- 24 December: 8:00 PM: Madeline Mac Neil: Christmas Carols
- 8:30 PM: Christmas Mass at Night
- 25 December: 11:00 AM: Christmas Day Mass
This is the first of a series of posts reflecting Abbot Robert’s Chapter Talks on Humility
This past Tuesday we had two representatives from National Geographic here, both taking photos. What they will make of the 25 photos of the Abbot (the cook of the day) peeling an orange remains to be seen. He may end up “the face on the cutting floor”, as they used to say of editing in the film industry back in the days of film before the digital revolution. The two young people are working on an article about food and ritual and had spent the previous day with our sisters at Crozet. Monasticism may have been new to both of them–one from Norway, the other from Pakistan–but it made an impression. Fr. Robert had a copy of RB8O, a well known commentary in monastic circles on the Rule of St. Benedict, and they were interested in what it had to say. St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries contains a wisdom that speaks to all human beings, not just monks and nuns.
His teaching on humility is fundamental; Fr. Michael Casey, a monk of our monastery in Australia, has written a widely read (and insightful) book on the subject. St. Benedict begins his discussion of humility from the context of the fear of the Lord. If you check a Biblical Lexicon, you’ll find some 25 references to the fear of the Lord and 50 more to the fear of God, mostly in the Wisdom literature. This can be daunting.
Many seniors in our world have struggled with the concept of a fearful and punishing God that burdens them with scruples and guilt and even atrophies their spiritual life, robbing them of both joy and hope. Many people have given up on religion, their faith stifled by fear. In that perspective it is as important to realize that the New Testament is filled with the admonition, Fear not! Even in the times of Jesus, the dread, unforgiving Lord, had to be addressed as a false concept of God.
All the same, the fear of the Lord does not necessarily originate in such a fallacy. To the greatest extent it has to do with who we are and how we act. It’s more a recognition of our fallibility than of God’s displeasure with us. It’s an awareness that we miss the mark and do not reciprocate God’s love, do not forgive one another, do not do as well as we can. We would be presumptuous to put ourselves on the same level as God, given the enormous differences between us. We are ashamed of the second-rate offerings we try to fob off on God or the checklist of rules and regulations we’ve lovelessly observe to be on the “safe side”. We pause before we, fools that we are, rush in “where angels fear to tread”.
And yet, in Jesus Christ, God says, “Fear not!” and Come to me all who are weary and find life burdensome and I will give you rest. Ask forgiveness and be as welcomed as the prodigal son, as justified as the publican at prayer or as affirmed as the public sinner who bathed Jesus feet with her tears. It is only my pride that could keep me from such good company. It may very well be humbling to join them.
Rather than trying to define the fear of the Lord, it may be better to put it in context. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we pray that we are heartily sorrow because we fear the loss of heaven and the pain of hell but most of all because our sins offend you, O God. We do not presume that the relationship with God is all it should be, all it could be. Before we can respond to the invitation “Fear not!” we must be aware of what we do fear.