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 27:

Of the solicitude the Abbot should exercise toward the excommunicated

 

July 4, 

Let the Abbot with all solicitude exercise care concerning the offending brethren, for "They that are in health need not a physician but they that are ill (Mt 9:12)."  And therefore, like a wise physician, he should use every possible means: he should send as it were secret consolers to sympathize with him, that is, brethren of mature years and wisdom, who may, as it were, secretly console the wavering brother and induce him to make humble satisfaction, and comfort him lest, perchance, he be overwhelmed by too much sorrow.  Moreover, as the Apostle says, "Assure him of your love for him (2 Cor 2:8)," and let all pray for him.  For the Abbot is obliged to exercise the greatest solicitude toward the erring brethren and to strive with all prudence and zeal lest he lose any of the sheep entrusted to him.  He should know that he has received charge over souls that are weak and not a high-handed rule over the strong.  And let him fear the threat of the Prophet, through whom God says: "You took to yourselves that which was fat; and that which was weak you rejected (Ezek 34:3-4)."  Let him imitate the loving example of the Good Shepherd, Who, leaving the ninety-nine sheep on the mountains, went to seek the one that had gone astray; on whose weakness He had such compassion that he deigned to lay it on His own sacred shoulders and thus bring it back to the flock (Lk 15:5).

 

This chapter, while showing the abbot’s imitation of the long patience of God’s love for us, also shows how discouragement, fear, shame can be a great temptation when things go wrong.  This can often be more dangerous than the faults themselves. As Nicholas Cabasilas explains in Life in Christ: There are two kinds of grief over sin – one leads to repentance, the other to despair.

  “Of the many things which impede our salvation the greatest of all is that when we commit any transgression we do not at once turn back to God and ask forgiveness. Because we feel shame and fear we think that the way back to God is difficult, and that He is angry and ill-tempered towards us, and that there is need of great preparation if we wish to approach Him. But the loving-kindness of God utterly banishes this thought from the soul”   This kind of shame and fear is not “a spur to action but a stupor for our souls.”  It makes us want to hide from God like Cain.  But “no harm will come from this in those who rightly understand the loving-kindness of God…no sin is too great for pardon or can overcome God’s kindness”.  The Abbot is to be an icon of God’s loving-kindness.