07 October 2009

De Vogüé on St Benedict on Idle Speech & Laughter

If one follows the Church’s calendar, the appointed reading from St Benedict’s Rule for today (RB 6), concludes with the following statement: ‘As for idle jesting and empty chatter and talk leading to laughter, we sentence them to perpetual imprisonment in all places, and we do not permit a disciple to open his mouth in order to engage in words of that kind’ (Reading Saint Benedict: Reflections on the Rule, by Adalbert de Vogüé, trans. Colette Friedlander, OCSO [Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1994], p. 72).

In keeping with his wonderful remarks in the prefatory note (see this post), the comment on this passage by the infallible Adalbert de Vogüé is a striking example of a humble approach to the teachings of the Holy Fathers. It is a model for my approach here at Logismoi:

The final sentence, borrowed almost verbatim from the Master, absolutely condemns idle speech (Mt 12:36) and anything inducing laughter (Lk 6:25), whether words or gestures. This double prohibition, which we have already come across in the preceding chapter, may appear stringent. In the eyes of the monks of old, it simply followed from the Gospel. This is one of the points on which our way of thinking as modern Christians and monks finds it most difficult to concur with that of our Fathers—most difficult, but also most profitable. (p. 74)


St. Matthew the Apostle Orthodox Church said...

Laughter and Orthodox piety in the West is a rich topic that would be worthy of consideration.

Are familiar with Sergei Averintsev's "Bakhtin and the Russian Attitude towards Laughter," published in a collection on Bakhtin's study of Carnival?

It's a really fascinating study, noting the "Franciscan turn" in western Catholic piety that effectively redeemed certain kinds of laughter. Orthodoxy - both Byzantine and Russian - never made the same turn. I commend it, though it raises deeply disconcerting questions for our spiritual lives.

- Fr Mark

aaronandbrighid said...

Fr Mark> I've not read that piece, though it sounds truly fascinating. It's not something I've paid a lot of attention to in Bakhtin studies, but I am somewhat familiar with Bakhtin on Carnival. B's always Russian in many ways, but it's clear that he's also a product of the West, even in theology.

I wonder how Gogol or Mikhail Bulgakov would fit into such a study...

St. Matthew the Apostle Orthodox Church said...

I don't know. Apparently, there was a chapter on Gogol in an early draft of Bakhtin's work on Rabelais, but it was omitted by the Soviet censor. Averintsev makes reference to it, but I don't quite understand where he's going with remarks.

A number of years ago (long before I was Orthodox), I did some academic work on dialogism - hence my interest in Ugolnik (who is also both Eastern and Western in so very many ways).