The first promise a Benedictine monk makes is one of stability. Saint Benedict is very clear. The person seeking to join the monastic community must promise stability, commitment to the monastic lifestyle and obedience before all in the oratory.
He describes four types of monks in Chapter 1 of the Rule and two these, the sarabaites and gyrovagues, are condemned for their lack of stability.
What does stability mean for a Benedictine? Stability is about “standing firm” in one’s desire and willingness to seek God in a particular monastic community until death.
If stability for monastic Benedictines is to remain and live one’s life in the monastery which they enter, not moving, what does stability mean for Lay Benedictines? We have no physical monastery. How do we as Lay Benedictines achieve stability in our lives?
Maybe it is helpful to think of stability in a different way. There is exterior stability: the place and location remains the same. This is clear in the emphasis that Benedict places on staying put and not wondering if the grass is greener elsewhere. But that is only half the story. Clear exterior stability creates the space for internal stability and interior stability is key to a strong spiritual life. This interior stability provides the strength to stand and endure. A sturdiness to face the difficulties of life and love of God that hit us all and which stops us running over the mythological hill to see if the grass is greener.
The question is still HOW?
In the Lay Community, a dispersed community that works together in prayer and action, each year we make a promise. Let’s explore it and we will we start to see how this interior stability is achieved.
"In response to the call of Christ, I offer myself to Almighty God, by the help of the Holy Spirit,
These opening lines point out that we need to listen (discern) and accept that we need the Holy Spirit. As with the monastic Benedictines we start with the word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
with the love of the Lay Community of St Benedict,
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1
Love is present in all that the community seeks to do; turning works into action.
What is that action?
to live holy communion, create holy space and offer holy service,
to live holy communion - the sharing or exchanging of thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level. Attend our early morning prayer sessions, Sunday evening prayer services, and this sharing is rich and fulfilling. This sharing and exchanging helps build the interior stability and understand our journey.
Create holy space – Through our opportunities to pray the Office, our Easter celebrations and Summer Gathering, plus the rich conversations and love, a unique holy space is created that helps us in our spiritual journey.
offer holy service - In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. James 2 14-18.
We see this holy service from the many activities and roles people offer to the community. For many this service enhances the interior stability they are seeking, as it helps them feel positive about their spirituality.
in ways in which my circumstances allow." – We are all at different stages of our lives and our journey. God knows this. Stability is built around interior capacity not on whims and dreams.
The idea of stability is that the Benedictine gives up the temptation to search for a supposed better situation. In reality there is no escape from ourselves, and the idea that things would be better somewhere else is usually an illusion. It isn’t the confining ourselves within a particular physical location but rather committing to being present, consistent, and accepting that which is in front of me with the help of others and the Holy Spirit.
“He is wandering in a hungry search for a certain exhilaration which he can only have when he has the courage to cease from wandering.” -G.K. Chesterton