Growing in Benedictine Spirituality
“Together [the three vows] are not, as they might seem at first glance, about negation, restriction, and limitation. ... They involve us in the need to face a number of very basic demands: the need not to run away, the need to be open to change, the need to listen... And yet the paradox is that they bring freedom, true freedom.” —Esther de Waal in Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict (The Liturgical Press, 1984), p. 55.
Last year I had the privilege of reviewing The Rule of Benedict with an amazing group from St. Nikolas and St. Peter’s Episcopal Churches who were learning to be pastoral caregivers through a program called Community of Hope. Following a rule of Benedictine spirituality involves taking a vow to seek spiritual growth by connecting to three areas of support in our lives: conversion, obedience, and stability. Stability speaks to our connecting to a certain community, at work, at a place of worship, within a family, in a recovery group, in the world. Obedience speaks to seeking the Christ in everyone we meet, especially in our community. Conversion or change occurs as we seek the Christ in others in our community, and they in turn begin to see and reflect the Christ in us. This mutual exchange then leads us to growth.
A priest I worked with, Peggy Bosmyer, compared this concept to a sailing ship. We get into the boat. We make a commitment to be in the boat. That is stability. How we direct our boat is the rudder. That is obedience, being diligent in attempting to see the Christ in others. The Holy Spirit, the wind, then moves the sails, bringing about conversion—a change in movement as we begin to see and feel the Christ in ourselves. Seeing the Christ in our neighbor leads to and reflects back the Christ within us, a process that leads to transformation into new life.
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