Learning to Speak God - Talk 4 on Pride

LITURGICAL CATECHESIS: How many Eucharistic Prayers are there? How are they chosen?

Currently, there are 10. Normally you will hear Eucharistic Prayers 1, 2, 3 or 4. Eucharistic Prayer I, also known as the Roman Canon, is said at the most solemn occasions. It is the most extensive of the Eucharistic Prayers. Eucharistic Prayer II is the shortest. The reason is that it is the oldest, and thus the simplest, Eucharistic Prayer we have. Subsequent Eucharistic Prayers were expanded as the need for additional prayer intentions were deemed appropriate. There are also two “penitential” Eucharistic Prayers that I, and many other priests, typically pray during Advent and Lent. Finally, there are 2 “Eucharistic Prayers for Use With Children.”

The Swiss bishops developed 4 Eucharistic Prayers several years ago. They have more of a pastoral tone to them. They were translated and allowed to be prayed on an “experimental basis” by Rome for a number of years. Recently they were approved for use worldwide.

I’ve been writing about Jonathan Merritt’s book Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing-and How We Can Revive Them? We are looking for a juxtaposition of Merritt’s thoughts with passages from “The Rule of St. Benedict.” This week we look at the vice of pride.

Jonathan Merritt opens up the discussion of pride with a comment on the contemporary “self-esteem movement.” He comments that this trend “went much farther than embracing gifts, talents, and positive traits. We now have a cultural addiction to self-esteem. Parenting means that a praise-only approach is valued above any other method.

Merritt writes that there was another effect of the self-esteem movement. It was a 180-degree redefinition of pride. Pride used to be a bad word. It was one of the “seven deadly sins.” It reflected a self-absorbed personality which “lies at the heart of much evil.” (Merritt) Today, its totally different. Merritt writes that, “children were suddenly taught to ‘take pride in yourself and your work. Authentic and healthy pride can be a powerful propellant, protecting against self-loathing and launching people to soaring heights in their professional lives. In this way, a certain kind of pride allows us to think of ourselves as God does: as ‘very good.’”

Today, the word has not only taken on a new meaning; “it was exchanged for a photonegative of the original.”

Our ideas about pride are leading to new – and very unfortunate - discoveries. “Our obsession with self-esteem has unwittingly spawned a whole slew of negative traits. Some children grew up to be self-obsessed narcissists. They immerse themselves in a world of social media, which functions as a house full of mirrors. Others turned into fragile, overly sensitive creatures, unable to receive even the slightest criticism. Worst of all, many became bullies. The evolution in esteem thus turns dangerous.”

Merritt makes the distinction between “healthy” pride and “hubristic” pride. St. Benedict also seems to have found that there are different levels of pride. If one reads The Rule” one quickly realizes that St. Benedict doesn’t play around with pride in the monastery. Look at “Chapter 28: On Those Who Will Not Amend after Repeated Corrections.” Benedict writes about monks/brothers who constantly seem in need of correction. “If a brother who has been frequently corrected for some fault … but does not amend, let a harsher correction be applied. If he still does not reform or perhaps (which God forbid) even rises up in pride and wants to defend his conduct, then let the Abbot do what a wise physician would do. The Abbot should apply his own prayers and those of all the others, so that the Lord, who can do all things may restore health to the brother who is sick.”

If this doesn’t work, Benedict then recommends “the ointments of exhortation and the medicines of the Holy Scriptures.” In this, Father Benedict could have been referring Hebrews 12:11 - “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Proverbs 22:6 might also apply – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Finally, Benedict addresses the most serious situation when the monk is not healed, even after repeated remedies. In such cases, “Then let the Abbot use the knife of amputation, according to the Apostle’s words, “Expel the evil one from your midst” (1 Corinthians 5:13), and again, “If the faithless one departs, let her depart” (1 Corinthians 7:15) lest one diseased sheep contaminate the whole flock.”

In closing, Jonathan Merritt addresses the difficulty of dealing with pride in contemporary society. It needs to be done in a nuanced fashion. In order “to speak of pride in its fullness, we must recognize the light of authentic self-respect as well as the shadow of hubris. Pride’s light also casts a shadow—hubris—that is cancerous and consuming, leading us to arrogance and aggrandizement. This nuanced understanding of the word pride allows us to smile when we look into the mirror without feeling shame, knowing that God does the same when God sees us. But it also reminds us that behind that mirror-gazing face is a shadow that we ignore at our peril.”



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