Humility and Community Life Chapter talk 04 Sept 22
Chapter talk 04 Sept 22 on Humility and Community Life
The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility-Bernard of Clairvaux
When thinking about my own life’s path, I have found that if I look inward, I pretty much have all I need in order to grow in maturity on my monastic journey.
When reading about humility, which can only be helpful as I seek inner balance, shows me that the opposite of humility is a deep path toward inner suffering and even isolation from the brothers. I have come to understand that true humility is next to impossible without an ego that is healthy, strong, and eagerly seeks the truth.
Human communication is very difficult, and when humility is missing it becomes even more problematic. This is a lesson that I have had to learn over and over, on my own inner journey as a monk.
The definition of humility is freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble. There is a learning curve when seeking to deepen this virtue. It is easy to see that such an approach to life would save anyone from a lot of wasted struggle.
No two monks live in the same community on an experiential level. All of our ideas are subjective, and can often be self-serving, and self-centered. Our inner subjective state will have a powerful influence on how we interpret what is going on around us. Humility allows us to spend time and energy learning other perspectives from others.
If we do not pay attention, we can become, broadly speaking, two of the worse kinds of monks that are painted in vivid colors by St. Benedict.
“6 there are the sarabaites, the most detestable kind of monks, who with no experience to guide them, no rule to try them as gold is tried in a furnace (Prov 27:21), have a character as soft as lead. 7 Still loyal to the world by their actions, they clearly lie to God by their tonsure. 8 Two or three together, or even alone, without a shepherd, they pen themselves up in their own sheepfolds, not the Lord’s. Their law is what they like to do, whatever strikes their fancy. 9 Anything they believe in and choose, they call holy; anything they dislike, they consider forbidden 10 Fourth and finally, there are the monks called gyrovagues, who spend their entire lives drifting from region to region, staying as guests for three or four days in different monasteries. 11 Always on the move, they never settle down, and are slaves to their own wills and gross appetites. In every way they are worse than the sarabaites.” (Rule of St. Benedict)
To be in the above situation is not the path to inner growth, or to becoming spirituality mature. We can be stuck at this immature level of existence until the day we die. Now some can’t help it, others more culpable. Who they are is not for anyone to judge. Though they may need to be dealt with. Read the rule, it seems to have been quite common to discipline one of the monks.
Living in community, through often a painful experience, can lead us from a life of self-centered preoccupation to a place of desiring to love and serve the brothers, and not to force one’s will, or to attempt to do so, which only leads to deeper isolation.
None of us are victims of our past if we have the humility to seek ways to unchain our inner lives from the tyranny of our past. Listening to others when we are challenged is one way to do that. To attend, to consider, and to learn to spot negative cycles in our own lives that we can do something about, as difficult as that can be, is necessary.
To gossip is one sure way not to grow towards inner freedom. In gossip, we seek those who will bolster us in our ideas and join in when we denigrate others. A form of self-wounding, while harming others. It destroys the love in our hearts, one calumny at a time. Such sins as these are often overlooked to the detriment of the one who can’t stop belittling others.
We are all acquainted with how harsh St. James was on the subject of the tongue. I am sure that he did so because of the harm done to the community, as well as those who were subjected to gossip.
It is the interior monologue that can be the most serious. Personal Infallibility can be a huge obstacle to our growth in Christ. We are called to become more loving, compassionate and empathic. What we fail to discipline in our thought life can lead to serious problems.
Prayer from the heart and a good practice of Lectio is one of the best ways to offset the tendency to live in others people’s heads, and not our own. In prayer, the deeper we go, and the more we trust the Lord, we are open to self-knowledge, and this leads us to stay at home in our own heads, to do battle with ourselves. Leading us to show compassion and speak the truth in gentleness when we are with others.
I today’s world, the concept of Spiritual Combat can be forgotten. My greatest enemy is of course me if I do not understand my own weaknesses and tendency to move toward certain sins. I do believe in the possibility of demonic influence. However, I can only be tempted by what is already in me. God is not the problem, I am. It is in trust of God’s fidelity that can keep us all on the path, not allowing our failures, no matter how serious, to derail us on our journey. Even then, as St. Benedict says, ‘Never despair of the mercy of God.-Br.MD
Edited by markdohle
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