We continued our discussion of Step 4 on Obedience. As deeply challenging as St John’s teachings are and as jarring as the examples of monks being tested can be, a light begins to shine through to the dark places of our minds that resist allowing ourselves to be conformed to the obedience of Christ.
Obedience as well as Love is cruciform. It involves a dying to self, self-will, and vanity in order that true meekness, love, and freedom might emerge.
The trials that the monks endured were not something meant to break down their personality or to crush them and throw them into despair. Rather, their shepherd, in imitation of Christ, sought only to purify their hearts and perfect their virtue. They entered into the monastic life with a clear understanding of its asceticism. It is distinctively Christian. All that they do, every aspect of their life is meant to direct them to Christ and conform them to His image; to let His love bloom within their hearts.
It turns out that the truest and straightest path to freedom is obedience. Our confidence in this reality comes not from our own understanding but from what we see in Christ himself. By being obedient to His Father in love salvation comes to the world.
Text of chat during the group:
00:08:31 FrDavid Abernethy: page 76 para 27
00:09:45 FrDavid Abernethy: about time
00:29:32 Carol: do you see any parallels to this outside of the monastery?
00:35:44 Anthony: Religious persons with office of shepherd who act unjustly, without really caring for souls but being subject to vices, spreads poison to anyone who experienced them, damaging trust for the person to offer in future. Willingness to obey must then carefully be built up - by the person whose trust was damaged.
00:36:25 Art: Just a comment: This calls to mind the soldier attached to country, Corps, comrades, who is prepared to accomplish the mission, even a suicide mission, at the price of his blood. Death before dishonor is a common saying.
00:38:21 Anthony: of compegne
00:44:11 Ren: This teaching is initially very difficult to handle - that is, the idea of someone who is good and fruitful being dishonored for the sake of virtue and, ultimately, for the sake of Christ. However, I believe this is similiar to what you often say about asceticism (how it is accepted in every area of life but the spiritual): Purification by dishonor/humbling is something we accept when it comes to sports, the military, education, elite level performance/fine arts, etc… and in these areas we accept that the dishonor shown to the aspirant is given in order to refine, test, and perfect their dedication and love. The exact same thing is happening here, as Climacus says “A soul attached to the shepherd with love and faith for Christ’s sake.” In the end, that is the only goal of the monk - union with Christ.
00:53:14 Carol: Hebrews 12:6 And this all speaks to the love and providence of God, and the way we are called to respond to suffering.
00:54:40 Ashley Kaschl: I agree with Father. I think we cheapen something when we make it easy to obtain. Two quotes come to mind:
“Do not claim to have acquired virtue unless you have suffered affliction, for without affliction virtue has not been tested.” -St. Mark the Ascetic
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” -Teddy Roosevelt
00:56:13 Debra: Thanks for sharing those, Ashley
01:00:57 Babington (or Babi): I haven’t understood the issue with that part of the Lord’s Prayer since Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where He was then tempted, obviously with His Father’s permission, before beginning His public ministry.
01:09:16 Anthony: I just saw a short video of former Mike Tyson telling two young men that the 3 years he spent in prison were the best of his life, because he was given deep peace. One young man challenged him how could this be, when there was a time Tyson earned millions for one fight. Tyson replied that God may give us what we ask for to show us we can't handle what we want. And the Tyson in this video was calm and peaceful, unlike his life as a star, really sounding like a Christian.
01:09:36 Anthony: former boxer - sorry
01:10:57 Ren: “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”
01:11:55 Anthony: Don King?
01:12:32 Ren: The full quote is extraordinary. Something to frame.
01:13:36 Sheila Applegate: This ----> Tyson replied that God may give us what we ask for to show us we can't handle what we want.
01:16:08 Ren: It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel.
In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor.
In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. . . .
That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!”
I . . . have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!”
01:17:17 Babington (or Babi): Thank you!
01:17:26 Cindy Moran: Thank you, Father for this important session.
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