суббота, 29 ноября 2014 г.

The Rule of St. Benedict, approx. 547 (review)

I recently finished reading the Rule of Benedict of Nursia, a seminal text in western monasticism. Benedict of Nursia lived in 6th century Italy at a time of war and turmoil as waves of Barbarian invasions filled the vaccuum left by the defunct Roman Empire. This might all seem rather distant from the realities of modern life - or even contemporary Christian living, but I would like to share what I discovered.

The heart of Benedictine Christianity is obedience. "It is by the way of obedience that we go to God." Obedience is contrasted with laziness, but also with self-will. Obedience goes against our fallen nature and requires God's grace. The monastery is to be a School for the Lord's service. 

The Rule is straightforward and moderate. It does not prescribe extreme asceticism, but a moderate form of monastic community life. In many ways it represents a more rigorous version of church; the monk's life being a "continuous lent".  The Rule prescribes a daily routine of prayer and work. Discipline is to be exercised wisely: in proportion to the offence committed and using appropriate means. There are regulations governing the use of common property, the right consumption of food and drink.

The procedure for becoming a monk involved a year-long probation (novitiate) followed by a three-fold vow promising commitment to the monastic community (stability), the monastic way of life (conversion) and the leadership structure (obedience). Abbots (monastic leaders) were to be motivated by the profit of the monks, learned, chaste, temperate and merciful; they are to hate faults but love the brothers. Abbots should strive to be loved, rather than feared.   

The Rule of St. Benedict, an adaptation of an earlier work, became THE authoritative text for the western monastic movement, which in turn exerted an immense influence on the whole of western civilisation, especially from the 9th century onward ("the Benedictine centuries"). 


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