Saturday, 24 December 2005

Combating the Passion of Vainglory 4 — Vainglory in the Monastery

St John of Sinai has some rather severe methods for treating the passion of vainglory in the cœnobium: the Abbot is to berate the vainglorious monk—in front of the visitors. We saw this in action once. An Abbot we were once visiting in his official residence angrily berated his cell servant in front of us for not wearing his habit properly. The Abbot then turned to us and explained that he did this sort of thing to help his monks progress spiritually. We were not impressed. The Abbot did not have the discernment necessary. He was indulging his own vainglory, his own idea that he had reached the heights. It is not easy for an Abbot to put St John’s instructions into practice: he must have the Holy Spirit consciously present in his soul; he must have the discernment to know the true good from the natural good; he must himself be dispassionate so that he is only pretending to be angry. As we said, we were not impressed: the Abbot was indulging a passion, and we await the day that he is forced to leave his monastery—or else his monastery leaves him.

That having been said, when the dominant or ruling passion of a novice is vainglory or pride, rather harsh treatment must be meted out—at the hands of God, not at the hands of a vainglorious Abbot—to bring the man to his senses.

It is rather dangerous to have a monk in the monastery who is dominated by vainglory or pride, especially if he is in an administrative position. He may face down the Abbot. He may lead a rebellion. The poor Abbot.

Abbots should be very careful about accepting novices; they should be extremely careful if the novice is governed by vainglory or pride. They might never see the end of it.

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