Sunday, 10 July 2011

St Benet's Eve.


Tonight I popped into the Cathedral for Evensnog and found the sort of ecumenical service I like - A Pisky church, Pisky clergy and a Presby choir (Dunblane ex-Cathedral in their blue goonies).  At least you could make out the words of the psalm without the mangling of trebles! A very pleasant experience followed by mince and tatties - braw as Oor Wullie says (we have to read the Sunday Post now that the News of the Screws has gone!).

Tomorrow is St Benedict, father of Western Monasticism and patron of Europe (I thought that used to be Cyril and Methodius??).  Hang on, according  to the books  ALL of this lot are: Benedict of Nursia, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), Jadwiga of Poland.  Europe obviously needs much prayer (Eurosceptics might agree).

Here interestingly is St Benedict's "12 step programme".
I A first faltering step is taken when a monk consciously obeys all of God's commandments, never ignoring them but always holding within himself a fear of God in his heart, for "your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10)  Benedict then warns that we must always beware of what may be said to us in the future, lest we should through negligence fall into evil ways and become useless: "when you do these things, should I be silent?" (Ps. 49[50])

II Our second step is achieved when one thinks not about pleasing himself but instead follows the injunction of the Lord, "I came...not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me" (Jn. 6:38)

III The third step is reached when out of love of God, one obediently submits to a superior in imitation of the Lord, for "he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death..." (Phil. 2:8)    Such obedience is at the heart of the Benedictine spirit. The obedience a monk shows to his Abbot, and not exclusively to the Abbot but also to his seniors and, for that matter to all his brothers, is an indication that he is actively seeking to do God's will. In the Benedictine tradition the abbot of a monastery holds the place of Christ, much as a bishop does in his diocese. For the monk, his superior is the father of his particular house of God. For this reason, Benedict gave pride of place in his Rule to the qualities that each individual abbot must possess, spelling them out in exhaustive detail at the beginning of chapter 2. By comparison, chapter 1 is but a short treatise on the varieties of monks and is quickly dispensed with. So seriously did Benedict consider the abbatial position that he did not hesitate to warn, "he should keep in mind that he has undertaken the care of souls for whom he must give an account" (RB 2:34). The saint adds that the abbot must be led to realize that any lack of good in his monks will be laid at his doorstep.

Benedict also demonstrates his understanding of human frailties when, after instructing the monk to obey the abbot's commands in all things, he remarks that should he (the abbot) himself stray from his own path the monks under him should "do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but do not practice." (Matt. 23:3)


IV  The fourth step is achieved when a monk, under obedience, patiently and quietly endures all things that are inflicted on him. It should make no difference whether the trials are painful, unjust or even completely beyond his understanding; he should neither tire nor give up. "Whoever endures to the end will be saved"(Matt. 10:22). To this Benedict adds the consoling promise, "in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37)

V  The fifth step is reached when a monk humbly discloses to his superior all the evil thoughts in his heart as well as those faults and evil acts he has actually committed. Benedict urges us to "give thanks to the Lord, who is good, whose love endures forever." (Ps. 106:1)

VI  To achieve the sixth step a monk must without qualms accept all that is crude and harsh; at all times he considers himself a poor and worthless workman.

VII The seventh step is attained when a monk not only confesses that he is an inferior and common wretch, but believes it to his very core. He must be willing to humble himself and claim with the prophet that he is "a worm, hardly human, scorned by everyone, despised by the people" (Ps. 22:7) and that "it was good for me to be afflicted, in order to learn your laws." (Ps. 118[119]:71)

VIII A monk reaches the eighth step of humility when he does only that which is demanded by the common rule of the monastery or by his seniors.

IX The ninth step can be achieved when a monk, practicing silence, only speaks when asked a question, for "where words are many, sin is not wanting; but he who restrains his lips does well." (Prov. 10:19)   The monk is here reminded that humility at all times entails the control of not only his thoughts but also of his tongue. Benedict was extremely aware of the ease in which one inflicts injury through careless chatter. A monk is instructed to use his powers of speech in order to encourage his brothers.

X The tenth step is climbed when a monk restrains himself from undue laughter and frivolity.


XI To reach the eleventh step a monk must speak gently, without jests, but simply, seriously, tersely, rationally and softly.  It is only through silence and limited speech that we are able to listen to God with the ear of our hearts; only thus can we be attentive to his divine presence in our monasteries and in our lives.

XII The final step is attained only when a monk can at all times show humility not only in his appearance and actions, but also in his heart.  St. Benedict felt that it is only upon climbing all twelve steps that a monk can hope to find that perfect love of God that casts out fear; only then will he be capable of acting solely out of love for Christ. Indeed the initial fear which may have been necessary as a motivator can inspire the renunciation of all externals, including ownership; this in turn may lead to an inner renunciation that is the very essence of humility. Fear is eliminated by love, which is revealed as the very pinnacle of life on earth: upon successfully climbing the twelve steps one discovers what can only be called an unspeakable respect for God. It is then that his word is listened to with veneration and his law lovingly observed.

(Pinched from the website of Christ in the Desert Monastery Albuquerque)

Not sure all of it works for me - the low self image jars given the efforts that have been made by so many to improve me self-esteem but make it realistic and honest.  but there is food for thought in this.

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