Let the brethren give their advice
with all the deference required by humility,
and not presume stubbornly to defend their opinions;
but let the decision rather depend on the Abbot’s judgment,
and all submit to whatever he shall decide for their welfare.—– Rule of St. Benedict
Tag Archives: Benedict of Nursia
Christ Our Teacher
1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“ The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Lord, free me of the temptation of self-exaltation and allow me to present myself with humility.
“Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ; discipline your body; do not pamper yourself, but love fasting.”
— Benedict of Nursia
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When we wish to suggest our wants to persons of high station,
we do not presume to do so
except with humility and reverence.
How much the more, then,
are complete humility and pure devotion necessary
in supplication of the Lord who is God of the universe!
And let us be assured
that it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard (Matt 6:7),
but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction.
Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure,
unless it happens to be prolonged
by an inspiration of divine grace.
In community, however, let prayer be very short,
and when the Superior gives the signal let all rise together.
On Reverence in Prayer – Rule of St. Benedict
There are countless books written on prayer. How to pray? When to pray? Why to pray? Who to pray for? Nearly 1500 years ago the monk “Benedict “gave us a short paragraph that shed light on these questions. Let’s us look at his suggestions to his fellow monks, and I dare say, to us.
First, we are humble in our approach to people we wish to help us. We seldom get help when we are very haughty towards those who could easily help us. Benedict notes that when we approach persons of high station (money and power,) we do it with reverence and humility. Simply stated, our wants are wrapped with respect and deference. We do not approach people preaching at them about what they owe to others because they as so blessed by God.
Second, he reminds us that we owe abundantly more respect and deference to God when we approach Him. Let’s not go to God quoting the “ask and receive” verses that we find so handy when we need something. We tend to use these verses to force the hand of God. He will not be forced.
Fourth, prayer should have purity of heart and emotion bearing repentance. When prayer bears these characteristics, it is pure and worthy of the ear of God. Benedict suggests that prayers ought to be short and pure.
God calls for prayers that are reverent and non-attention getting.
Lord, remind me that you deserve my reverence and respect no matter how dire my present need may seem. Let me pray to you and learn to wait patiently for your answer. Relive me of the temptation to pray with many words to impress others and to wear you down.
If we would approach men who are in power with humility and reverence, when we want to ask a favor, how much more must we beseech the Lord God of all things with all humility and pure devotion? Remember that it is not for many words, but for the purity of our heart and tears of remorse that we are heard. For this reason, prayers ought to be short and pure, unless they are lengthened by the inspiration of divine grace. At the community exercises, however, let the prayer always be short, and the sign having been given by the Abbot, let all rise together.
The quote I use today is from the Rule of St. Benedict. This rulebook for the monastic life was written by Benedict around 530. Benedict created the rule at a time when the Roman Empire had collapsed in the West, and Europe was being overrun by barbarian tribes. Christianity in Europe appeared to be about finished. He gathered together some faithful men and women who wanted to preserve a remnant of the faith for the future. That scenario is eerily similar to our own day. Today’s Christians are out numbered and declining. We would do well to look to the wisdom of Benedict the monk and his rule of life. Using his rule I offer a few hints about prayer.
When we pray we should be aware of whom we are addressing. We would never presume to be demanding on someone who we respected and admired ,then how much more should we come to God with great humility. An attitude of humble prayer is not demanding or presumptuous. A humble prayer is prayed with the full awareness of who we are and who HE is. A humble prayer is reverent and respectful and presents itself in a spirit of devotion. A humble prayer is set forth in the form of a plea to a merciful God who loves us. Humility is a key factor is our prayer life.
Jesus said, “ When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.” Somewhere along the way we were given the impression that prayer must be fanciful or lengthy to be valid. This attitude has bred self righteousness in some and fear in others. Because of this attitude there are those who never want to pray and other who enjoy the platitudes that they receive for their “well said” prayers. We are urged to go to God with a pure heart and words that are real to us.
God is not impressed by prayers that are prayed for the sake of an audience and not really to Him. Most of us have experienced showy and lengthy prayers at a church or a study. We then ask ourselves, was that for God or prayed to impress us?
God cannot be goaded into answering prayer. Praying all night will not force God to answer your prayer. Benedict saw prayer as a normal part of your day. The monks prayed in the morning and then went about the work of the day. Later they assembled again for prayer and after went about their work. Prayer was not long and drawn out but a continuous part of their day.
Lord, lead me to a life of humility. Help me to understand how and when to pray. Protect me from my ego and let me see your love. Give me the courage to praise you wherever I am and to know that you are there.
- Sermon: When the World Is Against You, Acts 24 (grantspasschurchofchrist.com)
Rule of St. Benedict Chapter 48
Idleness is the enemy of the soul, and therefore the brethren ought to divide their time between manual labor and devout reading. In the summer then, they should go out at dawn for four hours, to do the necessary work, and then spend two hours reading. Then, after lunch, let them rest in bed in complete silence — or if anyone wants to read for himself, let him read quietly enough not to disturb others. [Reading silently to oneself was almost unheard of.] If, however, the needs of the place, or poverty should require them to do the work of gathering the harvest themselves, let them not be downcast, for then they will be true monks, living by the work of their hands as our forefathers and the Apostles did. However, on account of the faint—hearted let all things be done with moderation. Above all, let one or two of the senior monks be appointed to go about the monastery during the reading time, and look out for any lazy brother giving himself over to idleness or vain talk, being unprofitable to himself and disturbing others. If — God forbid — such a monk is found, let him be punished on the first and second occasions. If he does not change, let him come under the correction of the Rule in such a way that others may fear
And the Lord as he seeks the one who will do his work among the throng of people to whom he makes that appeal, says again: Which of you wants to live to the full; who loves long life and the enjoyment of prosperity? And, if when you hear this you say, I do, God says to you: If you desire true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceit, turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. And when you have done these things my eyes will be upon you and before you call upon my name I shall say to you: Behold, I am here. What could be more delightful, dearest brothers, than the voice of our Lord’s invitation to us? In his loving kindness he reveals to us the way of life.
—-Benedict of Nursia
Today I share a few thoughts from The Rule of Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino. Benedict’s main achievement is his “Rule of Saint Benedict” containing precepts for his monks. The Rule has a unique spirit of balance, moderation and reasonableness, and this persuaded most religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it. As a result, his Rule became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason, Benedict is often called the founder of western monasticism. Let me share a few thoughts from him about fullness of life.
Who wants to live a full life? The answer is everyone. The problem with fullness of life is where does it originate? Some would say that the key is to be rich or well educated, others would say it comes from being physically fit and strong.
Be honorable and truthful with your words.
Benedict admonishes us to be attentive God’s to call in order to keep our tongues from evil. An evil tongue constantly stirs trouble and wishes ill will to others. The evil tongue never stops looking for the negative in the lives of others. The evil tongue can be very truthful, but it uses truth as a sword to destroy rather than an instrument to build up. Such a tongue is dishonorable.
The second thought is to not be deceitful. In short, tell the truth and don’t make up tall tales to benefit yourself or bring down others. The truthful tongue builds you and all those you touch. Your words will outlive you and bless others.
Doing good is the biggest challenge of our earthly existence. We are surrounded by schemes and schemers. The whole concept of Monasticism was to be free from the pressures of the world and grow closer to God. Good is first sought when we dedicate all that we have and that we are to God. John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” By putting Benedict and Wesley together we can broaden our hope for doing good in our lives. Doing good is a key element to any Christian journey, and I urge you to take some time to assess the good you do or can do.
Seek Peace and Practice It
Benedict said to “seek peace and pursue it.” I would assert that a person who seeks peace will find it and spend a life of peaceful practice. The first challenge is to dedicate our lives to finding peace. The ultimate peace is a sound relationship with God. Through that relationship all problems can be faced and many solved to our good. Without God we are on our own and fending for ourselves in a world that is far too complicated for us ever control. As we practice the peace of God we find that our problems far less complicated, our victories are sweeter and burdens lighter. Jesus said, ”Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” When we attach ourselves to the yoke of God we find His peace and that peace is one that we can practice with joy.
May we seek the life that God has laid up for us and pursue it with all our being.
Lord instill in me the humility to seek you and the courage to find you. Allow me the strength to follow your lead and live a life that is beyond my imagination. I ask for the life that only you can provide. I ask for discernment this day and courage for each day that I follow you
Over the past several years I have been a real advocate of living a monastic life in the place that we are planted. For most of us it is impossible to escape to a cloistered life. Benedictine Joan Chittister give us her offering in “Monasteries of the Heart.” We longed for peace and escape from the troubled world but are frustrated that we can’t quite pull it off. Joan Chittister offers some ways to accomplish that goal. The article below is offered to us by the Franciscan Richard Rhor and he tells his story. I share it with you today.
In the Franciscan worldview, the Christ can be found everywhere. Nothing is secular or profane. You don’t really “get” the Christ mystery until body and spirit begin to operate as one. Once you see the material and the spiritual working together, everything is holy. The Christ is whenever and wherever the material and the spiritual co-exist—which is always and everywhere! Everything is already “christened”; any anointing, blessing, declaring, or baptizing is just to help us get the point.
I wrote my undergraduate thesis on St. Francis’ break with historic monasticism. When his friars brought up well-established rules for religious life, Francis even went so far as to say “Don’t speak to me of Benedict! Don’t speak to me of Augustine!”  (No offence intended to Benedictines or Augustinians.) Francis believed that the Lord had shown him a different way, one which directly implied that the whole world—not just a single building—was our cloister. He did not need to create a sheltered space. We were to be “friars” instead of monks, living in the midst of ordinary people, in ordinary towns and cities. Franciscan friaries are still usually in the heart of major European and Latin American cities. We didn’t live on the edge of town because Christ is found as much in the middle of civilization as is in quiet retreats and hermitages.
Franciscan theologian Bonaventure (1221-1274) soon debated “secular priests” at the University of Paris, because some of them felt that putting together action and contemplation would not work. We became competitors for the affection of the people, I am afraid. Up until Francis of Assisi (1184-1226), most religious had to choose either a life of action or a life of contemplation. Secular priests worked with people in the parishes. The “true” religious went off to monasteries. Francis said there had to be a way to do both.
It’s as if consciousness wasn’t ready to imagine that it could find God in any way except by going into the desert, into the monastery, away from troubles, away from marriage, away from people. In that very real sense, we see a non-dual mind emerging with the Franciscan movement.
Perhaps you can find a place, interior or exterior that will allow you to cloister and moved towards God. Get in the middle of thing and experience the blessing.
Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill my heart,
my world, my universe.
Note: I am not sure where I got this document, but it has been in my files for a long tome. I’ve taken the liberty to make a few changes from the original. This rule would make for a good way to observe Lent.
This Rule of Life is based Wesley’s General Rules, the membership vows of the United Methodist Church and St. Benedict’s Rule. We believe this rule opens our eyes to God’s grace, balances life and enables us to pursue holiness in all aspects of daily living. IB
A RULE OF LIFE
· We will pray daily
· We will use a variety of forms of prayer such as the reflective reading of Scripture and other spiritual texts, confession, the prayer of Examen, intercession, journaling, and contemplation.
· We will fast from food once a week (either a full or partial fast)
· We will practice a contemplative stance in order to be present to God, the world, and ourselves
· We will be hospitable to our neighbors in our families, neighborhoods and workplaces
· We will be hospitable to our faith community through participation in our worship, fellowship and mission
· We will honor and care for the gift of the earth and its resources, practicing ecologically responsible living, striving for simplicity rather than excessive consumption
· We will practice generosity in sharing our material resources, including money, within and beyond this community
· We will serve God and neighbor out of gratitude for the love of God
· We will practice mutual accountability with a covenant group within the community, for how we serve God and neighbor
· We will practice regular Sabbath as a means of renewal so that we can lovingly serve God and neighbor
· We will practice racial and gender reconciliation
· We will resist evil and injustice
· We will pursue peace with justice
· We will share the redeeming, healing, creative love of God in word, deed and presence as an invitation to others to experience the transforming love of God.
I commit to this rule of life and to the well-being of this community, out of gratitude to God who forgives, heals, and makes all things new. May my life be a blessing within and beyond God’s church, for the transformation of the world.
Mark in Forty Days
This year I am reading through the Gospel of Mark during the forty days of Lent. My suggested plan is that you do these reading in Lectio Divina format.
Lord you touch is all around me. Help me to realize and see all that you do. Without you there is nothing, Amen
For over a fifteen hundred years monastics have practiced the discipline of silence. The monk knows that God is best heard in silence and community harmony is best maintained with an absence of excessive verbage. St Benedict understood that silence as an essential element of life. This is so that we can learn to listen to God more exclusively. God speaks to us in the Bible, but also in the depths of our heart and, as we begin to tune into him, we learn to be attentive to his presence in others. Thus harmony with God and man is achieved as we practice silence.
- Silence allows us to focus on God.
- Silence allows us to think outside of ourselves
- Silence creates an attitude of other worldliness
- Silence gives value to others
When we withdraw into silence and spend this special time with God we equip ourselves to be joyful Missional people. It is a most excellent way to prepare ourselves for the opportunities God provides for us.
The more we listen to God, the more capable we are of listening to each other. As we listen, we hear needs and cries from our friends and neighbors that have been lost in the noise of this world. If we are to be about the mission of God then we have to take time to become people of silence.
Each of us wants to be all we can be as disciples of Jesus Christ. Let me suggest that you carve out some time each day that you observe total intentional silence. If daily doesn’t work then do it weekly but DO IT. God will richly bless your efforts.
- Way of the Monk – Creating A Rule of Life (shpcdialogue.wordpress.com)