The Discipline Of Emulation: A Reflection.

April 19, 2013 — Leave a comment
Bernard of Clairvaux, as shown in the church o...

Bernard of Clairvaux, as shown in the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria. Portrait (1700) with the true effigy of the Saint by Georg Andreas Wasshuber (1650-1732), (painted after a statue in Clairvaux with the true effigy of the saint) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few years back I spent a semester studying Medieval Church History. One particular outcome of this course was a bourgeoning appreciation for what my lecturer called, ‘the discipline of emulation’ (Gray).

This is an area of meditation that falls closely near  the ‘discipline of study’ [1].

Engaging with this discipline meant copying out verbatim, Bernard of Clairvaux’s, ‘In Praise of the New Knighthood’.

The task was to rewrite, by hand, the entire treatise.

This process allowed me to see how participating in spiritual disciplines require endurance and, how working through a discipline can uncover areas of our lives that we would otherwise be ignorant of.

I was not displaced from the spiritual significance of the exercise, nor was I disconnected from the insights gained by focusing completely, both mentally and physically on the text.

Taking the time to carefully reproduce an accurate hand written copy of the text required solitude and silence.

I was powered by a solid commitment to the task at hand. As a retail manager by trade, I have had the proverbial, ‘time is money’ engrained into my subconscious, cognitive behavioural stimuli.

At that time this ludicrous measuring stick became a serious obstacle for me. Through engaging in this discipline I was shown how rushed my life had become. I also discovered that I struggled, psychologically and emotionally, to give myself permission to relax and not feel guilty about it.

I am grateful for moving through this unique form of ‘experimental archaeology’[2].

The intense focus, helped re-enforce a spiritual reading of Bernard’s treatise. On completion of the project, I found that I had become more concerned with understanding the text.

My purpose was no longer just to complete the task, but to genuinely listen to what Bernard had intended to convey to his readers. My whole approach was effectively transformed. Subsequently, so was my appreciation for the form, content and context of the document as a whole.

Scribes filled libraries with accurate copies of valuable information. They preserved material, which has become a primary witness that would have otherwise been lost to modern society.

The challenge to carefully reproduce the information before me, made me aware of how modern society could benefit from the example of scribes.

Scribes took their time to get it right. They did not want to bear false witness by making errors of transposition and translation. For the scribes this emulation was a product of worship.

To copy a text is to cherish it and move closer to the author and his or her subject. When mistakes were made there must have been a constant tension between pushing on or giving up.

For a medieval scribe, emulation as a spiritual discipline, was sincere Christian worship. Perhaps blogging is a spiritual discipline that follows closely in line with emulation.

Such awareness may allow those of us who blog, to apply what we do as a method of worship, motivated in similar ways as that which motivated the scribes. Consequently, presenting ourselves and our work, as a living sacrifice, offered up in Spirit and in Truth (Jn.4:24)[3].

2 Cor 11_33_12_9

An example: the work of a scribe: 2 Cor. 11_33_12_9 


References:

[1] Forster, R. 2008 Celebration of discipline: the path to Spiritual Growth, Hodder & Stoughton, London UK.

[2] disclaimer: I understand that this activity would not be completely  considered experimental archaeology. We did not use materials such as ink, parchment or vellum et.al. Nevertheless,given the task I view this exercise as a participation in a form of experimental archaeology.

[3] John 4:24 ‘God is Spirit, and those who worship the Him must worship in Spirit and truth’

No Comments

Be the first to start the conversation!

Comments:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s