Tuesday, May 10, 2005

RB 2: What the Abbot should be like

"The abbot...is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery." (RB 2:2)

The mystery of the Incarnation is often thought to pertain only to the coming of the Word of God in the flesh, born of the Virgin Mary. Certainly this is the prototypical example of Incarnation, but since Pentecost, the Incarnation has become the 'enfleshment' of Christ in the Church. This is one of the more difficult lessons of faith: to trust that the pope, the bishops, priests, and others in authority among the faithful can be Christ to me.

The abbot, after all, is a mere man. As Blessed Columba Marmion taught, the election of a man to be Abbot does not mean that from now on all of his decisions will be expert and prudent. Indeed, for a monk there will be many times when the abbot's decisions will be painfully inadequate. The question at these times is not: How can I get the abbot to do what I think he should? (many ask this with reference to the pope or the bishops) Rather, the monk seeks the path of obedience, not to the fallible man who commands, but to Christ who speaks through the abbot, and who offers the monk humble obedience even in the face of apparent futility.

Does this mean that a monk may never offer advice or criticize the abbot? Far from from it; tomorrow, we will return to this question.

I wish you peace in Jesus Christ and offer you my prayers.

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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