A Camaldolese

Poverty

In the end, our intellectual poverty is to renounce all rational ‘possession’ of God (in other words to renounce all the idols which we have made in our image and to our own measure) in order to be pure receptivity to the Mystery that He will forever remain, even while giving Himself completely to us as He is. Communion with this Mystery really does exist.

The darkness nurtures a hidden fire which, otherwise, would swallow it up. Loving faith rediscovers signs, but in a different manner; its purified gaze makes signs transparent to God, to the world of revealed truth, to the humanity of Christ: while remaining exactly what they are, they nonetheless become like clear crystal through which the divine light passes unobstructed. A tree is a tree, bread is bread, wind is wind, but in another dimension, on another level of consciousness, all is light, all is God. For God is not an object among other objects. It is for this reason that our understanding, made to know material things, only knows Him as darkness.

In order to know God, we must become as He is and be introduced to a way of knowing, God’s way, which is no different from His very being. This knowledge is transformation, love, Spirit.

‘You must give up our old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and the holiness of the truth.’ (Ephesians 4:22-24) –‘The Wound of Love’ A. Carthusian

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Easy does it

Did they (Peter, John, and James at the Transfiguration) realize what was going to happen? It is not likely, judging from the naivete of their reactions. They climbed the mountain with him; but, as we have said, we cannot speak of a prayer which would be strictly theirs. They are simply engulfed in the radiance of Jesus. Their contemplation does not spring forth from their own depths, but is an overflow of the prayer of Jesus which descends upon them. Today, ‘God himself has shone in their hearts to radiate the knowledge of his glory, the glory on the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

We should see in them much more than simple witnesses: they truly participate in the mystery which is being accomplished before their eyes, in so far as they receive that which Jesus gives them in simplicity and humility. God is content with this good will; even as Peter makes a remark which betrays his lack of understanding of the situation, the cloud through which they will enter into intimacy with the Father is already approaching.

‘A bright cloud covered them with its shadow.’ We find here the hallmark of the most solemn moments in salvation history, when God chooses to reveal his greatest secrets. On Sinai, Moses entered into a cloud before Yahweh revealed his name to him. In like manner, at the dedication of the new temple, Solomon found himself taken up into a cloud as Yahweh came to take possession of his dwelling place. Finally, at the Annunciation, is this not the characteristic sign of the presence of God that the angel gives to the Virgin: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow’?

Here, the, are three poor disciples, men of no exceptional merit, who enter into the cloud, the loftiest image of divine power. They have direct access to the Father, for they are close to Jesus and are his friends. Their dullness, their incomprehension, does not matter, their hearts are given totally to Jesus and that is enough. –‘The Wound of Love’ A. Carthusian Miscellany

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Submission and Rectitude

Therefore, in our present situation the will must be corrected by a double effort.  First, our effort should go towards total submission of our will to God and to conformity to His divine will.  Secondly, a great effort is necessary to increase the power of the will with regard to the interior faculties until it can subject them completely to itself.  In other words, one must attempt to regain, at the cost of great effort and the help of grace, the initial rectitude that the will enjoyed when it came forth from the creative hands of God.  –Silence: A Series of Conferences Given by a Camaldolese Hermit

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Camaldolese: Simplicity and Soundness

Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  –John 15:13

…..Blessed Paul Giustiniani (regarded as a “second Romuald”) gathered followers about him to withdraw into solitude and silence and to engage in spiritual combat with the world, the flesh, and the devil for the salvation of souls. His reform of the eremitic life in Italy resulted in the formation of the Camaldolese Hermits of Monte Corona…..underlying the Camaldolese hermit’s special call to perfection, a call that belongs to the very essence of the Church’s mission……”under the influence…many people will find the time and place for a desert experience in their lives. They then will not only discover God anew but will also discover the road to another person, to a husband, to a wife, to one another, to the community.”

“the desert (biblically speaking) has always been a shelter for all those sincerely seeking the truth” and who need to find their identity in Christ. “The desert indicates a decision to leave everything that is banal, hollow, and sinful in human existence… The fervent desire for our own conversion and salvation is the first condition of going out into the desert”. It is to “leave the paper world”, to reject the “vulgar illusions that tempt the modern world”, and to be freed from the superficialities of a “McDonald’s civilization”.

…..His penances and sufferings are united with those of Christ and the hermit “follows His Master on the Way of the Cross” for the salvation of souls. In his solitude, however, he is not severed from the temporal concerns of his fellow men; rather he remains vitally concerned with their social concerns and his “way of the desert” does not lead to the negation of authentic values in the world or of other people. The precious “gift of tears” may be vouchsafed him by the Holy Spirit who “allows his eyes to be filled with tears when he becomes aware of the painful lack of love and faith among Christians.”

“Someone who is empty cannot stand up to the emptiness of the desert… Nobody goes to the desert in order to look for prestige, acceptance, success or fame. Such reasons would quickly lead to madness or demonic possession”.

The Camaldolese vocation is rather for the psychologically balanced, for those who seek union with God, the “Absolute Presence”, and are “fascinated with the Lord’s beauty, which becomes perceivable and clear only for a heart transformed by the power of grace”. There are some wise cautions regarding the temptation to seek “the land of pure spirituality”. The hermit is not a gnostic…..

“Catholic mysticism has never meant contemplating one’s own self… The hermit does not try to use any mystical techniques of breathing, mantras, visualizations, or the tantra… When the hermit wants to pray, he does not follow any specific procedures such as taking certain body positions, regulating his breath, or purging his mind. His method of prayer is not to have any method at all. He closes the door of his cell and begs God for the gift of the Word and the Spirit that would enable him to perceive in faith the merciful and simple presence of the Father.”  A Camaldolese 

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Daily life a means of perfection

I now quote Tanquerey: “The memory and imagination are two valuable faculties, which not only furnish the mind with the necessary material whereon to work, to enable it to explain the truth with the aid of images and facts in such a manner as to make it easier to grasp, and render it more vital and more interesting. The bare, colorless and cold statement of truth would not engage the interest of most men. It is not a question, then, of atrophying these faculties, but of schooling them, of subjecting their activity to the control of reason and will. Otherwise, left to themselves, they literally crowd the soul with a host of memories and images that distract the spirit, waste its energies, cause it to lose priceless time while at work or prayer, and constitute the source of a thousand temptations against purity, charity, humility and other virtues. Hence, of necessity, they must be disciplined and made to minister to the higher faculties of the soul.”

…“In order to check the wanderings of the memory and the imagination, we must first of all strive to expel them from the outset, that is, from the very moment we are aware of them, all dangerous fancies and recollections. Furthermore, since frequent daydreaming by a kind of psychological necessity leads us into dangerous musings, we should take heed to provide against idle thoughts, by mortifying ourselves in regards to useless fancies, which constitute a waste of time and pave the way to others of an even more perilous nature. The best means to attain this end is to apply ourselves wholeheartedly to the performance of the duties of the moment, to our work, to our studies, to our ordinary occupations.” ‘Silence: A Series of Conferences Given by a Camaldolese Hermit’


Father Adolphe-Alfred Tanquerey, pss (1854-1932)

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A state of thoughtfulness

We should not only avoid idle talk [leading to] much laughter, as St Benedict says, but we are also invited to avoid noisy behavior. Our constitution mentions noisy manual work, disturbances during liturgical celebrations, and during the time of rest. Our constitution recommends silence in the church…”Indiscrete turning of the pages, coughing and impolite yawning should be avoided.”

There are many ways of making noise. In my experience, I remember two brothers who left the motor of the tractor running outside of the door of the garage. Sometimes this kind of noise lasted for more than a half hour without reason. Others slam doors, Abbot Delatte, in his commentary on St Benedict’s Rule, tells us that “a nun of the Visitation order asked St Francis de Sales what she should do to reach perfection. The holy bishop, who doubtless know whom he was addressing replied: ‘Sister, I think Our Lord wants you to close doors quietly.’”

Let us try to avoid all unnecessary noise, all impatient and distracting movements in whatever we do.

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“Jesus autem tacebat.” “But Jesus was silent.” Jesus was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. There He was falsely accused. St Matthew says: “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus, however false, on which they might pass the death sentence.” How did our Lord answer His accusers? St Matthew tells us: “Jesus was silent.”

May the silence of Jesus be our example and our inspiration. Let us follow the silent Master of whom Isaiah foretold: “harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughterhouse, never opening its mouth.” –Silence: A Series of Conferences Given by a Camaldolese Hermit

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Camaldolese Conference

In our thirteen preceding conferences we tried to bring order to our interior faculties and to our intellect itself. We spoke about our external senses, which are, as it were, five doors leading to our soul. We spoke of the memory and our imagination, the interior senses, which can be a help to our intellect but can also become a great obstacle. All the mentioned faculties must be brought to the right order. A silence should be imposed on deviations and care should be taken that they do not become a hindrance or an obstacle in our spiritual life. Our intellect also must submit to Christian ascesis and discipline. It must be illuminated by faith. Let us also remember that from our intellect to our will, a long road is often the division. A Latin poet—Ovid expressed what I’m saying in the following verse: “Video Meliora, proboque, deteriora sequor.” It means: I see better things and approve them, but I follow the less good ones (or the worst, if you wish).

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Perfect silence in ourselves is the fruit of many sacrifices, of a long period of suffering, and of many tears and prayers.

Perfect silence is the sign of the final victory of Christ’s power in our life. It is a great interior silence to which we are called—a silence filled with God.  –Silence: A series of Conferences Given by a Camaldolese Hermit.

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