January 21, May 22, September 21
Chapter 4: What Are the Instruments of Good Works
To fulfill God's commandments daily in one's deeds.
To love chastity.
To hate no one.
Not to be jealous, not to harbor envy.
Not to love contention.
To beware of haughtiness.
And to respect the seniors.
To love the juniors.
To pray for one's enemies in the love of Christ.
To make peace with one's adversary before the sun sets.
And never to despair of God's mercy.
These, then, are the tools of the spiritual craft.
If we employ them unceasingly day and night,
and return them on the Day of Judgment,
our compensation from the Lord
will be that wage He has promised:
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9).
Now the workshop
in which we shall diligently execute all these tasks
is the enclosure of the monastery
and stability in the community.
Employ them ALL? "Unceasingly, day and night,"??? In the stability of
community?? Give me a break! You have GOT to be kidding. There are
lots of these I couldn't pull off if I spent a year working on each
one alone- and I do NOT have 72 years left. This is beyond me.
You bet it is, folks! It's beyond all of us, but He isn't kidding,
and neither is St. Benedict. Both know something that our egocentric
eyes can miss- it ain't about us or our strength, it is ALL about our
weakness and the complete triumph of grace. The effective use of
these tools is grace and gift. Any successes besides that are nothing
but clever gymnastics.
The ability to become holy comes from God, from grace. No one at all
can do it without that. We must cooperate with His grace and mercy
and gifts. We dare not say we are unable to be holy. Holy is not
linked to our ability, but to our receptivity to God's grace and His
mercy and will. He makes up for what is lacking in us, for lacks that
we could never supply. That's the wonder of all this!
Now, as for stability, dryer sheets may have many other handy uses
(cleaning your monitor or TV screen is one of them,) but they will
not soften clothes unless the clothes stay in the dryer with them and
tumble about for as long as necessary. Of course, one can use a dryer
without such softening sheets, but then the clothes cling statically,
inappropriately and inordinately to things and each other, resisting
being pulled apart for their proper uses by (forgive me,) downright
shocking means. How like monastics without stability, community and
Stability is not a lot of good without community, neither is
enclosure. There is a mental illness appropriate to each: the
catatonic moves hardly at all and the agoraphobic never goes out. The
dryer sheet essential to both enclosure and stability is genuine,
sometimes annoying, tumbling community. The heat employed, at times
intense, is reality checks, objectivity, outside-referenced truth.
Like any good dryer or community, there may be a separate setting for
delicates and permanent press, but everybody gets the heat, one way
or the other.
If you are one of the many Benedictines living in the world, just
substitute family or circle of friends for community and home for
monastic enclosure. I think you get the picture. Community is
any connected group, workplace or home. Enclosure is your home, as
well as your heart.
Without being obsessive, or making the people who live with you
crazy, guard what comes into your enclosure, both heart and home.
There is a switch on your TV. There is a less visible, but equally
effective one on your mouth. There is a useful one on your heart and
Enclosure is not a prison, neither should your home be. The Middle
Ages spoke of the "Paradisus claustralis" , the cloistered Paradise.
Every home, for one or for several hundred, must strive for that
paradise. It is comfort and leisure to an extent, it is peace and
order to an extent, it is the proper arena of love and spiritual
growth. The components will necessarily vary from case to case, as
will their balanced levels.
Guard the people who tumble in the dryer with you, too, especially
the annoying ones. Without the moisture they share with you, you
would soon wither in the heat and die, you would go well beyond
simply drying to utter destruction. And please, the next time you
think the dryer is hell (and we all do sometimes,) bear in mind the
scarring charms and delicate fragrance of damp mildew.....Yecch!
Love and prayers,