To be read: February 5, June 5, October 6-7
The eighth step of humility is, when a monk does only what is sanctioned by the common rule of the monastery and the example of his elders. 56The ninth step of humility is, when a monk restrains his tongue from speaking, and keeping silence, does not speak until he is asked a question; 57for the Scripture says that “in a multitude of words you shall not avoid sin”(Prov 10:19); 58and that “a man full of talk is not established in the earth”(Ps 139:12).
Step eight constitutes only one verse: “That a monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule.” For those of us who live outside the enclosure of a monastery, but within the Christian community, this may be a far more relevant guiding principle. If each of us goes our own way, interpreting the Word, and as the Israelites did in the days of Judges, doing what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25), there will be at best disunity, and at worst chaos in the Body. We are to pursue unity in the Spirit and the mind of Christ. This can only be accomplished when we live according to the Word and in communion with the community of faith.
The ninth step is a bit more difficult to apply. Even the silent orders, like the Trappists, have had to adapt since Pope John XXIII opened the monasteries to the public. How do we maintain silence in the midst of the world? And what purpose would it serve? The latter question is the more important one. Holding one’s tongue, and avoiding unnecessary chatter are good disciplines for those pursuing the ability to hear God’s voice. Holding the tongue, particularly in stressful situations guards against an untoward word.
But we do live in the world, even if we are striving to be separated from the ways of the world. So, how best to apply this principle? Focus on the other. Spend more time listening than speaking. Hold your opinions until asked. The Trappists and other monastics practice the Grand Silence from compline through the morning offices. It would be appropriate for us in the world to similarly practice a disciplined time of quiet each day, to have a time of silence in which we can focus on the still small voice of God. It need not be in the evening, it could be any time in the day. If it impacts others, members of your family, roommate, or co-workers, make sure that they know what your desire is, as it will affect them. And, it may be a witness to them. You can invite them to join you in silent meditation.
As Christians living on the outside of the monastic enclosure it is a good thing to keep to a discipline, a common rule of life, that keeps us in communion with the Body. And spending quiet time with the Lord throughout the day should be a key part of that discipline.
Note: This meditation is designated for both October 6 and 7. There will be no posting tomorrow.