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


Dec 16

But, if, during that time, he was found to be one hard to please and viciously inclined, not only should he not be admitted into the community, but he should be told courteously to depart, lest others should be corrupted by his wickedness.  But if he is not such as to deserve to be cast forth, he should be received as a member of the community, not only in the event of his own asking, but even by persuading him to stay, that others may be taught by his example, and because, wherever we are, we serve the one Lord and fight under the one King.  Moreover, if the Abbot perceives him to be one who is deserving, he may place him in a somewhat higher rank.  The Abbot may promote not only a monk but also any of the aforesaid priests or clerics to a rank higher than that accorded them at their entrance, if he perceives their lives to be such as to merit this promotion. But let the Abbot take care never to receive into his community a monk from any known monastery without the consent of his Abbot and without letters of recommendation; because it is written: "See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another."

 Wherever we are, we serve the one Lord and fight under the one King. The service of Christ, the life of following Him, is often described as military service in the Rule.  The text today implies both the reality of the struggle against whatever opposes the good, the struggle against evil and the evil one, and it implies a personal relationship to the King, the loyalty of a follower, the willingness to risk one’s life for the King.  In the early Church, militia (service or fighting) was used to describe the task of the Christian.  Martyrdom was a special form of the militia Christi.  Christ, not the Emperor, was represented as the true King.  After persecution, monastic life was viewed as a special way of entering Christ’s service.  The Christian soldier’s weapons are prayer, fasting, good works, obedience, spiritual combat, the struggle to acquire virtue and purity of heart, the battle against all that is opposed to Christ and His kingdom. 

CHAPTER 61:

How monks who are travelLing are to be received

Dec 15

If a travelling monk arrives from distant parts and desires to dwell in the monastery as a guest, and if he is content with the manner of life which he shall find there, and does not trouble the monastery by his unreasonable demands, but is simply satisfied with what he shall find, let him be received for as long a time as he may wish.  If, however, he censures or points out anything reasonably and with humble charity, let the Abbot weigh the matter prudently, lest perchance the Lord may have sent him for this very purpose.

If later on he is willing to promise stability, let not his wish be denied, especially since during the time he was entertained opportunity was given for ascertaining his manner of life.

 

The kind of visiting monk who is welcome to join the community is the one who is content with what he finds, with what is customary. This is repeated twice in todays’ passage and once tomorrow. This contentment recalls the sixth step of humility where the monk is to be content with any kind of treatment or job.   This kind of contentment is indeed very close to humility, indeed almost a synonym for it.  The visiting monk should not trouble the monastery with excessive demands-the same expression is used in chapter 36 on the sick.  St Benedict does not seem to like demanding monks, for this is contrary to the monastic spirit and the peace of the monastery.  Peace comes with being satisfied with what one finds; it is the ability to see God in the midst of things as they really are, receiving with gratitude what is offered to us, letting things be as they  are and not wanting to  make everything adapt to us.