Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict (Page 2 of 2)

May 25, 2016 — Obedience is freedom

Today’s Bible reading

The heavens declare the glory of God,
   and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
   and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
   whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth/span>
   and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
   and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
   and its circuit to the end of them,
   and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
   reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
   making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
   rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
   enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
   enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
   and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
   even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
   and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
   in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
   Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
   let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
   and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
   be acceptable in your sight,
   O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. — Psalm 19

More thoughts for meditation

Here is the promise which St Benedict holds out and it could hardly be more straightforward. ‘The Rule is not meant to be a burden for you It should help you to discover and experience how great is the freedom to which you are called.”

But freedom for what?  “To be able to do in the depths of your heart what you really want to do,” is what Thomas Merton told his novices at Gethsemane. He went on to speak to them of getting in touch with that deep inner Center, using terms which have much in common with what stability involves, my being, my reality, what God has willed for me. The part played by obedience becomes clear as he continues “being able to will what God wills for me at every moment is what keeps me in touch with that center: that reality is the will of God and it demands response I have to choose and everything I do in relation to this and must keep contact with this center of freedom.” Perhaps that choice will be very difficult, it may feel like panic at the impossible demands, it may feel like a choice between two evils. Then the only possible prayer is the one that the novice makes of his profession quoting Psalm 19: “Hold me, Oh Lord, you have promised and I shall live, do not disappoint me in my hope.”

Suggestions for action

Obedience is not a word most of our culture is comfortable with these days. But maybe it isn’t such a bad word. In fact, when we realize and accept that God is in charge could we actually finally feel free? What word from God comes to you as one you should obey right now?

May 24, 2016 — listening

Today’s Bible reading

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. — James 1:22

More thoughts for meditation

To listen attentively to what we hear is much more than giving it passing aural attention. It means in the first instance that we have to listen whether we like it or not, whether we hear what we want to or something that is actually disagreeable or threatening . If we begin to pick and choose we are in fact turning a deaf ear to the many unexpected and perhaps unacceptable ways in which God is trying to reach us…

To listen closely, with every fiber of our being, at every moment of the day, is one of the most difficult things in the world, and yet it is essential if we mean to find the God whom we are seeking. If we stop listening to what we find hard to take then, as the Abbot of St. Benoit-sur-Loire puts it, “We’re likely to pass God by without even noticing him.” And now it is our obedience which proves that we have been paying close attention. That word ‘obedience; is derived from the Latin oboedire, which shares its roots with audire, to hear. So to obey really means to hear and then act upon what we have heard, or , in other words, to see that the listening achieves its aim.

Suggestion for action

Listening is not only auditory but non verbal and includes our bodies as well. Today when you pray attune part of your body to listen. One good reason to close your eyes when you pray is to keep from distractions. Maybe bow your head or place your palms up in the air. Check in with your body. Is there any tension or pain?  Be aware of it.

May 23, 2016 — Grumbling

Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-547?)  was born in North Central Italy (the Umbria province) when the Asian hordes were pulling much of the region back into violence with their war and pillaging.  His  biographer, St. Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, does not record  the dates of his birth and death, though he refers to a  rule written by  Benedict.

Benedict is considered to be the father of Western monasticism – a few centuries after monasticism began in Egypt, Asia Minor, and Palestine.  His genius was to put the forms of the East into an accessible format that was warm and flexible. He was mostly the leader of a community, not a scholar.  The Rule is  the sole known example of Benedict’s writing, but it shows his genius as he crystallizes the best of the monastic tradition and passes it on to Europe. The Benedictine vows are basically “obedience, stability, and conversion of life.”  He helped formalize a movement of the Spirit into “a school of the Lord’s service, in which we hope to order nothing harsh or rigorous.” These “schools” that soon dotted Europe were centers of light and stability for centuries. Benedict, and the subsequent monks in his tradition, are known for their disciplined days of prayer and labor (ora et labora).

Read more about Benedict at Celebrating our Transhistorical Body.

For the next few days we will follow Esther de Waal’s thoughts and meditations on Benedict’s Rule in her book  Seeking God  – The Way of St. Benedict. “The book was written by Esther De Waal in the midst of a very demanding professional and personal life as a wife, a teacher and a mother. It is all the better for that.”

Today’s Bible reading

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  — 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

More thoughts for meditation

The disciple’s obedience must be given gladly, for God loves a cheerful giver. If a disciple obeys grudgingly and grumbles, not only aloud but also in his heart, then even though he carries out the order his action will not be accepted with favor by God who sees the grumbling in the heart. He will have no reward for service of this kind; on the contrary he will incur punishment.

Suggestions for action

The verse about a “cheerful giver” is often referred to financial giving, but Benedict includes all of the ways we give to God including money, time and love. Grumbling can come so easily to us that it can feel not just natural but necessary — maybe even therapeutic. Cells can devolve into a state of grumbling if the leader is not directing people beyond what is immediately displeasing.

What is the last thing you grumbled about? What is something that you could do besides grumbling?Sometimes if we look below the surface we realize what we are upset about is not the thing we are grumbling about at all but a deeper pain. Pray for God to reveal and heal.

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