Archive for January, 2008


The Rule of Saint Albert

January 30, 2008


[1] Albert, called by God’s favour to be Patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem, bids health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to his beloved sons in Christ, B. and the other hermits living under obedience to him, who live near the spring on Mount Carmel.

[2] Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ – how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of the Master.

[3] It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast to henceforward; and therefore:

[4] The first thing I require is for you to have a Prior, one of yourselves, who is to be chosen for the office by common consent, or that of the greater and maturer part of you. Each of the others must promise him obedience – of which, once promised, he must try to make his deeds the true reflection – and also chastity and the renunciation of ownership.

[5] If the Prior and the brothers see fit, you may have foundations in solitary places, or where you are given a site suitable and convenient for the observance proper to your Order.

[6] Next, each one of you is to have a separate cell, situated as the lie of the land you propose to occupy may dictate, and allotted by disposition of the Prior with the agreement of the other brothers, or the more mature among them.

[7] However, you are to eat whatever may have been given you in a common refectory, listening together meanwhile to a reading from Holy Scripture where that can be done without difficulty.

[8] None of the brothers is to occupy a cell other than that allotted to him, or to exchange cells with another, without leave of whoever is Prior at the time.

[9] The Prior’s cell should stand near the entrance to your property, so that he may be the first to meet those who approach, and whatever has to be done in consequence may all be carried out as he may decide and order.

[10] Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord’s law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty.

[11] Those who know how to say the canonical hours with those in orders should do so, in the way those holy forefathers of ours laid down, and according to the Church’s approved custom. Those who do not know the hours must say twenty-five ‘Our Fathers’ for the night office, except on Sundays and solemnities when that number is to be doubled so that the ‘Our Father’ is said fifty times; the same prayer must be said seven times in the morning in place of Lauds, and seven times too for each of the other hours, except for Vespers when it must be said fifteen times.

[12] None of the brothers must lay claim to anything as his own, but you are to possess everything in common; and each is to receive from the Prior – that is from the brother he appoints for the purpose – whatever befits his age and needs.

[13] You may have as many asses and mules as you need, however, and may keep a certain amount of livestock or poultry.

[14] An oratory should be built as conveniently as possible among the cells, where, if it can be done without difficulty, you are to gather each morning to hear Mass.

[15] On Sundays too, or other days if necessary, you should discuss matters of discipline and your spiritual welfare; and on this occasion the indiscretions and failings of the brothers, if any be found at fault, should be lovingly corrected.

[16] You are to fast every day, except Sundays, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Day, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast; for necessity overrides every law.

[17] You are to abstain from meat, except as a remedy for sickness or feebleness. But as, when you are on a journey, you more often than not have to beg your way, outside your own houses you may eat foodstuffs that have been cooked with meat, so as to avoid giving trouble to your hosts. At sea, however, meat may be eaten.

[18] Since man’s life on earth is a time of trial, and all who would live devotedly in Christ must undergo persecution, and the devil your foe is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for prey to devour, you must use every care to clothe yourselves in God’s armour so that you may be ready to withstand the enemy’s ambush. 

[19] Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this – your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment.

[20] You must give yourselves to work of some kind, so that the devil may always find you busy; no idleness on your part must give him a chance to pierce the defences of your souls. In this respect you have both the teaching and the example of Saint Paul the Apostle, into whose mouth Christ put his own words. God made him preacher and teacher of faith and truth to the nations: with him as your teacher you cannot go astray. We lived among you, he said, labouring and weary, toiling night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you; not because we had no power to do otherwise but so as to give you, in your own selves, as an example you might imitate. For the charge we gave you when we were with you was this: that whoever is not willing to work should not be allowed to eat either. For we have heard that there are certain restless idlers among you. We charge people of this kind, and implore them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that they earn their own bread by silent toil. This is the way of holiness and goodness: see that you follow it.

[21] The Apostle would have us keep silence, for in silence he tells us to work. As the Prophet also makes known to us: Silence is the way to foster holiness. Elsewhere he says: Your strength will lie in silence and hope. For this reason I lay down that you are to keep silence from after Compline until after Prime the next day. At other times, although you need not keep silence so strictly, be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for as Scripture has it – and experience teaches us no less – Sin will not be wanting where there is much talk, and He who is careless in speech will come to harm; and elsewhere: The use of many words brings harm to the speaker’s soul. And our Lord says in the Gospel: Every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on judgment day. Make a balance then, each of you, to weigh his words in; keep a tight rein on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech, and your fall be irreparable and prove mortal. Like the Prophet, watch your step lest your tongue give offence, and employ every care in keeping silent, which is the way to foster holiness.

[22] You, brother B., and whoever may succeed you as Prior, must always keep in mind and put into practice what our Lord said in the Gospel: Whoever has a mind to become a leader among you must make yourself servant to the rest, and whichever of you would be first must become your bondsman. 

[23] You other brothers too, hold your Prior in humble reverence, your minds not on him but on Christ who has placed him over you, and who, to those who rule the Churches, addressed these words: Whoever pays you heed pays heed to me, and whoever treats you with dishonour dishonours me; if you remain so minded you will not be found guilty of contempt, but will merit life eternal as fit reward for your obedience.

[24] Here then are a few points I have written down to provide you with a standard of conduct to live up to; but our Lord, at his second coming, will reward anyone who does more than he is obliged to do. See that the bounds of common sense are not exceeded, however, for common sense is the guide of the virtues.


The Heart of the World

January 30, 2008


 The Message of Monastic Life

 by Fr. Thomas Keating

Monastic life has been the guardian of much of Christian spirituality throughout the ages. Christian monasticism dates from the early part of the fourth century. It sprang up almost simultaneously in Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor While it expressed its inspiration in various concrete forms, all of them shared the same fundamental dedication to the search for God through silence, solitude, simplicity of lifestyle, and a discipline of prayer. These spiritual values were generally lived within a community which provided an environment conducive to the search for God.

Spiritual development is the birthright of every man and woman, not only of cloistered monks and nuns. Monastic life is simply a professional way of going about it. While the world as a whole tends to neglect and forget the knowledge of how to pursue and live a spiritual life, the monastic world has been occupied through the ages in trying to preserve that knowledge. At this moment of history, there are large numbers of genuine seekers after truth. Many of them never had a specific commitment to one of the Christian denominations, or even to any religion.

Others, who were raised as Christians or Jews, never heard any challenge to lead an interior life of prayer and union with God in their local churches or church-related schools.

During the last three or four centuries, the Christian spirituality of earlier times has become lost to view, and it is principally in monasteries that a continuing tradition of contemplation has been handed down. For this reason many of these seekers, both Christian and non-Christian, are turning to monasteries for some kind of guidance. This is especially true since the Vatican Council (1961-1965), which set in motion a vast program for the spiritual renewal of the Roman Catholic Church. This movement has awakened the interest of those in other Christian churches and in other religions who are seeking the spiritual renewal of their own traditions.

A contemplative monastery is a visible sign of our common human groping for interiority or wholeness and for what is deepest in human values. It is the sign of the Church’s groping for the fullness of the Christian mystery–oneness with God and with all creation. The monastic life-style is designed to lead those who enter it into a new attitude towards all reality. A certain measure of solitude and silence, and the practice of the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, reduce the distracting stimuli which reinforce our view of ourselves and the world. This gradual silencing of our habitual ways of thinking and reacting opens up our awareness to other realities and other values, especially the value of every other human being at the deepest level. The ultimate purpose of monastic life is to experience oneness with everyone else–and to bear all the consequences of that experience.

A certain experience of God is quite common in the population. People do not talk about it because they think that if they mention their experience to their friends, everyone will think they are crazy. People who are not even religiously minded have an experience of transcendence now and then, but they do not know how to articulate it. If they should hear a few words indicating knowledge of an experience which is beyond thoughts, which is very peaceful, and which arises spontaneously, this will awaken memories of experiences which were very real to them at one time. We have to begin to understand that it is normal to be contemplative; it just needs to be cultivated.

Have you ever experienced a few moments of interior silence? How would you describe it? Is there not a sense of a very deep, all-pervading peace, a sense of well-being, and a delicate joy, all at once? Why is it such a difficult state to maintain or return to? It seems easier to forget about the whole experience than to be plagued by the pain of lingering outside a door that seems to be locked from the inside. Yet, in spite of this lingering pain, the repeated experience of interior silence is a need that everyone has in order to be fully human. Our capacity for the transcendent is precisely what distinguishes us most from the rest of visible creation. It is what makes us most human.

A while ago a group of university students visited the Abbey on a field trip in connection with a course in mysticism they were taking in school. After a few brief introductions, they wanted to know about my past life, my reasons for entering the monastery, and what possessed me to reach such a decision. Having answered as best I could without completely undermining my reputation, I said to them, “May I now ask you a question? Have you ever experienced a few moments of interior silence?”

They thought about that for a few moments, and then, very gradually, began to respond. I doubt if any of them were church-goers. Their professor said later that their interest in Christian mysticism did not coincide with church-going, at least not much of it. It was intriguing to hear four or five of these young people discuss their various experiences of interior silence.

So I pursued it a little further. “What was it like?”

One girl said, “I can remember a few times when I was lying on my bed, and a sense of well-being came over me along with deep interior silence, peace and joy. The only trouble with it was that I couldn’t make it last. There was also no way of getting back to it after it had gone.”

Another made this observation: “It is like having a door inside of you that is normally closed. You would like to get in, but can’t; and yet, every now and then, it just opens up. The feeling is just wonderful. It is like coming home.”

I said, “Well, you can’t make it come about then?”

Several replied at once, “No.”

I said, “If you can’t bring it about, who is it that opens the door?”

They were not prepared to answer that question, except that they knew it was not themselves. As a result of experiencing these moments of interior silence, they seem never to have forgotten the occasions, even if they happened only once. Evidently, the experiences had made a great impression and had influenced their actions for some time afterward. But little by little they faded away, as the students got immersed once again in the daily round. One other point made by these young people was that the experience of inner silence was like being really one’s true self for a few moments, rooted in one’s self. It was a deep affirmation of their being.

Interior silence is a fairly frequent and even ordinary human experience. It is not something given only to very spiritual or holy people. It seems to respond to a real need, as real and vital as eating or sleeping. You can survive, of course, without moments of interior silence, while you cannot survive without eating or sleeping; but a question could be raised about the quality of your survival. If this spiritual need is not appeased, it will take revenge in strange ways, such as an uncomfortable hunger. We may find ourselves trying to cover up the remembrance of this hunger in order not to feel its pangs. A lot of compulsive behavior–drugs, sexual license, hyper activity, work for work’s sake–can be means of escaping from the awareness of this hunger. Nature seems to have provided us with the need of interior silence. We seek it as we seek returning to a place of security, warmth, and love. Christian revelation addresses itself to this natural tendency and tells us Who it is that opens the door and lets us in.

A contemplative monastery is a visible expression of the fact that a state or place of interior silence is really available to all, and that everyone is invited. Such a place possesses a mysterious fascination. People do not come merely to look at the liturgy. They do not come just to sniff incense or pick up religious vibrations in the church. They feel intuitively that a contemplative monastery has something they are looking for. The buildings suggest it; the solitude suggests it; the silence suggests it. A group of people seeking interior silence as a life’s work is a call to others to do something similar in their lives. This call is a significant service in our day; one, however, that is impossible to measure with any kind of tool.

But what are the consequences of responding to this call?

When you reduce the ordinary flow of thoughts and your emotional reactions to them, you enter into a new world of reality. Even on the level of the senses we hear sounds only within a certain frequency or see things at a certain distance. Dogs hear much more than we do. Hawks see much farther than we do. If the range of our senses is limited in these areas, it should be no surprise that there are other levels of awareness that our ordinary sense experiences do not perceive either. This is especially true of the level of spiritual reality, which is the level of the mysteries of the Christian faith. Ordinary hearing does not grasp them. Ordinary seeing does not perceive them. Thus, Jesus repeatedly reminded his listeners, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15), hinting that we must develop a greater capacity for hearing than the external ear alone. Christian tradition teaches that there are faculties of finer spiritual perception which develop in a climate of interior silence.

The principal means monks use to cultivate interior silence–external silence, a certain measure of solitude, and a non-possessive attitude–can be put into a concentrated form, like a capsule, to be taken daily, or several times a day. The traditional word for this is contemplative prayer.

Mary of Bethany gives us an example of how we might proceed. In the Gospel of Luke we read that “she seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching” (Luke 10:39). It is clear from the remarks of Jesus in her defense that she was engaged in some special kind of activity of greater value than Martha’s in preparation of his meal. Mary was listening to the Word of God–the divine person–a reality deeper than the human words falling upon her sense of hearing and resounding in her imagination. She was listening with her whole being. Her identity was melting into the presence of the Word of God within her. John, resting in the bosom of Jesus at the Last Supper, prayed in the same way that Mary of Bethany listened. He was not thinking or talking, but resting.

Contemplative prayer allows the hunger and thirst for God to well up. “On the last and great day of the Feast, Jesus stood up in the Temple and cried out with a loud voice: “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. Out of his inmost being will flow rivers of living water. This he said of the Holy Spirit who was to be given to those who believe”‘ (John 7:37-38). By these words, we are urgently invited to put aside our preoccupations and come to Christ in the depth of our being. This movement and the experience which results from it are the basis for every genuine form of Christian spirituality.


Theologica Germanica 14

January 28, 2008



Of three Stages by which a Man is led upwards till he attaineth true Perfection.

Now be assured that no one can be enlightened unless he be first cleansed or purified and stripped. So also, no one can be united with God unless he be first enlightened. Thus there are three stages: first, the purification; secondly, the enlightening; thirdly, the union. The purification concerneth those who are beginning or repenting, and is brought to pass in a threefold wise; by contrition and sorrow for sin, by full confession, by hearty amendment, The enlightening belongeth to such as are growing, and also taketh place in three ways: to wit, by the eschewal of sin, by the practice of virtue and good works, and by the willing endurance of all manner of temptation and trials. The union belongeth to such as are perfect, and also is brought to pass in three ways: to wit, by pureness and singleness of heart, by love, and by the contemplation of God, the Creator of all things.


Theologica Germanica 13

January 26, 2008



How a Man may cast aside Images too soon.

Tauler saith: ” There be some men at the present time, who take leave of types and symbols too soon, before they have drawn out all the truth and instruction contained therein.” Hence they are scarcely or perhaps never able to understand the truth aright. For such men will follow no one, and lean unto their own understandings, and desire to fly before they are fledged. They would fain mount up to heaven in one flight; albeit Christ did not so, for after His resurrection, He remained full forty days with His beloved disciples. No one can be made perfect in a day. A man must begin by denying himself, and willingly forsaking all things for God’s sake, and must give up his own will, and all his natural inclinations, and separate and cleanse himself thoroughly from all sins and evil ways. After this, let him humbly take up the cross and follow Christ. Also let him take and receive example and instruction, reproof, counsel and teaching from devout and perfect servants of God, and not follow his own guidance. Thus the work shall be established and come to a good end. And when a man hath thus broken loose from and outleaped all temporal things and creatures, he may afterwards become perfect in a life of contemplation. For he who will have the one must let the other go. There is no other way.


Theologica Germanica 12

January 26, 2008



Touching that true inward Peace, which Christ left to His Disciples at the last.

Many say they have no peace nor rest, but so many crosses and trials, afflictions and sorrows, that they know not how they shall ever get through them. Now he who in truth will perceive and take note, perceiveth clearly, that true peace and rest lie not in outward things; for if it were so, the Evil Spirit also would have peace when things go according to his will which is nowise the case; for the prophet declareth, “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked”. And therefore we must consider and see what is that peace which Christ left to His disciples at the last, when He said: “My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” We may perceive that in these words Christ did not mean a bodily and outward peace; for His beloved disciples, with all His friends and followers, have ever suffered, from the beginning, great affliction, persecution, nay, often martyrdom, as Christ Himself said: “In this world ye shall have tribulation.” But Christ meant that true, inward peace of the heart, which beginneth here, and endureth for ever hereafter. Therefore He said: “Not as the world giveth,” for the world is false, and deceiveth in her gifts. She promiseth much, and performeth little. Moreover there liveth no man on earth who may always have rest and peace without troubles and crosses, with whom things always go according to his will; there is always something to be suffered here, turn which way you will. And as soon as you are quit of one assault, perhaps two come in its place. Wherefore yield thyself willingly to them, and seek only that true peace of the heart, which none can take away from thee, that thou mayest overcome all assaults.

Thus then, Christ meant that inward peace which can break through all assaults and crosses of oppression, suffering, misery, humiliation and what more there may be of the like, so that a man may be joyful and patient therein, like the beloved disciples and followers of Christ. Now he who will in love give his whole diligence and might thereto, will verily come to know that true eternal peace which is God Himself, as far as it is possible to a creature; insomuch that what was bitter to him before, shall become sweet, and his heart shall remain unmoved under all changes, at all times, and after this life, he shall attain unto everlasting peace.


Theologica Germanica 11

January 26, 2008



How a righteous Man in this present Time is brought into hell, and there cannot be comforted, and how he is taken out of Hell and carried into Heaven, and there cannot be troubled.

Christ’s soul must needs descend into hell, before it ascended into heaven. So must also the soul of man. But mark ye in what manner this cometh to pass. When a man truly Perceiveth and considereth himself, who and what he is, and findeth himself utterly vile and wicked, and unworthy of all the comfort and kindness that he hath ever received from God, or from the creatures, he falleth into such a deep abasement and despising of himself, that he thinketh himself unworthy that the earth should bear him, and it seemeth to him reasonable that all creatures in heaven and earth should rise up against him and avenge their Creator on him, and should punish and torment him; and that he were unworthy even of that. And it seemeth to him that he shall be eternally lost and damned, and a footstool to all the devils in hell, and that this is right and just and all too little compared to his sins which he so often and in so many ways hath committed against God his Creator. And therefore also he will not and dare not desire any consolation or release, either from God or from any creature that is in heaven or on earth; but he is willing to be unconsoled and unreleased, and he doth not grieve over his condemnation and sufferings; for they are right and just, and not contrary to God, but according to the will of God. Therefore they are right in his eyes, and he hath nothing to say against them. Nothing grieveth him but his own guilt and wickedness; for that is not right and is contrary to God, and for that cause he is grieved and troubled in spirit.

This is what is meant by true repentance for sin. And he who in this Present time entereth into this hell, entereth afterward into the Kingdom of Heaven, and obtaineth a foretaste there of which excelleth all the delight and joy which he ever hath had or could have in this present time from temporal things. But whilst a man is thus in hell, none may console him, neither God nor the creature, as it is written, “In hell there is no redemption.” Of this state hath one said, “Let me perish, let me die! I live without hope; from within and from without I am condemned, let no one pray that I may be released.”

Now God hath not forsaken a man in this hell, but He is laying His hand upon him, that the man may not desire nor regard anything but the Eternal Good only, and may come to know that that is so noble and passing good, that none can search out or express its bliss, consolation and joy, peace, rest and satisfaction. And then, when the man neither careth for, nor seeketh, nor desireth, anything but the Eternal Good alone, and seeketh not himself, nor his own things, but the honour of God only, he is made a partaker of all manner of joy, bliss, peace, rest and consolation, and so the man is henceforth in the Kingdom of Heaven.

This hell and this heaven are two good, safe ways for a man in this present time, and happy is he who truly findeth them.

For this hell shall pass away, But Heaven shall endure for aye.

Also let a man mark, when he is in this hell, nothing may console him; and he cannot believe that he shall ever be released or comforted. But when he is in heaven, nothing can trouble him; he believeth also that none will ever be able to offend or trouble him, albeit it is indeed true, that after this hell he may be comforted and released, and after this heaven he may be troubled and left without consolation.

Again: this hell and this heaven come about a man in such sort, that he knoweth not whence they come; and whether they come to him, or depart from him, he can of himself do nothing towards it. Of these things he can neither give nor take away from himself, bring them nor banish them, but as it is written, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof,” that is to say, at this time present, “but thou knowest not whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth.” And when a man is in one of these two states, all is right with him, and he is as safe in hell as in heaven, and so long as a man is on earth, it is possible for him to pass ofttimes from the one into the other; nay even within the space of a day and night, and all without his own doing. But when the man is in neither of these two states he holdeth converse with the creature, and wavereth hither and thither, and knoweth not what manner of man he is. Therefore he shall never forget either of them, but lay up the remembrance of them in his heart.


Theologica Germanica 10

January 26, 2008



How the perfect Men have no other Desire than that they may be to the Eternal Goodness what His Hand is to a Man, and how they have lost the Fear of Hell, and Hope of Heaven.

Now let us mark: Where men are enlightened with the true light, they perceive that all which they might desire or choose, is nothing to that which all creatures, as creatures, ever desired or chose or knew,

Therefore they renounce all desire and choice, and commit and commend themselves and all things to the Eternal Goodness. Nevertheless, there remaineth in them a desire to go forward and get nearer to the Eternal Goodness; that is, to come to a clearer knowledge, and warmer love, and more comfortable assurance, and perfect obedience and subjection; so that every enlightened man could say: “I would fain be to the Eternal Goodness, what His own hand is to a man.” And he feareth always that he is not enough so, and longeth for the salvation of all men. And such men do not call this longing their own, nor take it unto themselves, for they know well that this desire is not of man, but of the Eternal Goodness; for whatsoever is good shall no one take unto himself as his own, seeing that it belongeth to the Eternal Goodness, only.

Moreover, these men are in a state of freedom, because they have lost the fear of pain or hell, and the hope of reward or heaven, but are living in pure submission to the Eternal Goodness, in the perfect freedom of fervent love. This mind was in Christ in perfection, and is also in His followers, in some more, and in some less. But it is a sorrow and shame to think that the Eternal Goodness is ever most graciously guiding and drawing us, and we will not yield to it. What is better and nobler than true poorness in spirit? Yet when that is held up before us, we will have none of it, but are always seeking ourselves, and our own things. We like to have our mouths always filled with good things, that we may have in ourselves a lively taste of pleasure and sweetness. When this is so, we are well pleased, and think it standeth not amiss with us. But we are yet a long way off from a perfect life. For when God will draw us up to something higher, that is, to an utter loss and forsaking of our own things, spiritual and natural, and withdraweth His comfort and sweetness from us, we faint and are troubled, and can in no wise bring our minds to it; and we forget God and neglect holy exercises, and fancy we are lost for ever. This is a great error and a bad sign. For a true lover of God, loveth Him or the Eternal Goodness alike, in having and in not having, in sweetness and bitterness, in good or evil report, and the like, for he seeketh alone the honour of God, and not his own, either in spiritual or natural things. And therefore he standeth alike unshaken in all things, at all seasons. Hereby let every man prove himself, how he standeth towards God, his Creator and Lord.