Friday, May 29, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for May 28 and 29, 2009

Jan. 27 - May 28 - Sept. 27
Let a man consider
that God is always looking at him from heaven,
that his actions are everywhere visible to the divine eyes
and are constantly being reported to God by the Angels.
This is what the Prophet shows us
when he represents God as ever present within our thoughts,
in the words "Searcher of minds and hearts is God" (Ps. 7:10)
and again in the words "The Lord knows the thoughts of men" (Ps. 93[94]:11).
Again he says,
"You have read my thoughts from afar" (Ps. 13[14]9:3)
and "The thoughts of people will confess to You" (Ps. 75[76]:11).

In order that he may be careful
about his wrongful thoughts, therefore,
let the faithful brother say constantly in his heart,
"Then shall I be spotless before Him,
if I have kept myself from my iniquity" (Ps. 17[18]:24).

Jan. 28 - May 29 - Sept. 28
As for self-will,
we are forbidden to do our own will
by the Scripture, which says to us,
"Turn away from your own will" (Eccles. 18:30),
and likewise by the prayer in which we ask God
that His will be done in us.
And rightly are we taught not to do our own will
when we take heed to the warning of Scripture:
"There are ways which seem right,
but the ends of them plunge into the depths of hell" (Prov. 16:25);
and also when we tremble at what is said of the careless:
"They are corrupt and have become abominable in their will."

And as for the desires of the flesh,
let us believe with the Prophet that God is ever present to us,
when he says to the Lord,
"Every desire of mine is before You" (Ps. 37[38]:10).

Some thoughts

In this section we are still contemplating the first degree of humility: obedience/love of God.

How many times a day do we remember that God sees our every thought, word and deed? Things done and left undone? That He is our constant and devoted companion? I have to admit, my every waking thought is not spent thinking of God. If all I did was sit around in a comfy chair thinking of God, I wouldn't get done the things He has set before. As with any relationship founded on love, we can't keep our thoughts on our beloved 100% of the time. But our hearts are with the beloved, are they not? This love under grids all we do, say and think, doesn't it. And don't all who truly love have some version of "Then shall I be spotless before Him, if I have kept myself from my iniquity" running through our minds as we go about the day?

As for this business of being "forbidden to do our own will by the Scripture"... Forbidden? This is the 21st century and I live in the USA. Forbidden? Such a strong word, is it not? Part of me immediately wants to reject this bit. I live in a democracy, after all. But this word is used in the RB and just as with the nastier bits in the Bible, it's there, so I have to deal with it.

I daresay the concept of "forbidden" did not sound as strange to 6th centuries years as it does to ours in 2009. It's a word that goes along with the hierarchical structure of emperors and empresses, kings and queens, lords and ladies. It's a concept that has a place in a kingdom with a ruling class and those who are ruled. That is not our world any longer.

The other thing that strikes me is this and please correct me if I am wrong. It doesn't seem to me that Scripture is considered by most people to be an absolute authority. We now have source criticism, text criticism, contextual and cultural criticism. Seems to me that as a result of all these criticisms most of us feel we can pick and choose which parts of the Bible are those we pay attention to and we can choose to ignore the rest.

My take, as you can imagine, is slightly different. Yes, by all means, let us be informed by these approaches. Let them enrich our understanding. At the same time though, I consider the Bible to be the answer to the Great Questions about life, the universe and...well, everything. Once I have been informed by these various disciplines my next step must then be to ask this question: what is the Bible saying to me.

I believe there was a context in history, culture and society for all the bits in the Bible. All of those bits are there because they served a purpose within their own place in the space/time continuum. But that is not the only purpose because they also serve to inform us. If we chose to allow Scripture to do so.

So while "forbidden" may be a word from a world view which is no longer ours, surely we can look at this word, see it for what it is and ask ourselves can we choose to subject our will out of preference for His?



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