March 9, July 9, November 8
Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be
Above all things let him have humility;
and if he has nothing else to give
let him give a good word in answer
for it is written,
"A good word is above the best gift" (Eccles. 18:17).
Let him have under his care
all that the Abbot has assigned to him,
but not presume to deal with what he has forbidden him.
Let him give the brethren their appointed allowance of food
without any arrogance or delay,
that they may not be scandalized,
mindful of the Word of God as to what he deserves
"who shall scandalize one of the little ones" (Matt 18:6).
If the community is a large one,
let helpers be given him,
that by their assistance
he may fulfil with a quiet mind the office committed to him.
The proper times should be observed
in giving the things that have to be given
and asking for the things that have to be asked for,
that no one may be troubled or vexed in the house of God.
As we so often find in the Holy Rule, this chapter is not merely a
standard or guide for the official in question, but for all of us,
indeed for all people of faith. Kindness and a truthful sense of what
is and is not our own are here coupled with a charge to do what is
commanded of us without meanness or overstepping.
A good word really is "above the best gift" in many ways.
Unfortunately, a bad word can be just as powerful! How many times
have we seen one cross or mean remark throw a pall over a whole
group. That can happen in ANY community, even in the temporary and
accidental one of a grocery store line. Ever notice how one rude or
loudly overbearing customer makes everyone else in line jittery,
eager to get out of there and to their own cars?
A bad word can ruin other peoples' day. Really. All it takes is one
unguarded moment to lash out, to fatally forget that one is NOT the
center on which the universe spins. At such wrongheaded occasions,
one can decide that it is high time to treat the unsuspecting world
to a slice of how one is feeling. WRONG!
If we attempt to balance what our silence would cost us in such cases
against what upset or harm may be done to others, the choice will
become very clear. Literally, for the love of God, beloveds, we must
often shut up, put up and hold our tongue. That powerful tongue can
spread sweetness or heartbreak, delight or despair. We may not
realize it, but all that we scatter becomes part of the world,
because it changes the people in it and through them, the whole
world. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say, a single drop of
water makes the ocean less salty.
Or, we could be a pollutant or oil spill! The choice is our own.
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA