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


Sept 19

22. Not to follow the promptings of anger.

23. Not to seek an occasion of revenge.

24. Not to foster deceit in one's heart.

25. Not to make a feigned peace.

26. Not to forsake charity.

27. Not to swear, lest perhaps one perjure oneself.

28. To utter the truth with heart and lips.

29. Not to render evil for evil.

30. To do no wrong to anyone, but to bear patiently any wrong done

            to oneself.

31. To love one's enemies.

32. Not to speak ill of those who speak ill of us, but rather to speak

            well of them.

33. To suffer persecution for justice' sake.

34. Not to be proud.

35. Not to be given to wine.

36. Not to be a glutton.

37. Not to be given to sleep.

38. Not to be slothful.

39. Not to be a murmurer.

40. Not to be a detractor.

41. To put one's trust in God.

42. To attribute any good one sees in oneself to God and not to oneself.

43. But always to acknowledge that the evil is one's own, and to

            attribute it to oneself.

 

Today we shall focus on the 26th tool: Not to forsake charity. This is a striking maxim. St Benedict says we should never abandon charity. There are many ways of forsaking charity: we may simply give up trying to put another’s needs before our own.  We may lead a narrow, limited life with the minimum amount of good works, as little threatened by the needs of others as possible.  We may decide that the best way of dealing with so-and-so is to keep right out of the way.  I may define strictly what my business is and what my business is not. There are in numerous ways, attitudes that replace charity in us, and that are really a deviation from it.  To really love is difficult, costly.  Our love must be founded on the love of Christ; only then will it survive and be strengthened.  Only then will it not depend on other people, on their response.


CHAPTER 4:   The tools of good works

 

Sept 18

 1. First of all, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all

            thy soul, and with all thy strength.

 2. Then, to love thy neighbour as thyself.

 3. Next, not to kill.

 4. Not to commit adultery.

 5. Not to steal.

 6. Not to covet.

 7. Not to bear false witness.

 8. To honour all men.

 9. Not to do to another what one would not have done to oneself.

10. To deny oneself in order to follow Christ.

11. To chastise the body.

12. Not to seek after luxuries.

13. To love fasting.

14. To refresh the poor.

15. To clothe the naked.

16. To visit the sick.

17. To bury the dead.

18. To help in affliction.

19. To console the sorrowing.

20. To keep aloof from worldly actions.

21. To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

 

It is very revealing of St Benedict’s spirituality that his tools of good works begin with the two-fold commandment of love.  Everything in his Rule - the liturgy, community life, enclosure expresses the fundamental option for God and Christ; and St Benedict in his Rule teaches how to receive Christ in others and in ourselves.  The Church has taught that the contemplative nun fulfils this great commandment of love:  The contemplative nun fulfils to the highest degree the First Commandment of the Lord: “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind” (Lk 10:27), making it the full meaning of her life, and loving in God all the brothers and sisters. She moves towards the perfection of charity, choosing God as “the one thing necessary” (cf. Lk10:42), loving him exclusively as All in all. .. This is the reason why the earliest spiritual tradition spontaneously associated complete withdrawal from the world (27) and all works of the apostolate with this kind of life, “which thus becomes a silent emanation of love and superabundant grace in the pulsing heart of the Church as Bride.” (Verbi Sponsa, Instruction on the Contemplative Life and on the Enclosure of Nuns, 13 May 1996).