|01-05-2007 - Traces, n. 5
A Benedictine monk, Fr. Sergio Massalongo speaks on a key word of Saint Benedict’s Rule: “Obedience is the affective form of adherence to Christ through the modality with which He embraces me in reality”
edited by Paola Bergamini
For over thirty years, Fr. Sergio has been living in the Cascinazza Benedictine Monastery, just outside Milan. Every moment of his day beats to the rhythm of the Rule that Saint Benedict wrote for his monks fifteen hundred years ago.
What does it mean to live obedience?
The idea underlying the word obedience is life as vocation, that is, every man is in search of his own fulfillment. What are we called to live for? It was this way for me as well. I sought in many ways for the response to my human need until, at a certain point, a particular encounter happened, the encounter with Jesus in the CL Movement. Within this event, my vocation was revealed through some signs that reality had placed before my eyes. I followed. I obeyed. This holds true for everyone.
In what sense?
I’ll explain. For me, the experience of the Movement was and is the encounter with something great, fascinating. Nobody forced me into this sequela. I said to myself, “I don’t want to lose this thing.” From that day on, and throughout this period of my life in the monastery, obedience has meant looking at things and people within that relationship with Christ who constitutes me, that is, carrying out the will of the Lord through the signs, the form with which He presents Himself. For me, it has been the monastery; for others, it can be marriage. Certainly, one can live monastery life formally, just as in marriage you can merely tolerate each other. Deep down, it’s a question of affectivity.
Could you explain more?
The first thing asked of us within the relationship with Christ is surrender, abandoning yourself into the hands of an Other, as the path to possessing everything. This abandonment involves the sacrifice of your own instinctivity. But this sacrifice is an act of love because, in what I do, I’m ultimately affirming the Other who makes me, not myself. Thus, obedience becomes the point of maximum love for reality. Or better, obedience is the affective form of adherence to Christ through the modality with which He embraces me in reality. This enables me to be creative and have an impact on reality. Just think of the brilliant works the Benedictine Order has generated in history. And in particular, in my experience, I think of the exhibit we did for the Rimini Meeting 2006, whose title was, “With Our Hands, but with Your Strength.” We decided to do it out of obedience to a proposal, and then we were surprised and amazed to see what a help it was, how it was the most adequate response that God gave to our human need in that moment.