Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lentblogging Day 9 - Discretion

St. Benedict
Those with a wide perspective and eyes to see will know that a cultural tsunami swept away an entire civilization during the 20th Century. No Western institution was spared. Today, we are watching them all fail at the same time and for the same reasons.

Would that Christianity had been spared.

It is only natural that we focus on our faith, but if we are observant, we can trace the correspondences to failings in other institutions of the West. They are all dying from the same disease.

The result is that most of us don't get to live out our faith in beauty and continuity with the past. It takes the virtues of discretion, perseverance, obedience and humility to survive. Often some of these are the very virtues our religious leaders seem to lack, but pretend to have in abundance. That makes it all the harder for the rest of us.

Righteous indignation is the order of the day for many, not excepting the Bear, he admits.

It is certainly the natural reaction for many, but is it the best one? The Bear often finds himself so full of us own ideas that his cup overfloweth - and he's the only one doing the pouring!

What if (the Bear wonders today) he came to his religion with an empty cup. What if he painfully watched all of his precious ideas - but, they're all right! - spill onto the ground until he was left with an empty cup and trusted God to fill it with new wine? No doubt, many readers are objecting that you can't trust God to fill your cup these days, at least not there, although you'd be safe if you came here, or maybe went over there.

The Bear, however, having only a 450 gm brain, wonders if there are things besides intellectual positions that God's pitcher might contain for us.

The Discretion of the Rule of St. Benedict

The discretion that is behind the Rule of St. Benedict is avoiding extremes. For example, St. Benedict did not think it was proper for monks to drink any wine at all. However, he exercises discretion and recognizes human weakness. He allows about three glasses of wine per day.

It takes humility to accept things we know are less than the ideal. To make allowance for human weakness. It takes obedience to follow authority. No doubt, there were many monks who pointed to some other abbot who did not limit wine. Others said, "In the past monks were not allowed any wine at all. Who is this Benedict fellow to come in and make some liberal innovation?"

And yet, it is the Rule of St. Benedict that survived the Fall of the Roman Empire is still with us to this day. The same sort of humility and discretion is found in St. Benedict's Rule concerning the psalms.

Above all else we urge that if anyone finds this distribution of the psalms unsatisfactory, he should arrange whatever he judges better, provided that the full complement of one hundred and fifty psalms is by all means carefully maintained every week, and that the series begins anew each Sunday at Vigils. For monks who in a week’s time say less than the full Psalter with the customary canticles betray extreme indolence and lack of devotion in their service. We read, after all, that our holy Fathers, energetic as they were, did all this in a single day. Let us hope that we, lukewarm as we are, can achieve it in a whole week.

Once again, St. Benedict is not holding his monks to the ideal of the past. The singing of the psalms was at the heart of his Rule. It was no small thing to tinker with the liturgy, the opus - they both mean the same thing: work. Today, we have our four-week psalters, and even those leave out a bit. It is doubtful many would say all 150 psalms in a week.

When we find ourselves outraged and scandalized, we may justify it on the very best of grounds - we're right. At least we have excellent arguments and can cite authority. Of course, only Bears take this to such an extreme that it begins to get between them and God. Humans are too smart for that.

Some Benedictine Monk - Bear cannot remember where he saw it, but it was recently - wrote this: the vessels of the altar are treated no differently than the dishes in the sink!

What do you think of that? Sacrilege? Or is it a comment on our tendency to turn off and on our Christianity depending on what we're doing? What if the heart of each of us sang a different, but harmonious unbroken hymn to God from waking to falling asleep?


  1. As long as it is done "through, with and in" the Church we would all become saints rather quickly.

    1. Just a reminder, if you want to post anonymously, please add a "handle" (preferably a Woodland Creature) somewhere in your post so we'll know to whom we are speaking. Thank you.


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