Friday, June 23, 2006

Benedictine Vision

I apologize for the lapsing in posts. This happens from time to time when other duties intrude.

I will be away for the better part of next week, as a presenter, with Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians convention in Stamford, Conn. I hope to set up our novice Br. John with some things for posting. He has also taken oversight of our table reading blog, and has put up a helpful post in reassessing our current book, The Gothic Enterprise.

This morning, we had a discussion in Chapter about courtesy and care with regard to communal goods. Someone had gotten grape jelly on the wheat germ container and hadn't cleaned it. This is an amusing example of a common phenomenon of learning to live together: learning what to notice and what to ignore.

I discovered early on in life that two people can look at the same thing and notice very different things. Actually, I probably noticed this with regard to music, that two people can hear the same thing and perceive different things. Part of the art of communication and community building is learning how to hear and appreciate the same things. This will never mean uniformity, but it does mean learning to understand and sympathize with other points of view. It also means cultivating a willingness to relativize my own perception and opinion, to admit that it is not the only one that counts. Building common perceptions is about building a tradition greater than the individuals who contribute to it.

A related truth is that we tend to pay more attention to things that personally involve or interest us. So we might be very aware of how much jam is left in the jar after my brother has prepared his toast, but miss the fact that we glopped jam on the wheat germ cover. As we grow in love, we mature out of a preoccupation with our concerns and comfort and grow toward taking care to do the little things for those who are coming after us. We grow in awareness of others, of their needs, of their strengths and weaknesses. Parents are aware of that to which I refer...

One last place in which we must learn to have a new set of eyes is at the liturgy. St. Benedict and the larger Tradition teach us that when we enter the oratory, we leave the mundane and enter into the sacred. This is not immediately obvious to most adults today. I won't dwell on the reasons for this state of affairs. Rather, we should always be on the lookout for ways to peer more deeply into the reality of the things expressed in word and sacrament. These are the things important to God and important to the saints, the realities they perceive, and if we wish to have communion with them at a higher level of awareness, we must allow our perception to be altered from a 'fleshly' or literalist interpretation of the liturgy to a 'spiritual' form of worship. This requires constant, relentless acts of faith: to see Christ acting in the priest, to hear the Holy Spirit teaching in the Scriptures and in the homily, to sense the closeness of Christ and of the saints and angels when we approach the altar, to see in others in church the presence of Christ in the baptized. What a change God could make in the world if we really became fully aware of the grandness of sanctity and the glory of our calling in Christ! No moment, as they say, is too small to assent to this adventure of the call to holiness.

Peace to you in Jesus Christ!

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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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