My help comes from the Lord, *
the maker of heaven and earth.
They [the prioress or abbot] are believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery. ...Everything they teach and command should, like the leaven of divine justice, permeate the minds of the community.
Benedict's Rule 2:2,5 (Chittister, Pg 33)
"The superior of a monastery of Benedictines will be a Christ figure, simple, unassuming, immersed in God, loving of the marginal, doer of the gospel, beacon to the strong."We are called to be disciples of Christ in our communities. We look up to our superiors. I, and many of us reading this are not subject to the direct authority of a prioress or abbot, but many of us in church communities, have pastors, rectors, bishops, priests, elders, or spiritual directors we look to. We look to see the simple and unassuming leader immersed in God. We also hope, ourselves, to grow in our love of the marginal, to be more of a doer of the gospel, to understand we are a beacon to the strong...
(Chittister, Pg 33)
But we, and our leaders and superiors are human. We make mistakes, sometimes big, public, and humiliating errors. Some of them we label "sins". Today my church, the Episcopal Church in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region has come face to face with a leader who appears to have made a very public, and in this case fatal error. (On 09-Jan-2015 Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook was charged with manslaughter in an accident that occurred on 27-Dec-2014.) What happens when someone in a leadership position, this position we have equated with Christ, acts in such a way we all question them, their leadership, their authority? Can they be the Christ figure for us?
They must. I don't know how. Christ was perfect, we are not. While representing Christ, none of us is Christ. All of us are sinful.
And all of us must go on and meet Christ and ask forgiveness no matter what. And even harder, we must accept that forgiveness from Christ. The rest of us can grow stronger. No matter what our fellow, sinful, leader does (asking for forgiveness and being forgiven, or giving up and falling) we have an example to learn from. Either way.
Oh yes, we must also pray. Lots of prayer. A life of prayer.
A Note To Anyone Reading:This entry is part of a series that is developing as I read The Rule of Benedict, A Spirituality for the 21st Century, Joan Chittister, Crossroads, 2010. Unless stated otherwise I am using the translation St. Benedict's Rule from her book. I am offering this both to those at St. George's Episcopal Church, Arlington VA, that may be reading Ms. Chittister's book and to anyone that is interested.
Psalms are from The Book of Common Prayer, The Episcopal Church, 1979 unless otherwise noted.
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