Notes from Fr Laurence’s Inspirational Talk for Meditation Amidst Pandemic. Monday 18th May 2020
As oblates, obedience is one of our precepts or vows along with stability and conversion.
It is very important in time of crisis that obedience is either gently or strongly enforced, and in daily life, in every kind of society, it is necessary that enforcement or punishment is in accord with the degree of the offense. All civilised societies recognise that people are sinful at times and this has to be dealt with.
St Benedict recognised obedience at this practical level. He says that where obedience has not been shown, the Abbot must gather the community, listen, and then balance all the views on the matter. This is at the vertical level. The Abbot has to recognise this, we all have to respect the rules of the game. Then in Chapter 71 of the Rule, Benedict comes to the spiritual level, the horizontal level. At the end of his life, Benedict distilled his experience into the beautiful final teaching – by obeying each other the monks will go to God. He is saying this is a direct spiritual path – the mystical level. Jesus was obedient even unto death.
It is not just running an organisation. The younger members of the community must respect their seniors out of love not out of fear. Obedience comes out of love. If someone in the community is quarrelsome they need to be corrected.
In Chapter 71 Benedict is very concerned about reconciliation – we need to be rebalancing constantly. Living with others gives us self-knowledge. Even if we are on our own we need a sense of community for this. When the atmosphere is disrupted reconciliation needs to be achieved. Those involved should seek to be reconciled immediately on practical and spiritual levels. If someone cannot be obedient to others in the community they must leave. This was a rare and painful happening for Benedict, as it is for us, and is the very last resort.
Benedict says that the monks should compete with each other in being kinder and more patient with each other. Patience is related to suffering. We have to go through anger and resentment, put the other person first, prefer nothing to Christ, to an experience of Christ working in us and bringing us to God. This is the third level, the mystical level. Simone Weil understood this profoundly. She was a great mind, philosopher and intelligence, a great mystic.
Attention is obedience to what is. We are all tempted by fantasy, the unreal, fears, the illusory realm. The only thing that is real is now, obedience to what is. It is a necessity. This virus has to be accepted. We renounce the ‘I’, the ego, and go to the other side. By paying attention we practice obedience, and the fruit is that we become more accepting of reality, more connected. To be disobedient is to become distracted.
In meditation it opens up the connection between community and society. The world, more than ever, needs contemplatives to awaken, to open up through grass roots – wisdom comes through the Holy Spirit rising through us.