ENLARGING THE HEART

UPDATE:             1ST January 2015   We now begin a new series of commentaries on the Rule of our Holy Father Saint Benedict (Series 3). We hope this will continue to be a source of spiritual nourishment for you. 


Daily readings from the Rule of Saint Benedict

By a Benedictine of Saint Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde


"... as we progress in our monastic life and in faith, our hearts

   shall be enlarged, and we shall run with unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God's commandments." 

(From the Prologue of the Rule of Saint Benedict)


St Benedict wrote his Rule for monks some fifteen centuries ago.  Driven by his love of Christ, he wanted to establish his monastery as a “school of the Lord’s service”: a place where people who truly seek God could find him; places where “authentic Gospel values prevail”[1]; where nothing whatever would be preferred to Christ. The Rule of St Benedict spread all over Europe, and had an enormous influence on the life and spirituality of the Latin Church.  It continues to inspire monks, nuns, and countless lay people throughout the world today.

Like many monasteries we divide the Rule into sections so that the whole Rule is covered over a period of three months. The commentaries will follow the sequence of the sections.



[1] Pope John Paul II, to Benedictine Abbots, 23 September 1996


Jan 27, 

The first degree of humility, then, is that a monk, always keeping the fear of God before his eyes, should avoid with the utmost care all forgetfulness, and be ever mindful of all that God has commanded.  Let him ever reflect in his heart upon the fire of hell, which shall consume for their sins those who despise God, as well as upon the everlasting life which has been prepared for those who fear Him.  And keeping himself at all times not only from sins and vices - whether of the thoughts, the tongue, the eyes, the hands, the feet, or his own self-will - but also from carnal desires, let him always consider that at all times he is being watched from heaven by God, and that his actions are everywhere seen by the eye of the Divine Majesty, and are every moment reported to Him by His Angels.  Of this the Prophet informs us when he shows how God is ever present to our thoughts, saying: "The searcher of hearts and reins is God."  And again: "The Lord knows the thoughts of men, that they are vain."  And he also says: "Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off."  And: "The thought of man shall confess to thee."  In order, therefore, that he may be on his guard against evil thoughts, let the humble brother say ever in his heart: "Then shall I be blameless before Him, if I shall have kept myself from guilt."

 

The first degree of humility is mindfulness of God, what St Benedict, following the Bible, calls the fear of God. The fear of the Lord is reverence for God and a desire to live in accordance with that reverence.  It is to possess a filial attitude towards God; in the widest sense it is the religious spirit.  The God-fearing person is not the one who is afraid, but the one who has a religious sense, who realizes who God is, what it means to have a Creator, to be a creature, and who lives and acts in relation to that awareness.  Thus the fear of the Lord implies a basic seriousness about life, which is certainly not incompatible with happiness and joy, and indeed is the condition for the deepest and most mature happiness and joy. 

 

St Benedict stresses God’s watchfulness over us.  This is not the gaze of a policeman or a judge but the look of a God who loves us.  God is not looking at us to see if we are doing anything wrong.  As the Bible shows us, in looking at us God in reality lifts us up to himself; with great mercy he takes us by the hand and helps us to rise.  The mystery of the Incarnation reveals that God stoops down towards us in order to raise us up to himself.  In the Gospel Jesus’ gaze always raises us, restores dignity.  Think of Jesus looking at Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, but it was Jesus who looked on him first with love and tenderness. Jesus’ look at the woman caught in adultery re-establishes her dignity as a daughter of God.  Jesus looked at the rich young man and loved him.  Living under God’s gaze helps us to be vigilant over ourselves. Realizing who God is, we try to live as God would wish us to live in our thoughts, words and actions.  God’s look of love and pardon inspires us to live in a way that is not negligent, forgetful, or superficial.  The loving look of God is there to stimulate us to a greater fidelity and love.