Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Reading June 2, 2009

February 1, June 2, October 2

Chapter 7: On Humility

The fourth degree of humility
is that he hold fast to patience with a silent mind
when in this obedience he meets with difficulties
and contradictions
and even any kind of injustice,
enduring all without growing weary or running away.
For the Scripture says,
"The one who perseveres to the end,
is the one who shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22);
and again
"Let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord" (Ps. 26[27]:14)!

And to show how those who are faithful
ought to endure all things, however contrary, for the Lord,
the Scripture says in the person of the suffering,
"For Your sake we are put to death all the day long;
we are considered as sheep marked for slaughter" (Ps. 43[44]:22; Rom. 8:36).
Then, secure in their hope of a divine recompense,
they go on with joy to declare,
"But in all these trials we conquer,
through Him who has granted us His love" (Rom. 8:37).
Again, in another place the Scripture says,
"You have tested us, O God;
You have tried us a silver is tried, by fire;
You have brought us into a snare;
You have laid afflictions on our back" (Matt. 5:39-41).
And to show that we ought to be under a Superior,
it goes on to say,
"You have set men over our heads" (Ps. 65[66]:12).

Moreover, by their patience
those faithful ones fulfill the Lord's command
in adversities and injuries:
when struck on one cheek, they offer the other;
when deprived of their tunic, they surrender also their cloak;
when forced to go a mile, they go two;
with the Apostle Paul they bear with false brethren (2 Cor. 11:26)
and bless those who curse them (1 Cor. 4:12).

Some thoughts:

I think it is very important to remember as we read today's selection that Benedict is only talking about what happens within the monastic community. Benedict's idea was that the monastery be self-supporting, self-sufficient and that there would be little if any need for the monks to leave the community.

This is very important for me to remind myself as I have a Very Hard Time Indeed with injustice. Nothing gets me more angry faster than the deliberate victimization of a person or persons by a person or persons. So I have to rein myself in when I read this bit.

That said, let me assure you that I have a very hard time keeping a silent mind in the face of difficulties, contradictions and injustices. When face with a difficulty I am motivated to solve it. When faced with a contradiction I am motivated to resolve it. When faced with injustice I am motivated to stop it.

This business of keeping a silent mind, though... not offer to solve? Not offer to resolve? Not stop injustice? This makes me think. It's in the RB so I have to deal with it just as I have to deal with the nasty bits in the Bible. It's there so I have to deal with it. No glossing over, no explaining away. And at the same time keeping in mind that Benedict's context was a group of monks living in a community and not the context of the wider world and all its messes.

For me the challenge of keeping a silent mind is that I am 100% completely convinced my take on a situation is the right one. When I look at that, honestly and squarely in the face, I am forced to admit that it pretty darned ego centric of me. Where do I get off thinking I know all there is to be known about a situation or what's going on in the mind of others? To admit I do not, to cop to my own fallibility, well... ... that's humility, isn't? To admit that I might be wrong? Mistaken?

This section of the rule not only requires that I keep silence but that I also keep a silent mind, that is not even think about it. To so grasp my fallibility or my own place in the scheme of things, to so let go of any interest in the issue that I don't even think about it... To face the idea that any contribution I might make is flawed or none of my business and be so convinced of it that I don't even think about it. That's hard stuff. That humbles me.



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