Unknown year, March talk, Serial 00985

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So we're talking about Camaldoli's spirituality, and we've had the five elements. It is very centered on Christ in a very personal way, and thus Trinitarian, with the Holy Spirit strong, et cetera. I mean, friendship is a key theme right from the beginning, we noted. It's not in the sense of just each person, a world unto himself, and a kind of a solitary ship going by. But a strong bonding and mutual support. Then the whole theme of pluralism, all these different forms, from reclusion just within the hermitage, to the regular balanced life, to the life of formation, and then the rural monastery, the urban monastery, various apostolates, et cetera. Then the fourth and fifth notes, and one could cut this pie any different ways, but things I would note. One is the spirit of freedom of the children of God. This isn't libertinism, or just do what you darn want, but it's that central theme in


St. Paul. We are no longer under a law, but we are in this new realm of grace. So it's right at the heart of the New Testament. It's right at the heart of the Old Testament, the whole centrality of the Exodus experience. Israel knows God as God intervenes directly, very concretely in their history, freeing them. And this, as you know, is now interpreted very much in terms of a political action, and so you have your liberation spirituality. But at the heart of this is the liberation, the interior liberation, which frees us from all the interior forms of slavery. Gutierrez came to the GTU and spoke to the Jesuit faculty. He stressed this has to be at the heart of any social commitment, this deep entering into the freedom of the children of God. Well, this is basic for the Kamaldolese.


Here's just a little quote from Blessed Rudolph's Rule. Remember, he is the third prior of the hermitage, and this is one of the early classic documents. He's talking about fasting and asceticism. How should that work? Should it be set down in the rule, who has what, or should it be laid down by the prior, the chapter? The quote is, the hermit will undertake ascetical practices according to his strength and as they may seem useful to him, or as grace shall inspire him. In such cases, there can be no constraint, only what the will freely suggests as an offering. So, this is very much in our spirit. That's one of the functions of the cell, is to enable asceticism without a big show. You can be fasting and whatever it be, discipline or vigils, and it's in that secret that our Lord exhorts in the Sermon on the Mount.


Enter into your secret chamber and close the door, and then pray in secret, and then your Heavenly Father in secret. He says, when you fast, don't make a big display of it. I think Merton has a lovely paragraph on this in his chapter on the Kamaldis. I think he's caught our spirit here very well. And he talks about it in terms of the spirit. This is the Pauline approach. Where the spirit is, there is liberty. In all religious life, the spirit is vastly more important than the letter. But the more solitary a life becomes, the more important is its spirit, and the less important the letter of the rule. The hermetical life is almost exclusively spirit. That is why the letter of its legislation is generally extremely simple. The early customs of Kamaldi, to which we have already referred, are no exception. That is why they are extremely adaptable to all places, provided they be solitary places,


and to all times. So not a whole series of very concrete, specific prescriptions and directions, et cetera. But a minimum of this, and then allow the dynamic of the particular calling of the spirit, the traction of grace, the natural gifts. This, of course, in dialogue with one's prior and one's spiritual director. But it's a dialogue to enable and enhance this freedom, not to reduce it. This is quite a different approach, for instance, than the Carthusians, again. Our former abbot, Don Benedetto Collati, he wrote a great deal about this. One of his articles was published in the Monastic Studies 1972, Spiritual Freedom and the Rule. This whole thesis is what the rule of St. Benedict is basically about, is freedom. And this is particularly Kamaldi's approach to the rule of St. Benedict. You won't get all the Benedictines having this particular approach.


But he stresses that St. Benedict says this is a small rule for beginners. Just start here. And then move beyond what the Fathers write, what Scripture writes. This is just a beginning point. This is marvelous. This is the type of legislation that doesn't try to wrap it all up and enclose it. It's all here. Don't ever wander outside of here. Benedict just says this is a beginning point. And he'll tend to lay down prescriptions and then say, if the particular place or need or such, this could be modified, as his laying out of the Psalms for the office, for instance. So Benedict Calati writes, the final phrase of the prologue is, but as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God's commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love. It therefore reminds us of the last chapter of the rule, where the author of this monastic life stresses the provisory nature of all law,


including that which he himself has set down, in view of charity, which is the perfection of all law. That's where we're headed. That's who God is. God is love. Whoever abides in love abides in God. So it's not the letter of the law that's going to save us. It's God who has saved us. And God is love. God has saved us through grace, not through our observance of the law. Very decisive. We're always tempted to fall back into a kind of works-justification spirituality. Christianity, basically, is a breaking away from. And the monastic life can be a way of slipping back into works-justification. I'm taking these vows, I'm doing these things, so I'll be saved, at least unconsciously this. But this isn't the heart of the rule, and certainly not the heart of the commandolies. The relative position of the law is then more than obvious in comparison to the Word of God, a salvific event always in action through the work of the Holy Spirit.


Scripture, in this instance, is not a simple norm of law. It presents itself in its prophetic wholeness as an event, which is always new for the faith of the believer. Every day we hear Scripture. We never know what's going to happen there as it speaks to us. That's our primary rule. And whether it be our constitutions or the rule of St. Benedict or whatever else is just trying to open us and free us to that Word that speaks in Scripture, the Word that speaks in events in the heart, etc. The perfect charity to which the latter leads is the Kingdom, is the risen Christ, is spiritual freedom, perfect facility to the Spirit. So that's where we're journeying towards, not an ever more precise observance of one law or another. This is a liberty not as, again, libertinism, I doing what I want kind of thing, the me generation, but this is liberty for, liberty for Christ. So it's also slavery. St. Paul calls himself


doulos Christum, slave of Christ. So it's this paradox of being freed up to perfectly serve Christ whose service is perfect freedom. Christ and one another in obedience, etc. So, it's quite a different thing than the kind of the individualism ideology. Questions, discussion about that? You're all mellow about this. So the final note is this, just introductory, is then Christian solitude. Which presupposes Christian community. But what specifies us as part of the Benedictine family is this solitary dimension. And here I think Merton writes good things about the need of solitude today. The dimension, in fact, of solitude in every human being's life


we're often running away from it. There's a paradoxical approach, as you know, in scripture to the desert. The desert is where Satan is. The desert is where tremendous temptations desert is where Jesus goes out to not to have a nice period away from it all, but to wrestle with Satan and these basic temptations that will then be with him for his whole life. So it's a place of combat. But it's also the place of God's wooing of Israel. Where God pours out his, her special love on Israel. So it's this paradox. And we find this in the early Camaldoli's literature about the cell, about solitude. It's both. You go into your cell it's extremely dramatic. Or it's extremely peaceful and joyful. Or it's both of the above. St. Peter Damian writes


a solitary goes into his cell to make war on the devil. So it's this battle. And this happens. You can't go into solitude without coming to terms in one way or another with all the darkness within, without all the struggles, without every kind of temptation. Then he also writes, Oh desert, terrible thou art, dwelling place of evil. So we go right there because it's within. This desert is right at the heart of our existence. We can't always be running away from it to the city. On the other hand, remember the first line of St. Romuald's brief rule which we'll hopefully be getting into. Sit in your cell as in paradise. The cell is paradise. And the same St. Peter Damian who talks about this terrible place of evil writes, the cell purifies the soul, enlightens the mind, engenders knowledge, sharpens the intelligence. It is a conversation with angels, a desire for


heaven, a meditation on eternity, a union with God. So very lyrical of stuff on what the cell is. Blessed Rudolph also has it as heaven anticipated. Why? Not that we'll be in solitude in heaven but that solitude is a privileged place to live the first commandment to love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, all your strength because there's a minimum of distractions there, and then in God to find the whole of humanity, the whole of creation so to live the second commandment out of the first which exegetes say is the whole intention of Jesus. So this is a quote from Blessed Rudolph. Remember we've just come from the East and remember the whole emphasis on Hezekiah, quiet, peace as a privileged place for a union with God. To the quiet and persevering hermit, his sojourn in the cell brings a refreshing sweetness and a blessed silence which seems to be a taste of paradise.


So this is a direct echo of the Master. So it's both and. It certainly leads to this inner deepest peace if we're persevering in it. Blessed Rudolph says if we're constantly going out then it's hell but if we're quite regularly in solitude then it becomes indeed this place of Hezekiah of quiet. The house of God grows in sacred silence and the temple that will never fall is constructed without noises. If you are quiet and humble, you will not fear what the enemy may do to you for where the heavenly dweller rests in peace, the betrayer cannot prevail. It is in the silent soul that wisdom takes up her abode and remains forever. So here's the cell


as place to attain this quies, this peace, this silence. But this takes some work especially the work of Lectio of nourishing that silence so it's not just an empty sitting on a log remember a very simple brother who's no longer with us at the beginning of the years here and he would hear these texts about just go into your cell and sit down. Well he hadn't had much preparation but he'd just go in and sit down he'd be flooded by all these thoughts and distractions he'd try to repress them and bash them out of the way and it got more problematic but this takes time this is a slow journey and it takes Lectio and preparation For silence without meditation is death like a man buried alive but meditation without silence is pure frustration is like the struggling of a man buried alive. This is Blessed Rudolf very dramatic images in the sepulchre both silence


and meditation together bring great rest to the soul and lead it to perfect contemplation by meditation he doesn't mean a later kind of Jesuit methods etc but he means a slow meditative reading of scripture or the fathers the one leads into the other which goes back to the one it's a beautiful view of their mutual complementarity and then this leads that marvelous this was Blessed Rudolf and then there's that famous passage from Blessed Rudolf which I always love to come back to where he compares it to this fundamental first kind of well key of theophany, manifestation of God in the Old Testament of God to Moses I am who am in the burning bush so Moses is out there with his flock remember and thou whoever thou art who livest in solitude leadest a solitary life having led thy flocks that is to say thy simple thoughts and thy humble affections


into the depths of thy loving will where thou will find the bush of thy humility which heretofore brought forth nothing but thorns and briars radiant with the light of God where thou wilt be glorifying and bearing God in thy own body this is the divine fire which enlightens us without burning us gives radiance but does not consume us and the bush that burns without being consumed is human nature enkindled with the fire of divine love and unharmed by the slightest touch of destruction so very profound also insight into human nature here and it's the will then that gathers gently this flock it's the will that's the key not our emotions or sentiments or moods and slowly gently gather the flock together journey in the deeps of solitude and there this burning bush which is our humanity a fire with love so good stuff so


this is again just a brief introduction to the Commodity Spirit Thomas will be coming Thomas Mattis will be with us for months and months this is his particular area I thought then to I'll be saying more but that's a first introduction and to say more one of the key documents we want to look at as is the brief rule and as a fundamental exercise I'd suggest you just memorize because it's just seven key phrases that sum up a whole approach to contemplative prayer in the cell it's a loving and I see that the key thing I was going to use to comment it I neglected to bring and that's that article on this particular brief rule by Unblocking the Spirit that's right he's quite


oh good well I'll just refer to it so it is in the kind of the tradition of the desert and the east very pithy very spiritual and extremely concrete starting with just sit I mean that's pretty basic it doesn't start out with visions and exaltations and tongues but just sit so it's a marvelous brief statement now this amazingly was written in this his life of the five brothers by St. Bruno of Quirford who's a contemporary disciple of St. Romuald he writes this before Romuald's death so this comes out of the oral tradition of Romuald and it's contemporary with Romuald and obviously committed to memory so when we do it we're continuing the thousand year tradition but I think it's marvelous that this is a document written not a hundred years after


or forty years after but twenty years before Romuald's death so he certainly wanted to write down what Romuald actually said because Romuald was wandering all over Italy and he didn't want to run into the man if you were misquoting him there's about a hundred words in the text and seven exhortations very very very simple so the first is sit again this is a classic hesychast approach to prayer all kinds of positions you can take in prayer you can stand that's a classic early position you can kneel, you can lie down but a classic position for the hesychast out of the east and for the commodities in the cell is to sit in this lovely book on the prayer of Jesus by Bishop Ignatius


Bryankaninof he talks about the prayer of Jesus and what's the position the hesychast should mostly sit for the practice of prayer on account of the difficulty of this labor you're going to be at it for more than five minutes now and sometimes for a short period he may even lie on his bed in order to give the body some respite so there also is freedom of the children of God but normally it's sitting your sitting should be in patience to fulfill the command that we must persevere in prayer and not soon stop and give up on account of the extremely heavy labor of it and then he goes on with basic suggestions you should have a grocery prostrations, eyes closed hand on the chest hesychasts are advised to sit on a low stool firstly because attentive prayer requires a restful position and secondly after the example of the blind beggar mentioned in the gospel


who sat on the roadside and cried to the Lord O Lord Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me so that's kind of fun, you always look for proof in scripture that you should be sitting this does not mean that standing is banned but as nearly all the time of a true hesychast is devoted to prayer he is allowed to engage in sitting down so the sitting position is the classic eastern approach to prayer some people prefer to sit on the ground on a... this person I was directing he always liked to sit on the ground he says you can't fall off when you're sitting down but other people a chair, a low stool, whatever but this is a classic position and this is what Romuald is exhorting where are you sitting? out on the road sit in your cell oh well let's talk there's more on sitting in this marvelous article


here's remember Mary also who sits at our Lord's feet in the Mary and Martha thing so it does have its charming biblical then it has all kinds of quotes out of the ancient heritage Cassian said sit in your cells Lamentations thou shalt sit in solitude and silence all this kind of thing there's a famous Egyptian Abba Moses saying go sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything this is very close to sit in your cell as in paradise it's going to teach you everything only God can do that that's because God is there not just the brick walls etc so this sitting when you do it just think you're in the whole heritage of monks sitting in prayer down through the centuries and then sitting in cell have a cell as paradise wrote Jerome this is another


theme once you're sitting and stable in that all kinds of things the cell will fully teach its dweller our entire way of life it will teach you everything so there's all these echoes between the desert fathers and the Romualdian tradition sit in your cell the cell is very very big agenda in the rule does a monk have a cell in the rule of Saint Benedict what does he have just a bed why what about the desert fathers did they just have a bed in a dormitory that's right some had little buildings that they would share with a brother or alone so we start out with cells and then with Saint Benedict Benedict moves into the dormitory it's thought for various reasons


one is a community one is simplicity and poverty one is chastity but from him on in the west as the rule emerges and dominates you don't have cells available you don't have at least community cells available you have the anchorite cells available still possibly on the grounds of big abbeys or associated with churches or someone like Julian of Norwich in the 14th century etc little cottages out in the forest etc but when you go to a Benedictine abbey and this became the predominant monastic mode the monk has a bed so as Raphael Brown notes Romuald was a revolutionary he was a very conservative revolutionary but he came into a monastic world where there were not communities of cells and where the rule was seemed at least as a general rule against that setting up the common dormitory


but the rule remember is always also open for the monk going out into the single combat of the desert but Romuald reestablished the community of cells so our little village here is his monument there's a great inscription on the tomb of Ren a marvelous architect of London if you want to see his monument look around you, it says that in more elegant English well this we say about Romuald, his monument is this, is this little community of cottages here and it's quite a resource now the Benedictines have moved in the direction of a room at very least for every monk and even the Trappists now I think they've up to very recently I don't know if some still have the common dormitory but I think up to Merton early Merton you know yeah lots of the nuns have that


they're just little cubicles Rosa was showing this incredible place she was first formed as an IHSM sister and it's this mansion of this very wealthy family so the whole thing is beautifully done and neo-gothic but the nuns went in there and then they put up their cubicles they so constructed that they didn't even nail a nail into the wall because the walls were this beautiful stuff but they would just have these individual poles on individual and then cloth and you'd have your little cubicle very small well what Romuald brings in again as a revolutionary is the cell and I think we should prize that resource it's supposed to be a space for prayer contemplation, lexio you remember Jim Espina he had wandered all over Russia also he said that our cell is pretty fancy compared to what your average Russian lives in in terms of space in terms of comfort


each one of us has a private shower a private bath a private chapel work area a spacious front room a private garden we should be grateful for that certainly if you get into the third world certainly if you get into a place like India or Brazil so we should be aware of that so it doesn't want to be a luxury but it wants to be a real resource for our spiritual life and the chief one is to go in there and sit down and pray that's the main thing and that has a different quality to praying in the chapel praying in the chapel is very privileged but this has a different this is specifically Romualdian and it goes right back to the New Testament and the Sermon on the Mount when you pray, go into your inner chamber and close your door kind of thing there's a danger when you pray in the chapel that someone will walk by and be deeply edified


only your God in secret will reward you now how are you to sit in your cell squirming around and anxious sitting in your cell as in paradise I think that's a beautiful and we've heard all this paradise language out of the Desert Fathers out of Saint Romuald all of that and the paradise theme this is where we begin in scripture and the paradise theme weaves its way all the way through the Old Testament and the New Testament very subtle ways Hosea I will lead you out into solitude and woo your heart this is paradise language Canticle has remembrances of paradise remember the resurrection narrative in John where Mary Magdalene goes into the garden and is looking for her beloved


cannot find him asks the gardener she thinks and then clings to him all kinds of echoes of the Canticle all kinds of echoes of paradise there when Jesus teaches the Sermon on the Mount there was much grass in that place and they all sat down according to some exegetes there's a little echo there of paradise language it's this deepest nostalgia in every human person according to psychologists like Oh Jung and also Fromm we yearn for that primordial state of union in love with God and union in love one with another well the monk is to go back to that Merton has a lovely essay in the English mystics and he says they were basically paradise people the author of the cloud, Julian of Norwich Walter Hilton Richard Rowe, paradise people and so the should be a paradise person and that's at our primordial beginnings


and that's according also of course ahead of us that's language for the kingdom as St. Paul says he was raised up into paradise in that little autobiographical thing if I know a man whether in the body or out I know not I guess he says the third heaven but there was a whole late Jewish kind of cosmology according to which you would go back into paradise before you get into the kingdom I think somewhere I read that the third heaven was paradise or something but according to late Jewish exegesis paradise isn't just now briars and weeds somewhere in Babylon but is up there and is kind of the threshold into the kingdom so that's how we're to dwell there and I think that should be our basic attraction to the cell to get back to paradise comments, questions about any of this


this comes from the Greek term hesikia which means it's hard to translate it means quiet or peace or silence or calm it's that quality of spirit that we're trying to promote so that we can be profoundly united to God who is a God of peace and quiet and calm precisely so it becomes a technical term for a monk in the east and a monk practicing this particular way of the Jesus prayer which is the constant repetition of a phrase as you try to go into the deeper area of peace first you go into a context of physical silence, quiet, calm you're not in the middle of the city but you withdraw and you go into your cell that's already the hesikast context but then you go into your heart and you use a phrase repeated again and again it helps you be there and then you live this vocation of quietude, of peace, of silence


and so you are a hesikast at that point so it's synonymous for monk in the eastern church now and our commanding spirituality is all tied into it because again Romuald and St. Peter Damian come right out of Ravenna they're all wrapped into that thing so we also are hesikasts we also are after this quiet and peace other questions, comments? that's right that's right well number two says cast all memory of the world behind you and I think that's part of quieting it but you're right he doesn't use that term um, Blessed Rudolph as we heard will use it very explicitly


but he doesn't and then you get into a whole thing of this quietude, again first it's the outer quietude and that's nothing if there's not inner quietude and the inner quietude leads into this deepest peace who is God the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the love and knowledge of him says St. Paul there's a quote from Gregory the Great about this outer peace that certainly wants to have inner of what good is solitude of body if solitude of heart is lacking if I'm in solitude but I'm stormed by all these memories of so and so and this problem and this anger etc that's no good but it's solitude or silence, these become synonyms as they are in someone like Merton he'll use them interchangeably it leads into the deepest solitude


so, other questions, comments? Okay, so we'll simply go through every petition and using Raphael Brown but also other stuff that might occur to us and do try to very much claim this as a basic kind of oh Magna Carta and again it is in a sense that it presupposes stuff like the cell and Christian freedom and and all the rest of the thing we were suggesting I have your term papers I had the thought and this is not fair to spring it on you now because I didn't say it before but in some small classes the students find it helpful to be able to share the papers and see what someone else has written and I think that's particularly good in this kind of context because people have you remember the assignment was to take some ancient text


and then personally kind of wrestle with it, reflect on it, claim it and I think each one of you did do that and there's a great variety of approaches and themes but basically everyone did do that of taking something out of the heritage and personally working with it and that's a fundamental resource for monks so it's not just a Mickey Mouse assignment but something that you'll be doing for the rest of your life as Kamaldolese whether it's scripture or the fathers or even a contemporary text of working with that so if anyone [...]