Of the good zeal which monks ought to have

As there is an evil zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from vices and leads to God and life everlasting.  Let monks, therefore, practice this latter zeal with most fervent love: that is, let them in honor anticipate one another; let them bear most patiently one another’s infirmities, whether of body or of character; let them endeavor to surpass one another in the practice of mutual obedience; let no one seek that which he accounts useful for himself, but rather what is profitable to another; let them practice fraternal charity with a chaste love; let them fear God; let them love their Abbot with a sincere and humble affection; let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ; and may He bring us all alike to life everlasting. Amen. (emphases mine)

As part of my Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) today, I began by thinking of the Christ Principle in my meditation but quickly segued into thinking about zeal, particularly the notion St. Benedict has about anticipating one another practice zeal with most fervent love. (See emphasis above).

In my former life as a trainer of managers and supervisors, I can remember bring up the subject of customer service and how going beyond the normal “thank you” to a customer will, hopefully, make them remember you and cause repeat business.  That seems like a lifetime ago and is now just a faint memory, yet the concept of “super-service” is a good one to think about. St. Benedict calls monks and nuns who seek to practice “good” zeal to be super monks, super nuns, or going beyond just being nice to those who are nice to you as a response. He calls for them to have zeal which is anticipation of practicing fraternal charity with a chaste love for one another. I my Lectio, here are some things I thought about as it pertains to anticipating love.

  • In my Lay Cistercian approach to looking at reality, anticipation, as St. Benedict counseled, is best comprehended by looking at every day life and how I actually use anticipation to foster love for those around me.
  • Anticipating love means knowing that your spouse likes a certain meal, a flower, a smell, helping others by giving them gifts, then helping her by taking her to Trader Joe’s to buy groceries, flowers, or offering her to drive her to give gifts to others (flowers on birthdays, Korean Chim-chee, meals for sick friends).
  • Anticipating love means you send birthday greetings and flowers to others knowing that they will not send them to you. You don’t care.
  • Anticipating love means you give your children love as and when they need it, even when you know they won’t return it to you in the same way as you need it.
  • Anticipating love means I have zeal to place myself in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Rosary, Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, reading Chapter 4 of the Rule every day. Anticipation is excitement to be with the one you love.
  • Anticipating love means I don’t wait for those with cancer, those needing a heart transplant, those experiencing spiritual depression, to come to me with their pleas for someone to give them a kind word. Zeal means you are proactively radiating Christ to those around you, believers or not.
  • Anticipating love means you have zeal to be in the presence of those trying to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus, even if they don’t recipricate. Enthusiasm is contageous when you sit next to Christ on a park bench in the cold of winter and soak up his presence without your agenda.
  • Anticipating the needs of others can only be accomplished with zeal to live in our Father’s house, living there with others who seek God.

Do Not Worry

22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[d] 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;[e] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his[f] kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12)

God anticipates our needs (not our wants) and gives us what we need to treat others with the same love He has for us in Christ. We must, in turn, anticipate the needs of others with the zeal that can only come from our relationship with Christ Jesus.

As a Lay Cistercian,  I would like to be more conscious of anticipating love in those I meet. This is consistent with St. Benedict’s notion of hospitality.

Here are some things to think about.

Does zeal preceed anticipation or does anticipation induce zeal?

Good zeal is allowing Christ to be present to you, as much as you become present to Him.

Bad zeal is that which is based on hatred and deceit, such as the current political climate. Hateful statement about others demand hateful responses.  I don’t want to give hateful responses. That is bad zeal.

That in all things, God be glorified.  –St. Benedict


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