Simone Weil, in Waiting for God, through the use of analogy, suggests what is required of someone if they are to grow in spiritual maturity and leadership. In this analogy, Weil likens the beauty of the world to a labyrinth mouth. The spiritual seeker, entranced by this beauty, enters the labyrinth. Soon however, this person is lost in the labyrinth – in the dark, alone, without the sustenance they once knew. In this experience of purging and purifying, they find they must let go of what knowing once was. The heart now takes the lead. Expectation is put aside as the experience of search becomes journey (in ways they know not) into the centre of the labyrinth. This is the journey, the pilgrimage, into spiritual maturity and leadership.
This journey imparts discretion and moderation. The grace of it enables the seeker to live into divine wisdom as if it were their own. They become a person of the middle way; a way without judgement; a way of gentle compassion for self that naturally grows beyond the confines of their own psychology to embrace others.
At the centre of the labyrinth
there God is waiting to eat him [sic]. Later he will go out again, but he will be changed, he will have become different, after being eaten and digested by God. Afterward he will stay near the entrance [to the labyrinth] so that he can gently push all those who come near into the opening. (Simone Weil, Waiting for God)
To be eaten and digested by God is to be so changed, so transformed, that a person has forgotten themselves. Love has changed them into love enough so that loving is the way they walk through the world.
The community leader of Benedict’s Rule, as someone who assumes the role of Christ figure in the community, is someone who has done enough of the labyrinthine struggle and search. They have journeyed, still human and fallible, into the depths of the divine life and this divine life has consumed them. The service of love they now provide the community, as leader, is to gently introduce the labyrinth to some, wisely guide others in the dark of the labyrinth, and finally supervise the divine digestion of seasoned monastics.
Therefore, drawing on this and other forms of discretion, they must so arrange everything that the strong have something to yearn for and the weak nothing to run from.
The leader of a community following the Rule is a steward that tends the space of grace that is Christian community life. They then, through varied and unique relations with each community member, do their best to make this space of grace accessible and relevant for everyone. Perhaps their greatest asset in this enterprise is their own presence. Their humanity has been irretrievably and wonderfully absorbed into God. Theirs is a divinely infused human life. They still experience their weaknesses. They know their strengths. They are wise enough to live and lead humbly and simply.
Their experience and learning gives them access to a treasury of knowledge” from which to draw wisely from. This treasury, from wisdom literature (including of course Christian and Hebrew scripture), their lectio practice, community experience, and the divine law written in the heart – all of this grows a life of Divine Wisdom.
To be digested by God is also to be enthused by God. As we walk the spiritual and human life, God enthuses us, fills us with God’s own life. Part of contemplation is allowing this gift of divine life to fill us, enthuse and inspire us for life and living. As this happens our giftedness is encouraged. If it is to lead, we grow in leadership. The dare of the labyrinth is our human growth into gift, service, and God.
As meditators, both at Meditatio House, and in the wider meditation community, our times of meditation are the most important part of the day. In meditation, as we focus attention on the mantra, we grow in divine enthusiasm and are transformed (digested) bit by bit into the God life. In time our lives become, more and more, a revelation of divine glory.
As contemplatives we learn what the community leader of the Rule has learnt, that duty is an act of benefit for others, not a method of control. We all have duty in our lives. Duty comes with commitment. The life of God within can soften us enough so that we can gently (over time) let go of fear. It is fear that wants to control. Fearful control closes us to alternatives and creativity.
He [sic] should strive to be loved rather than feared. He must not be inconsistent or anxious, not extreme in his behaviour or obstinate, not jealous or excessively suspicious, for then he will never be at rest.
Someone growing in the life of God, like a Benedictine community leader, is open, trusting, and flexible enough to be with the hidden and creative ways of love as they act on the human heart. This way of being and leading with love is often seen as too much of a risk by the person too much caught in fear and control. Loving creatively, where ever it may be done in life, gives space to grace and the development of others.