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 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);
"Let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord" (Ps. 26:14)!
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. 43:22; Rom.
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. 65:12).
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).
The awful trip here is the part about holding "fast to patience with
a silent mind." How on earth does one begin to do that? The trend in
consumerist Western society is pretty much to form people- no, let's
call them what consumerism does: "consumers"- in a mold that ALWAYS
listens to very noisy minds. That, after all, is the root of desire
and consumption (clever play on words there!) and profit. Nothing
else matters much to a consumerist society.
It's not surprising that living, moving and having our being in such
waters, we more or less acquire consumerist gills in order to
breathe. However, the Gospel itself, as well as the Holy Rule, tells
us that we must adopt a view which contradicts that of the secular
world. Learning to do this is neither easy nor fast.
The really hard thing here is that sometimes, even when we are right,
we have to put up and shut up, so to speak. The Rule speaks of
bearing injustice and false brethren. There are no qualifiers here
that say: "You may think it is unjust, but the truth is otherwise."
No, sometimes we must actually endure stuff that really is unjust,
endure people that truly are false. As one very wise old monk of
Pluscarden once said: "Some things will only be fixed by a cross in
the cemetery." That is frighteningly true. Some people, some
dysfunctions will go unchecked and there are only two things one can
do about it: leave or endure.
This may feel like denial to us. It isn't. That's not what's asked of
us. I may know very clearly that a person or situation is wrong,
really know it, but what is asked of me is to react in a particularly
controlled fashion, "with a silent mind." Jesus did say, after all,
the He is the Truth. He is not calling us to stupidity or denial, but
He can well afford to call us to silent endurance. The briefest look
at Jesus in His Passion can affirm His rights there. There was never
a greater injustice done than that, nor was there ever a victim so
innocent and completely undeserving of all that brutality.
Why is the "silent mind" such a big deal? Because you cannot get
anywhere spiritually without one. Your focus will be shattered. The
messy bit here is that your focus can be shattered by things
apparently worthwhile- the devil, after all is no fool. We can be
tricked into spinning our wheels and expending all our emotional and
spiritual energy on dead ends that look noble, or on things that
truly are noble, but should not absorb all of our efforts or
attention. We can distort our necessary caring and charity into anger
and rage at injustice that does nothing other than perpetrate anger
and rage in more religious attire. Big mistake there!
Recently, on Oblateforum, a mini-flame war, perhaps only
a "skirmish", has erupted over the Magisterium and women's
ordination. Predictably, quite early on it stooped to hurling charges
at people, not ideas. Whoops! Wrong way, folks. The holiest monks I
know would not have even entered into that discussion. They would
have smiled and maybe shrugged and gone to their room to read or pray.
That's not denial, that's a fair assessment that Brother David (the
elderly monk I have in mind,) of Saint Leo would have made correctly.
David was a very, very holy nobody and he knew that. It was a very
freeing knowledge, one I completely lacked when I first lived with
him. At the ripe old age of 18, I thought entering into heated
argument was the thing to do. David, quite rightly, knew that it
would result in a night (or day) of strife and nothing would be
changed. David knew that a nickel-dime lay brother in Florida was not
going to change the Church at all by fighting with other people who
were similarly powerless. He was humble enough to go to his room. How
I wish I had been that smart- then or now!
Love and prayers,