Our entire life is hierarchically organized. Our religious life [as Discalced Carmelites], like the Church itself, is based on our concept of authority and our attitude toward authority. Since authority is essential to our community, we must grasp the teaching of both God and the founders of our religious family concerning authority. […]
For a fuller understanding of our duty, let us examine Christ’s response to the problem of authority. Christ encountered the authority of his parents and of the rulers of the land where he lived. The legally appointed Roman rulers were Herod, the elder, who ruled during his childhood and Herod, the younger, who ruled during his maturity. Most importantly, he encountered the dominant authorities of his home country. Those authorities were the High Priests, Caiaphas, and his father-in-law, Annas, along with the Sanhedrin. That body was a type of senate, which governed the country in religious matters. The Sanhedrin actually administered the affairs of the country and shaped opinion, even in regard to private life. The Pharisees were a party that, as an emanation from the Sanhedrin, carried out its thought and directed all aspects of social life. […]
Although the other authorities are brutally harsh and unjust, Christ subjects himself to them. He never rebelled against the legitimate political authority of his country. When that authority persecutes him and tries to eliminate him, he flees into hiding. However, he does not try to destroy that authority, even though he is almighty. He remains subject to that authority. He responds similarly to the Pharisees, whose power is likewise legitimate. However, when they err doctrinally, he remains respectful, but also proclaims the truth, which he has come to reestablish. In order to reassert the truth, he supports his words with miracles. He says: “I have been sent to preach. If you do not have faith in my words, put faith in my works. I raise the dead to life… Look at my works: are they the works of a man or of God?” [Cf. Lk 4:43, Mt 11:5, Jn 10:38].
Christ gives the Apostles this advice regarding the Pharisees: “Do what they say, but do not do what they do” [Mt 23:3]. Their decrees are legitimate and worthy of respect. Christ drives the merchants out of the temple because they are degrading that house of prayer. However, he does not drive out either the high priest or his assistants. Christ takes action against the abuse, but he leaves the authority in place. When he is brought before the High Priest, he simply says: “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” [Jn 18:23]. Before Caiaphas [sic], he is content simply to assert his divine mission and then state: “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above” [Jn 19:11].
In matters concerning Roman rule, he declares: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” [Mt 22:21]. Thus we see that Christ was always subject to authority of every sort.
Servant of God Père Jacques de Jésus
Retreat Conference 9, Authority (excerpts)
Friday 10 September 1943
Carmel of Pontoise
Jacques, P 2005, Listen to the silence: a retreat with Père Jacques, translated from the French and edited by Murphy F, ICS Publications, Washington DC.