The Narrated Theology of 'Stabilitas' in Gregory the Great's Life of Benedict

Cistercian Studies Quarterly 49 (2):163-198 (2014)
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The second of Gregory’s Dialogues, tells the life and miracles of Benedict of Nursia. In this paper, I will first introduce the Gregorian concepts of spiritual “stability” (stabilitas) and of the spiritual “ruler” (rector), along with the spiritual journey by which “stability” is recovered. Second, focusing on episodes that call attention to Benedict’s physical self-disposition (seated, standing, walking), I will read his life doubly. Under one reading, these episodes proffer moral exempla wherein Benedict’s physical self-possession outwardly manifests a spiritual ruler’s proper response to attacks on him and on his community. Under another reading, the organization and emphases of these same episodes add up to an over-arching narration of Gregory’s theology of spiritual progress, all the way to fullness of love and the vision of God. Third, I will argue that the motif of steadfast love rather than of physical claustration is the deepest foundation of this journey and that the dialogue universalizes the “way of Benedict” to guide even non-monastic readers to the heavenly homeland.
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