Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Reading for Dec 12Ru, 2007

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 12, August 12, December 12
Chapter 58: On the Manner of Receiving Sisters

When she is to be received
she promises before all in the oratory
fidelity to monastic life
and obedience.
This promise she shall make before God and His Saints,
so that if she should ever act otherwise,
she may know that she will be condemned by Him whom she mocks.
Of this promise of hers let her draw up a document
in the name of the Saints whose relics are there
and of the Abbess who is present.
Let her write this document with her own hand;
or if she is illiterate, let another write it at her request,
and let the novice put her mark to it.
Then let her place it with her own hand upon the altar;
and when she has placed it there,
let the novice at once intone this verse:
"Receive me, O Lord, according to Your word, and I shall live:
and let me not be confounded in my hope" (Ps. 118[119]:116).
Let the whole community answer this verse three times
and add the "Glory be to the Father."
Then let the novice prostrate herself at each one's feet,
that they may pray for her.
And from that day forward
let her be counted as one of the community.

If she has any property,
let her either give it beforehand to the poor
or by solemn donation bestow it on the monastery,
reserving nothing at all for herself,
as indeed she knows that from that day forward
she will no longer have power even over her own body.
At once, therefore, in the oratory,
let her be divested of her own clothes which she is wearing
and dressed in the clothes of the monastery.
But let the clothes of which she was divested
be put aside in the wardrobe and kept there.
Then if she should ever listen to the persuasions of the devil
and decide to leave the monastery (which God forbid),
she may be divested of the monastic clothes and cast out.
Her document, however,
which the Abbess has taken from the altar,
shall not be returned to her, but shall be kept in the monastery.

Some thoughts:

Is anyone else as moved as I by this reading. My heart leaps and dances.

As many of us who read this already know, Benedictine monastics do not vow poverty, chastity and obedience but promise stability, conversion of life and obedience. For monastics of course this means staying in this monastery with these people for the rest of their lives, conforming all aspects of one's self to the Rule of St. Benedict as practised in that community and obedience to the Abbott, the Rule and the community.

How do we apply these concepts to our lives when we are not in monastic community? What does look like? If one is an Oblate of a particular Benedictine monastery, this is defined for one, if I understand correctly. But what about for the rest of us?

Stability... In a mobile society reams have already been written about our inability to stay in one place for very long be it job, church, house, relationship. The list could go on ad nauseum, I daresay. But I would like to focus on stability of the heart, of a heart set on Jesus. There are so many ways we could embrace. It is hard to choose. I know of people who buy every new Breviary that is published and who switch out books from time to time. I mean no disrespect even though it will probably sound this way, it reminds me of people who buy every new diet book and chop and change diet plans constantly, never really sticking with one and letting it work. Benedictine stability asks us to stand against all such temptations and to choose, commit and stick. So obviously we have to prayerfull choose very carefully before we undertake to commit and stick.

Conversion of life... As with stability this is extremely personal. One tool I really like os Jane Tomaine's _The Benedictine Toolbox_. What a challenging book. I like the way she takes one thing at a time. An aspect of conversion of life i have been working on is to cease to curse out the other drivers and to pray for them instead. I am incapable of immediately and all at once changing everything in my life that does not reflect Jesus. It has to be one step at a time.

Obedience... In a "me! me! me!" world, obedience is an ugly word. Perhaps even unnecessary. Certainly many people find obeying the law optional. Hate to use another driving example, but there is an intersection in my neighborhood through which people on my street have the right of way. People coming the other way have to stop and it is rare that anyone does. So many of us demand a personal application, a personal relevance before we will agree to cooperate. How do we get past the egocentricity of our fine selves to consider the greater good and our role init?

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Benedictine life is rooted in three dimensions: commitment to a community, fidelity to a monastic way of life and obedience. It is a life that sees sanctification as a by-product of human society, the development of a new way of thinking and living, and a total openness to the constantly emerging challenges of the God-life within us. To pursue a Benedictine spirituality, we must carry our part of the human race and allow it to mold and polish and temper us. We are to be people who see the globe through eyes softened by the gospel. We are to see change and challenge in life as God's voice in our ears. Benedictine spirituality goes into the heart in order to embrace the world. It forms us differently than the world forms us but it does not attempt to shape us independently of the real world around us. The whole point of the profession ceremony itself is quite the opposite. We are, in fact, to make this commitment consciously and knowledgeably and publicly, in the presence of the community, the communion of saints that are represented by the relics of the church, and the leader of the community. This is a declaration that binds us to others and raises us beyond the changing feelings of the day to the obligations of a lifetime.

This passage of the Rule points out in a particularly graphic way that Benedictine spirituality demands a total change of the way we relate to life. In the first place, monastics are to depend entirely on the community for their support. They don't bring with them the family wealth and they don't have any claim to personal property, not even their clothes. They give everything that they have gained up to the time of their entry into the community either to the poor or to the monastery itself. From then on, it is the support of the community and the providence of God upon which they are to depend, not on their savings, not on their business acumen, not on their relatives and connections. From then on they go through life as a people whose trust is in God and who are responsible for one another. The purpose, of course, is to free a person forcibly from the agenda of the world. "Those who have cattle have care," an African proverb teaches. We "can't serve God and mammon," the scriptures say. The point of Benedictine spirituality is that we have to decide, once and for all, what we are about and then live in a way that makes that possible and makes that real.

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