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Qualifications for being human

by davesandel on December 30th, 2012

Qualifications for being human

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sixth Day of Christmas

Colossians 3:12-14

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Not all of us have got around to reading the 73 chapters of The Rule of Benedict, which was written around 530 A.D.  It is a “constitution” which governed every western monastic order and monastery for over seven hundred years and continues today to be the leading guide for monastic living.  Most mornings, Margaret and I are reading it, along with commentary by Joan Chittister entitled “A Spirituality for the 21st Century.”

On this day of the Feast of the Holy Family, we read Chapter 31.  Its title: “Qualifications of the Monastery Cellarer.”  The cellarer is in charge of food and drink for everyone.

Chittister says, “Benedict wants the cellarer to be someone who knows the difference between needs and desires, who will see that the community has what is necessary but does not begin the long, slippery road into excess and creature comforts and indolence and soft-souledness.”

On the other hand, says Benedict, the “cellarer should not annoy the members.  If anyone happens to make an unreasonable demand, the cellarer should not reject that person with disdain and cause distress … show every care and concern for the sick, young, guests and the poor.”

Chittister coments, “If chapter 31 is anything at all, it is a treatment of human relationships.  The one with power is not to annoy the powerless.  The one with needs is not to demand.  People in positions of authority and responsibility are to guard themselves against the pitfalls of any position: arrogance, disinterest, unkindness, aloofness from the very people the position is designed to serve.

“Then, to make the point clear, Benedict describes the people who are not to get overlooked in the bureaucratic game of hurry up and wait.  And they are everybody who cannot possibly be expected to want things when the office is open: the sick, the young, the guests and the poor.”

Benedict says the cellarer will “be held accountable for all of them on the day of judgment.”  As will all, Chittister writes, “who find ourselves too busy, too insensitive, too uncaring to see that goods of the earth are given to the poor ones who have as much claim on the Garden as we but no way to get the staples of life for themselves.  As will we all who use our positions to diminish the people in behalf of whom we bear responsibility by wearing them down and wearing them out while we dally with their needs.

“The spouse who lets the door swell to sticking before fixing it or serves the meal an hour after its time; the employer who never buys the new file cabinet; the superior who never sees the staff personally – all fail in the Benedictine spirituality of service.”

Touché, Sister Joan.  Thank you.

Happy are we whose strength you are, oh Lord!  Our hearts are set upon the pilgrimage.  On this journey of a thousand steps, you never leave us and you never excuse us from responsiblity, and you never forsake us.  We are yours.




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