Sunday, March 22, 2015

Catholic Hermits: Obedience Professed, Obedience Learned from Suffering

Each and every Christian is called to obedience.  While those in the Catholic Church who are called by God, and accept His call, to the Consecrated Life of the Church, everyone who is a Christian is called to follow Jesus Christ.  The following Scripture from Hebrews--the second reading of this Fifth Sunday of Lent--helps us grasp the means and ways of obedience and to whom we ought obey.

From Hebrews 5:7-9:

"In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
He offered prayers and supplications 
with loud cries and tears to the 
One Who was able to save Him from death
and He was heard because of His reverence.
Son though He was, 
He learned obedience from what He suffered
and when He was made perfect
He became the source of eternal salvation 
for all who obey Him."

From what death do we beseech God in cries and tears?  Is it physical, bodily death?  Was that the death from which His Son prayed to be saved?  Or was it from eternal death, or the death of His Divine Soul?  Was it from the death that the world offers?  And He was heard by the Father--the One Who could save Him--because of His reverence.  This seems key: Reverence.

What is "reverence"?  The word "revere" appeared in the 14th century.  It means to feel or show a profound awe, respect and even love; to honor, such as the divine.  The Latin is re + vereri:  to fear, to respect.

How did Jesus learn obedience?  He learned obedience through suffering.  And it followed that when he was made perfect, he was made the source of salvation to all who obeyed Him, as well. Does this mean that we, also, learn obedience through suffering, and that it follows that through obedience from suffering, comes perfection in Christ when we follow Him and obey Him?  

This is much to grasp, and it is beyond description by words, just as we cannot adequately describe His Real Presence other than to know the effect and the affect, through knowing Jesus--no matter how many descriptors used in the Old and New Testaments, no matter the theology, poetry, artistry, and mystery of dreams, visions, and locutions.

In considering the profession of the evangelical counsels [chastity, poverty, obedience)] by which a Catholic hermit enters the state of Consecrated Life in the Church (although not always publicly professed), the canons, or laws, of the Catholic Church, state the following regarding obedience:

Canon 601. Obedience

Obedience, following Christ, obedient even unto death, obliges submission of one's will to lawful Superiors, acting in the place of God when they command according to the constitutions.  
There may be a list of what can be required. E.g.ministries that can be required.  There isn't a formula, but it should be clear and written for clarity.

The obedience stated in canon law is to that of following Christ.  One must be obedient even if faced with death.  Next, this obedience in following Christ, per canon law, then legally or morally binds [oblige] the will of the one consecrated, to lawful Superiors who act in God's place when they command according to the constitutions of the Church.

CL601 begs prayerful consideration.  There are specific conditions imbedded within it, requiring wise discretion in order for the obedience to be binding to a Superior in the church.  It requires further defining by law, who and what is a Superior, and it requires discerning if that Superior is acting in God's place--if their commands are according to the constitutions.  This latter also begs a prayerful, careful reading and knowledge of the Constitutions of the Catholic Church.

But the primary obedience in this canon is given to Christ, to following Christ, obedient even unto death.  The profundity of following Christ can take a Christian lifetime to prayerfully grasp and practice.  From Scripture--the Living Word of God--we learn that when Christ was in the flesh, He learned obedience through suffering.

Following Christ may be learned and effected by living the Gospels.  The Gospels remain the perfect Rule of Life for hermits--indeed, for any Christians regardless of state of life in the Church--hierarchy and laity, consecrated or not.

Learning obedience through suffering includes all forms of suffering: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.  Following Christ, being obedient unto death, can include bodily death from this earthly life as well as death to the temporal "world" in some aspect of body, mind, emotions, and spirit. This type of death is often termed "spiritual detachment" or "holy indifference."  The worlds "spiritual" and "holy" are key in being linked with "detachment" and "indifference."

It would seem, then, that the Living Word of God in Scriptures, is the ultimate and never-failing law of God in fulfilling a professed vow of obedience.  The church law adds to God's Word but does require discernment of the several conditions that do need to be met in order for one's will to be obliged in submission to a Superior--who must be lawful, acting in God's place, and whose commands are in accordance with the Institutes of the Church.

Even so, if each condition of a lawful Superior seem met, no one but God really knows or can judge if the one submitting his or her will to the lawful Superior and/or the Superior himself, are meeting the conditions, or to what degree or ideal.  Mortals--even the seemingly holiest of hermits (or anyone) and the wisest and most reverent of those in Holy Orders--are not foolproof in knowing and judging our souls and conditions.  Only the One Who saves us from death can do so: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

The individual soul may have some idea, depending upon his or her truthfulness and degree of spiritual progression, in knowing self and knowing God.  The individual soul's Superior by church law may have some idea--even a very good idea--depending upon various observed and inspired aspects.  But no one, mortal, lawful superior nor the most approved, seemingly holiest of individual souls can know for sure.

The seemingly simple freedom of the Christian call in Scripture--the Living Word of God--to following Jesus Christ, requires discernment and wise discretion as well.  The conditions of a soul in following Christ--obedient even unto death--are deep and wide.  No one but the One Who saves us from death knows or can judge if the Gospel tenets are being met, to what degree or ideal.  

It comes down to the reality of striving, to the best of our human abilities, acts of our free will, and by whatever undeserved but mercifully given divine graces of God, that we are able to follow Christ.  As to whatever degree of obedience, learning it through suffering, and to whatever progression being in Christ toward our soul's perfection, we will not have consistent, complete perfection during our earthly, mortal pilgrimages.  

Obedience learned from what is suffered...and when He was made perfect...He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him

God bless His Real Presence in us, and our presence in Him. Let us love dearly one another as we love Christ and He loves us--little children--for we are in this life together.  Remain in His Love!

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