Monday, October 01, 2007

Reading for January 31, June 1, October 1

January 31, June 1, October 1
Chapter 7: On Humility

The third degree of humility is that a person
for love of God
submit himself to his Superior in all obedience,
imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says,
"He became obedient even unto death."

Some thoughts:

Something struck me odd when I was looking at various commentaries on this section of the Rule. The comments are more wordy than than the passage. Which causes me in turn to comment on the admirable simplicity of the RB. Which I probably in no way emulate, following in the footsteps of the commentators.

What is the 3rd degree of humility? Obedience to a superior, is it not? Is your reaction like mine? "ouch"

This passage reminds me of a basic struggle within the American self-identity: that between individuality and individualism. Maybe I read this somewhere recently, is so I forget where and actually I've forgotten all except the juxtaposition of the 2 words.

The U S Constitution is in favor of individualism, but it is not in favor of individualism. And many Americans think the 2 words describe the same thing. Which of course they don't.

Individuality is that God-given unique personality God created person by person. The more we get to know ourselves, the better we are able to know God through Jesus Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Individualism is that ego-centric, self-centered view of the world that says no other consideration but me,myself and I works. It's a selfish, relativistic and situational world view, is it not?

It is also an insidious one because we all fall prey to it at some point, whenever we assert our own stuff above the common good. I can't stand to me a member of a committee, for instance, because I have zero toleration for those who assert their own personal ideas above the needs the committee is there to solve. I cannot tell you the rancor that went on over new sofas for the "living room" of my church.

Benedict provides the balance between individuality and individualism. The nun or monk is in obedience to the monastic superior. Ok, most of us who red this are more than likely not in monastic communities so to whom are we in obedience?

In my case I have made novice promises to my Bishop, Rector and spiritual director. I can't say that any of them supervise me too closely. The Bishop delegates to the Rector and in fact I chat more with the Assistant Rector simply because she has just that tad more free time. I see my spiritual director once a month. You may think this odd, but I count my therapist and psychiatrist as authorities also because of their continued role in my path to mental health.

Do you, Gentle Reader, have someone to whom you look for guidance? Have you a soul friend? ( see Kenneth Leech's book, _Soul Friend_), a priest? spiritual director? Who is the person that provides reality checks in you life?

See... I just knew I'd be more wordy than Father Benedict.

Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

It is so simple, so simplistic, to argue that we live for the God we do not see when we reject the obligations we do see. Benedictine spirituality does not allow for the fantasy. Benedict argues that the third rung on the ladder of humility is the ability to submit ourselves to the wisdom of another. We are not the last word, the final answer, the clearest insight into anything. We have one word among many to contribute to the mosaic of life, one answer of many answers, one insight out of multiple perspectives. Humility lies in learning to listen to the words, directions and insights of the one who is a voice of Christ for me now. To stubbornly resist the challenges of people who have a right to lay claim to us and an obligation to do good by us--parents, spouses, teachers, supervisors--is a dangerous excursion into arrogance and a denial of the very relationships that are the stuff of which our sanctity is made.

Rungs one and two call for contemplative consciousness. Rung three brings us face to face with our struggle for power. It makes us face an authority outside of ourselves. But once I am able to do that, then there is no end to how high I might rise, how deep I might grow.

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