Wednesday, March 21, 2007

St. Benedict on Lent, Part 8

[Note: I was 'kitchener' last week, and 'computer technician this week--thence comes the reason for the infrequency of posts. God willing, we will be back on our regular schedule now!]

"Therefore, during these days, let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service, by private prayers and abstention from food and drink."
RB 49: 5

Here St. Benedict refers again to the fact that the monk's life is already a kind of Lent, and a monk should be more of what he already is during this holy season. St. Benedict, knowing human nature, focuses on the efforts involved, ones that our frailty tend to avoid when we can do so without being altogether outside of the law. It is good, however, to look on the positive side of the privation associated with Lent and the monastic life.

Hans Urs von Balthasar's theories on the Pascal Mystery have recently occasioned some controversy, whether Jesus' abandonment by His heavenly Father was complete or not. In Balthasar's opinion (one that I judge supportable by Biblical witness as well as Tradition), the total kenosis or emptying of the Son of God to take the form of a human being is in fact an extension of the total emptying of the Persons of the Holy Trinity in the Love that is the very Truth of Trinitarian life, the fullness of life. To live a life of kenosis is to live in imitation of the Holy Trinity and so to enter fully into Divine Life. This is counter-intuitive, but it strikes at the root of the problem of sin, in which we humans retain, at all costs, some tiny portion of ourselves for ourselves. We cling to self-preservation out of fear of the Other. Jesus shares with us the high cost of shedding the last vestiges of self-will and self-interest, and by dying demonstrates that humanity 'cannot buy life without end' on any of our own powers or merits. We can only receive life. By our Lenten privations, we Christians peel away (slowly!) the protective layers of the false self, the ego, however you would like to label it. What is left is only what God made and what God intends to remake. Hunger and thirst and the fast from activity that is not prayer helps bring home to us our radical poverty and our radical need for God. God, of course, is infinitely greater, more loving, more life-filled and joyful than we are, and so this radical need for God is a surrendering to love and joy! It feels like suffering, and so we avoid it, but we should, with the Apostles and the Virgin Mary, be fearless in proclaiming the gospel in our radical self-surrender.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow - my first thought about that complete self-emptying was that I needed to be comforted in the process! Talk about holding on to a tiny bit of self. Great reflection. Thank you!


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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
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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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