Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalms 131 :1-3.
‘I have calmed and quieted my soul’? Maybe so, for St Romauld. Not so for me. Nor would I fare better with the readings for week 11 of the year: happy the one who fears the Lord, because it will go well for her. No, I am not feeling especially triumphant today, not like one who has mastered my fretful soul.
There is something that intrigues me, though, about the combination of readings for St Romauld. The first reading is from Philippians, and it includes Gregory of Nyssa’s favorite phrase: ‘forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal…’ The psalm says ‘rest’; Philippians says, ‘get on with it!’
Maybe resting is getting on with it. That seems to have been the case with St Romauld. He became a Benedictine, then a hermit. He wanted to be alone with God; he sought a prayerful solitude. To attend to the presence of God in his cell and to be quiet was active spiritual engagement.
I like that, but I am not entirely sure how it helps. Time alone is rare, and silence is hard to find. Everywhere I go there are things that insist on being done. At home there are more domestic chores than hours in the week; at work there is always something else waiting after each task is completed. Even walking to work, errands interrupt the quiet–whether I do them immediately or not, I am reminded of what is to be done. My soul catches the unsettledness of the house, the daily timetable, the office. And my activity is far from spiritual engagement.
I cannot do it: I need more grace.
St Romauld, pray for us.