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


CHAPTER 64:

OF THE APPOINTMENT OF THE ABBOT

 

April 20, 

In the appointment of an Abbot let this principle be observed, that he be made Abbot whom the entire community, inspired by the fear of God, shall choose unanimously, or whom even a majority of the community - however small - shall choose after more mature deliberation.  Let him who is to be appointed be chosen because of the merit of his life and because of his learning, even though in the community he may be lowest in rank.  But if all the community with one accord (which God forbid) should elect one who would connive at their evil ways, and these wicked doings should somehow come to the knowledge of the bishop to whose diocese the place belongs, or of the abbots or neighbouring Christians, let them take measures to prevent the plans of these wicked men from prevailing, and appoint a worthy steward over the house of God, knowing that for this they shall receive a good reward if they do it with a pure intention and for the love of God; whereas, on the other hand, they will sin if they are negligent in this matter.

 

St Benedict in chapter 5 said that those who hold nothing dearer than Christ live in monasteries, not merely enduring authority, but “desiring to have an abbot over them.”  Monks with this vision desire an abbot because of God, because of Christ.  A monk’s obedience to his abbot gives concrete expression both to his obedience to Christ and his filial relationship to God.  The abbot is truly for him a sacrament of Christ whom he obeys, just as his brother is for him a sacrament of Christ whom he loves.  Of course, love is included in our response to our abbot as St Benedict makes clear in chapter 72.  In this vision, all our relationships, vertical and horizontal are transfigured: authority is no longer conceived of in functional terms, a necessary evil, but transfigured by our awareness of the sacramental presence of Christ.  Our abbot, our abbess is part of our vocation, since God calls us to realize our vocation at a certain time, in a certain monastery.