Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reading for March 11, July 11, November 10

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Chapter 33: Whether Monks Ought to Have Anything of Their Own

This vice especially
is to be cut out of the monastery by the roots.
Let no one presume to give or receive anything
without the Abbot's leave,
or to have anything as his own --
anything whatever,
whether book or tablets or pen or whatever it may be --
since they are not permitted to have even their bodies or wills
at their own disposal;
but for all their necessities
let them look to the Father of the monastery.
And let it be unlawful to have anything
which the Abbot has not given or allowed.
Let all things be common to all,
as it is written (Acts 4:32),
and let no one say or assume that anything is his own.

But if anyone is caught indulging in this most wicked vice,
let him be admonished once and a second time.
If he fails to amend,
let him undergo punishment.

Some thoughts:

As i understand it, every Lent, monastic Benedictines have to write a list of everything they have in their cells, take it to the abbess/abbot and receive permission to continue to have it in their cells. I look around my home and it would probably take me all of Lent to make such a list. I've been convicted for sometime that I Too Much Stuff. In 2003 I packed my car in case of evacuation as the Cedar Fire headed my way. I had the cats, my spinning wheel, photos and pictures, clothing, any books I had borrowed from someone else all packed. And there was still room in my car. I looked at bookcases and in that moment, I knew I had Too Much Stuff because I realized that for any book I saved, there would be another I regretted losing.

I have been downsizing the books considerably, but there is still more to go. My friends are feeling more like they might be willing to help me move again, if the occasion arises. hey've refused for 3 moves because they just couldn't face moving those books.

How do you feel about your possessions?

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

There are two concerns at issue in this chapter of the Rule: the development of personal freedom and the preservation of human community. Private ownership touches both of them.

The Hasidim tell the story of the visitor who went to see a very famous rabbi and was shocked at the sparsity, the bareness, the emptiness of his little one-room house. "Why don't you have any furniture," the visitor asked. "Why don't you?" the rabbi said. "Well, because I'm only passing through," the visitor said. "Well, so am I," the rabbi answered.

On the journey to heaven, things tie us to the earth. We can't move to another city because we have a huge mortgage on the house in this one. We can't take care of a sick neighbor because we are too busy taking care of our own hedges. We go poor giving big parties in the hope for big promotions. We get beholden to the people who give big parties back. We take things and hoard things and give things to control our little worlds and the things wind up controlling us. They clutter our space; they crimp our hearts; they sour our souls. Benedict says that the answer is that we not allow ourselves to have anything beyond life's simple staples in the first place and that we not use things--not even the simplest things--to restrict the life of another by giving gifts that tie another person down. Benedictine simplicity, then, is not a deprivation. It frees us for all of life's surprises.

Simplicity is more than the key to personal freedom, however. Simplicity is also the basis of human community. Common ownership and personal dependence are the foundations of mutual respect. If I know that I literally cannot exist without you, without your work, without your support, without your efforts in our behalf, without your help, as is true in any community life, then I can not bury myself away where you and your life are unimportant to me. I cannot fail to meet your needs, as you have met my needs, when the dearth in you appeals for the gifts in me. It is my ability to respond to your needs, in fact, that is my claim, my guarantee, of your presence in my own life. In community life, we genuinely need one another. We rely on one another. Community life is based on mutual giving.

The family, the relationship that attempts to reconcile the independent and the independently wealthy, the perfectly, the totally, the smugly self-sufficient, is no community, no family, no relationship at all. Why stay and work a problem out with people when you can simply leave them? And never notice that they're gone.

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