Monday, April 15, 2013

Of Rules, Rubrics, and Zeal

A timely letter from Fr. Mark:
In my now long monastic life I have known the poison of an evil zeal of bitterness. It stinks of pharisaism. It is the panoply of those who would uphold the letter of the law at any price, even if it means pushing souls over the edge into an abyss of despair. How easy it is to fall into the deception of priding oneself on one's virtue, on one's spotless record of spiritual achievement, or on one's scrupulous attention to the minutest rubric, while looking at others with a sneer of disdain.

It is in no way Benedictine to think oneself justified in beating up others verbally so as to coerce them into conformity with one's own notion of what is virtuous. Saint Benedict would have us, instead, practice a humble patience. Every virtue has its hour. There are souls who have striven for the better part of a lifetime to acquire patience, or sobriety, or chastity, or temperance; then, when they least expected it, and after having failed to attain it, even over decades, the very virtue that seemed impossible was, as it were, dropped gently into their soul.

Precocious virtues of the self-help variety are extremely dangerous: the patience that makes one condescending to poor wretches tossed on the waves of their emotions; the sobriety that makes one peer into the lives of others from the height of one's own puritanical posing; the chastity that makes the lily-white (be they preserved or reconstituted therein) as prideful as demons; the temperance that takes pleasure in pointing out -- in all charity, mind you -- that another is excessively self-indulgent, excessively addicted to his pleasures, excessively wanting in mortification, or poverty, or separation from the world. (Read entire post.)
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I would love to make a pilgrimage to Silverstream Priory someday. The bookstore looks marvelous! Share

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