Saturday, August 24, 2013

See Greater Things

The angel spoke to me, saying, “Come here.  I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.  It gleamed with the splendor of God.  Revelation 21:9-11a
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”  Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?  You will see greater things than this.”  John 1:48-50
Father, through the labor of obedience, help us to turn away from our habits.  Jesus, using the tools you provide and exhibited in your life on earth, help us to take on those practices.  Holy Spirit, bestow upon us a new identity, so that we can see greater things than just the grass under our fig tree.  Amen.
To what heights can we climb from under the fig tree of our existence?  To emerge from our grounding, we, like Nathaniel will have to leave behind our contradictory human nature – our thoughts, words or actions which are driven by our self-ish ego.
Like Nathaniel, we are invited to share in the vision of the Kingdom.  To climb those stairs, we must surrender.  Surrender self.  Surrender ego.  Surrender expectations.  To gain heaven, we must lose this world.  Leave it behind as we climb Jacob’s ladder.
In the Benedictine Rule, the primary quality of the Christ-follower is humility.   We do not have to enter a monastery to exhibit those qualities.  But the path into the monastery is a path of growth in one direction.  The Rule and the community, guided by Scripture and practices – help to form the member along the way.  Every step of entering into community and living there depends upon the follower renouncing their selfish desires and following God’s desires.  Humility has stages or steps in order to achieve it to the highest degree.
Along with vows, one step for a monastic is to renounce even the very name in which they were known and to take on a new identity in Christ, in the church and in the Christian community.    That new identity pledges mutual obedience, humility and restraint to the community.  Then, they go through stages in to the community – postulants, novices, temporary profession and then solemn vows. 
We are not expected to go leap to the top of the ladder in a single bound distancing ourselves from the ways we have known for our whole lives.  Habits of 55 years – in my case -- have taken root and are hard to supplant.  However, to grow in a new direction, we have to get out from under the shade of our fig trees so we can grow in a new direction.  Like a young vine is pruned to grow along the lines of a trellis, we can grow away from our habits, neglect, and laziness into new virtues of piety, study and action
But, to get to the top of the ladder, we have to take it one rung at a time.  Take small steps – like being the first to show respect or patience for others.   Then we can all become beginner’s again -- postulants to a new way of living. 
“After that, you can set out for the loftier summits of the teachings and virtues we mentioned above, and under God’s protection you will reach them.  Amen.”  (Conclusion, Chapter 73, RB1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English).

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