The second foundational element in the Rule of St. Benedict is stability.
In today’s incessant “new and improved” culture, it is a concept that’s all but lost. But it is an essential disposition in the spiritual life. Esther de Waal notes this quality in her Preface (p. 13) and then devotes an entire chapter (Chapter 4) to the subject.
To make a vow of stability is to declare, “I am in this for the long-haul.” It is what Eugene Peterson described as “a long obedience in the same direction.”
For monastics, this usually means living one’s entire life in the same community. But for those of us who do not live a cloistered life, it means not flitting from one thing to another—one place to another. It means that we avoid trendiness and root ourselves in tradition. It means that our spiritual formation will be “classical”—that is, founded on the revelation of Scripture and the insights of the great cloud of witnesses.
We sometimes speak of “being faithful.” But that statement immediately raises the question, “Faithful to what?” Stability answers the question by defining the “what” as the content of the Gospel and to a community of faith (church) that proclaims it. Stability means being accountable and responsible. We are not making it up as we go along; we are stepping into a stream that has been flowing for 4,000 years.
Stability means that our spirituality is not subjective and “free-lance.” It is grounded and built on the good foundation of our Christian heritage. The emerging quality from this commitment is steadfastness—accepting “the faith once delivered to the saints” and accepting a particular place and people as the location where our formation takes place.
Stability implies endurance and perseverance. It’s captured in the song which says, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”