For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,*
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Psalm 57:10
The fifth step of humility is that we do not conceal from the abbot or prioress any sinful thoughts entering our hearts, or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confess them humbly. Benedict’s Rule, 7:44 (Chittister, Pg. 88)
Going through the motions of religion is simply not sufficient. No, the Benedictine heart, the spiritual heart, is a heart that has exposed itself and all its weaknesses and all its pain and all its struggles to the One who has the insight, the discernment, the care to call us out of our worst selves to the heights to which we aspire. Chittister, Pg. 89This is strong stuff. As I first read this I thought how lucky someone living in community is, they already have a superior to confess to. I, on the other hand, need to find a confessor. I trust in the need to reveal sinful thoughts. I have lived the apprehension of knowing my thoughts and knowing I am going to reveal them, and just as importantly I know the feeling of release as I have revealed these thoughts and actions. This need for confession, of revealing, is widely understood and used. Twelve-step programs devote three steps (4, 5, and 10) to this effort, a full quarter of the twelve steps in explaining the need for, and providing a process for, this activity.
While I understand the importance of this confession, and have experienced release when I have chosen to stop concealing and then confessed my thoughts and actions to a very well chosen confessor, this is not something that comes easily or naturally for me. As a sinful and sinning Christian person I am only too aware, even now, of the thoughts and actions that I need to shine a light on. I tell many of them to God on a regular basis, but that is easy. I don’t remember God asking the probing questions that help to clean out the infection of these sinful thoughts. It seems I need to sit with another live (and, as said earlier, carefully chosen) person and enter into dialog about what is going on. Only then do I have confidence that I have fully cleaned this wound, and confidence that the wound will heal. This work, then, takes trust and time.
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, OSB, Crossroads, 2010. I am offering this both to those at St. George's Episcopal Church, Arlington VA, that may be reading this book and to anyone that is interested.
Unless stated otherwise quotes from St. Benedict's Rule are from the translation in this same book.
Psalms are from The Book of Common Prayer, The Episcopal Church, 1979 unless otherwise noted.
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