify why they do it so I can live this thing forever. Because that's the way everyone lives that nasty life, so I always say, well, you know, you pray that we would live something like that. That's okay, that's okay. Merton is so rigorous on a lot of things, you know, he just cuts everything out for you because he doesn't leave you with any possibility. He eliminates all the possible expressions in order to get right to the essence, right


to the core. But you've got to give those explanations sometimes. The explanation of prayer is good, but what I like is to say that the monastic life is although this one begins to sound arrogant because it begins to sound superior, but the monastic life is trying to let God take over, trying to let God come into the world. Just trying to leave an open space for God to come into the world. Which you do with yourself, you know, you try to leave yourself open for God, so that you can be present in the world. Now the trouble with that is that people outside will say, you mean he's only present in you? He's only present in the monastery. Or something like that. It does tend to sound a little vain. But I think it's true. A monk or a nun is a person who tries to make himself just a place for God. Like the monastery is a place which has no other purpose but to let God be there. Which means a minimum of interference, a minimum of static commotion, noise, other self-centered preoccupations and so on. It's as simple as that.


So the monastery in that sense is like a kind of park or a kind of botanical garden or just a wilderness which is left just for God. But all those things are risky because they can turn into queer interpretation. And yet it's a mystery but you can't just leave people, you can't present people with a mystery. And that again is an arrogance to say, well, I just have this superior calling which I can't explain to you poor mortals. What are they going to do with that? Laughter It's better to say that we're neurotics and we can't get any work done. Laughter It's better to say that. Laughter Sure. Sure. I couldn't cope and so we came here to be fed.


Laughter Laughter Laughter Just we got it made. We should put out a brochure like that. Laughter Laughter We got this mountain, you know, marijuana growing down the foot of it. Laughter Rock candy on the top of it. We make fruit cakes which are soaked in brandy. Laughter We got it made. Overlooks the ocean. No taxes. Laughter Okay, I'm not going to stay on this very much longer. Didn't expect to eat up the whole morning talking too loudly. He's really got the core of it, I think, so it's important. Because we'll have dry stretches when we're talking about those vows later on. We'll keep a hold of those. That sense of wonder is undoubtedly bound up with an essential aspect of the act of faith.


It's a contemplative aspect. He's trying to get beyond the practical dimensions of the religious life now to this contemplative core of it. Before and beyond the practical action which it inspires and accomplishes, faith is the welcoming of the Lord, the recognition of Christ, Jesus. Then he begins to talk about solitude. Now the contemplative gaze of faith, which as I said earlier is its prime and decisive aspect, strives mainly to reach that secret point where man stands alone before his God. And then he said, well this doesn't mean there isn't a community dimension to faith. But there is a point where man, present to himself, becomes capable of truly hearing the word addressed not primarily to his group but to him personally, challenging him as a particular individual. Faith finds its pivot in a


personal relationship, in a friendship. God is calling this man to enter with him into a relationship so meaningful that in Jesus Christ he will be his adopted son, a one-to-one relationship. The encounter possibly initiated in a group experience or in the collective enthusiasm of a charismatic event will be sealed as a profoundly genuine experience only in the silence, the joyful but secret silence of the I-Thou relationship. And it is this moment of acknowledgement, of opening to the divine life which is the contemplative moment I'm attempting to describe. So the connection between this contemplative moment, any religious vocation, and solitude itself. A moment so essential to faith that without it faith becomes meaningless. It is clear that in the religious life the endeavors of the following of Christ belong to this level of experience. They are the yes to a word of Christ that aims to seize hold of the person in the depths of his desire. So this gets all the way away from the moralism or the practicality, as it were, of the religious life and down to the core of this


meeting with Jesus. And we don't realize it's Jesus yet we have to keep digging until we find it. We have to feel what we have and have to treasure it. The mainspring of the religious vocation, of the many forms it takes, is therefore to be found at the contemplative level, that of man's attitude on discovering the fine pearl or the treasure. The person's gaze is then directed to Jesus Christ, inseparable from his Father and his Gospel. Because he is what he is and not with a view to, not in order to, not for some purpose. See, that's the catch in Cassian's setting up of the purpose of the monastic life as being purity of heart. When you get too stuck on a purpose you forget about Jesus. You forget what the core of it is. You get to doing your thing, how you're human, monastic. And one trouble with the monastic tradition, I remember when I first got into it, it's like I'd been on a more devotional track before that. But with Jesus in the center of it,


you come into the monastic life and they start telling you all this stuff about tradition and all these customs and all the things you do and all the observances. There's this immense structure of tradition and observance. And you wonder what has all this got to do with it? What's it got to do with the core of the Christian life which is the relationship with Jesus Christ? So one of the risks of the monk is to get to be an archaeologist, to get to be a historian, to get to be a scholar, or to get to be too professional. You can get to be so professional a monk that you're not a Christian. You can get so professional as a monk that you forget about Jesus. You see, that's the temptation of somebody like Evagrius. He's got the thing, he's got such a system, he's got the psychology so systematized and so on, analyzed, but he forgets about the thing and so on. At least, you know, in his writings he doesn't question it. That's the risk if you read Evagrius. Probably he wasn't really that way. You see the tendency for him to get too professional.


So we've got to remember that we're children and at the end of all the techniques is to de-technique you and make you a child who is just filled with wonder, finding Christ, finding Jesus as if for the first time. Just seeing that face for the first time. And it all leads you right back there. And if the monk doesn't accomplish anything else, but draw other people's attention to that face that he's looking at. A face which you don't see. The clear-minded religious is certain that fundamentally Christ's call resounds at that level. Not perhaps in the early days when he had his life. Enthusiasm certainly, but one that is akin to the enthusiasm of the mystic, thirsting for his Lord even when he is frightened by the dark night of doubt, or to the enthusiasm of the poet tormented by his demon. So you see, what he's


setting out there is really very simple. It's notional. The indispensable fullness also of enthusiasm and of passion for the religious life for the monastic life. Because if it becomes kind of a routine or even kind of a structure of obligations or duties or things you have to do it's dead. It's not working anymore. Although it still wears something because it's done for the sake of the Lord. But we've got to have that in our consciousness. We want to have it in our heart and our heart wants to be alive. And also those times when we do the life out of habit or obligation or whatever are stretches in between that are giving an opportunity for another breakthrough of course which is the consciousness of the realization of what we really want. Now from all of this we've got to abstract from the question of feeling because how are we going to feel this? But this is where it comes from and this is where it returns to that encounter with Jesus. He's talking about St. Peter when he first meets


Jesus and how he sort of capitulates to him, gives himself to him. And then after all his denial and everything later on he repeats it without remorse. That's right. It's deeper than a feeling and this is when you talk about religious experience it's very tricky religious experience because it's not like a religious experience. And what you're getting is sort of always the outside or the lower lower boundary or something like that or something that goes beyond that experience. Once again like the glory of God what we see is only a kind of refraction of it to something else. And so we grab on to the feeling and we end up with a handful of air because we haven't really got what we're trying to do. So we always have to


aim back for the person. And we find that sooner or later if we aim back towards the person of Jesus that the feeling comes into it. The fire is deeper than the feeling. The fire you can rely on. Because the fire is the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is not feeling. The Holy Spirit manifests itself in feeling. It's like the water in the well. The water level rises in you. You're aware of it. The water level drops. You're aware of the enthusiasm. The feeling of the feeling. But somehow enthusiasm in a sense is something you can maintain even when you don't feel it. Because it can become something in the world. I can think of the same thing. Their enthusiasm, their impetus, their momentum gets so great and so deep that they continue even when they don't feel any... the motor doesn't seem to be running inside but they stay. Okay, so one thing is that being captured by Christ


and being grasped by Jesus Christ is really just a quality. Whether or not we know it. Because in our Christian monasticism we've got to end up there. We can't end up with some kind of just death experience or some kind of insight or some kind of gnosis or some kind of peace or some kind of self-realization. We've got to get back to Jesus because there isn't any more. Otherwise we're out. Out in the frontiers. And out in the desert. You don't want to stay in the desert. The desert is a place to go through in order to get to the promised land, in order to get to the river. Okay, there's this and then there's the expression of this being grasped and this experience and this change in our heart being. Because the experience really, as we say, goes beyond itself. It's an experience which is deeper than experience and is a reality. If you like sort of comfort-giving words, you can use the word ontological. So, here we see the rootedness of our monastic life in the New Testament.


And if you look at the lives of the desert fathers and say, well, what the heck are they trying to do? Because if you ask four of them what the monastic life is, they'll give you four different answers. He starts to do this every day in his chapter. So, what are they trying to do? They're trying to express that which they've experienced and they've got no way of expressing it. There's nothing that's adequate. They can climb a hundred foot tree and live up there or they can dig a hole in the ground and live in that or they can live without any clothes or they can never eat. They're trying to invent some way of communicating or expressing what they've experienced. Because a man can't live without expressing what he's got in him. Otherwise, he's sick. If we don't express our feelings, which I found in experience, if you don't express the feelings that you have in some way, you begin to get ill. You begin to turn in upon yourself in an unhealthy way. You repress things and after a while you hate yourself and you get depressed and so on. So, when a man has felt this, when this has happened to him, he's got to discover a way of incarnating it. He's got to discover a way of letting it permeate his whole being. So, that's what the desert fathers are trying to do. So, they do all these crazy things in all the starlights.


I say they're crazy, but those things were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Because it's as if they were writing in a big, Holy Spirit writing big letters which are not necessarily to be imitated in the same way. That was the sign for a particular moment. Which is not necessarily to be done in another generation. We don't have any startups now. But that's a lot of it. The thing about the desert fathers is that they can't express in words what they're doing. The words are very few and fragmentary and poor. Their manner of expression is right in their life. And they're trying to find a way of expressing totally, this totality of being grasped in their life. And touched by God. In the whole of their life. So, what it turns out is some kind of absolutism. Some kind of extremism. To go all the way in one direction or another. And then you get the question of discretion. That's where the second level of wisdom in the desert fathers starts to come out.


People are calling, like St. Anthony, to say that discretion is the number one virtue. Because without that, all this impetus to express what you've received can lead you right into disaster, like the old man who himself had the first time in the world who was a father heaven. I think that never became a pure way of expressing his vocation. We want to stay close to our Biblical roots. And the Biblical roots for this, then, is the doctrine of conversion in the Old Testament and the New Testament. I say the Old Testament, too. You might think, well, tell me why pull the Old Testament when the real conversion happens in the New Testament in this encounter with Jesus. Well, because there's so much in the Old Testament about conversion. And also because that's real in our lives. Because we have to go through the same experiences and the prophets are really talking to us. So Jeremiah


when he's haranguing the Jews is really haranguing us. And similarly, the experience of conversion in the Psalms, Psalm 51, David's conversion, that's for that. You can do the same thing. The Old Testament is our experience. Not on the flat level of history, on the level of individual and interior experience, but also in a certain way, an analogy, the life of the church, especially the life of the church is a new way to look at it. It's analogous to the life of the elders. It's a very mysterious thing. Because you can't just line up and think that. I don't want to go into that at length. I'll just recommend to you the article on repentance and conversion in the Dictionary of Biblical Theology. And a lot of biblical books and introductions give you the article on the coverage of conversion. It's a fundamental thing in the Bible. Especially with the prophets in the Old Testament who were always getting after the Jews and even the kings


being unfaithful to the law. And then in the New Testament. Because the New Testament starts out like that way. If you start out St. Mark, you find that John the Baptist shows up and he's preaching repent for the kingdom of heaven is here. And in Matthew, it's more interesting in Matthew because you see the link between the preaching of John the Baptist and the preaching of Jesus. The preaching of John the Baptist was nothing but conversion, nothing but repentance. There's this Hebrew word shuv. It's called s-h-u-v. It says turn, turning. Ronald Nichols was telling us about the Arabs and how important that word turning is for them. It's different for them, but I guess it's conversion for them too. But even there are, you know, all the Arab eschatology. The whole notion of turning is fundamental. But for the Jewish tradition in the Old Testament it's turned back to the world. Matthew


chapter 3. In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea, repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And then in the next chapter Jesus comes. And he gives that he's the temptation of Jesus after he's baptized. From that time Jesus began to preach saying repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. So both John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching repentance. But it turns out that what Jesus is preaching is something much different that would have been expected from the preaching of John the Baptist. Because in Jesus the kingdom of heaven is right there speaking that he is the kingdom of heaven. And it turns out to be not the rather fierce coming that John as his disciple preached, but something quite different. But Jesus the kingdom is right there. It's in the future, but it's also right in him.


He is the king. He says I'm the way and the truth and the life. Remember in Cassian's first conference Abba Moses asks Cassian and Germanus what's the goal of the kingdom of heaven when it has to come. They say the kingdom of God the kingdom of heaven. He says right but you're wrong because you can't experience that. He says we'll find something else. So then he brings up and he gets up on the monastic theory out of the biblical theory. The other important thing is the connection of conversion and baptism. The two are inseparable in the New Testament. You see it especially in the act of the apostle. Remember when St. Paul was converted and he had that experience of being grabbed by Christ and he went to Damascus. Then he went back to where did he go back to? Damascus. And Ananias came


and said well get up and he baptized. He said pray and he saw again and he said don't be baptized. St. Peter's preaching on Pentecost day to the Jews in Jerusalem. Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ as Jesus when he was crucified. And here we find another kind of encounter with Jesus. This is after the resurrection. These are the people who were killed. But this encounter with Jesus in this case is directly leads first to the cut to the heart to conversion, to repentance and introduction. Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles brethren what shall we do? And Peter said to them repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. There's a whole theology in that one. So baptism, you remember our connection of monastic life, monastic


profession and baptism. So you see the continuity along the line which leads us straight up to New Testament to basic sacrament and to monastic profession itself. Okay that's probably about enough for today. Next time we have to go on with Robert's and I try not just to read him actually but to find the important focuses here in his chapter two. Just to outline that chapter before we start it might be useful. Notice first he's got a little introduction on the controversy about conversio morum and conversatio morum. That pesky confusion about the term itself. Then he asks what is monastic life? Because he says conversion of


life, this vow binds you to the whole of monastic life. So it's the basic fundamental monastic commitment that includes everything else. And that's why he takes it first. Now they haven't always looked at it this way. By the way there's a Merton article in the Monastic Journey precisely on conversion of life. It's a good article but it's mighty confusing. He goes into it pretty deeply and talks about some of the wrong interpretations too. And in the end he's got an extra grant because he's contending that conversion of life does not forbid you to get a medical doctor. That's not his purpose. Some other reason. ... [...] Okay what is monastic life? And he gives you some ... [...] Then the commitments of conversion.


He's got first of all the general and the overall commitment ... [...] Then the basic observances, and he's got five of those, and then the inner attitude, basically the inner attitude.


The basic observances withdraw on page 16, withdraw from society, the life of prayer, austerity, common life, and monastic life. That's a helpful list of the essentials of the monastic life. And then he goes into each one of those in some detail. We'll take a couple of excursions and a couple of digressions from what he's talking about. And then he gets to abuses or violations of his vow, way back in 34. See, that's his customary pattern. He announced that he was going to, in treating every vow, he's going to talk first about the external obligations, then the infidelities, and then the spirit of the vow. So he gets to the grim section now, the infidelities and the rest of it, and then finally the spirit of conversion. So here we're always going to have a kind of a compromise between trying to get all the material he's talking about covered


and keeping close to the central axis, the living core, as we've shown in this segment, which is the spirit of conversion, which is an attachment to Christ, calling for a detachment from everything else. Any questions or anything you want to talk about before we close today? I was wondering if you were going to say about baptism of the Holy Spirit, do you think that some of us baptize in the baptism? In confection, yes. Because my cousin and I have a confection spring. Yes. And they might feel like they need to do that. Okay, now for a Catholic, of course that's wrong, because we believe that we have received the fullness of the Holy Spirit in baptism, even though we haven't experienced it. So the experience later on would be called the release of the Holy Spirit, which was originally received in baptism.


Not calling for another baptism, but coming out of that original baptism. Whereas some of the Protestants, some of the Protestant Pentecostals would tell you otherwise, and you need to leave that place. Okay.