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


May 22 

63. To love chastity.

64. To hate no man.

65. To have no jealousy or envy.

66. Not to love strife.

67. To fly from vainglory.

68. To reverence one's seniors.

69. To love one's juniors.

70. To pray for one's enemies in the love of Christ.

71. To make peace with those with whom one is at variance before

            the setting of the sun.

72. And never to despair of God's mercy.

Behold, these are the instruments of the spiritual art, which, if they be constantly employed by day and by night, and delivered up on the day of judgment, will gain for us from the Lord that reward which He Himself has promised: "Eye has not see, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him."  And the workshop in which we are to labour diligently at all these things is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community.

 

To love chastity. St Benedict says not merely to observe chastity or practise it, but to love it. The first and essential mark of consecrated persons is that they have embraced a life of dedicated chastity for the sake of the kingdom, for the sake of Christ.  To love chastity: St Benedict indicates a positive approach that turns upside down all notions of repression or mere obligation.  It represents an attitude of mind that is not denying, but affirming.  Our chastity begins by belonging to Christ and ends by belonging to everyone; its sets we free to love God and each one with whom we come into contact with an undivided heart.  It enables us to devote our whole lives to the single-minded task of loving Christ, in whom we find all men. It is, as St John Paul II put it, “a reflection of the infinite love which links the three Divine Persons in the mysterious depths of the life of the Trinity, the love to which the Incarnate Word bears witness even to the point of giving his life, the love "poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5), which evokes a response of total love for God and the brethren.” There must be more love in us because we are chaste.

 


May 21 

44. To fear the day of judgment.

45. To be in dread of hell.

46. To desire everlasting life with all spiritual longing.

47. To keep death daily before one's eyes.

48. To keep guard at all times over the actions of one's life.

49. To know for certain that God sees one in every place.

50. To dash upon Christ one's evil thoughts the instant they come to

            one's heart, and to manifest them to one's spiritual father.

51. To keep one's mouth from speech that is wicked or full of guile.

52. Not to love much speaking.

53. Not to speak words that are vain or such as provoke laughter.

54. Not to love much or noisy laughter.

55. To listen willingly to holy reading.

56. To apply oneself frequently to prayer.

57. Daily with tears and sighs to confess one's sins to God in prayer,

            and to amend these evils for the future.

58. Not to fulfil the desires of the flesh.

59. To hate one's own will.

60. To obey in all things the commands of the Abbot, even though he

            himself (which God forbid) should act otherwise, being

            mindful of that precept of the Lord: "What they say, do ye; but

            what they do, do ye not"

61. Not to wish to be called holy before one is so, but first to be holy

            that one may be truly so called.

62. To fulfil the commandments of God daily by one's deeds.

 

To dash upon Christ one's evil thoughts the instant they come to one’s heart, and to manifest them to one's spiritual father. This same teaching occurred in the prologue which spoke of “tak[ing] evil thoughts in the very beginning and dash[ing] them against the Rock, which is Christ”, and is obviously important to St Benedict.  This is not a mere pious counsel.  For St Benedict it is a clear prescription, an instrument provided by him in his spiritual workshop for overcoming bad thoughts and temptations, suggestions.  And not the promptness with which this turning to Christ should be marked. Trials and temptations occur throughout the life of the Christian.  To the extent we are faithful to this practice and dash repeatedly the bad suggestions upon Christ, we will find ourselves standing repeatedly in the presence of Christ.  These suggestions, wherever they may come from, far from being an occasion of separation from Christ will provide further occasions of turning towards Him.  One finds oneself moving towards an uninterrupted awareness of Christ as a result of fidelity to St Benedict’s recommendation. This practice brings healing and grace and growth in continual prayer.