We begin a look at stability, one of the foundational Benedictine vows—and one sorely needed today. De Wall explores it in Chapter 4.
It is impossible to calculate the damage done by the “prosperity gospel” (which is no gospel). Disillusioned, disappointed, and deceived people are its result. Such is always the case when we forget that spirituality is reality.
The vow of stability formed the foundation of true spirituality in Benedict’s day, and before. It needs to do so today. Stability tests us at two key places. We will look at the first place today—the place of motive.
Chapter 58 of the Rule requires the community to refuse a seeker entry for four or five days. Why? To withhold hospitality? No. Rather, to test the motive of the seeker.
A delay showed whether the seeker was knocking to meet an immediate need, or knocking to seek God.
The first, ancient question in receiving people into a monastery was, “What do you seek?” It is still where our spiritual formation begins. Until we say, “I seek God,” we are coddling some secondary motive. But the spiritual life can only be sustained for the long-haul by seeking God alone (e.g. Matt 6:33).
Jesus called this “purity of heart” (Matt 5:8). Stability preserves it by burning away the chaff of instant gratification.
Ultimately it is God alone and it is a beautiful place to be and at the same time seemingly a fragile place to be. It is until we learn to see God in all things and trust in His outcome that we find peace. Not that we disengage, but through peace we have the strength to engage and stay there. In a “cloistered” community I would think this line of questioning is founded in wisdom gained of course through experience and revelation.
The story is good reminder to us to seek and rid ourselves of any underlying motives and this season is especially wonderful for reminding us to be about those things. We can then become ministers with and to our neighbors by allowing God to fully minister to us.
It is our aim…Lord hear our prayer.