Friday, June 12, 2009

Vigilance

Obedience to God and his higher intentions, particularly in this age of decadent disobedience where spiritual authority and personal responsibility toward it have become significant issues, is a difficult theme to wrap our minds around. It somehow conjures up images of tyrants enforcing their dictates upon less powerful others who yield themselves only in a half-willed sort of way to the perceived dictatorial sway out of fear of being discovered.

Living in a half-willed subservience, however, is a miserable way of life. It’s a way of life that leaves open vast plains of room to roam about in self-justification. Its fields are always full of the tares that society appreciates and thinks of as ideals. Each generation of seeds develop and grow into larger crops of degradation, despair, and moral bankruptcy.

Gradually, a half-will dilutes itself further to become no-will towards God’s higher intentions for created beings. Light is shunned and Darkness is embraced. The line of demarcation between the two is not so easily seen in a world where neo-paganism dresses in stylish apparel and speaks its own dialect of Christianeze.

As a follower of Christ, and, in these latter years, a fledgling follower of his servant St. Benedict and other monastic role models of Christ, I must be ever vigilant lest I be found succeeding in mixing within myself the toxic brew formed by blending the ideals of the world’s economy with the ideals of God’s economy.[1] Or, as Cassian puts it, - lest I be found “mixing the injustice of fleshly passion into the divine limitless and the source of all purity.”[2]

It really is a narrow pathway to walk and a narrow gate to enter[3] despite all the efforts made to broaden the path and widen the gate to accommodate human nature. Human nature always seeks ways to promote and justify itself within the framework of its moral dilemma and it salves its reprobate conscience by surrounding itself with like minded others in an effort to hide its own shame.[4]

I think this is one of the reasons that St. Benedict places so much emphasis on the theme of obedience in the Rule. And it’s not something that he dreamed up in his lifetime. It’s a prevalent theme found in the monastic rules and ways of life that he patterned Western monasticism after in the 6th century.

We have to live in this present world. There is no escaping it, even for cloistered monks living behind tall walls in the most remote monasteries. Human nature follows us wherever we go. The challenge that is set before us is not so much one of escaping from the world as it is one of evading and avoiding the fallen nature of the world, a nature that is even more difficult to recognize when its tangled roots penetrate and undermine the historical foundations of the Christian faith.[5]

[1] James 4:4 –
[2] John Cassian, The Institutes, p. 194
[3] Matthew 7:13-14
[4] Romans 1:24-32
[5] Psalm 11:3