Our Lord, by his human incarnation and his divine resurrection, has totally transformed our relationship to himself and to our heavenly Father. Even the fear of God, which had been the focus of past posts, has a richer, more profound meaning for us in the life and words of Jesus. A loving fear of God conveys an intimacy in the life of Jesus that we may not catch elsewhere and this fear of the Lord becomes a treasure. This treasure is grasping that enormous gap between what we are and what God is and yet daring to approach God without reserve. This boldness gives us pause. This is another dimension of fearing God.
In describing the first step of humility, St. Benedict speaks of God’s constant awareness of us, our every action and thought.He imaginatively describes God’s eyes upon us–a vividly anthropomorphic image–as he listens to his angels’ reports of us. Not how this image underlines the “distance” between ourselves and God.
How are we to understand what Benedict is saying here? I believe we must understand the context and the men he was addressing.
He states in his final Chapter, 73, that he has written a minimum rule…for beginners. And of course it is that, while being much more than that. The longer we live this minimum rule, we realize how profound it is–something the true beginner misses completely. As St. Paul might put it, Benedict is feeding the new comer to the spiritual life on milk and not meat. As we progress, experiencing what is truly spiritual in life, we begin to taste what is beyond the sensible, material dimension of life. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. Weaned from the milk of sensible props we grow conscious of God’s spiritual presence, real if not tangible. More penetrating and enduring than anything physical could be, we enter the greater world of spiritual reality to live in God while God lives in us. To describe that, Benedict employs the language of very human activities (“seeing”, “listening”, “reporting”) to address us where we begin. But we can be led from there to understand this experience as St. Paul and St. John developed the words of Jesus to his disciples, taught by God’s Holy Spirit. We then enter into that fuller experience of life, of God’s pervasive presence continually within us. Even the way we must approach the subject–from what we know to what stretches our knowledge–is humbling. The process of maturing into the spiritual life is in itself an exercise in humility.
from a Chapter talk by Abbot Robert