With the soul delivered from bondage to self-will, we are now free to ascend to God. But how? Benedict does not leave the question unanswered, but rather uses the image of a ladder to describe how we rise to God. Benedict describes it in Chapter 7 of his Rule. De Waal writes about it on pages 46-48.
All twelve rungs are in relation to our advance in humility, remembering last week’s posting that the advance of genuine humility is the signal mark of growth in the life of holiness.
The first seven rungs deal with a growth in our interior disposition (heart); the final five deal with exterior conduct (life). In this way, Benedict is describing the fundamental shape of holiness of heart and life.
Each rung must be accomplished before moving on to the next one; no skipping allowed. Or to say it another way—the soul does not grow in “fits and starts,” nor does it grow “just any old way.” Instead, there is pattern and order, all accomplished through attentiveness, not accident.
I can only hope that you will review the actual rungs in the Rule itself. Space does not allow an exposition on each of them. But taken together, the journey of ascent is one de Waal describes as “breaking free”—perhaps in keeping with St. Paul’s words to the Galatians, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (5:1).
If nothing else, Benedict’s detailed description puts to rest once and for all any legalistic notions to his Rule, or to our spiritual formation. We have been “set free” by Christ, and that state becomes a dynamic lifestyle of increasing freedom. And as Paul puts it, we are not to go back to a “yoke of slavery,” (Galatians 5:2), but rather to advance in the righteousness, peace, and joy which comes through Spirit-filled living.