It’s an interesting noun- the meaning of which became radically different for me once I became a Benedictine Oblate.
Many lifetimes ago, I used it to refer to critically ill patients, but as as an adverb upon naming all the physiologic parameters used to measure the cardiac and pulmonary status of patients, “He’s been stable for the last hour…”.
I encountered it anew as a Benedictine Oblate: stability is one of the three promises an Oblate makes upon making her oblation.
for that is the only state where we achieve a state of changelessness, we seek a place of permanence…where we can stay. There is a deep hunger for such a place in each of us. The Desert Fathers write: “Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.”
For Benedictines, Buddhists and mystics from all traditions, stability is pursued through rigorous attention to the present, a determined focus on a place inside where one can be. A place we must stick with– the ordinary, mundane and unexciting. Steadfastly determined to find God among the pots and pans. Or the excruciatingly painful losses of relationships, spouses, friends, acclaim, identity.
The fact is, for Benedictines, stability, whether of cloister or geography or of heart, is a major piece of the puzzle. It’s the ability to stick with it, stay in there, keep trying. It is the fixedness, not just of place, but of heart and will. It is more than just not moving around…The routine, the mundane, the everyday and predictable are precisely the arenas in which we must daily strive and win in the spiritual life.