April 29, August 29, December 29
Chapter 71: That the Brethren Be Obedient to One Another
Not only is the boon of obedience
to be shown by all to the Abbot,
but the brethren are also to obey one another,
knowing that by this road of obedience they are going to God.
Giving priority, therefore, to the commands of the Abbot
and of the Superior appointed by him
(to which we allow no private orders to be preferred),
for the rest
let all the juniors obey their seniors
with all charity and solicitude.
But if anyone is found contentious,
let him be corrected.
And if any brother,
for however small a cause,
is corrected in any way by the Abbot or by any of his Superiors,
or if he faintly perceives
that the mind of any Superior is angered or moved against him,
let him at once, without delay,
prostrate himself on the ground at his feet
and lie there making satisfaction
until that emotion is quieted with a blessing.
But if anyone should disdain to do this,
let him undergo corporal punishment
or, if he is stubborn, let him be expelled from the monastery.
What would this look like if all Christians adopted this idea of being obedient to each other? Assuming of course that all were in pursuit of a closer relationship with the Lord and so would only be asked to do things that add to Godliness.
What ideas about our “rights” would be have to relinquish? One that comes to my mind is the right to be right. I really really really REALLY love to be right. Even more, I really really really REALLY love to be considered to be right. This has been a problem. Especially since I actually am right so often. LOL
Notice that Benedict says that even if it is “faintly perceived” that someone might have something against one, the person who perceives must immediately take steps. One is not to wait until a fault is pointed out. One is to take steps even if one only thinks one might have offended. Are we back to humility? Doesn’t seem that Benedict cares about who is right and who is wrong. Not an issue for him. If Benedict doesn’t care about who is right or wrong, what does he care about here? Peace just for the sake of peace? That doesn’t seem right. Notice also that the theoretically offended person has a responsibility to receive and to forgive.
Is the answer here where it says “they are going to God”? There is an assumption that all who read these words are trying to get to God, that Jesus is to be found not only in the Abbess/Abbot, but in each other. It implies to me, at least, that there is a sacramentality (if that is a word) to all of life. That there is the outward and visible sign of the Christian community which conveys that which is inwardly true. The outward visible forms of our lives lead us ever deeper to the reality of God.
So… if Jesus is just as present in our brothers and sisters as He is in the Abbess/Abbot then surely we are to listen (back to the very beginning of the Rule again) to our brothers and sisters just as much as we do to the monastic superior? Of course, we are not in monasteries and there are plenty of kooks running around proclaiming all sorts of nastiness in the name of Jesus so discretion and discernment are required. I am certainly not advocating that we obey those who would lead us into sin.
But surely Benedict would have us trust that the Holy Spirit is at work where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name.