From the rule of St. Benedict, Sixth Century A.D. “If any pilgrim monk come from distant parts, with wish as a guest to dwell in the monastery, and will be content with the customs which he finds in the place, and do not perchance by his lavishness disturb the monastery, but is simply content with what he finds, he shall be received, for as long a time as he desires. If, indeed, he find fault with anything, or expose it, reasonably, and with the humility of charity, the Abbot shall discuss it prudently, lest perchance God has sent him for this very thing. But if he have been found gossipy and contumacious in the time of his sojourn as guest, not only ought he not to be joined to the body of the monastery, but also it shall be said to him, honestly, that he must depart. If he does not go, let two stout monks, in the name of God, explain the matter to him.
True hospitality to the pilgrim is difficult enough, but dealing with someone that disrupts the community is even harder. The solution proposed by Benedict is quite radical by our standards. Perhaps the 21st century could learn from him. Who knows?
- The Rule of St. Benedict (knowltonss.wordpress.com)
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.
Benedict delivers his rule to the Monks
To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.
——Rule of St. Benedict
Perhaps it is not too popular these days to speak of our Christian journey as a battle complete with weapons, however, we are called to be witnesses to our faith in the Christ. In his Rule, Benedict gives us guidance and advice that facilitates our journey. Remember, the primary purpose of the Rule was to adjust to living in community. Interestingly enough, the biggest challenge in Christianity today is inner conflict. For that reason, I would suggest that Benedict’s words are very timely.
Today’s advice is to set aside your will, and pride I might add, to do battle under the Christ. For under Him we find peace, strength, harmony and the partnership we need to live our days in this world – to live them as not a mere existence of futility, but with a sense of vitality and vigor that pleases God and man. For us to surrender to the Messiah and let him guide us gives us a fuller and more satisfying life.
The Rule of St. Benedict begins with the following statement: “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” Though Benedict wrote his rule for monks, it can easily be applied to all Christians. Today’s society cries out for a rule, a guide, or just something to help us cobble together some meaning and order in our lives. In the day of New Monasticism, perhaps it is a good time to look at the basic structure of “old monasticism.”
Benedict gives us two very key concepts in his opening statement, the concepts of listening and listening with the ear of your heart. The first is listening – listening in such a way that we truly hear. Our buzz phrase is multi-tasking. In this multi-society, the very idea of giving anything your undivided attention seems to be outlandish. Benedict, on the other hand, calls on the monks to listen to the instructions. Not only to listen, but to do so with all that we possess.
The type of listening that would serve the monks, and the ordinary Christian as well, is one that seeks the words of a master. Our real challenge is to let go of our egos and seek the master. We can very easily call Jesus our master, but we need a companion or a guide to help us to better understand our Lord. Throughout history men and women have gathered together in churches and other places dedicated to understanding our creator. In these places people have argued, disputed, and parted company to find meaning and truth. Benedict challenges us to listen, and with listening, God will speak.
We hear God with the ear of the heart. Over the years we have heard all sorts of things, some enlightening, others ridiculous, and all claiming to be the message of God. The ear of the heart is the listening given to us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised not to leave His disciples orphaned, but to send an advocate to be with them. That advocate is the Spirit of God that lives within us. By attuning our ear to the Spirit we can listen and hear His instructions. At church, at work, at home, listen with the ear of your heart and God will pour out His blessings to you and fill your life with praise.