Friday, November 23, 2007

Reading for Nov 23

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

March 24, July 24, November 23
Chapter 44: How the Excommunicated Are to Make Satisfaction

One who for serious faults is excommunicated
from oratory and table
shall make satisfaction as follows.
At the hour when the celebration of the Work of God is concluded
in the oratory,
let her lie prostrate before the door of the oratory,
saying nothing, but only lying prone with her face to the ground
at the feet of all as they come out of the oratory.
And let her continue to do this
until the Abbess judges that satisfaction has been made.
Then, when she has come at the Abbess's bidding,
let her cast herself first at the Abbess's feet
and then at the feet of all,
that they may pray for her.

And next, if the Abbess so orders,
let her be received into the choir,
to the place which the Abbess appoints,
but with the provision that she shall not presume
to intone Psalm or lesson or anything else in the oratory
without a further order from the Abbess.

Moreover, at every Hour,
when the Work of God is ended,
let her cast herself on the ground in the place where she stands.
And let her continue to satisfy in this way
until the Abbess again orders her finally to cease
from this satisfaction.

But those who for slight faults are excommunicated
only from table
shall make satisfaction in the oratory,
and continue in it till an order from the Abbess,
until she blesses them and says, "It is enough."

There is a tremendous freedom, I think, in admitting one has made a mistake, done wrong. An openness, an honesty, a transparency that could only do us good. "I was wrong. I am sorry for my wrong. Let me make reparation, if possible." I find it freeing myself. I have learned the hard way to be willing to admit I goofed up and to take responsibility for it. To do otherwise leaves me feeling like a fraud wondering when I will be found out and i can't live with the tension of pretending to be what I am not.

On the flip side of that is also the willingness to forgive. It may actually be easier to admit one has done wrong than it is to forgive. I know I want to hold onto my grudges, sometimes. I feel so outraged that I am unable to hear "I am sorry, please forgive me" from another. I want more than that. I want my wrong righted. And i am not the only one who feels this way. I see it around me everyday.

Having long puzzled over why this this, I've come to a conclusion. I think the thing that makes it so hard for us to forgive is our desire to have the hurt undone, to go back to before the time when we were offended, betrayed, robbed, etc. An unwillingness to forgive may come from our denial of the inability of the offender to make it as if it had never happened. An unwillingness on our part that our reality has been changed and we must learn to live with the results.

Jesus tells us to forgive as we would ourselves be forgiven. Cause and effect is at work. If we do not forgive, we make ourselves people who cannot be forgiven in our turn. I imagine that the monastics, as they walk by their sister or brother on the ground at their feet, are reminded that it could be they themselves on the ground the next time. We all err. We are all sources of offence to others at some time or the other. We are powerless to go back in time and make it as if the offence, the wrong, had never happened. We have to learn to live with what we have done just as we have to learn to live with what others have done to us.

We forgive. We are forgiven. It is enough.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

"A community is too heavy for any one to carry alone," the rabbis say. Benedict argues that the community enterprise is such an important one that those who violate their responsibilities to it must serve as warning to others of the consequences of failing to carry the human community. The point, of course, is not that the group has the power to exclude us. The point is that we must come to realize that we too often exclude ourselves from the relationships we promised to honor and to build by becoming the center of our own lives and ignoring our responsibilities to theirs.

The correction seems harsh and humiliating by modern standards but the Rule is working with the willing if not with the ready who seek to grow rather than to accommodate. The ancients tell the story of the distressed person who came to the Holy One for help. "Do you really want a cure?" the Holy One asked. "If I did not, would I bother to come to you?" the disciple answered. "Oh, yes," the Master said. "Most people do." And the disciple said, incredulously, "But what for then?" And the Holy One answered, "Well, not for a cure. That's painful. They come for relief."
This chapter forces us to ask, in an age without penances and in a culture totally given to individualism, what relationships we may be betraying by selfishness and what it would take to cure ourselves of the self-centeredness that requires the rest of the world to exist for our own convenience.

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