Romuald’s Rule as a ladder

Sit in your cell as in paradise.

This is the first step, and amazingly (as we shall see) the final step of the journey in the way of the psalms. If your cell is paradise then you have reached a state where you accept the divine unity of all humanity in Christ, and this is how we join the fellowship of contemplatives, and also the work of caretaking for one another. This is true charity, true love of neighbor.

Cast all memory of the world behind you.

At the beginning of the way, everyone is tempted to bring in whatever experiences in life brought them this far. But previous experience is of no value in this stage. Not because they are wrong – they might very well be right. But simply because we have not developed the capacity to discern. Forgetting the world is a technical term which describes the act of abandoning all false beliefs and protecting oneself from idolatry, that is, of preferring one’s experiences and insights to whatever God will bring us. To demanding that all God’s words and signs be comprehensible to our reason, and acceptable to our emotional level. The expectation that the way is within our capacity as we are at the beginning is hubris, ad very dangerous. Because of that all memory of the world must be cast aside. It is also a calling for a conversion of life, to a second birth, and to develop a beginner’s mind.

Cautiously watch your thoughts, as a good fisherman the fish.

That is called "vigilance." The word "caution" does not mean intrusiveness. Caution, in fact, means watching without disturbing. Let the thoughts come and go without actively seeking to arouse or suppress them. This requires tremendous indifference to shame or praise, to attraction or repulsion. This process teaches holy indifference.

The way is via the psalms – do not leave it.

Why would the way be in the psalms? Because they train us in holy indifference. We can observe cautiously, without disturbing them. We will not change the words of the psalms, so when they are imprecatory we say those words without being disturbed, and while we feel the full gamut of emotions and thoughts which arise from those words, we continue on without taking ownership of the sentiment, without grasping.

If, in your beginner’s fervor, you fail to do the whole psalter, do a little here and a little there.

This is good stewardship. A preference for quality over quantity. The way of the psalms is a gentle way: one starts with one psalm, with a half a psalm, with a verse. Slowly building up our spiritual hearts to a greater range of feelings, and a greater capacity to all-inclusive love without grasping. If someone starts on the road to lifting weights he or she does not go straight to the heaviest possible. IF they do they will either fail, or get hurt. The proper training begins with light weights, and slowly increased over time, working on form and technique. The same applies to yoga or running. Why should it be different in spiritual life?

Studying each with your whole mind and spirit.

The proper way to study Sacred Scripture, any scripture, is to engage it with all our capacities. We study the psalms as poetry, we study them as prophecy, we study them as love songs, we study them as curses. We also memorize as many of them as possible. We try to apply verses of the psalms to daily life. We sing them, chant them, mumble them. We cut our spiritual teeth in them, and we develop our spiritual vocabulary with them. We allow their colors to expand our palette of colors. We are stretched emotionally and spiritually into a greater and broader range of "holy emotions" through them.

When your mind wanders during the reading – don’t quit, hurry to refocus.

When…not if! Any "way" any road, is a road by virtue of two borders. Without a clearly defined two borders you cannot know you are on a road. One border is the psalms as a training in holy indifference and in all-inclusive love. The second border of the psalms is a training in focus and concentration. Reading the same things, over and over, day in, day out, year in, year out. Without variation, without change. Unhurriedly. Imagining at all times that you will be doing this very same thing for Eternity. The overwhelming boredom of it all. This allows you to develop your capacity to be present and focused on the task at hand, no matter how menial.

Place yourself in the presence of God with fear and trembling, as if standing before the emperor.

This is the heart of the way of the psalms, and of the way of the monk: pay attention to the incarnation of Christ through the Spirit – by His light I see light. Realize that the very chanting and reciting of the psalms is a God-breathed gift. "Fear" is a holy emotion, achieved only after some time in the way. It has little to do with earthly fear of punishment or embarrassment. The way of the psalms as a way of holy indifference means that earthly fears and other considerations are non-existent in the spiritual path. Fear of God in the way means nothing else than all-inclusive Love.

Destroy yourself completely.

This is the consequence of the previous step. To be completely destroyed is to realize that Love is the greatest of all gifts, and to let Truth and Wisdom be your lifeblood, as opposed to opinions and judgments. The False Self is eradicated and only the Real Self is left.

Sit like a baby chick, content with the grace of God, who, unless its mother gives it something, knows nothing and has nothing to eat.

This is the final step of the way, which is also the first step of the rest of the journey. At this point, after learning how to be indifferent and how to love inclusively, how to pay attention, and how to listen only to the True Self, the disciple fully realizing their True Self understands that True Life is complete submission to the authority of Jesus the Christ in every area of your life.

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About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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