To count every passing day (LXXII)

CHAPTER LXXII. Of the good zeal which Monks ought to have
30 Apr. 30 Aug. 30 Dec.

As there is an evil zeal of bitterness, which separateth from God, and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal, which keepeth us from vice, and leadeth to God and to life everlasting. Let monks, therefore, exert this zeal with most fervent love; that is, “in honour preferring one another.” Let them most patiently endure one another’s infirmities, whether of body or of mind. Let them vie with one another in obedience. Let no one follow what he thinketh good for himself, but rather what seemeth good for another. Let them cherish fraternal charity with chaste love, fear God, love their Abbot with sincere and humble affection, and prefer nothing whatever to Christ. And may He bring us all alike to life everlasting.

Reading again Chapter 72, on this second to the last day of 2018, I see how far we are from living it. We have all failed in the good zeal “which keepeth us from vice, and leadeth to God and to life everlasting.” We have failed in fervent love, “in honour preferring one another.” We have failed in “patiently enduring one another’s infirmities, whether of body or mind.” We have failed in “vying with another in obedience.” There has been much attachment to following what each one thinks good for himself, and not enough detachment in doing what seems good for another. We have failed in cherishing fraternal charity. Has Christ been preferred to all else? Each one must look to his own heart. The psalmist sees the days of our lives rightly:

In thy sight, a thousand years are but as yesterday, that has come and gone, or as one of the night-watches. Swiftly thou bearest our lives away, as a waking dream, or the green grass that blooms fresh with the morning; night finds it faded and dead. Still thy anger takes toll of us, thy displeasure denies us rest, so jealous thy scrutiny of our wrong-doing, so clear our hidden sins shew in the light of thy countenance. Day after day vanishes, and still thy anger lasts; swift as a breath our lives pass away. What is our span of days? Seventy years it lasts, eighty years, if lusty folk we be; for the more part, toil and frustration; years that vanish in a moment, and we are gone. Alas, that so few heed thy vengeance, measure thy anger by the reverence we owe thee! Teach us to count every passing day, till our hearts find wisdom. Relent, Lord; must it be for ever? Be gracious to thy servants. (Psalm 89:4–13)

If, at this end of 2018, we see rightly that we are, as Saint Benedict says in the 6th degree of humility but “bad and worthless labourers,” let us at least say with the prophet: “I have been brought to nothing, and I knew it not: I am become as a beast before Thee, yet I am always with Thee.” And if all Chapter IV has slipped away from us, let us at least cling to the last of the Instruments of Good Works: “And never to despair of God’s mercy.”

The last day of the year will be devoted to adoration and reparation, and rightly so, for reparation is the exercise of charity, and “charity covereth a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). When one goes before Our Lord in adoration and exposes one’s soul to the radiance of His Eucharistic countenance, one allows Him to repair not only oneself, but also all those who, in one way or another, have been in the past, or are at present, part of one’s life. We are all of us in need of reparation, that is, in need of being repaired, for we are all of us fragmented, deformed, and soiled. Chapter LXXII of the Holy Rule is, in its own way, at the close of this year, a summons to reparation. Christ is the Divine Repairer; it is enough to present ourselves before Him as we are, disfigured and shattered, for Him to begin in us and around us the work of reparation for which He became man, and suffered His bitter Passion, and rose from the dead, and ascended in glory to the heavenly sanctuary where He lives forever to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25), even as He does in the hiddenness of the Host, and with the same divine power and mysterious efficacy.