Daily Reading from the Rule of Benedict

Yesterday's Reading

About the Rule of Benedict

Benedict of Nursia was born in the year 480. As a student in Rome, he tired of the decadent culture around him and left to live a simple spiritual life as a hermit in the countryside of Subiaco about thirty miles outside of the city. It wasn't long, however, before he was discovered both by the people of the area and disciples who were themselves looking for a more meaningful way of life. Out of these associations sprang the monastic life that would eventually cover Europe.

The Rule of Benedict is not a treatise in systematic theology. Its logic is the logic of daily life lived in Christ and lived well. This early monastic rule is part of the Wisdom tradition of Christianity and is rooted in the Bible for its inspiration and its end. It deals with the meaning and purpose of life. The positions taken in the Rule in the light of themes in the wisdom literature of other culture find Benedict of Nursia in the stream of thinkers who lived out of a single tradition but from the perspective of universal and fundamental insights into life.

Excerpted from The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages by Joan Chittister, OSB

November 26, 2021
Chapter 47
Announcing the Hours for the Opus Dei

It is the responsibility of the abbot and prioress to announce, day and night, the hour for the Opus Dei. They may do so personally or delegate the responsibility to a conscientious member, so that everything may be done at the proper time.

Only those so authorized are to lead psalms and refrains, after the prioress or abbot according to their rank. No monastics should presume to read or sing unless they are able to benefit the hearers; let this be done with humility, seriousness and reverence, and at the bidding of the prioress or abbot.

Prayer in a Benedictine community is to be both regular and artistic and it is the role of leadership to see that this is so. In a culture without alarm clocks and in a community that prayed in the middle of the night, the responsibility was a major one. Even centuries later, however, when we all rouse ourselves to the sound of clock radios or a dozen other automatic devices and have no need for bellringers, the situation is just as serious. The message under the message is that unless the group becomes more and more immersed in prayer and the scriptures, giving them priority no matter what the other pressures of the day, the group will cease to have any authenticity at all. It will cease to develop. It will dry up and cave in on itself and become more museum than monastery. This stress on our responsibility to call ourselves to prayer is an insight as fresh for the twenty-first century as it was for the sixth. For all of us, prayer must be regular, not haphazard, not erratic, not chance. At the same time, it cannot be routine or meaningless or without substance. Prayer has to bring beauty, substance and structure to our otherwise chaotic and superficial lives or it is not long before life itself becomes chaotic and superficial. A life of spiritual substance is a life of quality. The Tao puts it this way:

She who is centered in the Tao

can go where she wishes, without danger.

She perceives the universal harmony,

even amid great pain,

because she has found peace in her heart.

The Rule of Benedict Insights for the Ages

Is there a great spiritual tradition that deals with the contemporary issues facing the human community? In her new introduction to the Rule, Joan Chittister boldly claims that Benedict’s sixth-century text is the only one of the great traditions that directly touches today’s issues: stewardship, conversion, communication, reflection, contemplation, humility and equality. Tracing Benedict’s original Rule paragraph by paragraph, the new book expands the principles of the Rule into the larger context of spiritual living in a secular world and makes the seemingly archaic instructions relevant for a contemporary audience. A new foreword, updated content, an appendix, a Gregorian Chant download and a recommended calendar for reading the entries and commentaries make this an invaluable resource for solitary or communal contemplation. (Crossroad; Paperback) Order here.