The Way of Life

January 3, 2010

From the Rule of St Benedict:

‘And the Lord, seeking his laborer in the multitude to whom He thus cries out, says again, “Who is the one who will have life, and desires to see good days” (Ps. 33[34]:13)?  And if, hearing Him, you answer, “I am the one,”  God says to you, “If you will have true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips that they speak no guile. Turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps. 33[34]:14-15). And when you have done these things, My eyes shall be upon you and My ears open to your prayers; and before you call upon Me, I will say to you, ‘Behold, here I am'” (Ps. 33[34]:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9). What can be sweeter to us, dear ones, than this voice of the Lord inviting us. Behold, in His loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life.’

Matthew 20: 1-16: The Kingdom of Heaven is like this. There was once a land-owner who went out early one morning to hire laborers for his vineyard; and after agreeing to pay them the usual day’s wage he sent then off to work. Going out three hours later he saw some more men standing idle in the market place. “Go and join the others in the vineyard,” he said, “and I will pay you a fair wage”; so off they went. At midday he went out again, and at three in the afternoon, and made the same arrangement as before. An hour before sunset he went out and found another group standing there; so he said to them, “Why are you standing about like this all day with nothing to do?” “Because no one hired us”, they replied; so he told them, “Go and join the others in the vineyard” When evening fell … those who had started work an hour before sunset came forward, and were paid the full day’s wage. When it was the turn of the men who had come first, they expected something extra, but were paid the same amount as the others. As they took it, they grumbled at their employer … But he replied… Why be jealous because I am kind? Thus will the last be first, and the first last.

Joseph Watson, O.Cist, has the following to say:

‘In the Prologue of the Holy Rule, St. Benedict says to the beginner, “Seek peace and pursue it.” Does he mean, seek a merely external tranquility or seek the experience of inner calm; or does he mean something more profound, something that’s not just a passing moment. He’s referring to an inner change of heart and to the sense of wellbeing and order that we slowly begin to know when the kingdom of heaven takes root in our lives, within us and around us. “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be given to you.” Jesus says. Isn’t this what St. Benedict means when he says, “Seek peace and pursue it.;’ We catch a glimpse of it and we follow, we taste it somewhere in our lives and we pursue it.

What do we have to do to apply ourselves to this pursuit? Once we know that this peace exists through our faith and service to Christ, what acts can we do to bring it fully into our lives? What does searching for God involve. The Cistercian author, William of St. Thierry sheds light on this in “The Golden Epistle.”

There is nothing more worthy to seek or sweeter to find or more useful to possess than the on:ly thing which is superior to the mind, God alone. Nor is he far from any of us for it is in him that we live and move and have our being….all greatness and goodness for the spirit consist in looking upon and wondering at and aspiring to what is above it.

It sounds as if he’s speaking of an exercise of pure contemplation, but listen to what he says. He brings it down to a practical level when he tells us what sort of acts we should in our search. He says, quoting St. Paul,

These acts are spiritual, peaceful, humble, adapting themselves to humble men…. They may be done exteriorly but there proper sphere is within a man’s mind and spirit, where his renewal takes place and he puts on the new self which is created in God’s image, justified and sanctified through the truth… These are the holy exercises for those who seek God alone: when we live with great patience in affliction, need, difficulty, hard work, vigils, in the cell, fasting, chastity, knowledge, graciousness, relying on the Holy Spirit, on unfeigned charity, on the word of truth, on the power of God. …They call us deceivers and we tell the truth; unknown and we are fully acknowledged; dying men and see we live; punished but not doomed to die; sad men that rejoice continually; beggars that bring riches to many; disinherited and the world is ours…When we seek God alone in everything we do, in a disposition of prayer, the peace of Christ reigns in our hearts, and our kingdom is not of this world.

This is the paradox of Christ’s kingship. Not by great works but by the simple and humble acts of our faith, our patience in difficulty, works of charity, by our prayer, the kingdom of heaven enters the world in a hidden way. William continues,

These are the things we practice which love silence, long for tranquility of heart in the midst of bodily toil, poverty of spirit and peace in the midst of outward distress, a good conscience and purity of body and heart.

When we seek God alone in everything we do, in a disposition of prayer, the peace of Christ reigns in our hearts, and our kingdom is not of this world.’

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