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Book: Cherish Christ Above All: The Bible in the Rule of Benedict
Author: Demetrius Dumm, O.S.B.
Paulist Press, New York, 1996, pp.163

Excerpt from Jacket:

The Rule of Benedict, one of the most influential documents in Western civilization, has its roots planted deeply in the scriptures. As a result, the forms of monastic life and the spirituality it engendered among lay men and women grew out a loving reading of the Bible. In this book Benedictine scholar Demetrius Dumm traces those roots and shows how the Judeo-Christian scriptures shine through the monastic way of life, its attitudes and forms of praying. He points out that the hospitality often associated with the Benedictines begins with the entertainment of God's presence by quiet, trusting prayer, and he shows that the practice of Christian discipline is intended more for exposing and eliminating illusions than imposing order. Readers of all backgrounds who honor the wealth of the Christan heritage will welcome this wise and stirring book.

Excerpt from Book:

God's gracious and insistent call awaits a human response. This response may take many forms but it will always result in a journey of conversion. Since conversion is always a difficult and painful process, the journey will not be made unless there is strong and persistent motivation. Such motivation will come primarily from a vision of faith that draws one toward the future and enables one to let go of the past. However, long before such a vision can be operative, there must be a solid grounding in the acknowledgement of personal need.

No True Response Without Humility

Nothing can happen in the process of salvation without humility. As a spiritual master, Benedict certainly understood this, and this accounts no doubt for the careful attention he pays to humility has almost nothing in common with its meaning in our modern culture. Although it may indeed manifest itself in a manner that is self-deprecating, it does not do so out of a sense of low self-esteem. Rather, it is a simple recognition of the reality of one's limitations, especially in relation to God. To be humble is to be realistic about what one can or cannot achieve by personal effort. It is opposed, not to self-esteem, but to the illusion of personal autonomy.

This concept of humility is clearly represented in the scriptures. When we consider that decisive moment in Israel's history which is the exodus, we not that the process of divine intervention and deliverance could begin only after the Hebrew slaves cried out for help: " . . . the Israelites groaned under their slavery, and they cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God." (Ex.2:23). There is no indication in the text that they cried out to Yahweh whom they probably did not know. It simply states that they recognize their inability to deal with their predicament without the assistance of someone who could challenge the pharaoh.

This may seem to be a fairly simple matter of recognizing that humans are not God. However, a real and honest acknowledgement of need is by no means a simple matter. Any therapist who has dealt with cases of addition can testify to this. The problem is that our culture esteems control and autonomy so highly that we find it embarrassing to acknowledge any really significant need. Moreover, when we do recognize needs, we usually do so only on condition that help come in an acceptable form. Unconditional honesty is always very difficult. By contrast, a truly honest and humble cry for help will always accept without complaint whatever remedies the helper may decide are needed. There is little chance for real healing where trust in the therapist is lacking.

We see a classic example of how essential humility is for personal conversion in the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees in chapter nine of John's gospel. Jesus cures a blind man and, by declaring that this identifies him as the "light of the world," demands a decision for or against himself by all who see what has happened." Jesus said, ‘It is for judgment that I have come into this world — to give sight to the sightless and to make blind those who see.' Some Pharasees who were present asked, ‘Do you mean that we are blind?' ‘If you were blind,' said Jesus, ‘you would not be guilty, but because you claim to see, your guilt remains.'" (9:39-41). The Pharisees would have been happy to accept Jesus on their own terms but, since he demanded that they abandon all their vested interests, they chose to reject his light, claiming that they already had a light with which to see. Real humility, because it is real honesty, is always costly.

Table of Contents:

1. The Heart of Benedict's Rule

2. God's Gracious Call

3. A Journey of Faith

4. Christ, in Whom We Are Loved

5. Christ, in Whom We Love Others

6. Trust

7. Compassion

8. Discipline

9. Community Prayer

10. Personal and Private Prayer

11. Mystical Intimations